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Episcopalians join with others to help neighbors on two South Dakota reservations

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 5:47pm

Members of the South Dakota National Guard help distribute water on the Pine Ridge Reservation March 25 after flooding damaged a main waterline in Oglala County that left more than 8,000 residents without water. Photo: South Dakota National Guard via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians on two South Dakota Indian reservations are helping marshal slim community resources so that their neighbors can cope with recent massive flooding.

“These are devasting floods. Some of them are equal to 100-year floods for us and it simply has to do with snow and then melt with rain and then a massive blizzard of heavy spring snow, which is very wet, as opposed to our normal [winter] drier snow. There’s just no place for the water to go on frozen ground,” the Rev. Lauren Stanley, superintending presbyter of the western portion of The Episcopal Church’s mission on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, told Episcopal News Service March 26 in a telephone interview. “We’re all trying to pull together to help each other and that’s the best part.”

The Rev. Edward Hunt, Stanley’s neighbor to the west on the Pine Ridge Reservation, told ENS March 26 that while flooding on the Pine Ridge has garnered national and international attention, “we don’t have nearly as bad a situation as she does.” The further east one goes from the Pine Ridge, “that’s where the real problems lie,” he said.

Still, Hunt and Stanley, who is reluctantly confined to her home to recuperate from Achilles tendon surgery, are coordinating aid to residents on each reservation.

The day before he talked to ENS, Hunt helped a family that attends St. Julia’s Episcopal Church in Porcupine, South Dakota, buy gas for their car and gas for their neighbors’ vehicles. He also helped the family buy food for their seven or eight neighbors. The family will “go door to door and just ration it out – that’s what they do.”

Using money from his discretionary fund, Hunt has been buying food for people and gas for their cars “so they can at least eat and take care of their communities.”

Hunt officiated at a burial service in the town of Pine Ridge just before he telephoned ENS.  “People are generally very calm. They’re not panicked. They’re sorry that this has happened to their neighbors, but there isn’t a sense of unease or desperation,” he said.

Saying “forgive my disrespect in this context,” Hunt explained that “they don’t have a whole lot to lose so they’re not really panicked about losing anything because isn’t much there.”

According to some accounts, 97% of the population lives far below the U.S. federal poverty line.

Because of that poverty, Pine Ridge always lives on the edge; just one more thing can start what Hunt called “a domino effect.”

“For example, we are probably going to be looking at an uptick in wakes and funerals in the next couple of weeks because folks are not going to be able to get to chemotherapy, to dialysis; they’re going to run out of insulin, they’re going to run out of food,” he said.

That lack of access is due to roads being covered with water or washed out and impassable. The same is true on the Rosebud Reservation.

Meanwhile, access to potable water has become a problem.

Stanley also has been organizing food for volunteers who are filling sandbags to keep the waters at bay. She said the manager of the local Buche Food, a grocery store, agreed to donate water and Gatorade when she and the Rosebud Episcopal Mission bought bread, cold cuts, cheese and chips. Stanley and another Episcopalian set up a sandwich-making assembly line at her house in Mission, South Dakota, and volunteers delivered the simple lunches to the sandbagging areas.

People are also going to need propane, which they use for heating and cooking. Helping them is “a little bit of a complicated thing and a lot of money,” especially if the floodwater damaged their tank equipment, Stanley said. The Rosebud Episcopal Mission (West) already has a program to help people who have trouble paying for propane and Stanley will use the relationship with the local supplier, Country Pride Co-op, which was recently bought CHS Inc., to help the 10 flood-stricken people she and the co-op know of so far. “That’s going to run somewhere between $1,400 and $2,400” for the gas itself and any replacement equipment.

The five-year-old program typically buys about $13,000-$14,000 worth of propane for elders and families every year, she said, in addition to the mission’s project to supply firewood to folks in need.

“And the firewood program at the moment is shut down because there’s no dry wood,” Stanley added.

She’s also trying to coordinate local volunteers who want to help. “We’ve had a lot of people with ties to the Episcopal Church who ask what they can do and I kind of try to deploy [them] and then get the word out” about what kind of help is needed where, she said.

For instance, Whitney Jones, a local rancher who also is a school social worker, has been filling and transporting sandbags on his flatbed truck. He is the grandson of Bishop Harold Jones, a Lakota man who was a bishop suffragan in South Dakota and the first American Indian to be elevated to the office of bishop by any Christian denomination.

His effort is part of a major sandbagging effort by all sorts of people on both reservations.

Stanley has been publicizing the needs of the Rosebud Reservation and the work that Episcopalians are already doing. “We’re getting a good response and that’s the power of social media as always,” she said.

Hunt said he, too, has had inquiries from Episcopalians around the church about how they can help. His first response is “do not send clothing or food or stuff like that; send a check, send it to the Diocese of South Dakota, contribute to Episcopal Relief and Development.” Or, he said, give it to the discretionary funds of priests who minister on reservations “so that we on the ground who are best able to assess the needs of the people can most effectively respond.”

In addition to real-time assessment of needs, both Hunt and Stanley said that being able to spend money locally helps the hard-hit region.

Episcopal Relief & Development said March 27 that it is helping the Diocese of South Dakota provide emergency supplies such as gas cards, groceries, and propane to those impacted by the flooding, which has exacerbated long-standing issues. “Many churches in this area have strong community relationships and connections to local businesses, allowing them to meet the needs of their neighbors rapidly by increasing the scale of existing ministries when disaster strikes,” the organization’s statement said.

“Being on a reservation and being a reservation missionary priest is crisis ministry, so we deal with crisis all the time,” Hunt said. “Yes, the flooding was bad, and the snow was bad, and the cold was bad but, to be honest, it’s bad all the time.”

He hopes people won’t send a check and then think they are done helping. “I want them to keep the people on the reservation – not only in South Dakota, but North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, wherever – in  their prayers all the time because there are crises here which do not have to do with the weather.

“That’s what I really need help with. I need some kind of support. We all do. We need not just the injection shot of relief and then, pull the needle out, we’re done. We need like a constant [prayer] presence here, which would help a great deal.”

Things could get worse before they get better, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last week.

“Episcopal Relief & Development continues to be in contact with our partners, not only in South Dakota, but throughout the affected regions, as they determine the needs of their communities,” Tamara Pummer, program officer for the organization, said in the March 27 update. “The disaster is ongoing, and these supplies are just the beginning. Traditional spring flood season is still a month away, so we are preparing for whatever needs may come.”

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

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Senior ecumenical panel to discuss Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 10:08am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The five Christian denominations closely associated with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) are taking part in a private consultation and public events this week to discuss how to take the document further. The JDDJ was originally agreed by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999. The significant ecumenical text has been described as resolving the doctrinal dispute at the heart of the Reformation; and has since been adopted or affirmed by the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the World Methodist Council and the Anglican Consultative Council.

Read the entire article here.

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Retired archbishop Martín Barahona, who survived assassination attempt, dies of cancer

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 10:06am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A former archbishop of the Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America – the Anglican Church in the Central America Region (IARCA), Bishop Martín Barahona, has died of cancer. He had been the Anglican bishop of El Salvador. As the country was preparing to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the assassination of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of El Salvador, Óscar Romero, in March 2010, an unidentified man shot at his car. Barahona was not injured, but his driver, Francis Martínez, was hit in the stomach and arm. Barahona died on march 23 at La Divina Providencia Hospital in San Salvador, at the age of 76. He had cancer.

Read the entire article here.

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Anglican, Episcopal advocacy for women and girls extends beyond UNCSW

Tue, 03/26/2019 - 4:38pm

Participants at the March 11 opening meeting of the 63rd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women observed a moment of silence for those who lost their lives the day before in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Photo: Evan Schneider/UN

[Episcopal News Service – New York] As interesting as the official United Nations Commission on the Status of Women events can be, often it’s the off-site events that generate more fascinating insights and discussions – if not the realization that things aren’t always as they seem.

“U.N. agencies and member states do a good job of presenting the data they’d like you to receive. … Those stats can be manipulated,” said Sam Hynes, a UNCSW delegate from South Dakota. “Things can sound good, but once you know the real story, things sound different, and that’s where our advocacy comes in.”

The 63rd session of the UNCSW met March 11-22 and focused on social protection systems, access to public services, and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Some 9,000 women and men – including Anglicans and Episcopalians – representing all regions worldwide attended the annual event held at U.N. headquarters in midtown Manhattan, making the UNCSW one of the largest gatherings promoting women’s rights and interests in the world.

“This 63rd session of UNCSW might seem like only a two-week event, but it actually builds on the hard work and action of previous generations of Anglicans and Episcopalians striving for gender equality and empowerment for women and girls,” said Lynnaia Main, who represents The Episcopal Church at the United Nations and coordinates and leads the Episcopal delegation.

“The wisdom and training of our forerunners – including former directors of the Office of Women’s Ministries and Anglican Women’s Empowerment – is essential to the intergenerational dialogue and institutional knowledge of our participants,” she said. “The networking and knowledge sharing from year to year helps us build relationships of support to sustain us for the long haul. We really need that, since the U.N. Secretary General estimates that it will be a 217-year marathon to achieve gender equality. So, whether or not one participates formally in any given session of UNCSW, we are all able to be part of the historical dialogue and change needed to empower women and girls and aim for gender justice.”

Off-site, or side events addressed everything from building safe and empowering digital spaces for women and girls to a global perspective on sexual harassment in the workplace to closing the gender pay gap to economic empowerment to effective responses to modern-day slavery and human trafficking, including sex trafficking.

For instance, Hynes said, when sex workers were given the microphone during an off-site panel about sex work, a discussion about decriminalization led to insights concerning decreases in violence, lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases and fewer incidences of sex trafficking.

“Decriminalization of sex work and getting them [sex workers] involved can have a positive influence on [eliminating] sex trafficking,” said Hynes, who volunteered while in graduate school with a nongovernmental organization advocating for sex workers in Vietnam.

Decriminalization, she added, keeps sex work on the surface and “can decrease rates of STDs and HIV and eliminate violence,” whereas criminalization can lead to increases in violence against women.

Delegates learned that New Zealand is the only country to have totally decriminalized sex work; in Sweden, it’s the johns, or men who buy sex, who are punished, which has had the negative consequence of driving sex work underground; and in places like the Netherlands, where women sell themselves in Amsterdam’s red light district, women, especially those who come from Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Africa, can feel like men have put a price on them just as the women in the windows are priced.

Established in 1946, the UNCSW is the primary intergovernmental agency dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Although The Episcopal Church has had a presence at the UNCSW since 2000, it has sent a delegation to official UNCSW proceedings only since 2014, when it gained consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council.

On March 17, Anglican and Episcopal delegates gathered at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for evensong. For a list of Episcopal delegates and staff representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry click here, and click here for the Anglican Communion delegation. A closing Eucharist was held March 22 in The Episcopal Church’s Chapel of Christ the Lord.

The 63rd UNCSW precedes the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which laid out an agenda for women’s empowerment; it was adopted in September 1995 during the Fourth World Conference on Women.

The worldwide tilt toward conservative, nationalistic governments and the backlash to the #MeToo movement loomed large during this year’s conference, with delegates, including Episcopalians, expressing fear that a fifth world conference and a potential revision of the Beijing Declaration could chip away at some of the gains women have made over the past 25 years.

Still, there’s a long way to go, as Cynthia Wilson D’Alimonte, who represented the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe as its first-ever UNCSW delegate, learned. D’Alimonte was drawn to panels and discussions about the challenges widowed women face in the developing world where their choices and rights are still limited, marriage is sometimes forced, and property ownership laws, in some cases, still don’t apply to women.

“Their destiny is not in their hands all by decree of country and culture,” she said.

During the 63rd UNCSW, there was some debate over the definition of “family” as it was presented in the draft of the agreed conclusions, which is the final document produced by the conference.

Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the family has been described as the fundamental unit of society; however, that doesn’t always have a positive connotation.

“When very male-dominated, patriarchal societies think about the family, they think about it as a private space as opposed to a public space,” said Chiseche Mibenge, who represented the Diocese of California and who teaches human rights at Stanford University.

“And the private spaces, they swear a social worker, a police officer, a court of law will not enter into. When, in general, we talk about the right to privacy, it’s a very male-centric … do not enter my house, government, and we know that women and children can be extremely vulnerable in their homes,” she said. “When I ask my students in the classroom when is the first time you experienced gender discrimination, they say, ‘in my house.’”

For Dana Jean, a delegate from the Diocese of Dallas who directs outreach ministry for St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in McKinney, Texas, the UNCSW got her thinking about how she can better engage members of her church in advocacy. Her church, a Jubilee Ministry, she said, is strong in outreach and service, but advocacy offers room for growth.

Michele Roberts, a first-time Episcopal delegate from Delaware and Washington, D.C., and a long-time fighter of environmental racism, hoped to use the language around the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals in her advocacy at the local, state and federal levels.

On the eve of the UNCSW’s close, a still-energized Hynes said she could have kept going.

“All the women who represent NGOs and their passion for advocacy … I feel like I could do it forever. It’s been invigorating in a way I’ve not felt in a while,” she said.

Even before returning home to South Dakota, Hynes already had reached out to the priest at her church in Pierre and members of the local chapter of an international women’s empowerment organization she belongs to about what actions can be taken to combat sex trafficking around big events like Sturgis, a massive annual motorcycle rally held in her state, and annual hunting seasons.

As members of the church, she’s asking the question, “What can we do?”

To that end, Hynes and others are supported by official policy.

The Episcopal Church has a long history of addressing both labor and sex trafficking; during the 79th General Convention last July in Austin, Texas, the church recommitted its support for the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.

– Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.

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