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Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry hopes to discuss immigration at Anglican Communion primates meeting

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 9:42pm



[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs]  “I am so looking forward to being with my friends and colleagues in the upcoming gathering of the Primates,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry stated in a video message.

The Primates of the Anglican Communion, of which Curry is a member, will be meeting Oct. 2 to 6 at Canterbury Cathedral in England.

Curry shared that he wants to discuss immigration at the gathering.  “I do hope we have an opportunity to talk about migration and immigrations and refugees,” he said.  “Most of our countries are impacted.”

Following the recent Episcopal Church House of Bishops meeting, in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the issuance of A Word to the Church focusing on the environment, Curry is also planning to discuss climate change and environment with the primates.

More information on the primates meeting is here, and more information on the Anglican Communion is here.

Alaskan Episcopalians eager to worship in Native language with Book of Common Prayer translation

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 4:52pm

Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime shakes hands with parishioners outside St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Fairbanks after a Sunday worship service on Sept. 24. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Fairbanks, Alaska] St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, in the business center of the Interior region’s largest city, is distinctly Alaskan in its wood and its words.

Log buildings are ubiquitous Alaskan structures, both the homes and churches – from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in the small town of Nenana to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in the Interior village of Venetie. And in Fairbanks, St. Matthew’s presents a familiar facade to the worshippers who enter the log church on First Avenue.

What sets St. Matthew’s apart from churches in the Lower 48 is what is said inside: Every Sunday, the congregation recites the Lord’s Prayer and doxology in Gwich’in, the Native language most common in the region. The congregation, a mix of white and Native families, doesn’t offer a full service in modern Gwich’in, however, because official services in the language don’t exist in the Episcopal Church – at least not yet.

“I would love it,” said Irene Roberts, who serves as an usher at St. Matthew’s.

On Sept. 24, she greeted dozens of Episcopal bishops and their spouses as they filled her church’s 9:30 a.m. Sunday service, at the midpoint of the six-day House of Bishops meeting in Fairbanks. “It only took me 83 years to see this many ginkhii ch’oo,” Roberts said, using the Gwich’in word for bishops.

The Diocese of Alaska, which hosted the bishops Sept. 21 to 26, is overseeing work on the first modern Gwich’in translation of the Book of Common Prayer. Those efforts got a boost this year with a $40,000 grant from the Episcopal Church’s United Thank Offering program, or UTO. When the translation is done, services in the Native language finally will be possible for any ginkhii, or priest, who wants to offer them.

“It will be an opportunity for people to worship in the language they speak and with the prayer book that they use,” Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime said. “This has a lot of support from elders and folks in the Interior who are excited to be making it happen.”


The Book of Common Prayer has been translated into more than 200 languages, including Takudh (pronounced “tah-GOH”), a Canadian dialect related to Gwich’in. St. Matthew’s also has a hymn book in Takudh. But the Takudh prayer book is more than 100-years-old, and Takudh isn’t the language Alaskan Natives like Roberts speak and read in their daily lives.

“Some of the hymns, I know the tune, but the words are difficult for me,” Roberts said.

Irene Roberts, left, joins the congregation at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Fairbanks, Alaska, in reciting the Lord’s Prayer in her native Gwich’in language on Sept. 24. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The Takudh translation of the Book of Common Prayer was completed in the late 1800s by Archdeacon Robert McDonald, an early Anglican missionary who is credited with helping the indigenous people put their spoken language into written words. But McDonald’s translation was based on the Canadian prayer book, not the one used by today’s Episcopal churches, and it was not updated as the language evolved. The Takudh of McDonald’s translation is a dialect distinct from the modern Qwich’in spoken by many of Alaska’s Episcopalians.

At the same time, the Gwich’in people of Alaska, like other Native tribes, have struggled to maintain their traditional culture, customs and way of life, and that includes their language. The younger generation is more comfortable speaking English than the language of their ancestors, said Allan Hayton, who works as language revitalization program director for the Doyon Foundation, the charity branch of one of Alaska’s 12 regional Native corporations.

“One of the aspects of language revitalization is the prestige of the language and its public visibility,” Hayton said. To preserve, it should be spoken at home, in schools, in churches and at other public gatherings, Hayton said. “The more we can create for them … the occasion to hear the language in a public setting, all of those things make a big difference.”

Hayton is a member of St. Matthew’s in Fairbanks and the head translator for the diocese’s Book of Common Prayer project. On Sept. 21, the opening day of the House of Bishops meeting, Hayton also was invited to the bishops’ 4 p.m. Eucharist to read the gospel passage in Gwich’in.

Allan Hayton reads the gospel passage Sept. 21 during the Eucharist on the opening day of the House of Bishops meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

He met with Native elders over the summer to being work on translating the Rite II Eucharist. That work built on the diocese’s success in 2015 partnering with the Yukon Native Language Centre to celebrate a Holy Eucharist entirely in Gwich’in at St. Matthew’s.

The scope of that earlier effort was limited, and a full translation may take years. But Hayton and church leaders think the effort will pay off in time. With the UTO grant, they hope to translate the Ministry of the Word and Great Thanksgiving Prayer A, as well as to start translation of the Collects and Prayers of the People.

The goal is to publish a Gwich’in liturgical supplement that can be used alongside the English language prayer book. Translations into other indigenous languages may follow.

If services can be offered in Native languages, “more people in Alaska will understand the service and might come participate,” Hayton said.

“It would be easy for me,” Roberts said outside St. Matthew’s after the Sept. 24 service. She was born in Fort Yukon and later lived in the tiny village of Circle before moving to Fairbanks.

Roberts is encouraged by efforts to preserve the Gwich’in language. “It makes me sad that we’re losing it.” Even in remote villages, English often drowns out the Native tongue, she said, and younger generations aren’t being taught their people’s language. She said she sometimes answers her phone in Gwich’in only to have callers hang up on her, even fellow Alaska Natives.

“A lot of us are not speaking [Gwich’in] to our kids, and we should,” she said.

Earlier, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry had preached at St. Matthew on the theme of family, based on the gospel reading.

“Jesus came to show us how to be the family God,” Curry repeated throughout the sermon, and he took a moment to underscore the breadth of the family that Jesus had in mind.

“Make disciples of all nations, all stripes and types, all ethnicities. Teach them, indigenous folk and other folk. Teach them, black and white. Teach them, Anglo and Latino,” Curry said. “Make them a family, when you teach them and baptize them into the very life of God.”

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

Trump’s refugee limit ‘runs counter to the reality’ of crisis, Episcopal Migration Ministries says

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 3:39pm

The Rev. E. Mark Stevenson, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, released the following statement Sept. 28 in response to the Trump administration’s decision to reduce the number of refugees allowed annually into the United States to 45,000.

The Administration has reported to Congress that their intent is to set the refugee admissions ceiling for the coming year at 45,000 persons, a cap that is not only the lowest in the history of the program but which also runs counter to the reality of an ever-growing worldwide crisis. At this critical moment, 65.6 million women, children, and men live forcibly displaced by violence from their homes, including 22.5 million refugees who have fled across the border of their homeland to another country into situations often only slightly more sustainable than the horrors they have fled. By the end of this day – and of every day that will follow for some time – more than 28,000 additional persons will find themselves in this predicament. In the face of such a crisis, this cut in our response to less than half the historic average is sad and hard-hearted.

We are thankful, however, that we are now one step closer to fully resuming a program of welcoming refugees to the safety and hope of this land. We live in a time of great hurt, yet also in a time of great promise. These past many months have raised awareness across our great nation of the struggles faced by refugees, and of the benefits to all of us when they find a new life in one of our communities. Refugees have overcome the greatest of trials, and refugees are providing a fresh infusion of entrepreneurial spirit and friendship into a country built into a world leader over centuries by such things. The struggles, and the successes, of these new Americans provide inspiration, opportunity, and optimism for a brighter future for us all.

Jesus, in the parable of the mustard seed, reminds us that even the smallest of faithful acts can grow into something spectacular and transformative. He also instructs us throughout the gospel that it is among the poor, the sick, and the stranger that we will find him, and his grace and redemption. So, we will welcome 45,000 children of a loving God to a better life in this coming year, and pray and work for even more in the years following. And, we will conform our wills to the Divine Will, loving even as Jesus has loved, to the glory of God and the transformation of our own lives.

To learn more about ministry among refugees, or to donate to this work in this critical time, we invite you to visit EpiscopalMigrationMinistries.org.

The Rev. E. Mark Stevenson, director, Episcopal Migration Ministries

Kenyan bishops call for national dialogue over ‘political and social crisis’

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 2:54pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Kenya’s Anglican bishops have called for a national dialogue conference to resolve the current “political and social crisis” in the country. A fresh general election will be held Oct. 26, after the country’s supreme court ruled that the original poll, on Aug. 8, was “neither transparent or verifiable.” The court annulled the declared result, which gave sitting President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Alliance 54.17 percent of the vote; and his nearest challenger, opposition leader Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance, 44.94 percent. The remaining six candidates received just 0.89 percent of the reported votes.

Read the entire article here.

Historic western Cape church badly damaged in student protest arson attack

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 2:50pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A 130-year-old church in District Six at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town has been badly damaged in a suspected arson attack. The building was set alight the night of Sept. 27, during the latest in a long-running series of sometimes violent protests at the campus. The church’s undercroft and hall bore the brunt of the damage. The protests relate to the suspension of four students last month as a result of their involvement in demonstrations about student facilities and in-sourced workers. The protests have continued despite the university obtaining a temporary court order prohibiting students from unauthorized occupation of campus buildings.

Read the entire article here.

Bishop offers blessing on visit to one of Europe’s newest Anglican congregations

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 4:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of England’s suffragan bishop in Europe, the Rt. Rev. David Hamid, has paid a visit to one of the continent’s newest Anglican congregations and offered a blessing for its priest, the Rev. Giovanni La Rosa. Last November, the embryonic congregation was received as an Italian Anglican congregation in the Diocese in Europe.

Read the full article here.

Boost in number of ordinands helps Church of England address clergy reductions

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 4:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The number of people entering training to become clergy members in the Church of England is at the highest level for a decade, it was announced Sept. 27. The boost is a response by the church to falling clergy numbers caused by the increasing age profile of its ordained ministers. The number of ordinands starting training this fall is 544 – up 14 percent from last year – making the intake the highest figure for 10 years, according to statistics from the Church of England’s ministry division.

Read the entire article here.

EPPN: Protect the Arctic Refuge

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 3:58pm

[Episcopal Public Policy Network policy alert] The bishops of the Episcopal Church recently returned from a meeting in Alaska where they encountered the pressing need to address issues relating to the environment. In their Letter to the Church, the bishops of The Episcopal Church stated: “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are … members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). The residents of interior Alaska whom they met are not strangers; they are members of the same household of faith.

Among those “members of the household of God” the bishops met in Alaska were members of the Gwich’in nation. An indigenous people, the Gwich’in have lived in the area today called the Arctic Refuge for more than 10,000 years through subsistence hunting. While they are today overwhelmingly Episcopalian, the Gwich’in nation’s historic cultural and religious traditions hold that an area within their land where the caribou calf their young is called “the sacred place where life begins.” As the bishops lead Episcopalians in their prayer:

Give us new ears to hear and understand those who live off the land
and to hear and understand those who extract its resources.
Give us new hearts to recognize the brokenness in our communities
and to heal the wounds we have inflicted.
Give us new hands to serve the earth and its people
and to shape beloved community.

This sacred land is under threat. Congress is about to vote on plans that would open the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. The Episcopal Church has long stood by the Gwich’in, defending their right to exist and feed themselves. As the bishops of the church call us to prayer, education, and reconciliation, we must also act.

Take action now: ask Congess to stand against any harmful changes in the status of the Artic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain!

Episcopalians don’t forget Puerto Rico in their hurricane relief efforts

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 1:50pm

Members of the community of Miñi Miñi use diggers to help get their neighbors out of flooded areas. Loíza is a coastal municipality that was severely affected by Hurricane Maria. Photo: Yuisa Rios/FEMA

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Rafael Zorrilla couldn’t believe his phone worked to make this call.

But Zorrilla, canon to the ordinary of the Diocese of Puerto Rico, managed to share with Episcopal News Service his experience on the island, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20 and seemingly cut off from the rest of the world since then.

The most urgent need has been communication. Food, clean water, shelter and gas are desperately needed too, but there has been little success in sharing those needs so far.

“You’d have to have lived in 1942 to understand like what it’s like to live here now. No email, no internet, no phones most of the time,” Zorrilla told Episcopal News Service from his home in San Juan near the diocesan center.

“Puerto Rico is suffering a lot right now. I’m expecting, personally, we’re not going to get electricity for at least six months. It’s a lot of damage. A lot of damage.”

The four-hour wait to get gas was frustrating, but Zorrilla knows there’s much worse. Thousands of people are homeless, he said. A diocesan staff member told him he had to walk five and half hours to check on his parents. They were OK.

This home in Loíza was destroyed by the strong winds brought by Hurricane Maria. The Category 4 hurricane tore through Puerto Rico on Sept. 20. Photo: Yuisa Rios/FEMA

Hurricane Maria was but the latest in a series of tropical storms to tear through the United States and its territories. The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has emerged as one of the most destructive in recent history, with hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria causing major damage from Texas to Florida, in Georgia and throughout the Caribbean, according to Episcopal Relief & Development.

When Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, it was a Category 4 storm with sustained gusts up to 185 mph, the strongest hurricane to hit the island in over 80 years. Rainfall amounts ranged from 15 to 25 inches, with 40 inches or more in some spots, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“Some bridges and roadways have likely completely washed away,” the center reported.

Once transportation is available, many people could leave the island for good.

The Rev. Tim Nunez, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Central Florida, said his area, particularly Osceola County, has seen already a burgeoning Hispanic population, many of whom are Puerto Rican, due to the island’s suffering economy. “We are expecting a massive wave of Puerto Ricans to come to Central Florida,” Nunez said. “With the hurricanes, it will likely accelerate.”

Based on the number of flights scheduled, the Puerto Rican government estimates about 2,000 arrivals a day to the continental United States in the near future once travel opens up, said the Rev. José Rodríguez, interim rector at ​Iglesia Episcopal Jesús de Nazaret in Orlando.

“It’s going to cause a massive exodus of Puerto Rico,” Rodríguez told ENS. “The first wave is going to be children and college students. It’s a very Puerto Rican thing to send your children ahead of you.”

Rodríguez is also the Episcopal chaplain for University of Central Florida. The school agreed to give free tuition to Puerto Rican college students, he said.

The Rev. P. Juan Ángel Monge, priest in charge at All Saints Episcopal Church in Lakewood, New Jersey, has a son living in Puerto Rico with his partner and 3-month-old baby. On Facebook, Monge pleaded for help to get them food, water and transportation to Hima San Pablo Hospital in Bayamón, which has electricity from generators. The same day, his family was safe at that hospital, due to help from the diocese, clergy, family and others who saw his post and shared it. “He’s now on an oxygen canopy and breathing on his own. Thanks to all, Thanks God,  Blessings and Peace!” Monge wrote on Sept. 25.

The Rev. Gladys Rodríguez is the priest at Church of the Incarnation just outside Orlando in Oviedo, Florida. A former Puerto Rican actress who was ordained in Orlando in January, Rodriguez can minister in the United States and in Puerto Rico. Her husband is on the island, her daughter evacuated to Orlando prior to the hurricane, said José Rodríguez. One of her church members has a wife and daughters in Puerto Rico.

“The sad story is that people in Orlando who have families in Puerto Rico, which they can’t reach by cell or plane, are desperate. At Incarnation, we try to give them hope by preaching consolation with God’s promises for us,” Gladys Rodríguez told Episcopal News Service.

But help is on the way. Some of it was already there or nearby before Maria pounded the island.

On Sept. 26, Federal Emergency Management Agency workers load an emergency communications vehicle onto an airplane heading to Puerto Rico to support communications for search-and-rescue, medical and other federal teams. Photo: Jeff Sandli, FEMA News

Federal Emergency Management Agency-loaded vessels with more than 1.3 million meals, 2 million liters of water, 30 generators and 6,000 cots were enroute to St. Thomas, awaiting port opening and clearance, according to a Sept. 21 FEMA report. FEMA also positioned commodities at its distribution center and warehouse in San Juan, Puerto Rico, before the storm. The items such as meals, water, cots and blankets were ready for distribution to the Commonwealth as requested.

Episcopal Relief & Development also sent emergency support to the diocesan emergency committee ahead of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, knowing communication would crash and systems would be compromised. Authorities delayed the distribution due to the chaos, but permission is expected soon. Episcopal Relief & Development staff members sporadically have been able to text with Puerto Rican diocese members.

Ordained as the Puerto Rican diocesan bishop little more than two months ago, the Rt. Rev. Rafael L. Morales Maldonado formed a plan with diocesan staff, Zorrilla said. During the storm, they boarded up what they could and rode the storm out with their families at home. By Sept. 25, they were clearing the fallen trees at the diocesan center, which has electricity from a generator but no communication capabilities. They met to create an assessment team. They plan to head out Sept. 27 to designated areas on the island, bringing necessities and checking on Episcopal missions, parishes and homes.

“They will bring basic items for parishioners and collect inventories of the needs of clergy and parishioners. Physical damage to churches or structures will also be documented,” Morales wrote in a Sept. 25 letter posted on Facebook, translated from Spanish. “Have much faith, God is with us. Be strong.”

The Cathedral San Juan Bautista in San Juan is relatively unscathed, Zorrilla said.

But three nearby Episcopal churches were not so lucky. Their roofs were torn open and rain flooded the interiors. Because of that flooding, Zorrilla and Morales led a Sept. 24 church service in the parking lot of Santa Maria Magdalena Episcopal Church in Levittown. So far, he hasn’t heard of any clergy or parishioner injuries or deaths, but time will tell as the assessments get underway.

Maria’s fury was unparalleled, Zorrilla said.

“The sounds were awful, the wind force. What I saw, I never saw before, and we’ve experienced other hurricanes before because we live in the tropics,” Zorrilla said. “This was so huge. The force of nature was amazing.”

On Sept. 26, the last day of the House of Bishops’ meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, the bishops unanimously passed a resolution to show their support. The resolution was aimed, not only at Puerto Rico, but other areas affected by natural disasters.

“We pledge to take such appropriate actions in our dioceses to educate ourselves and our people about climate change, and to advocate policies and actions to reduce the harmful environmental impacts that have been a factor in the recent storms on ‘this fragile earth, our island home,’ ” the bishops stated in the resolution, quoting from Eucharistic Prayer C in the Book of Common Prayer.

Episcopal Relief & Development has learned a lot, especially post-Katrina, on how to handle this, the Rev. Michael Hunn, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry within the Episcopal Church, told the bishops gathered at the Fairbanks meeting. But it’s safe to say – with Texas, Florida, Georgia, the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico in need – “the system is overwhelmed,” Hunn said.

“This is going to be a long and drawn-out recovery effort, and we’re going to need to all work together,” he said.

Also at the Fairbanks gathering, Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton talked about the companion relationship his Maryland diocese shares with Puerto Rico, a partnership that started about two years ago.

He was hoping to develop that relationship further at the House of Bishops meeting, so he was saddened the Puerto Rican bishop was not able to make it because of Hurricane Maria. The Maryland diocese has been asking its congregations to donate to the relief efforts, and Sutton plans to attend the Puerto Rican diocesan convention in October.

“I want to come bearing gifts, and maybe a big check,” Sutton said.

Monetary donations help the most, and can be made through Episcopal Relief & Development’s donation page, which breaks down different donation paths and provides more specific choices. There’s also a section for churches to print bulletin inserts for their congregations to donate.

Zorrilla said many homes are concrete and are hurricane resistant, but he suspects countless homes didn’t make it. It’s hard to tell right now. After the assessments begin this week, they will have clearer idea of what they’re dealing with as a diocese.

An Episcopal Relief & Development representative with extensive disaster experience will arrive on Oct. 2. He will support the diocese in conducting assessments and strategizing about the next phase of the response. As a result of the ongoing infrastructure and communications challenges, he is bringing satellite communications phones and the relevant equipment for stationing around the island. 

“Episcopal Relief & Development is working a lot for us. We don’t feel alone. We feel fully supported,” Zorrilla said.

Yet, “Prayers are really needed right now and all the help that the church can send us, because we are in real need.”

– Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg, interim managing editor, and David Paulsen, editor/reporter, both with Episcopal News Service, also contributed to this report.

A Word to the Church from the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 8:33am

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] The Episcopal Church House of Bishops, meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska (Diocese of Alaska) approved and presented the following Word to the Church, in English and Spanish.

A Word to the Church from The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops
Gathered in Fairbanks, Alaska, September 21-26, 2017

The bishops of The Episcopal Church came to Alaska to listen to the earth and its peoples as an act of prayer, solidarity and witness. We came because:

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2). God is the Lord of all the earth and of all people; we are one family, the family of God.
“You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are … members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). The residents of interior Alaska whom we met are not strangers; they are members of the same household of faith.
• People have “become hard of hearing, and shut their eyes so that they won’t see with their eyes or hear with their ears or understand with their minds, and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15). We are blind and deaf to the groaning of the earth and its peoples; we are learning the art of prayerful listening.

What does listening to the earth and its people mean? For us bishops, it meant:
• Getting out and walking the land, standing beside the rivers, sitting beside people whose livelihood depends on that land. We had to slow down and live at the pace of the stories we heard. We had to trust that listening is prayer.
• Recognizing that struggles for justice are connected. Racism, the economy, violence of every kind, and the environment are interrelated. We have seen this reality not only in the Arctic, but also at Standing Rock in the Dakotas, in the recent hurricanes, in Flint, Michigan, Charlottesville, Virginia, and in the violence perpetuated against people of color and vulnerable populations anywhere.
• Understanding that listening is deeply connected to healing. In many healing stories in the gospels, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” That is, he listened first and then acted.

What did we hear?
• “The weather is really different today,” one leader told us. “Now spring comes earlier, and fall lasts longer. This is threatening our lives because the permafrost is melting and destabilizing the rivers. We depend on the rivers.”
• The land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where the caribou birth their calves is called the “sacred place where life begins,” so sacred the Gwich’in People do not set foot there. “Drilling here,” people said, “is like digging beneath the National Cathedral.”
• After shopping together, a native Episcopalian told one of us how hard it is to even secure food. “We can’t get good food here. We have to drive to Fairbanks. It is a two-hour trip each way.”

What we bishops saw and heard in Alaska is dramatic, but it is not unique. Stories like these can be heard in each of the nations where The Episcopal Church is present. They can be heard in our own communities. We invite you to join us, your bishops, and those people already engaged in this work, in taking time to listen to people in your dioceses and neighborhoods. Look for the connections among race, violence of every kind, economic disparity, and the environment. Then, after reflecting in prayer and engaging with scripture, partner with people in common commitment to the healing of God’s world.

God calls us to listen to each other with increased attention. It is only with unstopped ears and open eyes that our hearts and lives will be changed. It is through the reconciling love of God in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that we and the earth itself will be healed.

A Prayer for Our Time and for the Earth

Dear God, Creator of the earth, this sacred home we share;
Give us new eyes to see the beauty all around and to protect the wonders of creation.
Give us new arms to embrace the strangers among us and to know them as family.
Give us new ears to hear and understand those who live off the land
and to hear and understand those who extract its resources.
Give us new hearts to recognize the brokenness in our communities
and to heal the wounds we have inflicted.
Give us new hands to serve the earth and its people
and to shape beloved community.
For you are the One who seeks the lost,
binds our wounds and sets us free,
and it is in the name of Jesus the Christ we pray.

Resources are here.

La Cámara de los Obispos de la Iglesia Episcopal, reunidos en Fairbanks, Alaska (Diócesis de Alaska) aprobó y presentó la siguiente Palabra a la Iglesia.

Una Palabra a la Iglesia de la Cámara de los Obispos de la Iglesia Episcopal

Reunida en Fairbanks, Alaska del 21 al 26 de septiembre de 2017

Los obispos de la Iglesia Episcopal vinieron a Alaska para escuchar a la tierra y a sus gentes como un acto de oración, solidaridad y testimonio. Venimos porque:
”La tierra es del Señor y todo lo que está en ella, el mundo, y los que viven en ella; porque él la fundó en los mares y la estableció en los ríos” (Salmo 24:1-2) Dios es el Señor de toda la tierra y de toda la gente; somos una familia, la familia de Dios.

• “Ya no eres más desconocido o extranjero, porque eres… miembro de la familia de Dios” (Efesios 2:19). Los residentes del interior de Alaska a quienes conocimos no son desconocidos; ellos son miembros de la misma casa de fe.

• Las personas “se han hecho duras y no escuchan y cierran sus ojos para no tener que ver con sus ojos o escuchar con sus oídos o entender con sus mentes y cambian sus corazones y vidas para que pueda sanarlos” (Mateo 13: 14-15). Estamos ciegos y sordos a los gemidos de la tierra y a sus gentes; estamos aprendiendo el arte de escuchar en oración.

¿Qué significa escuchar a la tierra y a sus gentes? Para nosotros los obispos significa:
• Salir y caminar en la tierra, pararse al lado de los ríos, sentarse junto a la gente cuyo sustento depende de esta tierra. Tuvimos que aflojar el paso y vivir al ritmo de las historias que oímos. Tuvimos que confiar en que escuchar es rezar.
• Reconociendo que las luchas por la justicia están conectadas. El racismo, la economía, la violencia de todo tipo y el medio ambiente están interrelacionados. Hemos visto esta realidad no solo en el Ártico sino también en Standing Rock en las Dakotas, en los huracanes recientes, en Flint en Michigan, en Charlottesville en Virginia y en la violencia perpetuada contra las personas de color y las poblaciones más vulnerables en todos lados.
• Entendiendo que escuchar está profundamente conectado a la sanación. En muchas historias de saneamiento en la biblia, Jesús preguntó, “¿Qué quieres que yo haga por ti?” Eso es, él escuchó primero y luego actuó.

¿Qué escuchamos?
• Un líder nos dijo “el clima es realmente distinto hoy”. “Ahora la primavera llega más pronto y el otoño dura más. Esto amenaza nuestras vidas porque el permafrost se está derritiendo y desestabilizando los ríos. Nosotros dependemos de los ríos”.
• La tierra en el  Refugio Nacional Ártico de Vida Silvestre donde el caribú pare sus crías y se llama el “sitio sagrado donde la vida comienza”, es tan sagrado que el pueblo Gwich’in no pone un pie ahí. “Perforar aquí”, dijo la gente, “es como perforar debajo de la Catedral Nacional”.
• Después de comprar juntos, un episcopal nativo le dijo a uno de nosotros lo difícil que es  conseguir alimentos. “No podemos conseguir buenos alimentos aquí. Tenemos que manejar hasta Fairbanks. Es un viaje de dos horas de ida y vuelta”.

Lo que nosotros los obispos vimos y oímos en Alaska es dramático; pero no es único. Historias como estas pueden escucharse en cada una de las naciones donde se encuentra la Iglesia Episcopal. Pueden ser escuchadas en nuestras propias comunidades. Los invitamos a que se unan a nosotros, sus obispos, y a esas personas que ya están comprometidos con este trabajo, tomando tiempo para escuchar a las personas en sus diócesis y barrios. Busquen las conexiones entre la raza, la violencia de todo tipo, la disparidad económica y el medio ambiente. Luego después de reflexionar en oración y abordando las escrituras, asóciense con personas con el compromiso común de sanar el mundo de Dios.

Dios nos llama a escucharnos unos a otros con mayor atención. Es solo con oídos destapados y ojos abiertos cuando nuestras vidas y corazones cambiarán. Es a través del amor reconciliador de Dios en Jesús y el poder del Espíritu Santo cuando nosotros y la tierra misma seremos sanados.

Una Oración para Nuestros Tiempos y para la Tierra

Querido Dios, Creador de la tierra, este hogar sagrado que compartimos;
Danos ojos nuevos para ver la belleza que nos rodea y para proteger las maravillas de la creación.
Danos brazos nuevos para abrazar a los desconocidos entre nosotros y para conocerlos como familia.
Danos nuevos oídos para escuchar y entender a aquellos que viven de la tierra
y para oír y entender a aquellos que extraen sus recursos.
Danos corazones nuevos para reconocer los quebrantamiento en nuestras comunidades
y para sanar las heridas que hemos causado.
Danos nuevas manos para servir la tierra y sus gentes
y para moldear nuestra querida comunidad.
Porque eres el Único que busca a los perdidos,
venda nuestras heridas y nos dejas libres,
y en el nombre de Jesucristo oramos.

Los recursos se encuentran aquí.

Episcopal bishops close meeting in Alaska with letter urging ‘prayerful listening’ on race, environment, poverty

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 8:47pm

Episcopal bishops gather in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska, on Sept. 23 as part of a day of “prayerful listening” to Alaskan Natives’ stories and of blessing the land. In Fairbanks they displayed this banner from a footbridge as they rallied in support of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Neva Rae Fox/Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs

[Episcopal News Service – Fairbanks, Alaska] The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops approved a letter to the church on Sept. 26 invoking the bishops’ experiences in Alaska listening to the stories of the state’s indigenous people, and they called on Episcopalians to join them in working toward environmental and racial justice.

The letter was the capstone of the bishops’ six-day fall meeting, held in Fairbanks but incorporating a weekend of travel far beyond this small city. Across Alaska’s vast Interior, groups of bishops visited Native communities that are struggling to preserve the subsistence way of life they have followed for thousands of years.

The threats to that way of life are many, though Native residents specifically voiced concerns to the bishops about climate change and the impact of the resource-extraction industry.

“The bishops of the Episcopal Church came to Alaska to listen to the Earth and its peoples as an act of prayer, solidarity and witness,” the message. Alluding to Ephesians 2:19,  the message continues, “The residents of Interior Alaska whom we met not strangers; they are members of the same household of faith.”

The bishops approved the letter in a unanimous voice vote after making several changes to the wording of various passages in the initial draft. The letter is due to be released when it is translated into Spanish.

The message includes a call to Episcopalians in all dioceses and congregations to join the bishops in “prayerful listening” in their own communities for the connections between racism, economic disparity and environmental injustice.

“God calls us to listen to each other with increased attention. It is only with unstopped ears and open eyes that our hearts and lives will be changed,” the bishops said in the letter. “It is through the reconciling love of God in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that we and the Earth itself will be healed.”

The Episcopal bishops discuss changes to a draft letter to the church on racism, environmental injustice and poverty before voting to approve it Sept. 26 in Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The House of Bishops meeting kicked off Sept. 21 at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel & Conference Center with a welcome from two Native elders, Will Mayo and Steve Ginnis. Mayo is a past president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference. Ginnis is the executive director of the Fairbanks Native Association.

Sessions on Sept. 22 focused on Native culture, including a conversation with Poldine Carlo, a founder of the Fairbanks Native Association. Gwich’in activists spoke about their efforts to raise awareness of the effects of climate change on Native village life. They also asked for continued support in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling. The refuge is a major caribou birthing ground and is considered sacred by the Alaskan Natives who hunt the caribou when the herds migrate south.

The bishops spent the third day of their meeting seeking out the stories of village residents across the sparsely populated region north of Fairbanks. Bishops and their spouses broke into eight groups to board small charter planes to Alakaket, Arctic Village, Beaver, Eagle, Fort Yukon, Huslia, Tanana and Venetie. A ninth group drove to a former gold mining site, and other bishops remained in Fairbanks for a procession along the Chena River.

“What does listening the Earth and its people mean?” the bishops ask in their letter to the church. “For us bishops, it meant getting out and walking the land, standing beside the rivers, sitting beside people whose livelihood depends on that land. We had to slow down and live at the pace of the stories we heard. We had to trust that listening is prayer.”

What they heard were stories of longer summers and shorter winters, of melting permafrost affecting the rivers they fish, of the difficulty of getting food to supplement what they harvest in the wild, and of their concern for the future of the caribou birthing grounds.

A group of Episcopal bishops join with residents of Venetie, Alaska, to bless the river that runs next to the village on Sept. 23. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Each of those trips on Sept. 23 culminated in the bishops blessing the land, water and people in the 2 p.m. hour. And the next day, the 120 bishops and about 80 spouses gathered in Nenana with members of the local Native community and Episcopal congregation for a festive potlatch dinner, complete with singing, dancing and gifts for the bishops.

The Episcopal Church was once the only Christian denomination with a presence in the Alaskan Interior, and most of the people the bishops met there on their journeys were Episcopalians. The church also has been active for years on the issues of justice for indigenous people and environmental justice, including the fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry spoke of this history of Episcopal Church activism and the church’s historic ties to Alaskan Native communities in a video summarizing the House of Bishops meeting on Sept. 26.

“While we were here we met the people, who are Episcopalians, who are faithful, devout people for whom those lands are sacred, and our resolutions and our support and work in Washington to protect that land so that it will not be violated by oil drilling is a sacred trust,” Curry said.

Bishops close out fall meeting

The bishops also unanimously approved a resolution Sept. 26 offering support for the dioceses on the Gulf Coast and in the Caribbean islands that were hit hard by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as those affected by wildfires in the West.

“We are grieving with you and want to stand with you in the rebuilding of your communities,” the bishops said. “Our House of Bishops is sadly diminished by the absence of those bishops who could not attend this meeting due to these storms.”

That resolution, too, cited the environmental factors behind such devastation and “the relationship between human consumption patterns and global climate change.”

“We acknowledge that we all have a role to play in reducing the impact of our actions that result in the destruction of islands and coastal areas due to more frequent and severe storms,” the bishops said. “We pledge to take such appropriate actions in our dioceses to educate ourselves and our people about climate change, and to advocate policies and actions to reduce the harmful environmental impacts that have been a factor in the recent storms.”

And the bishops heard a detailed update on the talks between the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church on entering into full communion.

Bishop Frank Brookhart of the Episcopal Diocese of Montana said the Methodists were expected to vote in 2020, followed by a vote of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2021. Until then, he encouraged Episcopal bishops and congregations to begin developing relationships with their Methodist counterparts.

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

New minister general for Third Order of Society of Saint Francis

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 7:54pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Rev. John Hebenton, the vicar of Gate Pa, Tauranga, in New Zealand’s North Island’s Bay of Plenty, has been elected as the new minister general of the Third Order of St Francis. Hebenton, who has spent most of his 30-year ordained ministry working with youth organisations, becomes the “functional head” and “servant” of the international Anglican Franciscan movement, which brings together “men and women, clergy or lay, who are called to a lifelong discipline and vow”. He succeeds the Rev. Ken Norian from the US-based Episcopal Church.

Read the entire article here.

Growing church leads to double-ordination in United Arab Emirates

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 2:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A double-ordination has taken place in the United Arab Emirates to serve the growing church in the country. The UAE Minister of State for Tolerance, Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, attended the service as a special guest, as did the British Consul General to Dubai, Paul Fox.

Read the entire article here.

Alaska Native villages struggling to preserve way of life offer warm welcome to Episcopal bishops

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 8:05pm

Episcopal bishops and residents of Venetie, Alaska, gather Sept. 23 at the bank of the Chandalar River to bless the water, land and people. Venetie was one of eight villages in the Alaska Interior visited by different groups of bishops, who are attending the fall House of Bishops meeting in Fairbanks. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Fairbanks, Alaska] Sunrise in Fairbanks was 7:40 a.m. on Sept. 23, but Diocese of Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime had an unnegotiable command for his fellow bishops: Don’t be late.

They weren’t. Beating the sun by 10 minutes, they boarded the bus for the airport at 7:30 a.m. sharp, bringing with them their rochets and chimeres, their boxes of food to give to the villagers they were to meet and their personal expectations for what awaited them in Alaska’s northern Interior.

Bishop Prince Singh of the Diocese of Rochester in New York was in good spirits on the bus. Some of his thoughts turned to his previous missionary work in the poor southern region of India. His group of bishops was headed this day for Arctic Village, where families of Native Alaskans on the edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge still survive largely on hunting and fishing.

At the airport office of Northern Alaska Tour Company and Arctic Air, Bishop Greg Brewer of the Diocese of Central Florida took his turn as the bishops placed their travel bags on a scale to be weighed: a five-pound backpack here, a 10-pound duffel there.

Precise weight measurements are crucial in small planes like these, an experience that reminded Brewer of traveling about a decade ago on similar flights in Uganda to visit a partner diocese there. Now Brewer was one of six bishops flying to the village of Allakaket on Day 3 of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops meeting.

An emphasis on creation care and racial justice at this fall’s House of Bishops meeting made Alaska the perfect laboratory, Lattime told Episcopal News Service earlier in the week. And in the Alaskan lab, the central catalyst for the bishops’ reactions was this day of travel, including eight trips to Interior villages. A ninth group drove to a former gold mining site, and other bishops remained in Fairbanks for a procession along the Chena River.

In the 2 p.m. hour, the bishops at all 10 locations were to bless the land, water and people. Episcopalians across the Alaska diocese had been asked to participate at the same time in their local congregations.

“The idea of having, all across the state of Alaska, this blessing at 2 o’clock is powerful,” Lattime had told the bishops a day earlier as they discussed ways environmental justice is interwoven with the plight of indigenous people, especially those suffering the effects of climate change.

But what can a delegation of bishops do for the residents of a struggling Alaska Native village? Lattime assured the bishops they bring gifts of faith.

“You are bishops of the church. You are the symbols of the unity of the church. You connect these people with your people,” Lattime said. “You have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and you bring the ability to connect people in prayer and offer your blessing.”

The bishops carried those words of encouragement with them to the airport the next morning. Bishop Mariann Budde of the Diocese of Washington studied a map of Alaska as she prepared to leave for Huslia. She said she hoped the bishops’ visit would be worthwhile for the village residents, and that she would be able to open herself fully to hearing their stories.

Bishop Dorsey McConnell of the Diocese of Pittsburgh had packed a tangible offering: A bottle of water taken form the Conemaugh River, which flooded Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1889. He planned to dump the water into the Yukon River as a symbol of recovery as his group offered blessings in Eagle, which suffered its own devastating flood in 2009.

The sun was now illuminating the edges of the gray clouds. Pilots flying into the Interior pay close attention to a condition they call “having weather.”

“We don’t really have weather in Venetie,” means the clouds have lifted enough to allow takeoff and landing there.

Guest services representative Katie Tasky stood on a bench and gave the bishops a final rundown of what to expect on the twin-engine Piper Navajo Chieftain planes, which had enough room for a pilot and nine passengers.

“Window and aisle seat, everyone gets one,” she said.

Another employee called for the first group of Episcopal travelers: “Arctic Village!” The bishops and spouses boarded their plane and were in the air by 9:05 a.m.

Pilot Bill Thompson takes Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas’ bag before leaving on a flight to Venetie, Alaska, on Sept. 23. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Bill Thompson, the pilot for the group heading to Venetie, offered his co-pilot seat to any interested passenger. Retired Bishop Neff Powell of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia volunteered.

“Hop in and do that important preflight checklist for me,” Thompson joked.

With six bishops, two spouses and a reporter buckled and wearing their headsets, Thompson maneuvered the plane behind the others in line at the start of the runway, an unusually busy day for Arctic Air. “You guys have certainly cleared out our ramp today,” Thompson said.

Two planes were ahead. Then one. At 9:40 a.m., with the Venetie flight cleared for takeoff, the plane buzzed down the runway and began soaring over Fairbanks, charting a path north.

‘A wonderful, wonderful way of life’

The bishops were welcomed warmly in Alaska even before boarding flights to the Interior. Elders and leaders of local Native organizations addressed the House of Bishops on Sept. 22 at sessions that focused on Native culture and environmental threats to a way of life that has been followed here for thousands of years.

Poldine Carlo, a founder of the Fairbanks Native Association, shares stories of growing up in the Interior with bishops gathered in Fairbanks on Sept. 22. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“We didn’t get rich, but we had a good life,” Poldine Carlo, 96, said as she detailed some of that life for the bishops at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Convention Center.

Carlo is best known as one of the founders of the Fairbanks Native Association, a support group created in the 1960s at a time when Alaska Natives faced open discrimination. But what resonated most with the bishops were her stories of living off the land in and around Nulato, where she grew up.

As she spoke of her tribe’s fish camp, of animal tracking with her family, there was an audible ache of nostalgia in her voice – knowing part of that way is forever gone, and what’s left of it also may someday disappear.

“It was such a wonderful, wonderful way of life,” Carlo said. “To think, at the time I was home, I never ever thought there would be an end to that.”

Hunting, fishing and trapping continue in the Interior, but Native communities that pride themselves on their subsistence lifestyle find it increasingly difficult to provide for themselves in the old ways.

“Alaska is probably one of the last places on Earth where native people are still rooted to the land. We live off the fruits of the good Earth,” said the Rev. Shirley Lee, executive director of the Tanana Chiefs Conference’s Housing First program and a priest at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Fairbanks.

For every food there is a season, she said: from moose to caribou, fish to berries. “And when we move away from those seasonal practices and rely on the local grocery store,” Lee said, “it deadens our spirit.”

The changing environment is one factor in that cultural decline.

“Right now the changes we’re seeing in our climate, we have to address it. … It’s very noticeable up here,” Bernadette Demientieff of the conservationist Gwich’in Steering Committee told the bishops. “Our elders and our leaders are at a point where they’re taking it up on their own because no one else is listening.”

The Episcopal Church has long joined in that activism, and its Episcopal Public Policy Network has specifically supported the efforts of Demientieff and other Gwich’in activists in their fighting to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from proposals to allow oil drilling there. The north coast of Alaska, part of which the refuge encompasses, is a major caribou birthing ground and considered sacred land by Alaska Natives who hunt the caribou when the herd migrates deeper into the Interior.

“This issue really is symbolic of how we are going to treat our remaining intact ecosystems on the planet,” Princess Johnson told the bishops. Johnson was part of an Episcopal Church delegation that traveled to Paris during the United Nations’ 2015 climate change talks, and she is a leader in the grassroots group Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition.

“You cannot really separate environment from social justice issues. We really need to be mindful of that,” Johnson said. “I really honestly believe we’re all here on this planet for a reason right now and are being spiritually called upon to act.”

The Rev. Shirley Lee addresses the House of Bishops on Sept. 22 in Fairbanks. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The Alaska Natives thanked the bishops for traveling to Alaska and listening to their concerns. Lee asked the bishops, as they prepared to travel across the Interior, not to see that vast landscape as barren, undeveloped property.

“Look at that and remember there is a history behind every inch of land that you are traversing,” she said, “that history of the Native people here, and how your blessing will help further the preservation of our culture.”

Village welcomes visiting bishops

Thompson, the Arctic Air pilot on the flight to Venetie, was not at first fully aware of the nature of his cargo. Bishops on an Interior expedition were something novel.

Realizing his passengers were flying over unfamiliar terrain, Thompson, 47, gladly played the tour guide. A 26-year veteran of the Alaskan skies, he pointed out the Fort Knox gold mine, which still operates just north of Fairbanks. He described how the Tanana and Yukon rivers, carrying glacial silt, had created wide flood plains over thousands of years. He identified the snow-dusted peaks below as the White Mountains, a jagged range that was dwarfed to the south by the Alaskan Range, its towering Denali hidden in the clouds this morning.

“We have the Fort Yukon weather,” Thompson radioed back to the control tower.

He began dropping the plane to 4,000 feet to fly below the thick layer of clouds hovering above that village. The Yukon River appeared below. The arbitrary dotted line of the Arctic Circle receded behind them. A moose was spotted wading in a marsh on the edge of a lake.

The village of Venetie, Alaska, is seen from above. The dirt strip in the center of the village is the former runway. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

As they approached Venetie, Thompson circled the plane over the village and the Chandalar River so he could point out the old dirt runway in the center of the village and the large school building. About 200 people are estimated to live in Venetie, most of them in small log homes built on dirt and gravel roads stretching out from the village’s center.

Mildred Killbear, center left, and Eunice Williams greet the bishops after their landing in Venetie on Sept. 23. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

After landing on the gravel surface of the newer runway just before 11 a.m., Thompson taxied to the spot where a group of villagers in pickup trucks and on all-terrain vehicles were waiting to greet the bishops with a round of handshakes and hugs.

Mildred Killbear and Eunice Williams escorted the visitors to the center of the village, a few minutes away by pickup truck.

Killbear, 68, was born in Fort Yukon and lived in Arctic Village as a child before moving with her parents to Venetie. “I’ve lived here all my life,” she said.

Williams, at 80, is one of 20 village elders whose pictures hang in a display case inside the school building. “We’re still living in the old cultural way. We still depend on the subsistence lifestyle,” she said.

Of the 20 elders honored in the display, she is among the few still alive.

Eunice Williams and the Rev. Margo Simple show the bishops Venetie’s school. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

At the school, they met the Rev. Margo Simple, the Episcopal priest in Venetie who also works as a community health aide. Simple gave the bishops and spouses a tour of the building, as she and other village residents thanked them for coming.

“Pray for us and the land and the animals,” Williams said.

Myra Thumma was preparing a caribou meat feast for the bishops at Venetie’s community hall, a short walk from the school. The group made its way over to the small, one-room building, where residents greeted them with conversations about the hall’s wood-burning stove, about the villagers’ families and about the many ways of eating salmon, from burgers to salads. The bishops presented gifts of food – a large box filled with eggs, fruit, Nutrigrain bars and other items that otherwise would command high prices at the village store.

“This is the first time we’ve had so many bishops in one building,” Eddie Frank said. He, too, thanked them for coming.

Frank, 67, is a formal tribal administrator who now works on the village’s roads. “We don’t call them roads, we call them trails,” he corrected. He also is known for his skills at trapping wolf, mink, lynx, marten, fox and any other animal popular for its skin and fur.

Milder, shorter winters have made trapping more difficult, Frank said. Dog sledding and other winter travel depend on adequate snow cover, and he thinks the animals are more easily scared away by humans’ scent in the warmer air.

“The weather has really changed,” Frank said.

Myra Thumma points out the caribou meal that was prepared for the visiting bishops at the Venetie community hall. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Thumma also worries about the effects of climate change. It has affected caribou migration patterns, she said.

She attended college in the southeast Alaska city of Sitka, and she met her husband in Fairbanks, but eventually she had to get back to her home village.

“I can’t live in the city,” Thumma said. Venetie is “the only life I know. This is part of me.”

By 1:45 p.m., Simple had led the bishops to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church for the afternoon’s liturgy. A wood stove warmed the inside of the log church as a handful of villagers gathered in the pews for the short service.

Afterward, the bishops in their rochets and chimeres processed out the front door following a 9-year-old girl who held high a wooden cross. They made their way down to the river, a young boy sprinting ahead of them.

Under gray skies and the hazy afternoon sun, the bishops offered their blessings and thanks, for the river and land, for the moose and caribou, for the boats moored on the riverbank, for the village elders and leaders. They offered prayers for young people suffering from addiction, another threat to the village’s way of life.

When it was over, the visitors and their hosts gathered for group photos, a family of worshipers bound by faith.

To Nenana for a potlatch

A day later, members of that faith family filled the community hall in Nenana, Alaska, nearly to capacity.

Nenana is a village a 55-mile drive southwest of Fairbanks. The Episcopal Church was once the only Christian denomination with a presence in the Interior, and its history in Nenana dates to 1905 and the mission church of St. Mark’s.

On Sept. 24, after splitting up in the morning to attend Sunday worship services in Fairbanks, North Pole and Nenana, the bishops joined together again in Nenana to attend the afternoon potlatch prepared by the St. Mark’s congregation and the village’s Native community.

A potlatch is a Native Alaskan ceremonial meal featuring traditional food, drumming and dancing. This was a meal to leave no one hungry: moose meat, moose soup, garden salad, pasta salad, potato salad, fry bread, rolls, tea and desert. Helping after helping was served up and down the long rows of bishops and residents who were seated in front of the makeshift paper tablecloth placed on the floor at their feet.

The bishops, their spouses and residents of the Nenana area prepare for a potlatch feast Sept. 24. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

As the dinner wound down, several bishops and Native leaders spoke to the crowd, expressing mutual gratitude for the experience of this “good-time” potlatch.

“I’m extremely blessed tonight to see the bishops in Alaska,” said Bessie Titus, a longtime Alaska deputy of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention. It’s a great honor, she said, “to us as a diocese, to us as a Native community.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry offered Nenana the blessing of the Episcopal Church and received a roar of approval with his heartfelt “thank you,” which he repeated over and over.

Lattime called himself “probably the most blessed in this place” because his family of bishops was getting a chance to meet the family of Alaskans that has adopted him.

The Rev. Trimble Gilbert speaks at the Nenana potlatch. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“This is what the love of Christ is all about,” he said. “This is what becoming the body of Christ is all about.”

The Rev. Trimble Gilbert, an Arctic Village priest and prominent Gwich’in community leader, echoed others in marveling at the hundreds of people who had gathered for the day’s potlatch.

“In Nenana, we honor you,” he said, before explaining that the potlatch represents his tribe’s values, its commitment to taking care of each other. Like the hunting traditions that provided moose for the meal, the potlatch follows the ways of their ancestors.

“We honor them for us to be here,” he said.

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

John Dwyer joins Church Divinity School of the Pacific as chief operating officer

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:52pm

[Church Divinity School of the Pacific] The Rev. John F. Dwyer, an Episcopal priest and lawyer with a background in insurance and finance, has been named chief operating officer of Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

The Rev. John F. Dwyer was appointed chief operating officer of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Photo: Church Divinity School of the Pacific

 The Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, CDSP’s dean and president, announced the appointment today.

“John brings a rare combination of gifts and experiences to CDSP,” Richardson said. “That includes a deep commitment to the Episcopal Church, a passion for welcoming people and populations that may feel alienated from the church, and substantial expertise in administrative and financial matters acquired as both a lawyer and a priest. I am pleased to welcome him to CDSP.”

Dwyer is in his seventh year as rector of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, in Roseville, Minnesota. He is treasurer of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota (ECMN), where he also serves as a member of the Standing Committee, chair of the joint finance and audit committee and president of the disciplinary board. He is a liturgical practicum instructor in ECMN’s School for Formation and has previously served as a trustee and a member of ECMN’s personnel committee.

He will begin work on October 30.

“I am delighted to be joining CDSP’s leadership team at this time of such change in the wider church and in the new and inventive ways her leaders are formed in furtherance of Jesus’ message and mission to the world,” Dwyer said. “I am energized and excited to work with the dedicated individuals striving to secure CDSP’s future through sustainable, responsible, and imaginative uses of the assets and resources of the seminary.” 

CDSP, a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union, recently welcomed an incoming residential class of 19 students to campus. The seminary’s low-residency program, founded in 2014, currently comprises 36 students. In 2016, the seminary revised its curriculum to focus on the core Christian concepts of mission, discipleship and evangelism. CDSP also requires Master of Divinity students to receive training in community organizing.

Prior to being called to Minnesota, Dwyer served faith communities in Washington, D. C. and Maryland. He earned his Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary in 2007. Before attending seminary, Dwyer practiced law in New York City for 18 years, focusing in the corporate insurance and finance areas. He received his Juris Doctor from St. John’s University School of Law in Jamaica, NY, and earned a B.A. from Fairfield University in Connecticut.

Dwyer will arrive in Berkeley with his husband, Ben Riggs, artistic director of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, and their 4-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, Lincoln. From 2002-2007, Riggs was an adjunct faculty member at the Iliff School of Theology, where he directed the Iliff Choir.

Six Episcopal bishops pen letter to senators urging opposition to GOP health care bill

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:08pm

Diocese of Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime, speaking here Sept. 22 at the House of Bishops meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, is one of six bishops to sign a letter to senators urging opposition to an Affordable Care Act repeal bill. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Fairbanks, Alaska] Six Episcopal bishops have written a letter to 10 U.S. senators, urging them to vote against the latest Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the health care law also known as Obamacare.

The letter, dated Sept. 24, comes as the House of Bishops holds its fall meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska. Diocese of Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime is one of the bishops who signed the letter to senators, and one of its recipients is U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska whose vote is seen as crucial for passage of the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill.

“We urge you, Senators, in the spirit of fairness and proper process, to stand up against a bill that would cause such disruption and chaos to healthcare for millions of our citizens, especially the most vulnerable among us,” the bishops say in their letter. “As Christians and as faith leaders in our respective states, we ask that you stand firm on the democratic process that serves us all. Access to such healthcare is crucial to maintaining the social safety net that allows our communities to flourish.”

Joining Lattime in signing the letter are Bishop Kirk Smith of the Diocese of Arizona, Bishop Stephen Lane of the Diocese of Maine, Bishop Mark Hollingsworth of the Diocese of Ohio, Bishop Thomas Breidenthal of the Diocese of Southern Ohio and Bishop Michael Klusmeyer of the Diocese of West Virginia.

The letter is addressed to Murkowski; Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Sen. Angus King, I-Maine; Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia.

The letter cites an estimated cut of $23 billion in federal health care spending over nine years in the bishops’ five states. It also singles out part of the legislation that would reverse an expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, potentially affecting lower-income Americans.

“Our Baptismal Covenant calls us to respect the dignity of every human being,” the bishops say. “It is our responsibility to challenge you, our elected leaders, to work toward justice and equality for the welfare of all people, not only those who can afford health insurance.”

The Episcopal Church has long advocated for policies that support helping Americans access affordable and comprehensive health care based on a long series of General Convention resolutions. Its Episcopal Public Policy Network released a policy alert on Sept. 20 called on Episcopalians to contact their representatives and ask them to oppose the new legislation.

“The Graham-Cassidy bill lacks the benefits of informed public hearings with experts and thoughtful bipartisan compromises, and does not address the concerns highlighted in earlier ACA repeal efforts,” EPPN’s alert said.

The bill, named after Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, is the latest in a series of Republican attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, which he signed into law in 2010 after its passed Congress with no Republican support.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he intends to bring the bill to the floor for a vote this week. Serious doubts remain, however, whether Republicans will have any greater success with their latest repeal legislation. McCain and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, already have come out against the bill, and Collins has suggested she would join them in opposing it, according to CNN.

Murkowski, who was one of three senators to vote against an earlier Obamacare repeal bill in July, hasn’t said yet how she will vote. Republican leaders have added incentives to the new bill targeting Alaska, including a provision that would exempt Native Alaskans from losing Medicaid coverage when the program is rolled back.

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

Prayer book glossary to assist modern-day ordinands

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:16pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Book of Common Prayer was written in “a tongue understanded of the people,” but language evolves. What the common person understood in 1549 is not always as understood today. So the Prayer Book Society (PBS), a campaign group that “encourages rediscovery and use of the majesty and spiritual depth of the Book of Common Prayer at the heart of the Church of England’s worship”, has produced a helpful guide to some of the words used in the iconic service book.

Read the entire article here.

Church provides driver mentoring for refugees

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:13pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An Anglican church in Sydney is giving local refugees experience in driving on Australia’s roads. The scheme, run by the Chester Hill Church west of Sydney, enables people who drove around their former homes to get used to the different road conditions in the country.

Read the entire article here.

Royal boost for Maltese cathedral appeal

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:07pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The multi-million-pound appeal to restore Malta’s Anglican cathedral will receive a boost next week when the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, pays a visit. St Paul’s Cathedral in Valletta was built in 1844 at the request of Queen Adelaide, the wife of Britain’s King William IV. It is one of three pro-cathedrals for the Church of England’s diocese in Europe – the others being in Gibraltar and Brussels.

Read the entire article here.

Episcopal bishops gather in Alaska with focus on indigenous culture, environmental justice

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 4:09pm

Bishops at the House of Bishops meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, pose Sept. 22 behind a large sign pledging support for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The sign will be displayed from a bridge in Fairbanks on Sept. 23 during one of several events and trips planned on the themes of creation care and environmental justice. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Fairbanks, Alaska] The bishops of the Episcopal Church are gathered in this small city in the center of Alaska’s northern wilderness for their six-day House of Bishops meeting and to immerse themselves in local examples of creation care and racial reconciliation.

There’s no better place than Alaska to discuss themes of environmental and racial justice, Diocese of Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime told Episcopal News Service on Sept. 21 at the midpoint of the meeting’s first day.

“Alaska is your lab,” Lattime said. “This is the laboratory to experience that and see that.”

Two Native elders, Will Mayo and Steve Ginnis, joined Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in welcoming bishops as they kicked off the first morning at Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Convention Center. Mayo is a past president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference. Ginnis is the executive director of the Fairbanks Native Association.

The meeting will feature discussions of how Alaska’s changing culture is having an impact on the environment and on indigenous peoples’ ways of life, and the bishops will travel over the weekend to visit villages and congregations to hear their first-hand stories.

“Being here in Alaska and listening to and learning from the people of Alaska … helps the word become flesh for us,” Curry told ENS on Sept. 22 after presentations on Native Alaskan culture and natural resources like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“For the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and the Gwich’in people, protecting land that is sacred to them from development and oil drilling is not just an abstract idea,” Curry continued. “People’s sacred laws and spiritual lives are at stake. And being here we are experiencing that.”

As the bishops take in as much Alaska experience as they can from Sept. 21 to 26, the sheer scale of the state can be daunting.

Alaska, at two and a half times the size of Texas, makes up a sixth of the United States’ geographic mass. At the same time, it has fewer than 1 million residents, half of whom live in just one city, Anchorage. Most of the state, then, is a mix of relatively untouched wilderness and tiny Native villages that have struggled to maintain their traditions of living off the land.

The Chena River is seen passing below the hills just west of Fairbanks, a city of about 32,000 people in Alaska’s Interior region. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

It’s a state “so vast and unpeopled that if anyone could figure out how to steal Italy, Alaska would be a place to hide it,” the writer John McPhee once said. He described Fairbanks as “the de facto capital of the terrain that is called the Interior … the pivot from which travelers fan out to the north.”

The daunting task of ministering to Episcopalians across such an immense diocese was driven home on the House of Bishops’ first day with a showing of a film produced by the Episcopal Church about Bishop William Gordon, who led the Diocese of Alaska from 1948 to 1974.

Gordon learned to fly so he could pilot his small plane across the state to visit congregations, earning him the nickname the “flying bishop.” The bishops viewed the film about Gordon at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, where Gordon’s plane hangs near the entrance.

During his long tenure leading the Diocese of Alaska, Bishop William Gordon flew around the diocese in this plane, which now is on display at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center in Fairbanks. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

This is the first House of Bishops meeting hosted by the Diocese of Alaska, Lattime said. About 115 bishops are attending, some accompanied by spouses. Former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Curry’s predecessor, is joining them in Fairbanks in her new role as assisting bishop in the Diocese of San Diego.

On Sept. 23, small groups of the bishops and spouses will split up and fan out to the north to visit the villages of Alakaket, Beaver, Eagle, Fort Yukon, Huslia, Tanana, Venetie and Arctic Village. The latter is on the southern edge of the far northern Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Protecting the federal refuge from oil drilling has been a priority of both conservationists and indigenous rights activists in Alaska. The Episcopal Church has joined in that activism.

Then on Sept. 24, the bishops will split into three groups, this time traveling to three different Episcopal churches in the Fairbanks area to attend Sunday worship services. The bishops will reconvene as one group that night for a potlatch at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Nenana.

A potlatch is a native Alaskan ceremonial meal and event that typically features traditional food, drumming and dancing.

“It’s really the essential form of hospitality,” Lattime said. “Everybody is welcome. Everybody leaves full, and not just in the sense of food.”

The bishops hope to bring together the themes of protecting God’s creation and respecting the dignity of all human beings in sessions Sept. 25 that will identify “ways to take the Alaska Experience home to diocese.”

The House of Bishops meeting concludes Sept. 26 with a business session, Eucharist and closing dinner.

Hurricanes in the Caribbean and on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. have dampened turnout slightly, with three Texas bishops and two Florida bishops remaining in their storm-ravaged dioceses after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

In addition, Bishop Rafael Morales of Puerto Rico canceled plans to attend the meeting after Hurricane Maria struck, knocking out power everywhere on the island. Bishop Julio Holguin of the Dominican Republic also was expected to skip the meeting.

During Eucharist on Sept. 21, Curry offered prayers for the people in those dioceses, as well as the victims of a major earthquake that struck Mexico this week.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry presides at Eucharist in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Sept. 21, the opening day of the House of Bishops meeting. Behind him is Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime, and seated to his side is Bishop Todd Ousley of the Office of Pastoral Development. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The bishops also took a moment at the service to welcome the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley as the new bishop for the Episcopal Church’s Office of Pastoral Development. Ousley delivered the service’s sermon, calling the bishops “fellow tax collectors and sinners” like the ones Jesus invited to his table.

“In an act of untamed and generous hospitality, we’ve been invited to break bread with Jesus and one another,” Ousley said, preaching on the them of hospitality. “A ministry of episcopal hospitality is a work of justice as well as generosity.”

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