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Updated: 1 hour 42 min ago

Virginia interfaith clergy demonstrate in opposition to the KKK

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 3:57pm

The Rev. Elaine Thomas, associate rector of St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, leads the march from Safe Space at First United Methodist Church to the July 8 anti-Ku Klux Klan rally. Photo: Richard Lord

[Episcopal News Service – Charlottesville, Virginia] Over 1,000 counterdemonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, neutralized a rally of some 30 Ku Klux Klan members in Justice Park on July 8. The counterdemonstrators’ chanting, horn-blowing and screaming rendered the words of the Klan inaudible more than a couple of feet away. A newly formed interfaith group, the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, was among the leading organizers of the counter-demonstration.

The Klan staged a rally in Charlottesville, a university town of 50,000 people in Central Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, to protest the City Council’s February 2017, vote to remove statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson from the city’s two biggest parks. Two-thousand more people attended unity and educational events just blocks from Justice Park.

A half hour after the rally ended, Virginia State Police tear-gassed a small group of protestors. Twenty-three people were arrested. Details of the incident had not been confirmed by Monday evening.

The Charlottesville Clergy Collective organized clergy to plan and execute a unified response to the Klan rally. The organization is open to all clergy and 30 have regularly attended weekly meetings since 2015. Three Episcopal congregations are represented. Among the steering committee members is the Rev. Elaine Thomas, associate rector of St. Paul’s Memorial Church, an Episcopal church that serves the University of Virginia community.

Counter-demonstrators at the Ku Klux Klan rally in
Charlottesville, Virginia, on July 8. on Saturday. In the background is the statue of
Stonewall Jackson. Its relocation to a park outside the city’s center spurred the 30 members of the Klan to rally in protest. Photo: Richard Lord

“This is the body of Christ in action,” said Thomas, referring to the counter-demonstrators. “We need to get out of the pews and into the community. Injustice is never beaten by staying home.”

“My congregation has been extremely supportive of my efforts to protest against the Klan and white supremacists,” Thomas continued. “Activism is what they are all about.”

Thomas said that the anti-Klan activities have unified the city in its opposition, especially the activities of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective.

“The collective has given me the opportunity to increase my exposure to other faiths. And to other races as well as other ethnicities,” she said. “The churches do not agree on everything. But, through the collective, we have come together as a single body to deal effectively with this issue.”

The Charlottesville Clergy Collective was formed in 2015 in response to the shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It formed as a way for clergy to develop a response network to as a unified body, should a similar event occur in Charlottesville.

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Pelham, North Carolina, has lost an estimated 80 percent of its membership since December 2016. The loss followed the arrest of its Imperial Wizard, Chris Barker, for stabbing another Klan member, according to Nate Thayer, a journalist who writes extensively about the KKK.

Home to the University of Virginia, Charlottesville is seen as a liberal bastion within the state. In the off-year June 2017 primaries for governor, lieutenant governor and other statewide and local offices, the city’s Democrats had the highest turnout of any party in any non-presidential election in Virginia history.

The Charlottesville area is steeped in history. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Madison’s Ash Lawn are a short drive from downtown Charlottesville. Two other presidential homes (James Monroe’s and Woodrow Wilson’s) are within a 45-minute drive.

The statute of Robert E. Lee became a focal point back in February with the City Council’s vote to move it from the city’s most prominent park to a park outside the city center. White supremacists were enraged and there was an attempt to get the city’s African-American vice major removed from office.

Reaction to the City Council’s vote drew national attention. Corey Stewart, a white supremacist candidate for Republican gubernatorial nomination from Northern Virginia, attempted to broadcast a Facebook Live presentation in front of the Lee statue. Counter-protesters forced him to cut the attempt short. The local press depicted the event that he had been “run out of town.”

Stewart returned a few weeks later with about 100 supporters who wore motorcycle gang jackets, one of whom was carrying an assault weapon and had his finger on the trigger during Stewart’s speech.

This led to the announcement in late May that the KKK had received a permit to rally in Charlottesville. The community rose to plan its reaction to the July 8 event.

Several organizations focused their efforts on counter-protesting. Some observed and made noise in the park. Others engaged in non-violent direct-action aimed to stop the rally.

“We need to protect our community from the terrorist Ku Klux Klan,” said Grace Aheron, an Episcopal chaplain and justice activist who is from Charlottesville and is affiliated with Showing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ.

For 45 minutes, SURJ members blocked the entrance to the park so that the Klan could not enter, said Aheron.

“It is because the city of Charlottesville has failed to protect us from the Klan that we have to do this,” she continued. “And we were successful. Not only in delaying the Klan, but in creating community awareness of what is happening.”

A rally of white supremacists has been scheduled for Aug.12 in Emancipation (formerly Robert E. Lee) Park, blocks from the Klan’s July 8 rally site. The city issued a permit for 400 people for the August rally, which is suspected to be much larger than the one on July 8.

– Richard Lord is a freelance photographer and writer based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and New York City.

Baltimore congregation binds Maryland, Kenyan dioceses in joint ministry

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 3:10pm

Kenyan Bishop Joseph Muchai, center, ordains Janet Kuria to the transitional diaconate. Sharing in the service is Bishop Chilton Knudsen, left, and Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton. The July 8 service took place at St. Andrew’s International Christian Community Anglican-Episcopal Church, Baltimore, a joint ministry of the Anglican Diocese of Nakuru and the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. Photo: Dan Webster

[Episcopal News Service – Baltimore, Maryland] The Rev. John Karanja had a problem. His Baltimore congregation needed a new home. But where could he find one?

Even though Karanja was from the Anglican Diocese of Nakuru in Kenya, his congregation, the International Christian Community, wasn’t really worshiping in the Anglican style. A call home ended with the suggestion that he reach out to the Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of the Diocese of Maryland.

“I told him what I’m looking for,” said Karanja, recalling the December 2013 meeting. “I left the office knowing I would get a building.”

Indeed, the diocese had closed a church a month earlier. Within weeks, Karanja and his parishioners moved into the vacant building. Thus began a unique ministry between the Diocese of Nakuru and the Diocese of Maryland that is much deeper than the more common companion diocese relationship.

“Both dioceses have a hand in this church,” said Sutton.

Recently, the newly named St. Andrew’s International Christian Community Anglican-Episcopal Church celebrated the ordination of one of its members, the Rev. Janet K. Kuria, to the transitional diaconate. Bishops from both diocese participated.

“This is not planned. This is not in the canons,” Sutton said of the arrangement during his sermon at the ordination service. “We are working it out because the holy spirit has brought us together.”

Karanja joked during the service that he is probably the only priest who has to labor within the strictures of two dioceses and under the oversight of not one, not two, but three bishops.

Getting to this point required careful negotiations. Not everyone favored the joint ministry. Tensions within the Anglican Communion over important theological issues have strained and sometimes broken the bonds of affection between conservative and liberal churches.

Those concerns have not stopped the Rt. Rev. Joseph K. Muchai, bishop of Nakuru, from giving his full support to the project.

“We’re working together to bring people to God’s kingdom, and we can learn a lot from each other,” he said, after the ordination service at which he joined in laying hands on Kuria. “We respect each other’s views. We may not all agree, but what is important is the mission.”

That mission, said Sutton, is built around the central tasks of the church: To proclaim the kingdom of God, drive out evil wherever it can be found and heal whatever is broken. In the case of St. Andrew’s, the mission began with the gift of hospitality.

“For you to be given a church is not easy. It shows love,” said Muchai.

Some of the particulars of the partnership are laid out in a memorandum of understanding approved last year. Presently, St. Andrew’s has the building rent-free, but it pays its own utility bills and other operating expenses. Christian education is offered leading to baptism, confirmation and similar services as prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer. The church also pays a regular contribution to the Diocese of Maryland and is received at the annual convention as a “partner congregation” with voice and vote.

Should any disputes or misunderstandings arise, the bishops of both dioceses will agree to meet and work things out.

The church also is required to offer a weekly Sunday service of Holy Communion as found in the Book of Common Prayer in addition to a Sunday service that caters to the original congregation and draws African immigrants from as far away as Delaware, Pennsylvania and the Washington, D.C., suburbs. In all, St. Andrew’s has about 150 people on its rolls.

Karanja noted with a smile that the 9 a.m. prayer book service is aimed at people who like a traditional service and who like to be in and out of church within an hour. At the 11 a.m. “contemporary” service, no one watches the clock. There you might hear songs in English, Kiswahili or Kikuyu.

The recent ordination combined both styles of worship. At one point in the service Karanja excused himself and begged forgiveness. He had not given the women of St. Andrew’s their moment of celebration. At his cue, at least two dozen women gathered at the back of the sanctuary for a joyous, spirited procession that was part dance and part march. Ululations and shouts rang above the song as the women swayed from side to side, Kuria in the lead.

She has been preaching and evangelizing for years and is currently commissioned as captain in the Church Army, an organization within the Church of England dedicated to evangelism throughout the Anglican Communion.

“It’s a great way to go out and do mission,” said Kuria, who is completing her clinical pastoral work at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and hopes to be ordained to the priesthood next year.

By then, Sutton hopes to have made a second trip to Kenya to visit his ministry partners in Nakuru. He plans to take a team from the Diocese of Maryland with him. Muchai said such trips will help strengthen the fellowship as clergy and lay members from Maryland and Nakuru share ideas about youth ministry and planting churches, possibly developing a system where groups travel between the two countries on a regular basis.

“It’s just my hope that this partnership and mission grows as a model of how people of different cultures can connect,” said Sutton. “Given our differences on certain theological matters, rather than stay in our corners and lob insults and bombs across the ocean, let’s pray together and listen to each other and do common mission. If we do that, then maybe people, the world, will see that Christians indeed do love each other.”

– The Rev. M. Dion Thompson is an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Maryland.

John Taylor consecrated bishop coadjutor of Los Angeles in ‘grand fiesta’ of unity, diversity

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 3:58pm

John H. Taylor kneels before the co-consecrating bishops during the litany at the July 8 consecration service in Los Angeles, which included some 20 bishops from as far away as Kenya. Photo: Donna Machado

[Episcopal News Service – Los Angeles, California] The Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor was ordained and consecrated bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Los Angeles on July 8 in a “grand fiesta” of celebration highlighting the diocese’s rich cultural diversity and its focus on mission.

Korean drummers, Chinese dancers and a mariachi band led processions of bishops from across the Episcopal Church as about 3,000 laity, clergy, ecumenical visitors, interfaith guests and civic leaders gathered for the service at The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles. Another 8,000 watched the celebration by live-streamed video.

Banners representing the diocese’s 140 congregations and institutions lined the pavilion’s entryway prior to the start of the service. Taylor chose the theme “Feeding Hungry Hearts” for both the consecration service and his episcopate, and guests were invited to bring grocery gift cards for distribution to those in need.

The Golden State British Brass Band performed musical preludes, and two choirs – 80 choristers from congregations across the diocese and the Episcopal Chorale Society – offered musical selections during the three-hour multilingual service led by Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

Newly ordained Bishop Coadjutor John H. Taylor of the Diocese of Los Angeles receives a mitre from his wife, Kathy Hannigan O’Connor. Photo: Elizabeth Kurtz

Co-consecrators included Los Angeles Bishops J. Jon Bruno, bishop diocesan, whom Taylor will succeed upon Bruno’s retirement; Diane Jardine Bruce, bishop suffragan; Chester Talton, resigned bishop suffragan, and Sergio Carranza, resigned bishop assistant.

Some 20 other bishops attended the ceremony, including Bishop Onesimus Park, Diocese of Busan and primate of Korea, and Bishop Donald Tamihere of the Diocese of Tairāwhiti in the Anglican Church of New Zealand. Near the end of the service, Tamihere and five young people from his diocese performed a Maori song and dance to express unity with the Los Angeles diocese, followed by a haka ceremonial dance.

Bishop Guy Erwin of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church, assisted by the Very Rev. Dajad Yardemian; and Rt. Rev. Edward Clark, auxiliary bishop, Archdiocese of Los Angeles (Roman Catholic) also were present.

Resigned (retired) Episcopal bishops resident in the diocese of Los Angeles attending the service were Edward Mackenzie, former bishop suffragan of Cape Town, South Africa; Catherine Roskam, former bishop suffragan of New York (now serving as bishop-in-charge at St. James’ Church, Los Angeles); and Artemio Zabala, former bishop of the Philippines.

Other Episcopal bishops attending were Barry Beisner, Diocese of Northern California; Patrick Bell, Diocese of Eastern Oregon; Mary Gray-Reeves, Diocese of El Camino Real (California); Michael Hanley, Diocese of Oregon; Scott Hayashi, Diocese of Utah; Edward Little, Diocese of Northern Indiana (resigned); DeDe Duncan Probe, Diocese of Central New York; Gretchen Reberg, Diocese of Spokane; Greg Rickel, Diocese of Olympia; Allen Shin, bishop suffragan of New York; Kirk Smith, Diocese of Arizona; Brian Thom, Diocese of Idaho; and Carl Wright, bishop suffragan for Federal Ministries.

Attending from dioceses in companion relationships with Los Angeles were Enrique Trevino of the Diocese of Cuernavaca, Mexico; and Dean Hosam Naoum of the Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East, representing Archbishop Suheil Dawani.

The Diocese of Los Angeles has strong and active ties to other faiths and denominations in Southern California, and the congregation included a number of interfaith and ecumenical representatives, including: Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council; Rabbi Morley Feinstein, immediate past president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California; Father Alexei Smith, interfaith officer of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Judy and Steve Gilliland, representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Interreligious Council of Southern California; two swamis of the Vedanta Society of Southern California; and Tahil Sharma of the Sikh community.

Of the consecration service, Taylor, 62, said: “Today is a giant celebration of the unity in Christ of the people of God discovering through the beauty of the liturgy, the beauty of the music and our faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to bind us together, to bind up our wounds, and heal our divisions and listen to each other with love and without rancor and by talking to one another face to face about the things that inspire us, the things that worry us, the things that divide us.

“We have been fed today to go forth into the world to do the work that Jesus Christ has prepared for us, to feed his people, to work for justice, to work for unity, to work for peace. It was a grand fiesta in the Diocese of Los Angeles.”

Following gospel readings in Tagalog, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Spanish and English, the Rev. James Brenneman, served as preacher.

Brenneman founded the Pasadena Mennonite Church, where he served for 20 years. In May 2017, he was named president of the American Baptist Seminary of the Southwest. He had also served as a faculty member of the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont, teaching Old Testament scholarship.

He drew laughter from the congregation when speaking about the hybrid nature of his ministry, noting that students at the Claremont seminary had gifted him with a T-shirt that said “Episcomenalian” and that he considered himself “either a high church Mennonite or a low-church Episcopalian”.

Continuing Taylor’s stated theme for his episcopacy, he said he was deeply troubled at reading that “we the people through our elected representatives and our president are proposing to cut $193 billion from food stamp programs in the next 10 years … (when) 13 percent of American households are food insecure.”

The entire service may be viewed on the diocesan Facebook page here.

Arrangements for the service were handled by a 14-member committee led by the Rev. Canon Melissa McCarthy, vicar of Church of the Epiphany, Oak Park, and dean of the diocese’s northernmost geographic deanery. Robert Williams, canon for community relations, provided staff support to the committee.

Taylor was elected to become seventh bishop of Los Angeles by the 121st annual meeting of the diocese on Dec. 3, 2016. He is the 1,101st bishop of the Episcopal Church.

He is a native Detroiter, the son of journalists and a published novelist. Prior to his election, Taylor, who formerly served as an aide to former President Richard Nixon and later as first director of the Nixon Presidential Library, was vicar of St. John Chrysostom in Rancho Santa Margarita, in the Los Angeles diocese. He and Kathleen Hannigan O’Connor, another former Nixon aide, married in 2002. He has two daughters, Valerie and Lindsay, and two stepchildren, Daniel and Meaghan.

Taylor will succeed Bruno, who has served as diocesan bishop for more than 15 years. The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles was established in 1896 and encompasses 65,000 members worshipping in 140 congregations located in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Immediately after the services, guests enjoyed a dessert buffet reception in the park across the street from the pavilion.

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

Swaziland youth group mounts outreach bike trip across African country

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 2:47pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Young people in the Anglican Diocese of Swaziland have embarked on a 450-kilometer challenge (about 280 miles) to raise environmental awareness. They will be donating shoes, school uniforms and toiletries at Anglican Schools along their route.

Full article.

Board upholds sanctions against J. Jon Bruno as panel weighs disciplinary case

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 12:37pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops has rejected an appeal by Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno objecting to sanctions levied against him by a Title IV hearing panel that is deliberating over its final ruling in Bruno’s disciplinary case.

The panel’s June 17 sanctions prohibited Bruno from pursuing the sale of St. James the Great Church in Newport Beach, California, while the disciplinary case progresses. Bruno’s initial failed attempt to sell the church property was the basis for the Title IV case against him.

Church Attorney Raymond “Jerry” Coughlan, left, shows Diocese of Los Angeles J. Jon Bruno documents during the bishop’s testimony March 29. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The hearing panel’s sanctions were echoed June 29 by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who issued an order partly restricting Bruno’s ministry, specifically his ability to sell the church property. These restrictions were in response to news that Bruno again had tried to sell the church while disciplinary action was pending.

The original case against Bruno involves his unsuccessful 2015 attempt to sell the church property to a condominium developer for $15 million in cash. That effort prompted the members of St. James to bring misconduct allegations against Bruno, claiming he violated Episcopal Church law. Hearings on those allegations were held in March.

The Episcopal Church ecclesiastical disciplinary panel, which still is considering whether or how to discipline Bruno in that case, told Bruno on June 17 he is prohibited from “selling or conveying or contracting to sell or convey the St. James property until further order of the Hearing Panel.”

Bruno appealed that sanction, but the Disciplinary Board for Bishops rejected the appeal in an order released July 8 and posted online by the group Save St. James the Great.

“By contracting to sell the St. James property while the conflicts involving that property were still under review and consideration by the Hearing Panel, [Bruno] disrupted and interfered with the integrity of the process of the Title IV proceeding,” the order reads. Bruno’s “actions undermined what the canons intend to be a process of reconciliation.”

The order came as Bruno’s intended successor, Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor, was ordained and consecrated July 8 in Los Angeles.

Bruno turns 72, the Episcopal Church’s mandatory retirement age, in late 2018.

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

Brotherhood of St. Andrew names interim executive director

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 4:45pm

[Brotherhood of St. Andrew] Thomas Welch of Jackson, Mississippi is the new interim executive director to the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, a 134-year old men’s ministry of the Episcopal Church.

Previously based in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, the Brotherhood is opening offices in Louisville, Kentucky, this summer. Welch will oversee operational functions for the 4,200-strong ministry.

Thomas Welch

He’s a member at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Jackson. A former Eagle Scout, vestry member and diocesan delegate, Welch is also an active lay Eucharistic minister.

“We are very excited about the ability to make a statement about expanding the men’s ministry movement throughout the country,” Brotherhood President Jeffrey Butcher said. “We need men to adopt a more active role in their spiritual journey.”

Welch’s resume includes a leadership role in the national Cursillo movement as well as leading both Episcopal and Methodist Cursillo retreats. Youth programs are equally important to the Brotherhood’s new interim executive director. Welch has been heavily involved in Camp Fund-shine (a camp for pediatric burn victims) and Camp Bratton-Green in his home diocese in Mississippi, and, most recently, he was director at Camp Hardtner in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana.

Before moving to work within the church, Welch was with the John Hancock Financial Network. In this role, he has practiced risk management, planned giving, college planning, long-term care and retirement planning and protection. This enabled him to have extensive interaction with individual and institutional clients, 501(c)(3) entities and businesses.

“This hiring is a statement that tells the church and our members we are very serious concerning the challenge to disciple men and youth to Christ,” President Butcher said. “We are now stepping up to the plate like our Lutheran and Methodist counterparts. The Brotherhood has not had a director for more than a decade.”

Welch began his duties with the Brotherhood on June 19. He said he was equally excited to meet the thousands of Brothers throughout the nation, beginning with the organization’s national council meeting June 20-22 in Louisville.

“I believe if we are going to reach the millennials in the 21st century we must reach them in new ways and venues with the same 134-year-old Brotherhood of St. Andrew mission but with a different vision of how the mission is fulfilled today,” Welch said.

“These days young adults aren’t going to have breakfast on Saturday mornings with a bunch of buddies. They are grabbing premium coffee at the café on their way to play lacrosse followed by a full weekend of other activities.

“Why not reach out to them in late evenings during the week? We see other areas of the church have great success in changing the time and even the location of evangelism efforts, though the mission is still the same.

“It’s the vision of how we picture the environment that may need to adjust. If we can get them interested, we can get eventually get them to a brick and mortar church on Sunday.

“When we’ve done that we have strengthened the local parish. When we strengthen the local parish leadership we grow the church.”

2 new bishops chosen in Polynesia, including Tonga’s first

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 11:06am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Winston Halapua, the diocesan bishop of Polynesia, says he is “more than delighted” to make the announcement of two new bishops. The Rev. Afa Vaka will become the first bishop of the newly constituted episcopal unit of Tonga, and Archdeacon Henry Bull is to be the next bishop in Vanua Levu and Taveuni in Fiji.

Full article.

Episcopal priest takes dying dog on road trip for ‘Last Howlelujah Tour’ through Southwest

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 10:10am

Nawiliwili Nelson, better known as Wili, is spending more than two weeks on the road in a Honda CRV with the Rev. Bill Miller, who calls dogs “God’s best work.” Photo: Bill Miller

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Bill Miller is taking a close friend to Las Vegas on vacation, but this trip is about the bark, not the bet.

Miller’s traveling companion is his 12-year-old dog Wili, who is dying of cancer, and Vegas is only the final stop on a six-state road trip that the Episcopal priest from Louisiana is calling the “Last Howlelujah Tour.”

“It’s been extraordinary,” Miller said July 6 when reached by phone in Corsicana, Texas, south of Dallas. “The best parts of the trip have been really what we set out to accomplish, just to spend time together. We’ve just had a ball being together.”

In addition to spending precious time with Wili, the other goals of the tour are to remind people of the spiritual importance of close relationships – whether with family, friends or “man’s best friend” – and to promote and raise money for animal welfare organizations.

The tour will take the Rev. Bill Miller and Wili from Louisiana to Nevada, passing through Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. Here they pose for photo July 4 during a stop at Barrow Brewing Company in Salado, Texas. Photo: Bill Miller, via Facebook.

The stop in Corsicana was about a week into the two-week tour, and a fundraiser there July 5 raised $1,600 for the Humane Society of Navarro County. Miller has lined up about two dozen similar events in 18 cities on his route. Miller also is the author of two books, which he sells during his visits to churches, breweries and bookstores, and part of the proceeds of those sales are added to the fundraisers.

“We have met some incredibly gracious and loving people along the way. They have shown [Wili] great hospitality,” Miller said.

Miller, a 58-year-old Texas native, has served as a priest about 25 years. He was living in Austin when he got his first dog, an Airedale named Sam, in 1993. The dog’s story of surviving a house fire became the foundation for Miller’s 2005 book, “The Gospel According to Sam.” (Miller’s other book is “The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God.”)

After Sam’s death and while serving at a church in Hawaii, Miller adopted Wili from the local animal shelter. Part terrier, Wili’s full name is Nawiliwili Nelson, a little bit Hawaiian and a little bit Texan (his nickname is pronounced “Willie”). The priest felt an immediate connection to the pup.

“He just had one of these rare outgoing personalities, and he has maintained that throughout his life, even here as he’s been dealing with cancer,” Miller said.

Miller moved to Covington, Louisiana, north of New Orleans, about two years ago to become rector at Christ Episcopal Church. And he now has three dogs, including a mutt named Sinbad and a pit bull named Mahalia Jackson Queen Liliuokalani, or Lili for short.

In November, Miller noticed Wili wasn’t eating. The veterinarian diagnosed cancer the next day, and Wili was given as little as three months to live. But that three months has extended past six months and now into the summer, with the help of surgery, chemotherapy and a healthier diet for Wili.

Miller took some time off from his work at Christ Episcopal to celebrate Wili’s improved health by embarking on their current road trip. They held a launch party on June 26 at the Abita Brewery in Covington and hit the road June 30. The tour will conclude July 16 in Las Vegas, where they have three events scheduled at Mountain View Presbyterian Church.

The Rev. Bill Miller is sharing dog stories with fans on the stops along his “Last Howlelujah Tour” of the South and Southwest with Wili. Photo: Bill Miller

The tour will take them from Louisiana to Nevada, passing through Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona, and counting the return trip, Miller expects them to cover about 5,000 miles before reaching home. He also will be preaching along the way, including Sunday, July 9, at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City.

But the most important thing for him, personally, is to spend time with Wili, who has a water bowl and plenty of space to rest with the seat down in the back of Miller’s Honda CRV. They’ve been thanking God for air-conditioning while navigating the hot highways of the South and Southwest. They travel light and look for cheap, dog-friendly hotels when they stop.

“Wili has not lost any enthusiasm for life and his love for people,” Miller said.

It’s one example why Miller describes dogs as “God’s best work.”

“I think what dogs teach us is how to be our best selves, because they exhibit unconditional love and affirmation,” he said. “They’re able to show us such love at every moment. They’re always happy to see us, the tail is always wagging. They take such delight in the simple things in life.”

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

Q&A: Samira Izadi Page, founder of Dallas’ Gateway of Grace

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 2:40pm

[Episcopal News Service – Dallas, Texas] Episcopal News Service spoke with the Rev. Samira Izadi Page, founder and executive director of Gateway of Grace, about her life, fleeing Iran in 1989, her journey to the United States a year later, and her ministry during a recent interview at her office in Dallas.

Gateway of Grace is a ministry that mobilizes Episcopal and other churches to bridge sociocultural gaps, and remove the fears, anxieties and spiritual apathy that stand in the way of Christians connecting with refugees. Gateway partners with more than 50 congregations to adopt refugee families upon arrival, and provides job readiness, language and other trainings.

On Wednesday nights, Gateway of Grace hosts Grace Community, providing a space for fellowship, prayer, worship, a meal and Bible study for Christian refugees who fled persecution in their home countries, and Muslim refugees who are interested in learning about Christianity. The community includes refugees from 16 countries — including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Syria — and six religious backgrounds.

In February, when the Trump administration first announced its executive order suspending the refugee resettlement program and restricting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, Gateway of Grace initiated a 30 Days of Prayer for Refugees campaign. Many of the refugees served by Gateway of Grace have family members and friends whose lives are in limbo.

You have an incredible story. Can you describe briefly your journey from Iran to the United States, what drove you to flee your country and seek political asylum?

My ex-husband was a Sunni Muslim, I was a Shia and he was persecuted. It’s a very long story, but one morning I was working on my Ph.D. and there was a knock at the door and when I opened the door life as we knew it just ended. The intelligence service came in, they tore the house apart and they found a copy of Salman Rushdie’s “[The] Satanic Verses” and that was basically the end for us. My husband, lucky enough, wasn’t home, but they took everything that we had at the house and they shut down his business, they shut down our accounts, and we escaped Iran empty-handed, walking through four feet of snow over two nights with two kids. We nearly froze to death.

The Rev. Samira Izadi Page

Age: 44 (on June 12, 2017)
Born: Shiraz, Iran
Residence: Dallas, Texas
Who: An Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Dallas and founder and executive director of Gateway of Grace.
Professional background: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy earned in Iran. Attended seminary at Southern Methodist University: Master of Divinity and Doctorate in Ministry focused on missional church studies. Ordained a deacon in 2010; a priest in 2011.

We went to Turkey. My husband’s brothers sent us money from Dubai, and we hired smugglers and they took us from Turkey to Mexico, and they left us in the middle of Mexico City with nothing; less than $500, no documentations, we had nothing. On the 10th day that we were there I saw a store that sold oriental rugs and I thought that may have something to do with Persian rugs so I went up to the store and I said, “Do you have any Persian rugs?” By my accent, he immediately knew I was Iranian. He started speaking back Farsi and I started crying. I said, “Stay right here, I’m going to get my husband,” and as soon as he came up he said, “Aren’t you the son of Mr. so-and-so?” That guy’s father had been my husband’s tenant back in our hometown. What are the odds of meeting someone from your own country of 60-some million, your hometown of a few million, whose father had been your tenant, in the largest city in the world on the 10th day? Every step that we took it was like that.

We were there for a year, it’s a long, long story, but then we crossed the border at New Laredo and walked through the river and turned ourselves in at the immigration post and applied for asylum. They said, “Where do you want to go?” My husband said, “Dallas.” It was really random. I wanted to go to California because that’s where most Iranians are, but my husband said, “Let’s go to Dallas.” It was a God thing really. And we got to Dallas at 7 a.m. and I thought, OK, we are going to have a job and an apartment today. A cab driver took us to Motel 6 from the downtown bus station. I saw Yellow Pages, which I had never seen before. I started looking for apartment locators, started calling, found out we couldn’t rent an apartment because we didn’t have Social Security numbers or jobs. I saw Islamic center, so I called them up and they said that they couldn’t help, but they knew of a lady who worked with refugees. They gave me the number, I called the lady and she sent someone. By 9:30 this guy was at our door and he said I have an apartment, I’m not sure whether you are going to like it or not. He took us to a two-bedroom, fully furnished apartment. By 11:30 we were in our own apartment. We had done our grocery shopping. We had paid a month of rent in a city where we didn’t know a soul; without documentation.

Now, these people, they were Christians, but they worked with Bosnian refugees who are Muslims. That’s how the mosque knew of them. They had prepared that apartment for a Bosnian family that was supposed to come a month before us. They never showed up, so it was just sitting. We walked right into it. When I told this man about my interest in Christianity he said, “Well why don’t you all come to church with us?” We went. It was a Baptist church, and I was baptized just six months later.

You were eventually given refugee status. Would you say your journey was typical or atypical?

It was atypical because refugees usually come in with full legal status. They come in with Social Security cards, they get work permits, but we had nothing. It was extremely difficult. That’s why I have so much compassion for refugees because I know where they’ve been.

You were born into a Shiite Muslim family and you married a Sunni Muslim. How did your family react to your conversion to Christianity?

My family was nominally Muslim, so there was never a conversation about religion at home. But my mom knew that I had a vision of the Virgin Mary when I was 6, so when I told her when I was about to be baptized, I called my mom and I said, “Mom, remember my vision?” and she immediately knew what I was talking about. I said, ‘Well, that’s happening,’ and she was happy. She is now a Christian; she was baptized about a year and a half ago, and now she’s being persecuted in Iran.

How did you find yourself in the Episcopal Church?

[By the] second year in seminary I knew that I couldn’t be a Baptist because of the sacraments and the understanding of ministry. My understanding was somewhat more ontological, who I was, rather than the function of, and the director of spiritual formation at Perkins was an Episcopal priest, Father Fred Schmidt. He is now at Garrett [Evangelical] Theological [Seminary]. I shared my testimony with him, and he said, “Well, have you considered joining the Catholic Church?” because of the vision of Virgin Mary. And I said, “Well I have a call to ministry,” and he said, “Well, why don’t you come to my church and visit.” I went that Sunday. And years and years ago, when I was 14 or 15, I had this dream and in that dream, I was thirsty looking for water. I was in a room that was in the shape of a hexagon and it was all marble and it was enclosed and I went round and round, and there in the middle of the room was a font. That stayed with me, and here I am many years later in the United States, becoming a Christian and I’m entering this church, Church of the Incarnation in Dallas. And I’m late and I have no idea what the Episcopal Church is and so I was kind of intimidated, and I enter through the back door, kind of the side door, and as I entered the first thing that hit me in the face almost was that font that I had seen in my dream. That’s how I knew I belonged there.

Where did the idea of Gateway of Grace come from?

When my curacy was coming to an end I started praying asking God what it was that he wanted me to do. And as I was praying through my life, it’s not like there was shortage of clergy here for God to bring an Iranian woman with an accent to serve at the parish, because as wonderful as that would be it would have nothing to do with my experience, what God had taught me through those experiences. So, I started to look at the refugee population, and at that time I had already worked with refugees for a couple of years. And I started looking at what was available to them, and Texas was the largest hub for refugees up until last year and now it is second to California. And I noticed there were churches that were doing holistic ministry, like the Baptist church that adopted me kind of intrinsically, and then there were churches or refugee organizations or ministries that were very secular: They would just give refugees stuff or help them, but they wouldn’t want to talk about the spiritual matters. Then there were, on the other side, people – “Are you saved, do you know Jesus yet?” And then there were a lot of programs but there wasn’t any systematic way of mobilizing churches to do a holistic type of ministry that would address not only the practical needs but also the emotional and spiritual needs of refugees. When we were praying about the name we thought, well, what is the one thing that distinguishes Christianity from all other religions, and that’s grace. And the instrument that God uses to communicate that grace into the world is the church, therefore, the church is the gateway of God’s grace, so Gateway of Grace.

How did you end up focusing your doctoral thesis on decreasing anxiety and fear about refugees among Christians?

When I got my doctorate, I wanted to do something that was relevant to the work I was doing and I wanted a very systematic, very Anglican kind of Episcopal way of removing fears and prejudices and spiritual apathy. Those are big issues, at least here in Dallas, just the unknowing. The idea was how do we use scripture, tradition, reason and social studies, all that we have in our church to address these issues specifically, and move them from the place of fear, anxiety, hatred, anger, unknowing to engagement in God’s mission through ministry to refugees?

Why do you think Christians (Americans) harbor so much fear and anxiety?

Well, part of it is the media. The media provides, whether it’s liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, or anything in between, they each provide a slice of reality. They don’t provide the entire pie of reality, and while those realities are factual, they are not the entire picture and thus they form an alternative reality that’s not accurate. But people who are not familiar personally with refugees, they buy that because that’s all they are introduced to, so media is a huge part of it; the way they present the issue.

In your experience have you found that alleviating those fears comes through compassion and acceptance and is that possible only through personal relationships?

So that’s what my thesis is about. It’s a whole workshop, it’s a whole process of how do we address those issues, so I use ancient prayer methods, social studies to kind of address the fears and the concerns and do a spiritual formation and move them from that place to refugee ministry.

Unlike in Europe, where disaffected first-generation European Muslims have staged large-scale terrorist attacks, the United States hasn’t seen the same kind of violence. Yet, Americans live in fear of such attacks. How do you address or alleviate the fear that many white Christian Americans express? Not just in terms of fear of the other, but living in fear of a terrorist attack? Because they come with real fear, they see this stuff on television.

I think the key is to acknowledge the fear because those fears are real. We had a shooting in Garland, Texas, that was done by a Muslim extremist, shooting [up] a library. So those are not things that are impossible to happen in the U.S., therefore the fears are real, right? But how probable are they? That’s a different question. So far refugee resettlement has been a very successful program and we haven’t had any issues with our refugees. I’m a Muslim background believer and I have a holistic ministry. Part of it is evangelistic ministry to refugees, many of whom are Muslims, many of whom are very conservative, so I understand the fear. So, for them to be able to connect to someone who would just acknowledge their fear and have sympathy for their fear and not just dismiss it, then that’s really the first big step. The other parts of it are, as I do in my workshop, how do we move forward, and that’s through this whole process that we do with our volunteers and it takes time and patience. But I’ve seen people who did not like refugees, did not like Muslims, who are now huge advocates for refugees.

The U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program is a public-private partnership and six of the nine resettlement partners are faith based. The affiliate network and the nonprofits working locally also tend to be faith based. Not to compare or say the U.S. system is necessarily better than the European system, which varies by country, but do faith-based partners lead to better rates of integration?


How so?

Resettlement agencies such as Catholic Charities and International Rescue Committee or other organizations, they have limited financial resources and limited manpower, but in the church, we have all these resources. We have the manpower and the financial resources that we need to minister to refugees, but more importantly refugee resettlement agencies or secular organizations, they provide services, and those are for a limited number of months or until [refugees] get on their feet. But what churches do, they not only add to the services and fill in the gap where services are lacking, but they add Christian care. Services and care are two different things. I think that’s really important for the healing process, for the integration process. And, then on top of that, where these agencies leave off, the relationships that churches have formed, and by churches, I mean individual Christians, they continue to grow, and I think that’s a gift to the refugees that they are able to connect with Americans. Most refugees never come to experience real friendship with Americans, with Anglos, particularly.

Gov. Greg Abbot pulled Texas out of the federal Refugee Resettlement Program, which indicates to me that statewide there’s some resistance to refugees. Still, resettlement continues with the federal funds channeled through nonprofit organizations, and Texas is second only to California in the number of refugees admitted. Can you share some insight into the dissonance?

Political issues and people issues are two different things. I think the people of Texas are extremely generous, extremely loving, Dallas particularly. Or Texas is a Christian state, and while they might be politically conservative, they have the Holy Spirit in them, and the Holy Spirit moves them to reach refugees and to love them and to serve them whether they politically may agree with refugee resettlement or their political party is supportive of that.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, on the other hand, takes a position opposite the governor. He applauds the resettlement program. I read that one in four Dallas residents is foreign born. What makes Dallas, particularly, welcoming toward immigrants and refugees? How have they helped shape the city?

What has helped them to be welcoming, it’s just the heart of the people. It’s not political, they are just good people, many of them just good Christians. It’s a very religious city, so that might have to do with it.

I’m sure you’ve read stories about how refugees are revitalizing communities in the Rust Belt, in the Hudson Valley, where there are tons of Salvadorans and others from Central America who have really revitalized some of these smaller towns. Obviously, diversity makes cities stronger, communities stronger. Have you seen that here in Dallas

Yes. There is a neighborhood in Dallas that used to be very violent. Refugees have been resettled there and the violence has been reduced, but I don’t think and those may be impactful in the ways that political decisions are made, like at the mayor’s level, but I don’t think that individual Dallasites think in those terms. I don’t think they think, what are we gaining from this? I think they just have a good and generous and compassionate heart.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently temporarily upheld parts of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, refusing entry to people from six Muslim countries, unless they have a family connection or a university appointment. What has been the impact of the court’s decision on the community you serve?

Our refugees are in Turkey. They are mostly persecuted Christians. They are really struggling with that decision because their situation now is unknown and they despair. Many of them are wondering whether they should go back to Iran, and that would be extremely dangerous because these are heavily persecuted Christians. And so it has been a very difficult six months or so for our refugees, anyways, but this recent decision has added definitely for that.

So, you have a direct connection to refugees who are awaiting third-country resettlement?

Iranians, they are particularly there in Turkey, and my sister and her husband, they are refugees in Turkey right now among others. So, yeah, we have a network of refugees that we connect to.

Lynette Wilson is managing editor of Episcopal News Service. 

New bishop announced on island of Borneo

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 12:35pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Rev. Danald Jute has been appointed as the 14th bishop of the Diocese of Kuching, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. Danald’s consecration and installation will take place next month at St Thomas’ Cathedral in Kuching.

Full article.

VTS appoints Jacqueline F. Ballou vice president for finance and operations

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 10:00am

[Virginia Theological Seminary] Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) is delighted to announce Jacqueline “Jacqui” F. Ballou as the new vice president for finance and operations. Ballou, who is currently the director of finance, planning and operations at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, will join the VTS community on Sep. 1.

“Jacqui will bring wisdom, extensive experience, and a passion for our mission, as she focuses on oversight of finance, facilities, and information technology,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of VTS. “It is an honor to have Jacqui join us.”

From 2007 to 2013, Ballou worked at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in the Office of the President, Dean of the Chapel and Religious Affairs, where she developed and maintained the department’s operating budget, managed the daily operations of the office, and created and maintained the department’s operating policies and procedures.

Ballou was named salutatorian at North Carolina A&T State University, where she received her Bachelor of Science in accounting. She received her Master of Business Administration in finance and strategic Management from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in Durham, North Carolina, and she was named valedictorian at Howard University, where she received her Master of Arts in religious studies with concentration in ethics. During her time at Howard she was an Ethical Dimensions of Leadership Program leader as well as a Student Leadership Conference lecturer on business ethics.

As a professionally certified Business Transformation Consultant and certified public accountant, Ballou was selected in 2016 to participate in a six-month intensive Foundation of Leadership Program at Harvard University.

Markham continued: “Jacqui is a delight. She has a love for Jesus, a deep commitment to community, and an eagerness to bring her skill set to the theological education.”


Young Anglicans in Malawi raise money for people with disabilities

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 4:01pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Members of an Anglican youth group in Blantyre, Malawi, have donated medical equipment, including a wheelchair, to two boys in need in the African country.

Victor January, who is 12 and has difficulties walking, received the medically recommended wheelchair as a replacement for his previously unsuitable one. A boy with albinism, Blessings Masalanga, was given special clothing and oils.

Full article.

African diocese awards stoves to winners of plastic artwork contest

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 3:58pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Environmentally friendly stoves were the prize on offer in the southern Africa country of Swaziland to winners of an Anglican diocese artwork competition that threw up the challenge of making mats out of plastic waste.

Bishop of Swaziland Ellinah Wamukoya launched the plastic artwork competition for the Mother’s Union with the objective of encouraging people to recycle and to reduce waste being disposed of in the environment. The Dean of All Saints Cathedral Rev. A. Dlamini, who was representing the bishop, awarded the stoves to nine winning parishes.

Full article.

Presiding Bishop ‘deeply concerned’ about Bruno’s actions, places ‘partial restriction’ on bishop

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 2:56pm

Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno spent nearly seven hours March 29 and 30 talking to the Hearing Panel considering the disciplinary action against him. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, citing behavior that “may threaten the good order and welfare of the Church,” has taken disciplinary action against Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno while a disciplinary panel weighs whether to punish Bruno further over his role in a failed land sale.

“I am deeply concerned that his act of entering into a new contract for sale of the same property, while his approach to the earlier sale is still under review, has the potential to undermine the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process,” Curry said in a statement released June 29. “The secrecy with which the recent sales contract was undertaken adds to the potential for undermining the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaches June 25 at the 145th Niobrara Convocation at Red Shirt Table, South Dakota. On June 29, he issued a partial restriction on the ministry of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The full statement is posted here.

Curry placed a “partial restriction on the ministry of a bishop,” meaning the Los Angeles bishop is forbidden from taking any action related to the property of the congregation in question, St. James the Great Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, California.

Curry also noted that the restriction doesn’t “express any opinion about the merits of the pending Title IV proceeding.”

The presiding bishop’s action against Bruno comes as the lead attorney in the pending disciplinary case filed a brief calling for the bishop to be deposed from his ministry and for a more thorough investigation into potential misconduct.

“His conduct demonstrates a contempt for the Title IV process, this Panel, and the Episcopal Church,” the church attorney, Jerry Coughlan, said in the brief, as posted online by the group Save St. James the Great.  “It is hard now not to suspect some other serious misconduct.”

The original case against Bruno involves his unsuccessful 2015 attempt to sell the Newport Beach church to a condominium developer for $15 million in cash. That effort prompted the members of St. James to bring misconduct allegations against Bruno, alleging he violated Church law. Hearings on those allegations where held in March.

The Episcopal Church ecclesiastical disciplinary panel, still considering whether or how to discipline Bruno in that case, chose to sanction the bishop this month for again trying to sell the church. The panel told Bruno on June 17 he is prohibited from “selling or conveying or contracting to sell or convey the St. James property until further order of the Hearing Panel.”

Curry now has added his own prohibition on such actions by Bruno. The news release announcing Curry’s partial restriction notes it is “a temporary measure only, to protect the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process, until it is concluded.”

“In recent days, I have learned of actions that, in my view, may threaten the good order and welfare of the Church,” Curry said, adding the restriction on Bruno is effective immediately.

St. James was one of four properties that the diocese spent close to $10 million in litigation to recover from disaffiliated Episcopalians who broke with the Episcopal Church over its policies on women’s ordination and the full inclusion of LGBTQ members in the life of the Church, including ordained ministry.

Diocese of Los Angeles Chancellor Richard Zevnik and Vice Chancellor Julie Dean Larsen have asked the panel to dismiss the entire case against Bruno. They have said that a “civil lawsuit, political actions and social media campaign” mounted by members of St. James the Great were “wrongfully, but successfully and strategically, designed to stop the sale of [the] 40,000-square foot church property” on what is known as Lido Island, a prosperous housing development sporting a yacht club.

The church’s clergy disciplinary canon, the chancellors argue, is “not intended to be used as a weapon to challenge a diocesan bishop’s decisions regarding the administration and stewardship of his or her diocese.”

But Coughlan argued that Bruno was guilty of “failing to exercise his ministry in accordance with applicable church canons,” “conduct involving dishonesty, deceit or misrepresentation” and “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.” He said in his closing brief that the panel must conclude that Bruno’s conduct was “calculated, pervasive and long-running.”

Bruno turns 72, the Episcopal Church’s mandatory retirement age, in late 2018. Incoming Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor, his successor, is scheduled to be ordained and consecrated on July 8.

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

Northern California youth trek centered on racial reconciliation, environmental justice

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 12:40pm

Young people hike in Yosemite National Park during the Pathways pilgrimage organized by the Diocese of Northern California from June 19 to 23. Photo: Diocese of Northern California, via Facebook.

[Episcopal Diocese of Northern California] A great movement doesn’t always begin with great big steps. And young people in the Diocese of Northern California are discovering that when it comes to racial reconciliation and environmental justice, the small steps they are taking may help others to understand what it takes to break down barriers and truly become the family of God.

From June 19 to 23, 24 young people ages 14 to 18 joined with nine young adult leaders and 12 older leaders, the bishop and a couple of visitors from the Office of the Bishop to explore unusual and historic places where racial discrimination and environmental degradation led people to fight injustice.

After a day of hiking through Yosemite, and talking about the national parks system and the prophetic voice of John Muir, they boarded a bus on June 21 to take them to California’s Central Valley, where they visited Cesar Chavez’s 40 Acres and Allensworth State Park, enduring 109-degree walks across nearly treeless farmland.

As one of the older adult leaders, the Rev. Kathy Hopner of Trinity Cathedral, pointed out, the younger participants had the most incredible insights into their pilgrimages, such as the following:

  • “This week has been full of discovery. Not only discovery from all the different sites, but from each other and our adults.”
  • “I loved how we went straight to the source of water. Most groups just talk about issues but never get to truly experience them.”
  • “Water is everywhere and is part of everyone, and connects all of us despite our differences.”
  • “It’s eye-opening to see all the good in the world amidst all the bad.”

Bishop Barry Beisner said he was awed and impressed by the depth of the involvement of the participants. “They really took seriously what it means to be followers of Jesus and I was taken with how responsive they were to the call to be part of the Jesus Movement. They were so authentic and involved in the music and liturgy. It was so inspiring to me.

“Without a doubt, Lift Every Voice and Pathways in the past three years have been the greatest lessons in my time as bishop.”

Another one of the older adult leaders was Beth Crow, youth missioner of the Diocese of North Carolina, who came to see how the program she started, Lift Every Voice, traveled across the country and was uniquely reborn as Pathways.

“The young adult leaders (most of whom were returnees from previous years of the program) really ‘get’ this, in ways that us older leaders don’t, whether it’s from our woundedness from growing up segregated or not having the chance to explore our feelings about race in a safe environment,” Crow said. “They are really running with this, and it’s beautiful to see.”

This year, the Northern California group spent a sweat-drenched day in the Central Valley, but after dinner, they seemed very grateful for the experience.

“I didn’t think I’d learn much more, since we had already heard about Cesar Chavez in school,” Giovanna Zampa from St. Paul’s, Benicia, said, “but being there where he was on his hunger strikes” — it made that history come alive for her.

And most agreed that Chavez’s longtime personal assistant, Marc Grossman, who now works for the Cesar Chavez Foundation, not only provided a wealth of information on the United Farm Workers movement then and now, but spiced up the talk with personal recollections of Chavez’s meetings with growers, politicians (including Robert Kennedy) and world leaders, and the toll his work took on his personal life. “I never got bored – I’ve met presidents and movie stars – you name it,” Grossman said.

Allensworth provided another perspective, one that is not well-known: The Col. Allensworth State Park is the site of a failed farming community that had started as a place of refuge for African-Americans after the Civil War.

“It was sold as an agricultural community,” said park ranger Steven Ptomey, “and they were farming, farming successfully alfalfa, but then California had one of its worst droughts on record.” The land got drier and drier, and the soil became too alkaline to farm, he said.

Ptomey led the group through the modest houses, the church and a glass-walled drug store that sold all manner of merchandise.

Later, the group met to process all they had seen during the day, talking about race and how they personally felt about its role in their lives. They sang, they prayed, they thought deeply, but still many were in awe of the day. The insights would come later.

“I was particularly struck by the curiosity, sharp minds and open hearts of all the participants. Both years I’ve learned so much from these young people, and I am inspired by them and their willingness to take on tough issues and to dig deeply with evidence of strong faith,” said the Rev. Mary Heller Taggart, a deacon at St. Paul’s, Healdsburg.

Lift Every Voice, the North Carolina program that was a model for Pathways, started out as a “freedom ride” to civil rights sights around the state, Crow said. On the bus was the Most Rev. Michael Curry, who was elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church just before the ride. Because the ride was intended for the spiritual development and growth of the youth involved, the leaders decided they could not allow a media presence, since that would put the focus on Curry, Crow said. But it also hampered the spread of the program, she said.

The second year’s program took a group, including six Northern California representatives, on a Pilgrimage of Reconciliation in South Africa, focusing on the history of apartheid there and on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

That same summer, the newly formed Pathways pilgrimage took a group of pilgrims to sacred Indian sites near the Oregon border and Tule Lake Segregation Center to learn what had happened when Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during World War II. Growing up in the area, a park ranger said she was told the stories that the camps were for the protection of those interned.

“At the end of [Lift Every Voice] in 2015, we were tasked with what we wanted to take away from the week and take home with us,” said Elizabeth Potts, a young adult leader from Church of the Epiphany in Vacaville, California. “And the group from Northern California decided that we had such a spectacular week and that it was so influential to us that we wanted to bring back some sort of similar experience for the other young adults and youth in Northern California that weren’t able to go with us. … We still have reconciliation work to do.”

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

Katharine Jefferts Schori to be assisting bishop in San Diego

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 11:51am

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori during her sermon in 2014 at Church of the Advocate uses a pair of red high heels to illustrate the expectations set upon ordained women. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal Diocese of San Diego] We are excited to announce the selection of former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as our assisting bishop.

Jefferts Schori will begin her tenure with us on Aug. 13. She will serve three-quarters time performing episcopal functions such as visitations, confirmations, ordinations and receptions. She will share with the standing committee the task of providing leadership and vision for the diocese and shall generally perform the functions of a diocesan bishop as delegated to her by the standing committee in its capacity as the ecclesiastical authority during the transition. She will work closely with the executive council as well.

Jefferts Schori served as the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church from 2006 until 2015. Prior to her role as primate, she was the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada.

She earned a biology degree from Stanford University in 1974, followed by a master’s in oceanography in 1977 and a doctorate, also in oceanography, in 1983 from Oregon State University. In 1994 she earned a master’s in divinity from Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

She is married to Richard Schori, a retired topology professor. Their daughter, Katharine, served 10 years in the U.S. Air Force; she separated as a major. Bishop Jefferts Schori is an instrument-rated pilot and is fluent in Spanish.

We thank you for your continued prayers as we move forward with this transition.