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Federal judge grants majority of Diocese of South Carolina’s motion to enforce injunction

Episcopal News Service - qui, 19/12/2019 - 18:07

[Diocese of South Carolina] U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Gergel issued an order and opinion on Dec. 18, granting in part the motion to enforce the injunction filed by The Diocese of South Carolina, also known as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, on Nov. 11. In the order, the judge notes: “The Defendants [the disassociated diocese] here clearly violated the terms of the Court’s Order and Injunction.” Furthermore, Gergel’s order denied the motion to stay the injunction filed by the disassociated diocese.

In the petition on Nov. 11, the Diocese of South Carolina requested enforcement of the court’s order and opinion and permanent injunction issued on Sept. 19. The petition cited numerous examples that prove continued violations of the injunction by the disassociated diocese as it “hold(s) itself out to be the Historic Diocese in many respects.”

In yesterday’s ruling, Gergel ruled that “the Court finds that Defendants violated the Court’s Order and Injunction by continuing to use the terms ‘Founded in 1785,’ ‘14th Bishop,’ ‘XIV Bishop,’ and ‘229th Diocesan Convention.’” He further noted that the defendant’s use of these terms and phrases violate the order and injunction by “continuing to claim goodwill as a successor to the Historic Diocese when only TECSC [The Episcopal Church in South Carolina] has that right.” He, therefore, issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the disassociated diocese from using any and all of these terms.

In the 20-page opinion, Gergel also ruled in the favor of The Diocese of South Carolina by acknowledging that by posting convention journals, diocesan constitutions and canons and reports of trustees (of the Diocese of South Carolina) prior to 2012 on their website, the disassociated diocese was also in violation of the injunction.

The order established that all such documents prior to 2012 must be removed from their website. All similar reports and documents after 2012 may be reposted only if all “infringing marks and other terms that misappropriate the goodwill” of the marks of the Diocese of South Carolina are removed in entirety. Additionally, the new injunction noted that diocesan conventions of the disassociated diocese may not be numbered in a way “indicating a history dating to 1785.”

Gergel also ruled that all issues of “Jubilate Deo” (which originated as the newspaper/newsletter of the Diocese of South Carolina in the 1970s) bearing the marks and other terms of the Diocese of South Carolina must be removed from the disassociated diocese’s website as well.

The ruling adds to the injunction established by Gergel’s order on Sept. 19, when he declared that the group that disassociated from The Episcopal Church in 2012 (and all affiliated churches) can no longer use the name “Diocese of South Carolina,” nor use the “diocesan seal” or “Episcopal shield.”

The defendants have appealed this Sept. 19 ruling, but in the Dec. 18 order, Gergel clearly noted: “Defendants may not subvert this Court’s clear Order, as detailed above, by continuing to co-opt the goodwill of the exact marks they are enjoined from using.”

The post Federal judge grants majority of Diocese of South Carolina’s motion to enforce injunction appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Episcopal and Jewish congregations celebrate 15 years of shared spiritual home in Boston

Episcopal News Service - qui, 19/12/2019 - 14:51

The Rev. Pam Werntz (left) and Rabbi Howard Berman (right) light a unity candle during Central Reform Temple’s Shabbat service on Nov. 15 to celebrate their congregations’ covenant relationship. Photo: Emmanuel Church

[Diocese of Massachusetts] As the Advent season anticipates Christmas, Emmanuel Church in Boston is preparing to fill its pews with people celebrating the birth of Christ. Central Reform Temple — a Jewish congregation that calls Emmanuel Church home — is preparing to fill those same pews with people celebrating Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. During these services, members of the Emmanuel Church congregation will serve as ushers for the Central Reform Temple, and members of the temple’s congregation will serve as ushers for Emmanuel.

This interfaith family began when the previous rector of Emmanuel Church, the Rev. Bill Blaine-Wallace, met Rabbi Howard Berman while working together as part of the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Massachusetts. In 2004, Berman had just co-founded a progressive Jewish congregation and it was in need of worship space, so Blaine-Wallace offered use of Emmanuel Church to the congregation, Boston Jewish Spirit, which would later become Central Reform Temple.

Since then, the two congregations have gone beyond sharing facilities to sharing their faith journeys together through collaborative programming, which they facilitate through the Emmanuel Center, the programmatic partnership of Central Reform Temple and Emmanuel Church.

Most recently, the two congregations collaborated with the Cathedral Church of St. Paul and Dar-Al Islam — which hosts Jum’ah Muslim Prayer in the cathedral each Friday — on the interfaith art exhibit “Abraham: Out of One, Many” that was on display at the cathedral until recently. Leaders from all four groups met regularly together as part of the interfaith planning team leading up to the exhibition’s opening in October.

The relationship between the congregations is expressed in unexpected ways, such as the presence of Emmanuel’s current rector, the Rev. Pam Werntz, at the altar during important Jewish services, as well as Berman’s role as rabbi-in-residence at Emmanuel Church, regularly preaching to the Sunday congregation. The ark containing the Torah scrolls is prominently housed at the front of the church; behind the altar is a carved screen depicting the Last Supper, as well as a large carving of Jesus with his arms open in welcome.

“From the beginning, we at the temple have felt that the church’s welcome to us was a very authentic one and an unconditional one, and we in turn were able to feel unconditionally at home within a very Christian worship space,” Berman said in an interview. “We’ve been able to process our own relationship to the spaces and the symbolisms in a very positive way, as have the Emmanuel members in terms of the presence of our Jewish symbols within the sanctuary.”

“I think what we’ve been able to do is to understand that the side-by-side visual impact of both symbols is not a syncretistic one, to use a theological term. It’s not a matter of eliminating the differences or blending them into one; they stand fully with their own integrity,” Berman said. “For us, we can understand and emphasize the historic Jewish context of the Christian symbolisms, and for Emmanuel, our symbols are inseparably part of their spiritual heritage anyway, so it’s seeing the fullness of the background and roots of their own Christian faith.”

Over the years, leaders from the congregations discussed the idea of a covenant statement that would document and preserve the unique relationship between the two congregations now and for the future.

A document had yet to be drafted when Werntz was traveling on her sabbatical in 2018 and landed in Vienna, Austria, to news of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. During her sabbatical, Werntz had visited archaeological digs and museums and viewed evidence that testified to good relationships between Jews, Christians and Muslims on the Iberian Peninsula, and she found that the news of the Pittsburgh tragedy — coupled with her recent travels — stirred her to begin drafting a covenant.

“There was something about the trip and seeing the archaeological evidence of good relationships, while also knowing the history of the terrible things that, for the most part, Christians have done,” Werntz said. “I felt that there was an urgency to add to that body of evidence and to tell our story about the last 15 years.”

Upon her return, Werntz began drafting a document, and — after input from the leadership of both congregations — a covenant statement was finalized and signed this past July as a declaration of the two congregations’ commitment to a shared life together.

“As partners in a covenant relationship, each of our congregations is faithfully rooted in its distinct religious traditions and deeply committed to our shared spiritual roots,” the covenant reads. “We practice modeling compassionate encounters between Judaism and Christianity that affirm the difficult challenges of history and aspire to new levels of understanding.”

Berman emphasized that much of the Emmanuel-Central Reform Temple relationship is filtered through the lens of the current climates of the country and the world, with regard to the polarization and conflict between different communities.

“[The covenant] puts into sharp focus the alternative vision that what we’re doing offers, and I think to emphasize commonalities, to build on those, is a very important mandate for this period of time,” Berman said. “The main points of the covenant itself really raise up the issues of both being firmly grounded in our own respective traditions in a confident and secure way that enables us to be open to emphasizing the similarities and shared values and ideals; but also, being able to articulate and embrace the points of divergence and difference and be able to constructively, lovingly and respectfully discuss them.”

During the ceremony of affirmation at Emmanuel’s Sunday morning Eucharist on Nov. 17, the Jewish Ark containing the Torah scrolls was left open. Photo: Emmanuel Church

Over the weekend of Nov. 15-17, the two congregations held ceremonies of affirmation during the Friday evening Shabbat service and the Sunday morning Eucharist, to raise up and celebrate the covenant agreement. As part of the ceremony, leaders from both congregations read the covenant statement aloud and lit a unity candle together: Berman held a flame from one of the temple’s Shabbat candles and Werntz held a flame from Emmanuel’s Paschal candle, and they used their individual candles to light a single pillar candle, together.

“As these candles have combined to create greater light from two different sources, may our coming together in this sacred place, give light to all who come into this house in search of faith and love, justice and peace,” the congregations prayed during the ceremony. “May our life together here inspire us, and all who behold us, to work to kindle the light of compassion and hope in the midst of the darkness of our world.”

Both Berman and Werntz hope that their congregations’ covenant agreement can be used as a guideline for others who may want to enter into similar interfaith relationships.

“It’s just a really beautiful, gracious, grace-filled relationship and we want our light to shine beyond 15 Newbury Street,” Werntz said. “It’s the most rewarding thing that we in the congregation have done in the last 15 years, but to work across cultural and religious differences is very hard. It takes time and patience and understanding and goodwill — and it’s absolutely worth every minute of that work.”

The post Episcopal and Jewish congregations celebrate 15 years of shared spiritual home in Boston appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Massachusetts deacon’s ordination brings moment of healing to church in #MeToo times

Episcopal News Service - qui, 19/12/2019 - 12:46

The Rev. Gayle Pershouse Vaughan, second from right, is presented to the congregation at the Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, Massachusetts, on Nov. 10 after her ordination as deacon. Also pictured, from left, are the Rev. Miriam Gelfer, Diocese of Massachusetts Bishop Alan M. Gates, the Rev. Cynthia Pape and the Rev. Pete Jeffrey. Photo: Tracy Sukraw

[Diocese of Massachusetts] For her ordination as a transitional deacon on Nov. 10, the Rev. Gayle Pershouse Vaughan chose for the Gospel reading the passage from John 20 in which Mary encounters the risen Jesus.

“That speaks to me profoundly,” she said during an interview a couple of weeks before the ordination would take place at the Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, Massachusetts, her home parish for the past 15 years.

“That’s how far back dismissal of women goes. Mary’s testimony to the apostles was dismissed. They didn’t believe her,” she said. “Mary encountered Jesus, she recognized him, he recognized her. She came to spread the good news, and they dismissed her because she was a woman.”

When it comes to dismissal, Pershouse knows of what she speaks, having first heard the call to ordained ministry 50 years ago, at a time when, as far as the church was concerned, there was no such thing as women priests.

Nonetheless, she followed that call through the twists and turns of her life’s path over decades — years of joys and sorrows and challenges as she built a career as a teacher and academic librarian, married, went to seminary, divorced, raised her children and remarried, happily.

“So it was halting. It didn’t happen fast,” she said. “But I never had any question from the time I first experienced that call. There was never any question in my mind of what God wanted.”

After 20 years of clarity about her own call to the priesthood, Pershouse was finally, in 1986, endorsed for postulancy — the first step toward ordination — by her sponsoring parish, Christ Church in Cambridge. The diocesan Commission on Ministry approved her application two years later, only to have it rejected by the bishop at the time, the late David E. Johnson, with no explanation given.

The reason, according to Pershouse: She had refused Johnson’s sexual advances.

She did not tell anyone this at the time.

“I felt such profound shame over what had happened,” she said.

Another 30 years on and Pershouse would at last find herself standing in front of the altar, wearing a simple white alb, about to be ordained.

But first, forgiveness.

Before the traditional presentation and examination of the candidate, before the laying on of hands, the Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, the current bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, removed his cope and miter, and facing Pershouse, said this:

“To you and to the people of God here gathered, I confess the sin and abuse of power which you endured three decades ago at the hand of your bishop. On behalf of the episcopal office which I now occupy, and the wider institution which failed to prevent this abuse, I do repent, acknowledging this injustice and decrying our failure to safeguard the sanctity of the church for you and others who have looked to it with hope and trust. Of your goodness, I ask you to receive this confession, extended with genuine sorrow and a penitent heart.”

“By the power of Jesus Christ who suffers with us and whose love redeems all our brokenness, I forgive you for this abuse,” she replied.

It was important to Pershouse that there be a public sacramental reconciliation before her ordination, she said.

Bishop Alan M. Gates ordains Gayle Pershouse Vaughan to the transitional diaconate on Nov. 10. Photo: Tracy Sukraw

“I can’t carry anger into my priesthood. I feel it’s essential, not only for my healing but for the healing of the diocese, to have that act of reconciliation embedded in what we’re doing,” she said. “I think that for Bishop Gates to do that shows humility, integrity and courage that are astonishing.”

“Who is to say what we can expect from the Holy Spirit?” the Rev. Miriam Gelfer, Pershouse’s pastor and colleague at Epiphany, said in an interview, paraphrasing something a fellow parishioner had said to her and others at the news that Pershouse was to be ordained.

“This is such a wonderful thing that is happening in this time in Gayle’s life and in ours. It gives me hope in the institutional church,” Gelfer said, “and I think to a lot of people who have seen injustices done in its name.”

* * *

Pershouse was not raised in a religious family, but she went to an Episcopal girls’ school and loved attending its daily chapel service. She went on to become a teacher.

“When I started working back in the 1960s, there weren’t many careers open to women. Teaching was one of them. I needed a job, and I did love teaching,” she said. She was baptized as an adult and became active in an Episcopal church.

“And I just felt an absolutely overwhelming call to be a priest,” she recalled. “I went back recently and found where I wrote that in my journal. It was 1968, and I wrote: ‘If I were a man I would be a priest.’”

She struggled to understand why God would call her to something that was impossible, and it pained her to the extent that she stopped going to church for several years.

“It wasn’t until I was in my grandmother’s living room one day, and she had the television on, and reporting of the ordination of the Philadelphia 11 came on the news,” Pershouse said. “I thought I was hit by lightning.”

This was 1974, and the Philadelphia 11 were the women whose “irregular” ordination at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia defied church tradition and, along with the subsequent ordination of four more women in 1975 in Washington, D.C., led to the Episcopal Church General Convention’s eventual vote in 1976 to explicitly authorize women’s ordination.

The call to ordained ministry that Pershouse had struggled with and tried to set aside suddenly made sense to her.

“But at that point, I was married. I had children. I had a career. I didn’t have an easy marriage to deal with, and it was basically too late, I thought, impossible.”

What she described as an insistent need to redirect her life led to new work at the Episcopal Divinity School/Weston Jesuit School of Theology library and new community as she earned master’s degrees in divinity and in library science.

She entered the ordination process with the sponsorship of her home parish, Christ Church in Cambridge.

Despite what she characterized as a “season of extreme difficulties” after Johnson’s rejection, she completed the seminary education and field training requirements that are part of the formation process for the priesthood. She explored the possibility of ordination in other dioceses, but felt unable to relocate out of concern for her young children and the demands of supporting them as a single mother. She went on to work as a school library director and faculty member.

She also sought out ways to answer her call to sacramental ministry through a variety of lay leadership roles, including as an assistant to the new Spanish-speaking congregation at St. Luke’s Church in Chelsea, which ultimately joined with the English-speaking congregation there.

That ministry, she said, was affirmation of her call to the priesthood, “despite rejection by the church’s hierarchy.”

In the decades of her formation and early lay ministry, the church was not always a friendly place to women, she said, but then neither were most workplaces.

“I was the first woman teacher at a boys’ boarding school. Most everyone at that time thought women should not be teaching young men. So I had to face a lot of opposition professionally in what I had been doing, and it wasn’t a surprise to me to face opposition in the church. It’s a half century ago, and so much has changed that it’s hard to picture now what an extraordinary thing it was for a woman to say, ‘I’ve been called to the priesthood.’ I wasn’t surprised when people were dismissive,” Pershouse said.

What helped her stay faithful to a call to ministry that was in various ways unsupported and thwarted over the years, she said, was her relationship with Jesus.

“I chose to follow that relationship rather than the various people who were putting obstacles in my way,” she said.

* * *

On Jan. 15, 1995, the year he was to retire, Bishop David E. Johnson committed suicide. Eleven days later, the diocese issued a statement — characterized at the time as “unusual in its candor” — announcing that Johnson had been “involved in several extramarital relationships at different times throughout his ministry” and that “at least some of these relationships appear to have been of the character of sexual exploitation.”

“Our purpose in sharing this information now is to begin the critical process of healing. We seek to help any and all injured individuals in any appropriate way we can, if they make themselves and their wishes known to us,” the statement said.

Pershouse did avail herself of that invitation, and, with the support of her sponsoring priest, the Rev. Robert Tobin, she did meet with Johnson’s successor, Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, to report her experience of abuse. Nothing, ultimately, came of it, she said.

“So when I came forward a second time” — to tell her story to Bishop Alan Gates earlier this year — “it took a good deal more courage than it took to come forward the first time.”

So why do it again now, all these years later, and risk another dismissal?

“It’s not something I wanted to do. In fact, I rather ferociously didn’t want to do it,” she said, but people in her life who knew her story urged her to share it, chief among them her husband of 20 years, Dr. Frank Vaughan. “It was probably the hardest thing I ever did, but people wouldn’t let me off the hook. I prayed about it, and I realized that God was speaking to me through other people. I felt it was a message from God that couldn’t be ignored.”

“A part of this too has been what’s going on in our national situation,” she said, referencing specifically the behavior of President Donald J. Trump and the #MeToo movement, through which survivors of sexual harassment and abuse have found voice and high-profile men in entertainment, politics and news media have been called to account as perpetrators.

“It’s the strength of my own outrage at hearing other people’s stories that pushes me to speak up and say: No. This is absolutely not acceptable.

“Sexual assault is an egregious act of humiliation,” she said. “It’s a weapon used to oppress women, and in the church, it’s been used to keep them from their witness. If you humiliate them enough, they won’t dare to speak up.”

She found it was her time to speak up.

* * *

Pershouse did not come forward with her story with the intention that it would lead to her ordination. “I had no idea that anything would come of it. I was simply reporting my experience. I had already been dismissed, and I’m quite a bit older now, and I simply did not remotely imagine that it would go further than a meeting to tell the story,” she said.

“I cannot overstate how deeply moved I was by our conversation that day,” Gates wrote in an Oct. 24 letter to the people of the Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, announcing that he would be ordaining Pershouse.

“Confronting a sinful abuse of power by one in the very role I myself now occupy leaves me with an unspeakable sense of shame and remorse. This injustice is real and cannot be undone,” he wrote. “At the same time, I heard in Gayle’s witness and testimony the story of one who has never let go of her faith in Christ, nor of her sense of vocation to ministry in the church.”

It became apparent to him that Pershouse’s call to the priesthood was still an active one.

“I found that she has an extraordinarily deep and articulate sacramental theology,” Gates said in an interview. “Then, in consulting with others who have been part of the wider community that intersected with her story, which I felt it was important to do, I came to understand how at Epiphany, Winchester, and at St. Luke’s-San Lucas, Chelsea before that, she had enacted that sacramental theology in every way that a layperson could do. When put alongside the history of a communally affirmed call to the priesthood, it was those three things together that seemed compelling to me.”

He decided that if all canonical requirements could be met through a foreshortened process, and if the appropriate diocesan oversight bodies gave their approval, he would ordain her to the transitional diaconate this fall, and to the priesthood sometime in 2020.

They could be, and they did.

“Since Gayle had already completed most of the canonical requirements for ordination while attending seminary at the Episcopal Divinity School, she was able to fulfill the remaining requirements quite quickly,” the Rev. Edie Dolnikowski, diocesan canon for ordained vocations, explained. “Like every other candidate for ordained ministry, she was interviewed by members of the Commission on Ministry and Standing Committee, and she received their enthusiastic endorsement of her call. Both committees recognized that her ministries over the past 30 years formed her well for ministry as an ordained leader in our church.”

It was at the Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester that Pershouse was able over the past 15 years to explore wider ways of understanding the call to priesthood, and she credits the former rector, the Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Brown, now the bishop of the Diocese of Maine, for helping her with that and for supporting her in liturgical roles: leading Morning Prayer, preaching, conducting services at nursing homes, teaching classes and coordinating a healing prayer team available to the congregation at Sunday morning services.

She will continue to serve at Epiphany during her time as a deacon.

“Though Gayle didn’t want the ordination liturgy itself to become a kind of cause célèbre, she is ready for her story to be known, and it’s important for it to be known precisely as a signal to others that we’re taking the history seriously, that we want to be honest and transparent for the sake of truth and for the sake of healing,” Gates said.

“If there are others with similar or analogous stories that need to be heard, my hope is that this will have engendered some sense of trust and that the circles of awareness are widening. I fully expect and hope that there will be, to use Gayle’s words, ‘ripples of reconciliation,’ and I fully expect that it’s going to be hard,” he said.

Telling her story and having it be heard have been lifesaving, Pershouse said.

“My story was bottled up for so long. Now I can say I have the experience that each time I share the story and I receive support from people, I’m a little bit more healed. And what I’m finding out is that other people who hear my story find it healing for themselves, too, which I wouldn’t necessarily have known at first. It can also be a permission for other people to connect to their own trauma,” she said.

“Know that you’re not alone,” she continued, after pausing to reflect on what learning might be drawn from what she has experienced. “I don’t think everybody is as aware as I am of the presence of Jesus in our suffering, of the fact that he is there with us as we suffer. And that’s what sustained me, that clear, clear perceiving of Jesus’ presence. He’s with me, and he’s with everyone who is mistreated.

“That’s why I like that passage from John that I chose, because in it, Mary says, ‘I saw the Lord.’ And I can say that, too.”

— Tracy J. Sukraw is director of communications for the Diocese of Massachusetts.

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Despite disappointing results of UN climate conference, The Episcopal Church is ‘still in’ for climate justice

Episcopal News Service - ter, 17/12/2019 - 19:12

A security officer stands in front of climate activists during the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP 25) in Madrid, Spain, on Dec. 11, 2019. Photo: Susana Vera/Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] The United Nations Climate Change Conference known as COP 25 went into overtime, running two days later than scheduled, but ended on Dec. 16 without taking the actions scientists say are necessary to avoid a catastrophic future. The United States and other wealthy, high-emitting countries refused to implement carbon pricing or address the losses and damages that smaller, poorer states are suffering.

But while political leaders fell short of those goals, the delegation from The Episcopal Church and its interfaith allies showed the international community at COP 25 (the 25th Conference of the Parties) in Madrid, Spain, that the church remains committed to a swift and just transition away from fossil fuels and will continue pressing those in power to act.

“COP 25, meant by the [United Nations] to be a ‘COP of action,’ turned out to be a ‘COP of inaction’ … in the sense of protracted disagreement on many of the major issues related to carbon markets and how to reduce carbon emissions authentically and honestly,” said Lynnaia Main, The Episcopal Church’s representative to the U.N.

The conference had been seen by many as the last chance to amend current insufficient emissions commitments to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, beyond which humanity runs the risk of inflicting “increasingly severe and expensive impacts” on itself, according to the U.N.

But with crucial action points in the implementation of the 2015 Paris accord delayed until next year’s COP, “the point of no return is no longer over the horizon,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned as the conference drew to a close. “It is in sight and hurtling towards us.”

“This is the biggest disconnect between this process and what’s going on in the real world that I’ve seen,” Alden Meyer, the director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists who has been attending climate talks since 1991, told The Washington Post. “You have the science crystal [clear] on where we need to go. … It’s like we’re in a sealed vacuum chamber in here, and no one is perceiving what is happening out there — what the science says and what people are demanding.”

And what the science says is so dire it demands an urgent response, Main told Episcopal News Service.

“One stunning statistic I heard from [ex-U.N. Secretary-General] Ban Ki-Moon’s former speechwriter on the subject was that the decisions we make over the next 30 years will determine the outcome for the next 10,000 years,” Main said.

Despite the political inaction, the delegation representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry offered a unique perspective at the conference, grounded in The Episcopal Church’s commitment to social justice and creation care — a perspective that is increasingly valued at these summits.

“We heard time and again, from U.N. officials and from other faith-based partners, that increasingly there is a recognition that climate change is a symptom not just of what is happening to the physical world, but of overconsumption, selfishness and apathy,” Main said. “U.N. officials are increasingly recognizing that at least part of the solution lies with faith leaders who can mobilize their communities through the teachings and actions required to generate this change.”

The delegation made a powerful impression, Main said, through its activities during the two-week summit, which included partnering with other faith groups for discussions and prayer services, hosting a booth to educate attendees about the links between climate justice and faith, and meeting with negotiators.

“The fact that The Episcopal Church shows up at a U.N. meeting speaks volumes to member state governments and U.N. officials; it shows that we care enough about the issue to physically show up in another country, for a long protracted period, and to invest resources and people in active participation,” she told ENS.

The delegation also educated national leaders and other representatives about how The Episcopal Church is setting an example by supporting the goals of the Paris agreement, reducing its carbon footprint, supporting indigenous peoples like the Gwich’in in their fight against oil and gas development on sensitive lands, coordinating the Creation Care Pledge, funding advocacy and mitigation work and much more.

In order to convince governments to act, it’s important to show that the church as an institution and Episcopalians as individuals are committed, Main said, “As we look ahead to COP 26 in Glasgow next November, we must ask ourselves how we, as faith-based actors, will undertake the self-examination and self-reform that this era requires of us. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We cannot push our governments to do better, to do more, unless we too are demonstrating that we are still in.”

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

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North Carolina street ministry grows into bilingual congregation by listening to its neighbors

Episcopal News Service - seg, 16/12/2019 - 17:31

The Rev. Chantal McKinney leads worshippers from Christ’s Beloved Community in an outdoor Good Friday procession in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Photo: Christ’s Beloved Community

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Chantal McKinney has earned praise and churchwide support for her church-planting efforts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but the congregation she now leads in worship every Sunday as Christ’s Beloved Community didn’t sprout overnight. It started years ago with a lot of knocking on doors.

“I wanted to create a community that would be with people, not for people,” McKinney told Episcopal News Service. She modeled her approach to mission after the ways Jesus connected with people. “He wasn’t in the church. He was on the street meeting people where they were.”

And though Christ’s Beloved Community now draws several dozen worshippers to its weekly potluck lunch and Holy Eucharist on Sunday afternoons, getting people into the pews has always been less important to McKinney than connecting people with God.

“We want to be known for who we are and what we do during the week as much as on Sunday,” she said.

Christ’s Beloved Community also is intentional about breaking down a range of barriers. Its ministry is bilingual, aimed at bringing together members of the largely Latino community of its south-side neighborhood and their white and black English-speaking neighbors. The congregation is a joint Episcopal-Lutheran partnership that shares space with an active but aging Lutheran congregation. Overall, it emphasizes types of mission work that will “feed people physically and spiritually” while connecting people from diverse backgrounds who might not otherwise gather together in Jesus’ name.

“Christ’s Beloved Community and their founder, Chantal McKinney, bear witness to a model of neighborhood engagement and radical reconciliation that has become a beacon of inspiration to missional leaders across The Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Katie Nakamura Rengers, The Episcopal Church’s interim staff officer for church planting infrastructure.

The church’s Task Force on Church Planting and Congregational Redevelopment awarded $100,000 to Christ’s Beloved Community during the last triennium, which ended in 2018. This year, the task force recommended and Executive Council approved a $40,000 “harvest” grant to further support McKinney as her ministry gains momentum.

“Chantal’s faith in the incarnate Gospel is clear through her ‘door knocking’ ministry, and her commitment to living the Gospel alongside people who don’t look like, act like or have the resources of the stereotypical Episcopalian,” Rengers said.

McKinney, whose mother is Mexican-American and whose white father was raised in Venezuela, studied at Virginia Theological Seminary and was ordained as a deacon in 2002 at age 24 and as a priest the following year. She spent the following decade in parish ministry in the Diocese of North Carolina during Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s tenure as bishop of the diocese.

In conversations with Curry, McKinney explained that she was drawn to ministries involving the poor, and she wanted to take that service beyond her congregational work. “I want to be their priest. I want to be with them,” she said.

Curry gave her the flexibility to explore new approaches. She trained with a community organizer and, in 2014, began knocking on doors, meeting people one on one and learning about their lives and spiritual needs. Those rounds of door-knocking grew into what McKinney describes as a more robust street ministry.

A Diocese of North Carolina grant in 2015 helped McKinney expand the capacity of that work by hosting a two-day training in community organizing. A dozen lay members from churches around the city attended to learn ways, guided by scripture, of engaging with residents where they lived, from federally subsidized apartments to mobile home parks.

One of the things they learned was that many of the residents were new immigrants from Latin America who were from a Roman Catholic background but had not yet found a church in Winston-Salem. “There was a real opportunity to offer sacraments bilingually in this neighborhood,” McKinney said.

North Carolina Bishop Suffragan Anne Hodges-Copple for several years had been responsible for promoting new Episcopal ministries around the diocese, and after Curry was elected presiding bishop in 2015, Hodges-Copple, while leading the diocese as it searched for a new bishop, continued to support McKinney’s work. They began discussing ways of creating a new bilingual worshipping community on Winston-Salem’s south side.

“Our first thought was, how do we make sure that the Eucharist is being offered in a language and in a style that feels comfortable and accessible?” Hodges-Copple said in an interview with ENS.

Neither The Episcopal Church nor the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America had a large presence in the neighborhood at the time, McKinney said, but she soon connected with church-planting leaders from the ELCA’s North Carolina Synod who said they wanted to be a part of her growing ministry.

“We were already sort of dreaming of an opportunity to do ministry together,” said the Rev. Danielle DeNise, the North Carolina Synod’s director for evangelical mission. The synod also has church plants through partnerships with the Moravians and Methodists. “We’ve got to be in partnership in our mission development,” DeNise told ENS. “We can’t start any more churches on our own.”

The synod already had a small congregation in the neighborhood, Christ Lutheran Church, but its Sunday service had dwindled to just a handful of older worshippers. Closure wasn’t imminent, but it was inevitable, DeNise said. Lutheran Bishop Tim Smith met with the church members in 2016 and suggested a partnership with McKinney’s team that would allow the older congregation to leave a legacy after Christ Lutheran ceases to be a viable congregation.

That year, the two congregations signed a memo of understanding that gave McKinney use of Christ Lutheran as a physical home for Christ’s Beloved Community, which was endorsed by the synod as a federated Lutheran-Episcopal mission. A supply priest continues to lead Christ Lutheran’s worship services, to be held in the building as long as the congregation survives, after which the property will be deeded to Christ’s Beloved Community.

The synod also approved a grant of $100,000 for Christ’s Beloved Community, part of which was used to renovate the church buildings to be more welcoming to the new congregation, which officially moved into the space in July 2017. Christ’s Beloved Community created a food pantry and has offered after-school programs there. Neighbors helped build a new playground on the property. And in November 2018, the congregation began holding its own Sunday services. McKinney now estimates 85 to 90 people are connected to the congregation’s ministries and worship service in a typical week.

Christ Lutheran has had to adjust to the changes, but it has been a positive, collaborative experience, DeNise said. “We know that this is a way of God’s legacy continuing,” she said. “We know that everybody had to make sacrifices in the process, so I think there are some beautiful things about Christ Lutheran that we have to be giving thanks for.”

Worshippers process into Christ Lutheran Church in Winston-Salem for a Eucharist celebrated by Christ’s Beloved Community, a joint Episcopal-Lutheran congregation that grew out of an Episcopal street ministry. Photo: Christ’s Beloved Community

McKinney still sees Christ’s Beloved Community as a mission dedicated to ministry every day of the week, not just Sunday, but the permanent location has been useful for growing a worshipping community.

The potluck starts at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, and the Holy Eucharist follows at 1:30 p.m. The services tend to look and feel a little more Lutheran in the first half and a little more Episcopal during communion in the second half, McKinney said. She uses bilingual Bibles for the readings, rather than bulletin handouts, and real bread for communion.

“We’re trying to get back to basics,” she said, though the church also features a large screen where worshippers can follow along in English and Spanish while McKinney alternates between the two languages. The music includes Spanish-language and African American hymns, with tambourines and other instruments distributed to people in the pews.

On a good Sunday, attendance can top 40 people, though Hodges-Copple underscored that Sunday worship isn’t always the best metric for measuring the success of a ministry like Christ’s Beloved Community.

“It’s not the only way people are gathering in the presence of Jesus,” Hodges-Copple said.

She compared Christ’s Beloved Community to the depiction of Jesus on his walk to Emmaus in Luke 24. In that chapter, Jesus, unrecognized by his disciples, says little as he listens to them talking while they walk.

McKinney “did an amazing job for I think over a year of just listening, of just going into neighborhoods,” Hodges-Copple said, and that spirit still guides Christ’s Beloved Community as a congregation.

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

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Poulson C. Reed elected sixth bishop of Oklahoma

Episcopal News Service - seg, 16/12/2019 - 14:56

The Rev. Poulson Reed. Photo: Diocese of Oklahoma

[Diocese of Oklahoma] The Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma elected the Rev. Poulson Reed as bishop coadjutor to become the sixth diocesan bishop on Dec. 14 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City. Reed will succeed the Rt. Rev. Edward J. Konieczny upon his retirement at the end of 2020. Reed was elected on the second ballot by clergy and lay delegates from congregations across Oklahoma. Reed received 81 votes from lay delegates and 52 votes from clergy. The other candidate on the ballot was the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn of Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Today’s election represents months of hard work, discernment and fervent prayer,” said the Rev. Mary Ann Hill, president of the standing committee. “We are excited about the gifts and experiences the Rev. Reed will bring to us and pledge our love and support. We look forward to the next part of our journey, trusting that the Holy Spirit will continue to lead us into the future God has in store for us.”

“I give thanks for the election of the Rev. Reed as the bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Oklahoma,” said the Rt. Rev. Edward J. Konieczny, “and look forward to our time of transition as they become the sixth bishop of this great diocese.”

The Rev. Reed is currently the rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church and Day School in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the spiritual and managerial leader of both the church and school staffs. Previously, Reed served as the sub-dean and canon of St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colorado. He is married to Megan Reed and they have three sons.

The canons of The Episcopal Church require that all bishop elections receive the consent of a majority of diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. Following a successful consent process, the Rev. Reed will be ordained and consecrated on Saturday, April 18, 2020 at Oklahoma City University by the Most Reverend Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church.

We invite your prayers for the Diocese of Oklahoma during this time of transition; for Bishop Ed Konieczny and his wife, Debbie, as they enter into retirement and for the Rev. Poulson Reed and his family as they prepare for this new season of ministry.

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Westminster seminar explores ‘conflict and reconciliation’ in the Anglican Communion

Episcopal News Service - sex, 13/12/2019 - 16:55

Westminster Abbey is hosting a series of five daylong seminars between November 2019 and April 2020, in advance of the Lambeth Conference, to be held July 23-Aug. 5, 2020, in Canterbury, England. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – London] As bishops from across the Anglican Communion prepare to gather next summer in Canterbury for the 2020 Lambeth Conference, human sexuality remains a divisive topic, though reconciliation may be possible through appreciation for creation, deep listening and following ecumenical examples toward unity.

“God committed God’s self to diversity by the act of creation,” said the Rt. Rev. Victor Atta-Baffoe, bishop of Cape Coast in Ghana, as outlined in the first two chapters of Genesis, and a Christian theology of cultural diversity must be based in two fundamental church doctrines: the act of creation and unity of the human race, and the universality of the church.

“The church is a messenger of Christ and must keep in mind the cultural dimensions and identities of human communities; the existence of the multicultural identities in the church is to help improve our knowledge and experiences of the creation of God. It [the church] is also called to denounce all forms of isolationism in order to promote cultural diversity, sensitivity and reconciliation,” continued Atta-Baffoe, reading from his paper “Cultural diversity in the life of Christ,” presented Dec. 9 during an ecclesiological seminar at Westminster Abbey.

Atta-Baffoe was among six speakers to present papers during the seminar exploring “Conflict and reconciliation within the Anglican Communion.” The presenters represented four Anglican provinces – the Church of the Province of West Africa, the Church of England, The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Church of Canada – plus one ecumenical partner.

This was the second of five daylong events in a seminar series hosted by Westminster Abbey, in partnership with the Anglican Communion Office. The one-day seminars have been scheduled between November 2019 and April 2020, in advance of the 2020 Lambeth Conference, to be held July 23-Aug. 5 in Canterbury, England. Admission to the seminars is free, but tickets are required and seating is limited. Some 40 people attended the Dec. 9 seminar in the abbey’s Jerusalem Chamber.

The first seminar in the series explored the fundamentals of Anglicanism. The next seminar, “Harvesting the fruits of international dialogue,” is scheduled for Feb. 17. The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge will publish a volume of the papers presented during the series.

“One of the offers that the abbey can make to the wider Anglican Communion is the ability to convene and to put together projects which can be of help for the wider communion,” the Rev. Jamie Hawkey, the abbey’s canon theologian, told Episcopal News Service during the lunch break. “So, I thought in advance of the [Lambeth] conference, one of the things we could do would be to offer to the communion this series of five days’ symposia looking at the identity and the nature of Anglicanism at this point in the 21st century.”

At the moment, the Anglican Communion is undergoing considerable strain, and the inclination is “to move into ever more bureaucratic ways of managing difference,” Hawkey said. “The answer, I think, to ecclesial difference, the answer to ecclesial diversity, is to intensify the gift of communion.”

Pictured at the Dec. 9 seminar at Westminster Abbey are from left, the Rt. Rev. Victor Atta-Baffoe, the Rev. Susan Durber, the Most Rev. Linda Nicholls, the Rev. Phil Groves, the Rev. Mark Chapman, the Rt. Rev. John Bauerschmidt and the Rev. Jamie Hawkey. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Founded in 1867, the Anglican Communion is the world’s third-largest Christian communion, now with 40 provinces in 138 countries. The first Lambeth Conference was called in 1867 to address disputes that had arisen in South Africa over the practice of polygamy and other theological teachings. Then-Archbishop of Canterbury Charles Longley invited all 144 of the communion’s bishops to the first conference, but only 76 attended, in part because some felt the gathering would only increase confusion about the controversy, according to an 1889 book.

“It’s important to note that the Anglican Communion was born in conflict and concern,” noted by the Rev. Mark Chapman, in his paper, “Conflict, Sexuality, and Identity, 1998-2019,” at the seminar’s outset, giving the historical context of the conflict in the communion.

Unlike other worldwide religious communions, such as the Roman Catholic Church, no real binding laws exist in the Anglican Communion, said Chapman, a priest in the Church of England and a professor of history and modern theology at the University of Oxford.

“Despite calls for a centralized pattern of authority, the resolutions of the bishops have been nothing more than advisory and have no canonical status. Instead, individual churches are free to act as they see fit,” he said.

“Nevertheless, from the mid-19th century, when the communion began to develop as a backdrop to the spread of the British Empire, and to some extent, also to the American influence overseas, consultative bodies have emerged for the different churches to discuss matters of mutual concern.”

The Lambeth Conference of Bishops convenes approximately every 10 years. It is considered one of four “Instruments of Communion,” or “Unity,” along with the archbishop of Canterbury, who is considered to be the bishops’ “first among equals”; the Primates Meeting, established in 1978; and the Anglican Consultative Council, created at the 1968 Lambeth Conference.

The Anglican Consultative Council, or ACC, and the Primates Meeting emerged “out of the need to make decisions more efficiently and in between the gatherings of bishops,” said Chapman.

As in 1867, the archbishop of Canterbury issues invitations to the Lambeth Conference. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has invited bishops and a majority of spouses from the Anglican Communion’s 40 provinces and its five extra-provincial areas (Ceylon, Portugal, Spain, Bermuda and the Falkland Islands) to the 2020 gathering at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

In February 2019, however, Anglican Communion Secretary General Josiah Idowu-Fearon announced via a blog post that Welby would not extend the invitation to spouses of bishops in same-sex marriages.

In the blog post, Idowu-Fearon wrote that the invitation process needed to take into account the Anglican Communion’s position on marriage, which is that of a lifelong union between a man and a woman, as laid out in the much-debated Lambeth 1998 Resolution 110.

As it stands, Welby’s decision applies to three bishops – two in the United States and one in the Anglican Church of Canada; however, two additional bishops in same-sex marriages have been elected in The Episcopal Church with consecrations scheduled for February and April 2020.

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council and House of Bishops, as well as a number of dioceses, have objected to Welby’s decision, though by inviting “every active bishop,” Welby has gone further than then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who refused to invite the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson to the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

The 2008 Lambeth Conference made international headlines when it was thought the Anglican Communion would split over issues of human sexuality and progressive Western influence, precipitated in 2002 when the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of Westminster Synod approved blessings for couples in same-sex unions. And, then in 2003, The Episcopal Church elected and later consecrated Robinson, now-retired New Hampshire bishop, as the first openly gay, partnered bishop in the Anglican Communion.

Not unlike in 1867, some bishops decided to boycott the 2008 Lambeth Conference and met instead as the Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON. The same bishops plan to boycott Lambeth 2020 and again will hold an alternative conference of bishops in Rwanda in June.

The Canadian and American churches’ actions led to the publication of the 2004 Windsor Report, which called for an Anglican Covenant to address common identity and exercise of autonomy, among other communion issues, and for a moratorium on future actions until the church could be of one mind.

Then, in 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, The Episcopal Church amended its marriage canon in favor of marriage equality for all Episcopalians.

Meeting in October 2017 in Canterbury, the primates issued a communiqué that reiterated their overwhelming desire to walk together in unity, albeit from a distance when faced with differences over issues of human sexuality, such as marriage equality, in their respective provinces. The communiqué built upon a commitment first stated in the 2004 Windsor Report in regard to unity and the Instruments of Communion.

“What this bears witness to is the understanding that the churches of the Anglican Communion, if that Communion is to mean anything at all, are obliged to move together, to walk together in synodality,” the report read.

The concept of “synodality” was something Tennessee Bishop John Bauerschmidt addressed in his paper, “Walking together and walking apart: Explorations in Anglican Synodality.”

The Windsor Report, “to avoid walking apart, 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,” said Bauerschmidt. “The language of walking together and walking apart has persisted in the communion, though usage has developed even as the moratoria Windsor called for went unobserved in many places.”

In January of this year, Bauerschmidt announced that Bishop Brian Cole of East Tennessee will “provide pastoral support” to couples, clergy and congregations who want to solemnize same-sex marriages in Bauerschmidt’s diocese, the Diocese of Tennessee. His announcement came in response to the 79th General Convention Resolution B012, which said that bishops who do not agree with same-sex marriage rites “shall invite, as necessary,” another Episcopal Church bishop to provide “pastoral support” for same-sex couples wishing to marry in their dioceses.

Earlier this year, during its General Synod, the Anglican Church of Canada failed to pass a resolution to amend its marriage canon to expressly allow for the solemnization of same-sex marriage, but later its House of Bishops issued a communiqué allowing diocese-based decisions on same-sex marriage according to their contexts and convictions.

“We all desire to belong to be welcomed and loved in a community whether in our family or in other communities, we yearn for that place. Such places where you are known and loved even if and when you fail to live up to the values you profess, a place that calls for the best from you and will forgive your failures. A place to give to others from your own gifts, a place to serve and be served, and a place where glimpses of the kingdom of God have seen,” said Archbishop Linda Nicholls, in her paper, “Reconciliation: Our Call and Vocation.”

“This is the promise of the family of God, loved and forgiven. We belong by baptism to that family and are called to offer the same to others drawing the circle wide so that all may know the salvation of God,” she said. “That same community that can love and forgive also has the potential to be shattered by our inability to live into all that is required, through lack of forgiveness, selfishness, greed, lust or any of the sins of in life that individuals and communities commit resulting in broken relationships. If we are to be faithful to God and to our baptism, we are called to create communities of grace and practice reconciliation as an essential and daily habit.”

Nicholls was elected 14th primate of the Anglican Church of Canada during its July synod. During that same synod, the Canadian church expanded its “full communion recognition” with The Episcopal Church.

Nicholls, as with the Rev. Phil Groves, who later spoke, was involved in Continuing Indaba, a project intended to encourage dialogue among Episcopalians and Anglicans across the communion.

Beyond issues of human sexuality and despite economic, societal and other cultural differences, communion members share many of the same concerns, including those related to climate change, human migration and authoritarianism.

“The resilience of the Anglican Communion should give us hope. We just have those bonds of affection that will take us into the future,” said Groves, the former director of the Continuing Indaba and Mutual Listening Process launched in 2009, in a conversation with ENS following the seminar where he presented a paper, “Confidence in Communion.”

“Those [bonds of affection] are far stronger than we ever imagined,” said Groves, who is now the convener of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network.

Christian churches outside the Anglican Communion have recognized it for the value it places on peacemaking and reconciliation, said the Rev. Susan Durber, moderator of the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order and a minister in the United Reformed Church in England.

“Those of us outside the communion have seen with admiration how you have worked hard to find ways to find reconciliation, for example, through that Indaba process, through the slow kind of authentic conversation that is about furthering and deepening relationships, and community life rather than simply solving problems,” said Durber, offering the ecumenical perspective.

“The Anglican Communion, I can see, has a real commitment to resolving disharmony into reconciliation and often exhibits a level of patience that the wider world simply finds incomprehensible,” she said. “In a world so fractured by difference while also so immediately in touch with itself all the time, the commitment to the slow, deep and face-to-face conversations that you have is not only encouraging, but inspiring.”

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

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Hymn writing competition will mark centennial of Church in Wales

Episcopal News Service - sex, 13/12/2019 - 13:21

[Anglican Communion News Service] A hymn writing competition has been launched to help mark the centennial of the Church in Wales, which will be celebrated across all its dioceses next year.

The Diocese of St. Davids is inviting entries to find a new liturgical hymn to celebrate the 100th anniversary and that of the Church in Wales in 2020.

Communications officer David Hammond-Williams said: “Hymns are an integral part of church liturgy, so this is a natural choice to try and help people engage with the celebrations. We have a big tradition of singing in Wales and the hope is that this might help us leave a musical legacy for the future.”

Read the entire article here.

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A big Anglican welcome planned for Lambeth Conference delegates

Episcopal News Service - sex, 13/12/2019 - 12:59

The Big Hello will connect attendees to their companion link diocese or provide the opportunity for new ones to be started. Photo: Lambeth Conference Company

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican parishes and dioceses across England, Wales and Scotland are gearing up to welcome more than 1,000 Anglican bishops and spouses from across the globe in July 2020.

The delegates, who will be attending the 15th Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, hosted by the archbishop of Canterbury, will travel from over 165 countries from across the Communion.

The event provides an opportunity to build relationships and create new ones, not just between bishops and spouses, but among churches, dioceses, communities and countries across the world. And the Lambeth Conference Company is helping coordinate the special welcome called ‘The Big Hello’ that will be rolled out from churches.

Read the full article here.

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At a North Carolina church, the tradition of ‘child bishops’ teaches the meaning of Advent

Episcopal News Service - qui, 12/12/2019 - 17:15

In December 2018, Prakash Keeley was enthroned as a “bishop” at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Steve Rice

[Faith & Leadership] Last December, 10-year-old Prakash Keeley proudly donned the gold-and-white bishop’s robe and miter, gripped a staff that towered over him by a half-foot, and blessed a kneeling congregation with the words of Jesus: “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall never enter it.”

Since 2012, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has annually enthroned a fifth-grade boy such as Keeley, giving him bishop’s regalia and letting him lead the service for the Dec. 6 Feast of St. Nicholas. The tradition of the “boy bishop,” with roots dating back to medieval times, emphasizes the upside-down aspect of the Advent season.

The making of boy bishops, if only for a service, illustrates the words of the Magnificat in a physical way: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly” (Luke 1:52 NRSV).

At St. Timothy’s, a senior boy chorister receives the honor each year. The chorister is elected by parish leaders for his dedication and involvement with the programs at the church, and one of the privileges is taking on the role of boy bishop in December. The other choristers also take part, dressing as “canons” and vesting him with the robe and a bishop’s ring.

The newly enthroned bishop then leads parts of the service, reading a prayer from a booklet that includes the names of all the boy bishops from previous years. The following year, he participates in passing the title on to his successor.

Keeley enjoyed the new perspective he gained by standing in the front and facing the congregation for the first time as a leader, not just a congregant, he said. He practiced his readings and prayer beforehand, knowing that all eyes would be on him.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking but also kind of fun,” he said.

With the honor also came some surprises, Keeley said. Some of his observations were quite practical: “A bishop has to wear a lot of clothes — it was kind of hot, actually.” Others were childlike, yet profound: “Everybody was watching you and expecting you to make the next move.”

Keeley stands with other choristers after the service. Photo courtesy of Steve Rice

The Rev. Steve Rice, the rector of St. Timothy’s, was inspired by the British tradition of boy bishops.

The exact origins of the tradition are unclear, but historian Neil Mackenzie, the author of “The Medieval Boy Bishops,” argues in an article for History Today that the tradition must have been established before 1222; inventory documents from that time in Salisbury, England, indicate that the local parish had a practice of giving a boy a bishop’s ring.

The tradition was common in the Catholic churches of England in the late Middle Ages, and churches would crown the boys from the Feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6 to the Feast of the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28. Eventually, the practice was revived in the late 20th century in England, and the first girl bishops were appointed in the early 2000s.

The enthroning of boy bishops taught a congregation that children are crucial to the life of the church, and the lesson found a perfect context in the Feast of St. Nicholas — a patron saint of children known for his generosity — and the words of the Magnificat.

Rice experiences the power of the tradition in the way it helps him understand Mary’s words.

“These children and the least among us are the bearers of the kingdom and are leaders. And to see that embodied in a tangible way moves me,” he said.

He also sees the impact that it has on the kids themselves. They love the tradition, Rice said. They love capturing it in photos, but they also perform the liturgy with poise, taking their roles quite seriously.

Keeley’s mother, Christie, valued the experience for both Prakash and her older son, who also was a boy bishop in 2014. Helping lead a service was something that neither of her children had ever done, and the same is true for many children who grow up in church.

During the season of Advent, when Christians focus on God’s humility in becoming human, the tradition teaches the congregants at St. Timothy’s that everyone is important for the life of the church, she said.

“You don’t have to be a bishop; you can be a boy,” she said. “You can be a young person and still be involved in the church life.”

This article was first published in Faith & Leadership.

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RIP: The Rev. Donald Nickerson, executive officer through four General Conventions, dies at 80

Episcopal News Service - qui, 12/12/2019 - 11:17

The Rev. Donald Nickerson celebrates the Eucharist in Burlington, Vermont, in June 1998 during his last Executive Council meeting as executive officer and secretary of General Convention. Photo: Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Donald Nickerson, who served as The Episcopal Church’s executive officer of General Convention from 1986 to 1998, has died. He was 80.

Nickerson, a lifelong New Englander, died Dec. 9 after a 33-year struggle with Parkinson’s disease. In retirement, he and his wife, Susan Martin, continued to attend services at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brunswick, Maine, where Nickerson had served as rector for 12 years in the 1970s and 1980s.

“He was a pastor’s pastor and mentored hundreds of people to be leaders of the gospel, both within and beyond the church,” Maine Bishop Thomas Brown said Dec. 11 in a diocesan news release announcing Nickerson’s death. “It is not too much to say we’ve lost a giant.”

Nickerson was appointed executive officer and secretary of General Convention in 1986 by Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning and the Very Rev. David Collins, president of the House of Deputies. While the position of secretary dates to the first General Convention in 1785, executive officer was a relatively new role, tasked with keeping records and administering governance of the church during its triennial gathering and the years between General Conventions, including through the work of Executive Council. Nickerson was only the church’s second executive officer.

Nickerson’s service across four General Conventions earned him loving praise at the time of his retirement in 1998. “I think maybe his greatest gift is that he is a wonderful communicator,” Browning said then. “When he went out to visit the dioceses to talk about General Convention … he was received with a lot of thankfulness. He helped a lot of people have a better appreciation of what [convention] was all about.”

Pamela Chinnis, who was House of Deputies president in 1998, joined Browning in praising Nickerson as “a very steadying influence” during a time of change in The Episcopal Church, particularly as it grew more welcoming to LGBTQ members and shifted toward allowing the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.

Executive Council honors the Rev. Donald Nickerson at his retirement in 1998. Pamela Chinnis, far left, president of the House of Deputies, and Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, second to left, present gifts to Nickerson and his wife, Sue Nickerson. Photo: Episcopal News Service

The Rev. Michael Barlowe, who now fills the executive officer role once held by Nickerson, spoke highly of his predecessor in a written statement to Episcopal News Service.

“Don served with distinction as secretary and executive officer of the General Convention during some of the most challenging times in the life and governance of the church,” Barlowe said. “He mentored many of the today’s senior leaders of The Episcopal Church, and was known for his fairness, civility, and wisdom.”

Nickerson grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts and attended summer camp in Maine at Camp O-AT-KA, founded by an Episcopal priest on Lake Sebago in 1906.

Nickerson and his wife met there and in 1962 were married at the camp’s St. Andrew’s Chapel, according to the Diocese of Maine. In retirement, the couple continued to return to the camp each year “for fellowship and renewal.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry meets with the Rev. Donald Nickerson, right, in June 2019 while in Maine for the consecration of Maine Bishop Thomas Brown, left. Photo: Alice and Chris Photography, via Diocese of Maine

A graduate of Springfield College and Berkeley Divinity School, Nickerson was ordained in 1964 as a curate at Trinity Church in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, and he later served as rector of Christ Church in North Conway, New Hampshire, before moving to Maine in 1974.

He also served as a deputy or alternate at six General Conventions, from 1970 until his appointment as executive officer, and he was elected to Executive Council in 1982. As executive officer, Nickerson also served as registrar of The Episcopal Church, and in that role, he participated in more than 100 bishop ordinations, according to the Diocese of Maine.

“A deeply spiritual person, Don served the Church faithfully and in many capacities,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in a written statement. “He was generous in forming leaders and devoted to his family. He lived the way of Jesus through a life shaped by faith, hope and, above all, love.”

Brown recalled sharing a moment with Nickerson on a deck overlooking Lake Sebago during the past summer, when Nickerson said, “The church has been good for me and my family.”

“We join The Episcopal Church in the chorus that sings, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant,’” Brown said.

Nickerson’s funeral will be 11 a.m. Dec. 28 at St. Paul’s in Brunswick. A private burial will follow at Kearsarge Cemetery in Kearsarge, New Hampshire.

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

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Youth Network aims to breathe new life into Anglican Communion’s mission

Episcopal News Service - qua, 11/12/2019 - 19:41

Youth members at ACC17 with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Photo: ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] Young people across the churches of the Anglican Communion are being sought to represent their regions on the new Anglican Youth Network, which has now set out its vision and aims for the future.

One of the interim working group, Clifton Nedd, Anglican Consultative Council lay member and Anglican Alliance Caribbean facilitator, said the network fulfills the objectives of the Anglican Consultative Council resolutions in 2016 and 2019, ensuring that the church’s mission is open and inclusive of all.

“This is not simply about keeping young people connected or together as a means of sustainability,” he said. “There is a deeper goal: to support and facilitate the fulfillment of God’s mission in the lives of young people.”

Read the full article here.

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Baptizing child of early enslaved Africans helped tie Episcopal Church to slavery’s legacy

Episcopal News Service - ter, 10/12/2019 - 17:48

The enslaved Africans taken to Virginia in 1619 had been captured at sea by British privateers and sold for supplies at Point Comfort before most of them were brought inland to Jamestown. Photo: National Park Service

[Episcopal News Service] Following this year’s commemorations of the 1619 arrival of enslaved Africans to the Jamestown colony, there is at least one anniversary to come that is worth remembering for how it ties The Episcopal Church to the legacy of slavery.

Sometime in the first five years after those Africans were traded to the colony for food by an English pirate who had captured them on the high seas, the infant son of two of the original “20 and odd Negroes” was baptized in an Anglican church in the area, according to the colony’s 1624 census records. Those records say the son of “Antoney Negro and Isabell Negro” was baptized with the name of his family’s owner, William Tucker. It was the first documented baptism of an African baby in English North America.

Baby William’s baptism likely took place in the Anglican church near his master’s plantation on the Hampton River in an area where the Kecoughtan tribe lived. The church was known as Elizabeth City Parish, which is still active today as St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hampton, Virginia.

William Tucker’s baptism likely took place in the Anglican church near his master’s plantation on the Hampton River in what was then an area where the Kecoughtan tribe settled. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The church’s willingness to perform such baptisms “tells me that sin is very real and that blindness is very real, and we can extend baptism, which is freedom offered us through the power of the Holy Spirit and at the same time, maintain and develop and make thrive a system of chattel slavery,” Diocese of Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright said in an interview with Episcopal News Service.

The sin of the church’s approval of and participation in slavery, Wright said, had its roots in Cape Coast on the western shore of Ghana, which was a nexus of the transatlantic slave trade. He recalled a March 2017 trip there during which he toured the dungeons where captured Africans were held before being forced onto ships bound for North America and the Caribbean.

Standing in those “dank, dark places,” Wright realized that “just above those dungeons was the Anglican chapel where people said basically the same words that we’re saying now in our Episcopal churches every Sunday.” It is believed that many Africans were forcibly baptized before they were taken to the Americas.

Baptism’s implications for slavery were later institutionalized in the law of the Virginia colony. Many Anglicans were members of the Virginia Assembly in 1667 when it declared that even if “by the charity and piety of their owners” slave children were baptized, “the conferring of baptisme doth not alter the condition of the person as to his bondage or freedome.” The law permitted the baptism of slaves and their children because it would help spread Christianity in the colony. The preamble of the legislation noted that the law was meant to free slave owners from any doubt about their baptized slaves’ status as property.

The U.S.-based Episcopal Church developed out of the Anglican Church in the 1780s after the British surrendered to the colonists at the end of the Revolutionary War.

Despite the sin that Wright sees in the church’s motivation for William Tucker’s baptism, he said he also finds “a lot of power” in a story that could help all Episcopalians understand that African Americans have been part of the church since the beginning, despite the discrimination they often face there.

Diocese of Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright says Episcopalians can find common ground in remembering the story of Jamestown and its legacy. Photo: Diocese of Atlanta

“So often in The Episcopal Church, African Americans can feel like guests, even though we have been members of this church since 1624. There’s something about William’s baptism that pops that bubble of feeling like a guest in your own home,” he said. “This has been our home – for better, for worse, for all of its blemishes and all of its blessings – this Episcopal Church has been our church from 1624.”

Wright said he wishes that white Episcopalians and those of color could know about William “and that [that] could somehow create more of a connection between us.”

In addition, acknowledging the church’s past sins can allow Episcopalians to posthumously confer the Baptismal Covenant’s promise of respect for the dignity of every human being, Wright said. “Even down the long hallway of time, what some of us are attempting to do with the memory of 1619 and going forward is to say that, despite what people did to black and brown people, you were here, you were a person made in God’s image and you had dignity, even if you were not treated that way at the time,” he said. “That’s a gift to give both to the dead and the living.”

The Episcopal Church has been reflecting on its Jamestown legacy since at least 2007, when the church marked the 400th anniversary of the 1607 establishment of the colony and the Anglican Church’s presence. “This place reeks with the origins of the slave trade in this land,” 26th Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in June 2007 during a Eucharist marking the occasion. “That history is not yet fully redeemed, even though the church which sanctioned slavery was instrumental in its dismantling.”

The work to which Jefferts Schori called the church in 2007 continues. Today, the descendants of slaves and sharecroppers – including Presiding Bishop Michael Curry – and slave owners sit in the House of Bishops. They worship together in churches, some of which were built by slaves. Some seminarians and other students study on campuses built with slave labor and the financial fruits of the slave trade. One of them, Virginia Theological Seminary, has set aside $1.7 million for a slavery reparations fund.

Two dioceses, Long Island and New York, have pledged to set up reparations funds. Georgia Bishop Scott Benhase recently announced the creation of the St. Anna Alexander Center for Racial Reconciliation & Healing, contributing 3 percent of the diocesan endowment to the effort and calling on all endowed congregations to contribute at the same level. The Diocese of Maryland is continuing to study the issue of reparations.

This year The Episcopal Church joined with people across the country to remember the events of 1619. Such commemorations are important, the Rev. Charles Wynder Jr., staff officer for social justice and engagement, told ENS, because “we stand with our bodies as witness in these types of memories.” At least one more Episcopal Church commemoration at Jamestown is planned for next year.

Bishop Marc Andrus, of the San Francisco-based Diocese of California, told ENS that he traces his family’s roots in North America to Jamestown. Four hundred years ago, Thomas Andrus, a 12-year-old boy who might have been an orphan, was snatched off the streets of London, likely by members of a religious order. He arrived on a ship with about 99 other boys in 1620 and was forced into indentured servitude. Thomas Andrus survived Jamestown, but Andrus said about 70 percent of the boys who arrived with him died.

Thomas worked off his indenture and was freed. Within 100 years of Thomas’ arrival in Jamestown, his descendants had moved to Louisiana. By the early 19th century, they were prosperous rice buyers and brokers. The stigma of indenture and the poverty that the young Andrus experienced in 1620 and thereafter “was all erased and it would be as if it never happened.” It is a far different fate than that of the descendants of most if not all of those “20 and odd Negroes” who were forced to come to Virginia in 1619, Andrus noted.

The Episcopal Church must not forget its Jamestown legacy, Andrus said, urging Episcopalians to consider becoming what is called a culture of remembrance in Germany, where the Holocaust is remembered so that its horrors are not repeated.

The 2008 documentary “Traces of the Trade” is an example of Episcopalians trying to foster a memory culture, he said. In the film, Katrina Brown tells the story of her ancestors in the DeWolf family, the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history and also a prominent part of The Episcopal Church. James DeWolf Perry was The Episcopal Church’s 18th presiding bishop.

Prompted in part by the film and a 2006 General Convention resolution that urged dioceses to collect information on the church’s complicity in slavery, the subsequent history of segregation and discrimination, and the economic benefits the church derived from slavery, The Episcopal Church apologized for its role in slavery.

Diocese of California Bishop Marc Andrus says The Episcopal Church must keep alive the memory of its complicity in the institution of slavery. Photo: Diocese of California

The effort to collect information has been uneven. For instance, Andrus said his diocese’s work “was not always smooth sailing; there were people who said that really doesn’t apply to us” because California was officially a free state. However, people persevered, he said, and the diocese reported its findings in 2012.

Andrus said he wonders if Episcopalians are really aware of the full picture of the church’s history with slavery.

“Would this be a good moment to revisit that work of memory recovery?” he asked. “And what further could we do?”

Wright said, “The church’s work is still to beat the drum of dignity for all, and there are no outcasts, and we are an American family with unfortunate, sad parts of our story together and really wonderful parts of our story together.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg retired in July as the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.

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Marty Stebbins consecrated as bishop of Montana

Episcopal News Service - seg, 09/12/2019 - 12:12

Bishops consecrate the Rt. Rev. Marty Stebbins at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Helena, Montana. Photo: Diocese of Montana

[Diocese of Montana] The Rt. Rev. Martha (Marty) Stebbins became the first woman bishop in the 152-year history of the Episcopal Diocese of Montana and the 100th female bishop in the Anglican Communion when she was consecrated on Dec. 7 at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Helena.

During announcements at the ordination and consecration, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said to a cheering congregation that Stebbins was the 100th woman to be ordained a bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Curry, who ordained Stebbins to the diaconate during his North Carolina episcopate, was the chief consecrator. Stebbins was formally seated at St. Peter’s Episcopal Cathedral the next day.

Montana Bishop Marty Stebbins is said to be the 100th woman consecrated as bishop in the Anglican Communion. Photo: Diocese of Montana

Stebbins is both a priest and a scientist. She served St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Wilson, North Carolina, for more than nine years before being elected Bishop of Montana by a special convention on July 26 in Bozeman. Before receiving her divinity degree in 2005, she earned a doctorate in veterinary bacteriology from North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, where she has been an adjunct professor of veterinary medicine. She is married to Bob Gruidier.

The music for the day highlighted her love of creation. The opening hymn was “Earth and All Stars,” with two additional stanzas:

“Fish of the sea, loud cawing blue jays, lizards and snakes, loud roaring lions, sing to the Lord a new song!”

“Turtles and mice, rabbits and hamsters, dogs and all cats, loud neighing horses, sing to the Lord a new song!”

The closing hymn, appropriately, was “All Creatures of Our God and King.” A special setting of Psalm 100 by David Alan Earnest was commissioned for the ordination and featured choir, brass and organ. The Magpie Singers of the Helena-area Native American congregation drummed and played an honor song. The Rev. Jane Rogers Wilson of the Church of Our Saviour in Rock Hill, South Carolina, was the preacher.

Stebbins inherited her family’s deep abiding love for animals, resulting in a menagerie of many feathered, scaled and furred friends through the years. Currently, a dog named Cal and a rescue cat called Ruger share their new home in Helena.

– The Very Rev. Stephen Brehe is the retired dean of St. Peter’s Cathedral of Helena, Montana, and served as press officer for the ordination.

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With ceremony and celebration, Angola becomes a new Anglican diocese

Episcopal News Service - sex, 06/12/2019 - 18:58

Bishop André Soares with provincial and partner clergy at the future site of the Anglican cathedral in Luanda, Angola. Photo: Anglican Church of Southern Africa via ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] Angola was officially inaugurated as a new Anglican diocese this week, after 16 years as a missionary diocese and more than 40 years of war.

Primate of Southern Africa Archbishop Thabo Makgoba led the special service of inauguration and also installed Bishop André Soares as the bishop of Angola.

Read the full article here.

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Diocese of Fort Worth evangelism campaign seeks out those wounded by the church

Episcopal News Service - sex, 06/12/2019 - 18:49

A group from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth at the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade in Fort Worth, Texas, on Oct. 5. Photo: Diocese of Fort Worth

[Episcopal News Service] Slogans like “All are welcome!” and “God loves you – no exceptions!” are a common sight at Episcopal churches, but one diocese is expanding on those messages and making them more specific, targeting those who need to hear them most.

In October, the Diocese of Fort Worth in Texas launched an evangelism initiative “aimed at the unchurched, the dechurched, those wounded by the church, those who sometimes are told that God hates them,” with a website as its centerpiece:

“God doesn’t hate. God loves all,” it proclaims on its homepage, and its pages focus on topics associated with division and exclusion in American Christianity, with headings like “LGBT,” “Racial Justice” and “(Re)Marriage.” The pages explain The Episcopal Church’s views on these topics and what the church – especially the Diocese of Fort Worth – is doing to address them. The site also features video testimonials from clergy and parishioners with titles like “Women priests? Yes, women priests” and “Will God love me if I’m gay? Yes.”

“Come in. Sit awhile. Explore. It’s safe here,” the homepage concludes.

The website is the brainchild of the Rev. Kevin Johnson, priest-in-charge at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Texas. Disappointed by the negative and exclusionary forms of Christianity that garner so much of the public’s attention – especially in his region – Johnson decided to counter those messages with the Episcopal message of unconditional love and acceptance.

“I have become convinced, especially during my time in this particular parish, that The Episcopal Church has gifts that a lot of people in the world yearn to receive, but they don’t even know they exist, especially in our cultural context in north central Texas, which is very conservative,” Johnson told Episcopal News Service.

Some of the most influential Christian ministers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area preach messages of hatred, claiming that “God hates you because you’re gay or God hates you because you’re a woman in power,” Johnson said.

“There are too many people in our world who are being told right now that God sees them as an abomination or is ashamed of them in some way, that they have to change a core part of their being to be loved by God. … There are lots of people we’re talking to who have been chased out of their home by their parents because they’re gay or they’re transgender. Those are the people who desperately yearn to hear the good news that we carry. And that means having the courage to stand up and risk being vulnerable with that message.”

That message – “God doesn’t hate” – might seem innocuous, but it’s more controversial than one might expect, and that’s precisely why it was chosen as the theme of the website.

“We had to wrestle back and forth with this phrase a lot,” Johnson said. “But we finally decided to risk using the phrase ‘God does not hate you,’ which is really in your face for good-mannered Episcopalians.”

“We got a lot of pushback at that,” said Katie Sherrod, the diocese’s communications coordinator. “Episcopalians don’t say things like that, that bluntly. ‘God doesn’t hate!’ And rightly so, we all recoil from the word ‘hate.’ … But when that’s been actually said to you – ‘God hates you, God hates who and what you are’ – you hear that phrase, ‘God doesn’t hate,’ in a whole different way.”

“We’re all comfortable talking about God’s love,” Johnson added. “I mean, that’s just our cultural norm. But pointedly saying ‘God does not hate’ carries tangential messaging that directly counters a lot of the public messaging that gets put out over the airwaves in our region.”

And it seems hatred is increasingly less of an abstract concept and more of an action, making it all the more necessary to counter it with a message of love. Sherrod and Johnson have seen it firsthand.

“Texas has the highest rate of murdered transgender [people of any state], and Dallas is the epicenter of that,” Sherrod told ENS. “So we were seeing real life-and-death consequences to that message that God hates you. And then you have a man who drove from Dallas to El Paso to shoot immigrants, Hispanic people in a Walmart. We were being hit in the face with murderous results of that message that God hates you. And it just became more and more urgent for us to get this message there.”

Johnson wanted to reach people directly, especially people who might not want to walk into a church, so Johnson asked the diocese for funding to do marketing and outreach.

“At the local parish level, we’ve kind of test-driven the practice of raising community awareness about our values, practices and gifts in very purposeful, straight-up marketing ways. We’re really not afraid to say we have a good product that people want,” Johnson said.

Bishop J. Scott Mayer got on board, and it developed into a broader evangelism campaign, but “our main goal is not to get people in our pews,” Sherrod explained. “Our main goal is to show people how to have a closer relationship with God – hopefully in and through The Episcopal Church, but if that doesn’t happen, we’re fine with that. If they find God through anything we tell them, that’s fine with us.”

The website was completed in time for the Fort Worth Pride parade, at which a group from the diocese passed out cards with the URL.

Members of the Diocese of Fort Worth hold up banners at the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade on Oct. 5. Photo: Diocese of Fort Worth

“As a road test, it was astonishingly successful,” Sherrod said. “People were very moved by that message.”

“We all got matching T-shirts that say ‘God doesn’t hate’ with the URL on it. We had banners, and then at the booth, we interacted with people … and that gave us the opportunity to talk and look people in the eye directly and give them a business card with the URL on it and just say, ‘Hey, you might want to go check this out,’” Johnson said.

Johnson and Sherrod said they’ve gotten vitriolic responses to the website from other Christians and some criticism from within their own diocese, although the diocese’s painful history has given its members some crucial perspective. Even its most traditional, conservative members know what it feels like to be rejected and excluded by the church. In 2008, a majority of clergy and lay leaders in the Diocese of Fort Worth voted to leave The Episcopal Church and join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone over doctrinal differences on topics like same-sex marriage and the ordination of women. Now there are two entities calling themselves the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth: the original diocese associated with The Episcopal Church and the breakaway group that is now part of the Anglican Church in North America.

That breakaway group claimed some of the Episcopal diocese’s properties, including the original building of St. Alban’s, the parish in which Johnson grew up and which he now leads. The congregation has been worshipping in a theater ever since.

“The folks got kicked out of their church because they were, as I like to gently say, they were too spiritually generous,” Johnson said. “So we’re in this crazy context, which allows for risk and vulnerability.”

“A lot of people here know what the phrase ‘wounded by the church’ means because of the split we went through. So even very privileged white people in our pews have some sense of what that means,” Sherrod added.

For Johnson, the risk and vulnerability the diocese has experienced lend themselves well to evangelism and have made this campaign stand out.

“This was different because it really started out with a question that I’ve never seen [being asked], which is, What is God asking us to risk in order to better communicate our unique share of the good news to the community in which we live?”

One thing the diocese has risked by undertaking this campaign is discomfort among its more conservative members, but the bonds forged in the aftermath of the split have proven able to withstand that discomfort.

“There are still people uncomfortable with it,” Sherrod told ENS. “But they’re willing to live in that zone of discomfort. Because they get it. … We’ve had a lot of people here who’ve learned to be uncomfortable with stuff for the last 10 years. We have conservatives in our pews who have stayed with us even though they’re a little uncomfortable with some of the stuff the church is doing. But they feel loved in their parishes, and so they’re hanging in there.”

Aside from the kind of in-person advertising they did at the Pride parade, the diocese has been promoting the website through targeted Facebook ads and hopes to reach even further into the community with grant funding.

“As we move toward 2020, we’re thinking bigger,” Sherrod said. “I mean, why not? We’re hoping for billboards, for banners in downtown Fort Worth, … with movie screen ads, things like that, because we’re becoming increasingly confident that the place we’re sending them is a place that they will feel safe and comfortable being.”

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

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RIP: Margaret Morgan Lawrence, lay champion of peace and reconciliation work, dies at 105

Episcopal News Service - sex, 06/12/2019 - 18:01

[Episcopal News Service] Margaret Morgan Lawrence, a longtime lay champion of The Episcopal Church’s peace and reconciliation work, particularly through her advocacy on behalf of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, died Dec. 4 at age 105.

Margaret Morgan Lawrence is seen in an undated family photo.

Lawrence was born in 1914 in New York City but grew up in Mississippi and spent much of her life resisting and triumphing over barriers based on racial and sexual discrimination. Her father was an Episcopal priest and her mother a teacher, and in 1932 she received a scholarship from the National Council of the Episcopal Church to attend Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she was the only black undergraduate student at the time, according to a family obituary.

She later earned her medical degree from Columbia University on her way to a long career as a doctor specializing in child psychiatry in Rockland County, New York. While attending Columbia, she met and married Charles Lawrence, who later served as president of The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, from 1976 to 1985.

In 2003, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship honored Margaret Lawrence with its Sayre Award for her contributions to the organization and “her journey as a peacemaker and a speaker for justice,” Janet Chisholm, president of the organization’s executive board, said at the time.

“She has struggled against racism and sexism to be the accomplished child psychiatrist that she is,” Chisholm said, while also noting Lawrence’s participation in peace pilgrimages in England during the Anglican Communion’s Lambeth Conference of bishops, held about every 10 years.

Lawrence also was a prominent lay leader in the Diocese of New York. Her papers, along with those of her late husband, have been donated to the Archives of The Episcopal Church.

“Along with the leadership they brought to the wider Episcopal Church, Charles and Margaret Lawrence were giants in the history of the Diocese of New York for over half a century,” New York Bishop Andrew Dietsche said in a written statement. “They were pivotal in the leadership which this diocese brought in the raising up of church leaders among men and women of African descent, and in the rise of women to the top tiers of the church.”

Lawrence is survived by her three children. The family is planning a memorial service for next year at Emmanuel Church in Boston.

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

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In El Paso, border ministry assists Mexicans fleeing violence

Episcopal News Service - sex, 06/12/2019 - 12:56

The Rev. Cristina Rathbone, right, is serving asylum-seekers as a bridge chaplain in El Paso while on sabbatical. Here, she and the Rev. Lee Curtis, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Rio Grande, strategize about how they’ll address U.S. Customs and Border Control as they accompany two families of four on the Santa Fe Street Bridge in their attempt to ask for asylum. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – El Paso, Texas] An informal tent city has taken stake in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, alongside the entrance to the Santa Fe Street Bridge, one of three bridges connecting the sprawling northern Mexico border city to El Paso, Texas.

In recent months, Mexican families fleeing rising violence perpetrated by drug cartels in the country’s south have arrived at the U.S. southern border seeking protection in the United States via the asylum system. Unlike Central American asylum-seekers who have been arriving steadily at the U.S.-Mexico border for more than a year, there’s no “official” system for handling the surge in Mexicans seeking the same protection from violence and persecution.

“The people who are living out on the streets by the ports, they are all Mexican. There is no established system to deal with Mexican asylum-seekers seeking the protection of the United States,” said the Rev. Cristina Rathbone, who for three months while on sabbatical has served the Diocese of Rio Grande in El Paso as a bridge chaplain, accompanying families as they wait their turn to claim asylum and holding daily English and art classes for children.

“By the three ports of entry, there are three tent communities, and the people there – more than two-thirds of them have families – have self-organized,” she said. “They have created unofficial community-based lists; the people at the top of those lists go up to the ports of entry and seek permission to ask for asylum from the border patrol agents every two hours, 24 hours a day, and almost always are turned away with the same refrain, ‘There is no room.’”

Tent cities have taken stake at the foot of the three bridges on the Juárez side of the U.S.-Mexico border where Mexican nationals – two-thirds of them families – are waiting to claim asylum in the United States. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Earlier in the year, the Trump administration implemented Migrant Protection Protocols, a policy commonly referred to as “Remain in Mexico” that requires asylum-seekers to wait in shelters in Mexico while their credible fear claims are processed. The policy and others like those brokered with individual countries, El Salvador for example, were designed to deter asylum-seekers.

The protocols, however, do not apply to Mexican asylum-seekers who have congregated in tents. President Trump has characterized immigrants and migrants as “murders” and “rapists.” And, though, cartels have exploited the chaos at the border to their advantage, some migrants are fleeing cartel violence in their communities.

During a homily delivered at the second annual Border Ministries Summit held in Arizona, Rathbone shared some of the “hundreds” stories she’s heard while serving at the border.

“A grandfather shot in the stomach and then slashed by a machete and left for dead after seeing a murder he shouldn’t have seen; a father who was sent photographs of his murdered son’s lifeless and tortured body by his son’s own murderers,” she recounted. “And, just yesterday, a mother sobbing on the sidewalk, showing me photos of her husband in an open coffin – murdered in her own home a week ago.”

Rathbone continued, “All of these people, who are also Jesus himself, and many thousands more – including the most vulnerable among us: pregnant women, unaccompanied minors and members of the LGBTQ community – are being denied their right, supposedly upheld by both U.S. and international law, to apply for asylum in this country. And all are waiting at our ports of entry, nonetheless, because still they believe in the hope that is – or used to be – the United States of America.

“‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus says. ‘Just as you do to one of the least of these, you do to me.’”

Paseo del Norte, or “passage to the north” is the official name of the Santa Fe Street Bridge connecting El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Episcopalians are providing humanitarian aid to migrants and asylum-seekers and, where possible, support to law enforcement officers in their parishes and communities all along the 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border. The Diocese of Rio Grande encompasses the entire state of New Mexico and far West Texas, stretching from El Paso down through the Big Bend regions, and includes 40 percent of the southern border. Volunteers have been working on both sides of the border.

In Juárez, the diocese has provided assistance to the Rev. Hector Trejo who serves as vicar of three Anglican churches in the Diocese of Northern Mexico.

“When the buses were coming through, we in the Diocese of the Rio Grande were caring for the people that were coming off the buses and helping them get resettled,” said Rio Grande Bishop Michael Hunn. “When the U.S. government started the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, instead of those buses coming into the Diocese of the Rio Grande, people were just put on the buses and driven across into Juárez and left on the street in Juárez. But we felt that those are folks who are trying to come to the United States, and we think that that is our responsibility to try to help and care for them.”

For some in the United States it may seem the most recent wave of migration has ceased, but that’s not the case; it’s just less visible, Hunn said.

“It’s not true that the migration has stopped,” said Hunn, whose office is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “It’s just that the people are on the other side of the border now. And, so we were able to work with and leverage our existing relationship with Padre Hector Trejo. … He opened up immediately one of his churches to serve as a shelter.”

Trejo has now opened the doors to two of his three churches to serve as shelters, with assistance from Rio Grande and the wider support of its borderlands ministry.

In August, when the Rev. Lee Curtis became Rio Grande’s canon to the ordinary based in El Paso, shelters were the urgent need.

“We were serving mostly Cuba nationals; this was just as the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy took effect,” he said. “So, the task was pretty clear: build up shelter, support the Cubans as they’re waiting in Mexico for their ‘credible fear’ interview. Then when they get their ‘credible fear’ interview, they’re released by CBP [Customs and Border Protection] back to the U.S. and we’ve done our job.”

One of the other major challenges, though, is that almost as soon as faith-based and other humanitarian workers get a handle on the situation, it changes.

“The second we feel like we have figured out the shape of migration in Juárez, it changes, whether through U.S. policy or where folks are coming from,” said Curtis.

“In late September, early October, we were down to about 15 Cuban asylum-seekers, and then the Mexicans started coming from southern states, and they’ve started sleeping around the bridges. … It’s a guess as to when CBP will be letting people over. So, they have been staying by the bridges because they don’t want to miss an opportunity to cross.”

Some of the families have been living in tents in Juárez for two months. As the weather gets colder, some are sleeping in shelters, returning to the bridges in the morning to take their places in line. And for some, the long wait can result in being sent back to the very communities they’ve fled, as Rathbone pointed out in her homily, when she told the story of a woman with five children who’d fled after the cartel tried to kill her oldest son. They were denied asylum. The likely outcome if they return home, the mother told Rathbone, is that her sons will be forced to choose between joining the cartel or death.

“It’s important to remember that these Mexican asylum-seekers are the people in the small pueblos and the big towns and the enormous cities who are saying no to the violence and the drug cartels of Mexico. These are the people whose lives are being threatened and many of them ended because they are refusing to join the criminal enterprises,” said Rathbone.

“They are determined to protect their children from that because they are small business owners, because they are taxi drivers, because they are people who have been preyed on by the cartels. So they’re, in fact, the very opposite kind of people they’re being characterized as being by the president and many others. These are the brave, law-abiding pillars of their communities who have been forced to flee their communities by the violence that, at the moment, is on the upswing in Mexico again.”

– Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at

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Western Massachusetts backpack ministry offers supplies, support for women released from jail

Episcopal News Service - qui, 05/12/2019 - 19:05

Backpacks filled with supplies await distribution to women being released from prison, part of the “Love in a Backpack” ministry of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ashfield, Massachusetts. Photo: Diocese of Western Massachusetts, via video

[Episcopal News Service] A small Episcopal congregation in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts is helping female prisoners adjust to life back in the community after their release with backpacks full of supplies and expressions of support.

In three years, the “Love in a Backpack” ministry at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ashfield has assembled and distributed more than 100 backpacks for women released from the Franklin County jail in Greenfield and a women’s prison in Chicopee. Organizers and volunteers hope to expand the ministry in the future as they enlist other churches and community partners to join in the effort.

Some of the women, after completing their sentences, are released with nothing to help them start rebuilding their lives, coordinator Mary Link told Episcopal News Service. The backpack “gives them something they can say is theirs,” though the personal connections sometimes are even more important than the physical items.

“It helps them in that scary moment when they’re going back out, that somebody somewhere has faith in them,” Link said.

St. John’s, with an average Sunday attendance just under 30, has long been active in organizing and supporting community ministries in Ashfield, a town of about 1,700 people. An initial grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts allowed the church to hire Link part time three years ago to coordinate those efforts, which included a drive to collect soap and paper products for a food pantry and outreach to low-income single mothers who may feel isolated living in the hill towns of Western Massachusetts.

The backpack ministry, meanwhile, continues to grow and flourish, with help this year from a $5,000 diocesan grant.

The seed for the ministry was planted a few years back when senior warden Susan Todd learned of the struggles of prisoners re-entering society, sometimes needing to start from scratch obtaining basic supplies like toothpaste and shampoo. A group from St. John’s visited the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee to learn more.

“Our understanding was there were more services for men when they got out than for women,” Link said. “That may be changing, but certainly we’re making a difference in that.”

What started as an effort to assemble toiletry bags quickly grew to include a wide range of items, all stuffed into backpacks that could be easily taken home by the newly released women. Members of the congregation donate some of the items, and Link buys additional supplies as needed: personal care items, snacks, socks, a Bible, a stuffed animal or doll, poems, prayers, a journal and pens.

Volunteers meet about three times a year to fill the packs for distribution, and “no two backpacks are ever the same exactly,” Link said.

The congregation takes special interest in the “reading, writing and reflection” components, Link said, and each pack includes a personalized note – often written by a 90-year-old woman from the congregation who finds it hard to leave her home but enjoys contributing messages of hope and support to the backpacks’ recipients.

“These are women who’ve had a lot of trauma in their lives, a lot of chaos, a lot of upheaval,” Sister Mary Quinn, a reentry coordinator at the Chicopee facility, said in a diocesan video about the backpack ministry. “A lot of them don’t have a safe place to go when they leave here. A lot of the women literally have nothing. So it’s a wonderful gift to them and blessing to them, but also for them to know that the community cares about them.”

Jen Brzezinski, the caseworker at the Franklin County jail, echoed Quinn’s comments in an interview with the Greenfield Recorder for its recent story about the ministry.

“There’s a huge need, and the women who receive one are so grateful,” Brzezinski said. “They don’t have a lot. They’re headed into the unknown, and that can be really scary.”

Before the backpacks are given to the jails for distribution, they are blessed at Sunday Eucharist – a profound moment for the congregation at St. John’s, the Rev. Vicki Ix, vicar at St. John’s, told ENS by email.

“Over time, we have been led deeper into the issues impacting women as they leave prison. Our eyes have been opened to the vulnerabilities of transition,” Ix said, adding that the congregation is planning a forum on the topic in March. “We hope each woman feels God’s love in a backpack, but equally important, we want to advocate for their place among us and for the systemic change needed to fully welcome them back.”

In most cases, the congregation never hears from those who receive the packs, though sometimes the women write notes of thanks, saying it was helpful “knowing somebody cared,” Link said.

Her goal in the coming year is to partner with enough businesses, schools, churches and other organizations to increase the ministry’s capacity so that it can fill about 80 backpacks a year, based on jail officials’ estimates for the number of women in greatest need of that assistance.

“Love in a Backpack” is focused on the needs within the local community, but Link has a kit with information and a packing checklist that she distributes to churches and other organizations outside the immediate area to help them start their own backpack ministries.

As coordinator, Link’s work typically ranges from three to 10 hours a week, depending on what needs to get done. She described it as a “retirement job,” and while she brings her own faith to the work as a Quaker, not as an Episcopalian, the cause is one she finds personally and spiritually fulfilling.

“We’re all people of faith,” she said. “Even though I’m not an Episcopalian, it’s so wonderful to be able to work with other people of faith … doing things out of a sense of mission and faithfulness.”

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

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