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Inquiries continue after Church of England vicar found dead in rectory

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 12:09pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A vicar in the Church of England’s diocese of Guildford is believed to have killed himself after being suspended pending a police investigation. The diocese gave no details of the allegations against the Rev. Martyn Neale, rector of Hawley and Vicar of Minley, but confirmed that he “had been suspended last week as a consequence of an ongoing police investigation.”

Full article.

Historical Society announces its 2017 grant awards

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 10:52am

The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church is pleased to announce its 2017 grant awards. Applications received were reviewed by a committee, with recipients determined by the Board of Directors at their meeting in June in Sewanee, Tennessee. Over $12,000 in grants were awarded. The Rev. Robert Tobin, chair of the Grants Committee, announced recipients from the 10 applications received. Grants support scholars in significant research and publications related to the history of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Recipients are encouraged to publish, when appropriate, in “Anglican and Episcopal History,” the quarterly academic journal of the society.

• Ryan Butler, a Ph.D. candidate in history at Baylor University, towards a monthlong trip to visit archives in London, Birmingham and Canterbury as part of his dissertation on the trans-Atlantic connections and influence of the Clapham Sect.
• Thomas Ferguson, rector of St John’s Episcopal Church, Sandwich, Massachusetts, to undertake a 10-day research trip to the Russian Federation as part of a book project on the past 25 years of Anglican ecumenical relationships with churches in the former Soviet bloc.
• Karl Hele, associate professor and director of First Peoples studies, School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University, Montreal, to do archival research at the Library and Archives of Canada in Ottawa, as part of a book project on Hannah Foulkes Chance, mid-C19 Anglican missionary among the First Nations communities in Canada.
• Simon Lewis, a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Oxford, towards travel to archives across the United Kingdom to pursue his post-doctoral research on lay participation in theological controversies in England and colonial America during the first half of C18.
• Ross Newton, a recent recipient of a Ph.D. in history from Northeastern University, to undertake a weeklong archival trip to Boston as part of his post-doctoral research into the experience and condition of African-Americans in the Anglican churches of Boston during the revolution and early years of the republic.
• Zachary Stone, a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Virginia, to consult archives in Oxford and Cambridge as part of completing his inter-disciplinary dissertation on medieval depictions of the English Church in late C14/early C15.
• Gregory Wiker, a Ph.D. candidate in History at the University of Rochester, for a three-week research trip to Bermuda, where he will consult parish vestry records as part of his investigation into the shifting political and religious sensibilities of this colony, that after the American Revolution became pivotal to British imperial policy.

Thomas Ferguson was awarded the inaugural Robert W. Prichard Prize for the best application received. The award comes with a cash prize and was established in 2016 to honor Prichard’s decades of service and commitment to the Society.

Additional granting details may be found at hsec.us/grants.

Daniel Handschy awarded Historical Society of the Episcopal Church prize

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 10:18am

[Historical Society of the Episcopal Church] The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church is pleased to announce its recipient of the 2017 Nelson R. Burr Prize, the Rev. Daniel Handschy. Handschy is rector of Church of the Advent, an Episcopal church in Crestwood, Missouri. He earned a B.A. in Physics from the University of Colorado, Boulder and worked for several years for International Business Machines in Essex Junction, Vermont, before entering the M.Div. program at Harvard Divinity School. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1987. In 2004, he erned a Ph.D. in historical theology from Saint Louis University.

He is honored for his article “Samuel Seabury’s Eucharistic Ecclesiology: Ecclesial Implications of a Sacrificial Eucharist” published in the March 2016 issue of Anglican and Episcopal History.

The Burr prize honors the renowned scholar Nelson R. Burr, whose two-volume A Critical Bibliography of Religion in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961) and other works constitute landmarks in the field of religious historiography. Each year a committee of the society selects the author of the most outstanding article in the Society’s journal, Anglican and Episcopal History, as recipient. The award also honors that which best exemplifies excellence and innovative scholarship in the field of Anglican and Episcopal history.

Those interested in obtaining a copy of the article may contact Matthew. P. Payne, director of operations of the society at administration@hsec.us or (920) 383-1910.

Jail chaplains share presence of God with Virginia inmates through Bible studies, prayer

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 9:45am

From left, Robert Dilday, John Gayle, Cheryl Blackwell and Sal Anselmo are among the volunteer chaplains from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church that minister at the city jail in Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Sarah Bartenstein

[Episcopal News Service] Robert Dilday has served for about a year and a half as a volunteer chaplain at the city jail in Richmond, Virginia, leading Bible studies with inmates and, more recently, visiting with those being held in solitary confinement. As part of a growing team from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church engaged in this ministry, he is careful not to overstate the mission.

“We’re not taking God to the jail,” he told Episcopal News Service. “We’re collaborating with what God is already doing there.”

What Dilday, 62, and his fellow chaplains bring to the jail every Thursday afternoon is the sacrament of Communion and a personal connection through conversation. They are part of a much larger interfaith ministry at the jail that offers a chance for chaplains and inmates both to feel the presence of God in a place they might not expect it.

“It’s meant to be somewhat reciprocal,” said Sarah Bartenstein, St. Stephen’s communications director. “We’re praying for them on Sundays, and they’re praying for us.”

The Eucharist served every Thursday at the Richmond jail by the volunteer chaplains from St. Stephen’s is blessed every Sunday at the church’s worship services. Photo: Sarah Bartenstein

The inmates and chaplains discuss Bible passages taken from the readings that will be part of the three worship services at St. Stephen’s on Sunday. And during one of those services, the congregation blesses the wafers and juice that will be the Eucharist served to inmates who choose to receive it the following Thursday.

This ministry at St. Stephen’s is barely two years old, and now about 15 to 20 men and women from the congregation serve as chaplains on a rotating schedule, typically with two men and two women visiting the jail each week to minister separately to male and female inmates.

Episcopal jail and prison ministries can be found across the country as chaplains seek to live out their baptismal vows to respect human dignity. In Richmond, Virginia’s capital, St. Stephen’s is not the only church to send volunteer chaplains to the jail, but it is one of the few to serve the Eucharist. And Deb Lawrence, the church’s outreach director, said the St. Stephen’s team doesn’t want the inmates to feel during these visits that they are being judged for what they’ve done.

“We’re just there with them. We’re not there to preach or convert, nothing like that,” Lawrence said. “It’s about relationships and people praying for each other on a weekly basis.”

St. Stephen’s first got involved with the jail ministry because of John Gayle, a congregation member who was interested in new outreach opportunities.

Gayle, a lawyer who at age 64 specializes in consumer law, had some past experience with criminal law and representing inmates. He already was involved in a church ministry of bringing the Eucharist to people in retirement homes and nursing homes who couldn’t attend church services, and he was drawn to the idea of pursuing a similar ministry at the jail.

Gayle said he wasn’t sure what to expect on his first jail visits. He began simply by reading from the Bible and talking to the men.

“It was such a transforming experience for me in terms of seeing people who are murders and rapists and all kinds of people, who are no different inside than me in their fears and concerns,” he told ENS. “And I found such a humanity in them that was very inspiring to me.”

Sharing the word of God, ending in silence

The Bible studies typically are held in a jail classroom. They start with the Bible passage, sometimes read by one inmate and other times read by several inmates in turn. Then they have a free discussion of what they’ve read.

Dilday said he encourages the inmates to share ways the Bible passages resonate with their experiences. They may choose to read some or all of the passage a second time.

One Bible study session sticks out in Dilday’s mind. The Gospel passage related to the idea of one’s neighbor, he said, and that prompted a discussion about the different ways “neighbor” is understood in American society. A young white man, a middle-aged Latino man and an older black man took particular interest in the subject, and the three inmates engaged in a lively but respectful conversation, with little additional encouragement from Dilday.

The sessions may last an hour or more. To conclude, the group spends a few moments in silent contemplation.

“Silence, I suspect, is rare,” Dilday said. “When those moments of intentional silence are offered, I think they’re appreciated.”

The St. Stephen’s growing team of volunteers has mirrored an overall growth trend in the Richmond jail’s chaplaincy program.  It is overseen by the jail’s sole paid chaplain, the Rev. Louis Williams, who estimates about 150 volunteers participate in the program, an increase of about 60 to 70 since he became chief of chaplains in January 2016.

The Richmond City Justice Center’s inmate population tops 1,000 on an average day, making it the second largest jail in the state behind the jail in Norfolk, Williams said.

The chaplains, primarily lay people, come from dozens of congregations in the Richmond area. One of the chaplains is a Muslim, though most are from various Christian denominations. Some conduct worship services. Others have led groups of inmates in singing hymns.

The volunteers must be recommended by a congregation, fill out an application, undergo a background check and attend an orientation, but one of the most important criteria is that they “have a gift and skill and passion in terms to ministering to the least of these,” Williams said, invoking Matthew 25:40.

Williams, a Presbyterian minister known at the jail as “Pastor Louis,” advises new chaplains during orientation they should be true to their beliefs, but also respectful of other faiths. The jail calls its inmates “residents,” in recognition that most of them are preparing to someday re-enter society. For spiritually receptive jail residents, Williams said, simply sharing faith through scripture can help them succeed on that path.

“Scripture is used to build up people’s identity and give them different perspective, God’s perspective, on who they are,” he said.

Prayer through a cell door

The chaplains take a different approach to ministering to inmates held in isolation, also known as solitary confinement. There is no Bible study here. A deputy is always present. Conversation occurs only while kneeling at the cell door and looking at each other through the door’s narrow slot.

Williams provides additional orientation for these visits, advising the chaplains to emphasize their prayer ministry, not just conversation with the inmates.

Dilday and Gayle are the two chaplains from St. Stephen’s who presently participate in this ministry, typically about once a month. Each time, they visit about 20 to 25 men, never for more than 10 minutes at a time.

The inmates seem to value the human interaction and often have serious concerns they want to share, Dilday said. One man said he was having a hard time dealing with the news that his child had died while he was locked up.

In isolation, “the stories that are shared are a little rawer,” Dilday said. “It can sometimes be hard to leave the jail after hearing those stories.” Such stories can haunt chaplains well after the cell door slot closes shut.

The chaplains don’t serve the Eucharist here, but they are able to hold the inmates’ hands through the slot and pray with them.

Dilday said he wasn’t fearful of visiting the jail’s isolation cells, but initially he felt he was venturing into the unknown. Would it be more difficult to talk with the inmates held here, isolated for a range of infractions?

He and Gayle found that wasn’t the case at all. They and the other jail chaplains have found these visits inspiring, and not just for the inmates.

“This has been transformative to people at St. Stephen’s just as much as it has been transformative for people at the jail,” Dilday said.

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

Jennifer Brooke-Davidson consecrated bishop suffragan of the Diocese of West Texas

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 8:57am

Newly ordained an consecrated at the sixth bishop suffragan of the Diocese of West Texas, Jennifer Brooke-Davidson stands with Presiding Bishop Curry who served as chief consecrator and preacher during the festive service. Photo: Diocese of West Texas

[Episcopal Diocese of West Texas] The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson was ordained and consecrated the sixth bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas on July 29 in a festive service at Christ Episcopal Church in San Antonio, Texas. She is the first woman to be ordained a bishop in the diocese.

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry led the service as chief consecrator and preacher. More than 750 people attended the two-hour festive service.

Reflecting on the Gospel message found in Luke chapter 10 about Mary and Martha welcoming Jesus into their home, Curry reminded the entire congregation that it was time to, “Wake up! Stop worrying about everything and being distracted by so many things. Only one thing is needed, and that is Jesus.”

Curry told the congregation that Brooke-Davidson has said that the key to lighting the fire within yourself is a relationship with Jesus, and that people will see that fire and they will want to imitate it.

“She’s right,” Curry said, “there is just something about this Jesus.”

During the celebratory service, 25 visiting bishops laid their hands on Brooke-Davidson as Curry ordained her a bishop and consecrated her for her role as Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of West Texas.  Visiting bishops included five women bishops from other dioceses across the Episcopal Church.

Co-consecrators included the Rt. Rev. David M. Reed, bishop of West Texas; the Rt. Rev. Gary R. Lillibridge, retired bishop of West Texas; the Rt. Rev. Laura Ahrens, bishop suffragan of Connecticut; the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, bishop of Indianapolis; the Rt. Rev. Daniel Gutierrez, bishop of Pennsylvania; and the Rev. Dr. Ray Tiemann, Bishop of the Southwestern Texas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Nancy Hibbs, widow of the Rt. Rev. Robert B. Hibbs, who served as the fourth bishop suffragan of the diocese, gave Brooke-Davidson the gift of Bishop Hibbs’ crozier, which he carried for 21 years. Photo: Diocese of West Texas

Following the consecration, a number of gifts were presented to Brooke-Davidson, including a Bible from Curry, vestments, a stole, a pectoral cross, and a crozier, a gift from Nancy Hibbs, widow of the Rt. Rev. Bob Hibbs, the fourth bishop suffragan of the Diocese of West Texas. Bishop Hibbs had carried the crozier for 21 years during his ministry.

Josh Benninger, director of music and organist for Christ Episcopal Church, lead the choirs of Christ Church, St. David’s Episcopal Church, and St. Thomas Episcopal Church, all of San Antonio, and Saint Elizabeth Episcopal Church in Buda. An orchestra accompanied the choirs comprising musicians from the San Antonio Chamber Orchestra.

Following the service a picnic lunch of fried chicken and all the sides was served on the Christ Church lawns. Brooke-Davidson requested the “best church picnic ever” as her reception, and homemade pies made by attendees at the service were served for dessert.

To complete his visit to the Diocese of West Texas, Curry led worship at St. Luke’s, San Antonio, on Sunday, July 30, where he spoke in a forum setting that morning and then preached and presided over the Eucharist.

Brooke-Davidson will serve alongside Diocesan Bishop Reed. Reed was invested as the tenth bishop of the diocese in June, and he served previously as the fifth bishop suffragan of the diocese.

Brooke-Davidson was chosen bishop suffragan at Diocesan Council held in February. She was ordained a priest in 2009 after graduating from Fuller Theological Seminary. She served as vicar of Saint Elizabeth in Buda from 2011 until June of this year. She also served as the assistant rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wimberley, Texas, from 2009-2011. Prior to ordination, Brooke-Davidson practiced commercial financial law for 12 years. She is married to Carrick Brooke-Davidson, and they have two grown daughters, Emma and Kate.

The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas comprises 26,000 members in 87 congregations spread across 60 counties in Central and South Texas and covers 69,000 square miles. The diocesan headquarters are at the Bishop Jones Center in San Antonio.

— Laura Shaver is communications officer for the Diocese of West Texas.


Episcopal Church leaders oppose Trump’s ban on transgender people in military

Fri, 07/28/2017 - 4:11pm

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Church leaders are making clear their objections to President Donald Trump’s announcement on Twitter of his plan to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said July 28 that he opposes Trump’s effort and “affirm[s] the moral principle of equal rights for all persons, including the LGBTQ communities.”

Curry said his conviction “is not born primarily of a social ideal, but of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and the witness of our biblical and theological tradition.” He said he objected “as a follower of Jesus Christ, as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, and as a citizen who loves this country.”

Citing the Declaration of Independence’s claim of equal and inalienable rights of all, Curry said: “discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation is a violation of the fundamental ideal of equality in America.”

The presiding bishop thanked transgender individuals now serving in the armed forces. “We are grateful for your service and for your sacrifices. We support you and all service members and veterans,” he said. “You are our neighbors, brothers and sisters in God’s human family, and fellow citizens of this country we love.”

The presiding bishop’s complete statement is here.

Trump’s July 26 early morning tweets about banning transgender people from the military caught the Department of Defense and Congress by surprise.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said July 27 that the military had not yet been notified by the secretary of defense, who he said must issue “implementation guidance.” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was on vacation when Trump tweeted.

Meanwhile, Christian conservatives applauded Trump’s announcement.

Later on July 26, the Justice Department, announced it would wade into a private employment lawsuit to argue that federal law banning sex discrimination did not include protection for workers based on sexual orientation.

Also on July 26, Trump announced the nomination of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback as U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom. Brownback is well-known for his opposition to gay rights.

Trump’s actions come as Curry and House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings are closely monitoring the Texas legislature’s consideration of a bill requiring transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on what the bill calls their “biological sex” as stated on their birth certificate.

The General Convention is scheduled to meet July 5-13, 2018, in Austin, Texas. Curry and Jennings have said that they must be able to ensure that “all Episcopalians and visitors to our convention, including transgender people, are treated with respect, kept safe, and provided appropriate public accommodation consistent with their gender identities.”

The Rt. Rev. Carl Wright, Episcopal Church bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries, said in an emailed statement July 28 that “as chief pastor to Episcopal clergy who minister to all military members, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation, I am troubled by the President’s recently tweeted remarks disrespectful of transgender military members.”

Wright said that the Christian faith teaches that God loves all people equally and unconditionally. “While it could be true that there are atypical costs associated with the healthcare of troops who are transgender, surely such costs would be no different than those of medical conditions incurred by other distinct groups,” Wright wrote. “We can’t retreat on the issue of full inclusion of all Americans in the defense of our great nation. I pray the President will reconsider.”

He also encouraged “any LGBT personnel, who might be experiencing discrimination, feeling unsupported, or questioning this latest announcement to feel free to seek an Episcopal chaplain in their area” or to contact him directly.

The Very Rev. Randy Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, said July 27 that he too was disappointed by Trump’s decision to exclude the transgender community from military service.

“We are stronger as a nation when we respect the identities of all and allow people to serve their country based solely on their ability,” Hollerith said. “To those that believe this decision advances Christian values, it does not. Rather, it is a gift to those who seek to misuse religion to justify discrimination against the transgender community.”

The dean said, “transgender people across the country should know they are beloved by God and respected citizens of this country – principles that should be reflected in our laws, and in the teachings of the church.”

Washington National Cathedral stands with transgender people, Hollerith said. “You will always be welcome in our house.”

Diocese of Virginia Bishop Shannon S. Johnston, Virginia Bishop Suffragan Susan E. Goff and Assistant Bishop Edwin F. Gulick said July 28 that they concur with Curry’s statement. They also noted the diocese’s recently released guidelines for the inclusion of transgender persons in the diocese’s camps and schools.

“Be assured of our unwavering support for God’s beloved children, no matter their gender, gender identity or sexual orientation,” they wrote in a statement.

Integrity USA President Bruce Garner wrote July 27 that his organization, which advocates for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the Episcopal Church, “stands in support of transgender women and men serving in our military.”

Garner noted in a blog post that Integrity’s position is backed by Episcopal Church canon law including transgender persons in its anti-discrimination stance.

General Convention in 2012 added gender expression and identity to two canons that prevent discrimination in the church. One makes clear that the ordination discernment process is open to them, and another guarantees their equal place in the life, worship and governance of the church.

Those moves drew protests from some Episcopalians and prompted the Diocese of South Carolina’s deputies and then-Bishop Mark Lawrence to leave the convention.

Three years later, General Convention passed a resolution calling for a liturgical rite for people claiming new names. It also passed a resolution asking for recommendations to the 2018 meeting of convention on requests to amend church records and registries, and to reissue church certificates to match the legal name changes of members of the church.

Garner urged Integrity members to continue their advocacy.

“Remember that when the civil and human rights of any begin to be chipped away by prejudice, bigotry, meanness and nastiness, there is nothing to prevent those same bigots from going after the other civil and human rights we have,” Garner wrote. “Speak out. Silence will still equal death.”

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

Brian Cole elected fifth bishop of East Tennessee

Fri, 07/28/2017 - 3:55pm

[Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee] The Rev. Brian Cole was elected the fifth bishop of the Diocese of East Tennessee on the fifth ballot July 28 by delegates gathered for the electing session of the 33rd Annual Convention of the diocese at St. John’s Cathedral in Knoxville.

The Rev. Brian Cole at a walkabout gathering July 10, 2017, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Photo: Courtesy of Brian Cole

Cole, 49, has served as rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Lexington, Kentucky, since 2012. He was elected by 85 votes in the clergy order and 141 votes in the lay order. An election on that ballot required 57 clergy votes and 94 lay votes.

“With an open heart, I am both excited and humbled to be chosen by the lay and clergy delegates of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee to serve as your fifth bishop,” Cole said. “Susan and I look forward to joining with you all in practicing resurrection, in the apostolic work of revealing the Living Christ to a beautiful but broken world. We will be happy to see you soon as we put down roots in Knoxville later in the year.”

The election culminated a search process lasting just over a year.

Cole is a native of southeast Missouri and graduated from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, with a degree in business administration. He is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and did additional study at the School of Theology at Sewanee: The University of the South. Cole taught in the religion department at Warren Wilson College and served on the program staff of the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center in Berea, Kentucky.

Ordained to the priesthood in 2002 in the Diocese of Western North Carolina, Cole served as the vicar of Church of the Advocate in Asheville, North Carolina. The Church of the Advocate is a homeless worshipping community in downtown Asheville. From 2005 to the time when he was called to serve as rector of Good Shepherd, which includes The Good Shepherd Day School, a preschool with 180 children enrolled from age 2 to Kindergarten, where Cole serves as board chair, he was the sub-dean at the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville. Cole served on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church from 2006-2012. He is an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross. Cole’s parish in Lexington.

Cole is married to Susan Parker Weatherford, who is a graduate of Berea College and the University of Kentucky. Their son, Jess, is a student at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

The other four candidates were:

  • The Rev. Hendree Harrison, rector, St. Paul’s, Athens, Tennessee;
  • The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, canon to the ordinary, Episcopal Diocese of Georgia;
  • The Rev. Canon Lance Ousley, canon for stewardship and development, Diocese of Olympia, and priest-in-charge, St. John’s, Kirkland, Washington;
  • The Rev. Marty Stebbins, rector, St. Timothy’s Wilson, North Carolina.

The Diocese of East Tennessee encompasses around 16,000 Episcopalians in 50 congregations, including 44 parishes, three college chaplaincies, and three worshiping communities. The population of the diocese is concentrated in the major metro areas: Chattanooga, Knoxville, and the Tri-Cities area (which includes Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City), totaling around 2.4 million, according to a U.S. Census estimate.

Pending the canonically required consent of a majority of the Episcopal Church’s diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction, Cole will be ordained and consecrated on Dec. 2 by Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry. The service to be held at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Knoxville.

Lutheran bishop receives Japanese peace prize for Holy Land interreligious work

Fri, 07/28/2017 - 10:55am

[The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land] In a ceremony in Tokyo, Japan, among his professional peers, longtime friends, and his wife, the Right Rev. Munib Younan received the Niwano Peace Prize on July 27 for his work toward interreligious dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem and worldwide. Younan is the 34th recipient of the distinguished Niwano Peace Prize.

Full article.

Donkeys help Connecticut retreat center celebrate its rebirth after 5 years closed

Fri, 07/28/2017 - 10:26am

Joseph Rose, one of the directors of Trinity Retreat Center in West Cornwall, Connecticut, holds the baby donkey, Lisa, born July 25 at the center. Photo: Trinity Retreat Center

[Episcopal News Service] Trinity Retreat Center has 55 acres in rural northwest Connecticut, a history that dates back more than 100 years, ties to a prominent New York City congregation and plans to reopen after closing five years ago.

And it has donkeys – five of them, going on six.

The retreat center’s directors, working with a rescue group, purchased four donkeys in January to help protect the center’s chickens from the foxes and coyotes that had been thinning the free-range flock. On July 25, one of the donkeys gave birth to a newborn, generating, even more, buzz for the center as it prepares to host a preview picnic on July 29 for the community in West Cornwall.

“Since they’ve come here, they do far more than protect the chickens. They’ve’ become part of the personality and energy of the place,” Joseph Rose, one of the directors, told Episcopal News Service.

Trinity Retreat Center, a mission property of Manhattan’s Trinity Church Wall Street, was happy to be able to rescue at least two donkeys that likely would have been sold for their hides. The plight of the donkey is being compared to that of the elephant and the rhino, animals slaughtered around the world to feed the appetite of a black-market industry. In the case of donkeys, they are threatened because their skin is coveted for its use in a Chinese medicine known as “ejiao.”

The retreat center paid $300 each for its donkeys. Then the directors learned two more donkeys were available and needed a home.

“It was kind of a quick decision, and we wound up bringing in four. And two of those donkeys we found later were pregnant,” Rose said.

He and his wife, Heidi Rose, the retreat center’s executive director, and their daughters are fans of Fox’s “The Simpsons,” so they named two of donkeys after characters on the show: Marge and Maggie. Marge is the donkey who just gave birth, and they named the newborn Lisa, after another character from the show.

The other two donkeys are Fern and Francine. Marge is thought to be the oldest of the group at about 4 years old. They arrived malnourished and showing signs of abuse, but they gradually warmed to the staff at Trinity Retreat Center.

Donkeys are known by farmers to be useful in the fight against predators, but there is even deeper significance in their presence here at the retreat center.

For starters, there are the biblical references to donkeys. In the Old Testament, a talking donkey appears in Numbers, and a donkey carries Jesus to Jerusalem in the Gospels. There also is a legend that the Gospel references are the reason the symbol of the cross can be found in the fur on donkeys’ backs.

Donkeys are significant locally, too. A previous director at Trinity Retreat Center kept donkeys on the grounds, along with other farm animals, in the 1980s, when the facility was used as a youth camp. Part of the barn is still set up to accommodate donkeys.

Trinity Retreat Center on the Housatonic River in West Cornwall, Connecticut, is reopening this fall after five years closed. Photo: Trinity Retreat Center, via Facebook

By the end of the 1980s, the facility had ended its use as a camp and transitioned solely to a conference center. It continued for two more decades to host groups from Trinity Wall Street, as well as local parish groups and nonprofits looking for a place to gather in a natural setting.

Trinity Wall Street chose to close the center in 2012 partly because of the expense of maintaining it, said the Rev. Daniel Simons. Over the years, it also had lost a clearly defined mission.

Simons, as one of the centers present directors, is working with the Roses to rejuvenate the center as a place where visitors can reconnect with God’s creation. And under its current rector, the Rev. William Lupfer, Trinity Wall Street is newly committed to supporting the retreat center as one of its mission property, Simons said.

“These are properties that are central to our mission. They cost a lot to maintain, and we gladly assume that cost because we have a compelling mission for all those properties,” Simons said.

The donkeys at Trinity Retreat Center don’t cost much to care for. Hay is a staple of their diet, though they also enjoy watermelon as a special treat. Photo: Joseph Rose

The retreat has begun taking reservations, starting this fall. By then, there’s a good chance the sixth donkey will have been born, but the exact date is anyone’s guess.

“It’s a healing place, it’s a place of prayer and reflection, but it’s also a place where we want to have a sense of fun,” Joseph Rose said.

The donkeys embody that spirit, he said, adding that he thinks the animals have earned an unfair reputation for being dumb, stubborn and mean. Rose has found them to be very friendly animals and hard workers.

Well, part of their reputation might be justified.

“They can be a little stubborn sometimes,” he said.

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

Anglicans in South Sudan enthrone first archbishop of internal provinces

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 5:50pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican church in South Sudan has enthroned its first Archbishop for one of its eight internal provinces created in November 2013, in a service that was attended by the vice president of the republic of South Sudan, James Wani Igga, as well as overseas visitors, including the Rev. Bill Atwood, the diocesan bishop of the international diocese in the Anglican church of North America, who jointly gave praise for the development of the Anglican church in the country.

Full article.

Union of Black Episcopalians look to church’s future

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 2:35pm

The Rt. Rev. Carl Wright, Episcopal Church bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries, blesses Bert Gibson of New York. The blessing happened during a July 26 Eucharist and healing service that included recognition of Gibson and all UBE members who had served in the military. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Cherry Hill, New Jersey] African-Americans in both the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America were called this week to help build the future of their churches by working hard in the present.

The call to action came during the Union of Black Episcopalians’ 49th annual conference, held July 23-26 at a hotel here in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The UBE met jointly for the first time with the African Descent Lutheran Association.

“Right now, the church is not leading the conversation about justice,” Brittney Cooper, assistant professor of women’s, gender and Africana studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said during a July 25 presentation.

“We’re not leading the conversation about truth, and we should be. Instead, we have some perversion – some version – of the church that I don’t recognize, which we call the religious right.”

That version, said Cooper, who was raised Baptist and continues to attend church, has “hijacked the conversation about what truth is and what truth we should be telling.”

Cooper contended that society now has more access to information, both factual and false, than at any point in history “and we still can’t make sense of any of it.”

Rutgers University Assistant Professor Brittany Cooper says church folks need to shift their theologies to focus on social justice, not rules. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

“We’re in a moment when too many black churches are still obsessed with individual sin,” she said. “We don’t talk about social sin.”

Moreover, too many black churches have “capitulated to the conservative, evangelical party line of assimilation into the American project,” she said. Cooper argued that “racism, sexism, capitalism, homophobia and transphobia are eating up black folks.”

“All we do is tell people that God cares about saving individual souls,” she said. “I wonder if our theology needs a shift and what God is calling us to do is to get our own stuff together so that we can do this work of justice.”

“You don’t really know Jesus if you don’t think your theology should inform your politics,” Cooper said.

It is not surprising that young people, who are rightly skeptical about all institutions, are not in church, Cooper said. They are not going to come to church simply because older people tell them to – older people who have a lot of rules to which they require churchgoers to conform.

Instead, she said, the church must remember that Jesus told his followers that “rules and regulations won’t save you.”

“That is why young people are not hearing us because what we offer to them far too often is more rules and regulations about how they should dress and how they should talk and what it means to be respectable,” she said. “Instead, we’re supposed to be the people who are like Jesus who looked at an empire and said this is evil and there’s another way to live.”

“Maybe millennials’ disinterest in church isn’t a judgment,” Copper suggested. “Maybe it’s an invitation” to the church to change its theology and its approach.

Later that day, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry concentrated on the church’s ministry to and with young people in his sermon at African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia during a Eucharist commemorating the 225th anniversary of the black presence in the Episcopal Church.

Absalom Jones, the church’s first black priest, founded St. Thomas in 1792. It was the first black Episcopal church.

The conference honored both Absalom Jones and Jehu Jones Jr., a Lutheran minister who founded one of the first African-American Lutheran congregations in the 1830s, also in Philadelphia. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton presided at the three-hour Eucharist.

Curry reminded the congregation of the Hebrew midwives who organized to defy pharaoh’s order that all Hebrew baby boys were to be killed at birth because he feared the Hebrews’ power. One of the babies they saved was Moses, who grew up to lead his people to freedom.

Then, in Jesus’ time, Herod followed “the pattern that we see of tyrants throughout history and to this very day” who seek to destroy some of society’s children. Today, Curry said, those tyrants would take away their public education opportunities and their health care

“Destroy the children and you destroy a nation,” he said.

“Our children, whether they are black white, red, yellow – no matter who they are – are being left on the garbage heap of America,” Curry said.

“If you want to make America great, Mr. Trump? Save the children,” he said, pacing St. Thomas’ aisle.

The congregation jumped to its feet, roaring approval.

“The child you save today may save you tomorrow,” was Curry’s refrain.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton go over the order of service with the Rev. Deon Johnson before a July 25 Eucharist at African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The service commemorated the 225th anniversary of the black presence in the Episcopal Church. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

He urged Episcopalians and Lutherans to adopt schools in their neighborhoods, do more for children in the summer, open their buildings to children at times other than Sunday mornings and develop programs for children.

“We need a Sunday school movement that doesn’t just meet on Sunday,” he said. “We need churches filled with children and I don’t care how much noise they make.”

This generation of children needs to hear the real story of Jesus, not what Curry said was the “fake news” about Jesus.

“There’s a lot of fake faith out there that masquerades as Christianity and looks like Christianity but it doesn’t have a thing to do with Jesus,” he said, criticizing preachers of the prosperity gospel.

When the message is about wealth and not about service and Jesus, it is a “perversion of the gospel and I don’t care how mega the church is, how big it is, that is wrong.”

“It is false, it is fake and our children are falling prey to it,” he said.

The St. Thomas Gospel Choir raised the roof of their African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas July 25 during a Eucharist that was part of the joint meeting of the Union of Black Episcopalians and the African Descent Lutheran Association. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

Curry warned that prosperity gospel preaching ranges all over Africa and Central and South America, and is spreading elsewhere. “And it is making some people rich by preying on the poor and that is not the gospel,” he said.

He warned against forms of Christianity in the United States that put down immigrants, poor people and “cozy up to power.”

“And, if you listen, they never talk about Jesus,” he said.

The West, Curry proclaimed, needs to be re-evangelized by a Jesus Movement that preaches and lives a Christianity looks and sounds like Jesus.

He warned that such a movement is not always an easy one to follow. “If you love God, you have to love who and what God loves,” he said, no matter their religious, ethnic, political or ideological affiliations.

“It doesn’t mean you have to let them get away with everything, but you have got to love them,” he said.

“My brothers and sisters, we’ve got work to do. Don’t leave this place just feeling good. Don’t leave this place just shouting,” he said. “You’ve got to leave this place ready to change this world.”

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

Maryland diocese’s summer scholars program teaches life skills

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 1:40pm

Baltimore children get a taste of water navigation on the Potomac River, putting in at Brunswick, Maryland. It was part of the Sutton Scholars program teaching life skills. Photos: Dan Webster/Diocese of Maryland

[Diocese of Maryland – Adamstown, Maryland] “I’m not doing that.” The soon-to-be high school sophomore voiced his reluctance to go canoeing or kayaking on the Potomac River. But it’s amazing what positive peer pressure, and a little nudge from a camp counselor, can do for a city kid taking on something new.

The Sutton Scholars High School Enrichment Program is finishing its second year of offering a four-week summer session, most of it on the campus of Morgan State University in Baltimore. There are 54 rising ninth- and 10th-graders learning “soft” and other life skills in order to help them succeed in high school and be better equipped for college and work environments.

The scholars spent some of the time at the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland’s Claggett Center in Frederick County. They tackled the ropes course and zip line, learned to tie-dye T-shirts and put into the Upper Potomac in watercraft that requires teamwork.

River guide Bill Kasten explains to Morgan State’s Kea Smith, left, and to the scholars about some of the native plants they’ll see on the river. Here he holds a branch of chicory, which is plentiful along the river. Photo: Dan Webster/Diocese of Maryland

Mentors and instructors lead the scholars in the development of critical thinking, emotional intelligence, financial awareness, work ethic and communication skills. One-on-one mentorship continues throughout the year, between each summer session, to help scholars continue to integrate learned skills into schoolwork, family life and relationships, and work settings.

The program is a unique partnership between Morgan State University and the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, as well as corporate and private foundations. The Rev. Neva Brown, Episcopal/Anglican chaplain at Morgan State, is program director. Morgan State’s Ms. Kea Smith is the academic director. Returning scholars were joined by new students recruited from Baltimore middle schools who will be in ninth grade this fall. By year four, up to 120 students will be enrolled.

“I am afraid it is a fact that we are failing our children,” Tom Geddes, CEO of Plank Industries, told a recent fundraising reception. “This is why Kevin Plank (founder of Under Armour) and our team and I believe in the Sutton Scholars program. We know that talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. Programs like this work to change that fact, and will help to shine a light on the talents of the young people in our city, and give them the pathway to opportunity that they so fully deserve.”

The Sutton Scholars is also a YouthWorks site. Employment opportunities dovetail with instructional topics to offer real-life applications. While the classroom portion ends the summer before the scholars’ senior year YouthWorks employment may continue the summer after graduation.

“The Episcopal Diocese has a commitment to public education,” says the Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. “This non-sectarian effort is an important skills-building program designed to help young people in our community navigate high school, secondary education, work, and life in general.”

— The Rev. Dan Webster is a priest in the Diocese of Maryland.

EPPN: Call your senators to protect health care for all

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 1:26pm

[Episcopal Public Policy Network policy alert] The United States Senate is now considering a series of measures that would radically remake the way health care is provided in this country, and dramatically change who has access to care. A partial, or “skinny,” repeal of the Affordable Care Act would likely remove the patient protections that the ACA has made mandatory, create de facto high-risk pools by eliminating the individual mandate, and risk further de-stabilization of the health insurance market.

As Episcopalians, we are reminded of and called by a Christ who says, “As you have done to the least of these you have done to me.” We must remind our elected leaders of that Christ-like love for neighbor and protection of the most vulnerable and least served among us.

We recognize the need for health care reform, and we believe that the starting point for reform efforts should be the assurance that no one loses their existing health insurance. We believe Congress can find creative solutions to reduce costs, lower premiums, and ensure that the most vulnerable among us have access to life-saving care. As a sector, health care represents nearly 1/5th of our economy, according to a study by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and so we must call on our elected officials to carefully consider and rigorously test any sweeping changes to existing health care laws.

Call to urge an open, sensible, and compassionate process for this crucial legislation. Call to protect care for all people, and for stronger protections for middle-income Americans.

Call to urge your Senators to vote No on the final passage of any ACA repeal!.

Video: Presiding Bishop preaches during Union of Black Episcopalians Eucharist

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 3:27pm

[Episcopal News Service – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached at African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas during a July 25 Eucharist commemorating the 225th anniversary of the black presence in the Episcopal Church.

“The child you save today may save you tomorrow,” was Curry’s refrain during the sermon. He called on people of faith and politicians, including President Donald Trump, to ensure a safe and secure future for all children.

The service was part of the Union of Black Episcopalians’ 49th annual conference, held at a nearby Cherry Hill, New Jersey, hotel. The UBE met jointly for the first time with the African Descent Lutheran Association and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton presided at the Eucharist.

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

Canadian primate praises Lutherans for interfaith relations work

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 10:43am

[Anglican Journal] In an address to the 16th  Biennial Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada held in early July in Winnipeg, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, celebrated the full-communion relationship between the two churches, and praised the Lutheran Church for providing leadership on interfaith relations.

Full article.

Longtime Anglican Communion executive officer retires

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 10:40am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Tributes have been flowing in to the Anglican Communion Office in London for Christine Codner, who has retired as executive officer after more than three decades. Christine joined in 1983 and certainly didn’t think it was going to end up being a job for life: ”I still remember at my job interview how alarmed I was when it was implied I was to stay on for the next Lambeth Conference  – which was five years later!” she said.

Full article.

Young women spend months living monastic life with Canadian nuns

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 10:23am

[Anglican Communion News Service] More than 10 months after a group of young women began living with members of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine in Toronto, Candada the inaugural Companions on the Way program is drawing to a close.

The sisters officially commissioned five companions in September 2016, though three were unable to stay for the entire duration of the program. The companions joined in living the monastic lifestyle of the sisters, devoting their days to work, study, prayer and spiritual contemplation.

Full article.

Anglican primate joins Christian leaders in Jerusalem in calling for calm at holy site

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 2:55pm

[Episcopal News Service] Leaders of the Christian churches in Jerusalem, including the Anglican primate, have called for peace and reconciliation amid tensions at a shared holy site in the city, as the Israel government backs down from a standoff over stricter security measures there.

Archbishop Suheil Dawani, primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, joined 12 other patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem in issuing a statement last week to “express our serious concern regarding recent escalation in violent developments around Haram ash-Sharif and our grief for the loss of human life, and strongly condemn any act of violence.”

The statement also affirms the church leaders’ support for existing agreements between Israel and Jordan to jointly maintain holy sites that are revered and frequented by both Jews and Muslims.

“We renew our call that the historical status quo governing these sites be fully respected, for the sake of peace and reconciliation to the whole community, and we pray for a just and lasting peace in the whole region and all its peoples,” the statement concludes.

The site is known by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount. Recent tensions have focused on access to the al-Aqsa Mosque, where on July 14, three Arab-Israeli gunmen opened fire, killing two Israeli policemen before being shot down themselves. The mosque was closed for Friday prayers for the first time in 17 years.

Before reopening the compound, Israel installed metal detectors at entrances to the mosque, a move that drew objections from Palestinians who said it limited their access to the holy site.

When Israel initially refused to remove the scanners, the protests escalated, and on July 23, a Jordanian of Palestinian descent was reported to have used a screwdriver to stab an Israeli security guard, who shot and killed the attacker along with another Jordanian.

Then on July 24, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after conferring by phone with King Abdullah II of Jordan, announced Israel would remove the metal detectors, The Washington Post reported. The removal began on July 25.

It remains to be seen whether the move will calm all tensions over the site. In removing the scanners, Israel is replacing them with more sophisticated surveillance cameras, which also have prompted objections from Palestinians.

The Palestinian official who oversees the al-Aqsa Mosque said the arrangement will remain unacceptable “unless everything that was added after July 14 was removed,” Al Jazeera reported.

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

Long Island names Pat Mitchell canon for pastoral care

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 1:09pm

[Episcopal Diocese of Long Island] Bishop Larry Provenzano announced July 24 the appointment of the Rev. Patricia S. Mitchell as canon for pastoral care of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

Mitchell will support and provide resources to clergy and lay leadership, support and supervise vocational deacons on behalf of the diocesan bishop, and provide direct pastoral support for retired clergy and their families. Additionally, she will serve as the diocesan intake officer for any Title IV allegations.

Provenzano said, “”I’m looking forward to working with Canon Mitchell. She brings a wealth of personal, professional and church organization experience to this new position among us.”

Most recently, Mitchell served as canon missioner for the Mount Vernon, New York, Episcopal Ministry. She has also served as canon for Christian formation in the Diocese of New York and was an associate rector at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Manhattan.

Mitchell, who grew up in Queens and was a member of Grace Episcopal Church in Jamaica, is a graduate of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and was ordained in 2002. She is also a graduate of Columbia University with master’s degrees in psychology and clinical psychology and has worked in mental health and special education fields in university and hospital settings.

Draft order calls for Bruno to be suspended from ministry for three years

Mon, 07/24/2017 - 3:54pm

Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno spent nearly seven hours March 29 and 30 talking to the Hearing Panel considering the disciplinary action against him. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] The hearing panel considering disciplinary action against Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno has drafted an order calling for his suspension from ordained ministry for three years because of misconduct.

The five-member panel concluded in a 4-1 decision that “the scope and severity of Bishop Bruno’s misconduct … have unjustly and unnecessarily disturbed the ministry of a mission of the Church.”

The 91-page draft order specifically rejects calls for Bruno to be deposed, or removed, from ordained ministry. It says that during the three-year suspension Bruno could not exercise any authority over “the real or personal property or temporal affairs of the Church.” A three-year suspension would take Bruno beyond his mandatory retirement date in November 2018, when he turns 72.

The draft order, which is not final, also urges the diocese to let the members of St. James the Great return to their Newport Beach, California, building.

Bruno locked out the congregation nearly two years ago after the members objected to his unsuccessful 2015 attempt to sell the St. James property to a condominium developer for $15 million in cash. The congregation has been worshipping in a meeting room at the Newport Beach City Hall. Its canonical status with the diocese is in limbo.

The attempted sale occurred less than 18 months after Bruno reopened St. James in late 2013, after recovering the property via a lawsuit prompted by a split in the congregation. Three other congregations in the diocese also split in disputes about the Episcopal Church’s full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life of the church.

The subsequent effort to sell St. James to a developer prompted congregation members to bring misconduct allegations against Bruno, claiming he violated Episcopal Church law. A hearing on those allegations was held in March.

Bruno continued to try to sell the property even after that hearing. Those efforts, which the bishop tried to conceal, earned him a rebuke from the hearing panel in June. The panel said Bruno had to stop trying to sell the property during the disciplinary process. If he did try, or succeeded, before the panel decided the original case against him, that behavior would be “disruptive, dilatory and otherwise contrary to the integrity of this proceeding,” the panel said at the time. The same is true of his failure to give the panel the information it asked for about the accusations, the notice said. Such behavior violates the portion of canon law that governs the behavior of clerics who face disciplinary actions (Canon IV.13.9(a) page 151 here).

A few days later, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry partially restricted Bruno’s ministry, specifically his ability to sell the church property.

Bruno’s appeal of the panel’s sanctions failed.

Acknowledging its inability to assess whether St. James could have survived had it been able to stay in its building, the hearing panel says in the draft order that “there is ample evidence of its viability and promise to convince the hearing panel that St. James the Great was robbed of a reasonable chance to succeed as a sustainable community of faith.” The congregation, the order says, “is a casualty of Bishop Bruno’s misconduct.”

Calling it “a matter of justice,” the panel recommends that the diocese immediately suspend its efforts to sell the St. James property, that it restore the congregation and vicar to the church building and that it reassign St. James the Great the appropriate mission status.

The draft order says that although Canon IV.14.6 would allow the panel to act to help St. James the Great, it declines to do so. “Title IV disciplinary actions are not designed to address the complexities of the specific diocesan property issues that are before it,” the order says. “The hearing panel believes that bishops do and should have authority over mission property and that standing committee review and approval is a crucial part of the fabric and polity of the Church.”

The draft also says that the panel members believe the Diocese of Los Angeles has work to do to reach the goals of justice, healing, restitution and reconciliation upon which the Title IV disciplinary process is based. “The hearing panel is convinced that the Diocese of Los Angeles, particularly its Standing Committee with the supportive leadership of its newly ordained coadjutor, must consciously choose to take part in a process of self-examination and truth telling around these unfortunate and tragic events,” the order says.

Without that work, the panel says, those goals will not be achieved “from the outside by force of canon.”

The draft order meticulously recounts the testimony and evidence the panel reviewed. It essentially upholds the St. James complainants’ allegations that Bruno violated church canons because he:

  • failed to get the consent of the diocesan standing committee before entering into a contract to sell the property;
  • misrepresented his intention for the property to the members, the clergy and the local community at large;
  • misrepresented that St. James the Great was not a sustainable congregation;
  • misrepresented that the Rev. Cindy Evans Voorhees, St. James’ vicar, had resigned;
  • misrepresented to some St. James members that he would lease the property back to them for a number of months and that the diocese would financially aid the church; and
  • engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy by “misleading and deceiving” the clergy and people of St. James, as well as the local community, about his plans for the property and for taking possession of the property and locking out the congregation.

Diocese of Southern Virginia Bishop Herman Hollerith IV is president of the hearing panel considering the case against Bruno. The panel, appointed by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops from among its members, includes Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, the Rev. Erik Larsen of Rhode Island and Deborah Stokes of Southern Ohio.

Smith dissented from the draft order. He said none of the parties should have taken their disputes to the secular courts, including the one with the members of the four split congregations. He cited 1 Corinthians 6:1,7-8 admonishing Christians against filing lawsuits. Smith also said that property disputes should not be adjudicated in the Episcopal Church’s disciplinary process.

And he suggested that St. James was too focused on a particular piece of property. “In this season of the Church’s life, many congregations are learning to become communities of faith outside ‘the four walls of the church building,’” he wrote.

The hearing panel did not publically release its draft order. It apparently gave the draft to the complainants and the presiding bishop for comment. Title IV.14.7 (page 153 here) calls for those parties “to be heard on the proposed terms of the order.” Comments to the hearing panel are due by July 26.

Bruno is not allowed to comment on the draft to the hearing panel. The diocese released a statement July 21 saying in part that no one from the diocese would make any public statement on the draft, “continuing their commitment to respect the integrity of the Title IV process, a priority that Bishop Bruno has upheld through the duration of the two-year proceedings.”

Neva Rae Fox, Episcopal Church public affairs officer, said the church would not comment while the Title IV process continues.

Roger Bloom, a communications consultant working for St. James, released the draft late July 21, reportedly after consulting a lawyer who told him Episcopal Church canons did not prevent its release.

Forty days after the final order is issued, the Rt. Rev. Catherine Waynick, president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, has 20 days to sentence Bruno. He can appeal that sentence and, if he does, the sentence is not imposed while the appeal proceeds. Meanwhile, however, the draft order is clear that Curry’s partial restriction on Bruno remains in force.

Bruno turns 72, the Episcopal Church’s mandatory retirement age, in late 2018. His successor, Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor, was ordained and consecrated July 8 in Los Angeles.

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.