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Lawsuit claims LA diocese knowingly accepted priest accused of sex assault; background checks came up clean

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 3:19pm

[Episcopal News Service] A woman is suing the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, saying one of its priests sexually assaulted her and others in New York in the 1970s, and the diocese knowingly allowed him to serve as a priest there anyway. However, two other dioceses that have licensed the priest in question say their background checks never turned up any allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Rev. Paul Kowalewski, 71, is retired but had been serving as an occasional supply priest at the Church of St. Paul in the Desert in Palm Springs, California, and his ministry has been suspended, the Rt. Rev. Susan Brown Snook, bishop of San Diego, told Episcopal News Service. Though the church is in the Diocese of San Diego, he is canonically resident in the Diocese of Los Angeles, and served as the rector of a large Los Angeles parish from 2005 to 2013.

Patricia Harner, the plaintiff, says Kowalewski sexually assaulted her in 1971, when she was a 19-year-old parishioner at St. Amelia Catholic Church in Tonawanda, New York, and he was a seminarian preparing to be ordained in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

In response to questions from ENS, the Diocese of Central New York – the first Episcopal diocese in which Kowalewski served as a priest – said there is no record that indicates the diocese knew of any sexual abuse allegations against him when he was received or during his tenure there. The diocese conducted a background check on Kowalewski in 1990, which turned up no indication of sexual misconduct, according to their records.

Brown Snook also said her diocese also did a “thorough background check before licensing him to do occasional supply work, which did not turn up these allegations,” and the diocese had no knowledge of the allegations before the lawsuit was filed.

Harner’s law firm, Jeff Anderson & Associates, is also representing another woman who says Kowalewski molested her when she was 16 and a member of the same parish, The Buffalo News reported. The firm plans to file a separate suit on her behalf in New York, according to that report.

Kowalewski served as a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo from 1973 to 1977, and during that time, he was sent to a church treatment facility in Canada “in response to his abuse of children,” the lawsuit says. In the late ‘70s and 1980s, he earned a Ph.D. in communications and taught at several universities before returning to ministry in the United Methodist Church in 1985, according to The Buffalo News. He then entered the discernment process for the Episcopal priesthood in the Diocese of Central New York and was received in 1990. He  for bishop of the Diocese of Western New York in 1998.

The lawsuit, filed on July 22, claims the Diocese of Los Angeles knew of multiple accusations of sexual assault (including child sexual abuse) against Kowalewski, failed to report him to police, and presented him “as a priest in good standing who is safe to the public, safe to children, and safe to parishioners.” It also claims the diocese lied to parishioners, saying he had not been accused of sexual misconduct.

The lawsuit does not mention any allegations of misconduct during Kowalewski’s time in California.

“The Diocese of Los Angeles views each and every allegation of sexual misconduct with the utmost seriousness,” the Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor, bishop of Los Angeles, said in a statement in response to the lawsuit. “The Rev. Paul Kowalewski is not currently serving in our diocese. Nevertheless, once we have had the opportunity to review the details of this matter, we will take whatever appropriate steps we can to make sure that a fair and just outcome is achieved for all parties.”

Brown Snook also released a statement in response to the suit:

“We regret deeply the misconduct of any clergy person in any church,” she said in the statement. “We will cooperate fully with the investigation that will be conducted by the Diocese of Los Angeles and any other authorities. Clergy have a sacred position of trust. We take seriously all complaints, and research them thoroughly.”

Harner, the plaintiff, told The Desert Sun that she had not told anyone that Kowalewski assaulted her until two years ago, and that she is suing “to alert the community of the danger this man poses.”

“I thought he was out of the priesthood and any kind of ministry at all. And when I found out he wasn’t, I couldn’t let another person bear what I had gone through for so long,” she said.

Brown Snook said her diocese is “deeply shocked and saddened by any allegations of sexual abuse,” and has written a letter to the parishioners of St. Paul’s explaining the situation.

“Everyone who has been affected by this sad and shocking situation is in my prayers, and I hope for a just resolution to the lawsuit,” she said.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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‘Violent,’ ‘dehumanizing,’ ‘dangerous’: National Cathedral’s sharp criticism of Trump resonates across America

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 2:33pm

[Episcopal News Service] It’s not often that an official statement from the Washington National Cathedral – the most famous icon of The Episcopal Church, and site of many state funerals and inaugural prayer services – contains words like “savage,” “dangerous,” “violent” and “dehumanizing.”

But it’s also not often that a president of the United States calls an American city “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess … a dangerous and filthy place” and targets congressional representatives of color with racist insults.

In light of the escalation of President Donald Trump’s racially focused attacks, the clergy of the National Cathedral released a statement on July 30 that denounced Trump’s “violent, dehumanizing words.” The statement, which has spread rapidly around social media and news outlets, uses some of the strongest, most direct language used so far by American religious leaders:

“As faith leaders who serve at Washington National Cathedral – the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance – we feel compelled to ask: After two years of President Trump’s words and actions, when will Americans have enough?”

The statement, titled “Have We No Decency? A Response to President Trump,” is ultimately directed more at the American people than Trump himself, and draws a parallel between the present moment and Joseph Welch’s famous confrontation of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1954.

“As Americans, we have had such moments before, and as a people we have acted. Events of the last week call to mind a similarly dark period in our history,” the statement reads. “McCarthy had free rein to say and do whatever he wished. With unbridled speech, he stoked the fears of an anxious nation with lies; destroyed the careers of countless Americans; and bullied into submissive silence anyone who dared criticize him.”

It took Welch’s bold questioning on national TV – “Have you no sense of decency?” – to “effectively [end] McCarthy’s notorious hold on the nation,” and Trump’s words and actions demand a similar response from the American people, the statement says.

“When does silence become complicity?” it asks. “What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough? The question is less about the president’s sense of decency [than] of ours.”

The statement is signed by the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Diocese of Washington, the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of the cathedral, and the Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas, the cathedral’s canon theologian.

Some of the statement’s firmest language focuses on racism and the erosion of common decency and moral values:

“We have come to accept a level of insult and abuse in political discourse that violates each person’s sacred identity as a child of God. We have come to accept as normal a steady stream of language and accusations coming from the highest office in the land that plays to racist elements in society.”

And although Budde, Hollerith and Douglas have individually criticized various policies of the Trump administration, this statement’s focus on Trump’s character, its frank description of racism and its warning of violent consequences make it unique:

“Make no mistake about it, words matter. And Mr. Trump’s words are dangerous. These words are more than a ‘dog-whistle.’ When such violent dehumanizing words come from the President of the United States, they are a clarion call, and give cover to white supremacists who consider people of color a sub-human ‘infestation’ in America. They serve as a call to action from those people to keep America great by ridding it of such infestation. Violent words lead to violent actions.”

As Donald Trump continues to shout dehumanizing, violent and racist words from the most powerful office in the land, we all must transform our silence into words and action. https://t.co/2E77iZmz09

— Kelly Brown Douglas (@DeanKBD) July 30, 2019

The statement was quickly picked up by national and international news outlets including The Washington Post, CNN, The Guardian and Bloomberg, and has been shared thousands of times on social media by influential figures like Chris Matthews, Mia Farrow, former CIA Director John Brennan, director Ava DuVernay and multiple current and former members of Congress.

“Never have I been more proud to call the Washington National Cathedral my home,” former National Security Adviser Susan Rice tweeted along with a link to the statement.

Never have I been more proud to call the Washington National Cathedral my home.

Have We No Decency? A Response to President Trump – Washington National Cathedral https://t.co/Fck61LL3dw

— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) July 31, 2019

“This is a very big deal. Extraordinary step by National Cathedral,” said former Sen. Claire McCaskill.

This is a very big deal. Extraordinary step by National Cathedral. Have We No Decency? A Response to President Trump – Washington National Cathedral https://t.co/FAXVNDKfxT

— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) July 31, 2019

The statement ends with an excerpt from Trump’s inaugural prayer service at the cathedral on Jan. 21, 2017, during which the clergy “prayed for the President and his young Administration to have ‘wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties that they may serve all people of this nation, and promote the dignity and freedom of every person.’

“That remains our prayer today for us all,” the statement ends.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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Union of Black Episcopalians ‘family reunion’ in Los Angeles concludes, work continues

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 3:28pm

UBE youth and young adults spent a day at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Hollywood, California, working in the community garden, composting, picking jalapenos and tomatoes, and making salsa. Photo: Jaime Edwards-Acton/St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service – Los Angeles] The Union of Black Episcopalians 51st annual business meeting and conference July 22-26 in Los Angeles welcomed new board members and deepened commitments to youth and young adult empowerment, congregational and leadership development, racial reconciliation, social justice outreach and advocacy, and collaborative partnerships.

About 300 participants from across the Caribbean, Central and North America and the United Kingdom attended the gathering, themed “Preparing the Way for Such a Time as This: Many People, One Lord.” Attendees enjoyed daily Bible study, spirited worship, civic engagement and social justice-focused workshops, while also observing the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans in what would become the United States.

Members honored the outgoing board, especially National President Annette Buchanan, and weighed a response to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s “get souls to the polls” invitation to engage voter education and registration drives in 2020.

Curry preached at a joyous July 24 praise service, planned and led by youth and young adults. It featured the Holy Spirit Dancers from St. James’ Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, an ensemble of young women that has performed at UBE conferences since 2016.

Youth and young adults also planned their own meeting and workshop agenda, engaged in local service projects, visited the Hollywood Walk of Fame, enjoyed a black Hollywood bus tour and visited the California African American Museum.

Buchanan said UBE “is the church’s largest advocacy group. I want us to be proud of the fact that, over these 51 years, we have been able to sustain our organization. UBE is an example for the church. Many other advocacy organizations have used our model as a way to build and propel their organizations forward.”

During her six-year term, the racial justice organization established a Washington office, hired staff, upgraded technology and introduced the first Sunday in September as UBE Recognition Sunday in honor of the Rev. Alexander Crummell. The organization added weekly online Bible study and prayer lines, and strengthened ties to The Episcopal Church Office of Black Ministries and other church bodies, and increased mentoring, outreach and advocacy efforts.

While the annual gatherings are “a family reunion, we are hopeful you will also see them as a way of developing your leadership skills,” Buchanan told the gathering. “When we gather, it is an opportunity to learn and to be revitalized to go back into the world.”

‘Black Lives Matter,’ linking justice issues

Activist Lloyd Wilke said during a panel discussion about activism that he helps to support Inglewood youth by offering conflict resolution and diversity training for educators and law enforcement officers, with “Tools for Teens” at the Museum of Tolerance and a “Keep it Real” boxing instruction program at local churches.

“After they box for an hour and are totally exhausted, I have them right where I want them,” Wilke said. “We sit in a circle and talk about issues and the things on their minds.”

Pastor Victor Cyrus-Franklin of Inglewood First United Methodist Church described fostering ecumenical partnerships and linking worship with justice issues. He has hosted a community Good Friday Stations of the Cross service that uses “rather than traditional sacred music, the music from Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ album.”

“The point being, there’s a correlation that helps us hear the words of Jesus differently … trying to find a language rooted in the faith but connected to the culture to help express where we are,” Cyrus-Franklin said.

When his congregation joined local rent stabilization advocacy and canvassed the neighborhood, it “became a form of evangelism for us, a faith walk,” he said. “One way we love our neighbors is to make sure everybody can afford to live here.”

Melina Abdullah, professor and chair of pan-African studies at California State University, Los Angeles, said church involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement is crucial “because this is spirit work.” Black Lives Matter was born in 2013 in the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Challenges, such as the rise of hate groups, increased allocation of public dollars to policing and the criminalization of homeless people, “could seem unwinnable were we not faithful people,” she said. “The answer to homelessness is house keys, not handcuffs. It could seem insurmountable, but we win through spirit.”

Historically black colleges and universities

Voorhees College President W. Franklin Evans said the presiding bishop will be the guest speaker at the historically black institution’s April 7, 2020, Founder’s Day celebration. The school in Denmark, South Carolina, has begun offering an online degree program and recently opened a veteran’s resource center. In addition to receiving a $500,000 historic preservation grant and a United Thank Offering grant to create a student wellness center, the college has established a relationship with the University of Ghana, “and hopefully this fall we will have 25 students enrolled at Voorhees College” from Ghana, Evans said.

Gaddis Faulcon, interim president of Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina, said the historically black school has achieved financial stability and continues to move forward.

St. Augustine’s has established such priorities as enrollment management, student learning and achievement, campus beautification and the creation of distinctive programs.

“We will have an online program in organizational management and plan to create a master’s degree in organizational management,” he said.

Office of Black Ministries to UBE: ‘We want to invest in people’

The Rev. Ronald Byrd Sr. told the conference that the Office for Black Ministries has a new mission statement and a newly designed website. He announced innovative partnerships, expanded ministry, coaching and mentoring opportunities and a “Healing from Internalized Oppression” curriculum launching Aug. 16-17 in Southern Ohio.

As Episcopal Church missioner for black ministries, he seeks “to inspire, transform and empower people of the African diaspora to live fully into the Jesus Movement,” adopting a convocation model. “Our community is as diverse as any,” Byrd said.

“We have African Americans, South Africans, East Africans, Afro Caribbeans, Sudanese and many others,” he told the gathering. “We hosted our first convocation of East Africans here in the Los Angeles diocese. It is our intent and strategy, as we go forward, to convene more.” A convocation is planned with Sudanese clergy in 2020, and “we are also working with our Cuban brothers and sisters. We are hoping to make a trip there early next year,” he said.

Byrd also announced a partnership to help alleviate a clergy shortage in the Virgin Islands. Mainland clergy may spend two to four weeks in the Virgin Islands leading worship. “In return, you receive free air travel, accommodations, ground transportation and, in some cases, a small stipend,” he said. “They need clergy now.”

He also announced other supportive programming, adding: “We want to invest in people. We want to come to your neighborhood, your diocese, your deanery. We are on the move,” he said. “The only way this office will be successful is through you and your support.”

New board members, General Convention 2021

In other business, members elected a new board of directors. The Very Rev. Kim Coleman (Virginia) will succeed Buchanan as national president. The Rev. Guy Leemhuis (Los Angeles) was elected first vice president. Ayesha Mutope-Johnson (Texas) will succeed the Rev. Martini Shaw as second vice president. Christina Donovan (South Carolina) will serve as secretary. The Rev. Clive Sang (New Jersey) will continue as treasurer, and the Rt. Rev. Carl Wright, bishop suffragan for armed services and federal ministries, will continue as an honorary adviser. Derrell Parker (Florida) volunteered from the floor to lead young adult efforts.

The Rev. Sandye Wilson said the board wants to set some clear goals for Curry’s 2020 voter education and registration drive invitation before introducing it to local chapters. She announced a series of resolutions proposed for General Convention 2021, scheduled for June 30-July 9 in Baltimore, Maryland.

The resolutions would include a $2 million request for continued funding for Becoming Beloved Community to respond to racial injustice, income equality reforms through minimum wage increases, and funding for the Office of Black Ministries’ Healing from Internalized Oppression curriculum. Proposals also call for addressing voter suppression and tackling mass incarceration. The resolutions may be found here.

Additionally, UBE recognized the following:

  • The Rev. Wil Gafney, a professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas, with the Anna Julia Haywood Cooper Award;
  • Alfred D. Price, a 10-time deputy to General Convention, with the Bishop Walter Decoster Dennis Award;
  • Kurt Barnes, Episcopal Church chief financial officer and treasurer, with the Bishop Quintin Ebenezer Primo Award; and
  • The Rev. Joseph D. Thompson Jr., an assistant professor of race and ethnicity studies and director of multicultural ministries at Virginia Theological Seminary, with the UBE Faith in Action Award.

The 52nd annual UBE Business Meeting and Conference will be held in June 2020 in Montgomery, Alabama.

– The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a Los Angeles-based Episcopal News Service correspondent.

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International forum calls for joint church action to end nuclear energy development

Fri, 07/26/2019 - 1:39pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An international forum set up by the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK) – the Anglican Communion in Japan – has issued a statement this week calling for denuclearization and for churches to join in the campaign for natural energy.

The statement, following a gathering in May, says: “the Tokyo Electric Power Company Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station disaster and subsequent damage which occurred as a result of the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake completely shattered the myth of safety and made us aware of the extreme danger of nuclear power generation.”

It states that as long as nuclear power generation is operative, it continues to create dangerous radioactive waste and there is a risk that the technology can at any time be diverted to nuclear weapons and threaten the right to live in peace.

Read the full article here.

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Anglican churches are key responders in battle against latest Ebola outbreak

Fri, 07/26/2019 - 1:13pm

An Ebola treatment facility in Guinea. Photo: United Nations via ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican churches in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are playing a vital role, alongside health care agencies, in the fight against the world’s second-largest outbreak of Ebola in the northeast of the country.

The Archbishop of Congo, Masimango Katanda, said the church was attempting to raise awareness of the reality of the virus and tackling misinformation. He said:“The main role of the church at this time is to raise awareness… Ebola concerns everyone. We will encourage all church members to be informed and follow the advice so that they can take care of themselves. We will work with pastors, youth, school heads, Mothers’ Union and others – so that all can be involved together to eradicate this disease.” He also said churches in the affected areas have set up different points for hand-washing and temperature checks, and are also working alongside the humanitarian agencies involved in the crisis.

Read the full article here.

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In groundbreaking vote, Anglican Church of Canada supports a self-determining indigenous church

Fri, 07/26/2019 - 12:49pm

Archbishop Fred Hiltz anoints the Anglican Church of Canada’s National Indigenous Bishop, Mark MacDonald, as he is raised to the status of archbishop. Photo: Anglican Church of Canada via ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada has voted overwhelmingly to approve steps to enable a self-determining indigenous church within the church. Following the approval of changes in canon law, the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, Mark MacDonald, was given the title and status of archbishop. He will always be an invited guest at Sacred Circle – the national gatherings of indigenous Anglicans for prayer, worship, discernment, and decision-making – with a voice but no vote.

The resolution will allow the National Indigenous Ministry to make various changes on the composition of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) and Sacred Circle without needing the approval of General Synod.

Read the full article here.

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Pennsylvania bishop on hunt for historic crozier receives tips, gift from blacksmith’s granddaughter

Fri, 07/26/2019 - 8:50am

[Episcopal News Service] Pennsylvania Bishop Daniel Gutiérrez, after his consecration in 2016, embarked on a modest quest for relics from the diocese’s distant past and soon caught wind of one of the church’s lesser-known local legends, the mystery of the missing crozier.

Pennsylvania Bishop Daniel Gutiérrez

Gutiérrez has had no problem getting his hands on a more modern crozier, the ceremonial staff commonly clutched by all Episcopal bishops, but the object of his fascination was a crozier rumored to have been created by the renowned blacksmith Samuel Yellin, a European immigrant who arrived in Philadelphia in 1906.

By the time of his death in 1940, Yellin’s Gothic Revival ironwork could be found in a wide range of prominent settings, from Washington National Cathedral to the banks of New York’s Wall Street, but Gutiérrez, in asking around his diocese, was unable to turn up hard evidence of a Yellin crozier, let alone the object itself.

“I think it’s important,” Gutiérrez said in a phone interview with Episcopal News Service. “Even though we continue to make history as The Episcopal Church and be innovative, we have to celebrate and honor our past history.”

Then last week, fortune smiled. Gutiérrez received an email from Davis D’Ambly, the liturgical artist who had tipped off the bishop to the story of the Yellin crozier a couple years ago. Attached to the email were two photos of the crozier, proof it was more than a tall tale.

Gutiérrez, who has a bachelor’s degree in history, could hardly contain his excitement in his thankful response to D’Ambly. “It was one of those exclamation point emails,” he told ENS. But there still was no clue to what might have happened to the crozier. Was it stolen, misplaced or maybe hiding in plain sight somehow?

After sending an email with the photos to congregations in the diocese asking for their help, Gutiérrez decided to broaden the call to social media. On July 18, he posted the photos to his Facebook account.

“Please let us know if you have any leads on where it might be stored,” he said in his post. “We would love to get it back in the diocesan office. Any detectives out there?”

As of July 26, the post had received more than 60 comments, and one of them came from someone with even better credentials than a detective: Yellin’s granddaughter, Clare Yellin, whose profile says she lives just outside of Philadelphia in Haverford.

She wasn’t able to identify the crozier’s location but provided some background information on it and offered to donate another ironwork of her grandfather’s to the diocese.

“This crozier was commissioned in 1921,” Yellin said, but “trying to pinpoint when this crozier when missing is a lost cause.” She noted that a local art curator had been researching the crozier for a book about her grandfather but wasn’t able to track it down.

Clare Yellin, Samuel Yellin’s granddaughter, offered to donate this piece by her grandfather to the Diocese of Pennsylvania. Photo: Clare Yellin, via Facebook

The work she offered to donate to the diocese was “the study piece for the crozier in question,” she said. Gutiérrez responded that he was “honored to accept” and would display the piece in the diocesan office.

Gutiérrez told ENS he planned to meet with Yellin in August, since she currently is on vacation and he is traveling in New Mexico.

New Mexico provided another wrinkle to the story of the Yellin crozier. One of the responses he received to his Facebook post indicated that an ironworker in New Mexico had produced reproductions of Yellin’s work. Gutiérrez reached out to him and plans to meet with him while visiting the Southwest.

The Diocese of Pennsylvania has plenty of local history to promote, going back to 1787, when it consecrated its first bishop, William White. He is remembered as one of the independent Episcopal Church’s chief architects, its first president of the House of Deputies and its first presiding bishop. Documents with White’s signature that previously had been held in storage are now on display in the diocesan office, Gutiérrez said.

The bishop may not be much closer to finding the Yellin crozier, but his hope has not run out.

“I always have faith,” he said. “You never know how the Holy Spirit will work, so I have faith that someday it will turn up.”

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

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Episcopalians take part in UN forum on eliminating poverty worldwide

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 4:56pm

[Episcopal News Service] Leaders from The Episcopal Church participated over the past several weeks in a United Nations forum on eradicating global poverty. During that time, they represented the church, shared updates on the work that church-affiliated groups are doing and learned about progress that has been made so far.

The U.N. High-Level Political Forum, or HLPF, on the Sustainable Development Goals is a yearly meeting to review progress toward achieving the 2030 Agenda, a document outlining the U.N.’s plan to eliminate poverty by 2030. That plan is broken down into 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, which focus on solving specific issues that contribute to poverty, like insufficient education, climate change, gender inequality and unhealthy living conditions. During the HLPF, which took place at U.N. headquarters in New York July 9-18, various entities from inside and outside the U.N. gathered to evaluate the status of those goals.

The Episcopal Church has been building up a presence at these forums for years, having endorsed the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs when the U.N. adopted them in 2015.

“The Episcopal Church has been aiming to eradicate poverty long before the U.N. was even created,” said Lynnaia Main, The Episcopal Church’s representative to the U.N., who attended the forum. “After all, in Matthew 25, Jesus called on his disciples to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. So there is a natural alignment between what Jesus calls us to do as Christians and what the countries of the world are trying to do in calling for an end to poverty, via the lens of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

The SDGs line up well with the work that various Episcopal entities have been doing for years, Main said. Episcopal Relief & Development in particular has been working to relieve suffering and foster sustainable development through programs around the world that target hunger, disease, inequality, economic disadvantage and environmental destruction. Episcopal Relief & Development is using the SDGs (which emphasize the importance of collecting data and measuring outcomes) to evaluate its relief efforts, and the organization’s program knowledge manager Chou Nuon was one of the Episcopal delegates at the HLPF.

Other delegates included Jamie Coats, executive director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, who was there in support of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. OPHI, which is headed by Anglican priest and economist Sabina Alkire, has developed a new way of measuring poverty called the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index. While poverty has traditionally been determined by income alone, this analytical tool incorporates other weighted factors like education and health and living standards, producing a more accurate result for an individual’s status. This has given the U.N. – and the entities that work within and around it – the ability to more specifically track progress toward the SDGs.

The Rev. Nigel Massey, chair of the Diocese of New York’s Global Mission Commission and rector of the French Church du Saint-Esprit in Manhattan, attended the forum to learn more about the U.N.’s definitions of sustainable development. The Global Mission Commission helps parishes in the diocese engage with communities in developing countries by providing grant funding, as well as training and assistance with mission trips. As with Episcopal Relief & Development, the Global Mission Commission uses the SDGs to evaluate its own mission work.

Episcopalians also hosted side events during the forum, including “Education to End Inequality and Promote Peace,” which The Episcopal Church co-hosted with several other NGOs at its headquarters in Manhattan.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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Episcopal Church as shareholder takes initial steps toward direct advocacy with gun manufacturers

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 4:46pm

Guns for sale are seen inside of a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, in February 2018. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church has begun investing in gun manufacturers as part of a policy approved in 2018 by General Convention that was intended to give the church a seat at the table in gun safety discussions with the companies.

The church’s Executive Council oversees such advocacy through its Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility, led by Western Massachusetts Bishop Douglas Fisher. As a shareholder, the church ultimately will have the ability to propose shareholder resolutions with the three publicly traded companies: Sturm Ruger; American Outdoor Brands, which owns Smith & Wesson; and Olin Corporation, owner of Winchester Ammunition.

Shareholder resolutions sometimes gain momentum over time with company leaders, Fisher told Episcopal News Service, so “even if you don’t get up to 50% [of the vote], leadership takes notice.”

He and other church leaders are highlighting a document known as the Mosbacher-Bennett Principles for Investors in the Gun Industry, which was developed by the anti-gun violence group Do Not Stand Idly By. The document recommends pressuring gun manufacturers to ensure responsible gun sales, improve gun safety, support crime-reduction activities and minimize the secondary gun market.

Just $2,000 of stock is required to be eligible to submit shareholder resolutions. The church, which bought the shares in November and December, must wait a year from purchase until it is eligible to submit a shareholder resolution, under federal regulations. Shareholder resolutions submitted by the church first would need to be reviewed by Executive Council. None has yet been drafted.

“There’s no intention of trying to disrupt business or bankrupt the gun manufacturers or do anything nefarious along those lines,” said Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, a convener of Bishops United Against Gun Violence. Rather, he compared the push for gun safety to the shareholder advocacy in the 1960s that pressured automakers to make seat belts standard in all vehicles.

“We believe that firearms manufacturers can do more technologically to produce safer guns,” Douglas said in an interview with ENS. Universal background checks for purchases, smaller magazines, and fingerprint verification are among the reforms advocated by Bishops United – “the kind of legislation that the vast majority of Americans support,” Douglas said.

Legislative victories, however, have been rare in recent years despite the growing alarm nationally over gun violence, particularly mass shootings at churches, schools and other public spaces. That is one reason The Episcopal Church is also stepping up its direct appeals to companies, said Fisher, who is one of the 80 or so Episcopal bishops in the Bishops United network.

Episcopalians join an interfaith group of demonstrators outside a Smith & Wesson facility in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 14, 2018. Photo: Victoria Ix/Diocese of Western Massachusetts

Fisher said he has participated in rallies outside a Smith & Wesson plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, where young people tried to present a letter to the company but were turned away. His diocese purchased shares in American Outdoor Brands to give Episcopalians and those young allies greater leverage in getting their message heard.

“We’re trying to open the door that young people have been knocking on,” he said, alluding to youth-led March for Our Lives movement that formed in the wake of last year’s school massacre in Parkland, Florida.

Fisher can understand the concerns of Episcopalians who may bristle at the thought of the church owning stock in the companies that make the weapons used in mass shootings.

“On the other hand, how are we going to have an impact on the public health crisis of gun violence?” he said.

Douglas added that the church and other investors have a relatively low threshold of shares needed to put forward a shareholder resolution.

“The profit is minuscule compared to the voice that it purchases,” he said, and even a small profit, if desired, could be applied to anti-violence work instead of the church’s bottom line.

The Episcopal Church was a party to a significant victory in shareholder advocacy on gun safety in 2018 when Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it would stop selling assault-style rifles and wouldn’t sell other guns to anyone under 21. The company did not attribute the decision to the pressure applied by The Episcopal Church and its ecumenical partners, but Dick’s had been a recent target for such advocacy.

The church and its allies coordinate some of their shareholder advocacy through the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, of which The Episcopal Church is a member, and the center has warned that proposed changes in federal regulations could harm shareholder rights. One proposal is to require shareholders to own at least 1% of company stock to submit a resolution, putting that avenue out of reach for all but the largest investors. Another proposal would make it more difficult to reintroduce resolutions that receive some support but fail to pass.

“That would be a crushing blow to socially responsible investing,” Fisher said.

His committee also is considering ways of expanding its advocacy on gun safety issues beyond gun manufacturers to possibly include other companies whose business overlaps with the gun industry. Banks are one example, Fisher said, and he pointed to a report by the group Guns Down America that graded some of the country’s largest banks, including on their investments with gun manufacturers.

Another member of the Bishops United network, retired Newark Bishop Mark Beckwith, has followed up on that report by flagging its findings for several dioceses that have accounts with the banks. The information may provide an opening for diocesan leaders to discuss gun safety issues with bank officials, Beckwith said.

For now, Beckwith told ENS, this is a “low-key” tactic based in the hope that conversations may lead to change.

“This is not ‘Let’s all pull out of these banks, these offending banks,’” Beckwith said, “but rather let us engage in a conversation and work together on what we think are best practices.”

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

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Presiding Bishop tells young Episcopalians: ‘We must help America find its soul’

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 12:47pm

Youth sing during a July 24 youth and young adult service held as part of the Union of Black Episcopalians’ 51st annual conference in Pasadena, California. Photo: Janet Kawamoto/Diocese of Los Angeles

[Episcopal News Service – Pasadena, California]  A Union of Black Episcopalians youth worship service became a call to action July 24 when Presiding Bishop Michael Curry took the pulpit at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California.

Curry urged the UBE leaders, youth, several hundred local worshippers and visiting conference-goers to consider, “between now and next year, leading a massive voter registration and education drive, and a get out the vote campaign.”

Frequently interrupted by applause and shouts of “Amen,” he emphasized “this is not a partisan statement. We can’t tell people how to vote. That’s not right. But we can tell people, you must vote.

“It is a Christian obligation to vote and, more than that, it is the church’s responsibility to help get souls to the polls.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached during the July 24 youth and young adult service held as part of the Union of Black Episcopalians’ 51st annual conference in Pasadena, California. Photo: Janet Kawamoto/Diocese of Los Angeles

Casey Jones, 26, a campus missioner at St. Michael’s University Church in Isla Vista, California, said he had invited a friend to the 7 p.m. worship service, showcasing about 60 youth and young adults attending UBE’s 51st annual conference.

It was his friend Chris McCroy’s first visit to an Episcopal Church “and I can’t tell you, the pride that I felt in bringing him with me there and hearing what Bishop Curry had to say,” said Jones.

“How rich in both the Episcopal tradition and the African American tradition his sermon was, and how he holds both of those things in a way that makes me be myself, and makes me proud to share my church with others.”

For McCroy, 25, a UCLA graduate student, Curry’s sermon felt: “Absolutely phenomenal. I was totally blown away by how beautifully he intertwined our need to be connected through our ancestors.

“I took to heart his analogy of our ancestors being like rocks, and how important it is to understand where we’re headed and how to address social justice and the spiritual problems going on in our society and our need to be connected to these rocks, the rocks of our ancestors. I especially appreciated that he’s not trying to be political, that we are dealing with moral issues.”

‘Look to the rock’

Echoing the conference theme “Preparing the Way for such a Time as This: Many People, One Lord,” Curry invoked the prophet Isaiah’s advice to draw strength from those who have gone before to create transformation.

In a sermon laced with laughter and peppered with applause and “Amens,” Curry stepped in and out of the pulpit and engaged worshippers in call and response. He quoted: Isaiah 51:1, gospel spirituals; Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes; jazz singer Billie Holiday; “Roots” author Alex Haley; national forefathers Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, and even led a rousing chorus of the Frank Sinatra classic song “That’s Life.”

“Isaiah writes, ‘listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from whence you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you.”

Or, “the songwriter said it this way: ‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on …”

The congregation responded: “Jesus’ name.”

“On who?”

“Jesus’ name.”

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand,” Curry added.

Repeating the rallying cry of “look to the rock” Curry recalled the need to persevere and work for future change even when present hopes seem dashed “on the altar of reality.”

“They (the Jewish people) had such hope when they remembered how Moses led them to freedom. They had such hope when Miriam took the tambourine and danced and sang the Lord has triumphed gloriously. The horse and the rider, he has thrown into the sea. They had hopes and then, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, about the year 586 B.C. or so, their hopes were dashed. There was an election.”

As the congregation laughed and applauded, Curry quipped: “I’m not being political. I’m just being biblical. I’m staying in the Bible.”

Weaving the African diaspora experience with the biblical story, he recalled the defeat of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, who exiled and enslaved the Israelites. “They had hope when the Civil War ended and Reconstruction began,” he added.  “They had hope, but then Reconstruction ended and there were hooded night riders and Jim Crow was born.”

The world, for the Jewish people, as for African slaves, had fallen apart. “This was the time James Weldon Johnson (author of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”) said, ‘when hope unborn had died.’”

But hope rises afresh. “When times are hard. When the world seems to have gone crazy, ‘look to the rock’ … and find God.”

Evoking laughter, he added: “See, the African ancestors understood this. They understood you could be riding high in April and shot down in May. And, if you don’t believe them, Frank Sinatra understood that one.”

Leading the congregation in singing: “‘I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing. Each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race. That’s life.’”

He added: “And, if you don’t believe Frank, ask Jesus. You can ride into Jerusalem on Sunday and be on a cross on Friday. But if you look to the rock, you know Easter’s always coming.”

A call to action

Jesus started a movement, not an institution, Curry said. He charged his followers with the Great Commandment, to “love the lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind. Or, as Billie Holiday would say, ‘all of me. Why not take all of me?.’”

Jesus’ call to love means loving “the neighbor you like and the neighbor you don’t like,” he said. “Democrats, you have to find a Republican neighbor, and love that neighbor. Republicans, you have to find a Democrat neighbor. And Independents, you can go either way!”

“Because if it’s not about love, it’s not about God … (and) sometimes, when we stray from our true heart and from our true origins, we lose our soul.”

Soberly, he added: “I love this country. I love her enough to speak truth.”

He interspersed with “something’s wrong” a chilling portrait of current political realities, including the child-parent separations at the U.S. border; a rise in hate crimes; attacks on places of worship in recent years, and a recent political rally led by President Donald Trump.

“Something is fundamentally wrong when crowds chant about a congresswoman, a Somali American, and say to ‘send her home,’” he said. “And when the president of the United States says ‘you need to go back home,’” to four congresswoman of color who have been openly critical of him.

“This is not a partisan statement, this is a moral statement,” Curry said. “Something’s wrong. We must help America, this country we love.”

The nation’s core principles, as described in the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, at the Statue of Liberty and in Langston Hughes’ “I, too, sing America,” are quintessentially what this country is about, he added.

“When we are debating and trying to decide what to do with our borders … ask that green lady with that torch in her hand,” Curry said. “’Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ That’s America. We must help America find its soul, help America look to its rock.”

And when getting “souls to the polls” he added: “Tell them to cast your vote, not on a partisan basis. Not based on your biases, but vote your values. Vote the values of human dignity and equality. Vote the values of the rock on which this country was built. Vote.”

Recalling a scene from Alex Haley’s “Roots” where enslaved African Kunta Kinte lifted his infant daughter to the night sky and whispered in her ear, “‘Behold the only thing greater than yourself,’” Curry spoke directly to the youth, who read lessons and prayers during the service.

“Lift up your head and behold your God,” Curry said. “You are a baptized follower of Jesus Christ. Follow in his footsteps. Live his teachings. Walk his way of love. Stand up for Jesus. Lift up your head and then face whatever this world presents you with. Walk together, children. Don’t get weary, cause there’s a great camp meeting in the Promised Land.”

The UBE conference continues through July 26.

– The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a Los Angeles-based Episcopal News Service correspondent.

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Man sues Arizona diocese, alleging negligent handling of 1970s sex abuse by priest

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 4:37pm

[Episcopal News Service] A man who says he was sexually abused by a priest in the early 1970s is suing the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona and the Tucson parish where the abuse allegedly occurred, claiming his reports of repeated molestation were ignored at the time. It may be the first lawsuit to take advantage of a new Arizona law that extends the statute of limitations for cases of child sexual abuse. The diocese, though not disputing that the abuse took place, denies his accusations of a cover-up and says the matter was handled appropriately at the time.

According to the lawsuit, Charles Taylor was sexually abused for several years around age 12 by the Rev. Richard Babcock, a priest at Grace Church (now Grace St. Paul’s Church), in the church and in Babcock’s home. Taylor says he told the rector about the abuse at the time, but the rector failed to stop it, and Babcock continued to abuse him and other children. The lawsuit, filed on July 12, also claims that the diocese knew that Babcock was abusing children and covered it up by “reassigning him to other churches.” The complaint consists of two counts each – negligence and breach of fiduciary duty – against the diocese and Grace St. Paul’s. Babcock, now deceased, admitted to having abused children in a sworn affidavit before his death, according to the law firm representing Taylor.

Taylor had tried to sue Grace St. Paul’s and the diocese in 1991 but was unable to do so because the statute of limitations had expired, his law firm says. But in May, a new state law went into effect, allowing victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits up until their 30th birthday. It also allows anyone to file a suit until Dec. 31, 2020, no matter how long ago the alleged abuse occurred.

The Episcopal Church has extended its own internal statute of limitations for reporting clergy sexual misconduct against an adult in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Resolution D034, passed at the 2018 General Convention, suspends the time limit for reporting those cases, effective from Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2021. The church has no time limit for reporting a case of sexual abuse against a person under age 21.

In a July 18 letter to the Grace St. Paul’s community, the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Reddall, bishop of Arizona, said the diocese takes every allegation of misconduct seriously, no matter how old, and is reviewing Taylor’s complaint.

“He and his claims have been known to us for many years,” Reddall wrote, “but despite repeated legal action, we have never been able to come to satisfactory resolution.”

The diocese first learned of Taylor’s allegations in 1991, Reddall told Episcopal News Service, and there is no record of him reporting any abuse before then. The diocese had no reports of misconduct by Babcock until 1979, when two boys from another Tucson church who had encountered Babcock through choir said he had molested them. Babcock had left Grace in 1978 and became the vicar of St. David’s in Page, Arizona, in 1979. According to Reddall, “everything indicates that there was a perfectly normal transition process.”

“The move was not initiated by the diocese, and there’s nothing to indicate that it was inspired by any misbehavior or cover-up on his part,” Reddall said.

That same year, the two other boys came forward, saying Babcock had abused them.

“Within days of receiving that report, he was inhibited, and after an investigation a couple months later, he was given the choice of renouncing his orders or going to an ecclesiastical trial, and he chose to renounce his orders,” Reddall said.

“To the best of our knowledge, the diocese handled it in 1979 appropriately for 1979. One question we still have is we don’t know if it was reported to the police or not at that time. There’s one letter that indicates that someone was going to report it to the police, but we don’t have anything in the file on that. So it’s possible it was reported and not followed up on, and it’s also possible that it wasn’t reported. But the priest was removed immediately and never regained his orders.”

Reddall says she can’t be sure whether Taylor’s allegations against Babcock are true.

“We don’t know whether he was abused by Richard Babcock or not, but we do know that Richard Babcock admitted to abusing some other boys, and what we now know about child abuse would imply that those were not the only two boys that Richard Babcock had ever abused,” Reddall said.

The diocese obtained a restraining order preventing Taylor from visiting or contacting Episcopal churches because, Reddall said, he had threatened then-Bishop Kirk Smith, other clergy, and himself.

“He was threatening that he was going to harm himself in a church in front of children. And so we felt that in order to keep our people safe, we needed to seek the injunction against him,” Reddall said.

In an interview with Tucson news station KOLD, Taylor acknowledged those incidents and said he was trying to confront the church about inaction on child sexual abuse.

“We absolutely believe that churches need to be safe places, and I believe our churches are, and that’s why we’ve been putting all the policies and procedures in place over the last 30 years that we have,” Reddall said.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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Episcopal leaders in Hawaii pledge support for mountain ‘protectors’ against telescope project

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 2:53pm

[Episcopal News Service] The bishop of the Diocese of Hawaii and Native Hawaiian clergy have spoken out in support of a demonstration that is blocking a proposed telescope project on the top of the state’s highest mountain, a site considered sacred in Hawaiian culture.

The diocese on July 22 released a statement on the issue from two Native Hawaiian clergy members accompanied by a letter from Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick aligning the diocese with those who have positioned themselves as “protectors” of the mountain, Mauna Kea, in halting progress on the telescope.

“We, the Episcopal Church in Hawai’i, stand in service to Mauna Kea as a sacred place, and in solidarity with those who are protecting her,” the Revs. Jasmine Hanakaulani o Kamamalu Bostock and Paul Nahoa Lucas said in their written statement.

The protests on Hawaii’s Big Island “have brought attention to the alienation of the indigenous people of these islands, the kanaka maoli, from their own land,” Fitzpatrick said. “As Episcopalians, we must not be afraid to speak honestly together about past wrongs and the current injustices. We must talk and, more importantly, deeply listen and act.”

Drawing comparisons to the Native American demonstrators who in 2016 tried to stop an oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, Native Hawaiians and activists have been camped since last week at the foot of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, blocking an access road in opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The $1.4 billion project has cleared various regulatory hurdles and was backed by a ruling of the state Supreme Court. While legal battles continue, protests have remained peaceful, though 34 participants were arrested, cited and released last week, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

The Maunakea Observatories are seen from above the peak on Hawaii’s Big Island. Photo: NOAA.

About a dozen telescopes already are positioned at the top of Mauna Kea’s 14,000-foot peak, a treasured location for those studying the cosmos because of the site’s natural advantages, including clear air and reduced light pollution. Some Hawaiians favor the project as a boost for the local workforce and economy, though the Native Hawaiian demonstrators and other opponents argue that scientific development of the site has gone far enough.

“This is not an issue of being anti-science, as Hawaiian people have a long and proud history of technological advancement,” said Bostock, curate at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Honolulu, and Lucas, vicar at St. John’s-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Kaneohe. “This conflict centers on efforts to respect Mauna Kea as a sacred space – as ‘wao akua,’ realm of the gods.”

Their statement compares Mauna Kea to sacred sites in the Judeo-Christian tradition, such as Mount Horeb, Mount Carmel and Mount Zion.

“Sacredness is not merely a concept or a label,” they said. “It is a lived experience of oneness and connectedness with the natural and spiritual worlds. Nature is not inert, but a place where our creator is known and honored. Mauna Kea is such a holy place for the Hawaiian people and many others.”

The modern Episcopal Church has been supportive of indigenous people’s quest for self-determination and preservation of indigenous culture and spirituality. That contrasts with the church’s historic complicity in oppressive colonial and federal systems. In the 1800s, Episcopal missionaries ministered to American Indian tribes, but conversion to Christianity typically required leaving Native spirituality behind.

Native Hawaiians’ struggles against American colonialism began more recently. The Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893 by a group backed by American business interests, and Hawaii would become the 50th state in 1959.

A 1997 General Convention resolution specifically called on the church to “take such steps as necessary to fully recognize and welcome Native Peoples into congregational life.” And in 2009, General Convention repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, rooted in a 1493 document that purported to give Christian explorers the right to claim lands they “discovered” and convert the people they encountered.

Bostock and Lucas affirmed in their statement that the Doctrine of Discovery has long been discredited, and they offered prayers “that the dignity of all people will be upheld, and the sacredness of Mauna Kea will be honored and protected.”

Fitzpatrick said he concurred with the statement and offered a teaching on the issue.

“Our faith does not promise freedom from conflict or from disagreement. We are called to seek together peace with justice in the Beloved Community,” he said. “Such conversations will take time – even years. It will certainly call for patience and honesty. Our conversation must deepen now.”

In the short term, he recommended a “moratorium on all moves to begin construction” of the telescope.

“I acknowledge that the livelihoods of some will be impacted and the hopes of others overturned by such a move,” Fitzpatrick said. “I am saddened by that reality and it certainly must be part of our conversations, but we must continue together.”

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

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Union of Black Episcopalians meets in Los Angeles, celebrates diaspora, women bishops

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 2:16pm

Bishop Chet Talton, retired suffragan of Los Angeles, center, celebrates the opening Eucharist at the Union of Black Episcopalians 2019 conference on July 22 at St. John’s Cathedral, Los Angeles. Photo: Janet Kawamoto/Diocese of Los Angeles

The 51st annual business meeting of the Union of Black Episcopalians opened July 21 in Los Angeles with spirited worship celebrating the African diaspora’s rich musical and cultural heritage, and with standing ovations and sustained applause for three African American women recently elected diocesan bishops.

The Los Angeles Episcopal Chorale performed a choral prelude, “Especially Do I Believe in the Negro Race,” authored by W.E.B. Dubois, recalling African Americans’ early struggles for equal rights. Dubois, a founder of the NAACP in 1909, authored the credo with Margaret Bonds, one of the first black composers and performers to gain widespread recognition in the United States. The credo calls for pride of race, peace, liberty, equal education and patience.

The Africa in America dance ensemble performs a prelude at the July 22 opening Eucharist. Photo: Janet Kawamoto/Diocese of Los Angeles.

Rousing drumming and dynamic dancing brought several hundred worshippers to their feet as the Africa in America Ensemble of dancers and drummers led a procession of bishops, clergy and lay leaders into the Romanesque-style St. John’s Cathedral near downtown Los Angeles. The two-hour worship service in Swahili, English and Spanish also included original musical offerings, a Swahili psalm of praise and a Nigerian musical rendition of the Nicene Creed.

West Tennessee Bishop Phoebe Roaf, guest preacher at the 7 p.m. Eucharist, noted the 400th anniversary of the 1619 arrival of the first African slaves in the British colony of Virginia, along with the continuing struggles today in the church and society.

“The unique experiences of black folk have uniquely prepared us for such a time as this. The work is hard; it’s challenging, and it’s life-giving,” Roaf said, echoing the conference theme, “Preparing the Way for Such a Time as This: Many People, One Lord!!”

The challenges also present opportunities for ministry and building bridges and partnerships.

“As we continue to fight and struggle for the rights of black folks, remember this is bigger than us,” she said. “There are a lot of other folks struggling too. So, where are we, when it comes to assisting our immigrant brothers and sisters?

Bishop Phoebe Roaf, newly ordained and consecrated in the Diocese of West Tennessee, preaches at the opening Eucharist, on July 22. Photo: Janet Kawamoto/Diocese of Los Angeles

“Where are we when it comes to maintaining the health of this planet Earth, our fragile home? Where are we when it comes to the issues facing our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters? Even if racial discrimination were eliminated from this church and this nation tomorrow … our work would not be done because, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, none of us is free as long as one of us is not free.”

Evoking laughter and applause, she added: “Black folk have been advocating for full equality in our beloved church and this (country), our home—notwithstanding what other people may think of where we’re going back to.” Roaf was referring to recent tweets in which President Donald Trump told four congresswomen of color who have been critical of him to “go back” to where they came from. “I don’t know about you, but I am home,” she said.

Roaf, ordained bishop on May 4, is one of three African American women consecrated diocesan bishops within the past year. Newark Bishop Carlye J. Hughes was consecrated Sept. 22, and Colorado Bishop Kym Lucas was consecrated May 18, bringing to five the number of African American women bishops in the Episcopal Church.

Indianapolis Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows became the first African American female diocesan bishop when she was consecrated in 2017. Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris, consecrated in 2003, succeeded Bishop Barbara Harris, whose 1989 consecration made her the first woman and first African American woman bishop in The Episcopal Church.

Remembering lessons of the past; healing hearts today

During a welcome to conference attendees, Los Angeles Bishop John Taylor recalled that UBE was born at St. Philip’s Church in Harlem in February 1968, a year “when plenty of fresh political hay was made by leveraging voters against one another on the basis of race.”

Remembering the lessons learned that tumultuous year, in which both King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated amid great civil unrest, “enables us to better understand times like this,” he said.

The Union of Black Episcopalians gathers for the July 22 opening Eucharist of its 2019 annual conference at St. John’s Cathedral, Los Angeles. Photo: Janet Kawamoto/Diocese of Los Angeles

“We are many peoples, many cultures, many languages, from many nations gathered under the wing of one Lord, collecting our promise of freedom and justice in one nation under God, So, if someone says to any of us, go back where you came from, we follow that instruction to the letter. We come here,” he said, referring to the historic cathedral’s altar.

“This is where we come … to fortify ourselves and go out and play our indispensable role in healing the heart of America and the world.”

UBE President Annette Buchanan said the conference theme was chosen to reflect the rich cultural diversity of the African diaspora and to pay homage to the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans on this continent.

The goal of the conference is “to prepare ourselves to face all of the issues in our nation,” she added. “At times, it feels like we are reliving some experiences of the past. We must fortify and sustain ourselves to be recommitted to the fight ahead for many in our community.

“These are very dangerous times,” she said. “These are very disappointing times. We see some of the gains we’ve made are eroding.”

‘Preparation, renewal, sustenance’

West Tennessee’s Roaf echoed themes of preparation, renewal and sustenance.

“Let’s take advantage of the rest of this week, of the time we have together to really come away with some action plans for things to take home,” she told the gathering, which includes Episcopalians from across the United States, the Caribbean and Central America.

Citing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s “Way of Love” spiritual practices and the racial healing aspects of “Becoming Beloved Community” as resources, she added: “There truly is work to be done.

“The past few years have uncovered a level of hatred far greater than I ever imagined from my fellow American citizens. These are scary times we’re living in. We need to acknowledge it and not be paralyzed by it.”

Transformation is key, she added.

“The bottom line, brothers and sisters, is that our church and our world will be transformed once we are transformed. Our transformation … is the first step in our work of racial reconciliation and social justice.”

The conference continues through July 26.

Workshops and plenaries range from multicultural liturgy to spirituality and sexuality, opportunities for ministry, Black Lives Matter and issues of mental health.

The Most Rev. Julio Murray of Panama, primate of Central America, is expected to celebrate a 7 p.m. Eucharist on Tuesday, July 23, also to be held at St. John’s Cathedral.

Curry is expected to preach at a youth and young adult service at 7 p.m. July 24 at All Saints Church in Pasadena. The service will be live-streamed at allsaints-pas.org/live-stream.

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

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Scribes tried to blot her out. Now a scholar is trying to recover the real Mary Magdalene.

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 11:23am

Elizabeth Schrader is a Duke University doctoral student in religion. Photo: Megan Mendenhall/Duke University via Religion News Service

[Religion News Service] On July 22, the feast day of Mary Magdalene, Elizabeth Schrader will hike up a mountain in the south of France to the cave where, legend has it, the saint lived out her remaining days after the crucifixion of Jesus.

It will be Schrader’s fourth trek to the cave in the town of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, an hour’s drive from Marseille, but her first on the actual feast day decreed by Pope Francis in 2016. Even before the decree, the day had long drawn pilgrims who process through the streets of Saint-Maximin with the purported skull of Mary Magdalene in a golden reliquary.

Schrader, a doctoral student at Duke University, has her own way of honoring the woman who witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection. Schrader’s academic work, like that of others, attempts to liberate Magdalene from the patriarchal overlays of ancient Christian scribes who recorded the New Testament’s four Gospels.

For Schrader, the impulse to recover the scope and stature of Mary Magdalene came nine years ago, when she was Libbie Schrader, a singer-songwriter in the New York pop scene. A cradle Episcopalian, she had wandered into a church garden in Brooklyn to pray to the Virgin Mary and heard a voice telling her to seek out Mary Magdalene.

Three days later, Schrader wrote a song, “Magdalene,” that later become the title of her 2011 album. That, in turn, sent her to the Brooklyn Public Library in search of scholarly articles about the Jesus follower, who is sometimes portrayed as a prostitute, though the Gospels never say so.

“It’s not my choice to be working on this,” said Schrader, 39, who left her music career to pursue scholarship. “It happened to me.”

Schrader’s central discovery, which she wrote about in a paper published by the Harvard Theological Review two years ago, is that Mary Magdalene’s role was deliberately downplayed by biblical scribes to minimize her importance.

Specifically, Schrader looks at the story of the raising of Lazarus told in the Gospel of John. In today’s Bibles, Lazarus has two sisters, Mary and Martha. But poring over hundreds of hand-copied early Greek and Latin manuscripts of the Gospel, Schrader found the name Martha had been altered. The scribes scratched out one Greek letter and replaced it with another, thereby changing the original name “Mary” to read “Martha.” They then split one woman into two.

Schrader argues that the Mary of the original text is Mary Magdalene, not Martha or Martha’s sister, Mary. The two sisters belong to another story, in the Gospel of Luke, that is not repeated in John’s Gospel.

The reason for the change, Schrader said, was that later scribes did not want to give Mary Magdalene too big a role in the events of Jesus’ life. Already Mary Magdalene is at the crucifixion and the empty tomb, and in the Gospel of Luke she is exorcized of seven demons and then travels with Jesus and supplies him the funds needed for his ministry.

In particular, the scribes may have wanted to avoid giving Mary Magdalene the confession of faith that follows the story of Lazarus. That confession — “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” — in today’s Bibles is uttered by Martha. Schrader argues it was meant to be said by Mary Magdalene.

“Martha is added as a way of diminishing Mary Magdalene and confusing her presentation,” said Schrader in a Skype interview from Germany. “It’s a later editor’s interference with the intention of (John) the evangelist.”

Schrader posited that Mary Magdalene caused tension with Jesus’ male disciples, especially his handpicked deputy, Peter, that is evident in several noncanonical gospels — accounts of Jesus’ works not included in the New Testament. Later scribes, Schrader said, may have been acutely aware of that.

Stephen C. Carlson, a scholar at Australian Catholic University who studies early Christianity, said Schrader does a very good job demonstrating what he called “textual instability” surrounding Martha that many scholars may not be aware of.

“The tendency would be to think that the variants she’s discovered and is calling attention to can be dismissed as some kind of scribal incompetence,” Carlson said. But he added that he would be interested in seeing a fuller treatment of her study in a doctoral dissertation.

Other scholars have suggested that Mary Magdalene could not have been Lazarus’ sister because the Gospel indicates that Lazarus and his sister lived in Bethany, near Jerusalem, whereas Mary Magdalene was from the Galilee region — possibly Migdal or Magdala — where most of Jesus’ ministry took place. Schrader, however, argues that Magdala comes from the Hebrew word for “tower,” an honorific title, and doesn’t refer to the town where Mary was from.

Last week, Schrader traveled to Münster, Germany, to meet with the editors of the Nestle-Aland New Testament, the edition of the Greek text used by most scholars, students and translators today. She discussed her findings about the changes made in the text of John’s Gospel and said the editors may consider adding a footnote to that effect in upcoming editions.

Schrader’s paper comes at a time when many scholars are trying to recover women’s roles in early Christianity — roles the early church fathers tried to suppress.

Just this month, another scholar posited that three of the earliest surviving images of Christians worshipping at church altars show women in official liturgical roles. Speaking at the International Society of Biblical Literature in Rome, Ally Kateusz said the images are significant because they show women and men in parallel roles, suggesting they may have served as deacons, priests, or maybe even bishops.

Mark Goodacre, a New Testament scholar at Duke, said he was encouraged by all the new scholarship around women in early Christianity.

“There have been many men who have imagined the Christian movement as a thoroughly male-dominated, exclusively male setup,” Goodacre said. “We’re in the process of trying to reimagine Christian origins and put women back into where they originally were, having been written out by male interpreters over the years.”

For Schrader, who grew up in The Episcopal Church, where women serve as priests, bishops, even presiding bishops, it makes sense that a younger generation of women would see things others have not.

“A woman has to know her worth,” she said, “to dig and find this.”

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‘Free Range Priests’ solve traditional church problems

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 3:50pm

[Faith & Leadership] A few weeks ago after Sunday worship, I was drinking coffee with parishioners at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Salisbury, North Carolina.

We were talking about how happy they are with how things are going in the congregation.

They mentioned how easily they laugh and socialize together. They talked about their deepening theology, how they are being challenged to think about their relationship with God in new ways.

The Rev. Catherine A. Caimano. Photo: Faith & Leadership

They mentioned how many of them are designated lay ministers of some kind — they read and assist during Eucharist; they officiate at morning prayer; they bring communion and visit with those who cannot make it to church.

We spoke at length about a beloved parishioner who had recently died after a grueling illness. Nearly everyone from the congregation had helped provide care for him and his wife, with visits, meals, prayers and gifts. At the funeral and after, they were present and prayerful with his grieving family, giving extraordinary care both to them and to each other.

By almost any measure, St. Paul’s is an exceptional and flourishing congregation.

Except one: size.

The total membership of St. Paul’s is about 30, though they have seen a solid 10 percent growth over the past two years. Three new members have become very active during that time. One is now in the choir, and another is on the vestry. St. Paul’s is a congregation of modest size and modest means, yet they are thriving spiritually.

I know this because I am their “Free Range Priest.”

My relationship with St. Paul’s is part of my overall ministry as a “clergypreneur,” a term coined by my friend the Rev. Jay McNeal. I work in a variety of ways and places, online and in person, with congregations and individuals, to make one vocation from a variety of jobs.

Basically, I am like an Uber driver for your spiritual experience.

At St. Paul’s, I serve two Sundays per month for a flat fee, plus they pay me hourly for pastoral care, Christian education and leadership formation, and other services as needed. I am not a “Sunday supply” priest — basically, a substitute clergyperson — because I have an ongoing relationship with this community. Yet I am also not their official pastor.

I am not in charge of the congregation, I do not attend their leadership meetings, and I do not represent them. The congregation runs the church, and their ministry keeps it going. They contract with me for my own ministry, where and when it works best for them, and for me.

My ministry at St. Paul’s, and my wider Free Range Priest ministry — which includes Sunday supply, mentoring, coaching and more — is born out of necessity. St. Paul’s, and many churches like it (close to 20 percent of Episcopal churches the last time I checked), can no longer afford even a very part-time clergy salary. Only about half of mainline Christian clergy are currently being paid for full-time work. Many clergy work full time — or more — but are not getting paid for that work.

Both congregations and clergy are facing the reality of dwindling numbers, which creates a lot of tension for both. Clearly, we need to find creative solutions for congregations to continue to thrive and for clergy to continue to serve. The new vocation of Free Range Priest gives the congregations and the clergy the creative space to flourish.

Sometimes, people are put off by the title “Free Range.”

“Like the chicken?” they ask.

Well, sort of.

“Free Range” might imply that I have no accountability or responsibility for what I do, but that could not be further from the truth. Like the chicken (and the lamb), I am still part of the flock. Nothing I do is outside the realm of how an ordained clergyperson serves — bearing the sacraments, traditions and Scripture of the faith into the world. I am still fully responsible and accountable — to both St. Paul’s and The Episcopal Church — for all that I do. The only thing that is different for me is where, how and with whom I do this.

As a Free Range Priest, I support congregations as they currently are, not as they wish they could be or once were. This is why my work with St. Paul’s is so important. I am free to serve them in a way that supports the other parts of my ministry. And they are free to have ordained ministry that they can afford, without having to worry about how to pay a clergy salary.

“You have freed us from having ‘NPAS,’” one parishioner told me. “That means ‘no-priest anxiety syndrome.’”

Many congregations have this syndrome, because they fear they can’t pay a salary and thus might lose their priest.

Priests (and other ordained ministers) have this fear, too. Lots of ordained clergy have no idea how they would support themselves and their families if they lost their full- or part-time clergy salaries. Many are looking for secular work, because ministry no longer pays the bills — or the seminary student debt.

Lots of clergy — more than 1 in 10, according to one study — work without any compensation, because they love the church and want to serve God and God’s people even if congregations can’t pay them. But this is not sustainable for clergy or congregations. If we keep moving toward clergy not being paid, we will soon have no ordained ministry at all.

As a Free Range Priest, I now know that there is another way.

Congregations can afford to pay for ministry on contract, by the hour. I know, because I do it.

Clergy can find ways to share our ministry — online and in person — with those who need to know about the love of God but may not be attending church. I know, because I do it.

For so long, the mainline Christian congregational model has been the only way we could imagine clergy serving our vocation. But today, we have many other ways to consider being the church, and serving the church.

This is my whole ministry. It is healthier to have the freedom to consider how to bring the love of God to the most people — and get paid for it — than to have to keep upholding institutional and organizational models of church administration that are no longer working.

My ministry is to model and support what it might look like to serve fully as an ordained clergyperson in unexpected ways and places. In addition to serving St. Paul’s, I serve as Sunday supply for other congregations. I teach and mentor preachers online with Backstory Preaching; I coach and mentor clergy; I work with clergy, congregations and dioceses on challenges facing today’s church, particularly around digital and social media ministry. I also offer “2 Minutes of Good News” every Monday morning on my Facebook page and connect in other ways with those who are not necessarily believers or churchgoers.

Such fresh, adaptive approaches to where, how and whom clergy serve are crucial for the mainline Christian church to thrive in the 21st-century world.

Free Range Priests aim to find ways to make ministry sustainable, and to help share good news in new places and ways. Creative ministry is the future of the living church.

This was first published in Faith & Leadership.

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Hymn society tournament reveals ‘greatest hymn of all time’

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 3:27pm

[Religion News Service] “Holy, Holy, Holy!” has been chosen in a March Madness-like tournament as “the greatest hymn of all time.”

The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada announced the winner on July 18, the last day of its annual conference in Dallas.

“Some matchups were real nail-biters, while in others one hymn blew its opposition out of the water!” reads a post on the society’s Facebook page. “Yesterday was the final round and we can safely say that the Greatest Hymn of All Time — as chosen by you — is: Holy, Holy Holy!!!”

The full bracket for The Hymn Society’s 2019 Hymn Tournament. Image: The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada

More than 800 people, mostly members of the 1,200-member Hymn Society, voted on the society’s website, on Facebook and, in the last rounds, in person at the conference during the competition that featured brackets similar to the springtime NCAA basketball tradition.

Hymn experts said it was fitting, if not surprising, that “Holy, Holy, Holy!” — which trounced “Amazing Grace,” 70% to 30% in the second round — defeated its musical challengers.

Christopher Phillips, author of the 2018 book “The Hymnal: A Reading History,” said “Holy, Holy, Holy!” is “something of a natural champion among hymns of various eras.

“The words and music have a stately, majestic quality, something many worshippers want to associate with the traditional hymn repertoire,” he said.

Phillips, a professor at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, added that the hymn’s tune by English clergyman John B. Dykes is one of the 19th century’s best. The words by Anglican bishop Reginald Heber, he said, “are an elegant way of affirming the basic belief in the Trinity that unites most Christian denominations regardless of other doctrinal differences.”

The hymn begins with the words “Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!” and ends with “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!”

Eileen Guenther, church music professor at Washington’s Wesley Theological Seminary, said the society’s approach to the tournament, providing hymn titles from which to choose rather than asking people to list their favorites, means the winner is a barometer “with borders” on what enthusiasts consider the greatest one.

“I think what it really speaks to is our quest today for the past,” she said, adding that people may have voted for “Holy, Holy, Holy!” because they recalled singing it as children.

“So having a hymn of longtime history (and) deep roots probably makes sense for a questionnaire right now,” said Guenther. “And my guess is if that same questionnaire happened another time, … we would get an entirely different response.”

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Jóvenes Episcopales live out the Way of Love at Panama gathering

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 1:45pm

Ninety-six youths from Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States attended the first-ever Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Panama City, Panama] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry brought the Way of Love message to the first-ever Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales gathering of Latin American youth last week in what was a rousing celebration of Hispanic culture and youth empowerment.

“Let no one despise your youth,” said Curry, referencing 1 Timothy during the July 18 opening Eucharist. “Follow Jesus and just love.”

EJE19 brought 96 young people ages 16 to 26 from across Latin America and the Caribbean to Panama City for the event styled after the popular Episcopal Youth Event held every three years in the United States. Delegations and volunteers came from each of the seven Province IX dioceses and Cuba, as well as Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala and Panama. EJE also included a six-member Spanish-speaking youth delegation from the United States, with participants from New York, Texas, Arizona and California.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaches in English and Dinorah Padro interprets his words in Spanish during the opening Eucharist of the Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales, held July 18-19 in Panama City, Panama. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

During the Eucharist’s readings, a young participant read 1 Timothy 4:12-16 in its entirety: “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. …”

It was a refrain repeated one way or another throughout the July 18-19, “Way of Love”-themed event held at the City of Knowledge, a former U.S. military base that now serves as an NGO hub and conference facility, with theaters, auditoriums, classrooms and dormitory-style lodging.

“The truth is, love is the key to everything, everything that matters to life and death. Love is the key,” said Curry. Citing an old Latin hymn, he continued: “‘Wherever true love is found, God himself is there because God is love.’

“Jesus taught us that love is the key to everything. If you don’t know what to do, do what you think the loving thing is to do,” he said. “Oh, that’s a message for the world.

“When the president of the United States and Congress of the United States are making policy about the border of the United States and deciding who gets in and who doesn’t, y’all need to stop, Mr. President, and you need to love. Love folks from El Salvador, love folks from Honduras, love folks from Nicaragua, love, love, love, love, love…”

The presiding bishop preached these words as the United States continued its struggle to respond to the large number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum. Migration, particularly economic migration, has long been characteristic of the region. However, forced migration is a more recent phenomenon.

Archbishop Julio Murray, primate of the Anglican Province of Central America and bishop of the Diocese of Panama, welcomes youth delegates, volunteers and staff to the Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales held July 18-19 in Panama City, Panama. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Youth expressed their own political concerns during the Eucharist as evidenced in the prayers of the people, when they called for justice and peace in their own countries. The youth called out Colombia’s violent history of war and called for peace. They called for an end to corruption, poverty, injustice and environmental degradation in Honduras and instead for a homeland built on unity, love and the common good. For the young people across Central America who find themselves caught up in gangs; and for the safety of women and girls, may they not become victims of violence. They prayed for peace in Puerto Rico and for the fight for freedom in Venezuela.

From the opening Eucharist, it was clear the event was organized by youth for youth in their own cultural, linguistic, geographical and ministry context.

“We just wanted to bring everyone together because this is the way Jesus wants it,” said Kenniane 22, a planning team member from Puerto Rico. “We are not ashamed of what we are; we want to express the love he gave us.

“Like the (presiding) bishop said, God is love.”

Youth across Latin America are dealing with the same problems: corrupt governments, politics, immigration, racism, she said.

On the conference’s second day, workshops were offered on how to live out the Way of Love, addressing the themes: racial reconciliation, evangelism, leadership and creation care.

The event was intended to “show the young people that they are powerful, and they have to be leaders in their communities,” said Byron, 23, a planning team member from Honduras.

The Episcopal Church’s Faith Formation, Ethnic Ministries and Global Partnerships offices partnered with the Province IX EJE19 Planning Team to plan the event; a Constable Fund grant funded pre-conference planning, and in 2018, General Convention approved $350,000 for the event.

“It is intended to affirm, invite, inspire and equip young people for claiming their baptism and discerning their place in the church,” said Bronwyn Clark Skov, director of formation, youth and young adult ministries in The Episcopal Church, on the first day of the conference.

“Many people will compare this event with EYE … the passion with which these young people affirm their baptism, they’re unashamed evangelists,” she said, adding that the youth are stepping into leadership roles. “… and our greatest hope is that they continue to do that.”

It was important to provide a culturally and socially appropriate context for the Spanish-speaking youth to talk about what affects them, said Glenda McQueen, program officer for Latin America.

The financial realities are such that Latin American dioceses may be able to afford to send only one or two participants to conferences in the United States, and securing a travel visa is a challenge, which is even harder under the current administration, said McQueen.

When McQueen attended the GEMN Conference in the Dominican Republic earlier this year, she witnessed young adults in that diocese making and selling breakfast to fund their attendance, and it was the same in other dioceses, she said.

“When I welcomed them the first night … this is dream realized,” said McQueen, others were simultaneously having the same thoughts. “My dream (now) is to see it continue.”

Panama, which is part of the Anglican Province of Central America, was chosen to host the event for its location, low regional travel costs and less-restrictive visa requirements.

“The Diocese of Panama is very, very grateful for the opportunity given to us by the Ninth Province and by the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church for hosting this event,” said Archbishop Julio Murray, bishop of the Diocese of Panama and the province’s primate.

Holding the event in Panama created opportunity for more youth to attend.

“Accessing visas is not the easiest thing, especially for young people, so having it in Latin America, it brings more people together from the region,” he said. “This region is going through lots of changes and challenges, and the young people know about these changes and challenges and they have an opportunity to talk about them, and also to come up with strategies of how they go back to their countries and they become supportive or agents of transformation beginning with change.”

The way the youth live out the call to follow Jesus impressed the presiding bishop.

“They’ve actually come together to pray, to study Bible, to study the way and the teachings of Jesus, so that they can actually live those teachings in their lives and help their countries, and all of our countries, to actually reflect what Jesus said when he said, ‘love God, love your neighbor and love yourself,’” Curry, told Episcopal News Service on the second day. “They’re actually doing it; they’re not just talking about it. That’s inspiration.”

“I remember being in Honduras two years ago, and it was the young people there, many of whom are here now, who wanted us to go out on the streets to do evangelism. These were Episcopal kids and they dragged both (Honduras) Bishop Lloyd (Allen) and me and they dragged two bishops out and we were out in the afternoon, sun hot as could be, with signs, ‘honk if you love God,’ ‘honk if you believe God loves you,’ and ‘honk if you want a prayer.’ And we were doing that for a couple of hours,” said Curry. “That came from the young people, they actually are helping lead the church back that looks like the way of Jesus and the way of his love.”

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

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Anglican Church of Canada votes to expand Lutheran-Anglican communion in North America

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 12:13pm

Archbishop Fred Hiltz embraces National Bishop Susan Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, while Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton applaud. Photo: Brian Bukowski/Anglican Journal

[Anglican Journal] General Synod passed a resolution July 15 to recognize full communion among the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC), the U.S.-based Episcopal Church (TEC), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Dean Peter Wall, co-chair of the Joint Anglican Lutheran Commission, introduced the resolution by reading excerpts from the Memorandum of Mutual Recognition of Relations of Full Communion, which was drafted at a meeting of the Joint Anglican Lutheran Commission and the Lutheran Episcopal Coordinating Committee in September 2018.

Read the full article here.

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The only Bible on the moon was left there by an Episcopalian on behalf of his parish

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 5:00pm

In 1971, St. Christopher Episcopal Church in League City, Texas, gave a Bible to a parishioner, David Scott, to take with him on a business trip. To this day, the congregation still has not gotten it back.

That’s because he left it on the moon.

As the world commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, the parish southeast of Houston is remembering its own small part in the history of space exploration. The Bible they presented to Scott appears to be the only one ever left on the Moon, and perhaps the only Bible outside Earth today.

The Bible left by David Scott is shown in the red circle. Photo: NASA via St. Christopher Episcopal Church

David Scott was the commander of Apollo 15. Photo: NASA

Scott was the seventh person to walk on the moon (one of four living people to have done so) and the commander of the Apollo 15 mission. When Apollo 15 launched, Scott was carrying the Bible his parish had given him, though it’s unclear whether this was officially allowed. Apollo astronauts were permitted to bring personal items with them in small bags with weight restrictions. Earlier that year, Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell took 100 microfilm Bibles – the entire King James Version printed on a 1.5-square-inch piece of film – with him to the surface of the moon, but he brought all of them back to Earth.

Apollo 15 was the first mission to bring a lunar rover to the moon, and Scott was the first person to drive it there. On Aug. 2, 1971, just before returning to Earth, Scott placed the St. Christopher Bible on the lunar rover’s control panel. He walked to a nearby hollow, where he placed a memorial plaque and statuette honoring the astronauts who had died during their missions, and then he returned to the lunar module. (This was kept secret until the post-mission press conference.)

David Scott drives the lunar rover on the moon. Photo: James Irwin/NASA

Scott, who recalled the moment in the book “Two Sides of the Moon,” later presented to his parish a signed copy of a photo showing the Bible sitting exactly where he left it on the lunar rover. That’s where it remains today: in the moon’s Sea of Showers, between Hadley Rille and the Apennine Mountains.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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