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To Boil or Not? Lobster fundraisers raise ethical questions

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 3:59pm

[Episcopal News Service] People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has called for vegan bake sales instead of lobster boil fundraisers, but some Episcopalians are finding the request a bit tough to swallow.

Melissa Mary Wilson, coordinator for the Christian outreach division of PETA, called for an end to the popular fundraisers in a  late August letter to Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

Noting that Sept. 25 is National Lobster Day, Wilson said at least 17 Episcopal churches from Maine to Maryland to Mississippi, “collectively kill more than 10,000 lobsters annually.”

While Francine Sabisch, parish administrator at St. Peter’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Swansboro, North Carolina, generally supports PETA, she disagrees with the effort.

A Maine native, she said lobster boils are “part of life, part of the culture” there and elsewhere, and not just for churches, but also for many local municipalities and other groups.

The church’s annual Lobsterfest took place on Sept. 16, raising about $7,300. The proceeds will go to local agencies and most probably for flood relief for those impacted by recent hurricanes.

“In previous years, we’ve helped Backpack Buddies, and two different women’s shelters. Every year, we help out the literacy council,” Sabisch said.

The funds raised have also benefited worker-retraining programs, hospice centers, boys and girls clubs, wounded warrior projects, animal rescue organizations and helped to purchase new band equipment for local high schools, she added.

St. Peter’s by-the-Sea Churc in Swansboro, North Carolina, uses the proceeds of its annual Lobsterfest to benefit local community groups. Photo: St. Peter’s

The lobsters typically weigh about 1.5 pounds; the church sells them for $18 to $21, depending on current market price and whether they are cooked or uncooked, she said. This year the church sold about 700, and has set a goal to sell 1,000 next year.

“Everyone is very conscientious,” Sabisch said. “Everyone who is involved in handling God’s creatures. We will do everything as humanely as possible.”

LAMBS, or “Least Among My Brothers and Sisters,” is PETA’s Christian education division. Its name was “inspired by the verse in Matthew 25:40 in which Jesus tells his followers that whenever you show kindness to those in most need, it’s as if you’re doing that kindness as unto Jesus himself,” said Ben Williamson, PETA’s senior international media director, in an email to Episcopal News Service.

“With so few legal protections, lobsters and other animals are truly ‘the least’ among us— and in dire need of our compassion and mercy,” Williamson said.

PETA believes one popular method of cooking — boiling the lobsters — is cruel. “Most of us grew up believing that killing lobsters and other animals for food is what must be done, but if we contemplate it, all killing requires conquering, violence and separating ourselves from the rest of creation,” PETA wrote to the presiding bishop. “God designed humans to be caretakers, not killers.”

Curry was unavailable for comment, but Episcopal Church spokeswoman Neva Rae Fox said: “PETA has presented an interesting point but local congregations are the decision-makers for their events.”

Williamson said LAMBS researchers compiled a list from an Internet search of church lobster events, many of which state the number of lobsters involved at each event. “The list accounts for at least 10,800 lobsters at 17 churches,” he said. “There are likely at least another 1,000 from five churches who gave vague responses.”

He added: “We would encourage anyone and everyone to reflect on their own attitudes about causing unnecessary suffering, and move towards a plant-based diet for their health, for the sake of the environmen, and because it’s the right thing to do.”

PETA specifically cited St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Greenville, North Carolina. According to the church website, the church has sold more than 65,000 lobsters since the fundraisers began in 1978. Yearly, the effort has raised as much as $20,000 to benefit the local community.

PETA’s invitation raises important ethical questions, not only for Episcopalians, but all Christians, to wrestle with the way faith informs their daily lives and decisions, according to the Rev. John Porter-Acee, a priest in the Diocese of East Carolina.

“It is our call as Christians to try to reduce suffering in the world,” said Porter-Acee, a former environmental educator. “Every choice we make is a choice to pursue our faith in one way or another, and to think about investments and fundraisers and food choices as opportunities to decrease the amount of suffering in the world and to support entities that have that goal as well.”

But the issue is a complicated one. “If you’re going to do a fundraiser and encourage people to contribute and support it as a suffering-free fundraiser, perhaps one year instead of everybody buying lobster, they buy sweet potatoes,” Porter-Acee said. “But I don’t think we’ll raise $20,000 to benefit the community.”

Additionally, sweet potatoes — and other vegetables for that matter — are grown and tended by migrant workers who are not treated very well, “so there is a lot of suffering around vegetables, too.”

John McAteer, an ethics faculty member of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego’s School for Ministry, said that Episcopalians generally consider vegetarianism a matter of personal conscience, “but it is not something theologians and ethicists have come to consensus about.”

The issue PETA raises about lobster boil fundraisers essentially involves such questions as whether or not it is possible to “torture” a lobster “or whether they are below the level of sentience that gives them that sort of ethical status. In other words, is it unethical to eat lobsters?”

While lobsters seem to react when placed into pots of boiling water and try to crawl out, “their brains aren’t developed enough to know what a pot is or understand that they need to crawl out,” he said. The question of whether crustaceans feel pain has been the subject of much research.

“PETA is against eating any animal, so I don’t think it is really about lobsters for them,” McAteer said. “If we stopped having lobster boils, they would come at us for having barbecues next.”

The organization has asked U.S. Roman Catholic bishops to end the practice of Lenten fish fries. It has also called Christians to a “ham-free” Easter.

“Ethically speaking, there is a much better case for eating lobster than for eating pork, beef or even chicken,” McAteer said. “Unless you’re a full-on vegetarian, then I don’t think a lobster boil should cause you any ethical problem.”

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


Celebrations of 130 years of the Mothers’ Union in Ireland

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 1:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The international Anglican mission agency Mothers’ Union has been present in Ireland for 130 years, and this week the anniversary was celebrated at a special service in Christ Church in Strabane. More than 400 people – mainly women – were present at the Derry and Raphoe Mothers’ Union Festival service.

Read the entire article here.

Preparing for Primates 2017: Province of South East Asia Archbishop Moon Hing

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 12:15pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Moon Hing, primate of the Province of South East Asia, looks ahead to the 2017 Primates Meeting.

Prayers for the Primates’ Meeting October 2017: Paul Kwong

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 12:09pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The next Primates’ Meeting in October will be my fifth one as primate of Hong Kong. Each of the previous ones was unique. Some had designated themes and concerns. The last one was different. The concerns and challenges of respective provinces were submitted beforehand. The meetings are likened to a family gathering where the siblings are gathered together to discuss family business with having Archbishop of Canterbury, like the elder brother to serve as convener and chair.  Even though, at times, there were heated arguments and debates over some issues, what underpinned them was a deep love and concern for the Communion, our Anglican family.

For me, the best part of these Meetings is the time spent together in worship, prayers, reflections and the washing of each other’s feet. It demonstrates that we are one in Christ, committed in walking together, being for each other and for the whole Communion.

Thus, I look forward to attending the next meeting. As in 2016, primates have been asked to submit their provinces’ concerns and challenges to the meeting and we will prioritize and set the agenda together. And I look forward to praying and worshiping together with my fellow primates. In particular, I am excited to meet the new ones. I am equally excited to renew and strengthen my friendship with the existing ones too. There is a saying in the West, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver, the other is gold.”

I look forward to meeting both the “silver” and the “gold” Primates in October.

Archbishop Paul Kwong is the primate of Hong Kong and chair of the Anglican Consultative Council.

Episcopal Church bishops challenge Trump, Congress on DACA in NYTimes ad

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 7:00pm

[Episcopal News Service] Some 125 Episcopal Church bishops signed a full-page ad that ran Sept. 21 in the New York Times, imploring President Donald Trump and member of Congress not to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program known as DACA.

“To do so would endanger the lives of thousands of young people and their families and run contrary to the faith and moral traditions of our country,” wrote 122 bishops, along with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, 26th Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and 25th Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold. “It is unfair to threaten the well-being of young people who arrived in our country as children through no choice of their own.”

The Rev. Michael Witt, executive director of Rural & Migrant Ministries, brought the idea to the Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, bishop of the Diocese of Long Island. His diocese is among, if not, the most diverse in the church, in part because Queens, New York is the most diverse county in nation.

“The prayer book is in 13 different languages in our diocese,” Provenzano told Episcopal News Service. “This is in defense of the people in our pews and in our neighborhoods.”

Starting with Witt and Provenzano, then adding three other bishops, they organized the declaration and after Curry agreed, they sent an email through their list serve to all bishops with a deadline to sign on. It’s unclear the reason some bishops didn’t sign the statement, but if it wasn’t about avoiding controversy, it could have been as simple as not noticing the email in time to make the deadline.

“I heard from bishops up until Tuesday morning, and it was submitted to the New York Times Tuesday (Sept. 19) afternoon,” said Denise Fillion, Long Island’s diocesan communications director. Fillion helped with the final edits on the ad.

The bishops said ending DACA without a similar replacement program would force so-called “Dreamers” to “face the future in this country with little access to education and employment, and ultimately, could very well lead to sending them to countries where they did not grow up, have few support structures, may not even speak the language and may be vulnerable to violence and persecution.”

“Any of these scenarios, we believe, is cruel,” the bishops wrote.

The administration announced Sept. 5 that it would phase out the DACA policy, giving Congress six months to act legislatively to save the program that allowed qualifying undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country.

President Barack Obama instituted DACA in June 2012 by executive action, giving so-called “Dreamers” the ability to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for work permits.

Naysayers might call this is another example of Episcopalians entering into politics too much, said Provenzano. It’s not about politics, although this public stance has “significant implications,” he said.

“At times, the teaching and preaching of the gospel can look like it’s making a political statement when it’s really about following the teachings of Jesus. This is what bishops are supposed to do. This is nuts and bolts,” Provenzano said. “It’s not a debatable issue. The kind of protectionism being promulgated in this country is contrary to the gospel.”

The Episcopal Church’s presiding officers, Curry and House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, issued a statement after the Trump administration’s announcement, vowing to work for immigration reform and to support Dreamers.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, as well as its Episcopal Public Policy Network, has long been engaged in advocacy for “a humane and proportional immigration system,” based on the General Convention’s stance on the issues involved. The office has a collection of resources for advocacy and action on immigration policy, as well as information on current policies and proposed legislation.

“In recent years, our congregations throughout the United States have witnessed firsthand the benefits that the young ‘Dreamers’ have brought to our community programs and life,” the bishops wrote. “We have been inspired by, and gained much from, their American spirit. We urge you to enact permanent, meaningful legislation that will protect ‘Dreamers’ and enable these young people to remain a part of our country — which is also theirs.”

The complete text of the ad is here.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service. Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service, as well as a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York.


This New York priest is on a mission to help children trapped in sex trafficking at hotels

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 3:39pm

Parishioner and volunteer Nathalie Abejero and the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, associate rector of Church of the Incarnation in New York, tell a hotel desk clerk at New York Marriott Marquis about the Saving Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P.) Project, asking that staff use soaps labeled with a toll-free help hotline for sex-trafficking victims. Photo: Amy Sowder

[Episcopal News Service] She strode through midtown Manhattan with purpose, her black tote bag held close as she dropped a dollar into the jangling coffee can of a street person stationed on a corner.

Weaving around the city sidewalks in her flowered pencil skirt, black flats and black tank with a clerical collar, the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser had four destinations on her list that evening — all upscale hotels where she hopes her efforts make a dent in revealing the horrific secret right under everyone’s noses.

Child sex trafficking happens at pretty much every hotel, whether it’s glitzy or seedy, Dannhauser and survivors say. The average age a child is forced into prostitution is 13. Human trafficking, for labor or sex, is the second-leading crime in the world, including the United States, according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). And one in three children is solicited for sex within 48 hours of running away or becoming homeless.

A mother of a daughter who’s almost 9, Dannhauser wants every hotel employee to be trained to recognize the signs and know what to do about it. She wants the children, usually girls, forced by threats, violence and drugs to have sex with countless men behind the hotel room doors, to find a soap in the hotel bathroom with a sticker on the wrapper providing a toll-free hotline to call for help.

“We’re ‘soaping up’ Midtown,” Dannhauser said as she led the way to the next hotel, carrying three bags that each contained 100 hotel-sized labeled soaps and folders full of information. “I’ve talked to hotel staff who said they did see something ‘off’ and didn’t know what to do.”

The Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, associate rector of Church of the Incarnation in New York, asks an employee at Fairfield Inn & Suites in New York whether he’s had training to spot and report sex-trafficking victims. She’s leading a committee at her church, as well as a diocesan task force, to help the victims escape and to spread awareness of the problem, which is rampant in the travel and tourism industry nationwide. Photo: Amy Sowder

The associate rector of Church of the Incarnation on Madison Avenue brought along parishioner Nathalie Abejero, also a mother, for the hotel visits. They, along with the rest of her parish’s anti-trafficking committee of seven to 10 people, have visited close to 40 hotels in the past year.

“It’s so widespread. It could be anyone: the nicest, sweetest neighbor of yours who you’d never guess,” Abejero said as she waited in the lobby of New York Marriott Marquis in the heart of Times Square.

“It’s so sick,” Abejero said a moment before the pair approached the hotel’s check-in clerks.

Dannhauser is the chairperson of the Diocese of New York’s Task Force Against Human Trafficking. She was recently selected as a New York Nonprofit Media 40 Under 40 Rising Stars honoree for her work to combat human trafficking.

Why hotels and motels are ideal targets

The majority of trafficking happens at hotels and motels, according to Polaris Project, a Washington D.C.-based organization dedicated to eradicating modern slavery globally.

Unlike other venues, hotels and motels allow traffickers some anonymity. Traffickers can pay for rooms in cash and change locations easily, which makes it easier to avoid detection than using an apartment, car or legitimate business front, all of which are traceable back to the owners.

The biggest problem is lack of awareness. Hotel staff and guests don’t realize that trafficking is happening, or how to recognize the signs. Even if they do sense that a situation is suspicious, they may not know how to report it or whether it’s worth reporting at all.

There are two clear ways to draw the line between prostitution and sex trafficking. If a person under 18 is involved in commercial sex, he or she is being trafficked. Also, anyone 18 and older with a pimp is being trafficked.

“Trafficking is lack of choice. Slavery is lack of choice,” Dannhauser said. “Obviously, with children, it pulls your heartstrings more.”

Volunteer Nathalie Abejero tells a hotel check-in clerk at New York Marriott Marquis about the Saving Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P.) Project, asking that staff place into the housekeeping carts the special soaps labeled with a toll-free help hotline for sex-trafficking victims. Photo: Amy Sowder

Online shopping for underage sex

Traffickers also use the internet. Children are more expensive and are most often purchased in the adult or dating sections of classified advertising websites, such as Backpage.com, which sells everything from boats to Beanie Babies. It is second in popularity only to Craigslist. When the woman’s face isn’t photographed, it’s often a girl younger than 18. A recent U.S. Senate report said the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children states that 73 percent of all child trafficking reports it receives involve Backpage.

Using a defense of freedom of expression from government censorship and being “merely a host of content created by others and therefore immune from liability under the Communications Decency Act,” the site has been embroiled in legal battles, from criminal charges against its founders and CEO, to politicians’ efforts to modify the federal law.

Between 2010 and 2015, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported an 846 percent increase in suspected child sex trafficking, much of it online.

A priest’s calling for advocacy

Dannhauser’s work is needed now more than ever.

A former bankruptcy attorney, Dannhauser has no personal connection to this horrifying criminal epidemic, but during her contemplative prayer practice while in seminary, she felt a call from God to pursue this mission.

She was resistant at first, but she felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to consider this cause.

“It’s all about using the voice we have for the voiceless,” Dannhauser said. “Churches are good about service, but I don’t know that we always get the advocacy piece. I find this so energizing.”

After Dannhauser’s committee worked on contacting hotels in the metropolitan area for almost a year, the group joined forces with the S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) Project in the summer of 2017.

Volunteers stick labels onto hotel-sized soaps at the S.O.A.P. labeling party in July at Church of the Incarnation in New York. They’re working to spread awareness of child sex trafficking in hotels, and help the victims get out. Photo: Church of the Incarnation

In July, the committee had a S.O.A.P. labeling party, during which they stuck labels onto 2,000 bars of soap that provide a toll-free help hotline for victims to call. They deliver those soaps to the hotels along with a packet of other information, including a missing children’s page, a warning signs list and a hotline mouse pad.

A survivor’s tale

Anneke Lucas participated in the New York church’s labeling party and told her story, as well.

Raised in Belgium, Lucas was sold by her parents to an exclusive sex-trafficking ring for wealthy politicians when she was 6, according to a “Real Women Real Stories” video on the Living Resistance website. For more than five years, she was raped and tortured. At puberty, she was in danger of being murdered, but she got out just in time.

Today, Lucas is a mother and leader of an organization that brings yoga to prisons. Lucas, Dannhauser and other leaders advocating for trafficking victims are pushing for legislation to be passed to protect children.

Anneke Lucas, a child trafficking survivor who is now a mother and leader of a group that brings yoga into prisons, told her story at the S.O.A.P. labeling party at Church of the Incarnation in New York. Photo: Church of the Incarnation

Connecticut passed a groundbreaking piece of legislation — the first of its kind in the United States — requiring hotels and motels to post signs in a visible place spelling out what trafficking is. The notice must also contain information on how to get help by contacting the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline.

The law also requires all hotel and motel staff in the state to receive training on how to recognize victims and activities commonly associated with human trafficking.

“A law like this could help children who are trafficked in New York,” Lucas said in the video. A tiny hotel soap with a red label could be a trapped child’s saving grace. “I would have found a way to call the hotline, had I seen a notice,” she said.

The S.O.A.P. Project

Founded by Theresa Flores in Ohio, the S.O.A.P. Project is specifically focused on educating and increasing public awareness of the prevalence of human trafficking, in order to help trafficked survivors heal and also to prevent more teens from being victimized this way in the United States. Eighty percent of trafficked victims are women, and half are children, she said.

S.O.A.P. representatives travel all over the United States to hold outreach workshops during large public events. The nonprofit organization partners with local groups to distribute millions of bars of soap wrapped with a red band that gives the National Human Trafficking Hotline number — 1 (888) 373-7888 — and resources to high-risk motels and hotels.

Based in Ohio, the nonprofit S.O.A.P. Project helps local volunteer groups label soaps with a toll-free help hotline and trains the volunteers to contact hotels and spread awareness of child sex trafficking in the United States. Photo: Amy Sowder

Trained volunteers such as Dannhauser and Abejero offer the soap free of charge to hotels and motels, along with training to be able to identify and report sex trafficking when they see it in their establishments.

An author and advocate, Flores, 52, is also a survivor of child sex trafficking.

She came from a good Roman Catholic home with two parents and no abuse. She was taught to be abstinent until marriage. But when she was 15, a boy in school drugged her and raped her, and his cousins took photos. The boy threatened to post the photos all over school, at her church and at her father’s office if she didn’t “work” to get each photo back.

Flores was so ashamed of what had happened to her that she didn’t tell anyone. She found herself being called in the middle of the night and driven to mansions where she was forced to have sex with old men. They didn’t know her name or even ask, except for one man, who seemed to not know she was underage. Her pimp rebuked him, saying “she has no name.”

She remembers being kidnapped, drugged and beaten, taken far away to Detroit and pulled out of the car by her hair to an open hotel where 20 men waited for her. She was 16 by then, in a sea of men, auctioned off to highest bidder, over and over until she passed out.

“Nobody knew this was going on to a kid like me,” Flores said in her TEDx Talk.


Her story is an example of how a child from any background, race or socio-economic status can become trapped in sex trafficking. These days, most people find prostitutes online, not by looking for streetwalkers, Flores said.

“It’s basically fear,” Flores told Episcopal News Service. “These women are terrified and are being beaten and are threatened by the pimp, who is the trafficker. They tell you they know where your family is and get you addicted to drugs. They all use these tactics.”

In these disgusting, deplorable situations, it’s almost guaranteed a trafficking victim will reach for the hotel room’s bar of soap. “That darkest moment is in those hotels, but they all go into the bathroom to clean up afterwards,” she said.

That’s how the idea hatched to use soap as the way to reach the trafficked victims. If hotel managers don’t agree to place a labeled soap in each hotel room bathroom, volunteers suggest that they keep the soaps on the housekeeping carts for cleaning employees to place in the bathroom when they notice the signs.

The signs include some obvious clues and some more subtle ones:

• A man is checking in with a much-younger female.
• A young woman looks a bit zonked out or bruised.
• A young woman has no identification proof.
• A hotel room is paid for in cash.
• A hotel room is purchased by the hour or by the day repeatedly, or for extended stays longer than usual.
• Several men are seen coming and going from one room.
• Many more towels are requested than is typical.
• Someone stands guard by the room door or is acting distrustful around security.

If you suspect sex trafficking, call the police, FBI or the National Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or text: HELP to BeFree (233733). For more information, visit www.soapproject.org, www.traffickfree.com and www.ecpatusa.org.

Flores has given out close to a million soaps since she founded the organization more than six years ago.

She targets her hotel efforts during big events. The Super Bowl, NASCAR races, Republican and Democratic conventions, the Indianapolis 500, entertainment awards shows, the Kentucky Derby and the Detroit Auto Show are a few. When there’s likely to be a flood of people into town for a short time, especially when it’s mostly men, the demand will rise.

So, the supply follows.

Typically, in Detroit, there are 200 ads of women for sale on Backpage.com, Flores said. But the female ads spike to 500 to 600 during the Detroit Auto Show.

Advocacy within the Episcopal Church

Dannhauser wants to encourage this kind of advocacy work throughout the Episcopal Church at large.

The priest got the Episcopal Public Policy Network to send an action alert about any related legislation going through U.S. Congress so that more Episcopalians could get involved. The Episcopal network created its own human trafficking page chock full of helpful information, from advocacy updates from U.S. Congress and ongoing efforts by local Episcopal churches to ways to contact local elected officials and resources provided by the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion.

Dannhauser was critical in helping to pass a series of resolutions at the Diocese of New York’s annual convention in November. The resolutions encourage the diocese to prioritize doing business with those hotels, travel agencies and airlines that have signed the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct when traveling for church-related business. They also urge all parishes and individual Episcopalians to make those same choices in their business and personal travel.

“And if we used a hotel or airline that hadn’t signed onto this code, then we’d try to sign them up; we have a letter for this and you can chat with the general manager about this,” Dannhauser said. “Anybody can do that kind of thing.”


The Code, as it’s commonly called, was developed by End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA), a nonprofit organization based in Brooklyn, New York, and part of ECPAT International. It’s the only voluntary set of business principles travel and tour companies can implement to prevent child sex tourism and trafficking of children.

Those who sign The Code agree to establish a policy and procedures against sexual exploitation of children; train employees in children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation and ways to report suspected cases; include a clause in contracts stating a zero-tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children; provide information to travelers; and report annually on related activities.

Several large travel suppliers have signed The Code, including Hampton Hotels, Hilton Worldwide and Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, according to Business Travel News.

But while the heads of these hotel companies agree to this code, the training and education don’t always trickle down to every hotel location. That’s where efforts like those of Dannhauser’s committee come into play.

Dannhauser is excited that the diocese’s sign-up letter is accessible to anyone in the Episcopal Church, so congregations can share it and educate their own hotels and travel agencies. The letter is downloadable here.

She’s pressing to place a set of resolutions calling for the church to support the ECPAT code — similar to the New York diocesan resolutions — on the agenda at General Convention in the summer of 2018.

“I also plan to have the toolkit ready at that time — the one for parishes to use to do their own hotel outreach with hotels in their communities,” Dannhauser said.

How hotel staff respond

On this particular August evening, Dannhauser’s and Abejero’s second stop was at the 49-story marbled, modern New York Marriott Marquis in the heart of Times Square.

The Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, associate rector of Church of the Incarnation in New York, and parishioner and volunteer Nathalie Abejero head to the hotel check-in desks at New York Marriott Marquis to spread awareness of training available to spot and report child sex trafficking, which is common in all kinds of hotels. Photo: Amy Sowder

Manager-on-duty Tony Herasme and two clerks at the hotel’s front desk were friendly and willing to discuss sex trafficking when the two women showed up unannounced. Hotel employees undergo sex trafficking training with a video every six months, they said.

“It’s something we’re actively on the lookout for,” Herasme said.

Sometimes the volunteers can’t even get a manager to come out to speak to them; it’s hard to tell whether it’s because the manager is busy or just not interested. Most desk clerks and managers said they are aware of the problem and several of them had training by video. Others admitted they didn’t know what to do when they suspected something was awry.

They all took the soaps.

“It was a better response than I expected,” Abejero said.

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service, and a writer and editor in Brooklyn, New York.

Editor’s note: Combatting human trafficking will be on the agenda during the Oct. 2-6 meetings of the moderators and primates (leaders) of the Anglican Communion’s 39 provinces. Archbishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, primate of the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, explains why here.

Preparing for Primates 2017 – Archbishop Francisco de Assis da Silva

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 2:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, primate of the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, looks ahead to the Oct. 2-6 Primates Meeting and explains tackling human trafficking must be on the agenda.

Prayers for the Primates’ Meeting October 2017

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 2:30pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, offers his prayer for next month’s Oct. 2-6 Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury.

Please pray…

Pray that we have patience with one another in continuing conversations about same sex marriage.

Pray for perseverance in our commitment to honor the Calls to Action from Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission. These calls revealed the horrible suffering endured by Indigenous People through the Residential Schools System established to enforce a colonialist policy of assimilation.

Pray for God’s continuing guidance as we work together in supporting the emergence of a truly Indigenous Church.

Pray for our commitment to eradicating the crime of human trafficking.

Pray for our Church’s response to the Communion Wide Call to a Season of Intentional Discipleship.

Pray for the Primates that at our gathering we have a heart not only for the unity of the Church but for the peace of the world. Pray that we be humbled and graced to be a prophetic voice speaking into the suffering of the poor, the enslaved, and those forced to flee from their homelands.

Retired Indianapolis bishop nominated for Eastern Michigan provisional bishop role

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 3:47pm


[Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan] The standing committee of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan has nominated the Rt. Rev. Catherine Waynick, retired bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis, as candidate for bishop provisional to be voted on at their 23rd diocesan convention from Oct. 20 to 21.

Eastern Michigan’s former bishop, the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, concluded his ministry in the diocese in June after accepting a call from the presiding bishop to serve on his staff as bishop for pastoral development.

In a letter to the diocese, the standing committee articulated its reasons for calling for a bishop provisional rather than calling for a search for a bishop diocesan, saying, “In most cases, a bishop departs their diocese through retirement. This allows the diocese to have some lead time to go through the search process, nominate a slate of candidates and vote to elect their next bishop before the exiting bishop departs. Because our bishop left for another position and not for retirement, we did not have that time. We do have the time and space to faithfully consider the issues and opportunities confronting our diocese – these are not limited to budget realities, decreasing and emerging populations, and cultural trends away from church-attendance and religious life. Like a congregation engaging an interim pastor, we hope, with a provisional bishop as a companion, to faithfully engage the entire diocese in this exciting conversation to discover where God is leading us in our life and ministry as the Episcopal Church in Eastern Michigan.”

If elected at October’s diocesan convention, Waynick would begin her tenure with Eastern Michigan immediately serving on a part-time basis, performing all episcopal functions including ordinations and confirmations, as well as other traditional duties of a bishop including staff supervision, visitations, and more. Waynick would work closely with the standing committee as they begin to work with the people of the diocese to study their mission and ministry and to move forward into the next phase of diocesan episcopal authority.

Waynick served as the 10th bishop of Indianapolis for 20 years before her retirement in 2017. She began her ministry in the Diocese of Michigan serving churches in Bloomfield Hills and Pontiac before being elected bishop in 1997. Beyond her ministry in Indianapolis, Waynick served on several General Convention legislative committees, on the abundance committee of the Church Pension Fund and on the task force to revise Title IV (Disciplinary Canons). She continues to serve as president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops and as a governor of the Anglican Centre in Rome. Waynick has been married for 49 years to Larry, and they have two grown children, Elizabeth of Irvine, California, and Steve of Canton, Michigan. 

The Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan is made up of 43 congregations throughout the eastern half of the lower peninsula, north of Detroit and Lansing.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby excited by prospect of “extraordinary” Primates’ Meeting

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 1:09pm


[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishop of Canterbury has been speaking of his excitement at the prospect of next month’s Primates’ Meeting. Justin Welby has invited primates and moderators from around the Anglican Communion to Canterbury for the Oct. 2-6 meeting.

The gathering gives Anglican leaders an opportunity to discuss major issues within their provinces, broader topics affecting the whole Communion and more general global matters.

“I am greatly looking forward to the primates meeting,” the archbishop told ACNS. “It’s an extraordinary feeling to have the leaders of all the provinces gathering together to pray, to encourage one another, to weep with one another, to celebrate with one another.”

The final agenda will be agreed by the primates themselves at the beginning of the meeting. But it is expected to include sessions on mission and evangelism; reconciliation and peace-building; climate change and environment; and migration and human trafficking.

This is the first time that the primates have met since their meeting and gathering in January 2016. In a video for ACNS, Welby described that as “one of the most memorable weeks of my life”, saying that it had been “demanding and extraordinary.”

The key thing that had emerged, he said, was the unanimous vote from those present to “walk together” even though that might be at a slight distance. A task group, set up after the last primates’ gathering to examine a range of issues including the restoration of relationships and the rebuilding of trust within the Communion, will present a preliminary report to next month’s meeting. (Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is part of the eight-member group.)

Welby spoke of there being an “energy in the room” when issues such as evangelism, the environment, war and peace and refugees had been discussed in 2016. He said he’d emerged from one meeting saying “this is why the Communion’ exists.”

Sixteen new primates have taken office since the last meeting. One of them, Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo, will be representing the newly-created province of Sudan. Welby the presence of the new primates was particularly exciting. “There will be a whole lot of fresh energy and fresh excitement – and, no doubt, some tough questions … I think that’s going to be fabulous.”

Primates are the senior archbishops and presiding bishops elected or appointed to lead each of the 38 autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion.

A small number of primates have indicated that they won’t be attending, for a variety of reasons.

“We will miss those who are not there,” Welby said, “miss them very much.”

The archbishop urged the Communion around the world to pray for the meeting – that the primates would be caught by the Spirit, would find unity in Christ and be able to walk onwards together.

Human rights award for Anglican Consultative Council standing committee member

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 12:45pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of Edmonton Jane Alexander will be honored by the University of Alberta next week in recognition of her “leadership in local and international human rights initiatives.” Alexander, who was elected to the standing committee of the Anglican Consultative Council last year, will receive the award in recognition of her “significant achievements and contributions over a number of years.” It is one of a small number of awards that the university will present on Sept. 25 to its alumni. Alexander achieved a master’s degree in education from the university in 1993 and a doctorate in 1997, following research into cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease in people with Down syndrome.

Read the entire article here.

Peace in South Sudan requires Christians to follow the greatest commandment

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 12:43pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The solution to the conflict in South Sudan lies with committed Christians and the church rather than the government or international community, the archbishop of the internal province of Bahr el Ghazel has said. Writing in the September edition of “Renewal,” the province’s quarterly magazine, Archbishop Moses Deng Bol said that peace would come when Christians acted out Jesus’ teaching on the greatest commandment in Luke Chapter 10.

Read the entire article here.

Retired lay leader provided pillar of support to Pentagon Episcopal Community

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 12:38pm

John Symons, right, greets longtime friend, the Rt. Rev. Carl Wright, bishop suffragan for armed forces and federal ministries, after celebrating the weekly Eucharist for the Pentagon Episcopal Community. After nearly 20 years of attending weekly services in the Pentagon Memorial Chapel, Symons, now retired, plans to return occasionally as a guest worshipper. Photo: Mary Greczyn

[Episcopal News Service] On Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m., a tour group can often be seen walking through one of the corridors close to the Pentagon Memorial Chapel, the exact site where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. Beyond the view of tourists, Pentagon Episcopalians gather for a weekly service that has been held in the building for nearly 30 years.

The Pentagon Episcopalian Community is among the most highly visible of the military’s Episcopal worshipping communities, said the Rt. Rev. Carl Wright, bishop suffragan for armed forces and federal ministries. Until he retired as a Department of Defense contractor in May, John Symons was one of the most dedicated and longest-serving members of this community, Wright said.

As a volunteer layperson, Symons was a Distinctive Faith Group Leader (DFGL) for more than 20 years. “In my 30-some years as an active duty chaplain, I can honestly say that John Symons was the most dedicated DFGL that I have seen,” said Wright, a retired U.S. Air Force chaplain. When there is no chaplain present for a military community, DOD grants endorsing agents such as Wright the authority to name a faithful layperson — a so-called DFGL — to lead a congregation in order to meet the faith needs of soldiers and their families.

Symons was a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel when he retired in 1982. He became a contract employee in 1997 for DOD’s Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics systems engineering office. A native of Chevy Chase, Maryland, he and his wife Susan belong to St. John’s Norwood there.

Symons has held numerous leadership positions in his church and in the diocese, including as a convener of Region 3 in the Diocese of Washington. He serves on Wright’s chaplain selection board. “He is, in every sense of the word, a church leader,” Wright said.

The Pentagon Memorial Chapel is built at the exact site where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. The chapel includes a stained-glass window with 184 pieces of red glass, representing each of the victims killed when the plane struck the Pentagon. Photo: U.S. Army

Before the Pentagon interfaith chapel was dedicated in 2002, an Episcopal service was held in a conference room in the building. The group has met every Wednesday, at noon, since Lent 1987, joining a military chaplain or local priest for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. “It had been functioning as a small Episcopal service once the Reagan administration opened up federal buildings to religious services on off-duty hours, including lunchtime,” Symons said.

Symons describes himself as serving through the years as an assistant lay leader to the Pentagon community, preferring to defer the role of lay leader to a more senior civilian government employee or military officer. In addition to developing a written history of the community, he maintained an email list of 90 lay members and 30 others who were clergy or parish administrators.

Others are quick to point to his role as pivotal.

“I’m not sure that community would have existed without John to be honest,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Jerome Hinson, fleet chaplain, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, who previously served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as executive director of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board.

“People in the military are so transitory,” Hinson said. “For a community like that — which is vital by the way because it creates the opportunity for folks to worship, to have a sense of belonging and connectedness, and create meaning and purpose and to better walk the life of faith — for a community like that to exist over the years takes a relentless determination by those who are there more than a year or two to take up the challenge and mantle of leadership to make it happen.”

The community builds “the web of support among military and civilian clergy who can bring the sacramental mysteries of our faith into the particular [context] that is the Pentagon,” Hinson said. “And … to build/develop future leaders who will become present leaders when the time comes to pass the baton. John has done all those things with magnificent grace.”

Wright agreed. “John’s ministry was a sterling example of several such congregations that this episcopacy has had since World War II,” he said, citing examples such as Fort Meade, Maryland, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in South Korea. The largest and oldest is the St. Alban Episcopal Service in the Kapaun Chapel at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, said Wright.

While active duty, Symons took part in different Episcopalian worship communities, including Anglican churches while stationed in Bangkok and Tehran. When stationed at Ramstein, he belonged to the St. Alban Episcopal Service.

Wright and Symons met in Germany in 1980 at the annual Episcopal European Military Family Conference in Berchtesgaden, Germany. Wright was an airman with “barely two years in the service,” he recalled. “There’s a famous photo of John and me holding our German beer steins in our hands and I am pointing to my senior officer, John, with a deliberate index finger as if I am trying to tell him what to do, and I was 20 years old. So, he and I have had many laughs about over the years,” Wright said.

The Pentagon Episcopal Community attracts many people, particularly since the tragedy of 9/11, Wright said. The chapel includes a stained-glass window with 184 pieces of red glass, representing each of the victims killed when the plane struck the Pentagon.

Symons recalls being one of only two lay members of the community to attend the weekly service the day after 9/11. They read the Great Litany from the Book of Common Prayer. The Eucharist was celebrated at services in the weeks immediately after the attack, despite tight security that created challenges for bringing local clergy into the Pentagon, Symons said.

“John Symons has the values of a generation that do not exist anymore, and those values are … loyalty and fidelity to those things that you hold dear and such values are almost lost to us now that we are living in an age, if I may be harsh, of ‘what is in it for me.’ I see that as a kind of age that we live in,” Wright said. “John is, in a sense, from another, nobler time.”

— Mary Greczyn is a member of the Pentagon Episcopal Community and St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Annapolis, Maryland.

EPPN: Tell your senators to protect health care

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 11:30am

[Episcopal Public Policy Network policy alert] Over the past two weeks, U.S. senators have worked transparently and diligently on bipartisan legislation to improve health care for Americans. Yet now, Senate leaders are risking undermining progress in their own bipartisan reform process with a new attempt to repeal health care for tens of millions of Americans. The legislation, known as the Graham-Cassidy bill would reduce the scale and impact of Medicaid and make it harder for millions of Americans to access affordable health care. 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.

Call the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and urge your senators to oppose Graham-Cassidy!

Sample Call Script:

  • “Hello, my name is ___. I am your constituent, a person of faith, an Episcopalian, and I am calling to urge Senator ___ tooppose the Graham-Cassidy bill which would devastate millions Americans.
  • A reform of this magnitude needs bipartisan fixes and transparent evaluation. I’m concerned that a bill this important would be considered when it is not public and has not had serious vetting, analysis, and comment from the people it will impact.
  • Over the past months, our nation has suffered from the division, fear, and confusion created by rushed consideration of secret partisan proposals on health care.
  • I have been encouraged by the recent bipartisan agreement to secure the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and hearings and negotiations on practical steps to stabilize the affordability of health insurance for example, and I urge the Senator to focus on supporting these types of measures.
  • I am praying for you, and I hope you will oppose the Graham-Cassidy bill.

Call now!

MacDonald reflects on 10 years as national indigenous Anglican bishop

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 5:11pm

“More has happened in these 10 years than I ever imagined possible,” says Mark MacDonald about his role as national indigenous Anglican bishop. Photo: Art Babych

[Anglican Journal] Every Sunday for the past decade, Canadian Anglicans have offered prayers for “our national indigenous bishop, Mark MacDonald.”

For some, perhaps, it is a name that conjures little—another in a list of diocesan and national figures who have little directly to do with their home parish. Others may know MacDonald for his involvement in reconciliation and Indigenous activism, or for his sermons on environmental justice, or his columns in the Anglican Journal—or even for his talent on the acoustic guitar at a gospel jamboree.

But MacDonald (and more importantly, the office he holds) is also the most visible example of structural change in a church still struggling to build a more equitable relationship with its First Nations, Inuit and Métis members.

“People recognize…that [MacDonald] has this position, and behind him is this big ministry for indigenous peoples,” says Donna Bomberry, who was co-ordinator for indigenous ministries for the Anglican Church of Canada when MacDonald was first appointed to the role in 2007. “He lends himself well to that, brings respect and dignity to that position for our people.”

On January 4, 2007, MacDonald made history by becoming the first national bishop representing the interests of all indigenous Anglicans across Canada. Photo: General Synod Communications

The position of National Indigenous Anglican Bishop was created a little more than a decade ago, following a proposal at the 2005 Anglican Indigenous Sacred Circle (the national body that meets triennially to manage the affairs of indigenous Anglicans).

Sacred Circle tasked the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) with presenting a “fit and qualified” nominee who was both Indigenous and an Anglican bishop to then-Primate Andrew Hutchison for formal approval. Bomberry recalls that MacDonald, then serving as bishop of Alaska in The Episcopal Church (TEC), was selected because ACIP found his vision for the indigenous Anglican church to be very much in line with their own.

“We wanted to realize our Covenant, our Indigenous self-determining church, and we wanted him to help us in that journey,” she says, adding that she is “ever so pleased” he agreed to take on the role. “He’s the point of the wedge leading the way—which can be a difficult position also.”

Teresa Mandricks, program associate in the secretariat of the national indigenous Anglican bishop, who was also involved in the interview process, noted that his charismatic, easygoing nature and democratic approach to decision-making was an important factor in choosing him.

“He was cool, you know? He just had a charisma…that you know you can just go to him and talk,” she says, remembering the first time she met him, at the 1997 meeting of Sacred Circle.

On January 4, 2007, MacDonald made history by becoming the first national bishop representing the interests of all indigenous Anglicans across Canada.

The making of an indigenous bishop

While he now operates out of a corner office in downtown Toronto, and spends his time criss-crossing Canada and the globe, MacDonald’s early years were spent in the small port city of Duluth, Minnesota, where he was born on January 15, 1954.

MacDonald recalls his family situation as being “troubled,” and his grandfather’s experience as a residential school survivor cast a long shadow of intergenerational trauma over the future bishop’s childhood. But it also prepared him for the kind of ministry he would spend much of his adult life engaging in.

“Those problems [of trauma] aren’t confined to indigenous people,” he says. “There was a lot of alcohol abuse in my family, and that gave me a lot of insight into some of the things that were going on in other people’s situations.”

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald and his ubiquitous acoustic guitar. Photo: Marites Sison

MacDonald heard a call to the priesthood while still in his teens, a development he sees as being deeply connected to the experiences he had growing up.

“I had a troubled family situation, and a strong feeling that the church could have played a stronger role in my life and others like me,” he recalls. “I had a strong feeling that I wanted to work for the good in people’s lives.”

This was amplified by the number of important clergy mentors he encountered while pursuing a bachelor’s degree at the College of St. Scholastica, a Benedictine university in Duluth. A professor named Caroline Schmidt, MacDonald says, “constantly put theology in the context of the prayer of the church.”

After graduating from St. Scholastica, he studied at Wycliffe College in Toronto, receiving an MDiv in 1978 and beginning his ministry as a priest in the diocese of Minnesota the next year.

Like many young priests, he struggled to discern exactly what he was being called to do. For MacDonald, the answer came while serving as rector at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Portland, Ore. Shortly after he arrived, the parish began to foster an indigenous mission congregation, which MacDonald became priest-in-charge of.

When he left St. Stephen’s in 1989, it was to immerse himself completely in ministry to Indigenous people—specifically, the Navajo of the Episcopal Church’s Navajoland Area Ministry at the juncture between Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.

It was here, MacDonald says, that his own indigenous Anglican perspective began to take shape, influenced by the perspectives of the elders around him, whose theology was rooted in an understanding of the gospel and the world that he believes is closer to that of the early church than they are to 20th-century Western Christianity.

“The wisdom of Navajo elders gives insight into the gospel stories in a way that is really, really helpful, and very important, I think,” he recalls. “I felt like a was living in the New Testament.”

Five years later, though, a job opened up back in Minnesota, and MacDonald felt it was time to go home. In 1997, he put himself forward as a candidate for seventh bishop of Alaska. He was consecrated September 13 of that year, and would spend the next decade based out of Fairbanks, Alaska.

“As I said at the time, it’s the only place I could imagine wanting to be bishop, and the only place that I can imagine anyone wanting me to be a bishop,” MacDonald recalls with a chuckle.

Toward reconciliation and self-determination

In the months following the 2005 Sacred Circle, MacDonald was approached by ACIP. Would he be willing to consider standing as a candidate for the new position the Anglican Church of Canada had created?

Ruth Kitchekesik (left), deacon of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Kingfisher Lake, Ontario, and National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald join the 2015 Walk for Reconciliation. Photo: Marites Sison

MacDonald says he knew immediately that, despite the challenges, this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“I felt that there would be great difficulties, but there probably wasn’t anything, missiologically speaking, that was more important and more critical in North America,” he says.

Not that this made stepping into the new role easier. Not only was MacDonald faced with the enormous challenge of shaping a completely new episcopate, he also needed to convince his fellow bishops that his work wasn’t a threat to their own.

“Not everyone was happy with the creation of the position,” he recalls.

Navigating his new role was not just about facing the expectations of his Indigenous constituents, it was also about reassuring his fellow bishops that he would respect their own jurisdictions.

He would face this balancing act again and again in the coming years, as he worked to build better ties between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Anglicans.

“He’s the go-between,” says Mandricks, describing MacDonald’s position as a leader who must have a foot in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous worlds.

This position was vital in the years following 2007. Not only was the indigenous Anglican church breaking a new trail toward the creation of a fully self-determined Indigenous Anglican church, Canadian Anglicans as a whole were wrestling with their church’s colonial history, through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The commission held its first national event in Winnipeg in 2010, and would hold six more before it released its final report in June 2015.

While most of his involvement with the TRC was pastoral, MacDonald says he thinks the commission’s work has done much to raise the profile of Indigenous Anglicans’ struggle for self-determination.

“Although we still face a number of the problems and issues that we’ve had all along, we have a very different horizon than we did 10 years ago, and I think that has a lot to do with the TRC.”

When asked about the nature of these ongoing issues, MacDonald says a lot of it comes down to institutional racism that manifests itself as a paternalistic attitude toward Indigenous peoples.

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald and his wife, Virginia, at the 2009 Sacred Circle. Photo: Marites Sison

“Paternalism is really the source of a lot of the problems that indigenous people have,” he says. “Decisions about them are made far away from them, [and] what most people assume when they see the problems that result from that paternalism is that more paternalism would help.”

In attempting to break this cycle, indigenous Anglicans want greater control over their own affairs, and a greater ability to minister to their own people in their own way. MacDonald is optimistic that it’s just a matter of time, in part because of the way he has seen indigenous leadership develop in the time he has been bishop.

MacDonald speaks with particular pride of the number of indigenous leaders who have taken their places on the national stage—like Lydia Mamakwa, bishop of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, and Adam Halkett, bishop of Missinippi in the diocese of Saskatchewan.

“More has happened in these 10 years than I ever imagined possible,” he says.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of MacDonald’s consecration as bishop, and in 2019 he will have been serving the church as an ordained minister for 40 years. So is the Canadian Anglican church’s first National indigenous bishop thinking about slowing down?

The answer comes quickly. “I’m too busy thinking about what has to happen in the next few months to think beyond that,” he says. “My dreams are not big enough for what God’s plans are.”

Lee church changes name: Confederate general dropped in favor of ‘Grace’

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 4:38pm

The sign in front of R.E. Lee Memorial Church bears the name of the church and, therefore, also the Confederate general who was a parishioner there. Photo: Lee Memorial Church via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] R.E. Lee Memorial Church in Lexington, Virginia, where Robert E. Lee once served as senior warden will no longer honor the Confederate general in its name.

After two years of tense debate in the congregation, the vestry voted, 7-5, on Sept. 18 to change the church’s name to its previous Grace Episcopal Church. The decision had been backed publicly by Southwestern Virginia Bishop Mark Bourlakas, who spoke to the congregation earlier this month.

“It’s been a costly process both spiritually, financially and emotionally for the congregation, but I’m proud of their work and encouraged by it,” Bourlakas told Episcopal News Service by phone Sept. 19.

The vestry’s past inaction on the name had prompted some to leave the church. Others were steadfast in favor of keeping the name to honor Lee. Episcopalians on both sides of the issue filled the church when Bourlakas spoke there Sept. 7, and they again gave competing views this week before the vestry’s vote.

Violence last month during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has amplified the national debate over Confederate symbols in public places, including at Episcopal institutions. For many of those institutions, the debate began two years ago after the massacre at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a gunman with Confederate sympathies.

“It’s been a very divisive issue for two years,” the Rev. Tom Crittenden, the Lexington church’s rector, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “But Charlottesville seems to have moved us to this point. Not that we have a different view of Lee historically in our church, but we have appreciation for our need to move on.”

Hate groups chose Charlottesville because of that city’s decision to remove a statue of Lee. Clashes with anti-racism counter-protesters ended in numerous injuries and the death of one counter-protester.

Washington National Cathedral in the nation’s capital responded by removing stained-glass windows depicting Lee and a fellow Confederate general, Stonewall Jackson. Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, Ohio, launched a study of its own memorials to Confederate figures after the dean called for their removal.

Defenders of such memorials have warned against hiding history, and some say Confederate generals displayed heroic qualities despite fighting on the side of the slave-holding South. Those arguments have been countered by critics who rebuke efforts to portray the Confederate cause as noble.

The congregation in Lexington faced the additional challenge of confronting the legacy of a Confederate figure closely tied to its own identity.

While serving in Lexington as president of Washington College, later renamed Washington and Lee University, the former Confederate general spent the last five years of his life, until his death in 1870, helping the struggling congregation survive. There is no record, however, of why the congregation chose to rename the church for Lee in 1903.

Members of Lee Memorial Church spent several months in 2015 discussing the church name in light of the Charleston shooting. After surveying the congregation and hearing a range of opinions for and against, the vestry narrowly voted that November to keep the name unchanged.

Then in 2016, the church hired an outside consultant and formed the Discovery and Discernment Committee of vestry members and parishioners to more carefully pursue reconciliation among the congregation and decide what actions to take.

The committee and consultant issued a 15-page report in April 2017 that summarized the various perspectives on the church’s name and recommended “that the name of the church be officially restored to its former name of Grace Episcopal Church.” The vestry met the same month to review the report and accepted all the recommendations, except the one urging a name change.

“It is extremely difficult to get people to change their position and their understanding of facts when it’s so bound up with identity,” vestry member Doug Cumming, who favored the name change, told ENS. “But it was time.”

The discussion reignited after the violence in Charlottesville renewed questions about whether it was appropriate to name a church after a Confederate general. With members of the vestry still resisting a change, Bourlakas took a more active role in the conversations, visiting the church in late August and coordinating a three-city lecture series on racial reconciliation that kicked off in Lexington on Sept. 13.

The bishop, in recommending a name change, tried to focus the congregation on its Christian mission, which he said should not be hindered by distractions like disagreements over a name or Confederate statues.

“There’s still an amount of healing that will have to take place,” Bourlakas said. “In the long run, I think the church will be stronger and will be a strong gospel witness in Lexington.”

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

Celebrations of Tonga’s first bishop symbolize ‘a bird that has begun to fly’

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 2:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Pacific island nation of Tonga has its first official bishop. But ‘Afa Vaka, who was consecrated and installed on Sept. 17, is actually the third bishop to serve the 169 islands – or the 36 inhabited islands – that make up Tonga.

The first Anglican missionary to Tonga was Bishop Alfred Willis, who arrived in 1902.  And in the mid-1960s, Bishop Fine Halapua, the father of Archbishop Winston Halapua, lived in Tonga as he served as a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Polynesia. But now, after a gap of 50 years, Tonga has its third bishop – this time the first bishop of the newly constituted episcopal unit of Tonga.

Full article.

‘Don’t forget us’: Orphaned girl’s plea leads to film and book of poems

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 2:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A book of poems written by the girls of an Episcopal orphanage in Honduras has been published. The release of the anthology, “Counting Time Like People Count Stars,” coincides with the screening of a film about the girls and the poetry project at major film festivals. The film, produced by Hollywood actor James Franco, was originally called “Las Chavas” – home girls – but had been retitled “Voices Beyond The Wall” by the time it premiered at the Miami International Film Festival earlier this year.

Full article.

Diocese of Alaska backs grassroots climate efforts as it prepares to welcome Episcopal bishops

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 12:04pm

Members of the Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition pose for a photo Jan. 9 after rallying at the federal building in Fairbanks in opposition to climate change deniers in the Trump cabinet. Photo: Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition, via Facebook.

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Diocese of Alaska is working with a grassroots group called Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition to educate communities about renewable power sources and to empower native Alaskans and other residents to speak out on issues related to climate change.

The Episcopal Church’s United Thank Offering, or UTO, program awarded the diocese a $5,000 grant this year to support the coalition and its efforts, which still are gaining momentum three years after a small group of activists began collaborating on these issues.

“In the last year, they have just had some incredible energy in sort of developing this ecumenical community organizing around the issue of sustainable energy and sustainable environment,” Bishop Mark Lattime said in a phone interview with Episcopal News Service.

The diocese’s office in Fairbanks has just three staff members so Lattime said the way for the church to live out its baptismal vow to care for God’s creation is to rally behind the good work of active citizens and Episcopalians at the local level.

Members of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops will learn about these and other related efforts when they meet in Fairbanks, beginning Sept. 21. As host, Lattime is emphasizing the themes of creation care and racial justice for indigenous people. Those two themes are closely related, he said.

“My vision of this was to be honoring our Native folks and their concerns for the care of creation. They’re the ones – folks who live closest to the land, folks who have depended on a subsistence lifestyle for centuries – those are the ones who are effected by climate change most significantly,” he said.

Lattime spoke about the challenges and joys of ministry in Alaska in a series of videos here.

The bishops, who meet from Sept. 21 to 27, will spend a day visiting Native villages in the Interior. They will listen to villagers’ stories and then bless the land, water and other natural resources.

The House of Bishops meeting also will feature a presentation on indigenous Alaskan culture. One of the presenters will be Princess Johnson, a Fairbanks resident of Gwich’in heritage who was one of the founders of Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition. She also was a member of the Episcopal Church’s delegation that traveled to Paris in December 2015 for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP21.

“We need to recognize our connection to our Mother Earth and our role in being really protectors, and also that we can’t live without clean air and water and land and we need to ultimately transition off fossil fuels,” Johnson told ENS.

She said the Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition originated in conversations she had with other Alaskans she met in September 2014 at a Fairbanks rally in solidarity with the People’s Climate March in New York City. Those conversations turned to the concrete steps they could take locally to fight climate change, and in November 2015, the coalition was born.

It further gained steam after a climate accord was reached at COP21. Local activists felt an additional sense of urgency this year after President Donald Trump said he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, Johnson said.

The coalition has created several working groups to lead efforts such as renewable energy and interfaith collaboration. Coalition meetings and training sessions now typically draw several dozen environmentally minded residents of the Fairbanks area. Education is a big emphasis, and the coalition is eager to expand that work with the help of the $5,000 UTO grant.

“There’s been a long history, I think, of the Episcopal Church being ahead of the curve and forward-thinking in terms of really being caretakers and emphasizing that we are all caretakers of God’s creation,” Johnson said.

Some of the trainings offer guidance for using solar, wind and other renewable resources for energy. The coalition also is training residents of the Fairbanks area to be politically active on these issues in the face of some distinctly Alaskan hurdles.

Alaska’s great size – that vast expanse of northern forests, mountains and far-flung cities and villages – poses political challenges, especial for Alaskans living in native villages. Adding their voices to debates on oil drilling, clean water and wilderness preservation isn’t as easy as hopping in a car and driving to the statehouse. Alaska’s capital, Juneau, isn’t even reachable by road, and flights across the state can become cost-prohibitive.

The Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition has found success in organizing trips to Juneau for members. Last year, it cobbled together enough donations to fly a 14-person delegation more than 600 miles to the state capital to meet with lawmakers and voice their opposition to a state resolution supporting opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

Johnson said such face-to-face interaction is effective in conveying to lawmakers how environmental issues have a direct impact on indigenous people’s ability to live off the land and protect their way of life. The coalition hopes to be able to organizer more such trips in the future.

The coalition and the diocese also are careful not to vilify the oil industry. The economic reality is that the oil industry dominates the state economy. The coalition instead talks of a “just transition” toward a new economic model and away from the use of fossil fuels that is making climate change worse.

“Their hope is slowly, bit by bit, to get interior Alaska transitioned to using alternative forms of energy production, even at the village level,” Lattime said.

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

Volunteers pitch in to clean up Georgia’s Honey Creek Retreat Center

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 3:25pm

Thirty volunteers from the Diocese of Georgia spent Sept. 16 to 17 at the Honey Creek Retreat Center clearing debris left by Hurricane Irma. Photo: Frank Logue

[Episcopal Diocese of Georgia] Some 1,300 people were scheduled to arrive on Honey Creek Retreat Center’s grounds on Sept. 17 for a revival featuring Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Instead, 30 volunteers from the Diocese of Georgia spent the weekend clearing debris left by Hurricane Irma.

The Rev. Alan Akridge, rector of St. Mark’s Church in nearby Brunswick, cuts a downed tree in front of the Chapel of Our Saviour at Honey Creek. Photo: Frank Logue

There were “five worksites focusing on yard and tree debris cleanup and a kitchen team working to feed everyone,” said executive director Dade Brantley. To give an idea of the scope of the clean-up, last year with Hurricane Matthew there were 23 trees down which equaled 100 metric tons of debris. This year, 67 trees were down with double the tonnage, he said.

“It was grace, straight up grace” that there wasn’t more damage to buildings, Brantley said. He pointed toward the chapel and the remains of two trees which he said “grew up in tandem and died in tandem next to the chapel.”

One could have hit the chapel but it didn’t. He pointed out similar examples at Jonnard Dormitory and the kitchen garden, trees that just missed landing on buildings.

The Revival: Fearless Faith, Boundless Love has been rescheduled for Jan. 20 at Honey Creek. “Good planning, great vendor partnerships and a little bit of luck enabled us to identify an alternative day for the revival,” said Katie Willoughby, canon for administration. “We look forward to an exciting and spiritual event — now with a little cooler weather.”