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Trump administration’s policies loom large in joint hearing on immigration

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 4:03pm

The Rev. Nancy Frausto, a “dreamer” and deputy from the Diocese of Los Angeles, testifies July 7 at the joint hearing on immigration resolutions. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Few issues were as primed for spirited debate heading into the 79th General Convention as immigration. The Episcopal Church’s triennial gathering is being held in the capital of this border state amid a continuing uproar over a Trump administration policy of “zero tolerance” toward immigrants coming into the country, a policy that involved until recently the separation of children from their parents in detention.

General Convention is considering nine resolutions relating to migration and immigration, and all nine were on the agenda July 7 at a joint hearing of two legislative committees at the JW Marriot hotel, just west of the convention center.

“We need a statement that says these families matter to this church,” the Rev. José Rodríguez-Sanjuro and alternate from the Diocese of Central Florida said.

About two dozen people testified, including Central American bishops, border state priests, Episcopalians active in refugee resettlement and at least one “dreamer,” the Rev. Nancy Frausto, who like other dreamers was brought to the United States illegally when she was a child. She now is a priest in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

“The 800,000 dreamers need to have the Episcopal Church stand behind them, and not just them but all immigrants,” Frausto said, speaking in favor of Resolution C033, which puts the church on record as respecting the dignity of immigrants and outlines how public policy should reflect that belief.

“I’m going to keep it simple: This saves lives,” said Frausto, who also was one of the three panelists who discussed racial reconciliation July 6 at the first of three TEConversations, scheduled as joint sessions of General Convention.

The two social justice committees, one focused on United States policy and the other on international policy, held the hearing to take input on resolutions covering a range of topics, including providing sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation, condemning the separation of migrant families, supporting Haitians who are poised to face deportation and calling for legislation to give permanent legal status to the dreamers through federal legislation known as the DREAM Act.

General Convention has spoken out on immigrations issues through resolutions dating back at least as far as the 1980s.  Among them is a resolution from 2012 urging passage of the DREAM Act. This year, Resolution C002 urges passage of a “clean” DREAM Act, a reference to recent political developments that have bogged down progress on the legislation since President Donald Trump ended an executive branch policy of protection for the dreamers.

Resolutions passed by General Convention can be used for advocacy work by the Office of Government Relations, which is based in Washington, D.C., and conducts nonpartisan advocacy through direct appeals to congressional offices and by mobilizing the Episcopal Public Policy Network.

Of the nine resolutions on immigration before General Convention, the international policy committee is reviewing just one, D009, but that one is substantial. Titled, “Christian Principles for Responding to Human Migration,” it lays out some of the scriptural and theological basis for the church’s advocacy on such issues, as well as the real-world application of those beliefs.

The Rev. Paul Moore, an Episcopal priest from Silver City, New Mexico, and chair of Rio Grande Borderland Ministries, testified in favor of D009, speaking in English and then translating himself into Spanish and he cited several Bible passages underpinning the church’s outreach toward immigrants.

“Welcome strangers, lest we not miss entertaining angels,” he said, referencing a passage from Hebrews.

Angela Smith testified of her work with Saint Francis Migration Ministries in Kansas, an affiliate of Episcopal Migration Ministries, one of the nine agencies which contract with the U.S. State Department to resettle refugees in this country. The number of resettlements has plummeted under Trump, which Smith argued is affecting the country’s standing in the world.

“This is not who we are. It is not who we want to be,” Smith said. “Refugees enrich our communities throughout the United States. They bring joy, and they make us better.”

More than 100 attended the joint hearing July 7 on immigration resolutions at the JW Marriott hotel in Austin, Texas, during the 79th General Convention. David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

And the Rev. Chris Easthill, a deputy with the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, emphasized that the issues surrounding migration are not exclusive to the United States, and the church can help stem the tide of fear and hate.

“Migration is the big political divide across the globe,” Easthill said. “We need a robust Christian response.”

The hearing came as the bishops and deputies attending General Convention are planning a visible response of their own, with a scheduled trip July 8 to a federal immigration detention facility a little more than a half hour from Austin.  A prayer service is planned for about noon outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center, and the Sunday legislative schedule was adjusted to accommodate those who wished to attend.

The prayer service was arranged in response to the Trump administration’s policy toward immigrant families crossing the border illegally with children, and that policy is referenced directly in Resolution A178 is titled “Halt the Intensification and Implementation of Immigration Policies and Practices that are Harmful to Migrant Women, Parents and Children.”

The policy also was cited July 7 during testimony at the joint hearing on immigration.

Bishop Juan David Alvarado of the Anglican-Episcopal Church in El Salvador testified in Spanish with an English interpreter to tell the committees the natural and human-made disasters the country’s people suffered through, from earthquakes to floods to civil war. Salvadoran immigrants seeking to enter the United States are driven by thoughts of safety, family and opportunity, he said.

“The policy of zero tolerance in this country effect greatly the region of Central America,” Alvarado said in supporting Resolution C033.

Several people called for language in the resolutions that strengthened the call to action or provided more specifics about the urgency of these issues. Others said it was important simply for the church to take a stand.

“We need a comprehensive statement. We need this statement,” the Rev. José Rodríguez-Sanjuro, an alternate deputy from the Diocese of Central Florida.

He said his congregation, Jesus of Nazareth Episcopal Church in Orlando, is half immigrants, and many are afraid. He described meeting in his office with a family, the little boy crying. His father already was facing a deadline for deportation and his mother had to check in later this year with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We need a statement that says these families matter to this church,” he said in advocating for Resolution C033. “I’m losing parishioners because of deportation. Give me something I can use to give them hope. Give me something to reinforce the message that this church welcomes you, this church loves you.”

The Rev. Devon Anderson of Minnesota, chair of the domestic policy committee, closed the hearing by thanking those who testified and the more than 100 people who attended.

“Thank you for proclamations of hope and possibility for a presence of our church in the world around advocating for immigrants in our communities,” she said.

Committee deliberations on the resolutions are scheduled for the morning of July 9.

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

Schentrup family urges convention to continue work against gun violence

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 3:50pm

Philip Schentrup stands with his family as he addresses the House of Bishops about gun violence. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Philip and April Schentrup, Episcopalians whose daughter Carmen was one of 17 students and educators killed by a gunman at Parkland, Florida’s, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School appeared before the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies on July 7 to ask them to continue their work to end gun violence.

The House of Bishops stood in silence as the Schentrup family entered the conference hall at the 79th General Convention and approached the podium.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Standing at the microphone with his wife and family at his side, Schentrup described his daughter as “amazing, compassionate and energetic” who “gave her mom and dad a hug every evening.” She was a straight A student, he said, and a talented musician.

“All of Carmen’s dreams came to an end on Ash Wednesday,” he said. That’s when Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, walked into the school building on Feb. 14, shot Carmen four times with an AR-15, killed 16 others and wounded another 17.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting marked one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. In the first 21 weeks of 2018 alone, there have been a total of 23 school shootings where individuals have been injured or killed. Nearly 40 have died in the shootings.

Schentrup told the bishops that “we’re confronting a sobering fact” in the campaign against gun violence. “We’re in a battle between fear and fact,” he said.

He said many advocacy groups have discovered the power of fear with messages to “be prepared because someone’s going to attack your children or destroy your Christian values” and where people are hated “who don’t look like us, act like us.”

He applauded the bishops’ statement against gun violence (https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/pressreleases/episcopal-house-of-bishops-meeting-in-retreat-accepts-statement-on-gun-violence/) issued earlier this year, and thanked them for their support for his and other families and for hearing their plea to work for an end to gun violence.

After Schentrup spoke, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry stood and asked for a moment of silence before leading the bishops and visitors in reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Schentrup’s remarks came a day before a scheduled public witness event (http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org/witnessgc79/) organized by Bishops United Against Gun Violence. The event is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. July 8 at Brush Square Park, across the street from the Austin Convention Center where the General Convention is meeting.

The Schentrups will speak at the event, along with Abigail Zimmerman, a ninth-grader and Episcopalian from Texas who co-led a school walkout in March in response to the Douglas High School massacre.

Bishops United Against Gun Violence is a group of more than 70 Episcopal bishops that is working to curtail gun violence in the United States. “We believe in a God of life in the face of death who calls our church to speak and act decisively against the unholy trinity of poverty, racism and violence,” according to its website.

Following the event, participants will be invited to walk together to the 10:30 a.m. General Convention Eucharist or to attend worship at local Episcopal churches.

— Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.

Convention budget process gets committee airing, with call for more input and better timing

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 12:47pm

[Episcopal News Service –Austin, Texas] In the midst the process of crafting the Episcopal Church’s 2019-2021 budget, a legislative committee took testimony about the need to change that process so all Episcopalians can have greater input in decisions about how the church spends its money.

Only two people, one bishop who had been involved in the process and another currently doing so, spoke to the Governance and Structure Committee on Resolution A102, which calls for a task force “to study and recreate the budget process for the church.”

Maine Bishop Steve Lane, vice chair of Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget & Finance, finds a quiet moment in a lonely hallway of the Austin Convention Center July 7. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The resolution was proposed by the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons, which says that the current process “does not make enough time available for input by the church at large prior to and during General Convention.” The situation makes for “frustration, suspicion and disappointment of many deputies, bishops and other stakeholders.” The resolution’s explanation also says it is unclear who is responsible for budget oversight between General Conventions.

The current budget process is outlined in Canon I.4.6 (page 33 here). And, according to the joint rules of General Convention (II.10.c.ii at page 227 here), council must give its draft budget to the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget & Finance no less than four months before the start of General Convention (essentially by February of convention year).

PB&F uses the draft budget and legislation passed by or being considered by General Convention to create a final budget proposal. It also holds hearings for people to explain to the committee why their resolutions should be funded. The budget process at convention runs parallel to the resolution process and, often, one process overtakes the other.

“The greatest heartbreak I’ve had in the church was sitting at the hearings for Program, Budget and Finance and listening to people passionately come and ask us to please fund certain elements of the budget,” West Virginia Bishop W. Michie Klusmeyer, who served on PB&F at the 2006, 2009 and 2012, told the committee. “They were asking for anywhere from $5,000 to $250,000 and pleading their case passionately for what they wanted. I looked down at the papers I had in front of me and at that moment when the hearings were taking place, the budget was probably 96 to 98 percent complete.”

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Klusmeyer, who pleaded for a better budgeting system, added that “had we all been honest, we should have stood up and said ‘It ain’t gonna happen.’”

The current draft budget was posted in mid-November on the General Convention website for comment by the church, the second time council has done so. PB&F met in the fall and again earlier this year to familiarize itself with the budget and has been meeting daily in Austin since July 3.

Maine Bishop Steve Lane, PB&F vice chair, told the legislative committee July 7 said that the budget committee got lots of comments on the 2016-2018 draft budget. The current draft “got very few.”

Lane said PB&F’s current working draft has about $12 million more in funding requests than it has income to cover them. “That’s normal,” said Lane, who is in his third consecutive term on as vice chair.

“It’s our job to receive the requests and present convention with a balanced budget. I don’t know that that would change if we expanded the input [time]. There’s always going to be a greater demand for resources than we have at the moment. Program, Budget and Finance is going to have to do the hard work of balancing desires with resources available. The big problem right now is the time pressure.”

PB&F’s budget must be presented to a joint session of the houses of Bishops and Deputies no later than the third day before convention’s scheduled adjournment. To meet that deadline, the committee must finish its work essentially the day before. According to the draft convention schedule, that presentation is set to take place at 10:30 p.m. CDT on July 11. The two houses then debate and vote on the budget separately. Both houses must approve the same version of the budget, which takes effect at the beginning of 2019.

“It has become clear that it is very difficult for Program, Budget and Finance to materially change the draft budget from Executive Council to reflect funding priorities adopted by General Convention after the draft budget has been prepared or to incorporate funding for major initiatives or projects adopted at General Convention,” the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons said in its report to convention in which it proposed Resolution A102.

Between meetings of convention, the canons assign oversight of the budget to council while convention’s Joint Rules of Order assign very similar responsibilities to PB&F.

“And there is the reality that on a day to day basis it is the staff which administers the budget and makes multitudes of spending decisions that ultimately affect and establish the actual funding priorities,” the Governance, Structure, Constitution and Canons said in its Blue Book report, adding that “there is an inherent conflict or lack of congruency and possibly accountability” between convention, council and staff.

In answer to questions from the committee, Lane said he thinks the budget process is “complicated; I’m not sure it’s broken.”

Over the last three triennia “the process has become increasingly collaborative with Executive Council” through the initiative of both groups, he said. During this triennium, for example, at least one PB&F member has attended each of council’s nine meetings and sat with its Finance for Mission Committee.

The result, Lane said, is that “this current budget is the best budget I have seen in my time with the church; it came to us balanced, it came to us prioritized.”

He said tension around the budget process comes from trying to balance “planning and accountability” on the one hand and “democratic participation” on the other. Council begins to build a budget after consulting with the churchwide staff and various groups around the church. However, that action was one way: council members soliciting input. “It wasn’t ‘y’all come.’ The ‘y’all come’ happens here,” Lane said.

Convention is “somewhat stuck with that structure” unless it can devise another “official and formal” way to get the wider church’s input, he said.

Asked if a task force is needed or whether council and PB&F could make the needed changes, Lane suggested that those two groups have already done such things having budget committee members attend council meetings, allowing PB&F to meet months before convention and posting the draft budget for comment.  “It might be helpful to have a sense of direction about what you all want” in terms of how to achieve greater democratic participation.

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

July 7 dispatches from 79th General Convention in Austin

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 10:59am

A mural on the frontage road just west of Interstate 35 at Sixth Street in Austin, Texas. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Much happens each day during General Convention. To complement Episcopal News Service’s primary coverage, we have collected some additional news items from July 7.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Committee expresses regret for lack of language interpreters, seeks changes

The Committee to Receive the Report of Resolution 169, which is dealing with a variety of resolutions regarding the Book of Common Prayer, on July 6 drafted a resolution of regret for situations that took place in one of its hearings on July 5 and sought ways to keep them from happening in the future.

In that hearing, on Resolution B012, Diocese of Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen criticized the committee for failing to have an official interpreter available for Spanish-speakers who wished to testify. He said it was symptomatic of the constant feeling he has of being unwelcome in the church. (ENS story about the hearing.)

In response, the committee crafted Resolution A220, which expresses “deep regret for our lack of sensitivity and hospitality to our Latino and Latina siblings in Christ,” noting both the lack of interpreters and translations of the resolutions up for debate.

The resolution also recognizes that the committee itself is lacking in diversity and urges the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies, who appoint members of legislative committees, to take note of this fact. It also asks that the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons review the convention’s Joint Rules of Order and suggest changes so that translations of all resolutions, as well as availability of interpreters, is required.

-Melodie Woerman

El Obispo Primado insta a los episcopales a abrazar ‘el camino del amor’ para su desarrollo spiritual

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 10:08am

El obispo primado Michael Curry predica un sermón en la eucaristía de apertura de la 79ª. Convención General, en Austin, Texas. Foto de Mike Patterson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] La eucaristía de apertura de la 79ª. Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal el 5 de julio incluyó música movida en muchos estilos, comunión para miles de personas y un sermón del obispo primado Michael Curry en que llamaba a los miembros de la Iglesia Episcopal a abrazar prácticas espirituales que puedan ayudarles a conducir una vida centrada en Jesús.

Llamado El camino del amor, he aquí las siete prácticas que ofrecen una Regla de Vida que todos los episcopales son alentados a seguir:

  • Vuélvete: Detente, escucha y sigue a Jesús
  • Aprende: Reflexiona diariamente sobre la Escritura, especialmente sobre la vida y enseñanzas de Jesús.
  • Ora: Pasa tiempo con Dios en oración todos los días.
  • Adora: Reúnete en comunidad para adorar cada semana.
  • Bendice: Comparte la fe y encuentra los medios de servir a los demás.
  • Ve: Sal de la comodidad propia para dar testimonio del amor de Dios con palabras y acciones.
  • Descansa: Dedica tiempo a la restauración y la salud.

Toda la cobertura de ENS de la 79ª. reunión de la convención General se encuentra aquí.

Curry dijo que hace varios meses le había pedido a un grupo de obispos, clérigos y laicos que se reunieran con él para explorar cómo la Iglesia podría ser más profundamente la rama episcopal del Movimiento de Jesús, una afirmación que ha sido el tema de sus primeros tres años como Obispo Primado. Afirmó que quería encontrar una vía para “ayudar a la gente a lanzarse en brazos de Jesús”.

Ese grupo llegó a la conclusión de que la Iglesia Episcopal no necesitaba un nuevo programa, sino que debía recurrir a prácticas espirituales que durante siglos habían ayudado a los cristianos a acercarse a Dios. El resultado, El camino del amor, es una adaptación de tradiciones monásticas que Curry dijo que ayudarían a los miembros de la Iglesia a “sincerarse el alma y el espíritu”.

El obispo primado Michael Curry predica un sermón en la eucaristía de apertura de la 79ª. Convención General, en Austin, Texas. Foto de Mike Patterson/ENS.

Él también animó a todos en la Convención General a dedicar tiempo a meditar en la vida y enseñanzas de Jesús antes de tomar cualquier decisión, incluida la de hablar por un micrófono.

Unos voluntarios repartieron folletos en que se describían las prácticas mientras las personas salían del salón donde había tenido lugar el culto.

Materiales que explican El camino del amor aparecen publicados en el cibersitio de la Iglesia Episcopal.

El texto del sermón de Curry se encuentra aquí.

– Melodie Woerman es directora de comunicaciones de la Diócesis de Kansas y miembro del equipo de información de ENS para la Convención General.

Honduran bishop calls on convention to better serve participants who do not speak English

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 8:50pm

Members of the House of Bishops stand with Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen and he stood at the microphone to criticize what he said is convention’s lack of concern for participants who do not speak English. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Diocese of Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen continued July 6 to call critical attention to what he said was a lack of complete access to translation and interpretation services during General Convention.

His two points of personal privilege in the House of Bishops prompted Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to appoint a small committee to identify “specifically the issues and concerns that are being raised both short-term and long-term,” and how they can be addressed and by whom.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

The day before Allen told the legislative committee charged with considering changes to the Book of Common Prayer that the lack of an official translator for the hearing was symptomatic of the constant feeling he has of being unwelcome in the church. He criticized the fact that one of the resolutions the committee was considering has no yet been translated.

When the House of Bishops convened for it legislative session July 6, Allen went to a microphone to object to the fact that the proposed “Covenant for the Practice of Equity and Justice for All in The Episcopal Church” had not be translated. His objection came after the bishops had discussed the document at their tables. The covenant was proposed in response to the July 4 “Liturgy of Listening.”

Many non-English-speaking participants do not understand what is happening at convention because “there are legislative bodies where no one is translating,” said Allen, who is fully bilingual.

“It’s not fair what’s going on at convention with the Province IX delegation,” he said, despite it having “gone through thick and thin to get here because we considered ourselves as part to this church.” Allen asked why provisions were not made for “proper translation,” rather than what he said have been word-for-word translations.

All legislative sessions in both houses have interpreters, as does the daily worship, joint sessions and some but not all committee meetings. The Virtual Binder, with which anyone can track legislation, is available in English and Spanish. In the Spanish version, the resolution names are in English and some but not all resolutions have been translated. Those in English say “Por ahora no hay traducción al español,” meaning translation is pending.

During the July 5 hearing, Allen threatened to leave the Episcopal Church if it “continues to change the prayer book and to play with Scripture.” During the House of Bishop’s session, Allen said that if action was not taken to correct what he called an on-going situation, “I will ask my delegation to get up and exit the convention.”

Diocese of West Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith then moved to postpone the covenant pending translation.

The House of Bishops began to debate Resolution B014 on compensating the president of the House of Deputies when Allen again came to the microphone, this time calling on his fellow Province IX bishops, his Latino brothers and the bishops of African descent to stand with him. About 20 bishops did so.

“Tabling the matter is just brushing it off again,” he said. “Something needs to be done. No more.”

Other bishops slowly began to stand and Allen then lead the house in a long prayer in English and Spanish.

After a long time of silence, Curry asked for a recess for he, Allen and a few others to “put our heads and hearts together.”

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

TEConversations opens with racial reconciliation

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 8:17pm

Members of the Diocese of Newark converse with each other July 6 during the 79th General Convention’s first TEConversation. Racial reconciliation was the topic of this joint session. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] One of the unique offerings at this triennium’s General Convention are TEConversations (The Episcopal Church Conversations), which are being held during three joint sessions of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies over the coming week. Each conversation offers multiple speakers, video presentations and engaging interludes around three priorities of this gathering: racial reconciliation, evangelism and care of creation.  Speakers represent international leaders, well-known Episcopalians, and rising voices in the Church.

The first of these, A Conversation on Racial Reconciliation, opened at 10:30 a.m. July 6.

“This day is designed for you. This day is for everyone to learn and be included. A day of listening. A morning of conversation. A day of learning. As you listen to the speakers remember that everyone matters,” said the Rev. David Crabtree of North Carolina, moderator of the July 6 conversation.

Arno Michaelis told his story of being the former leader of a worldwide racist skinhead organization. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Speakers for the first TEConversation took a deep and personal look at racial reconciliation.

A reformed, former leader of a worldwide racist skinhead organization, Arno Michaelis kicked off the presentations. “Hate ruled my life,” he said. As the former leader of the largest racist skinhead nation in the world for seven years he speaks of hate and violence as an all-consuming a way of life. Meeting Pardeep Kaleka, the eldest son of Satwant Singh Kaleka – the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, who was gunned down during the attacks of Aug. 5, 2012, changed Michaelis’ life. Together they started Serve to Unite https://serve2unite.org/  in response to the August 5, 2012, attack. Through this organization they “wage peace” and invite others to join them.

Channeling peace, love and especially the “double-edge sword of forgiveness and compassion” Michaelis also works to get people out of organizations like the KKK. Through this practice of nonviolence he told the story of “saving” a father and son from that life.  The Imperial Grand Wizard of the Georgia Klan also burned his robes and left that life. “Hate and violence can be stopped by forgiveness and compassion.” He said that if he had been violent in response to their anger they would likely still be in the KKK.

Local Austin poet, Charles Dawain Stephens, aka Chucky Black, recited his poem “Black Magic.” Photo: Courtesy of Cynthia Black

The scheduled speakers were punctuated by a special guest: Local Austin poet, Charles Dawain Stephens, aka Chucky Black, recited his poem “Black Magic” about the goodness and magic he sees in his people that help him through the dark times.

The next speaker, Dr. Catherine Meeks, director of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, Georgia, is committed to helping people find the best parts of themselves. She told participants from her seat on the stage that “love and acceptance are the simple message (of reconciliation) but we are always looking for something more complicated.”

She urged people, “Do not leave this place and act the same way you acted when you got here. We need to make differences in ways that are concrete and take away the constructs that divide us.”

Catherine Meeks is the director of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

In a video presentation the question – What is A Beloved Community? – was answered by people representing the diversity of the Episcopal Church. Some of their responses:

  • “An ever-widening circle of God’s Grace.”
  • “We should always take care of each other, not just when there is a disaster, but always.”
  • “Has to be an absolutely intentional community, it can’t just happen.”

The Rev. Nancy Frausto, a native of Zacatecas, Mexico, and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) beneficiary priest was the morning’s final speaker. Frausto is a dreamer, “which means I entered the country illegally. I ran … and hid … to be reunited with my father.” She was 7 years old when she came to this country and a beloved community is something she desperately wants.

“Imagine working toward a beloved community. You have to work toward racial reconciliation. To get there you have to talk about truth.” It is about the entire system, according to Frausto. If we truly care about the dreamers, then we must care about the parents – the original dreamers, and the children in the camps today, and the black boys and girls in the neighborhoods, and all those who are marginalized.

The Rev. Nancy Frausto of the Diocese of Los Angeles is a native of Zacatecas, Mexico and a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) beneficiary. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Frausto closed with the story of Jesus and Lazarus when Jesus said to the people, “Unbind him. Let him go.” She went on to say, “Imagine us unbinding this country from racism. We have a lot of work to do. … We do need to love one another. As you leave General Convention make sure you do the work tell the truth and unbind this country.”

About 30 minutes of discussion that asked participants to take a deep and personal look at racial reconciliationfollowed the presentations. Deputies and bishops were asked to “explore personal and communal hopes for living as the Jesus Movement and sharing in loving, liberating, life-giving relationships with God, each other, and the earth.”

During that time people first sat in pairs, and then in groups. These were generally made up of one or two diocese’s bishops and deputies. An Episcopal Church staff member noted that some groups included their alternates in the discussion, although rules about who can be on the floor at a given time made this tricky.

In an email following the TEConversation, Deputy Stewart Lucas of Maryland shared a comment he had made as part of their discussion. “We must just be ourselves, especially when we are in a minority. All we can do is share our story and our pain and our journey. Relationships change opinions and deeply held values. Those of us in a majority who are privileged in many ways have a baptismal responsibility to find and listen to the story of the ‘other,’ ”

As the deputies and bishops left the floor of the House of Deputies they shared their reactions from the first TEConversation.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry opens the 79th General Convention’s first TEConversation July 6, this one on racial reconciliation. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Deputy Krisita Jackson of Central Florida said, “Conversations need to be continued. Reconciliation is tough work and requires a lot of looking into oneself, finding the truth and speaking the truth.”

Bishop Greg Brewer, also of Central Florida, was energized by the session. “I welcome it. These conversations are absolutely necessary if we are going to go from racial enclaves to reflecting the multi-racial Jesus Movement that the presiding bishop envisions.” He added that he appreciated the diversity of the presentation, “from hip-hop to Dr. Meeks sitting down and talking to us.” And, he said that he looks forward to the next conversation.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Jackson also commented that the presenters were relevant and that she appreciated hearing views from a cross-section of the Church. “It wasn’t a narrow focus. It’s a problem about all people.”

Each TEConversation will be available live so people can participate concurrently with deputies and bishops. Each will also be available online, with support materials, for local use in churches at a later date. Participants can also text 51555 to share resources, ask questions, and continue the conversation. On social media #belovedcommunity and #jesusmovement and #gc79 can be used to share thoughts and ideas.

The next TEConversation is on Evangelism. It will be 2:30-4 p.m. CDT on July 7.

– Sharon Tillman is a freelance writer and a member of the ENS General Convention reporting team.

Cuba committee to hold hearing July 7 on new resolutions

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 8:06pm

Western North Carolina Bishop Jose McLoughlin addresses the Episcopal Church of Cuba Committee during its July 6 afternoon session while New Jersey Bishop William “Chip” Stokes, co-chair of the committee, looks on. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Turns out there is no mechanism for the Episcopal Church to admit an existing diocese into its structure without making a change to its constitution: a change that requires approval by two successive conventions.

The 79th General Convention is underway at the Austin Convention Center and runs through July 13. The 80th General Convention will convene in 2021.

The Episcopal Church in Cuba Committee spent two sessions July 6 deliberating the language of two new resolutions, A209, Reunification with the Episcopal Church of Cuba, and Resolution A214, which addresses the necessary constitutional and canonical changes. It will hold an open hearing on the two resolutions beginning at 7:30 a.m. on July 7 in the Hilton Austin Grand Ballroom K.

“The first one, A209, expresses regret over the history that brought us to this place … and our strong desire for reunification,” said Becky Snow, who co-chairs the committee along with New Jersey Bishop William “Chip” Stokes.

Cuba Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio listens as the Episcopal Church in Cuba Committee deliberates the second of two new resolutions on July 7. Photo: Lynette Wilson

Resolution A029 calls on General Convention to express its joy at the Episcopal Church of Cuba’s request to rejoin the Episcopal Church; lament the House of Bishops’ action in 1966 that split the two churches; note that the two churches “seek to employ God’s justice to confront our shared brokenness, and to equip and empower our efforts toward healing, wholeness and reconciliation for generations to come”; desire complete reunification; express deep regret that structural and constitutional issues prevent the realization of fullest expression of reunification at the 79th General Convention; and expresses the Episcopal Church’s eagerness “to share a future” with the Cuban Episcopal Church.

To prepare for the admission of the Episcopal Church of Cuba, the committee drafted Resolution A214, which commends the church for meeting the actions proposed by the Task Force on Cuba, which General Convention created in 2015 to facilitate the reunification of the two churches.

“We recognized that there needed to be a resolution that was not our resolution that went to Governance and Structure about necessary canonical changes, which they are working on to help not merely with Cuba, but in the event that a request like this should come again we have something in place according to our Constitution and Canons,” Stokes told Episcopal News Service. He added that the notion that a diocese already established as an Anglican Communion province wasn’t foreseen.

The constitutional change to accept a diocese outside the Episcopal Church’s structure and the canonical change necessary to accept a bishop elected, or in this case appointed, in another Anglican province didn’t present themselves until the committee began its deliberations.

Resolution A214 expresses the 79th General Convention’s desire for an immediate reunification, though recognizing that the Episcopal Church “has yet to attend to the structural and canonical requirements necessary and pledges to complete the following actions to welcome” the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese to the 80th General Convention.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Further, it calls for the necessary constitutional and canonical changes to name Cuba a diocese; it calls for the bishop of Cuba’s participation in the House of Bishops; the continued establishment of diocesan and congregational companion relationships; and $400,00 for support of the Cuban church’s ongoing mission and ministry. It also sets the Cuban clergy’s eligibility to participate in the International Clergy Pension Plan administered by the Church Pension Fund at the close of convention.

When the relationship between the two churches ended, so did clergy pensions.

“It’s been difficult for the Diocese of Cuba and we certainly recognize the pain and strain of that,” said Stokes. “But we also believe that this will create permanent changes that should anything like this happen in the future we’re much more able to deal with it in a way that’s fair and treating others the same rather than just making things up as we go.”

Finally, A214 calls for an interim body to accompany the two churches through their transition to re-unification and $50,000 to fund that work.

During its July 4 open hearing the committee formed four subcommittees to study a covenant committee, constitutional and canonical issues with reunification, pension and Resolution A052. While the committee held its July 4 hearing, a second resolution, D060, to establish a covenant with the Diocese of Cuba was filed. Later, the committee decided to strike the covenant language.

The House of Bishops took its action in 1966 in response to the effects of the Cuban Revolution and the United States’ response. The Cuban Revolution, led by Castro, began in 1953 and lasted until President Fulgencio Batista was forced from power in 1959. Batista’s anti-communist, authoritarian government was replaced with a socialist state, which in 1965 aligned itself with the communist party.

Formerly a missionary district, the Episcopal Church of Cuba is an autonomous diocese of the Anglican Communion under the authority of the Metropolitan Council of Cuba. The council is chaired by the primates of the Anglican churches of Canada, the West Indies and the Episcopal Church. The council has overseen the church in Cuba since it separated from the U.S.-based Episcopal Church in 1967.

Prior to that time, in 1961, Episcopal schools in Cuba had been closed and appropriated, and many clergy and their families were displaced. Some remained in Cuba; some either returned or immigrated to the United States. Some clergy who remained in Cuba were imprisoned, executed, or disappeared. Church buildings were closed and left to deteriorate. The church was polarized politically, and its clergy and lay leaders suffered. But the Church continued, in the living rooms of the grandmothers, who held prayer services and Bible studies in their homes. Through them is transmitted a story of pain, and of faith.

The Episcopal Church of Cuba traces its origins back to an Anglican presence beginning in 1901. Today there are some 46 congregations and missions serving 10,000 members and the wider communities. During the 1960s, Fidel Castro’s government began cracking down on religion, jailing religious leaders and believers, and it wasn’t until Pope John Paul II’s 1998 visit to Cuba, the first ever visit by a Roman Catholic pope to the island, that the government began a move back toward tolerance of religion.

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

Israel-Palestine resolutions spark impassioned testimony under expedited process for review

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 8:06pm

Tarek Abuata of the pro-Palestinian Friends of Sabeel North America testifies July 6 at a hearing on General Convention resolutions related to Israel and Palestine. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Dozens of people representing a broad range of interreligious voices testified July 6 at a joint hearing on resolutions related to Episcopal Church policy toward Israel and Palestine, a contentious issue at past General Conventions that this year was discussed openly and, for the most part, cordially.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Some read their prepared statements by scrolling their smartphones or shuffling through notes on paper. Others gave testimony from memory or off the cuff, and many of the nearly 50 people who addressed the committees shared grim examples of life and death in the region, from Gaza to the West Bank.

“I’ve heard stories of hope and stories of pain, from both Israelis and Palestinians. We need to listen to both,” said retired Bishop Ed Little, previously of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, who spoke from his experiences during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The Social Justice and International Policy Committee and the Stewardship and Socially Responsible Investing Committee of the 79th General Convention met jointly with the goal of getting the resolutions to the House of Deputies by July 8, part of an expedited process outlined by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president.

That process was recommended by a task force formed by Curry and Jennings after the 2015 General Convention to look at ways to ensure a full, open and productive debate on such thorny issues as whether to divest church funds from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

So far, the reaction to those changes has been positive, and the openness of the debate was readily evident to the more than 100 people who attended the 2.5-hour hearing in a ballroom at the JW Marriott hotel just west of the Austin Convention Center.

Several pro-Palestinian organizations mobilized individual representatives and groups of people to testify, helping to tilt the balance of views in favor of approving resolutions calling for a tougher stance against Israel and greater promotion of peace. A small but forceful minority spoke in defense of Israel – or to assert that this decades-old conflict defies easy assignment of blame.

“It’s a family fight, and like a family fight, there are two sides,” Katy Dickinson, a deputy from the Diocese of El Camino Real in California, said in her testimony supporting Resolution D027, seeking justice in Gaza. “It’s mostly Israel’s problem,” she said, but Hamas also is firing missiles and needs to be part of the solution.

But if this conflict is a family fight, Tarek Abuata, a Palestinian Christian from Houston, Texas, sought to undercut the analogy with a variation of his own.

“It is not a fight. It is not a family fight when my father has been abusing my mother and raping her for 70 years,” Abuata testified. He is executive director of Friends of Sabeel North America, a Christian group that supports the Palestinian cause and that was represented at the hearing by several members.

The two committees have been assigned 15 total resolutions on issues related to Middle East peace, including the civil rights of Palestinian children, the status of Jerusalem, supporting Palestinian-owned businesses and preserving the right to boycott as a form of protest against the occupation. Some resolutions with overlapping topics may be combined before the committees decide whether to recommended them to the House of Deputies and House of Bishops for approval.

The various resolutions often generated passionate testimony from deputies and other Episcopalians, as well as members of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Jewish, Muslim, Mennonite and Quaker faiths.

They spoke of Palestinians’ homes being bulldozed, of Palestinian children being ripped from their families and jailed, of the “racist extremism” that had turned Palestinians into second-class citizens in their own homeland. Their testimony described the Palestinian territories, particularly Gaza, as a “nightmare,” “concentration camp,” “prison camp” and the equivalent of the Jim Crow era of segregation in the United States or the former system of apartheid in South Africa.

More than 100 people attended the joint hearing of the international policy and the socially responsible investing committees on July 6, and nearly 50 people testified. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Comparisons to apartheid was underscored, though not explicitly, by a joint statement issued July 3 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican leader who was a pivotal figure in the fight to end apartheid, with former House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson and Patti Browning, widow of former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning.

“We recognize that as the convention considers these resolutions, we must continue the journey of reconciliation with our Jewish sisters and brothers for the centuries of oppressive and anti-Semitic behavior which culminated in our complicity in the Holocaust,” the letter says.  “At the same time, we must not let those horrific injustices blind us to the injustices perpetrated on the Palestinian people.”

The letter goes on to single out the “cruel and illegal Israeli-led siege” of Gaza and says the Episcopal Church will be complicit in the occupation as long as its investments are tied to infrastructure work there.

The issue of divestment generated the most divergent opinions at the hearing, from agreement that the church must end its complicity in an oppressive system to opposition, either from those who side more with Israel or those who worry that divestment might inadvertently cause more harm than good for the Palestinian cause.

The Rev. Jason Poling, vicar of St. Hilda’s Episcopal Church in Maryland, said much of the prevailing rhetoric gives the impression of Israel as a unilaterally vicious occupying power, ignoring Palestinian extremism that has included rocket fire, suicide bombings and kidnappings while serving as a roadblock to progress on peace negotiations.

“Our Israeli friends have a reason to be defensive, because they have a lot to defend against,” Polling told the committee in testifying against Resolution C017.

Alma Bell, a deputy from Maryland, also opposed divestment, because it could lessen the Episcopal Church’s economic leverage in the region and might jeopardize the work of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem under Archbishop Suheil Dawani, who is in Austin this week but did not attend the hearing.

Resolution B016 would model the Episcopal Church’s investment policy after one adopted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which created something called a human rights screen for Israeli and Palestinian investments.

“There are many Lutherans who are thrilled today that our closest communion partner has chosen to take up this same resolution,” said Dale Loepp, a Lutheran who worked on the ELCA measure.

Another resolution, B019, would call for the church to pursue investments that support “a sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” but even that measure drew a mix of praise, reservations and opposition, particularly from those who don’t see such investments as doing anything to end the occupation.

“Palestinians don’t need pity. Palestinians need solidarity,” said Kareem El-Hosseiny of American Muslims for Palestine.

And the Rev. Gary Commins, priest-in-charge at Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Jersey City, New Jersey, cast doubt on whether reconciliation is possible with such an imbalance of power between the Israelis and Palestinians. He urged the committees not to support Resolution B018 for that reason.

“There’s almost nothing in the resolution that hasn’t been said in previous conventions,” Commins testified. “This resolution is just something to make us feel better. … It is an opioid.”

Everyone who wanted to testify was given that opportunity, though committee chairs asked them to keep their remarks to two minutes or less.

People who have followed these issues over multiple General Conventions said the openness was a welcome change, in contrast to what they felt were more strict limitations on discussion.

Another key change is that the House of Deputies was chosen as the house of initial action for all resolutions on Israel and Palestine. At General Convention in 2015, a resolution calling on the church to divest from companies engaged in certain business with Israel failed in a vote of the House of Bishops, which meant it never made it to the House of Deputies for consideration.

And the House of Deputies and House of Bishops are expected to take up the resolutions through a “special order of business” which gives the resolutions greater weight and ensures debate isn’t sidelined by procedural barriers. The special order in the House of Deputies is scheduled for the afternoon of July 8.

“There seems to be a process this time that allows for discussion and debate,” the Very Rev. Will Mebane of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo, New York, told Episcopal News Service during a short break in the hearing on July 6. “There was a recognition at the highest levels of the church that 2015 didn’t work.”

Mebane said he traveled to the Holy Land several years ago, and the experience affected him deeply. The difference between life on the Israeli side and the Palestinian side is like day and night.

“Not one person in this room would tolerate for one day the conditions that exist in Israel and the occupied territories of Palestine,” Mebane told the committees while speaking in favor of Resolution D041, which is about protecting Jerusalem as the holy city of the three Abrahamic faiths.

The Rev. Sunny Hallanan, a deputy from the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, testifies in favor of Resolution D041.

The Rev. Sunny Hallanan, a deputy from the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, also spoke in favor of D041, saying people in Europe are puzzled by the U.S. policy toward Jerusalem.

“Why are we turning from the values we have stood for?” Hallanan said, her voice wavering for a moment. “We, the church, must take a faithful, prophetic stand.”

Some of the most poignant testimony addressed the plight of Palestinian children, as addressed by Resolution C035 and Resolution C038. Several witnesses told stories of children being taken from their families and detained for long periods of time, often suspected only of throwing rocks.

“I know you share my moral outrage,” Jennifer Bing of the American Friends Service Committee said. “You know that military detention is no way to treat a child.”

Haithem El-Zabri, a Muslim and leader in the Austin’s Interfaith Community for Palestinian Rights, shared a personal story – of his Palestinian parents, who moved to the United States in the 1960s as refugees. Now he longs for the opportunity to visit to his ancestral homeland. But he can’t, due to restrictions imposed by Israel.

“All we are asking for is our right to live in peace and dignity in our homeland in equality with all who inhabit it,” El-Zabri said in voicing support for Resolution D018, recognizing both Israelis’ and Palestinians’ rights to self-determination.

Former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori leads a closing prayer at the end of the hearing on Israel-Palestine resolutions.

When the testimony was over, the committee chairs asked former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, a member of the international policy committee, to lead a closing prayer.

“Open our ears,” she prayed, “that we may hear the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the land of the holy one, that we may respond with your justice, your compassion, and we pray that we may be willing to enter sacrificially into the lives of all your people.

“May we be people of justice, of shalom, of salam. May we help to repair the breach in our own hearts, in our world, among all your people. In the name of the God of Abraham, we pray. Amen.”

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

General Convention approves compensation for deputies’ president

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 7:39pm

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The House of Bishops on July 6 agreed to a plan to pay the president of the House of Deputies for the work of the office.

The bishops approved Resolution B014 on a voice vote with some voting no. There is no dollar figure attached to the resolution, which would pay the president director’s and officer’s fees “for specific services rendered in order to fulfill duties required by the church’s Constitution and Canons.”

The resolution, which the House of Deputies overwhelmingly approved July 5, is a compromise move. It was the fourth time over two decades that deputies had attempted to earn compensation for their president and the first time bishops agreed.

Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania Bishop Sean Rowe proposed B014 just before the start of convention as “a way forward,” he told his colleagues. Many bishops worried that paying the president of the House of Deputies could somehow change the polity of the church, especially in relation to the role of the presiding bishop. Rowe said he and a small group of bishops, assembled at the request of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, consulted experts in canon and secular law.

Rowe asked his colleague to “do your best to separate any objection you may have about the way that the current incumbent or any particular incumbent of the position has approached or is approaching the role or whether the job is too big, these are separate issues form the pay matter.”

The president’s role has been changing since 1964, when the convention gave the position a three-year term instead of simply being elected to preside during convention. In addition to chairing the House of Deputies during convention, the president also is canonically required to serve as vice chair of Executive Council and vice president of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, or DFMS, the nonprofit corporate entity through which the Episcopal Church owns property and does business. He or she has a wide swath of appointment powers. The president also travels around the church, speaking at conferences and other gatherings and meeting with deputies and other Episcopalians.

The position, which is filled by election during each meeting of convention, has a travel budget and a paid assistant. Each president is limited to three consecutive three-year terms.

The group of bishops shared their proposed resolution with current president the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings and her leadership team “as a matter of courtesy and consultation,” he said, adding that the bishops “engaged in significant diplomacy on this matter and we have achieved results.”

Many deputies “had to swallow hard to make this happen” but it is “going to set the stage for a different kind of relationship” between the two houses.

Diocese of Southern Ohio Bishop Tom Briedenthal agreed with Rowe. He said he and Diocese of Western New York Bishop Bill Franklin were happy to give the required endorsement of B014. They felt they were doing “our part to improve the relationship of trust that is so important to the proper functioning of these two houses.”

Any risk that his colleagues might feel about “becoming vulnerable to an erosion of our own particular ministry and role as bishops is worth taking because it is a signal to the other house that we are walking alongside them and will give them a chance to trust us more and therefore help us to know better what they see us as when they look upon us as their bishops,” he said.

Some bishops worried about the lack of a specific dollar amount in the resolution. The Task Force to Study Church Leadership and Compensation, called for by the 78th General Convention, concluded in its report to this meeting of convention that the work of the House of Deputies president amounts to a full-time job. Its Resolution A028 calls for a salary but does not set an amount.

The task force asked Executive Council to include a proposed salary in the draft 2019-2021 budget, which it gave to the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) in January. The task force did not suggest an amount, but council included $900,000 for a full-time salary and benefits for the three years in the draft budget (line 557 here).

Bishop Steven Miller of Milwaukee cited that amount and asked for a “clear accounting” once Executive Council sets the fees, as required in the resolution. He said the $900,000 “could be used for mission, it could be used for reconciliation.”

Voting yes on the resolution without an amount, Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris said, feels like “we are writing a blank check.”

Rowe said both bishops and deputies vote all the time on resolutions that ask for specified or unspecified amounts of money. It is then up to PB&F to sort out all the requests. Maine Bishop Steve Lane, PB&F vice chair, said council put the amount into its draft budget “not knowing how this General Convention would move” and would revisit that amount when convention’s wishes were clear.

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

Committee considers social justice theology proposal

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 6:58pm

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] How does social justice fit into the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church? This the question a proposed resolution presented during the 79thGeneral Convention would seek to understand.

Resolution A056 asks that the General Convention direct the presiding officers of the Episcopal Church to appoint a Task Force on the Theology of Social Justice Advocacy as Christian Justice. If approved and implemented, over the next triennium, the task force would consider scripture, approved liturgical resources, other theological texts and previous actions of General Convention to summarize ways the church understands social justice as an essential mission and ministry.

The resolution also calls for the task force to study how the church currently fosters the theological understanding of social justice and asks it to recommend ways to foster conversations on social justice across the church.

The convention’s Ministry Committee on July 6 heard three speakers in favor of the resolution.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

The Rev. Kenneth Brannon, Idaho deputy and member of the Ministry Committee, questioned the need for a establishing a task force when churches are already involved in addressing social justice issues. “Social justice is front and center to what we do in the Episcopal Church,” he said.

Responding to his question, theRev. Tracie Middleton, Fort Worth deputy and a board member of the Association of Episcopal Deacons, said that a theology of social justice could eventually lead to more resources on how congregations might tackle social justice issues. “There is an urgent demand for how we do it,” she said.

In an interview after the hearing, Middleton said clergy might be aware of only a few of the social justice issues that parishioners are passionate about. The ability to have a resource to network across the country to share ideas and knowledge would be beneficial to bring priests and deacons up to speed on the myriad of social justice issues that their parishioners care most about.

The resolution asks that the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance to consider budgeting $15,000 to implement the resolution.

The resolution was proposed by the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church. In its Blue Book Report,  the committee concluded that while the church is “doing many different types of work, social justice work is not robust across the Church.”

Most especially, the committee discovered that the understanding of “social justice” varies broadly and that activities across the church tend to fall more “into the realm of alleviation of suffering and the work of charity than the work of justice.”

The task force said this distinction caused “anxiety” for some who completed a survey, “both in terms of trying to define charity work as ‘justice’ and from some who do not believe the church should be doing justice work.” Some survey respondents replied that the church should “remove itself from politics and get on the work of social justice.”

“We heard concerns that social justice is ‘only about politics,’ ” the task force reported.

The task force also heard about “a sense of being disconnected from the words of the wider church and General Convention on the theology of social justice.”  It said “some felt that social justice preaching should not advocate a particular view on reform or that the emphasis should be on ‘outreach ministry’ but not social justice.”

Respondents to a survey conducted for the committee were eager for resources, suggestions and people to reach for help and “almost all who responded acknowledged a need for this work and many a desire to do it.  They wanted to connect with others doing this work but did not know how to find them.”

To clarify misunderstandings, the committee defined social justice work as “acts to address and heal the root cause of the injustice which prompted our need for charity in the first place.”

“In our churchwide discussions,” the task force report stated, “we talk about justice in terms of promoting social change and responding to long-term needs in combination with work to alleviate the suffering before us.”

– Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.

Speakers support scholarships for those seeking to serve small congregations

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 6:10pm

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] More than a half-dozen speakers appeared before the Ministry committee on July 6 to voice their support for a resolution that would eventually lead to scholarship funding for individuals pursuing the ministry in order to serve small congregations as clergy and deacons.

“We found that those who are called to serve small congregations find very little funding available to them,” said the Rev. Susanna Singer, chair of the Task Force on Clergy Leadership Formation in Small Congregations and associate professor of ministry development at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California.

The task force submitted Resolution A027, which would direct the Executive Council to establish a panel to “develop and implement a plan to provide need-based central scholarship funding to individuals” pursuing a theological education to serve as priests or deacons in small congregations.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Singer suggested the funding could provide individuals financial support for tuition, travel, child care, computers “or whatever the applicant needed” to pursue a theological education, primarily outside traditional residential seminary programs.

According to the task force, 69 percent of Episcopal congregations have an average Sunday attendance of less than 100, placing them in the category of “small congregation.”  To take this even further, bishops surveyed by the task force reported that a “substantial minority” of their congregations number less than 20 on an average Sunday.

Recognizing their unique needs and issues, the 78thGeneral Convention three years ago set up the task force to “develop a plan for quality formation for clergy in small congregations that is affordable, theologically reflective and innovative.”

Speakers agreed with the task force’s assessment that many individuals interested in serving small congregations, often located in rural or poor urban areas, are unable to afford the cost of a seminary education.

The Rev. Andrew Hybl, dean of students at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, told the committee that “individuals are being asked to make personal and financial sacrifices that are impossible” to obtain a theological education and enter the ministry.

A Ministry subcommittee planned to consider the testimony and return with its recommendations.

Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.

Global ecumenical body repeats call for release of Aleppo archbishops

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 5:43pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, a global ecumenical body which includes most Anglican provinces, has expressed its concern at the “alarming and rapidly deteriorating situation of Christians in the Middle East.” At its meeting at the end of last month, the Central Committee repeated its call for the release of two Syrian archbishops who were kidnapped near Aleppo in Syria: Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi. The pair were taken by gunmen in April 2013.

“The Central Committee recalls with heavy hearts the abduction five years ago of the archbishops of Aleppo, Youhanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi,” the WCC said in a statement. “We continue to pray for their safe return to their churches, their communities and their families, as a sign of hope for all the Christians of Syria and the region.”

The statement also affirms that “a new social pact is needed throughout the Middle East region – a common narrative that is developed and shared by all communities of the countries of the region based on an inclusive understanding of citizenship and human rights, constitutionally guaranteed, and under which all churches and faith communities, with their diverse ethnic, religious and cultural identities, can live and prosper in the love and grace given to all by God.”

Negotiations begin for ‘amicable separation’ following same-sex relationships vote

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 5:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Talks have begun to try to reach an amicable separation between members of four conservative evangelical churches and the Diocese of Christchurch. The congregations of the four churches voted by large majorities to disaffiliate following the decision in May by the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to permit churches in New Zealand to bless same sex marriages. Archbishop Philip Richardson, one of the Primates of the ANZP, has now met with senior diocesan staff and archdeacons and the vicars and wardens of the four parishes to discuss how their members could disaffiliate “in a respectful manner while maintaining good communication and leaving doors open.”

Full article here.

Issues of impairment and bishop elections find common ground on Chuchwide Leadership

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 5:30pm

The Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development, testifies at General Convention before the Committee on Churchwide Leadership on Resolution A147.

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The Committee on Churchwide Leadership is grappling with a host of resolutions, all of which are related in some way to the discernment, election and consecration of bishops, as well as issues surrounding leadership impairment due to alcohol and substance misuse and behavioral addictions. In the life of the church, these two topics go hand in hand.

“We cannot look at these issues in isolation they are so connected,” said the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development.

The Commission on Impairment and Leadership, which refers to intervention, evaluation and possible re-entry or action needed related to various forms of leadership impairment, has submitted D057, D058 and D059. Additional resolutions ask for canonical amendments. This commission of Executive Council also published the Report of the Commission on Impairment and Leadership in 2017.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

The Task Force on the Episcopacy, which reviewed the existing process and made recommendations to improve the path to the episcopacy, increase diversity in the House of Bishops, and offer support to the Office of Pastoral Development in its work with dioceses, advanced 34 resolutions. Those pertaining to the discernment of and evaluation for the episcopacy are A145, A146, A147 and A148. The task force’s Blue Book report begins on page 678.

Where the two groups intersect is in the areas of physical and mental health, and substance abuse and addiction. Impairment and Leadership considered this from the perspective of awareness training and crisis intervention, and Task Force on Episcopacy through screening, privacy and reporting.

How to help the church elect bishops who will have successful episcopates was part of the task force’s work, Katie Sherrod of Fort Worth explained, noting that former Maryland Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook’s “shadow obviously loomed large over the resolution that put us into existence.” Cook killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo in December 2014 as she was driving and texting while drunk. She had been previously arrested in 2010 on an impaired-driving charge. Cook disclosed the arrest to diocesan leaders during the bishop suffragan search process, according to a diocesan statement released after the Dec. 27 accident, but the entire convention that elected Cook on May 2, 2014, was not told about it.

Deputy Scott Slater of Maryland testified on July 5 before the Committee on Churchwide Leadership in support of Resolution A147, to create a Pilot Board for Episcopal Transitions. From Slater’s experience as someone who has a history of addiction, the church lacks procedures for vetting someone thoroughly. This was the case in Maryland, and he experienced it again as a recent candidate for bishop elsewhere.

“I was asked a series of 22 questions and any ‘yes’ answer causes the search or standing committee of the diocese to dig deeper. I’m not sure of the resources available to Transition Consultants when faced with a ‘yes’ answer to one of the 22 questions. In my recent experience, they did not seem to have adequate resources and standards in vetting,” Slater said. “I found myself having to educate the standing committee who was vetting me on how to vet me because of that ‘yes’ answer.”

Slater sees both training transition consultants and making public the resources they use to aid dioceses throughout the transition process important steps to improving the bishop election process.

Describing the process of the 22 questions on the Behavioral Study Questionnaire, a clinical interview of a candidate for bishop, Ousley said, “Answers are part of a ‘decision tree’ where answers can lead to other questions in the clinical assessment. The assessment has a medical and a psychiatric component. This process is specific to potential bishops.” He added that some dioceses use this or a similar process for clergy as well.

After the assessment, the Office of Pastoral Development receives the report from the medical doctor and a certificate from the psychiatrist. If there are no yellow or red flags, then the respective certificates – not the reports – are shared with the presiding bishop and the diocese’s Standing Committee president. The certificates state that there is nothing in the assessment to prevent the person from functioning as bishop. If something is flagged in either report, then the information is shared with the presiding bishop and the president of the Standing Committee of the diocese.

It is highly recommended by the OPD that dioceses have the medical and psychological evaluations done before the candidate is put on the slate. The office began recommending that practice in July 2017. The common practice had been to do these evaluations post-election.

Awareness. Intervention. Consistency. Training. Transparency. Leadership. Separately, they are important to the work of the church. Brought together, the work of the church has a much broader impact.

– Sharon Tillman is a freelance writer and a member of the ENS General Convention reporting team.

Líderes de la Iglesia sientan la pauta de la Convención General en entusiasta bienvenida a obispos y diputados

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 5:27pm

El obispo primado Michael Curry se dirige a la sesión conjunta de apertura de la 79ª. Convención General en Austin, Texas, el 4 de julio de 2018. Foto de Sharon Tillman/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Los principales dirigentes de la Iglesia Episcopal expresaron una entusiasta bienvenida a los centenares de obispos y diputados que se han reunido en la capital de Texas esta semana para la 79ª. Convención General.

La completa cobertura de 79ª. reunión de la Convención General puede encontrarse aquí.

Los discursos del obispo primado Michael Curry y de la Rda. Gay Clark Jennings, presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, duraron unos 20 minutos cada uno y sentaron la pauta para  los 10 días de actividad en el Centro de Convenciones de Austin y en los hoteles vecinos. Los comités empezaron a celebrar sus audiencias en las primeras horas del día sobre algunas resoluciones, aunque las sesiones legislativas no comienzan oficialmente hasta el 5 de julio.

Las intervenciones de Curry y Jennings resaltaron la labor de la Iglesia en los últimos tres años al tiempo que se refirieron directamente  a acontecimientos actuales que han suscitado la respuesta de la Iglesia y que se discutirán en la Convención General, en particular la inmigración y la llamada política de “tolerancia cero” del gobierno de Trump sobre la seguridad fronteriza.

“He visto a los episcopales apoyar a otros a los que nadie más apoyaba”, dijo Curry. “He visto a los episcopales apoyar a los inmigrantes. Nos hemos visto apoyando a los refugiados. Nos hemos visto defendiendo la justicia, no en nombre de valores seculares, sino en el nombre de Jesucristo, en nombre del amor”.

Jennings instó a los episcopales reunidos en el gran salón de convenciones a no permitirse permanecer cómodos en sus puestos de relativo privilegio cuando otros sufren. Ella marcó el rumbo con una lectura del Deuteronomio: Dios “muestra su amor por el extranjero, proveyéndole ropa y alimentos. Así mismo debes tú mostrar amor por los extranjeros, porque también tú fuiste extranjero en Egipto”.

“En este día, cuando algunos de nosotros acaso nos inclinamos a sentirnos en casa en Estados Unidos, la Biblia nos dice que no nos sintamos tan cómodos”, dijo Jennings. “Una vez fuimos extranjeros. Es posible que podamos ser de nuevo extranjeros algún día”.

El discurso de apertura de Jennings puede encontrarse en su totalidad aquí.

El énfasis en la inmigración y en la acogida a los refugiados coincide con planes de obispos y diputados de trasladarse el 8 de julio, después del culto dominical, a un centro de detención de inmigración a unos 40 minutos de Austin para celebrar allí un oficio de oración. La Convención General ha remitido hasta ahora 10 resoluciones a sus comités sobre el tema de la inmigración, y más podrían añadirse antes de la fecha límite de presentación el 6 de julio.

La Resolución A178 demanda específicamente el fin de las políticas federales que separan a los niños migrantes de sus padres. El presidente Donald Trump, después de enfrentar una intensa presión por las separaciones de familias, firmó un decreto ejecutivo en junio para mantener a las familias migrantes juntas en centros de detención, aunque quedan interrogantes sobre cómo este cambio de política se va a llevar a cabo y cómo se reunirán las familias separadas.

En la reunión de bienvenida, el 4 de julio, a la 79ª. Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal, la Rda. Gay Clark Jennings, presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, y el obispo primado Michael Curry se dirigieron a los obispos y diputados. Foto de Sharon Tillman/ENS.

“No podemos perder de vista a los padres y los niños en la frontera que han sido separados por nuestro gobierno”, dijo Jennings al instar a los obispos y diputados a tomar en serio las resoluciones sobre inmigración. “Debemos estar lo suficientemente incómodos para recordar que estos son problemas de vida o muerte”.

El tema de la inmigración también tuvo gran importancia en una conferencia de prensa que habían tenido antes ese día Curry, Jennings y el Rdo. Michael Barlowe, director ejecutivo de la Iglesia y secretario de la Convención General.

Jennings esperaba que la Convención General ofrecería una “alternativa a una interpretación perversa y vengativa de lo que significa ser cristiano”. La referencia de Curry al [libro de] Génesis subraya que la Iglesia está basando su defensa social en la Escritura.

“Partimos de la premisa que … todas las personas son creadas a imagen y semejanza de Dios”, dijo Curry. “Debemos estructurar nuestros acuerdos y estructurar nuestras vidas de tal manera que respetemos la dignidad de todo ser humano”.

A Curry le preguntaron también sobre su sermón en la boda real en mayo y qué efecto duradero podría tener en el éxito de la Iglesia en la evangelización.

“Lo que realmente hice fue orar… en primer lugar, no quería hacer un estropicio. Esa era una congregación bastante grande”, dijo él. “Pero en segundo lugar, que pudiera realmente decir algo que representara las buenas nuevas de Jesucristo. En nuestra cultura, hay versiones y representaciones que no se parecen para nada a Jesús”.

Unas 10.000 personas se espera que estén en Austin en algún momento de esta y la próxima semana para la Convención General, ya sean obispos, diputados, empleados de la Iglesia, voluntarios, expositores u otros interesados en participar de alguna manera en las conversaciones que se tienen lugar. El punto central de las dos semanas será una reunión de avivamiento el 7 de julio en el Centro de Actividades Palmer, en el cual Curry predicará, seguido por una parrillada ofrecida por la Diócesis de Texas.

El entusiasmo que despierta esta Convención General parte de muchas fuentes, desde la reputación de Curry como el carismático “director general de evangelización” de la Iglesia hasta el acalorado debate sobre asuntos que van desde la actualización del libro de oración hasta la política hacia Israel y Palestina. Se ha hablado mucho también acerca del modo en que la Iglesia debe responder a preocupaciones provocadas por el movimiento #MeToo sobre el acoso y el abuso sexuales en la sociedad y en la Iglesia, y la Cámara de Obispos celebra una sesión de escucha sobre esos temas en la noche del 4 de julio.

“Sobreabunda la energía al tiempo de comenzar la Convención General, y hay una atmósfera de esperanza”, dijo Jennings en la conferencia de prensa de la mañana.

Esa energía colmaba el salón de la Convención en la tarde mientras Curry tronaba en su “presentación” de bienvenida —“esto no es un sermón”[afirmó] ante algunas risas cómplices— y los ascensos y descensos de su voz resonaban en las paredes. Los obispos y diputados con sus diputaciones estaban sentados junto a los postes con los nombres de sus diócesis, semejante a la convención de un partido político.

Obispos y diputados reunidos el 4 de julio con sus diputaciones diocesanas para los discursos de apertura en el salón de la Convención en Austin, Texas,  Foto de Sharon Tillman/ENS.

Curry comenzó con una extensa metáfora en torno a Starbucks, sugiriendo que una Iglesia Episcopal que olvida sus raíces es como si una cadena de cafeterías se olvidara de que lo suyo es el café, no los quesos u otros productos alimentarios. “Mis hermanos y hermanas, no estamos en el negocio de hacer quesos, estamos en el negocio del café, y el nombre de ese café es Jesús de Nazaret”.

Pero fue su referencia a la fiesta del Día de la Independencia y a los orígenes del “Himno de batalla de la República”  lo que proporciono un motivo más profundo para expresar la manera en que la Iglesia Episcopal avanza en el servicio del Señor.

“He visto el Movimiento de Jesús entre nosotros en la Iglesia”, afirmó Curry, citando los empeños de socorro de los episcopales después que los huracanes azotaran Puerto Rico, las Islas Vírgenes, Florida y Texas. Dijo que él vio cómo los episcopales estuvieron junto con otros cristianos contra los grupos de odio que desfilaron en Charlottesville, Virginia. Dijo verlo en los episcopales que se concentraron detrás de los sioux de Roca Enhiesta [Standing Rock] cuando buscaban proteger su agua potable [del paso] de un oleoducto.

“La verdad de Dios, este movimiento, está en marcha”, afirmó él.

Jennings inició sus palabras aludiendo a la popularidad de los sermones de Curry y bromeando de que ella ocupara “lo que es ampliamente reconocido como una de las tribunas menos codiciadas de toda la cristiandad, la de la persona que viene después de Michael Curry”.

Jennings, también, le habló convincentemente al público de su deber de seguir el camino de Jesús.

“Estamos emprendiendo una ardua y santa tarea en los próximos 10 días. Vamos a hablar de algunos de los problemas más cercanos a nuestro corazón”, dijo ella. Hagamos nuestra labor como extranjeros y forasteros que se dirigen al reino de Dios”.

Entre los otros oradores en el acto de bienvenida estaban Lisa Towle, presidente nacional de las Mujeres Episcopales, y Mary Kate Wold, presidente del Grupo de Pensiones de la Iglesia. Barlowe fungió de maestro de ceremonias.

“Estamos encantados de estar en la Diócesis de Texas”, dijo Barlowe, una opinión que, con ligeras variaciones, él ha repetido con frecuencia esta semana. “Ustedes nos han recibido con la legendaria hospitalidad de Texas”.

Barlowe presentó a C. Andrew Doyle, obispo de la Diócesis de Texas, quien dijo que los episcopales de Texas se sienten orgullosos de apoyar a la Iglesia en los temas fronterizos y contra la epidemia de violencia armada en el país. Y Doyle mencionó que Houston, Texas, fue la sede de la Convención General en 1970, cuando a las mujeres se les permitió por primera vez que sirvieran como diputadas.

Doyle también  le dio a la Convención una muestra de cómo Texas define su pertenencia al Movimiento de Jesús.

“Texas es grande, y sobre cualquier cosa que ustedes tengan que contarnos, vamos a oírlos cortésmente y luego les diremos que hay otra más grande, más ancha, más fuerte, más extraña, más rara o curiosa que cualquiera que ustedes tengan”, afirmó él. A los texanos les encanta concebir ideas enloquecidas y grandes como el Movimiento de Jesús, y nos alegra ser parte de la grandísima Iglesia Episcopal”

– David Paulsen es editor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a él en at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

 

Speakers support scholarships for those seeking to serve small congregations

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 1:00pm

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] More than a half-dozen speakers appeared before the Ministry Committee on July 6 to voice their support for a resolution that would eventually lead to scholarship funding for individuals pursuing the ministry in order to serve small congregations as clergy and deacons.

“We found that those who are called to serve small congregations find very little funding available to them,” said the Rev. Susanna Singer, chair of the Task Force on Clergy Leadership Formation in Small Congregations and associate professor of ministry development at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

The task force submitted Resolution A027, which would direct Executive Council to establish a panel to “develop and implement a plan to provide need-based central scholarship funding to individuals” pursuing a theological education to serve as priests or deacons in small congregations.

Singer suggested the funding could provide individuals financial support for tuition, travel, child care, computers “or whatever the applicant needed” to pursue a theological education, primarily outside traditional residential seminary programs.

According to the task force, 69 percent of Episcopal congregations have an average Sunday attendance of less than 100, placing them in the category of “small congregation.”  To take this even further, bishops surveyed by the task force reported that a “substantial minority” of their congregations number less than 20 on an average Sunday.

Recognizing their unique needs and issues, the 78th General Convention three years ago set up the task force to “develop a plan for quality formation for clergy in small congregations that is affordable, theologically reflective and innovative.”

Speakers agreed with the task force’s assessment that many individuals interested in serving small congregations, often located in rural or poor urban areas, are unable to afford the cost of a seminary education.

The Rev. Andrew Hybl, dean of students at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, told the committee that “individuals are being asked to make personal and financial sacrifices that are impossible” to obtain a theological education and enter the ministry.

A Ministry subcommittee planned to consider the testimony and return with its recommendations.

— Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.

July 6 dispatches from 79th General Convention in Austin

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 12:54pm

Joshua Farrier and Lyn Crawford are legislative aides to the Social Justice and International Policy Committee and also classically trained singers. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Much happens each day during General Convention. In addition to Episcopal News Service’s primary coverage, here are some additional news items from July 6.

Legislative aides find connection in opera singing backgrounds

Joshua Farrier and Lyn Crawford knew they had one thing in common going into the 79th General Convention. They both would serve as legislative aides to the Social Justice and International Policy Committee. But when the committee met this week for introductions to get organized, Farrier and Crawford discovered something else they shared: professional training in opera signing.

Crawford, a deputy from Virginia, studied classical singing at Northwestern University, and Farrier has a doctorate in music from the University of Kansas. He now is performing Wagner in Germany, which is why he is a deputy from the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe.

“The Episcopal Church is known for its music,” Crawford told Episcopal News Service on July 6 after assisting with a 2.5 hour hearing on Israel-Palestine resolutions. “We’ve got the best music, let’s just face it.”

She is a lifelong Episcopalian, while Farrier joined the church after working as a soloist at an Episcopal congregation. His professor in college advised him not to waste his time with church music. “Except for the Episcopal Church,” the professor told him. “Their music is really good.”

Despite finding a connection through music, Crawford noted one point of disagreement. While Farrier has gravitated toward Wagner, she’s more of a Puccini person.

— David Paulsen

Committee adopts plan for further study of full communion with United Methodists

Bishop Gregory Palmer of the United Methodist Church speaks about Resolution A041 during discussion in the Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations Committee on July 6. Photo: Melodie Woerman/Episcopal News Service

On July 6, the Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations Committee passed Resolution A041, which calls for additional study of a proposal for full communion between the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church, entitled “A Gift to the World, Co-Laborers for the Healing of Brokenness.”

Full communion would provide for exchange of clergy between the two churches but is not a merger of the two denominations.

Plans call for the United Methodist Church to vote on the proposal during its General Conference in 2020. It then would come to the Episcopal Church’s 80th General Convention in 2021.

— Melodie Woerman

News conference outside Convention Center (not about the convention)

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs has scheduled news conferences each day of the 79th General Convention through July 13 for reporters covering the convention, but the church had nothing to do with another news conference that popped up late morning July 6 just outside the Austin Convention Center.

Capital Metro Chief Executive Randy Clarke and Police Chief Brian Manley hold a news conference on transit safety outside the Austin Conference Center on July 6. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Local TV news cameras set up on the sidewalk on the north end of the convention center as Capital Metro Chief Executive Officer Randy Clarke welcomed them and said a few words about public transit safety. He was joined by Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, who was sworn in as head of the department just last month.

And for this news conference, the cameras were pointed away from the convention center, toward Clarke and Manley who were standing in front of their chosen backdrop – a MetroRail train waiting for passengers at the downtown Austin station.

— David Paulsen

Changes to parochial report draw concerns

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 11:17am

Maine Deputy Elizabeth Hall listens to questions during a joint hearing of the Evangelism and Church Planting and Congregational and Diocesan Vitality committees. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] A proposed resolution to increase the amount of data required on parochial reports faced skeptical legislative committee members on July 5 who expressed concerns that the changes might place too much of an added burden on congregations.Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Requiring the assembling of even more data would be especially difficult for small churches that often rely on lay volunteers to compile financial information and annual statistics, said Bishop Nicholas Knisely of Rhode Island.

When he served as priest at a small church, Knisely said “we struggled” to get the report completed. “We’re adding to the burdens for churches that don’t have staff,” he said.

Knisely is chair of the Evangelism and Church Planting committee, which participated in a joint hearing with the Congregational and Diocesan Vitality committee to glean testimony in response to similar and sometimes overlapping issues.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Questions over the parochial report arose from Resolution A053. This proposes that a new parochial report be developed that is “appropriate to the current context of the Episcopal Church including but not exclusive to multicultural congregations; aging populations; outposts of ministry in challenging economic contexts; and creative use of space and local engagement…”

A related resolution, A058, encourages the 79thGeneral Convention to challenge all churches to complete their profile on the Episcopal Asset Map. The asset map is a free, online service showing the location and array of ministries offered by Episcopal congregations, schools and institutions throughout the United States in dioceses that are participating in the project.

Both resolutions were proposed by the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church, which is charged with setting the form of the parochial report with final approval of the Executive Council.

“We decide what we measure and what we measure tends to form what we value,” the Rev. Winnie S. Varghese, the Diocese of New York deputy who chaired the Committee on the State of the Church, has told the Episcopal News Service in an email.

“For the sake of data, it is good to measure a few vital things consistently for a long time, but the sake of our formation, and our self-understanding of what makes a great congregation, the (State of the Church) committee believes it is important for the church to revisit the entire form to align with what we say today are the characteristics that we value in a church, and make it fully and more robustly electronic, synced with the ways we would record such data, and appropriately shareable through the asset map or a resource like it that helps us to identify and develop networks of mutual support,” she added.

In addition to being skeptical about the collection of more data, several committee members questioned how the data would be used by the church and even its value.  In meetings to discuss the resolutions, for example, “we’ve shared the frustrations about the data we’re collecting and not collecting,” said Washington Bishop Mariann Budde, chair of the Congregational and Diocesan Vitality committee.

The Rev. Elizabeth Yale of Northwestern Pennsylvania expressed her concern about the difficulty some have in understanding how to complete the reports. “I feel part of our issue is user interface,” she said.

The committees did appear sympathetic to requiring dioceses to include the status of parish and congregation safe church audits on their parochial reports as proposed in Resolution A051. Safe Church Self-Audits are required by the Model Policies for the Protection of Children and Youth and the Model Policies for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults.

“If you add it to the parochial report, it gives some measure of accountability for your vestry to look at,” said Maine Deputy Elizabeth Hall, who testified in favor of the resolution.

The Rev. Canon Gregory Jacobs, a deputy from Newark and committee chair, said working groups from his committee are reviewing these resolutions and will make recommendations to the full body at a later time.

– Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.

 

 

Hearing on church planting fosters wide-ranging discussion on evangelism’s cutting edge

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 10:29am

The Rev. Kevin Johnson, a priest from Arlington, Texas, speaks July 5 at a hearing on church planting. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] An evening hearing July 5 on church planting, while primarily centered around a General Convention resolution with a multimillion-dollar price tag, addressed financials only in passing while generating more discussion on aspirations for evangelism and the future of the church.

Church planters and ministry developers offered examples from their experiences, and church leaders pressed them for more details on how the Episcopal Church can support such efforts.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

“I come to you a living witness of the direct effect of investment in a parish,” the Rev. Kevin Johnson, a deputy from the Diocese of Fort Worth, said at the joint hearing of the Evangelism and Church Planting Committee and the Congregational and Diocesan Vitality Committee.

Johnson, though not a recipient of a church planting grant, was able to start a new church with an Episcopal Church grant. His congregation, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Texas, was forced to start anew in a theater after a doctrinal split in the diocese led to a legal dispute over possession of the church building.

In the process, Johnson said, St. Alban’s has found a “new way to be church,” and the quest to find those new ways is at the heart of the Episcopal Church’s increased investment in church plants in recent years.

(Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.)

General Convention approved $1.8 million for church plants and Mission Enterprise Zones in the 2013-15 triennium, and $3.4 million was allocated for such ministries from 2016 to 2018. The evangelism committee has been assigned Resolution A005 that would approve $6.8 million in spending over the next three years to build on recent successes of these “holy experiments.”

The church vitality committee joined the hearing because Resolution A032, which was assigned to it, calls for $3 million in spending on church redevelopment, which overlaps with the work on church planting. By the end of the joint hearing at the JW Marriott, the two committees agreed to move that resolution to the evangelism committee’s plate as well.

Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, co-chair of the evangelism committee, took the lead in pressing for answers to the question, “What could we do to be more effective?”

Johnson recommended coaching on church development and marketing support. Charis Hill, a delegate from Northern California who spoke from her wheelchair, said she would like to see the church develop more ministries focused on outreach to people with disabilities.

The Rev. Ramelle McCall, a member of the evangelism committee and a deputy from Maryland, suggested churches and dioceses should be looking outward and asking what they can do be a positive presence in the community, from dealing with the opioid epidemic to feeding the hungry.

“It is exhausting work, but it is good work,” said McCall, who is urban missioner for the Diocese of Maryland. One example he cited was a partnership in Maryland between Evangelical Lutherans, Presbyterians and Episcopalians on a joint ministry called the Slate Project, which is “really working this new kind of community in our cathedral.” He spoke in favor of the church planting resolution and the resources it can provide for new, innovative initiatives like those he is working to support in his diocese.

Church planting “is crock pot work, not microwave work,” the Rev. Michael Michie, staff officer for church planting infrastructure, said at the July 5 hearing Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The chairs also asked the Rev. Michael Michie to add his perspective to the discussion. Michie is the Episcopal Church staff officer for church planting infrastructure and works closely with recipients of church planning and Mission Enterprise Zone grants to ensure they are getting the backing they need. Most of these ministries would not be possible without the financial support they receive from the church, he said, and they don’t succeed overnight.

“This is crock pot work, not microwave work,” Michie told the committees. “To expect these seeds to take root, sprout and bear fruit perfectly within triennial cycles is a little unrealistic and I think the central challenge for the episcopal churches when it comes to starting new ministries… it’s a leadership development question.”

At the same time, Michie said, the lessons learned by church planters can be applied to existing congregations everywhere that are looking for new ways to be church in their communities.

“I think any congregation can think like a church planter,” he said. “Revitalization can happen anywhere.”

The committees also took comments on Resolution A006, which calls for the collection of demographic info about the church leaders behind new evangelism ministries, so that data can be compared with info on the communities they are trying to serve.

There was general support for the goal, of encouraging congregations to think more about representation, though committee members expressed ambivalence about the approach. Could it somehow be used to penalize congregations with low representation scores? Would a homogenous vestry overshadow the greater diversity in a congregation’s ministry leaders?

Indianapolis Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows also suggested the Episcopal Church didn’t need a new analysis tool to learn many of its congregations were out of sync with their communities, and she questioned whether collecting this info would have any effect.

“If we want our congregations to reflect our communities’ demographics, there’s a lot of work to do,” she said.

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

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