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Sudan announced as a new province within Anglican Communion

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 12:57pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Communion has announced that Sudan will, in a few months, become a separate province. Currently, Sudan is an internal province within the Anglican Church of South Sudan and Sudan.

Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon described it as a “welcome development” that will help connect Christians in Sudan with Anglicans in the worldwide Communion.

Full article.

Anglican parishes pledge to ‘give it up for the Earth’ this Lent

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 8:39am

[Anglican Journal] In a twist on the traditional practice of giving something up for Lent, Anglicans across Canada are pledging to make personal lifestyle changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—and challenging the federal government to match them by pursuing policy changes to fight climate change.

Full article.

Episcopalians differ on Church’s activism and mixing faith and politics

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 3:58pm

Maryland Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton leads a March for Refugees on Feb. 4 in Baltimore. Photo: Diocese of Maryland, via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] Politics and religion. They’re the topics you’re not supposed to talk about, if you want to avoid a conversation filled with fireworks.

But in today’s intensely polarized political climate, where policy debates often hinge on values and on how each side views the role of government in Americans’ lives, those debates are being influenced by people speaking out as Christians, from evangelicals to Episcopalians and including Pope Francis.

Episcopal involvement in political causes and demonstrations has grown over the last eight months. Episcopalians joined millions across the country Jan. 21 for the Women’s March and related demonstrations. Several hundred joined a March for Refugees on Feb. 4 in Baltimore, one of several cities that hosted similar marches. And on March 10, Episcopal leaders will join with activists in Washington, D.C., for a march in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its fight against a North Dakota oil pipeline that the tribe says threatens its drinking water and treaty lands.

Minnesota Episcopalians made their presence known at one of approximately 600 “Sister Marches” Jan. 21 outside the state capitol in St. Paul. Photo: LeeAnne Watkins

In more progressive Episcopal congregations, talk of a church-led “Jesus Movement” may coincide with continuing political activism. But not everyone thinks protests and other forms of activism naturally or easily flow from Jesus, church history and theology.

“A protest is a blunt instrument,” Garwood Anderson, a New Testament professor at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin, told Episcopal News Service. “A protest doesn’t actually encourage nuanced discourse. It encourages simplistic thinking.”

Anderson said he still thinks protests can be a worthwhile way to make common cause with others, to draw attention to issues and to satisfy our “desire not to passively acquiesce to things that we think are unjust,” and he personally is sympathetic to some of the arguments being raised nationally by recent political protests.

But he’s wary of mixing Christian teachings with political messages. It risks blurring the meaning of those teachings, Anderson said. If we as Christians indiscriminately attach to political protests, we may lose sight of “what is distinctly and uniquely Christian” about our political activism, such as Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes.

Can protest be a righteous expression of one’s faith? On the Christian journey, is there a risk in engaging too deeply with the secular realm? How do we know when it is it appropriate to speak out in the name of Jesus? Diverse congregations across the United States are wrestling with these questions.

That diversity in the Church is part of what appeals to the Rev. Noelle York-Simmons, rector at Christ Church Alexandria.

“You can find a place that answers your spiritual and/or political and/or theological and/or social needs,” she said.

York-Simmons saw the “ethos” of her parish at work in the vestry’s decision in early February to release a statement opposing white supremacy, a response to an uproar in Alexandria after a prominent white nationalist, Richard Spencer, moved to the neighborhood and set up shop.

From left, David Hoover, William Roberts and the Rev. Heather VanDeventer represent Christ Church Alexandria at a protest Jan. 29 outside a townhouse where white nationalist Richard Spencer recently set up shop.

Some members of the congregation also have joined in peaceful demonstrations outside Spencer’s new headquarters, and the congregation occasionally has helped mobilize members to protest. Their message: “Our city and our neighborhood are not places that are going to quietly allow that kind of hatred to fester and live in our area,” York-Simmons said.

She sees this kind of activism as part of being a Christian, not contrary to it.

“If we are going to follow our baptismal vows, then we are by nature going to occasionally need to stand up against injustices that we see,” she said.

Scott Bader-Saye, professor of Christian ethics and moral theology at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, told Episcopal News Service he tries to get students thinking about what it means to flourish as a human being created in God’s image, and he thinks “to be spiritual in the way of Jesus is to be engaged with what we think of today as political questions.”

Our answers to those questions can be distinctively shaped by who we are as Christians, he said, and spirituality also can influence the means toward those ends. Bader-Saye pointed to Martin Luther King Jr.’s adherence to nonviolent protest as an example of a tactic informed by his Christian faith.

Since President Donald Trump’s election, Bader-Saye sees even more reason for Episcopalians to speak out on the issues of the day, as they and the Episcopal Church test this moment’s ripeness for spiritual and political engagement.

“Right now, I feel like if a gathering of the church doesn’t feel like an act of resistance, we’re doing something wrong,” he said.

There is no shortage of examples recently of political issues taken up by the Episcopal Church: refugee resettlement, immigration, Standing Rock, health care reform – even whether the U.S. should move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which the Episcopal Public Policy Network opposed in a policy alert on Feb. 14.

What Bader-Saye calls “corporate protest,” as opposed to individual Episcopalians’ political activity, is guided by the resolutions passed by General Convention. It falls to the presiding bishop, the president of the House of Deputies and Executive Council to determine how such guidance should inform the Church’s stance on the issues of the day.

In one recent example, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings were the lead signers on an amicus brief filed March 2 by 1,800 clergy and religious leaders in a U.S. Supreme Court case involving transgender-bathroom use policies. The court on March 6 said it wouldn’t hear the case, a setback for the transgender teen whom Curry and Jennings were supporting.

The Rev. Michael Battle, professor of church and society at General Theological Seminary, sees recent examples of Episcopal activism as part of a profound change in the church since it first came to America in the Colonial era.

“The Episcopal Church has moved from the church of the establishment to a church of advocacy,” he said, identifying 2003 and the ordination of the church’s first gay bishop, Gene Robinson, as one key pivot point.

As the church’s perspective changes, from one of power to advocating for the powerless, Battle sees parallels with the black church as an institution serving the oppressed.

“If you’re part of the groups that are being victimized and are not in power, then there’s a whole other way of understanding church,” Battle said.

Battle was influenced by his time serving in South Africa with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the early 1990s. Tutu was politically vocal in opposing apartheid, but Battle said he also displayed a deep Christianity that informed all he did in the public sphere.

“He always said his prayers every day. He always had habits that kept him grounded in Jesus,” he said. Battle thinks a lot of activism lacks that kind of spiritual depth, which can fuel it beyond this or that protest.

Using that spiritual depth as a source for the Church’s actions in the world is at the forefront of what Curry sees as the Jesus Movement, and he has not shied away from political and social issues. In September, he visited the site of the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota to show the Episcopal Church’s solidarity with the tribe, out of a Christian calling to stand up for human dignity and environmental justice. Episcopalians have been on the front lines of demonstrations there since August.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry stands along North Dakota Highway 1806 on Sept. 24 to witness as law enforcement officers arrive at a small anti-Dakota Access Pipeline encampment to arrest people accused of removing no-trespass signs from neighboring ranch land recently purchased by the pipeline construction company. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“We are always presented with issues and concerns in the public sphere. That’s life. And we who follow in the ways of Jesus must engage the public,” he said Feb. 8 in remarks to the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council. “We are an incarnational folk, which means the Word must take flesh and dwell among us. How one engages that environment, and the issues and concerns that arise, that becomes the critical question.”

“Calling us to prayer and to public witness”

Christian values also have brought depth to Bishops Against Gun Violence, a group of 80 Episcopal bishops that has taken root and continues to pursue its mission years after it was formed in the aftermath of the December 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, and other high-profile shootings.

The Rev. Jim Curry was bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Connecticut at the time of the Newtown shooting. He and two other bishops in the diocese wanted to do something that would invite Christians to a ministry of prayer while also bearing public witness on the issue of gun violence.

Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde recites prayers at the first Way of the Cross station March 21, 2013, in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Suffragan James Curry, left, and Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas
listen. ENS photo/Mary Frances Schjonberg

They organized a Way of the Cross walk through the heart of Washington, D.C., in March 2013 during Holy Week, adding contemporary meaning to the traditional re-enactment of Jesus’ journey to Calvary and the tomb. The procession was joined by about 400 Episcopalians, including 30 bishops.

It wasn’t “confrontational protest,” Curry said, but it brought the Christian tradition of the Stations of the Cross into a public setting, to provoke “solemn reflection on gift of Jesus” as well as “the brokenness of our lives.”

“That is the place of the church, to be calling us to prayer and to public witness,” Curry, now retired, told Episcopal News Service. “And we did that through the depths of our own tradition, but with the hope that the wider community can see in that witness both hope and possibility.”

Like Battle, Jim Curry thinks the Episcopal Church was right to incorporate more advocacy in its mission, an evolution that he dates to the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s and 1970s. It’s worthwhile, he said, for the church to stand as a moral leader on political questions, though that advocacy must be grounded in the faith. But, he cautioned, “It’s the responsibility of church leaders not to go so far out in front of the community that they lose sight of their responsibilities to be shepherds of the whole flock.”

Christian activism also has prompted differing opinions on how political Jesus was. Biblical and theological scholars tend to agree he was a political figure, though “politics” in Jesus’ time meant something totally different from what it means today.

“It’s sort of anachronistic to talk about protest in biblical times. You’re not dealing with democratic governments,” said Bader-Saye, the Seminary of the Southwest professor. Today’s protests and political activism are intended to sway public opinion, but ultimately the goal is to influence how elected officials vote on certain bills. That kind of power structure “just didn’t exist in Jesus’ day.”

Jesus’ message could be seen as political, though, he said, in how it brought him into conflict with the powers of his time, as seen in his journey into Jerusalem at the end of his life. Bader-Saye sees that journey as analogous to some of the great civil rights marches, such as from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

“Jesus was intentionally taking his witness and his proclamation to the place that it’s going to be heard by people in power,” he said.

But Anderson, the Nashotah House professor, cautions politically active Christians not to expect Jesus to provide precise spiritual justification for present-day political causes.

“Jesus as we know him in the scriptures becomes like a talisman for causes we’re already committed to,” Anderson said, but by reading socio-political implications into his teachings we may be clouding his meaning with partisan baggage.

“Sometimes Christian engagement in political affairs actualyl misshapes the distinctively Christian character toward our desired political ends,” he said.

‘Value-based engagement’

The presiding bishop seemed to address such concerns in his Feb. 8 comments to the Executive Council, saying that the Episcopal Church must do more than “just to become another interest group.”

“Engaging on the level of the values and the commitments that we hold dear, which are going to come from Jesus of Nazareth and our tradition as Episcopal Anglican Christians … that value-based engagement is not just an interest group,” Curry said.

Addressing the church’s activism on the issues of refugee resettlement and immigration, Curry invoked Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan in expanding the meaning of “love thy neighbor” and encouraging America to welcome strangers from other countries who need our help.

“You see, that’s not an issue; that’s a value. Then you engage refugees and immigration policy, not from the issue but from the values of Jesus,” he said.

York-Simmons said she personally favors even more political engagement by Episcopal congregations, but she wouldn’t expect that from all congregations. Serving the less fortunate can take a variety of forms, and more traditional congregations may carry out their baptismal covenant in their own ways.

“It’s not all going to look like a political movement,” she said. “And that’s OK.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Mary Frances Schjonberg contributed to this report.

Episcopalians, Anglicans have been involved in political actions for decades

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 3:57pm

[Episcopal News Service] Over the years, Episcopalians and Anglicans have lived out the Gospel’s call in many ways, celebrated and unknown. They have taken that call to the streets and into the halls of government, some achieving worldwide notoriety while others might be unknown to large parts of the Church. Here are just a few examples.

To ‘awaken the civic conscience.’

A story is told about how Bishop William T. Manning, who led the Diocese of New York from 1921 to 1946, confronted racism in the church. It begins in 1929 when the Rev. Rollin Dodd became rector of All Souls’ Church at Saint Nicholas Avenue and 114 Street and began to welcome into the church African-Americans who were moving into Harlem, then an all-white neighborhood. The vestry disapproved of the rector’s stance. First, they told him to stop his hospitality, then insisted he resign and then they stopped paying him. When all else failed, they closed the church “for repairs” and filled it with scaffolding.

Manning arrived on a Sunday morning in October 1932, reportedly with New York police and firemen in tow. He ordered a locksmith to break the lock on the gate before the church door and marched in with the rector and a large group of African-Americans to worship. He noted that the vestry had no authority to deny the rector free use of the church and declared that the church would be open “to all the people in the neighborhood who wish to attend its services, without distinction of race or color.”

Manning spoke up when he saw wrongs being committed and people taking the wrong directions, whether theologically or civically. He was warning against Nazism, fascism and Communism in 1937, saying in a Thanksgiving speech to the New York Kiwanis Club, “they all stand alike for the extinction of liberty.”

In July 1942, he took to the pulpit of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to dispute the idea that it was un-Christian to pray for victory in the world war that was raging. The bishop declared that it was “not only right but our bounden [sic] duty to pray for victory.”

“You know that it is God’s will that this should be a world of liberty and brotherhood and justice,” said the bishop who had served as a chaplain in World War I.

After the end of the war, Manning said on the eve of his 82nd birthday, and about a year before his death, that he favored universal military training. Saying the world needed standing armies in the same way New York City needed a police force, the then-retired British-born bishop said: “false pacifism” in the U.S., Britain and France had led Hitler and Mussolini to think that they could carry out their aggressions.

Manning was a frequent contributor to the letters to the editor column of The New York Times, which he used as a forum to weigh in on such issues as a then-controversial federal measure in 1941 to force married couples to file joint income tax returns.

The idea, he wrote, “turns its back upon all the progress that has been made in the status of women in recent decades and belongs to the age when women were not regarded as people, and a married woman was not allowed to hold property in her own right.”

Ever a man of his times, he added that “those who have been divorced or who have refrained from marriage perhaps for selfish reasons, or who live in immoral sexual relationships, will be called upon to pay far less to the government than the married couples who in their faithfulness to the obligations of the home and family are the strength and mainstay of our life as a nation.”

A man of action and not just words, Manning organized a union of all New York church organizations in 1937 to “awaken the civic conscience” to respond to slum living conditions in the city.

Manning’s public stances sometimes earned him critics. In 1937, he frequently preached and spoke in other forums against an anti-Semitic idea that Jesus came to the world to save it from Jews and, thus, that true Christianity had to be anti-Semitic.

Proving that the current public discourse has no corner on the lack of civility, one proponent, Julius Streicher, called Manning “a pseudo-priest, a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a two-fold child of hell.” In return, the bishop promised to keep speaking “against the persecution of the Jews or anybody else in Germany or anywhere and against national or religious persecution or discrimination of any sort.”

The New York Times’ obituary for Manning, describing more aspects of his Christian activism, is here.

‘I came to Washington to serve God, FDR, and millions of forgotten, plain, common workingmen.’

Frances Perkins’ faith informed her entire life. Perkins, who lived from April 10, 1880, to May 14, 1965, was a sociologist and workers-rights advocate. She served as U.S. secretary of labor from 1933 to 1945, the first woman appointed to a Cabinet position.

Christened Fannie Coralie Perkins, she changed her name to Frances when she was confirmed in the Episcopal Church in 1905 at age 25. She had encountered the Church while working in Chicago teaching chemistry and volunteering in settlement houses, including Hull House.

At 31, working for the Factory Investigation Commission in New York City, she witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist fire that killed 146 people, primarily young women factory workers. That experience galvanized her career as an advocate for workers.

Perkins became known across New York State as head of the New York Consumers League in 1910. She expanded factory investigations, reduced the workweek for women to 48 hours and championed minimum wage and unemployment insurance laws. She worked vigorously to put an end to child labor and to provide safety for women workers.

Her work brought her to the attention of newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who appointed her to his cabinet. During her term, Perkins helped implement many aspects of the New Deal. She was largely responsible for the adoption of Social Security, unemployment insurance, federal laws regulating child labor and adoption of the federal minimum wage.

She helped set overtime laws for American workers and define the standard 40-hour workweek. Perkins formed governmental policy for working with labor unions and helped to alleviate strikes by way of the United States Conciliation Service.

Throughout her 12 years as secretary, she took a monthly retreat with the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, with whom she was a lay associate. “I came to Washington to serve God, FDR, and millions of forgotten, plain, common workingmen,” she said. Her theology of generosity informed her professional life and, in turn, transformed the lives of millions of Americans.

“The technique of administration in a democracy is not easy…The statute law and the natural law, the law of God, must be somehow or other blended together, and fairness and decency and patience must prevail,” she said in 1939.

Perkins remained active in teaching, in social justice advocacy and in the mission of the Episcopal Church until her death in 1965.

The Episcopal Church remembers Perkins on May 13. She won the worldly honor of the Golden Halo in the 2013 Lent Madness competition, defeating St. Luke. Perkins had Maine ties, and fellow Mainer Heidi Schott promoted Perkins for Lent Madness with this article.

‘You are a child of God and I am a child of God, and because you are suffering, I must suffer, too’

Jonathan Daniels paid the ultimate price for living out the Gospel. Daniels, 26, was martyred on Aug. 20, 1965, when a Lowndes County, Alabama, employee fired a shotgun from a nearly point-blank range at his chest. In dying, Daniels saved then-17-year-old Ruby Sales when he pulled her from in front of him. Daniels, a white seminarian from Episcopal Theological School, now known as Episcopal Divinity School, and Sales were fellow civil-rights workers in a part of the state that he once said: “need[ed] the life and witness of militant saints.”

Daniels, Sales, another black demonstrator Joyce Bailey, and Roman Catholic priest Richard Morrisroe had just spent six hot August days in the local jail. Police had arrested them for being part of a protest outside of businesses in Fort Deposit. They wanted to call attention to discriminatory hiring practices, unequal treatment of customers and price gouging. The jail had no showers and no toilets, much less air conditioning.

Then the jailers inexplicably unlocked all the doors and told the prisoners they were free to go. No one was waiting to pick them up, so it was clear that none of their friends had posted bail. It felt like a set-up.

While waiting for a ride but ordered off jail property in Hayneville, they walked to buy soda for the group at Varner’s Cash Store, about 50 yards from the jail. Coleman, a county special deputy wielding a 12-gauge automatic pump shotgun, stood on the concrete pad outside the store. He crudely ordered them off the property.

“Things happened so fast,” Sales recalled years later. “The next thing I know there was a pull and I fall back. And there was a shotgun blast. And another shotgun blast. I heard Father Morrisroe, moaning for water.”

Coleman, a county engineer and a member of one of the oldest white families in Lowndes County, had leveled his gun and fired, blowing Daniels backward. Daniels lay motionless on the ground. Morrisroe retreated, taking Bailey by the hand. Coleman shot him in the back. He required hours of surgery to survive.

Forty days later, an all-white jury acquitted Coleman of Daniels’ murder and shook hands with him as he left the courthouse. Then-Presiding Bishop John Hines said that what Coleman’s acquittal showed “about the likelihood of minorities securing even-handed justice in some parts of this country should jar the conscience of all men who still believe in the concept of justice in this land of hope.”

Daniels, who was valedictorian of the Class of 1961 at Virginia Military Institute, had first come to Alabama in March 1965 with fellow seminarian Judith Upham in response to a call from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for Northern clergy to come south in support of the movement. They lived with local black families as they worked for voter registration and other avenues towards equal rights. “Sometimes we take to the streets, sometimes we yawn through interminable meetings … Sometimes we confront the posse, sometimes we hold a child,” Daniels wrote, describing their daily work.

Daniels, who went back with Upham to seminary to take final exams and to visit his family in Keene, New Hampshire, returned to Alabama for the summer of 1965. Upham spent that summer fulfilling the school’s clinical pastoral education requirement at a state mental hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.

“I had been blinded by what I saw here (and elsewhere), and the road to Damascus led, for me, back here,” Daniels wrote about his return to Lowndes County.

Daniels is one of six 20th-century individual martyrs honored in the church’s most recently proposed calendar of commemorations, A Great Cloud of Witnesses, and the only Episcopalian. His feast day is Aug. 14, the day of his imprisonment. (The calendar also honors three groups of modern-day martyrs.)

The New York Times report of Daniels’ murder is here.

‘It is a religious obligation to oppose racism. If you do not, you disobey God.’

Desmond Tutu brought down a government and a system of racism that government had enshrined in law. He did not do it alone, but many say they could not have done it without him.

Moreover, in the midst of the often bloody struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, Tutu constantly called for non-violent action, condemning violence by both the government and by anti-apartheid groups.

Tutu was a prominent leader in the Anglican Church in South Africa when students in Soweto Township rebelled in June 1976 against the decision to use Afrikaans, along with English, as the language of instruction in their schools. What had been a peaceful demonstration by as many as 20,000 students turned deadly when police fired live ammunition into the crowd. The world was shocked, and rebellion against apartheid, which had become the law of the land in 1948, spread throughout South Africa.

Police jailed Tutu briefly in 1980 after they arrested him during a protest march, and he risked a similar sentence years later when he called on South Africans to boycott municipal elections. In 1983, he challenged a governmental attempt to change the national constitution to defend against anti-apartheid efforts.

South Africans elected Tutu in 1986 to be the first Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, and thus the leader of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa. From that pulpit, he continued to lead South Africans and the world in opposing apartheid. He praised the government for moderating its stance in the late 1980s but pushed for an end to the system of racial segregation and oppression.

Episcopalians supported the anti-apartheid campaign in many ways, both as individuals and as the church. In 1971, then-Presiding Bishop John Hines came to General Motors Corp.’s annual meeting to present a shareholder resolution filed by the Church requesting that GM stop doing business with South Africa. He shocked GM executives, many of whom were Episcopalians. The leadership of Hines and the Church helped to prod companies and investors to divest themselves of their South African holdings and started the socially responsible investing movement.

“We owe you an enormous debt of gratitude,” Tutu told a banquet held in 1991 to honor the 20th anniversary of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, which the Episcopal Church helped get off the ground.

Still, it wasn’t until late April 1994, that South Africa held its first non-racial democratic elections.

Even as he compared apartheid to Nazism, Tutu always pleaded for justice and reconciliation in South Africa. Many credit Tutu’s stances with helping the country avoid an all-out race war. He earned the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership. Tutu always framed his advocacy as religious, not political. He told the government of the time that its racist approach defied the will of God and for that reason could not succeed.

In 1994, Tutu spoke in the Diocese of Southern Ohio about changes occurring in South Africa. “We have succeeded — we have achieved our goal — and we have got this extraordinary thing which is taking place in our country — in many ways, inexplicable,” he said. “But for those who are believers, obviously, in the end it is not inexplicable. It is the intervention of a wonderful God.”

In Cincinnati, he addressed 225 leaders of a citywide Summit on Racism, telling them, “It is a religious obligation to oppose racism. If you do not, you disobey God.”

Tutu went on to chair South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission meant to expose the stories of apartheid-era crimes. The restorative-justice body recommended whether individuals who confessed their crimes should receive amnesty. The archbishop once said he was “appalled at the evil we have uncovered.” Although the commission was criticized for being too soft on some people, Tutu used the commission model to help other nations and groups, including Northern Ireland, confront their conflicts.

Since the apartheid years, Tutu has campaigned for human rights and fought HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. He vocally opposed the Iraq War, at one point calling for then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush to stand trial for their roles in starting the war.

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

 

 

 

World Council of Churches ‘gravely concerned’ over Israel’s travel ban

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 2:12pm

[World Council of Churches] The World Council of Churches March 9 expressed grave concern about a new law passed March 8 by the Knesset which reportedly forbids granting entry visas to foreign nationals who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of either Israel or the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. The ‘Entry to Israel Act (Denial of Visa to Non-Residents Who Knowingly Call for a Boycott on Israel)’ apparently makes no distinction between boycotting Israel proper and boycotting products of the settlements, which are widely considered illegal under international law.

“If reports of its content and intent are correct, this law is a shockingly regressive law,” said WCC General Secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit. “It would be a clear violation of freedom of expression, that is critical for those who want to visit Israel, for those who have to live under the occupation, and for those who want access to the Palestinian territories. It is also a significant violation of freedom of religion. It is precisely because of our Christian principles and teachings that we in the World Council of Churches find the purchase and consumption of goods produced in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories immoral, and it is for the same reason many churches and Christians around the world choose to divest from companies that profit from the illegal occupation.”

Tveit observed that, if strictly applied according to its reported terms, “this new legislation would have the effect of barring representatives of many churches around the world from entering Israel, from accompanying sister churches and fellow Christians in the region, and from visiting the holy places for Christians. This potentially impacts the religious freedom of many Christians around the world, and harms Christians in Israel and Palestine. It could mean that I cannot, as general secretary of the WCC, visit our member churches in Israel and Palestine anymore, nor go to the holy sites.”

The WCC – whose 348 member churches represent more than 560 million Christians globally – has encouraged its member churches to consider in their own contexts appropriate non-violent means of opposing the occupation and of working for a just peace in Israel and Palestine according to their own moral principles and teachings. The WCC has a specific and longstanding policy inviting member churches to boycott Israeli settlement products and to reconsider their investments from the same perspective, and many of them have made statements and taken actions accordingly.

“The WCC affirms and supports Israel’s right to exist, categorically rejects violence as a means of resolving the conflict, and has described anti-Semitism as a sin against God,” Tveit stressed. “But we, together with the United Nations and the vast majority of the international community, consider Israel’s 50 year-long occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories as illegal. And on this basis the WCC has encouraged boycotting goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, divestment from companies that benefit from the occupation, investment in Palestinian enterprises that can stimulate the local economy, but not a general boycott of or sanctions against Israel.”

“The WCC seeks an equal measure of justice and dignity for all people, with a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” Tveit continued, “but this legislation represents a form of isolationism that cannot be in Israel’s best interests as a member of the international community, let alone of the people of the region. It is a critical shift in the way Israel relates to the rest of the world, and also in their role as guardians of holy places for three religions. I hope and pray it will not prove to be the government’s actual policy and practice.”

Church of England’s first female diocesan bishop releases film to help ex-offenders

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 1:51pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop Rachel Treweek, the Church of England’s first female diocesan bishop has spoken of her hope of helping women ex-offenders rebuild their lives and self-esteem in a new short film recorded to mark International Women’s Day earlier this week.

Full article.

Mothers’ Union calls for women’s voices to be heard in peace, reconciliation

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 4:34pm

To coincide with International Women’s Day, the Mothers’ Union has issued a statement urging more involvement for women in peace negotiations.

Full statement, via Anglican Communion News Services.

Bishop of Gloucester raises issue of gender equality at House of Lords

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 4:29pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of England’s first female diocesan bishop, Bishop of Gloucester Rachel Treweek, has marked International Women’s Day on March 8 with an event to promote gender equality. The gathering, at Britain’s upper chamber of parliament, the House of Lords, was hosted by Bishop Treweek in partnership with Christian Aid and Restored – an international Christian alliance working to transform relationships and end violence against women.

Full article.

RIP: Melinda Whalon

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 8:31am

From the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe website

[The Living Church] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will preside at the funeral March 11 for Melinda Whalon, who died Feb. 26.

“My beloved wife Melinda Whalon entered Larger Life … after another long battle in her decades-long war against cancer,” wrote the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, bishop in charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, on his Facebook page. “It did not conquer her in the end; it was an infection that she could no longer fight off.”

The burial office is scheduled for 3 p.m. March 11 in the colonial churchyard of St. George’s, Indian River Hundred, Harbeson, Delaware. The Whalons have visited Delaware each summer since 1991.

A post on Bishop Whalon’s Facebook page added: “Bishop Pierre and daughter Marie-Noêlle are holding up. They are overwhelmed with thankfulness for the many of you who have reached out to them since the news went out yesterday. There has been an outpouring of sympathy from people from throughout the world. As you know +Pierre and Melinda are loved by so many people everywhere. And Melinda touched so many in a special way. Do continue to keep +Pierre and Marie-Noêlle in your prayers. They have very much appreciated your reaching out to them in various ways, although they are not always able to get back to everyone right away.”

A memorial celebration is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. March 29 at the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Paris.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for gifts to the AROSAT Association, which supports Dr. Thierry André’s research on digestive cancers, including those associated with Lynch Syndrome. For a tax receipt in France, visit the association’s donation webpage and add the memo Ce don en mémoire de Melinda Whalon est fléché pour le service d’oncologie du Pr André–Hôpital Saint-Antoine, Paris.

In the United States, send donations to ARCAD US, c/o Gilda Herndon, 1613 30th St. N.W., Apt 3N, Washington DC 20007, and add the memo To the memory of Melinda Whalon.

Presiding Bishop visits the Diocese of Taiwan

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 2:48pm

[Episcopal News Service – Taipei, Taiwan] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry brought the message of the Jesus Movement to the Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan during its recent Diocesan Synod, Feb. 24-26, telling Taiwanese Episcopalians to “follow Jesus in the Episcopal way.”

“If you follow in the way of Jesus and your life begins to reflect his life and if he is the perfect image of God, the more your life reflects his life, the more you actually reflect the image of God in you and you become who God created you to be. And when you do that you are free,” said Curry during a Feb. 25 address to synod attendees gathered at St. John’s Cathedral in Taipei.

“To follow Jesus is not to become someone else; it’s to become who God intended you to be in the beginning,” he said

Prayer, fasting, self-denial, reading and studying scripture, special acts of devotion and piety that serve others in the world have, for thousands of years, drawn people to God and to each, Curry said, inviting those present to adopt those practices this Lent.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Taiwan Bishop David Jung-Hsin Lai concelebrate the Eucharist during a service at St. John’s Cathedral in Taipei. Photo: Catherine Lee

Over a three-day visit, Curry preached and concelebrated at Eucharist during the synod’s opening and closing sessions at St. John’s Cathedral; gave a keynote address focused on “The Meaning and Significance of a Christian University in the 21st Century” to students at St. John University; addressed the diocese’s clergy, lay leaders and standing committee members attending the synod and held a Q&A session. (The video of the presiding bishop preaching at the synod’s opening leads the post, the closing sermon follows at the end. Both sermons were interpreted by Tim Pan into Mandarin.  A blog post by Catherine Lee, an Anglican missionary serving in Taiwan, including photo gallery is here.)

When Taiwan Bishop David Jung-Hsin Lai heard the presiding bishop would be visiting Asia, he worked with Peter Ng, the church’s officer for Asia and the Pacific, now retired, to schedule a diocesan visit onto the end of the trip. It’s important for Episcopalians and Christians in Taiwan, to hear the Curry’s message about the Jesus Movement, said Lai, following the presiding bishop’s sermon at the close of the synod.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry signed the guestbook at St. John’s Cathedral in Taipei during at Feb. 24-26 visit to the Diocese of Taiwan. Photo: Catherine Lee

Lai, the Rev. Lily Chang, of St. James’ in Taichung West District said, encourages Episcopalians to be Christians in the world, not just in the church.

“The bishop tells us, ‘we are a minority, don’t just hide in church. Lift up your head and bring love to the people,’’’ said Chang, who was excited to hear the presiding bishop preach about the Jesus Movement.

An estimated 4.5 percent of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people identify as Christians, roughly half Protestant and half Roman Catholic. The Anglican Church reached Taiwan in the late 1890s; Episcopal chaplains brought the Episcopal Church to Taiwan when they ministered to American soldiers after World War II. The Diocese of Taiwan achieved full-diocesan status in 1988 and is part of Province VIII; the House of Bishops held its fall 2014 meeting in Taipei.

Taiwan was the presiding bishop’s last stop on a Feb. 15-27 tour of Asia and Southeast Asia that included visits to the Anglican Provinces of the Philippines and Hong Kong, and the Protestant Christian Church in China.

Ng; the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church; the Rev. David Copley, director of global partnerships and mission personnel; Neva Rae Fox, the church’s public affairs officer; and Sharon Jones, executive assistant to the presiding bishop, accompanied Curry on trip to Asia and Southeast Asia.

Mark Dazzo to succeed Davis Perkins as Church Publishing’s publisher

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 11:49am

[Church Pension Group press release] The Church Pension Group (CPG), a financial services organization that serves the Episcopal Church, announced March 8 that Mark Dazzo, vice president, global marketing and sales of Church Publishing Inc. will succeed Davis Perkins as senior vice president and publisher of CPI effective April 1.

Perkins, who will retire on March 31, has been instrumental in guiding CPI through numerous organizational transitions over the past 10 years. CPI serves as the publisher of official worship materials, books, music, and digital ministry resources for the Episcopal Church. Dazzo will report directly to Daniel Kasle, chief financial officer and treasurer of CPG.

“We are fortunate that Mark, a member of the CPI leadership team, will be stepping in to fill this role,” said Kasle. “He is extremely talented, and his appointment will ensure a seamless transition as we continue to focus on growing the business, improving operational efficiencies, and meeting the publishing needs of the Episcopal Church. I also want to thank Davis for his dedication and important contributions to CPI over the past 10 years. We wish him the very best in his retirement.”

In his current role, Dazzo is responsible for developing and implementing a marketing and sales strategy for CPI’s product lines, including advertising, promotion, sales, and global distribution. Prior to this, he was vice president of marketing at Pearson@School/Pearson Education and served as director of marketing and market development at Random House, Inc. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the State University of New York, Albany, and an MBA in Marketing from Baruch College.

About Church Publishing Inc.
Founded in 1918, Church Publishing Inc. is the publisher of official worship materials, books, music, and digital ministry resources for the Episcopal Church and is also a multi-faceted publisher and supplier to the broader ecumenical marketplace.

About The Church Pension Fund
The Church Pension Fund is an independent financial services organization that
serves the Episcopal Church. With approximately $12 billion in assets, CPF and
its affiliated companies, collectively the Church Pension Group (CPG),
provide retirement, health, and life insurance benefits to clergy and lay employees
of the Episcopal Church. CPG also offers property and casualty insurance as well
as book and music publishing, including the official worship materials of the
Episcopal Church.

Renew Our World campaign focuses Lenten prayer, action on climate change

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 11:41am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The start of Lent saw the beginning of a new international campaign – Renew Our World – in which tens of thousands of Christians from six countries will join together in prayer and action to try to tackle climate change.

Renew Our World is campaigning for clean renewable energy and sustainable agriculture for the world’s poorest communities. The campaign is taking place in Britain, the United States, Australia, Zambia, Peru and Nigeria and is being launched by The Anglican Alliance, Tearfund, Micah Global, TEAR Australia, Micah Zambia, EU-CORD, Peace and Hope International (Paz y Esperanza) & CAFOD.

Anglican primates of Oceania speak out on climate change

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 11:36am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican primates of Oceania, who have been meeting in Australia, have warned of the threat to their region from climate change. In a joint statement, the five primates said: “We agreed that as whole nations of ocean people lose their island homes, climate justice advocacy and action must become the most urgent priority for Oceanic Anglicans.”

Full article.

Episcopal, Chinese church relationship strengthened through visit

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 6:15pm

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Minister Wang Zuo’an of the State Administration for Religious Affairs and their staffs posed for a photograph on at SARA’s headquarters following a Feb. 21 meeting in Beijing. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Beijing and Shanghai] It was building friendships and strengthening relationships that characterized the Most Rev. Michael Curry’s first official visit as presiding bishop and primate to Asia and Southeast Asia last month, including in China where he and his staff met with government officials and leaders of the Protestant Christian Church.

“At its root, the Christian way is a way of relationship in Christ. Jesus said wherever two or three gather together in my name, there I am,” said Curry, in an interview with Episcopal News Service in Shanghai, when asked why it’s important for the Episcopal Church to maintain close ties with China.

“The New Testament talks about the body of Christ, not the individuals of Christ. When we talk about being one holy catholic and apostolic church [we talk about] a worldwide network of people who are committed to and in relationship with Jesus Christ and therefore, through him, with each other.”

During a February visit to Asia and Southeast Asia to visit Anglican Communion provincial churches and Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan, Curry visited China at the invitation of the China Christian Council (CCC) and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). He attended meetings in Beijing and Shanghai, where he met with the minister of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), the Chinese government agency that oversees religious practice, and CCC/TSPM leaders, including Elder Fu Xianwei.

Peter Ng, the Episcopal Church’s officer for Asia and the Pacific, now retired; the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church; the Rev. David Copley, director of global partnerships and mission personnel; Neva Rae Fox, the church’s public affairs officer; and Sharon Jones, executive assistant to the presiding bishop, accompanied Curry on the Feb. 15-27 trip that also included stops in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The CCC and TSPM form the official, government-sanctioned Protestant church in China. “Three-Self” stands for self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating; TSPM serves as a liaison between churches and government, while CCC focuses on church affairs.

SARA serves as a bridge between religion and the central government and coordinates relationships among religions to make them all equal. Besides overseeing the TSPM, SARA also oversees an additional four sanctioned religious groups: Muslims, Roman Catholics, Buddhists and Taoists.

During a Feb. 21 meeting at SARA’s headquarters in Beijing, Minister Wang Zuo’an said maintaining “religious harmony” as religion grows is one his department’s priorities.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Elder Fu Xianwei and their staffs posed for a photograph Feb. 22 in the former Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral on the campus of the National Office of China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Shanghai, China. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

China has no history of religious conflict; politics and religion have been kept separate, and no one religion has been “more powerful” than another, explained Wang. In today’s world, with its increased focused on nationalism, increasing competition for resources, religious conflict and extremism, “how they can stay in harmony and work together is a big challenge,” he said, speaking in Mandarin through an interpreter.

Another challenge, said Wang, is the U.S. government’s inclusion of China as a “special attention” country in an annual report on International Religious Freedom.

“I sincerely hope the presiding bishop could use his influence to make a positive push for constructive dialogue between the two governments,” he said.

Wang also cited concern over an executive order on “religious freedom” expected from President Donald Trump’s administration.

“China and U.S. relations are going from good to bad, and this matters to the whole world,” said Wang, adding that while it’s expected that countries the size of the United States and China will have differences, they should also engage on issues of common interest. He cited religion as a potential issue of common interest, not a divisive issue.

“We should take religion as a good thing for our two countries, not a problem,” he said, adding differences concerning religion preceded the Trump administration. It’s also his sincere hope, he added, that the churches “can have a normal, healthy relationship.”

Curry responded with a promise that the Episcopal Church and the CCC/TSPM would remain strong and that the two churches would continue to work together.

“My conviction for us to continue to live together when Clinton, Bush and Obama were president, and it is still true with President Trump,” said Curry, during the Feb. 21 meeting. “We’re going to work so that we can live and work together.

“Your words,” he said to Wang, “speak to my heart and what I believe. I thank you for sharing honestly.” To which Wang replied, “it’s only through conversation that we can understand each other better. I appreciate that you said no matter who the president is, our relationship will not change.”

Elder Fu Xianwei, chair of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, addressed Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and his staff during a Feb. 22 meeting at the National Office of China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Shanghai, China. To Fu’s left are Gu Mengfei, TSPM’s associate secretary general and director of the CCC’s research department, and Elder Ou Enlin, director of overseas relations for the CCC/TSPM. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Christianity is growing faster than seminaries can train theologians, said Wang, and it’s in that respect that the Protestant Christian Church in China needs continued support from the Episcopal Church.

In a country of 1.4 billion people, the number of Protestant Christians has grown an average 10 percent annually in China since 1979.  Though Chinese Christians are “post-denomination,” they still identify as Protestants and Roman Catholics, the latter of which the government’s Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, not the pope, is the supreme authority.

Christianity first reached mainland China in the seventh century during the Tang dynasty but didn’t begin to flourish until the 19th century. In 1949, Mao Zedong banned the religion. It didn’t resurge until after his death in 1976 and the end of the Cultural Revolution. Now, with the communist central government’s sanction and oversight, Protestant Christianity is on the rise.

For example, explained Fu of the CCC, the Protestant Christian church baptizes between 400,000 and 500,000 new believers annually; there are approximately 60,000 congregations served by 57,000 pastors (an average of one pastor per 700 members) and 200,000 lay leaders. And in recent years, the church has attracted professionals, doctors and lawyers, which has led to a demand for higher quality pastoral care.

Even though the church is nondenominational, the liturgy reflects influences from Anglican to Seventh-day Adventist, said Fu.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry addressed Elder Fu Xianwei, chair of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, and his staff during a Feb. 22 meeting at the National Office of China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Shanghai, China. To Curry’s left is Peter Ng, The Episcopal Church’s officer for Asia and the Pacific, now retired, and to his right is the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church; and Neva Rae Fox, the church’s public affairs officer. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The Episcopal Church’s and the Chinese church’s relationship started with Bishop K.H. Ting, who trained in the Anglican tradition at Union Theological Seminary in New York, served as long-time principal of the board of directors of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, and in 1955 became the bishop of Zhejiang until the Cultural Revolution. In 1980, he became the president of the CCC; in 1985, he helped found the Amity Foundation, one of the first nongovernmental organizations and the first faith-based one established to address society’s social needs. The foundation also includes Amity Printing Co., which prints 4 million copies of the Bible and various spiritual and devotional books annually.

Despite changes in religious practice since the opening of China, some people still default to the Cold-War narrative.

“Americans remember Christians smuggling Bibles into China and behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe … all of that was a story at one time. Now they’re printing more Bibles in China than probably anywhere else in the world,” said Curry. “At Amity, they are printing Bibles and religious literature to teach and educate and form their folk; it’s extraordinary.”

Christians in the United States could learn a lot about evangelism from Christians in China, he added.

“Bishop Ting helped Christians learn to be faithful to the gospel and authentically indigenous to China, and China as it was emerging. Now what that meant was that he helped the Chinese Church become authentically Christian and authentically Chinese. Bishop Ting is revered and respected as one of the leaders in Chinese Christianity. He clearly believed in evangelism, and he believed in Chinese evangelism, in their way, not a Western cultural way.

“Part of what we sometimes struggle within the United States, from my perspective, is a kind of evangelism that is less about a relationship with Jesus of Nazareth that you find in the New Testament, and more about being part of American culture or a set of preconceived ideas that are imposed upon Christianity that aren’t necessarily what Jesus of Nazareth was talking about,” Curry continued. “He (Ting) has shown us a way to get people into an authentic relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. That is a way of evangelism; it seems to me, and (an) Anglican way of evangelism.”

Since the United Kingdom’s 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, the Anglican Province of Hong Kong, Sheng Kung Hui, has worked to strengthen relationships with Protestant Christians on the mainland and has worked with the Episcopal Church to strengthen its relationship with Protestant Christians in China, said Robertson, the presiding bishop’s canon for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church.

The Chinese church receives support from the Anglican Province of Hong Kong, which has helped to train the faculty at the seminary in Nanjing, whose students have studied in Hong Kong.

That relationship continues, said the Rev. Peter Koon, provincial secretary of the Anglican Province of Hong Kong.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Elder Fu Xianwei, chair of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, embraced following a gift exchange during a meeting Feb. 22 at the National Office of China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Shanghai, China. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“The church in Hong Kong is providing anything they need: resources and training and relationship,” said Koon, in an interview with ENS in Shanghai. “The Episcopal Church can provide theological training and support for social welfare projects … they need friends to understand what they are doing and support them.”

In his meetings and a dinner with the leadership of the CCC and the TSPM, Curry assured Fu and others that he would continue to work with them, just as his predecessor the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori did when she visited China in 2012. As for Curry and Fu, who attended Curry’s installation as presiding bishop in November 2015, the two related as old friends.

“Christianity here is vibrant, it is alive, it is really alive, and these are our brothers and sisters. And we use the language of partnership, but more than partnership, a genuine friendship. And we sing that hymn, ‘In Christ, there is no East or West,’ and in Christ, there really isn’t.”

– Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service.

San Joaquin overwhelmingly elects David Cappel Rice diocesan bishop

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 4:16pm

Provisional Bishop David Rice celebrates the Eucharist during a March 4 special convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin during which he was elected diocesan bishop. Photo: Robert Woods/Diocese of San Joaquin

[Episcopal News Service] Delegates to a special convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin overwhelmingly voted March 4 to elect Provisional Bishop David Cappel Rice as their diocesan bishop.

Rice was the only nominee.  He was elected on the first ballot by a vote of 21 to 1 in the clergy order and 41 to 2 in the lay order. The election required a two-thirds majority in both orders. The somewhat unusual election was both joyous and powerful, he said.

“I believe the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin know ever increasingly that they are on a hikoi (intentional movement with a purpose [a word from Maori, the indigenous language of New Zealand]) and they have come to realize and celebrate my willingness, better said, call to walk, run, cycle, move with them,” Rice said in an email to the Episcopal News Service following the election.

“As for my own feeling and response, I couldn’t imagine a group of people with whom I’d rather share this hikoi of faith.”

Cindy Smith, president of the standing committee, said the move, made possible through adoption of a new canon at the diocese’s October convention, represented not only a commitment to each other, but also a commitment to continued ministry to the people of California’s Central Valley.

“We’re going forward and not to just survive but to thrive,” Smith said in a telephone interview March 6. “There is so much to be done now in the Central Valley of California with issues of trafficking, immigration, and a very high percentage of the population incarcerated.”

The Rev. Canon Anna Carmichael said the gathering, the first major event since 2007  held at St. James Episcopal Cathedral, also represented, for many, a homecoming. About 200 people attended the event.

“It was wonderful, a great homecoming for many folks because it was their first time at the cathedral since the schism happened ten years ago,” said Carmichael, diocesan canon to the ordinary.

“We were able to do a blessing of the space as our coming home experience. We had a wonderful Eucharist, and a presentation on stewardship and then we took the vote and did all the necessary procedural things. It was a lovely gathering.”

Smith said consent packages soon will be mailed to dioceses throughout the Episcopal Church, A majority of both the Episcopal Church’s diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction will have to consent to Rice’s election as diocesan, as is required in all bishop elections.

Rice was elected the diocese’s third provisional bishop in March 2014. Prior to that he had served as the bishop of the Diocese of Waiapu in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. A North Carolina native, Rice had also been a Methodist pastor for eight years prior to his ordination in the Anglican Church in New Zealand.

Retired Diocese of Northern California Bishop Jerry Lamb and retired Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Chet Talton, Rice’s predecessors, worked with Episcopalians to reconstitute the diocese. That work included both litigation over church property and pastoral work over pain the split caused.

Within that context, “to elect a bishop that we can call our own and who calls us his, is really powerful and meaningful for this diocese,” Carmichael said. “It was historic.”

She added that San Joaquin Episcopalians are hoping for a speedy and smooth consent process.

“We are hosting one of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s revivals in November, and it is our hope that, provided the larger church affirms this call and affirms the vote that we took, that Bishop David will be seated as our bishop while the presiding bishop is here.”

The revival is planned for Nov. 17-19, she said.

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.

Leslie Nunez Steffensen named canon to the bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 2:54pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Rev. Leslie Nunez Steffensen has been named the canon to the Episcopal Church bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries, a member of the presiding bishop’s staff.

In this full-time position, Steffensen works with Bishop Carl Wright, bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries and among her duties are the direct administrative support of Episcopal priests who serve as federal chaplains in the armed forces, veterans affairs hospital centers and federal bureau of prisons.  She assists the bishop suffragan in the recruitment, support and care of these chaplains.

“This ministry to our federal chaplains draws upon my experience in the U.S. Navy, upon hard-won knowledge as a military spouse, upon my international experience, and upon my priesthood,” said Steffensen. “The Episcopal Church currently has 110 federal chaplains stationed all around the world. I am honored to serve and support my fellow priests in their call to ministry in difficult settings, whether at sea on a battleship, on a battlefield, at a remote duty station, in a prison, or in a hospital.”

After graduating from officer candidate school and completing studies at the Navy and Marine Intelligence Training Center in 1989, she was on active duty for four years as a naval aviation intelligence officer, “chasing Soviet submarines at the end of the Cold War,” she adds. Steffensen later served as a volunteer for mission, the Episcopal Church’s program for adult volunteers. She was the academic dean and instructor of theology and biblical studies at Msalato Theological College in Dodoma, Tanzania.

Most recently, she was assistant to the rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Prior to that, she was administrative coordinator for the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary.

For the Episcopal Church, she served on the Bishop for Armed Forces and Federal Ministries Interviewing Committee; the Disciplinary Committee, Diocese of Virginia; and co-editor for The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the Anglican Communion.

She is a graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary, with a master’s in divinity and a master’s in theological studies; and The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, with a bachelor’s in international studies.

Steffensen is based in Washington, D.C. She can be contacted at lsteffensen@episcopalchurch.org.

Samuel Rodman elected bishop of Diocese of North Carolina, succeeding Michael Curry

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 2:12pm

[Diocese of North Carolina] The Rev. Samuel Rodman was elected XII bishop diocesan of the Diocese of North Carolina on March 4.

He was elected on the third ballot by the delegates gathered for a Special Electing Convention in Phillips Chapel at Canterbury School in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Samuel Rodman is scheduled to be ordained and consecrated as the bishop diocesan of the Diocese of North Carolina on July 15. Photo: Diocese of North Carolina

“I am deeply honored and grateful and, with God’s help, I accept this call to be your next bishop diocesan,” Rodman said. “The prospect of following and building upon the leadership and legacy of Bishop Michael Curry is both humbling and inspiring. I trust that the Holy Spirit, moving through the Diocese of North Carolina, will continue to light the way and guide our path together.”

Rodman currently serves as the special projects officer for the Diocese of Massachusetts, a role he took on after spending five years as the diocesan project manager for campaign initiatives, where he engaged congregations, clergy and laity, in collaborative local and global mission through the Together Now campaign, helping to raise $20 million to fund these initiatives. Prior to that, Rodman spent 16 years as the rector of St. Michael’s in Milton, Massachusetts, during which the parish established a seven-year plan that included a capital campaign for a major renovation of the church building.

The election is the culmination of a process that began when the Diocese of North Carolina’s former bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, was elected presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church at the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, in June 2015. Since his installation in November 2015, the diocese has been led by the Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple; elected bishop suffragan in the Diocese of North Carolina in 2013, she has served as bishop diocesan pro tempore during the extensive search.

Four nominees were a part of the search process. In addition to Rodman, the other three candidates were:

  • The Rev. George Adamik – St. Paul’s, Cary, North Carolina
  • The Rev. Charles T. Dupree – Trinity Episcopal Church, Bloomington, Indiana
  • The Rev. Canon Michael Buerkel Hunn – The Episcopal Church, New York, New York

Following the announcement of the final slate, Rodman and his fellow candidates spent a great deal of time sharing information with the people of North Carolina, including personal statements, biographies, theological reflections and a Q&A. The candidates each created an introductory video to share, and then took part in a series of virtual town halls, whereby each candidate was live online for an hour, answering questions submitted by people from around the diocese. The finale came when the candidates arrived in North Carolina to do a 12-stop tour around the state, taking part in panel discussions or town halls at each one.

Ordained in 1988, Rodman is a graduate of Bates College and Virginia Theological Seminary. He is married to Deborah Rodman, and they are the parents of two adult daughters. In his free time, Rodman enjoys basketball, golf, kayaking, walking his dog, crosswords and creative writing.

The Diocese of North Carolina is comprised of 48,000 people gathered into 112 congregations and nine campus ministries throughout 38 counties in the central part of North Carolina. The diocesan vision is to be a community of disciples committed to following Jesus Christ into the dream of God.

Pending the canonically required consent of a majority of the Episcopal Church’s diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction, Rodman will be ordained and consecrated as the XII Bishop Diocesan of the Diocese of North Carolina on July 15 at the Duke University Chapel in Durham, North Carolina.

Tiny house ‘village’ for homeless developing with help of Montana church

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 10:34am

A sketch of the proposed Housing First Village shows tiny houses grouped around a community resource center. Photo: Montana State University School of Architecture

[Episcopal News Service] A coalition of Episcopalians, architecture students and social service providers in Bozeman, Montana, are in the middle of an innovative project that aims to address homelessness in the city – 155 square feet at a time.

The concept is a village of tiny houses for the chronically homeless centered around a community resource center, where residents could receive counseling, medical assistance and employment help until they are able to move into permanent homes. Organizers still are looking for an appropriate site, but most of the other pieces of the project are falling into place as other groups and individuals in the community rally behind the idea.

“Suddenly, this coalition has risen up that is excited about what we wanted to do,” said the Rev. Connie Pearson-Campbell, a deacon at St. James Episcopal Church in Bozeman who is one of the driving forces behind the planned Housing First Village.

Sara Savage, housing director at Human Resource Development Council, or HRDC, called Pearson-Campbell a “PR hurricane” in drumming up support for the project. HRDC, a nonprofit community action agency, brings to the table years of experience proving shelter and services to the local homeless population.

Montana State University is the third key player in the coalition. The School of Architecture created a course last fall in which students designed the tiny houses, and subsequent courses this year will help move the project through the regulatory and construction phases.

“We realize it’s probably a couple of years, or at least a year, before we’d be able to move the first units onto a site,” architecture professor Ralph Johnson said. “These things don’t happen overnight. But we’re moving faster than most of the communities” that have attempted similar projects.

Tiny houses are a big trend in the home-building world and in popular culture. Multiple reality TV shows have popped up to feature these small living spaces, even prompting some in the tiny house industry to debate whether such shows are good or bad for the “movement.”

In that context, tiny houses are seen as a hip way to downsize your living space, but some communities, such as St. George, Utah, and Seattle , have shown that tiny houses can be tools for outreach to homeless or low-income populations.

The Episcopal Church has its own share of examples. St. James Episcopal Church on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota used a United Tank Offering grant to build tiny houses for students. And St. John’s Episcopal Church in St. Cloud, Minnesota, built a single tiny house to accommodate one homeless person on its property.

What makes Pearson-Campbell and St. James Episcopal Church unique is they represent one leg of a three-legged stool supporting a mission that came together almost by accident.

About 150 people are estimated to be homeless on any given night in Bozeman, and 30 percent are considered chronically homeless, a condition often tied to mental illness, substance abuse or other personal challenges, Savage said. Survival on the streets can be precarious, especially in Montana’s harsh winter months, and six homeless people were reported to have died in 2016 in Bozeman.

The HRDC had been housing about 10 people at a time at a transitional living space called Amos House, but it was forced to close last July after losing a federal grant. St. James stepped up and offered an unused home on church property, called Canterbury House, allowing HRDC to convert it to housing for up to four homeless women.

“I have to say, having one of our local faith-based partners look within their own resources … was so powerful and really made a direct impact on homeless women within a month,” Savage said.

Separately, Pearson-Campbell said, she heard last summer from a friend about a tiny houses project in Detroit, and it got her thinking about trying something similar to address Bozeman’s homelessness problem.

“I took one look at that and thought, oh my gosh, I think we can do this in Bozeman,” she said.

She brought the idea up in a meeting with the city planning director in August. On her way out, she just happened to pass Johnson, the Montana State professor, who was on his way in to talk to the planning director on an unrelated matter. After introductions, a tiny house partnership quickly was formed.

Johnson took the idea back to the university and, with two other professors, created the course that fall in which 12 students took on the task of designing the tiny houses.

“I knew that within the School of Architecture there’s a strong moral ethic among students,” he said. “And so based upon Connie’s personality and her aspirations, I offered a class in small shelters for the city of Bozeman.”

The result was two models, each just 155 square feet or a bit larger. One was designed to be accessible to people with disabilities. Each model featured a single bed, storage area, a shower and toilet, a compact refrigerator, a microwave, a sink and space for a chair.

Residents could receive counseling, medical assistance and employment help until they are able to move into permanent homes. Photo: Montana State University School of Architecture

The students then created full-scale mockups from cardboard and tested them, including by inviting members of the homeless community inside. The semester concluded with an open house in December. More than 100 people came to see the models and learn about the project, Johnson said.

Six students will build the first of the tiny houses in a new course this semester that also will address some of the regulatory hurdles. Bozeman’s building code, like building codes in many cities across the country, includes restrictions on lot usage, dwelling size and home layout that don’t easily accommodate tiny houses, Johnson said. His students will research options that can be presented to city officials.

And then there is the challenge of finding an appropriate site for what eventually could be dozens of tiny houses and the community resource center. Savage doesn’t have any definite timeline for securing a site. Factors include cost, zoning and proximity to other residences.

“Should the right parcel become available, we’d be able to move rather quickly,” Savage said. “But it will require some alignment of the stars, as it does with any major project like this.”

As for construction cost, the materials needed to build each tiny house are estimated at $10,000 – or less, if any materials are donated.

St. James has committed enough money to build one of the houses, and one of Pearson-Campbell’s tasks is to enlist more churches and community groups to give money or even assemble one of the houses themselves as a service project. Johnson’s students eventually hope to develop assembly instructions that will make it easy for those groups to build the houses themselves, similar to an IKEA furniture kit, Johnson said.

The moral ethic Johnson sees in many of his students often materializes as a desire to build energy-efficient buildings, he said, but this project is built on a sense of social responsibility.

“If this can give those who are homeless an opportunity to resolve the issues that place them in a homeless circumstance, we owe it to them to give them that opportunity,” he said.

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

Gambia bishop gives thanks for peace after election tension

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 10:18am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop James Odico of The Gambia has expressed thanksgiving for a peaceful outcome after the tensions surrounding a presidential election in December. The election marked the first change of presidency in The Gambia since a military coup in 1994.

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Bishops blanket diocese in England for 4 days of mission

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 10:16am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Twenty five bishops and their teams from the northern half of The Church of England, led by Archbishop of York John Sentamu, have taken part in four days of mission and celebration called “Talking Jesus.” The bishops and their teams went out into communities in all corners of the diocese, talking about Jesus at more than 450 community events. The mission came to a close at a service of celebration at Durham Cathedral on Sunday.

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