Episcopal News Service

Subscribe to Episcopal News Service feed
The official news service of the Episcopal Church.
Updated: 1 hour 9 min ago

Lusophone Network works toward annual Anglican Communion-wide day of prayer

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 2:13pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Delegates at the Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) Network meeting in Porto have set out plans to focus on four key areas as they seek to develop the group. And they want to create a Lusophone Network Day of Prayer across the Communion – on the last Sunday of the Church year, the Feast of Christ the King. The network is to concentrate on strengthening its work in theological education; development/care for creation; work with women and young people and communication.

Read the full article here.

Este artigo também está disponível em português.

Chicago’s St. James Episcopal Cathedral appoints Dent Davidson missioner for music and liturgy

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 3:25pm

[St. James Cathedral, Chicago] St. James Cathedral announced today the appointment of Dent Davidson as half-time missioner for music and liturgy, effective January 1, 2018. Davidson will serve St. James alongside his ministry for the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago as associate for liturgy and the arts. Davidson also serves as music chaplain to the Episcopal Church House of Bishops.

“The Cathedral Chapter is enormously excited at being able to call Dent Davidson to work with us as we expand our liturgical offerings,” said Dean Dominic Barrington. “I have been inspired by Dent’s vision for music and liturgy since I arrived in Chicago, and it is a source of joy for me that we will be able to bring his gifts to the cathedral community.”

Cathedral Director of Music Stephen Buzard concurred. “I am thrilled to welcome Dent Davidson to St. James’ music team. Our collaborations on diocesan liturgies have given me a glimpse of what we can achieve through an ongoing partnership. I look forward to our building upon the firm foundation of our musical heritage to reach a wider audience of potential seekers,” Buzard said.

Davidson said of the appointment: “Over the last decade my vocation has focused on developing the gift of song as a component of congregational vitality. It’s all about transforming lives and changing hearts. I’m delighted to join with Stephen and Dominic and the rest of the cathedral team, to enhance the scope of St. James’ ministry throughout the diocese and its outreach to the wider church.”

A professional church musician since his teens, Davidson’s prior responsibilities include leading music ministry at St. Paul and the Redeemer Episcopal Church, Chicago; St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Medina, Wash.; and St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle. Davidson earned a degree in music composition and vocal jazz at Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle.

St. James Cathedral is a vibrant and historic Episcopal church in the heart of Chicago. The congregation draws members from our downtown neighborhood, across the city, and from the Chicago suburbs. Our diversity also extends to our worship, which balances traditional liturgy with progressive, theologically grounded preaching which fully embraces all people into the body of Christ regardless of age, ethnicity, expression, orientation, or background. We seek to engage with our communities by listening to our neighbors, serving those in need, and asking challenging and culturally relevant questions about faith, identity, and experience. As the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, St. James is the site of diocesan-wide events and celebrations.

Anglican conference center opens in heart of Cairo

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 1:35pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A new conference center in Cairo has been opened by the Diocese of Egypt. The All Saints’ Garden Conference Center is in Zamalek – an island within the Nile River. Situated in the diocesan office complex, the conference centre’s 16 deluxe rooms can accommodate up to 44 guests; while the conference rooms can cater for up to 100 people. Additional guests can be accommodated in a separate guest house across the road.

Read the full article here.

Episcopalians help boost Affordable Care Act sign-up numbers in uphill battle under Trump

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 3:45pm

[Episcopal News Service] Reports of Obamacare’s death may have been greatly exaggerated.

Millions of Americans this month have signed up for health insurance on HealthCare.Gov, the website established by the Affordable Care Act, despite the Trump administration cutting spending on advertising and assistance, and declaring President Barack Obama’s signature law “dead” and “gone.”  The administration also cut the sign-up period in half, so with a window of only 45 days, Episcopalians have joined with activists and organizations around the country to get the word out.

So far, those efforts appear to have succeeded in a big way as the Dec. 15 deadline approaches.

Be on the lookout! Open Enrollment for 2018 coverage ends on December 15. https://t.co/rxEC3NkHV4 pic.twitter.com/ofEmHUfnhh

— HealthCare.gov (@HealthCareGov) November 27, 2017

“This has been fun. This has been an underdog story,” Ariel Miller, an Episcopalian from Cincinnati, Ohio, told Episcopal News Service. She has worked at the grassroots level to spread the word on social media and to invite local media coverage of the sign-up period. “We’re just trying to make people aware that all the resources are still there.”

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations has encouraged dioceses and congregations to help promote the sign-up period however they can. Often that advocacy has simply meant distributing key information about the process. The Diocese of Southern Ohio invited Miller, the diocese’s former Episcopal Community Services executive director, to write an article for the diocesan digital newsletter.

On Dec. 2, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sylva, North Carolina will host Legal Aid of North Carolina, a group that is providing guidance to state residents looking to sign up for health insurance on the federal marketplace.

“I was happy to open up the church for something like this,” said the Rev. Pattie Curtis, rector at St. John’s. “I believe that people ought to have access to affordable health care.”

The Office of Government Relations, though not involved in the sign-up process, has links on its website to resources that can assist people looking to sign up for health insurance or those who want to help get the word out.

The office also has advocated in Washington, D.C., for policies that would fulfill multiple General Convention resolutions calling for universal health care or steps in that direction, most notably in a series of resolutions passed in 2009. One of those resolutions cited “the Gospel message of concern for others which extends to concern for their physical health as well as spiritual well-being.”

That message has inspired Miller’s work in Ohio.

“I think that Jesus spent a tremendous amount of time listening to and responding to people that were sick and helping them overcome their illness,” she said.

Sara Lilja, director of Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry of New Jersey, sees similar inspiration for her agency’s work in helping people enroll for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“Jesus over and over again in the text promotes healing and intends for all of God’s children to be well both physically and spiritually,” Lilja said.

Her agency, a partnership of the state’s two Episcopal dioceses and the New Jersey synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has sought to connect more people with insurance coverage during the federal sign-up period by providing information directly to clergy serving groups more likely to struggle with obtaining coverage and navigating the process, such as seniors, the poor and immigrants.

The agency also emails a weekly newsletter to its subscribers that ties each Sunday’s liturgical readings to current events and policy matters. Health care has been a top focus since the federal enrollment began Nov. 1, especially with federal and state cuts to promotion and enrollment assistance.

“We’re trying to plug the holes with our community partners and trusted organizations around the state,” Lilja said. “It’s absolutely a spiritual issue, it’s a faith issue and it’s also a public policy issue. And at the end of the day, it’s an economic issue.”

The open enrollment deadline on HealthCare.Gov is Dec. 15. Photo illustration by Episcopal News Service

Nearly 800,000 people enrolled for health insurance coverage on HealthCare.gov in the week ending Nov. 18, pushing the cumulative total to almost 2.3 million, according to the most recent weekly update from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Sign-ups in these early weeks of enrollment have outpaced the results seen in past years to this point. It remains to be seen if the shorter enrollment period will have a negative effect on the final total, and there are other threats to the federal marketplace sustainability, such as the loss of some insurance providers. But supporters of the Affordable Care Act say the strong sign-up response so far flies in the face of the dire assessments of President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.

“It’s the biggest start to open enrollment ever,” Lori Lodes, a former Obama administration official, told the New York Times after the first week’s totals were released. Lodes is a founder of Get America Covered, a nonprofit that helps spread information on health insurance options. “It shows that people really want to get health insurance and value it.”

HealthCare.gov is the enrollment site for residents in the 39 states that opted out of setting up their own insurance marketplaces. Last year, 9.2 million people signed up through the federal marketplace during an enrollment period that lasted until the end of January.

This year, Florida had the most number of sign-ups as of Nov. 18 with nearly 500,000, followed by Texas with 272,000.

Texas is ranked last in the country in access to health care, Episcopal Health Foundation’s Brian Sasser said, so the sign-up numbers are cause for hope.

“That’s the easiest way now for folks to get health insurance, and we believe access to care is a key reason many people don’t get preventive care and care that they need,” said Sasser, communication director for the Houston-based foundation, which serves the Diocese of Texas. “If you give access to care, it makes a community healthier all around.”

This year, the foundation awarded $92,000 to a group called Young Invincibles to help promote the sign-up period to young adults in Texas.

The foundation also conducts research on the problem of the uninsured in Texas and the impact the Affordable Care Act has had on increasing the rate of coverage. Sasser said the goal of the research is to help improve health care access for all Texans: “What’s keeping people from having access to care, and what can we learn from what’s going right and what’s going wrong to increase that?”

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

Bishop of Belize: ‘Children are an important part of who we are’

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 1:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The bishop of Belize, Philip Wright, has spoken of the importance of children during an interview conducted by a student of Belize High School. The interview was conducted by 13-year-old Aajalee Turton as part of a project organized by the Special Envoy for Children and Women in Belize, for International Children’s Day last week. It was one of a number of interviews carried out by children  as part of the project.

Read the entire article here.

Archbishop of Cape Town calls on churches to pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come’

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 12:58pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, has asked churches in his province to take part in next year’s “Thy Kingdom Come” global prayer initiative. “Thy Kingdom Come” began in 2016 as an invitation from the archbishops of Canterbury and York to the clergy in the Church of England to pray for mission and evangelism during the 10 days between Ascension Day and Pentecost. It was picked up by other Christian churches in England and around the world and is now an annual global prayer movement. This year, churches in 85 different countries took part. In 2018, the initiative will run May 10 to 20.

Read the entire article here.

Australian churches call for resettlement of Manus Island refugees

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 12:51pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Three ecumenical groups in Australia are urging the federal government to re-settle refugees formerly housed in the Manus Island refugee camp “safely, swiftly and with the greatest regard to family unity.” The Manus Island facility in Papua New Guinea was one of a number of off-shore detention centers used by the Australian government to process and keep refugees seeking asylum in Australia. The camp was finally closed last week as PNG authorities moved the remaining 328 men at the decommissioned center to new camps. Australia has faced repeated international criticism for the conditions in its off-shore detention centers.

Read the entire article here.

 

Episcopales ayudan a incrementar el número de inscritos en el Omabacare pese a las dificultades orquestadas por Trump

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 12:45pm

[Episcopal News Service] Los anuncios de la muerte del Obamacare pueden haber sido una exageración.

Millones de estadounidenses se han inscrito este mes en el seguro de salud en HealthCare.Gov, el sitio web establecido por la Ley de Atención Médica Asequible, pese a que el gobierno de Trump redujo los costos de publicidad y ayuda y declaró la ley emblemática del presidente Obama “muerta” y “desaparecida”.  La Administración también redujo el tiempo de inscripción a la mitad, de manera que en un período de sólo 45 días los episcopales se han unido con activistas y organizaciones de todo el país para correr la voz. Hasta ahora, esos empeños parecen haber tenido inmenso éxito en tanto se acerca la fecha límite del 15 de diciembre.

“Esto ha sido divertido. Ha sido la historia del subestimado”, le dijo Ariel Miller, episcopal de Cincinnati, Ohio, a Episcopal News Service. Ella ha trabajado a nivel de base para propagar la noticia en las redes sociales e invitar a los medios de prensa a que cubran el período de inscripción. “Estamos tratando de que la gente cobre conciencia de que todos los recursos siguen estando allí”.

La Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal ha alentado a diócesis y congregaciones a ayudar a promover el período de inscripción siempre que puedan. Con frecuencia esa promoción ha significado simplemente la distribución de información clave acerca del proceso. La Diócesis de Ohio Sur invitó a Miller, ex directora ejecutiva de Servicios Episcopales Comunitarios, a escribir un artículo para el boletín digital diocesano.

El 2 de diciembre, de 8 A.M. a 4 P.M., la iglesia episcopal de San Juan [St. John’s Episcopal Church] en Sylva, Carolina del Norte, servirá de anfitrión a Ayuda Legal de Carolina del Norte [Legal Aid of North Carolina], una agrupación que ofrece orientación a los residentes del estado que andan buscando adquirir un seguro de salud en el mercado federal.

“Estaba contenta de abrir la iglesia para algo como esto”, dijo la Rda. Pattie Curtis, rectora de San Juan. “Creo que las personas deben tener acceso a una atención médica asequible”.

La Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales, aunque no participa en el proceso de inscripción, tiene enlaces en su cibersitio con recursos que pueden ayudar a las personas que buscan inscribirse en un seguro de salud o los que quieren ayudar a correr la voz.

La oficina también ha abogado en Washington, D.C., a favor de políticas que cumplirían múltiples resoluciones de la Convención General que reclaman atención sanitaria universal o pasos en esa dirección, de manera más notable en una serie de resoluciones aprobadas en 2009. Una de las resoluciones citaba “el mensaje del Evangelio de preocupación por los demás que se extiende a interés por su salud física así como por su bienestar espiritual”.

Ese mensaje ha inspirado la obra de Miller en Ohio.

“Creo que Jesús dedicó una enorme cantidad de tiempo a escuchar y a responder a personas que estaban enfermas y a ayudarles a vencer su enfermedad”, dijo ella.

Sara Lilja, directora del Ministerio de Defensa Social Luterano Episcopal de New Jersey, ve semejante inspiración para su labor de la agencia en ayudar a las personas a tomar un seguro de salud conforme a la Ley de Atención Médica Asequible.

“Jesús una y otra vez en el texto [sagrado] promueve la salud y busca que todos los hijos de Dios estén bien tanto física como espiritualmente”, dijo Lilja.

Su agencia, una asociación de la dos diócesis episcopales del estado y del sínodo de Nueva Jersey de la Iglesia Evangélica Luterana en América, ha buscado  conectar a más personas con la cobertura del seguro durante el período federal de inscripción proporcionando información directamente a clérigos que atienden a grupos más propensos a tener dificultades en obtener cobertura o llevar a cabo el proceso por vía electrónica, tales como ancianos, pobres e inmigrantes.

La agencia también envía semanalmente un boletín digital a sus suscriptores que asocia las lecturas litúrgicas de cada domingo a los acontecimientos actuales y cuestiones de política. La atención sanitaria ha sido un tema importante desde que comenzó la inscripción federal el 1 de noviembre, especialmente teniendo en cuenta las reducciones federales y estatales a la promoción y la ayuda a la inscripción.

“Estamos intentando llenar los agujeros con nuestros asociados de la comunidad y organizaciones fiables en el estado”, dijo Lilja. “Es un asunto absolutamente espiritual, es un problema de fe y es también un problema de política pública. Y en definitiva, es un problema económico”.

La fecha límite de inscripción en HealthCare.Gov es el 15 de diciembre. Foto ilustración de ENS.

Cerca de 800.000 personas se inscribieron para obtener seguro de salud en HealthCare.gov en la semana que terminó el 18 de noviembre, aumentando el total acumulativo a casi 2,3 millones, según la actualización semanal más reciente de los Centros[federales] para los Servicios de Medicare y Medicaid.

Las inscripciones en estas primeras semanas han sobrepasado los resultados vistos en los últimos años hasta este punto. Queda por ver si el período de inscripción más corto tendrá un efecto negativo en el último total, y hay otras amenazas a la sostenibilidad del mercado federal, tal como la pérdida de algunos proveedores de salud. Pero los partidarios de la Ley de Atención Médica Asequible dicen que la masiva respuesta a la inscripción dista de los terribles pronósticos del presidente Donald Trump y de los republicanos en el Congreso.

“Es el mayor comienzo que jamás haya habido a una inscripción abierta”, dijo Lori Lodes, ex funcionaria del gobierno de Obama,  al New York Times luego de que se dieran a conocer los totales de la primera semana. Lodes es fundadora de Get America Covered, una institución sin fines de lucro que ayuda a propagar información sobre opciones de seguros de salud.

“Muestra que la gente quiere obtener un seguro de salud y que lo valora”.

HealthCare.gov es el sitio para inscribirse en los 39 estados que optaron por establecer su propio mercado de seguros. El año pasado, 9,2 millones se inscribieron a través del mercado federal durante un período de inscripción que duró hasta fines de enero.

Este año, Florida tenía el mayor número de inscripciones hasta el 18 de noviembre, con casi 500.000, seguido por Texas con 272.000.

Texas está clasificado como el último [estado] del país en el acceso a la atención sanitaria, dijo Brian Sasser de la Fundación Episcopal de la Salud, de manera que el número de los inscritos allí son motivo de esperanza.

“Esa es la manera más fácil que la gente tiene ahora de conseguir un seguro de salud, y creemos que el acceso a la atención médica es una razón fundamental por la que muchas personas no tienen atención médica preventiva ni el cuidado que necesitan”, dijo Sasser, director de comunicaciones de la fundación con sede en Houston, la cual sirve a la Diócesis de Texas. “Si das acceso a la atención sanitaria, eso hace a una comunidad más sana en general”.

Este año, la fundación otorgó $92.000 a un grupo llamado Jóvenes Invencibles para ayudar a promover el período de inscripción para jóvenes adultos en Texas.

La fundación también realiza investigaciones sobre el problema de las personas sin seguro [de salud] en Texas y del impacto que ha tenido la Ley de Atención Médica Asequible en el aumento de la tasa de cobertura. Sasser dijo que el objetivo de la investigación es ayudar a mejorar el acceso al cuidado de la salud para todos los texanos: “¿Qué se logra con evitar que las personas tengan acceso a la atención sanitaria y qué podemos aprender de lo que sale bien y de lo que sale mal al aumentarlo?”

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

Former Archbishop of Canterbury invites faith leaders to join 16-Days of Activism

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 2:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has urged faith leaders across the world to identify with the global campaign against gender-based violence. In a video message for Christian Aid, Britain’s ecumenical aid agency which he chairs, Rowan said that faith leaders can still play a crucial role in many of the contexts where gender-based violence is a challenge; and he urged them to “make a personal pledge to identify with” the 16-Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, which began Nov. 25, International Women’s Day, and concludes on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day.

Read the entire article here.

Archbishop calls for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission in Zimbabwe

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 2:36pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has called for the new government in Zimbabwe to deal with past injustices. Speaking on the BBC’s “The Andrew Marr Show” Nov. 26, the second-most senior cleric in the Church of England suggested that the country should follow South Africa’s example and establish a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. Ten years ago, Sentamu cut up his clerical collar on the program, saying he would not wear one again until Robert Mugabe had left power. Yesterday, he put a new collar on for the first time in a decade.

Read the entire article here.

Church bells ring out in solidarity with Muslim victims of North Sinai mosque bomb

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 2:33pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Church bells rang out across Egypt on Nov. 25, as an act of solidarity with the Muslim community, following a terror attack on the al-Rawda mosque in Bir al-Abed, North Sinai. Bombs exploded at the mosque before gunmen entered and opened fire on those still standing. The death toll currently stands at 305. More than 100 people are being treated in hospital.

Read the entire article here.

Church without walls uses food truck to drive home Christian mission of feeding body, soul

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 1:39pm

Volunteers with St. Isidore’s Episcopal Church’s Abundant Harvest food truck distribute free meals in early September as part of Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in the Houston, Texas, area. Photo: Abundant Harvest

[Episcopal News Service] It is hard to differentiate the feeding ministry from the work of spiritual enrichment underway at St. Isidore’s Episcopal Church. That difficulty is by design.

St. Isidore’s is a church built without walls but with a set of wheels that allows it to bring faith and food to several small communities of worshipers north of Houston, Texas. Some meet at a Taco Bell or a Panera Bread, others at a laundromat. Central to the mission is the Abundant Harvest food truck, which serves as a focal point for developing Christian relationships while alleviating both physical and spiritual hunger.

“I think people need to be nourished body, mind and soul,” said the Rev. Sean Steele, who started St. Isidore’s in 2015 as a church plant through Trinity Episcopal Church in The Woodlands, Texas. It now supports eight distinct faith communities totaling about 80 people, as well as its Abundant Harvest ministries. “Feeding and eating is a huge part of everything we do.”

Episcopal News Service caught up with him by phone to conclude its “Food and Faith” series on the range of efforts within the Episcopal Church to fight hunger.

The Rev. Sean Steele leads a September gathering of the Warrior Church, a community of St. Isidore’s Episcopal Church that meets for fellowship, worship and exercise at a fitness club in the Houston area. Photo: Warrior Church, via Facebook

‘Food and Faith’

Episcopal News Service’s five-part series focuses on anti-hunger efforts in the Episcopal Church, from food pantries to the church’s advocacy on government programs that fight hunger. All stories in the series are available here.

St. Isidore’s growth over the past few months has been driven largely by the congregation’s relief efforts in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Steele estimates his parishioners and volunteers have served about 10,000 meals to people suddenly in need of food because they lost their homes in the late-August storm and subsequent flooding.

“It has shown us what we are capable of,” Steele said. And although the urgent need for hurricane relief has thankfully decreased, the feeding ministry has maintained its momentum. Donations have increased. Its volunteer list has more than tripled. St. Isidore’s likely will serve 750 meals or more each week through the end of the year.

Steele isn’t the only Episcopal priest enlisting a food truck to disseminate meals and a gospel message, nor is he alone in the church planting trend of holding spiritual gatherings outside of traditional church spaces. But his work is receiving national attention partly for his deliberate blend of outreach and Episcopal traditions, preferring not to minimize sacramental connections.

“There’s something to do with how we eat and who we eat with that says something about how we relate to God above,” Steele said, adding that references to food permeate the gospels.

He cited Matthew 25, in which Jesus said those who care for the needy will inherit the kingdom of the God. Jesus’ list of those in need is expansive – strangers, prisoners, the sick, the naked – and it starts with those who hunger and thirst: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,” he says.

The idea behind St. Isidore’s is to go beyond giving food to the hungry. Steele and other staff members and volunteers are deliberate about creating communion at the same time.

“It’s really our idea not to just pop in and get people fed and leave again,” said Molly Carr, the full-time food truck missioner at St. Isidore’s. “Ours is really about community, about building relationship around the table, and that is how we think Jesus built relationships. We’re kind of following that lead.”

St. Isidore’s food truck missioner Molly Carr shows off the Abundant Harvest truck, which is the focal point of many of the church’s ministries. Photo: Abundant Harvest

Part of her role resembles that of a food pantry coordinator, as she collects excess groceries donated by stores in the suburban Houston area to repackage for distribution through the food truck. That process becomes an opportunity to bring together another one of St. Isidore’s communities: The volunteers who gather twice a week to help sort the food while also enjoying fellowship, Christian renewal and the meals that they bring back to their families at home.

In this, as in each of St. Isidore’s communities, Steele said the goal is to create a sacred space that maintains sacramental Christianity without depending on a church building.

“I love churches,” Steele said. “I’m just not entirely sure we need to build many more of them.”

Searching for the church economy

Steele, born in Omaha, Nebraska, spent most of his childhood in California, where he described his spiritual upbringing as “culturally Irish Roman Catholic.” His family moved to Houston when he was 16. He didn’t initially hear a call to ordained ministry, going to college instead to study finance and accounting.

That training helped him land a job at Enron, at a time when the Houston-based energy company was one of the largest in the world – but also shortly before it would collapse into bankruptcy in 2001.

Suddenly out of a job, “I had a sort of moment of clarity where I realized that’s not the direction I wanted to take my life,” he said. Instead, he went back to school and got a master’s degree in Roman Catholic systematic theology.

A fellow student in his program was an Episcopalian and introduced Steele to the Episcopal Church. From that experience, Steele embarked in 2006 on a six-year journey to ordination, first as an Episcopal deacon in 2012 and as a priest in 2013 after graduating from the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Trinity Episcopal in The Woodlands was his first church, where he served his curacy. In conversations with Trinity’s rector, the Rev. Gerald Sevick, Steele already had ideas for starting a church plant, and Steele said Sevick encouraged that thinking, as did Diocese of Texas Bishop Andy Doyle.

As Steele took on the role of associate rector at Trinity, Sevick gave him a few hours each week starting in early 2015 in which he was free to dream big, get creative, conduct research and search for the answer to what it means to be church in the 21st century.

By October 2015, he had a plan for St. Isidore’s as a church plant of Trinity Episcopal, with fundraising underway and an initial goal of purchasing a food truck. Named for the patron saint of peasant laborers, St. Isidore’s started with one community of eight adults and five children, including Steele’s own family, that met in a house.

Since then, it has grown to include groups that meet at restaurants, taverns, a boxing gym and spoken-word poetry events. Its monthly “laundry love” events at a local laundromat pay for hundreds of loads of laundry, but they don’t end there – Mass is held inside the laundromat in English and Spanish, and worshipers also are offered social service assistance, from flu shots to haircuts.

And, of course, food is served. The laundromat is one of the many regular stops on the Abundant Harvest truck’s monthly route, which includes meals at a low-income apartment complex.

“We are a church that believes, at the heart, we are called to feed people,” Steele said. “So, we create environments where communion is built around the table.”

Coffee, prayer and an abundant harvest

The community dinners offered at the apartment complex come with a prayer service. There’s always an extra seat at the table, Carr said, and volunteers are assigned specifically to engage the residents in conversations and make them feel welcome as they are eating their meals.

“These are our neighbors we’re eating with, and they’re eating with their neighbors,” Carr said. “And when you can have a conversation over a meal that’s healthy and tastes good, physiologically, that’s going to make you feel better.”

Steele talks of promoting a church economy that values things differently from American capitalist society. That church economy is on humble display every Monday and Thursday morning in the kitchen of Trinity Episcopal.

At 6:45 a.m., about a half dozen people gather to help unload food deliveries and sort through bruised apples, rotten bananas and cracked eggs to repackage unspoiled items suitable for the families that the Abundant Harvest food truck serves.

These volunteers also are some of the food truck’s clients, ranging from struggling college students to senior citizens to single parents, and they get to take a portion of the food home with them, a process of giving and receiving that sends ripples in all directions.

“It’s really a very mellow and positive environment,” said Dulce Cueva Salas, a 33-year-old native of Costa Rica who is part of the crew of volunteers that helps sort food on Mondays. Carr also hired Cueva Salas part time this fall to help with some of the meal distribution, especially in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods.

“The whole idea behind the food truck, behind Abundant Harvest, it just drives me,” Cueva Salas said. “It really calls me. I feel like I have a call.”

New volunteers come and go, making friends along the way as they work their morning shifts. Some volunteers have in the past invited others over for dinner, enjoying the food they have received together and further extending the fellowship.

The choice of the word “abundant” in the food truck ministry’s name was deliberate. God’s abundance is everywhere, Carr said, and not just in the food these families share. After bringing in the food, they pause each morning to have coffee and pray together. When the sorting begins, Carr puts on music in the background. Conversations bloom – not necessarily serious or profound, just people catching up on their lives, she said.

The work and cleanup are usually done by 8 a.m. (or by 7:30 a.m. for Carr’s more-experienced Thursday crew), and the volunteers say their goodbyes and go on their way with their bags of food.

“We’re trying to give people an amount of food that actually makes a difference,” Steele said.

The food Cueva Salas takes home after volunteering Mondays mornings – bread, milk, cheese, eggs, meat and plenty of fruits and vegetables – make a big difference for her family. Her husband is unemployed, and they have a 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter to feed.

“It has been a blessing for us,” she said, and the work has been a personal blessing for her. “I love cooking. I love prepping food and giving it to people. I think the best times is when you are around people eating.”

Not everyone who participates in one of St. Isidore’s communities comes to nurture their relationship with God, Steele said. When the food truck stops at the laundromat, some visitors pick up food and simply go home. That’s fine, too.

“The goal is to bring about the kingdom of God,” Steele said. “And then I think that, of course, at the end of the day, we are called to feed people that are hungry and give them food. People are thirsty, we want to give them drink.”

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

Episcopal food ministries help neighbors give thanks more than a month after deadly Northern California wildfires

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 3:42pm

Volunteers Alicia Wu and Emily Liu, high school sophomores from Los Altos, California, spend Nov. 18 planting organic fava bean seeds in the burned-over vineyards owned by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church member Charles Johnston of Helena View Johnston Vineyards in Napa Valley, California. The October fires killed more than 40 people and destroyed about 245,000 acres in Northern California. Photo: Charles Johnston

[Episcopal News Service] Emma Green was scrolling through her Facebook news feed about 9:30 p.m. in early October when she first learned about the Northern California fires in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties. Throughout that harrowing first night, she and her fellow volunteers connected about 2,000 people requesting help to those asking how to help.

Green is poised to provide efficient aid like few people are — all because she’s the Community Meal Program coordinator at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Vacaville, a town in Solano County. With fewer than 100 members, her church is small, but that community program is mighty.

“Because we feed the homeless on a regular basis, we already have that network of contacts in place. If a caterer makes food, with one text we can have that in 20 minutes,” Green told the Episcopal News Service. “Our network for our little meal program was what kicked in that first night, that first 24 hours,” Green said. “I was so proud of our little church.”

You’d think Thanksgiving, a holiday to celebrate God’s gifts of abundance, might be hard this year for these fire victims and volunteers. When it comes to food and drink, many Episcopalians in the fire-ravaged area lost so much, yet they gained community support they never expected. Not to minimize the traumatic disaster that took more than 40 lives and ravaged 245,000 acres, but the galvanizing of volunteers and donations since then has touched the hearts of many.

Green’s church will have a Thanksgiving dinner Nov. 24, for its regularly scheduled Friday night hot meal for the needy. On Nov. 21, the regular Tuesday soup night, they had pumpkin cream soup with stuffing and pumpkin pie.

At St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Calistoga, there was an interfaith Community Thanksgiving Service with drinks and dessert two nights before Thanksgiving, to hear about people’s experiences through this ordeal. The Rev. Susan Napoliello, deacon at St. Luke’s, also attended a Thanksgiving feast the Saturday before the holiday, hosted by Napa Interfaith Council.

Episcopalians joined members of other faith communities for an early Thanksgiving dinner Nov. 18 sponsored by the Napa Interfaith Council. Photo: the Rev. Susan Napoliello

Whether they’re victims, volunteers or both, many are finding gratitude and focusing on Christ’s all-encompassing love this Thanksgiving weekend.

“We have to look at our blessings. You ask God for a directive and are inspired. You recognize the broadness of what you’re doing and move forward,” Charles Johnston told ENS. “I am fortunate. I have the ability to recover.”

A member of St. Luke’s, Charles Johnston has been a wine grower and maker for 26 years before the fires destroyed his home and his organic vineyards at Helena View Johnston Vineyards in Napa Valley.

The wildfires that raged in Northern California in October destroyed lives and billions of dollars in property, including Charles Johnston’s Helena View Johnston Vineyards in Napa Valley. Photo courtesy of Charles Johnston

He also lost 30,000 bottles of red wine and 12,000 gallons of wine in barrels. Although Johnston has a separate home in the city of Calistoga, he, his wife and youngest daughter had moved all their belongings into the vineyard home. After the fires, he had two pairs of pants and one pair of shoes, all that was left back at the city home.

The Diocese of Northern California gave him two $250 checks for Daisy, his 6-year-old daughter, to replenish her Roman Catholic school uniforms. “That’s amazing,” Johnston said, his voice cracking. “I’ve been on the donor end most of my life. For us, we’re the victims this time. It makes me cry.”

Johnston sees signs everywhere of community and regeneration.

More than a month after the fires, several high school students from Los Altos in the Bay Area arrived at his vineyard to re-seed his land with 30 pounds of organic fava beans. They’ll come back next spring to pick them and take them home.

Johnston, a delegate to the 2017 Northern California diocesan convention, made it to the gathering just days after the fires and shared how this experience has changed his spiritual perspective.

“God has given me the pleasure of having nothing to deal with that’s material. All the letters, personal things, every single photograph – everything is gone. I look to my spiritual roots and say well, maybe there is something bigger than this that I’m supposed to do,” Johnston explained for ENS. “It takes heart to make this happen, how we all come together for a common cause. It wakes up our minds.”

Emily Liu and Alicia Wu, high school volunteers from Los Altos, California, help vineyard owner Charles Johnston Nov. 18, with organic reseeding as a way to control erosion and nitrogen enrichment. It’s one example of how communities unite to help in food efforts after the Northern California fires. Photo: courtesy of Charles Johnston

People are helping each other all sorts of ways with food.

Lori Korleski Richardson, diocesan interim communications director, said the community-supported agriculture group to which she belongs, Farm Fresh to You, has been asking its members to buy an extra box to be donated through the Redwood Empire Food Bank in Sonoma. The food bank then donates another box to double the food going to fire victims. St. Andrew’s Mission in Monte Rio is one of the food bank’s partners. Located in Santa Rosa, the mission’s food program provides groceries and hot meals to needy people.

The Rev. Josephine “Phina” Borgeson, a non-parochial deacon of the Diocese of Northern California and food ministry networker from the Russian River Deanery, told a Nov. 18 gathering at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Healdsburg: “Food ministry is my thing. With this fire, this urban fire, there is so much that is unknown. What’s happening to our crops? I contacted the cooperative extension and UC Davis and they said they had no research on toxins that are released during urban fires. Well, they should have plenty to work with soon; we’ve been doing lots of sampling in our watershed.”

Borgeson added in an interivew with ENS that there is a sense that heroic crisis efforts did not always jibe with existing food-recovery efforts, such as gleaning and food rescue, as well as they might have. The Sonoma County Food Recovery Coalition has been working on an online directory to ensure that produce and other food donations find a good home in ordinary times.

“We hope we can make it even better by learning what worked in the recent crisis,” Borgeson told ENS in an email.

In the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative October newsletter, founder Steve Schwartz wrote that the Sebastopol, California, organization’s mission is to work for food access, justice and sustainability, not necessarily emergency hunger relief. Yet: “some of the same ‘infrastructure’ such as coolers, refrigerators, storage bins and shelving that are key during an emergency also position a congregation to do more with gleaning, greening the pantry with fresh vegetables and other food access projects during more normal times,” he wrote.

Episcopal Community Services supports the development of community gardens, food pantries and feeding programs with mentoring, information-sharing and start-up grants, the Rev. Lucretia Jevne, president of the board of directors, told ENS by email.

Volunteers with the Community Meal Program at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Vacaville, California, prep for one of two weekly meals offered at the little church. Photo: Church of the Epiphany Community Response

One of those feeding programs is Green’s Community Meal Program at Church of the Epiphany in Vacaville, which received a United Thank Offering and is a Jubilee Ministry Center. “This group stepped up at the time of the fires by providing meals and supplies to various shelters,” Jevne said.

Green and her fellow volunteers coordinated the delivery of tents to those who lost their homes that first night. She started tearing up as she recalled the choking smoke, the cats whose ears and whiskers had burned off and the traumatized horses they fed and watered at the dilapidated stalls at Dixon May Fair, an evacuation site.

“It was one road away from burning the north end of our town. It was really scary,” Green said.

In a normal week, Green’s church kitchen prepares about 350 meals for the needy in the community. To accomplish this service, Green has a network of other Episcopal churches and churches of other religions, corporate food companies and local bakeries, and social services and government agencies. When the fires took over, that network enabled Green to quickly match the fire victims’ immediate needs and with available resources.

“In this environment, it’s not just cup of soup we hand you and say move along; we care about you. It’s where two or three are gathered, you know? It’s crazy how transforming that dynamic becomes when you just let go and let God,” Green said. “When everybody chips and does something as a team, it’s amazing what you can do; it’s like the loaves and fishes concept.”

The food has been aplenty.

At Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa, the Rev. James Richardson, the priest-in-charge, said they are still serving their Open Table Sunday breakfast and haven’t seen an upswing in guests for that program because of the fires.

Northern California residents came together to help each other during the late October wildfires. Even if those fires are out of the headlines, the need and the love continue. Photo: Church of the Epiphany Community Response

“The food banks during the fires were turning away food donations because there was nowhere to put it,” Richardson told ENS. “We also have a CSA that delivers to people at the church, and the service has not been interrupted. We really don’t have a shortage of stuff.”

The bigger issue at the moment is finding people rentals to live in and helping people pay their rents, Richardson said.

The Venerable Gary Brown, archdeacon for diaconal ministries at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Grass Valley, said some of his parishioners were evacuated from their communities. His rural town is in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of the major fires, although two smaller ones threatened them. A former psychiatric nurse for 40 years, Brown visited deacons in the harder-hit areas a month after the fires and listened to their experiences and emotions. Some were concerned about undocumented workers getting food and other necessities without land to work on.

“Just because the emergency is over, doesn’t mean it’s over for the people. It’s too easy to let that drop after the emergency services leave,” Brown said. “These folks have been very traumatized. What the church can do is provide people and places to listen to them. Just listen. Don’t ignore them.”

Those living far away can give to Episcopal Relief & Development’s U.S. Disaster Fund or to the Diocese of Northern California, via the options here.

“And pray,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of hurt and a lot of pain going on around here.”

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She can be reached at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com. Lori Korleski Richardson, diocesan interim communications director, contributed to this story.

New legal actions promise to extend South Carolina property litigation

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 1:15pm

[Episcopal News Service] Litigation in The Episcopal Church in South Carolina apparently will continue, despite the state Supreme Court’s recent refusal to reconsider its August ruling that the property, assets and most of its parishes must remain with the Episcopal Church.

The latest attempt to overturn that ruling came late Nov. 21 with the announcement that the U.S. Supreme Court will be asked to consider the state court’s decision. That announcement followed other news that another suit involving the property and assets has been filed.

Episcopalians in South Carolina have been reorganizing their common life since late 2012, after then-Bishop Mark Lawrence and a majority of clergy and lay leadership said that the diocese had left the Episcopal Church. They disagreed with the wider Episcopal Church about biblical authority and theology, primarily centered on the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church.

The breakaway group filed suit in January 2013 against the Episcopal Church. The diocese came into the lawsuit later. After a three-week trial in July 2014, Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein ruled in February 2015 that the breakaway group had the right to hold onto the diocesan name and property, including individual church buildings.

The state Supreme Court agreed in April 2015 to consider the case. The court took more than two years to issue its ruling, which came Aug. 2.

The remaining Episcopalians offered in June 2015 to let 35 parishes keep their church properties, whether or not they choose to remain part of the Episcopal Church.

In exchange, the proposal required the breakaway group to return the diocesan property, assets and identity of “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina” to the diocese that is still affiliated with the Episcopal Church. The breakaway group rejected the offer the day it was made public.

South Carolina Bishop Gladstone B. “Skip” Adams III on Nov. 19 welcomed what he called the clarity that the State Supreme Court’s decision provides the diocese, and he kept open the desire for reconciliation. “We believe this is what the Lord Jesus would expect of us and it is consistent with the teachings of St. Paul,” he said in a written statement. “We renew our commitment to this hard work of reconciliation in the days to come.”

That same day, the group that left the Episcopal Church filed their new lawsuit in the same county court where it began its original lawsuit. The new filing in Dorchester County cites a “betterments statute” to seek compensation from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and the Episcopal Church for the cost of improvements made to the properties over the years, according an announcement from The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

“This new filing is not only completely without merit, but unfortunate and inappropriate. It moves us no closer to the kind of resolution that restores unity to our diocese,” South Carolina Chancellor Thomas S. Tisdale said in that announcement.

Adams said in the announcement that he hoped that all the parties could work toward a common goal of reunifying and restoring the diocese.

“I appeal to the leaders of the disassociated group and their counsel to allow the people in the affected parishes to start having the necessary conversations with us to ensure that they can continue to worship in their churches. It is time to begin healing this division,” he said.

All parties in the case had previously agreed to mediation to work out how to implement the state Supreme Court ruling, as well as issues raised in a separate federal lawsuit. That mediation is scheduled to resume in Columbia, South Carolina, Dec. 4-5.

But, on Nov. 21, Lawrence announced that it was “with the weight of decision but conviction of heart and mind” that he supported his Standing Committee’s decision to petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, asking it to review the case.

A writ of certiorari asks the Supreme Court to review a lower court ruling. Filing a writ does not mean the high court will agree to take the case. The court receives more than 7,000 petitions and accepts between 100 and 150 cases, according to information from the federal court system. The Supreme Court usually agrees to consider cases that could have national significance, might harmonize conflicting decisions in the federal circuit courts, and/or could have precedential value.

Lawrence depicted the appeal as a battle.

“All too soon, we were thrust into a battle for Religious Freedom,” he wrote.

“So, we have before us our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ to which we are unwaveringly wedded; a civil concern for religious freedom for ourselves and others; and a public duty to petition for constitutional due process to be upheld,” he wrote. “Any of these might justify taking the next step down this legal road. Together they make a three-fold cord not easily broken.”

The two groups are also involved in a separate federal case filed under the Lanham Act, claiming that Lawrence is committing false advertising by continuing to represent himself as bishop of the diocese. The Lanham Act governs trademarks, service marks and unfair competition. In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit sent the case back to the U.S. District Court in Charleston for another hearing.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

A fire-scarred community rallies with spiritual family

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 1:02pm

[Episcopal News Service – Healdsburg, California] Healdsburg, a quaint little town about 70 miles north of San Francisco, has been through a lot in the past six weeks: a massive fire that burned 36,807 acres came dangerously close to the Episcopal church, and several of its parishioners who live in outlying areas lost everything but their lives when they evacuated in the middle of the night.

But as the rector of St. Paul’s, the Rev. Sally Hubbell said: “We know how to feed people here.” So on the night of Nov. 18, about 60 people from St. Paul’s and its neighboring parish to the south, Incarnation, Santa Rosa, gathered to eat chili, slaw, cornbread and desserts. And once they had eaten and had a glass of wine – this is, after all, the heart of the Sonoma wine country – the stories began.

The Rev. Sally Hanes Hubbell gives directions for crowd flow before inviting everyone to serve themselves from two big pots of chili. Photograph: Lori Korleski Richardson

Hubbell started off the storytelling by saying she had hoped that she had left the dealing with wildfires behind her when she moved to Healdsburg from Colorado Springs in 2016. “Yet, even with everything I went through in Colorado, when it happened here, it was totally different.”

“We had less than four hours to evacuate, trying to figure out where people are, with no cellphone coverage, no Internet. … I went to the church thinking that I could at least use the landline. But I got there and no landline. I had no idea what was happening. Then I looked out the window and saw a guy in a North Carolina sweatshirt talking on his cellphone. He had AT&T and an East Coast number, so he was able to dial out. I followed him to his room, explained the situation and he let me use his phone, so I got a little info that way.”

She had to pack up the sacristy later that week when evacuations were ordered. “I took my BCP, my ordination certificate off the wall, the Body of Christ in the ciborium, the record books and the silver.” Luckily, the fire stopped short of downtown.

Hubbell choked up a bit as she said, “I was trying to be in a position of leadership, and it’s hard to be a leader when your flock, everyone, was so scattered.” She tried writing a sermon for that Sunday “but I really couldn’t envision how this would play out.”

Suzanne Kurtz said she got her car packed up as her husband, Richard, urged her to go ahead. “You just go and drive and stop where it feels safe.” She said she got to Petaluma and thought to call the deacon at St. Paul’s, the Rev. Mary Taggart. “Mary called (the Very Rev.) Daniel Green and he found a place for us to stay in Petaluma. We got back home a few days later and everything was fine.”

One man said he “smelled smoke at 2, got out at 2:30 and by 5:30 a.m. our house was gone.” He shook his head sadly, shrugged, but managed a little smile as he continued: “The love I’ve felt from this congregation… I can’t thank you enough for that.”

Colleen Carmichael, executive director of Reach for Home, said, “Trying to find housing for our clients before the fire was hard, and now it’s even harder.” But she did have good news: The two houses she was trying to secure in Cloverdale in early October were approved for loans and a $75,000 grant she had applied for in the first part of the year came through as well. “It was as if God said, ‘OK, you got two, let’s make it three.’ ” She has put an offer in on a house in Windsor. “Now the real work of helping people begins,” she said, ticking off fundraising projects such as a dance marathon that raised $5,000 the previous weekend.

Randy Collins talks of what steps everyone who lives near fire danger should take. Photo: Lori Korleski Richardson

Senior Warden Linda Maxwell said she felt helpless since she was up in Lake Tahoe when the fires broke out, but she started calling everyone she could think of. “Nobody said they needed anything, but later they told me it meant the world to them that someone called. Because,” she said with deep emotion, “we’re family here at St. Paul’s. We may not be biologically related, but we’re spiritually related, here,” touching her heart.

Randy Collins, who has spent his life fighting fires and leading fire-safety efforts in Northern California, reminded the crowd that its family in disasters is vast. “You have a huge family out there that extends across the state. Many people have experienced wildfires in this state, and they are ready to help,” he assured them. He urged those who still had dead trees on their property to remove them and to follow the “Ready, Set, Go! Program.”

“History repeats itself,” he said, reminding the group that the year after the Hanly fire in 1964, the grass grew back and burned again, much like the cycle so familiar in Southern California.

“You get too many people on her back, the Earth shrugs and moves on,” says Betty Banda. Photo: Lori Korleski Richardson

Betty Banda, who grew up in the hills outside Geyersville, a little community north of Healdsburg, remembers many close calls and hurried trips down the mountains when fires would threaten, but she says she takes them all in stride. “I’ve always thought of it as nature,” said the Apache Nation woman. “You get too many people on her back, the Earth shrugs and moves on.”

After those who could manage to talk about what they had been through had their say, they hugged many more who could not, not yet. The crowd looked forward to the confirmations of several youth and adults from both congregations in the morning, so they brought their empty bowls and glasses to the kitchen, and with many hugs and good wishes said goodnight.

– Lori Korleski Richardson is the interim communications director for the Diocese of Northern California.

Episcopalians voice fear, uncertainty as Trump administration ends protected status for Haitians

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 12:35pm

Haitian immigrants and supporters rally Nov. 21 in New York City against the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to terminate TPS for Haitians. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] Haitian Episcopalians living in the United States were shaken this week by news the Trump administration is ending a program that has protected from deportation Haitians who couldn’t return to their country after a devastating 2010 earthquake.

The Haitian communities in some American cities have grown large enough to support sizable Episcopal congregations, like St. Paul’s et Les Martyrs d’Haiti in Miami, Florida, and Haitian Congregation of the Good Samaritan in New York City. Some of those families’ legal status could be thrown into limbo by the administration’s decision.

“It’s a very tough situation,” said the Rev. Panel Guerrier, associate priest for the Haitian congregation at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Naples, Florida. He is a permanent resident, but his 23-year-old daughter is among those who could be deported in 2019 unless they are able to change their residency status.

Guerrier said his community’s hope for a legislative solution is mixed with plenty of uncertainty.

“We don’t know if they will come up with some change in the immigration law that will help with the Haitian people,” he said, “It would be very difficult for them to go back.”

The Episcopal Church has long joined other faith groups in advocating for granting what is known as Temporary Protected Status to immigrants who can’t return to their home countries because of natural disasters or armed conflicts. That status was granted in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama to Haitians who were in the U.S. at the time of the earthquake.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention approved a resolution in 2015 pledging to support Temporary Protected Status “for all immigrants fleeing for refuge from violence, environmental disaster, economic devastation, or cultural abuse or other forms of abuse.”

The Trump administration had previously announced it was ending Temporary Protected Status for citizens of Sudan, Nicaragua and Honduras. It remains in effect for those from El Salvador, Nepal, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The loss of Temporary Protected Status for Haitians “directly affects several members of our congregation,” including a mother with two children, said the Rev. Sam Owen, priest-in-charge at Haitian Congregation of the Good Samaritan.

“They’re leaders in the church,” Owen told ENS. “If they’re forced to return, it’s not just going to be a blow to the leadership of the church, it sort of rips our hearts out. These are people that we love and that love us.”

Temporary Protected Status , or TPS, “has been a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of individuals already in the United States when problems in a home country suddenly make return untenable,” the Episcopal Public Policy Network, or EPPN, said in an October policy alert calling on Episcopalians to defend TPS.

Earlier this year, the Episcopal Church joined more than 400 other faith leaders and organizations in signing a letter urging the Trump administration to extend Temporary Protected Status for Haitians. On Nov. 21, the Office of Government Relations issued a statement expressing disappointment in the administration’s decision.

“Conditions in Haiti are currently unsafe and unstable, with critical lack of improvement since the 2010 earthquake compounded by devastation from Hurricane Matthew and a cholera epidemic,” the statement says. “At this time Haiti cannot safely repatriate 50,000 people, and the decision to terminate the program will harm our communities, the Haitians who will be forced to return and communities in Haiti.”

More than 50,000 Haitians are living in the United States under the program. The Department of Homeland Security announced Nov. 20 that it had decided to let the protections end for those Haitians, giving them until July 2019 to obtain permanent residency status, return to their native country voluntarily or face deportation.

“The decision to terminate TPS for Haiti was made after a review of the conditions upon which the country’s original designation were based and whether those extraordinary but temporary conditions prevented Haiti from adequately handling the return of their nationals,” the statement from Homeland Security said.  The department “determined that those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist.”

Archdeacon J. Fritz Bazin of the Diocese of Southeast Florida disagreed strongly with such optimistic assessments of conditions in Haiti.

“Haiti isn’t and will not be in any condition to receive some 50,000 returnees from the U.S. in 2019,” Bazin, a native of Haiti, said in an email to ENS. “Clearly a more comprehensive solution needs to be considered,” he said, pointing to a legislative proposal in Congress to create a path to permanent residency for those Haitians.

The Diocese of Haiti is part of the Episcopal Church, and the church has been deeply involved in rebuilding efforts in the country since the magnitude-7 earthquake that struck on Jan. 12, 2010.  The earthquake killed more than 300,000 people, left as many wounded and displaced more than 1.5 million.

As the country has slowly recovered, signs of the earthquake’s toll have remained. It destroyed 80 percent of the Diocese of Haiti’s infrastructure in Port-au-Prince, for example, including Holy Trinity Cathedral, which has yet to be rebuilt.

“Almost all infrastructure on the local stage was destroyed by the earthquake and has not been built back,” said the Rev. Nathanael Saint-Pierre, a Haitian priest in New York City.

He was priest-in-charge at New York’s Haiti Congregation of the Good Samaritan in 2010 and noticed an increase in Haitian immigrants joining the congregation after the earthquake, as the church provided help to those seeking the Temporary Protected Status .

Saint-Pierre, now rector at St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church in Manhattan, said he is concerned about what will happen to Haitian immigrants who suddenly need to obtain permanent residency status. They won’t have many options.

“The effect on the [Haitian] community is definitely negative,” he said. “I don’t think there is a lot of hope for these people.”

Lack of rebuilt infrastructure is one of the problems facing those who would be forced to return to Haiti, which has long been considered the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Difficulties in finding employment and health care also are concerns, Saint-Pierre said, especially if there is a large influx of people at once.

Those concerns were shared by the Rev. Smith Millien, priest-in-charge of St. Paul’s et Les Martyrs d’Haiti in Miami, just north of the city’s Little Haiti neighborhood.

“We are disappointed because we know about the situation in Haiti. It’s very difficult,” Milien said.

The Sunday service in French and Creole at his church typically draws more than 100 people. Milien didn’t think the decision to end Temporary Protected Status would have much effect on his congregation, because most members are U.S. citizens, but it will be felt by the local Haitian community.

Additional concerns facing those who might be forced to return to Haiti include recent political protests that have turned violent and the threat of crime, said Guerrier, the Naples priest.

That danger prompted Episcopal leaders last month to postpone the grand opening celebration at a rebuilt school in Haiti out of a general concern for security amid an outbreak of political violence, some of which had affected foreign visitors.

Guerrier’s daughter has applied for permanent residency in the United States and the family is hopeful she will be able to stay. He estimated about 15 of his parishioners, in a congregation of about 50, also are in legal limbo due to the expiring Temporary Protected Status .

His wife and son, on the other hand, already are on the path to permanent residency and are waiting to schedule immigration interviews. Guerrier’s status is secure, and he has applied for U.S. citizenship.

“We are to keep praying, and acting,” he said.

Owen said he feels “a fair bit of despair” about how the Trump administration’s decision will affect his New York City congregation of about 70 Haitians and the local Haitian community, but they also find hope in God.

“This has only served to strengthen our faith and to put it where it belongs, in standing with the marginalized and being there in a way that is of service to them,” he said.

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

Archbishop of Canterbury and patriarch of Moscow appeal for Middle East Christians

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 11:46am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia have spoken out in support of Christians in the Middle East. Welby was in Moscow for a three-day visit, during which he formally presented and introduced the new chaplain to Saint Andrew’s Anglican Church in Moscow, the Rev. Malcolm Rogers, to the patriarch as the archbishop’s apokrisiarios, or representative. In a joint statement, issued after their meeting, the archbishop and patriarch appealed to the international community to “render speedy help to support the Christian and other populations of the Middle East.”

Read the entire article here.

Vision for 100 new churches in London begins with first new purpose-built church in 40 years

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 11:41am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Bishop of Edmonton has dedicated a new church in London – the first purpose-built church in the diocese of London for 40 years. The new Saint Francis in the Engine Room Church is part of ambitious plans to see 100 new Christian communities planted in the diocese, which covers the part of London situated north of the River Thames. Elsewhere in the city, planners have given consent for the 1970s Holy Trinity Church in Swiss Cottage to be demolished and be replaced by a new £11-million six-story complex including a 450-seat auditorium, recording studio and accommodation for vulnerable young people.

Read the entire article here.

Episcopal delegation to COP23 encouraged by talk of taking action on climate change

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 3:41pm

Episcopalians representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry welcome visitors to their booth in the public zone of the COP23 conference in Bonn, Germany. Photo courtesy of Marc Andrus

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians have returned home after spending two weeks in Bonn, Germany, representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and contributing voices of faith in support of environmental stewardship during the U.N. climate change summit held there.

The Nov. 6-17 conference, officially known as the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP23, was an annual intergovernmental meeting to focus on global dialogue and action. The Episcopal Church, granted observer status, sent about a dozen Episcopalians to continue the church’s advocacy that began at the previous two conferences.

“The Episcopal Church, through the presiding bishop’s delegation, is taking a very strong presence in the life of these climate summits,” Diocese of California Bishop Marc Andrus told Episcopal News Service after returning from COP23. “We’re making strong networks in the faith communities.”

Andrus and his wife, Sheila Andrus, spent the full two weeks in Bonn, while two groups of Episcopalians alternated in participating in the first week and then the second week. They led daily worship services, maintained a booth with information on the church’s environmental advocacy and, on a more limited basis, were able as observers to enter the U.N. zone where the intergovernmental negotiations were occurring.

Diocese of California Bishop Marc Andrus helps lead an opening chant at an interfaith prayer service in Bonn, Germany, before delivering a statement titled “Walk Gently on the Earth” to the COP23 leadership. Photo courtesy of Marc Andrus

“I’m very, very grateful to Presiding Bishop [Michael] Curry for trusting us, this delegation, with this work that I consider so vital, and it’s a great honor to serve,” Andrus said. “Our church is responding in an important and beautiful way.”

The Episcopal Church has made environmental justice one of its three priorities, in addition to racial reconciliation and evangelism, and General Convention has passed numerous resolutions on the issue, whether supporting federal climate action or pledging to mitigating the church’s own impact on the environment. A 2015 resolution created the Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation to support “ecologically responsible stewardship of church-related properties and buildings.”

Through its Office of Governmental Relations and the Episcopal Public Policy Network, the church has advocated for government policies in line with General Convention stances on climate change, and the House of Bishops made environmental justice one of the themes of its September meeting in Alaska.

An Episcopal group was in Paris, France, in December 2015 to make a spiritual case for climate action during COP21. At that conference, member countries, including the United States, reached a landmark agreement to set voluntary goals aimed at keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, which scientists think would be necessary to prevent a spiraling catastrophe of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and related weather extremes.

The COP23 summit was intended to build on the Paris agreement, but the agreement’s effectiveness was thrown into doubt this year when President Donald Trump said he would withdraw from the accord rather than hold the U.S. to its pledge to dramatically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

“We remain open to the possibility of rejoining at a later date under terms more favorable to the American people,” U.S. diplomat Judith Garber said last week at COP23.

The Trump administration’s noncommittal stance loomed over COP23, where negotiators began drafting the rules for how the member countries will be expected to report their emissions reductions. Final approval of that framework could come when the next U.N. conference is held in Poland.

“If the United States does not keep its commitment, that’s a very poor predictor of the success of the Paris agreement,” Andrus said.

He and the rest of the Episcopal delegation were encouraged by the presence in Bonn of what has been called the “We’re Still In” movement. While the Trump administration participated in the U.N.’s intergovernmental negotiations, an alternate, unofficial American delegation in Bonn included U.S. lawmakers and leaders of states and cities, as well as business and faith leaders. They vowed to live up to the United States’ Paris agreement commitments – thus the label “We’re Still In” – even if the federal government won’t.

“The end result of this COP23 is being seen as a rather positive and fruitful outcome, all things considered,” Lynnaia Main, the Episcopal Church’s representative to the U.N., said in an email to ENS after attending part of the conference. “Member states demonstrated unparalleled commitment to the Paris agreement, although there is an urgent need to increase their level of ambition.”

The plight of various Pacific island nations was a recurring theme at COP23, because of the direct effect that rising ocean levels will have on their ability to survive. Main said the prime minister of Tuvalu had warned that his country would be submerged by 2030 if nothing is done to limit or reverse climate change.

Those low-lying countries’ request for an increase in financial assistance, however, was not approved, Andrus said. The result could be dire.

“They are losing their lives. Samoa, for instance, has been inhabited for about 3,000 years, and this is their home and it’s deeply threatened by rising water levels,” he said. “This is not distant future or even near future. This is happening.”

What could a small group of Episcopalians hope to contribute in a place like Bonn? At COP23, Andrus said the church and other faith communities were welcomed by participants and visitors who were eager to ground their activism in shared values.

People of faith are climate activists, Andrus said. “Our spiritual values are the basis from which we act.”

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

Pages