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Debate continues on confirmation in New Zealand

Episcopal News Service - 6 horas 33 minutos atrás

[Anglican Communion News Service] The traditional Anglican initiation rite of confirmation has “lost its pivotal role” for many Anglican churches in New Zealand, a report to this month’s General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia said. But proposals to replace it with a new rite of The Laying on of Hands for Affirmation, Renewal and Reception, were postponed to allow further consultation.

A bill containing the new rite, together with proposed new formularies for the baptism of adults and the baptism of children, were let to “lie on the table” when the Synod met earlier this month.

The report accompanying the bill said that the changes in the understanding and status of confirmation has mainly occurred since the 1970s when baptism became the sole rite required for Christians to receive communion in Anglican churches in the country.

“This work on confirmation has identified a crisis in our church,” the Rev. Michael Wallace from Dunedin said. “But I believe the crisis is not with the rite of confirmation itself, but with our church’s approach to catechesis and formation.”

The Rev. Anne van Gend, director of Anglican Schools, opposed any shift from confirmation, saying that “Confirmation is an important rite of passage for our students and I am loathed to see anything that would weaken that.”

Bishop of Waikato Helen-Ann Hartley spoke of the long-standing, worldwide role of confirmation in the Anglican Communion. “I would hate to see it go,” she said, “there are deep historic and pastoral aspects to confirmation.”

But other speakers supported the changes. Assistant Bishop of Auckland Jim White, who had completed the research leading to the proposals on behalf of the house of bishops, said that there was little in the concerns and questions that suggested a present-day rationale for confirmation.

“‘That is our tradition’ is not sufficient answer, nor that ‘it is in the Book of Common Prayer’,” he said. “We have jettisoned other parts of the Book of Common Prayer.

“We no longer hold to the same view or doctrine on baptism and that is key. “There is nothing to ‘confirm’.”

The dioceses and hui amorangi (the areas of the Maori part of the Province) have been asked to discuss the report on baptism and confirmation over the next two years and report back to the liturgical committee ahead of the next General Synod in 2018.

Video: Missional Communities

Episcopal News Service - 6 horas 46 minutos atrás

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] On Thursday, May 26, Thursdays at 2 will feature the Rev. Beth Magill from the Diocese of Texas discussing missional communities.

Every Thursday at 2 pm Eastern, a new video illustrating the work of congregations and individuals will be posted on the Episcopal Church’s Facebook page here and YouTube Channel here.

Produced by the Episcopal Church Office of Communications, other videos featured on Thursdays at 2 include:

Mobile Loaves and Fishes, a food truck ministry in the Diocese of Rhode Island.

  • Re-membering and Re- Imagining, a report from the House of Bishops.
  • Double Down on Love, an original song from the Thad’s Band in Santa Monica, CA, Diocese of Los Angeles
  • The Slate Project, an Episcopal, Lutheran and Presbyterian congregation that exists online and in person.
  • The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, Presiding Bishop’s Canon for Reconciliation and Evangelism, providing an update on recent church planting meetings.
  • The Rev. Scott Claasan of St Michael’s University Church  reflecting on how music and surfing led him back to church.

In production for future Thursdays at 2:

  • Church on the Square, an Episcopal and Lutheran church plant successfully celebrating its first year in Baltimore, MD.
  • The Abundant Table whose mission is to connect the land with spirituality and community in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

For more information contact Collins at


Being people of God together in mutual relationship

Episcopal News Service - 6 horas 56 minutos atrás

Long-term missionaries and Young Adult Service Corps missionaries posed with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry following a meeting held during the 21st annual Global Episcopal Mission Network Conference May 18-20 in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Lilla Watson, an aboriginal elder, activist and educator, from Australia is credited with these words, spoken by her and others in the early 1970s at a time when white Australians were becoming aware of the effects of racism and colonialism on the country’s indigenous people. These words were not only meant to challenge people working toward social justice, but reflected the frustration felt by the Aborigine toward the efforts of whites who in their offers of assistance, further perpetuated colonial perceptions and attitudes.

The words, used to provoke discussion in a small group session during last week’s 21st annual Global Episcopal Mission Network conference in Puerto Rico, resonated with Rachel McDaniel, a Young Adult Service Corps missionary serving her second year in Brazil.

Being a missionary, she said, is about “experiencing the love of God in Christ together.”

The Global Episcopal Mission Network, or GEMN, annually brings together short- and long-term missionaries to empower and educate them in their work. Increasingly, the old way of being a missionary , and of mission trips focused on projects and doing things for others, is being replaced by a model centered in mutual respect and accompaniment, and developing a deeper understanding of one another’s context.

“We still have a tendency in the Episcopal Church to want to, as many people have said before, we want to try to fix things for others and we see that as something that is important for us, but while we can work alongside our partners in helping them strengthen their communities, being present I think is even more important,” said the Rev. David Copley, the Episcopal Church’s officer for mission personnel and global partnerships.

Copley’s office provides support for 51 adult and young adult missionaries in 20 countries around the Anglican Communion.

Since his consecration in November 2015, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has shared his vision for the Jesus Movement and its two components – evangelism and reconciliation – and what it means for Episcopalians and the Episcopal Church to be a part of that movement. In his keynote address to the more than 120 people attending the GEMN conference, he talked about mission as a way of embodying Jesus in the world.

“Bishop Curry talked about evangelism a lot and I think one of the things that our missionaries are learning and sharing is very much what we talk about as an ‘incarnational theology of mission,’ that sense of Christ is present amongst all people,” said Copley. “We are definitely not going to bring Jesus and share the Good News because it’s already there. But what we are doing is if we enter into a meaningful relationship then we see the Christ in the other and they see the Christ that is in us.

“I think that there is also a mutual evangelizing that is happening when we are in a meaningful relationship. And again that was something that Bishop Curry touched upon his opening talk when he talked about that sense of if you are living in the Jesus Movement then that comes out through your very being.”

Twenty young adult and adult missionaries attended the GEMN conference, where they had the opportunity to share their experience with the presiding bishop and talk about mission and the Episcopal Church. They also shared their experiences with others on a panel where they answered questions such as, “How did you discern your call for long-term mission.?”

For Monica Vega, a long-term missionary who served in South Africa for 14 years and now serves in Brazil, one man’s example led her to missionary life. When Vega was in her early twenties and living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she’d cross the city by bus on the weekends to volunteer in a shantytown where a man simply referred to as “Brother Domingo” repaired shoes.

“He was this tiny guy with a thick French accent working on shoe repairs … and this man was a missionary and he was living among the people there and his only work was repairing shoes and he was the center of that shantytown,” said Vega during the workshop. “He didn’t do anything in the way of preaching, from time to time he’d do a Sunday school or prayer, but he said that really wasn’t his job, and one day I said, I want to do that.”

For Alan Yarborough, who served two years as a YASC missionary in Haiti and who then stayed on to work at the St. Barnabas Center for Agriculture in the country’s north, he knew upon graduation from Clemson University in South Carolina that he wanted to experience of living and working abroad. Initially, he considered applying to the Peace Corps, but upon learning about the YASC program, he decided he wanted an experience where he’d be in relationship with others in the Episcopal Church, not just an American abroad, he said.

In his second year of service in Haiti, Yarborough built time into his schedule to return to South Carolina, building stronger connections between parishes in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and in Haiti.

“That’s the real mission, bringing it back,” said Heidi Schmidt, in response to what Yarborough shared during the panel.

Schmidt served alongside Vega in South Africa where they helped build Isibindi, a community-based program that trains unemployed community members to provide child and youth care services that allow orphaned children to be cared for in their communities by older siblings or other family members.

Schmidt and Vega worked with locals, training them to run the program and eventually turning it over to them. They now work in São Paulo alongside women street venders, providing support for them, many of whom are migrant workers and vulnerable go gender-based violence.

“Heidi and Monica they spent seven years working in South Africa with a phenomenal program … this model was adopted in other parts of South Africa and is continuing today even though they are not there because they helped empower enable the community to continue that ministry,” said Copley. “They moved to Brazil and will only stay there as long as they feel they have something to contribute.”

In Vega’s words: “You arrive where no one needs you and you leave when people think they need you.”

Missionaries are not bringing God to communities, God already is there and they are not there to solve problems, build infrastructure or teach in schools; they are there to be present and learn about the lives of other people in community with them.

“The reality is that in most parts of the world there are teachers and nurses that are able to do the work that missionaries used to be doing 50 to 100 years ago,” said Copley. “We want to make sure we’ve transitioned away from a colonial model and now we want to make sure we move away from a paternalistic model into a model where there’s mutual learning from one another.”

The new model, he said, applies to both short-term mission trips and the YASC and long-term adult missionary models; it’s something people interested in short-term mission trips can learn from the young adult and adult missionaries.

“I think sometimes we can focus so much more on the task itself and very little time on getting to know and understand one another,” said Copley. “I think in our culture we feel not that it’s a waste of time, but I think we feel as if we need to have what we see in our culture as meaningful experience and contribute something physically to a partner to make the trip worthwhile. We have to do something physical otherwise we can’t justify this, I think it’s allowing ourselves the understanding that we can justify a deepening a relationship in some ways as a more meaningful way of engaging in mission.”

— Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service.

Seminary of the Southwest awards three honorary degrees

Episcopal News Service - 6 horas 59 minutos atrás

Honorary degree recipients, from right, Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, the Rev. Canon John A. Logan Jr. and Bertha Sadler Means participate in the Seminary of the Southwest’s commencement May 24. Also shown are Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel, left, and New Hampshire Bishop Rob Hirschfeld, second from left. Photo: Seminary of the Southwest

[Seminary of the Southwest press release] The Seminary of the Southwest graduated 24 students and awarded three honorary degrees May 24  during the Austin, Texas, seminary’s 65th commencement.

Honorary degree recipients were Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry; Secretary of the Diocese of Texas Canon John A. Logan, Jr.; and educator, worker for justice and founding member of Austin’s St. James’ Episcopal Church, Bertha Sadler Means.

Commencement took place at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Austin. Chicago Bishop Jeffrey Lee preached at the commencement’s holy Eucharist.

The seminary awarded master’s degrees in divinity, religion, counseling, chaplaincy and pastoral care and spiritual formation, and diplomas in Anglican studies and theological studies.

On May 23, the seminary celebrated Evensong in Christ Chapel on the seminary campus. Dean and President Cynthia Briggs Kittredge preached the homily and presented each graduate with a seminary cross designed many years ago by prominent Texas jeweler, James Avery. A reception honoring the graduates followed the service.



Church of England Commissioners lose ExxonMobil fight

Episcopal News Service - 8 horas 23 minutos atrás

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church Commissioners for England have lost their bid to force energy giant ExxonMobil to report annually on the impact of climate change reduction efforts.

More than 60 per cent of shareholders backed the company’s board. The failure to secure the motion at the company’s AGM in Dallas, Texas, May 25, came despite significant support from a large number of major institutional investors.

Some 38.2 per cent of shareholders backed the resolution, which the Commissioners co-filed with the New York State Comptroller. But the board, whose objection to the motion went as far as them asking the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for permission to exclude the resolution from the AGM’s agenda, managed to secure 61.8 per cent of the vote.

The commissioners – the investment arm of the Church of England – describe the vote as “a significant shareholder revolt” and signaled that it would continue to engage with the company on climate change issues.

The resolution, co-filed with the New York State Comptroller, was backed by a number of large investors, including major fund managers and pension funds Amundi, AXA Investment Management, BNP Paribas, Calpers, Legal & General Investment Management, Natixis Asset Management, New York City Retirement Fund, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global and Schroder’s.

“We are delighted to have got the highest ever vote for a climate change proposal at an ExxonMobil AGM,” the head of responsible investment for the Church Commissioners, Edward Mason, said. “This is a significant show of strength on climate disclosure at Exxon by shareholders.

“Considering the scale of this vote, we urge Exxon to sit down urgently with its investors to agree the reporting it will provide on the risk that climate change policy poses to its business. Following the Paris Agreement, the time for climate risk reporting has well and truly arrived and the investor call for it is clear. It will not go away.”

Last year, the Church Commissioners secured similar motions at the AGM of Exxon’s competitors, Shell and BP, with the backing of their boards. Those companies will now report annually on how they will be impacted by efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Primate of Uganda warns against syncretism

Episcopal News Service - 8 horas 51 minutos atrás

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Uganda Stanley Ntagali, has warned against syncretism – the practice of merging different religious beliefs. The warning came after a prominent Christian politician made a public visit to her ancestral shrine to give thanks for her re-election – a practice in line with the country’s traditional religions.

“We value our ancestors because we are connected to them by the relationship we have,” Ntagali said. “But, we must always trust only in God. We no longer need to go through the spirits of the dead because Jesus is our hope and protector. He alone is the way, the truth and the life, as Jesus says in John 14:6.

“The Church of Uganda condemns syncretism,” he said, as he urged bishops and clergy to “use this opportunity to proclaim the sufficiency of Christ crucified to meet all our needs, and to work pastorally with Christians to apply this glorious truth practically in their lives.

“As we approach the commemoration of the Ugandan Martyrs on 3 June, we are challenged by the faithfulness, commitment, and witness of these youth. Their willingness to renounce the ‘world, the flesh, and the devil’ and to joyfully embrace the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, even unto death, is a model for how we should all understand living a life with a single-minded focus on Jesus as the only Saviour and only Lord.

“There is a cost to discipleship and a great reward in following Christ.”

The archbishop concluded his statement with an appeal “to all Christians in the Church of Uganda . . . to uphold Paul’s exhortation to ‘live a life worthy of the calling you have received’ (Ephesians 4:1), to live ‘above reproach’ (1 Timothy 3:2), and to not cause others to ‘stumble’ (1 Corinthians 10:32).”

RIP: Joan P. Grimm Fraser, pioneering Episcopal priest

Episcopal News Service - qua, 25/05/2016 - 14:31

The Rev. Joan P. Grimm Fraser

[Episcopal Diocese of Long Island] The Rev. Joan P. Grimm Fraser, an Episcopal priest and leading spokesperson on women’s issues in church and society has died.

Mother Joan recently represented the Episcopal Church and the International Atlantic Province (Province II) of the Episcopal Church on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

The province includes six dioceses in New York, two dioceses in New Jersey and the off-shore dioceses of Haiti, the Virgin Islands and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. About the UNCSW she had said, “It is an opportunity to give a voice to women here and abroad who don’t have a voice” about health, poverty and justice.

The Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, bishop of Long Island, said, “Each of us will miss Joan’s great spirit and faithful, thoughtful counsel. She was a pioneer in our church and one of the wisest, most faithful priests I have ever known.”

There will be a Requiem Eucharist May 27 at 11 am, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Garden City, New York. Provenzano will preside.

The Fraser family has provided the following biographical details.

The Rev. Joan P. Grimm Fraser, one of the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church, and a geologist, has died at the age of 68. Mother Joan, as she was known to parishioners at Holy Trinity Parish in Hicksville, New York where she served as rector since 2004, was admired throughout the church as a kind and loving priest who blazed a trail for other women.

Born in Berea, Ohio in 1947, Fraser graduated from Allegheny College in 1969 with a B.S. Later that same year she entered the Episcopal Theological Seminary (ETS) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as the only woman in her class. She graduated with a Master’s of Divinity in 1973, and was the first woman ordained a transitional deacon in the Diocese of Ohio in 1973. She was the 33rd woman ordained a transitional deacon in the nation.

Mother Joan had been invited to be one of the women who came to be known as the “Philadelphia Eleven,” who were ordained in 1974 in “irregular” fashion prior to authorization by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church for the ordination of women to the priesthood. However, continuing her lifelong practice of abiding faithfully by the decisions of her church, and obeying her bishop, Fraser declined to be one of the very first women ordained priest, and chose instead to serve as deacon at that historic mass.

She served as the associate chaplain at Kenyon College in Ohio from 1974-1976. She was the first woman formally approved by the Diocese of Ohio to be “regularly” ordained priest in 1977. Her deliberate care and intentionality led to her being the second woman ordained to the priesthood in Ohio. Many women throughout the U.S. were ordained in January of 1977, as soon as it was permitted within the Episcopal Church. Fraser had committed to being ordained priest in the chapel at Kenyon at a time when the students could participate. That delay meant being ordained priest in March of 1977. Mother Joan was thus one of the first 50 women regularly ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. The Rt. Rev. John Burt ordained her both deacon and priest.

Following her ordination, it was nearly impossible for a woman priest to obtain paying work, let alone full-time paying work. After her ordination, at her bishop’s urging, and with financial support from the Diocese of Ohio, Fraser obtained an M.S. in Geology from the University of Arizona in 1978.

She served full-time as a petroleum geologist for Amoco Production Co. from 1978-1985. Throughout her long and varied life in the church, Mother Joan frequently took lower paying, part-time or even non-paying jobs so as to be able to serve the church in an environment where women were not always considered desirable candidates for clergy positions. She was known for her cheerful disposition and her wise acceptance of the role she played as a trailblazer for others. She told many younger clergy she mentored that it was her delight to serve as a “doorknob” for other women participating in the life and ministry of the church.

Throughout her long career Fraser served parishes in Ohio, Colorado (where she was the first full-time, fully-stipended female priest), North Carolina, Western Massachusetts (where she served as Canon at Christ Cathedral), New York City, and Long Island. She was appointed by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to be the 2015 Anglican Delegate to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Mother Joan married Ross Fraser, director of planning at the Nassau University Medical Center, in 1979. He survives her, along with six godchildren, countless cousins, and many other family and friends. Among her friends and family, she was known as a gracious, wonderful hostess, cook and artist. At the time of her death, complex negotiations were being carried out for the sharing of her secret chocolate sauce recipe. In addition to her many other accomplishments she obtained a BFA in Design from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1999.

Memorial gifts may be sent to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society for the benefit of the Joan Grimm Fraser UNCSW Legacy Fund, 815 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the year of the Philadelphia Eleven ordinations. It was 1974, not 1976.

World summit is ‘turning point’ for humanitarian affairs

Episcopal News Service - qua, 25/05/2016 - 14:03

[Anglican Communion News Service] The first World Humanitarian Summit was a “turning point” in the way the world works to alleviate the suffering of millions, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said as the two-day summit came to an end in Istanbul, Turkey, last night (Tuesday). The event brought together 55 heads of state and governments with 350 private sector representatives and over 2,000 people from civil society and non-governmental organisations; including members of the Anglican Communion.

Mr Ban lamented the absence of the leaders of the world’s richest nations at the gathering. Of the G7 group of countries, only Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, attended. “They are some of the most generous donors of funding for humanitarian action, but I urge their greater engagement, particularly in the search for political solutions,” he said, adding that that “aligning the interests of such a diverse constellation of actors is inherently challenging.”

He said that progress in recent years on critical issues of war and peace, and on humanitarian affairs, and been prevented by difference between members of the UN’s Security Council. “That is why I make a special appeal to leaders of the nations that are permanent members of that council to take important steps at the highest level,” he said. “Their absence from this meeting does not provide an excuse for inaction.”

But Mr Ban remained optimistic at the outcomes of the meeting: “We have the wealth, knowledge and awareness to take better care of one another. But we need action, based on the five core responsibilities of the Agenda for Humanity,” he said.

Through a combination of plenary sessions and a host of smaller gatherings, some 1,500 commitments were made during the meeting by the participants. Some of them were included in an “outcomes document” prepared by representatives of faith communities at the summit.

“In a world where conflicts, violence, and natural disaster affect millions of people, faith-based entities share a critical responsibility and role in working for peace, both at local and national or international levels,” it said. “We facilitate sustainable behaviour and relationship changes based on faith and worldview, offering mediation and sacred space for dialogue between parties.

“We commit to uphold and expand the significant humanitarian response of faith-based organisations and to overcome the manipulative and abusive attempts to link religion with violence, terrorism, or exclusion of others. By so doing, we aim to resolve conflicts and work to promote reconciliation.

“We call upon religious communities to use their social capital to amplify humanitarian diplomacy and to promote compliance with International Humanitarian Law as this contributes to the maintenance and restoration of peace. We call upon the United Nations, international organisations, regional and national authorities to acknowledge and support these roles, and to encourage them.”

Echoing a theme pursued by the ACT Alliance general secretary John Nduna on Monday, the document said: “Through local faith communities and grassroots NGOs, faith-based actors are uniquely placed to engage in humanitarian action: faith-based actors often enjoy close proximity to, or are part of the populations affected by wider crises, and have therefore developed special relationships of trust, as well as insights and access to community members compared to many other actors; we are often present before crises, and are first responders when disasters hit. We are key providers of assistance and protection during crises and their aftermath.”

The Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama; the secretary general of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, Canon Grace Kaiso; and the Anglican Communion’s representative to the United Nations, Canon Flora Winfield, were amongst a number of Anglicans present at the meeting.  

Afterwards, Canon Winfield said that they wanted to encourage the Anglican Communion to make a renewed commitment to humanitarian action. “At the Summit it was affirmed by the global representatives of the religious communities that this is our core business,” she said. “As Christians, we are called to serve humanity and to welcome those who arrive with dignity, compassion and love as if they were Christ himself.”

She said that it was important to encourage effective working together across our different faith traditions; and to address the root causes of conflict, “using our convening power to lead in dialogue and reconciliation.”

The issues raised at the World Humanitarian Summit will be revisited when the UN General Assembly convenes in New York in the Autumn.

Lampedusa cross at the Anglican Centre in Rome

Episcopal News Service - qua, 25/05/2016 - 14:01

[Anglican Communion News Service] A cross made from wood taken from a boat used by refugees crossing the Mediterranean as they sought sanctuary in Europe is to grace the altar of the Anglican Centre in Rome. The cross was made by artist Franco Tuccio on the Italian island of Lampedusa and resembles a pastoral staff given by the artist to Pope Francis when he visited the island two years ago.

The cross was presented to Archbishop David Moxon, director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, when he made a visit to the island on Monday with Father Marcus Walker, the centre’s Associate Director.

“Because of the Anglican Centre’s interest in modern slavery and human trafficking over the last three years, two friends of the Centre arranged for us to receive a specially made wooden Lampedusa Cross, to be placed in our chapel as a sign of the plight of refugees,” Archbishop Moxon said at the start of his visit.

In addition to meeting the artist, the two Anglican leaders met a number of people who work with refugees on the island, including the Roman Catholic parish priest of Lampedusa, Don Mimmo, who hosted the visit, as well as Luca Maria Negri, the president of the Federazione Chiese Evangeliche Italiane; and Germano Garatto, co-ordinator of Foundation Migrantes for the Italian Bishop Conference.

“From the moment we got off the plane until leaving the island again Fr Marcus and I were constantly moved, challenged, and surprised by what we heard and saw,” Archbishop Moxon said.

Commenting on his meeting with the artist, he said: “Franco was clearly deeply motivated to use his art to draw the world’s attention to the plight of thousands of refugees who enter Europe through this island.

“People are picked up at sea and are rescued from drowning and snatched from the jaws of death to be given a new start. This cross he made will lie on the altar of the Anglican Centre in Rome as witness to their suffering and the Easter hope which is now being offered to them.”

Archbishop Moxon and Father Walker paid a visit to Lampedusa cemetery which houses graves of many of the refugees who died making the crossing. The cemetery “includes the grave and story of Welela, a young African woman who had been burned alive while being trafficked,” Archbishop Moxon said. “There are hundreds and hundreds of people like her whose names we will never know, who have disappeared without trace in the Mediterranean Sea.

“The people of the island of Lampedusa try to honour their memory in a portion of the cemetery dedicated to the unknown. The people of the island have shown enormous compassion to both the living and the dead – as stories of their welcome to every new batch of migrants rescued from the sea tell.”

The Archbishop described Don Mimmo as a “remarkable” parish priest. “He is clearly at the moral and pastoral heart of the island’s community and is clearly the hub of the local response to what is an extra-ordinary situation. He was known and greeted and chatted with and welcomed by almost everyone we met. . . He would welcome Anglican prayer and support.”

The Archbishop said that conversations “naturally explored what Anglican networks might be doing in this area, and the potential for further collaboration,” and he would discuss the issue further with the Anglican Alliance.

“Lampedusa is the site of so much desperation – but also so much redemption,” he said. “Only an Easter faith makes any sense on Lampedusa.”

In his blog, Archbishop David outlined some of the ministry to refugees carried out by Anglicans.

  • In Greece the Anglican Church has been the catalyst and bridge builder which enabled six Christian agencies and Churches to come together to learn what each is doing and able to commit to in the face of the crisis. It was through this Anglican initiative to convoke an ecumenical response that the Orthodox Archdiocese of Athens, the Jesuit Refugee Service, Caritas, the Salvation Army, the Greek Evangelical Church, formed a coordination, with each individual church or agency taking lead responsibility for a particular programme or programmes which the other Churches could then tap into to avoid duplication 
  • In Greece, due to the rapidly changing situation, our own Anglican response has had to evolve with the changes. At one time, we worked with what was called the “lighthouse” team on Lesbos, receiving refugees arriving at that time by boat from Turkey, providing a clothes-changing area, a kitchen, and tents to shelter the arrivals, and providing food, clothing and medicines. Then it needed to shift to deliver meals (400 per week) to two detention centres (for those deemed to be illegal) on the outskirts of Athens. 
  • Elsewhere in Europe, during the large flow of refugees up through Central Europe earlier this year, Anglicans in Budapest and Vienna prepared aid packs to distribute among refugees at the train stations. Much of this has been made possible through our partnership with [the United Society] who have been our major Anglican mission agency partnering with us to respond through the establishment of a rapid response fund, raising monies from churches in the UK and Ireland. Since the closure of the Greek northern border with Macedonia a different response to the refugee/migrant crisis in Greece has had to be made. No longer are the needs of transient refugees/migrants the priority. Instead it is the 54,000 refugees / migrants now stranded in hurriedly erected “closed camps.” 
  • In cities such as Vienna, many Anglican families are hosting refugees in their own homes, so their experience is very close to home. 
  • Elsewhere in the diocese response continues to the specific contextual needs, for instance in Ankara, our Anglican parish has an extensive programme of welcome and accompaniment for refugees, mostly from Iran and Iraq. In Morocco, we are working with Roman Catholic partners in assisting refugees from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Anglo-Scottish ecumenical agreement approved by Church of Scotland

Episcopal News Service - qua, 25/05/2016 - 13:59

[Anglican Communion News Service] The General Assembly of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland has this morning approved the Columba Declaration– an ecumenical agreement between it and the Church of England; and – in identical terms approved by the C of E’s General Synod in February– instructed the creation of an ecumenical “contact group” which would include representatives of the two churches and also the Scottish Episcopal Church.

When the two churches announced the Columba Declaration on Christmas Eve, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church expressed concern at certain aspects of it. This morning, in what was the first-ever speech by an Archbishop of Canterbury as part of a debate of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, Archbishop Welby apologised for the hurt that was caused for the way that news of the ecumenical agreement had been handled.

“The Columba Declaration is one that I support strongly and I hope you will, but the handling of its announcement caused much consternation and deep hurt to the Scottish Episcopal Church,” Archbishop Welby said. “That hurt is exclusively my responsibility and I want to put on the record to you and to them my apology.

“We know that the goal of unity envisaged in the Columba Declaration cannot be pursued by some churches in isolation from others, and in our context that must mean a particular place for the Scottish Episcopal Church as your Anglican partner in Scotland, and as our immediate neighbour in the Anglican Communion.”

He said that “the key question” for the two churches was not just “what shall we do,” which was very easy to answer with clichés, but “what shall we do now?”

This was “a very hard question” which was “only askable with any sense where there is vision.”

He continued: “What the Church of England and the Church of Scotland do next if you vote in favour of the Declaration this morning will be guided not only by the context of our existing ecclesial structures, but also by the context in which we find ourselves. We are united in witness to Christ as churches of our two nations within the one country of the United Kingdom. That gives particular parameters to our unity in witness.”

He said: “We are not and never can be united by the process of doctrinal discussion and agreement alone. It is essential, but it is not sufficient. Because we are always already united by a person, Jesus Christ, in whom we worship the Trinitarian God and to whom we bear witness in word and deed.

“Not a lot else matters if we are doing those two things – worship and witness, and all that flows from them – and nothing is worth doing unless its rationale and grounding are in those two vocations.”

The Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness in the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Rt Revd Mark Strange, an ecumenical representative to the General Assembly welcomed the Columba Declaration and Archbishop Welby’s apology for the way it had originally been disclosed.

He referred to what he called the “spaghetti maps” at the back of history books about the Church in Scotland, detailing the “divisions and reunions of the Scottish Church.”

“There was the Scottish Episcopal Church – divided from our brethren by the question of apostolic order and loyalty to royal dynasty. Our sister church, the Kirk, remain divided over that and other issues; but we still have the same roots. We came through the same Reformation.

“So this episcopal limb of the Church of Scotland, that survived despite the political pressures placed on it, begins to have to make new friends. Firstly, with the Americans who received the order of bishops from us; and then as we begin to make friends with the other episcopally led churches in the UK and ultimately became part of the Anglican Communion – the first non-colonial part of the Anglican Communion.

“And so all would seem sorted. In Scotland we are in company with our sister church . . . and in the rest of the UK we share much with our friends in the Anglican Communion. So it was a bit difficult when our sister begins to take an interest in our best friend – especially when our best friend shows interest back. We just needed a bit of time to go away and sort that one out in our heads; to observe the relationship and to wait for the promised report of the relationship to be published.

“Unfortunately, an unexpected announcement – not an engagement, but a declaration. And yes, we are hurt. But let me ask you: if this happens in your family, then surely you try and fix it. You try and sort it out. And so, Archbishop Justin, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for words today acknowledging those difficulties and the surprise of the announcement.”

He told the members of the General Assembly that the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church “see many things differently” after 300 years of theological divergence. “But that doesn’t stop us loving one another and finding ways of working together,” he said. “Now is the time to get on with the real task in hand – sharing all we have in the furtherance of the Gospel of Christ.”

Harlem church draws attention to critical community issues

Episcopal News Service - qua, 25/05/2016 - 13:44

Volunteers gather outside Saint Philip’s Episcopal Church before the #KnowJusticeHarlem event on Monday, May 23. Photo: Angela James

[St. Philip’s Episcopal Church] Residents of Harlem, along with several nonprofit and religious organizations, joined author Bryan Stevenson to discuss the impact of incarceration on the Harlem community. The May 23 event, titled #KnowJusticeHarlem, was hosted by Circles of Support, a network of faith and community partners providing services to previously incarcerated men and women returning to Harlem on parole. The event took place at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, the oldest black Episcopal parish in New York City. The Rev. Patrick Williams of St. Philips welcomed an audience of more than 400 people.

Each year, hundreds of previously incarcerated men and women return home to Harlem, one of the country’s poorest neighborhoods. Here they are faced with a number of challenges, including high unemployment and unstable housing. By fostering a more supportive environment upon re-entry into Harlem, Circles of Support aims to break the cycle of crime and incarceration within the community.

In his keynote address, Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, suggested ways in which communities of faith can address mass incarceration and its negative consequences, emphasizing the need to remain hopeful about enacting change.

“Injustice prevails where hopelessness persists,” he said. “I have never seen injustice overcome by only doing what is convenient.”

As the master of ceremonies, actor and poet Craig “muMs” Grant stressed the need for criminal justice reform.

“People often look at crime as an individual choice, but we need to change that narrative,” he said. “The U.S. incarcerates people at higher rates than any other country in the world. This system focuses on punishment and incapacitation as opposed to rehabilitation and restorative justice.”

Harlem is a community of faith, with over 400 houses of worship. Episcopal churches in Manhattan, such as St. Philips, St. Mary’s, St. Ambrose, and All Souls, are places of welcome for people returning home from prison. They contribute to a number of important supportive services, including the provision of job and skills training, childcare, and counseling.

“This evening we have been able to listen and learn from the families most involved in our criminal justice system, and we are committed to continuing our support for the work here in Harlem,” said Chris Flowers, chairman and chief executive officer of the J.C. Flowers Foundation.

Monday night’s event included a panel of community members who discussed a range of issues affecting the community, for example, the impact of incarceration on families, and the ways in which limited access to jobs and quality education contribute to crime. Panelists also touched upon the harm of sentencing children to adult prisons.

Members of the audience were able to participate in the Raise the Age letter-writing campaign by signing and sending letters to the New York state legislature, urging them to raise the age of criminal responsibility. Currently, New York is one of only two states in the country where the automatic age of criminal responsibility is still 16 – a policy resulting in harsh sentencing for children.

“Tonight’s event is just the start of an important conversation,” said Thomas Edwards, community engagement specialist with Circles of Support. “The speakers and panelists drew much-needed attention to issues disproportionately affecting our community, such as mass incarceration and re-entry. This type of community engagement is critical to building a stronger community and stronger families.”

The event was sponsored by a diverse group of partners, including JC Flowers Foundation, Church of the Heavenly Rest, the Interfaith Center of New York, the Harlem Community Justice Center, and Network in the Community.

Bishop concerned by rising political violence in Zambia

Episcopal News Service - ter, 24/05/2016 - 14:05

Bishop William Mchombo (fifth from left) was part of a delegation of church leaders who accompanied the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to a meeting with Zambian President Edgar Lungu (third from left) last month. Photo: Gavin Drake/Anglican Communion News Service

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of Eastern Zambia William Mchombo, has expressed his “great concern” about the rise in political violence ahead of the country’s tripartite general election which is due to take place on 11 August. Britain and the U.S. have warned their citizens to be careful of political violence when visiting the country, and now the head of the tourism body says that visitor numbers are beginning to fall.

Historically, Zambia has not been plagued by the violence that has hit other countries in the region, but this year’s general election has sparked an upsurge in violent incidents by some of the cadres – the activist supporter groups of the political parties. Last month the Cathedral of the Holy Cross hosted an ecumenical indaba to which all the political parties attended – including Zambian President Edgar Lungu – and an agreement was reached over a number of issues including moderating the political rhetoric and curbing the wearing of military style clothing by campaigners.

But the violence has continued, and now Bishop William has spoken out, saying: “the rising political violence despite declarations made by all the political leaders to avoid such is of great concern. It still remains incumbent upon all the leaders of various political parties to restrain their utterances and those of their followers.

“The speeches should be devoid of provocative and malicious language. We urge the party leaders to engage the Electorate with developmental ideas and rein in their followers and condemn any acts of violence and unpalatable language.”

Alex Munthali, chair of the Tourism Council of Zambia, said that the violence is hitting tourism numbers in the country – impacting an industry that is key to the nation’s economic development. “This is our peak period and if we are to economically develop by placing tourism as one of the three pillars of economic development, violence should not be entertained,” he said in an interview with The Post newspaper. “We have started to see a reduction in tourist arrivals and some cancellations due to political violence.”

He continued: “All political players need to understand that this is not the first time Zambia is going to the polls. We have seen change of governments before and the August elections must not be any different. We need the peace that we have enjoyed before, there is no need for violence.”

Bishop William said that “Politics is about competing ideas and yet, unfortunately, it is slowly becoming the new norm for political parties to engage in physical confrontation which is totally uncalled for. Engaging in physical confrontation denotes lack of critical thinking and the impact of the consequences of such actions on the security and stability of the nation.”

He urged the citizens of Zambia to study the political parties manifesto documents, saying that it was they – the voters – who were “the major stakeholders in the whole electoral process” rather than the candidates and political parties.

“The way the electorate cast their votes will determine the type of leadership and government that will get into office and the kind of economic and social development, if any, that will come from such leadership,” he said. “It is for this reason that extra care should be taken in paying particular attention on what the competing parties have to say about issues such as the economy in relation to the high cost of living, inflation and the rising national debt that is affecting all of us, and subsequently the future generation.

“The electorate should not be short changed in discussions on youth unemployment and neither should they be given cosmetic utterances on improving the agricultural sector or the electoral catch phrase of diversification. We urge the electorate to demand tangible solutions to issues affecting the nation and also the means that such solutions will be arrived at by all the political players. The power of the electorate lies in casting the vote wisely.”

He urged voters to demand a “strong commitment to the fight against corruption from all the political parties,” saying that it hampered the economic and social development of the country and “negates any efforts to put a dent in the poverty levels of our nation.”

And he said that attacks on journalists should stop: “The media . . . has a big role to play,” he said. “It will not help to attack journalists in the course of their duties. It is not always that media houses will publish news that supports a particular stand point of a given political party.

“But it is important sometimes to learn from the criticism offered. The electorate however expect moral and ethical reporting in a fair and balanced manner. After all, journalism is about unearthing truth, not peddling fear and paranoia.”

He added: “let the political parties market their messages peacefully. Let the electorate be perceptive and not emotional. Elections and political parties will come and go, but Zambia as our motherland shall always be there. Let us keep it intact and an oasis of peace for ourselves and for the future generation.”

Last month, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, met the Zambian President Edgar Lungu during his visit to Lusaka for the Anglican Consultative Council meeting. The rise in political tensions and the cathedral-hosted political indaba was amongst the items discussed.

Becket’s bones return to Canterbury Cathedral

Episcopal News Service - ter, 24/05/2016 - 14:03

[Anglican Communion News Service] The bones of Thomas Becket, the 12th century Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered at the behest of King Henry II, are to return to the cathedral where he was killed and buried at the conclusion of a pilgrimage tour through south east England from their home in Hungary. The arrival of the relics of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral on Saturday will be the culmination of Becket Week – an ecumenical series of events organized by the Hungarian government.

Becket hadn’t been ordained by the time he was appointed to the see of Canterbury. He was ordained a priest on June 2, 1162 and consecrated as a bishop the following day to enable him to take on the role as Archbishop of Canterbury. But the King’s man became the Church’s man and as the new archbishop continued to assert the church’s independent authority; the king became increasingly frustrated; leading to Becket’s temporary exile in France; before Pope Alexander III secured his right to return.

But months later, four knights interpreted the king’s purported exclamation – “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?” – as a request for Becket to be killed; and they set off to Canterbury where they attacked him with swords in the cathedral itself. He died on the spot. His remains were venerated and the number of visitors to the cathedral led to his remains being reburied in an elaborate shrine. At the time of the reburial, small sections of bone were removed and taken to different churches as relics – and it is believed by many that this is how a section of his elbow came to be venerated at Esztergom, at a church which already bore his name.

Saint Thomas Becket’s shrine at Canterbury Cathedral was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII as part of the dissolution of the monasteries and his remaining bones crushed.

That relic from Esztergom has today joined relics from St Magnus the Martyr and St. Thomas of Canterbury churches in London, St. Thomas Church in Canterbury, and Stonyhurst Jesuit estate in Lancashire, at Westminster Cathedral – the leading Roman Catholic Church in London – for what has been termed Becket Week.

The relics arrived at the cathedral at 4 p.m. on May 24. A special service of vespers was held at 5 p.m. ahead of a solemn mass celebrated by Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom, Budapest, in the presence of the Hungarian President János Áder, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.

The relics will remain at Westminster Cathedral until tomorrow evening when they will be taken to Westminster Abbey – the Queen’s church in London – ahead of a solemn evensong sung jointly by the cathedral and abbey choirs. President Áder will once again be present.

The bones will then be on display for most of the week at St. Margaret’s Church – the parish church of the houses of parliament, adjacent to Westminster Abbey and a range of services and special events will take place. On Friday, they will be taken to Rochester in Kent, ahead of a service attended by Bishop László Kiss-Rigó of Szeged-Csanád; the Mayor of Esztergom, , Etelka Romanek; and the Hungarian foreign minister István Mikola.

On Saturday, pilgrims will assemble at at St. Michael’s Church in Harbledown, just outside Canterbury, ahead of a walk to Canterbury Cathedral where a special “welcome service” will be held in the presence of religious and civil leaders.

And on Sunday afternoon, Becket Week will conclude with a Catholic Mass in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral and an open air concern in the cathedral precincts.

The site of Becket’s martyrdom continues to draw pilgrims and is where, in 1982, Pope John Paul II and Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie knelt and prayed together during the first visit of a Pope to the United Kingdom.

First layperson elected to lead Order of the Ascension

Episcopal News Service - ter, 24/05/2016 - 13:57

Michelle Heyne, OA, was elected April 21, 2016, by the professed members of the Order of the Ascension to serve as the eighth Presiding Officer of the community. Michelle assumed her role immediately during the Order’s retreat at the Community of St. John the Baptist in Mendham, NJ.

Michelle has been a professed member since 2010 and is the first layperson to lead the community since its founding in 1983. She works full-time as a consultant to financial services firms, having previously worked as a financial industry executive. She also consults with Episcopal churches and dioceses, and leads leadership retreats and training programs.  She is interested in helping build productive relationships between clergy and lay leaders, and in developing capacity for parish health and management through sound spiritual and secular processes and methods.

The Order of the Ascension is a dispersed Benedictine community with a charism for parish revitalization. The charism is expressed through the individual work of members, as well as through materials published by Ascension Press of the Order of the Ascension. Michelle brings to the Order a particular passion for Christian formation, and for truly equipping the laity for service in daily life by building proficiency in traditional practices.  She received training through the Church Development Institute and National Training Laboratories, and is the author of In Your Holy Spirit: Traditional Spiritual Practices in Today’s Christian Life.

Church implements disaster strategy after devastating floods

Episcopal News Service - ter, 24/05/2016 - 13:42

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of Ceylon has implemented its disaster management plan in response to devastating floods that have displaced around 225,000 people and seriously impacted a further 200,000 people. Heavy rains have resulted in the confirmed deaths of 92 people; and a significant number of injuries. Scores of people remain missing.

Almost 5,000 homes have been destroyed, some by landslides. In the Kegalle district, an entire village of 170 people has been obliterated. The country’s military report that they are engaged in search efforts in Aranayake where they believe around 135 people are buried.

The disaster began on 17 May when Tropical Cyclone Roanu made landfall in the southwest of the island. It continued to wreak havoc until 21 May when it exited eastwards, in the direction of Bangladesh. That, and the storms which followed, brought heavy rains and flooding affecting 22 of the Island’s 24 districts, including the northern and eastern suburbs of Colombo along the banks of the Kelani River.

Search and rescue efforts are being hampered by continuing south-western monsoon rains which are also preventing many from returning home.

“After a somewhat slow initial reaction, the government is now coping well with the relief work while the armed services are engaged in the search and rescue operations,” a spokesman for the Diocese of Colombo said. “A very strong spontaneous response by television and radio stations, social media, private companies, institutions and schools, as well as citizens has resulted in very large stocks of relief items being collected and dispatched to those affected.”

The Colombo diocese’s Board of Social Responsibility (BSR) has prepared for such events and its members have been trained in disaster management. They have now implemented their disaster plan. Parishes have donated relief items and these are being distributed according to needs in the Colombo, Gampaha, and Puttalam districts.

The BSR has also provided fuel for 30 boats which are being used for rescue and relief.

The Bishop of Colombo, the Rt Revd Dhiloraj Canagasabey, has issued an appeal for assistance. “The BSR has . . . started relief programs in a few areas with support of the clergy and government officials,” Bishop Canagasabey said. “Since the government and some non-governmental organizations are already engaged in a well-coordinated relief effort, the BSR primarily intends to engage in rehabilitation and livelihood support in selected areas once the affected persons return to their homes, while they will also supplement the relief work where needed.

“If you feel led to support the diocesan rehabilitation effort, please partner us by sending us your contribution. We appeal to you for your prayers and cooperation towards assisting the affected people of our nation at this time of suffering and need.”

The diocesan spokesman said that the BSR was planning “for the major effort of the Church to be concentrated on the recovery and rehabilitation stage. For this, trained assessment teams are being readied and once the locations of our interventions are identified and access made possible, they will begin their work.”

They intend to concentrate their efforts on cleaning and disinfecting houses and water wells; providing household items, cooking utensils, clothes, bedding and linen, school uniforms, books, stationary and footwear; and assisting with the building materials for the repair of houses. They will also provide livelihood assistance.

  • Click here to find out how you can support the Bishop of Colombo’s emergency appeal.

Interfaith marchers trek 200 miles to support farmworkers

Episcopal News Service - ter, 24/05/2016 - 10:09

Marchers carried banners, flags, and noisemakers as they chanted and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan May 21 on Day 7 of the 18-day Farmworkers March for Justice event, spearheaded by Rural & Migrant Ministry. Photo: Amy Sowder

[Episcopal News Service] One more vote.

If one more New York senator supports the passage of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices bill, that decision could turn it into law and affect the lives of more than 60,000 farmworkers statewide, many who climb ladders to pick apples, crouch to shake the soil off onions, and stand for hours to sort cabbage on conveyor belts – often for 75 hours a week, with no day off, no overtime pay, no injury compensation.

“What do we want?” yelled labor advocate David Galarza to the crowd waving red “New York Farmworkers Deserve Equal Rights” signs as they marched under the Brooklyn Bridge’s iconic arches into Manhattan.

“Justice!” the crowd replied as they waved red flags and beat on djembe drums. “When do we want it?” Galarza called out. “Now!” they replied.

Almost 200 supporters joined the Brooklyn and Manhattan portion of the 18-day March for Farmworker Justice, spearheaded by Rural & Migrant Ministry, a statewide interfaith, nonprofit organization led by the Rev. Richard Witt, executive director of RMM and a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The march spans 200 miles, starting outside N.Y. Senate majority leader John Flanagan’s office in Smithtown on Long Island, ending on New York’s capitol steps in Albany June 1.

A New York City police officer leads marchers across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan on May 21. Photo: Amy Sowder

On Saturday, May 21, the group paused for a press conference at New York City Hall, marched through SoHo toward lunch at St. Mark’s Church-on-the-Bowery, pressing on for a rally at Union Square before ending the day in Washington Heights at the northern tip of Manhattan.

“This is important to all New Yorkers of any faith. It is the remnants of racism that keep this problem alive,” state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, D-Upper Manhattan, said on steps of City Hall.

Farmworkers are excluded from basic rights and protections that workers in almost every other industry have, an exclusion that lawmakers in the South demanded before they’d agree to the passage of President Franklin Roosevelt’s National Labor Relations Act in 1935 and Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. Domestic workers were excluded also, but that changed in 2010, when the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights passed in New York.

Farmworkers are still excluded. Grocery shoppers plucking a few glossy red Gala apples at their local market are enjoying the labor of people hidden at the bottom of the state’s $5.4 billion agricultural industry on 35,500 farms, according to a 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture census.

Heriberto, 26, is one of those workers. Originally from Morelos, Mexico, he worked for minimum wage for about 80 hours a week, with no day off for more than four years on a Hudson Valley farm, tilling zucchini, peppers, onions, potatoes and watermelons.

“I would like to see change. I don’t know why farmworkers don’t have rights like other workers,” Heriberto, whose last name is withheld because of his immigration status, said as he marched with the crowd. “It’s not a privilege. It’s a necessity.”

He’s seen coworkers get injured on the job, be unable to work, and lose their jobs.  Heriberto operates a tractor and forklift, yet is paid as an unskilled laborer. Things have improved in his seven years in the United States, however, he said. About two years ago, he was able to bargain for a pay raise and weekends off, so he’s one of the few farmworkers who could participate in the march.

The Rev. Richard Witt, executive director of Rural & Migrant Ministry, spoke briefly during the March for Farmworker Justice press conference at New York City Hall that drew a state senator, assemblywoman, civil rights leaders, authors, and clergy from several faiths. Photo: Amy Sowder

Most of the marchers don’t have this kind of field experience. Celia Baldwin was sitting in her pew at Grace Episcopal Church in Hastings on Hudson about nine years ago, when she heard Witt speak about the Rural & Migrant Ministry. Baldwin is a grade school teacher and not a “serial activist,” she said, but she was deeply moved to help once she was aware how bad the working conditions are for the people who grow her food.

“This organization represents a slice of American life that can only speak through others, and they feed all of us,” Baldwin said as she marched. “Why did I get involved? I eat. No one can tell you it doesn’t relate to them.”

The bill they are rallying for would provide farmworkers with overtime pay, an optional day of rest, and the right to collectively bargain.

Marchers for farmworker justice paraded, chanted, and passed out flyers through lower Manhattan on May 21 during the March for Farmworker Justice event. Photo: Amy Sowder 

Slowly, working conditions for New York’s field hands have improved. In the 1990s, the state legislature mandated that farms with at least five employees provide clean water and bathrooms in the fields. About 16 years ago, the minimum wage for farmworkers was raised to the same level as the state minimum wage most other workers receive.

And after a statement from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month, the right to collective bargaining looks more likely. The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the governor and state of New York, charging that excluding farmworkers from the right to collective bargaining violates the state constitution. On May 10, Cuomo agreed. Neither Cuomo nor the state attorney would fight the lawsuit.

“We will not tolerate the abuse or exploitation of workers in any industry,” Cuomo said. “This clear and undeniable injustice must be corrected.”

The New York Farm Bureau, the lobbying organization for agribusiness, is the primary opponent to this bill. The bureau states that giving farmworkers overtime pay – time and a half for every hour over eight hours in a day – would sink small farmers who can’t afford it and are struggling already. The average New York farm earns about $34,300 annually in net cash, according to the 2012 USDA census.

“It’s all turned into an economic issue,” Witt said. “The Farm Bureau would argue that farmworkers are already regulated enough, and they are regulated enough, but it’s not about that. It’s about equality for all workers. What is it about agriculture that gives it a different moral structure than any other business?”

Laura Garcia, 30, (center, dressed in black) shakes a can noisemaker and holds a sign as she marches a few blocks south of Manhattan’s SoHo district on Day 7 of the 18-day Farmworkers March for Justice event. As a child of a farmworker, Garcia benefitted from Rural & Migrant Ministry programs for children that exposed her to opportunities beyond her experience and gave her hope for a brighter future. Today, she’s a racial justice 1. program manager for the YWCA. Photo: Amy Sowder

Tom Toigo of Ronnybrook Dairy Farm in Ancramdale, New York, was selling recyclable bottles of milk at the Union Square Greenmarket when a woman from the marching group tried to hand him a flyer, and he yelled at her to go away. She scurried away while Toigo glared at her.

“Most of these farms aren’t big corporate farms. They’re family farms, and they’ll go out of business,” said Toigo, his voice calming as he returned to helping customers. “My problem with overtime is not about exploiting people. It’s about the seasonality of the work. It’s the nature of the farming industry.”

Just because farmers need employees to work more hours during peak season doesn’t mean they shouldn’t pay them overtime wages or stagger their workers’ shifts, according to RMM. It’s an issue of human rights, Witt said, and so did Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, after he marched over the bridge with the group and spoke at the press conference.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Dolan told the crowd. “It’s about basic human rights, giving farmworkers a bit of dignity and respect.”

Vice president of the RMM board, the Rev. Melissa DeRosia, pastor of Gates Presbyterian Church in the heavily agricultural area of Rochester, New York, held onto the left side of a giant banner during the march.

“This is about more than immigration or food justice,” she said. “It’s about the interconnectivity of it all and how it lands on our plate.”

– Amy Sowder is a food writer based in Brooklyn, New York.

Canon Mark Stevenson named as director of Episcopal Migration Ministries

Episcopal News Service - seg, 23/05/2016 - 18:23


[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry has appointed the Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson as Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, a member of the Presiding Bishop’s staff.

Since September 2013, Stevenson has served as the Episcopal Church Domestic Poverty Missioner, responsible for encouraging poverty ministry efforts aimed at systemic change and overseeing Jubilee Ministries, with nearly 700 ministries that focus on the economically impoverished.  He has also worked to develop partnerships and extensive networking with many Episcopal Church organizations, including Episcopal Relief & Development.

“Mark Stevenson is a demonstrated leader, an able and effective administrator and a faithful and compassionate priest, deeply committed to living the way of Jesus and to advancing his movement in the world, especially through service to and witness on behalf of the poor, the disposed, and the disinherited,” Presiding Bishop Curry said. “In this he joins with the remarkable staff of Episcopal Migration Ministries as they work to resettle our brothers and sisters who find themselves refugees a long way from home, like Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus” (Matthew 1:13-15).

Episcopal Migration Ministries is the refugee resettlement program of the Episcopal Church. Each year the Episcopal Church works in partnership with its 30 member local affiliate network in 26 states, along with dioceses, faith communities and volunteers, to welcome refugees from conflict zones across the globe. This year, Episcopal Migration Ministries will welcome more than 5,000 refugees to the United States from 32 countries, from places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Afghanistan, and Syria.

As director, Stevenson will provide leadership with a dedicated, experienced team in implementing Episcopal Migration Ministries’ national program of refugee resettlement as mandated by federal requirements, as well as any initiatives stemming from General Convention and Executive Council pertaining to refugee and immigration issues. Episcopal Migration Ministries carries out a national program of refugee resettlement through a public/private partnership with the US government, holding contracts with both the Department of State, Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration; and the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“The work of Episcopal Migration Ministries is an important element of our overall work as a Church, as we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God,” Stevenson said. “In my ministry over the years, I have witnessed injustice – and the struggles that come from it – attempt to strip away the dignity that God grants to each of us at our creation. As with the related issues of economic poverty ministry, the work of welcoming the stranger can bring systemic, transformative change to our world. I am looking forward to my new ministry alongside the professional staff of Episcopal Migration Ministries, its affiliates and partners, as the Church lives into this calling.”

Stevenson boasts extensive managerial and administrative experience, both within the Episcopal Church and in his previous secular employment.

Prior, Stevenson served as Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Louisiana beginning in August 2005 where his responsibilities included oversight of the bishop’s staff, budget management, coordination of clergy and congregation transitional ministry, and various pastoral and administrative concerns throughout the diocese.   When Hurricane Katrina made landfall just days before Stevenson took his post, the scope of his ministry expanded dramatically to include working closely with then-Bishop Charles Jenkins, as well as local, regional, national and international leaders and groups to put into place the processes for effective relief ministry.   In partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development, the diocese instituted an Office of Disaster Response that evolved over the years into Episcopal Community Services of Louisiana, a ministry focused not only on immediate disaster relief but also on the transformation of lives by building a community of care and respect for all human beings.

Before that, Stevenson served as rector of the Church of the Annunciation in New Orleans (Diocese of Louisiana) and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Maitland, Florida (Diocese of Central Florida). In addition, Stevenson has served as a deputy to the 2012 General Convention and an alternate at the 2009 General Convention.

Stevenson serves as vice-president of the board of The Living Church Foundation and has been a board member of Episcopal Relief & Development since 2012.

Stevenson’s appointment takes effect June 1.

Stevenson can be reached at

Stevenson replaces Deborah Stein, who resigned her position on May 6.

CPG appoints Francis P. Armstrong chief operating officer

Episcopal News Service - seg, 23/05/2016 - 13:16

Francis “Frank” P. Armstrong

[Church Pension Group press release] The Church Pension Group (CPG), a provider of employee benefits, property and casualty insurance, and published works to the institutions and individuals that comprise the Episcopal Church, May 23 announced the appointment of Francis “Frank” P. Armstrong as executive vice president and chief operating officer. In this role, he will be responsible for providing strategic leadership and direction for all client-facing programs and business operations. He will report directly to CPG Chief Executive Officer and President Mary Kate Wold. He replaces former COO Jim Morrison, who recently retired after 15 years of outstanding service to CPG.“Frank has been involved with our work, and has been an important part of the CPG leadership team, for many years,” said Wold. “This appointment will ensure a seamless transition as we continue to focus on providing our clients with a comprehensive set of products and services designed to suit the unique needs of those we serve. Building on the work Jim started, Frank will continue to push us forward so we can continue to meet the needs of the changing Church.”

Prior to his appointment, Armstrong served as senior vice president, benefits policy, and chief actuary of CPG since 2011. Before CPG, he served as a managing principal and practice leader for the eastern region for Hewitt Associates’ Health Management Practice, where he served as lead consultant to CPG. Prior to this, he was an actuarial consultant for Buck Consultants and an actuarial associate for US Life Insurance Co.

He is a fellow of the Society of Actuaries and a Member of the American Academy of Actuaries. He holds a BA from Rutgers University.

“We feel very fortunate to have been able to fill the role of COO with someone as talented as Frank,” Wold continued. “As he was recruited and trained by Jim, I have every confidence that he will continue the tradition of compassionate yet fiscally sound service to the Church.

“I want to thank Jim for his efforts over the past 15 years. He was instrumental in the creation of various service models that have allowed us to operate more effectively and provide the best possible experience to our clients. Jim is a tremendous colleague and friend, and we wish him the very best in his retirement.”

About The Church Pension Fund The Church Pension Fund is an independent organization affiliated with the Episcopal Church with approximately $12 billion in assets. CPF and its affiliated companies, collectively the Church Pension Group, provides retirement, health and wellness, and life insurance benefits to clergy and lay employees of the Episcopal Church. CPG also offers property and casualty insurance, as well as book and music publishing, including the official worship materials of the Episcopal Church. Its affiliated companies include Church Life Insurance Corp., the Episcopal Church Medical Trust, the Church Insurance Companies and Church Publishing Inc.


Latin American bishops establish province-wide development group

Episcopal News Service - seg, 23/05/2016 - 11:38

[Episcopal News Service – San Juan, Puerto Rico] The bishops of Province IX last week approved the formation of a province-wide development group aimed at moving each of the province’s seven dioceses toward self-sustainability.

Since 2013, the Episcopal Church has been working with all Province IX dioceses – the Dominican Republic, Ecuador Central, Ecuador Litoral, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras and Puerto Rico – to develop a plan for financial self-sustainability and to further secure their ministries.

“It’s a dream realized,” said Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Cesar Holguín, whose diocese received the Episcopal Church recently awarded a one-time focus grant totaling $950,000. “It’s a platform to help each of the dioceses of Province IX to reach self-sufficiency and to fund their own missionary work. We’re very optimistic in this regard that we can make this work.”

The Province IX bishops created the development group on May 17 during a synod meeting.

The Province IX dioceses have been leading the effort to move toward self-sustainability since a 2011 Church Pension Group-sponsored conference in Tela, Honduras, that brought together the Province IX dioceses to explore a secure path. The dioceses themselves adopted sustainability as a focus for 2012; three of the seven dioceses – the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Honduras now have development groups.

According to the Province IX Development Group’s bylaws, its purpose is to assist with the development and self-sustainability of the diocese through the promotion of sustainable development, the solicitation of resources and the strengthening of companion relationships.

The development group will pursue its purpose through diocesan consultations, making presentations about the work being carried out in each of the dioceses, preparing promotional material, writing grant proposals and coordinating mission teams and other fundraising activities.

The development group will serve as an umbrella organization to help all of the Province IX dioceses achieve sustainability by sharing best practices and resources that enable them to learn from one another, said Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen.

The Diocese of Honduras has set the goal to achieve financial sustainability by 2019, he added.

“2019 is our time to say it’s good what you have done for us, but beyond this we are ready to walk on our own,” said Allen. “My [diocesan] convention is a week from Saturday and I’m going to be letting people know that we have two years to go and nothing is stopping us now. We’re restructuring the Honduran Development Network and the diocese, and preparing the platform for this to come together.”

In February 2014, on the recommendation of the Second Mark of Mission working group, the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council agreed to an 18-year plan for “self-sufficiency,” to move to sustainable mission and ministry in Province IX.

The Episcopal Church’s 2013-2015 budget allocated $2.9 million in block grants over the triennium and also included an additional $1 million for Province IX with the goal of “strengthening the province for sustainable mission.” It financed the focus grant.

In July 2015, General Convention adopted Resolution A015 “Continue to Support Province IX Sustainability” which continues “dedication for the ongoing work of Mark of Mission II: To Teach, Baptize, and Nurture New Believers, especially as it pertains to the agreed-upon plan for Province IX Sustainability.”

The Diocese of the Dominican Republic is the closest to achieving self-sustainability, in large part because of the formation in 1998 of the Dominican Development Group which was formed with the primary goal of seeking the “human, material and financial resources that are required to maintain the diocese’s rate of growth and to provide the diocese with the ability to maintain ‘quality’ programs.”

In 15 years, the DDG has raised more than $10 million to finance the building of infrastructure, including churches, schools, day care centers and medical clinics in the Dominican Republic. Heavily dependent on the income generated by short-term mission groups, it is held up as a model of entrepreneurship across Province IX.

The Province IX Development Group is intended to work with each of the seven dioceses in its own context, explained Bob Stevens, the former executive director of the DDG and the volunteer director of the newly formed province-wide development group.

“The suggestion [to form the province-wide group] came from the bishops themselves,” said Stevens. “We are at their service.”

The 2016-2018 budget maintains block-grant funding at $2.9 million for Province IX.

– Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service.

GEMN conference explores mission in a time of migration

Episcopal News Service - seg, 23/05/2016 - 11:11

Panelist shared stories about migration in their local contexts May 20 during the 21st annual Global Episcopal Mission Network. Photo: Julius Ariail

[Episcopal News Service – Ponce, Puerto Rico] What does it mean to do God’s mission with a world in continuous motion? That was the theme set forth by the 21st annual Global Episcopal Mission Conference held last week in Puerto Rico.

As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans have long made the journey north, but the Caribbean island’s decade-long economic crisis has accelerated that movement, particularly in 2014 when a record 84,000 people – an average of 240 a day – left. Today more Puerto Ricans live in the United States than on the island.

It’s a phenomenon that affects Puerto Ricans at all levels of society, said the Rev. Angel Rivera, a priest of the Diocese of Puerto Rico and a member of the GEMN board, during a May 20 panel discussion focused on “mission amid migration.”

As Rivera and other panelists maintained, the churches have witnessed the effect of migration on families and communities.

Be they economic migrants looking for work or refugees and asylum seekers fleeing violence, war in their countries or natural disasters, record numbers of people are on the move today. About 244 million people – equal to three-quarters of the U.S. population – live outside their birth countries, a figure that includes 20 million refugees and 59.9 million internally displaced people, a record number.

In Colombia alone, more than 7,000,000 people have been internally displaced by an armed conflict fought largely over control of land in the South American country. Another 350,000 have become refugees.

The Colombian government and insurgent groups have spent the last four years negotiating a peace agreement, explained Colombia Bishop Francisco Duque, who also spoke on the panel.

In the meantime, the church has responded to meet people’s needs at the local level and in neighboring countries, like Ecuador, that have accepted refugees.

Bishop Julio Holguín, of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, explained the situation in his country where Dominicans of Haitian descent have been stripped of citizenship, thus rendering them stateless. Noah Bullock, executive director of Foundation Cristosal, described the ongoing violence fueled by gangs in El Salvador and neighboring Guatemala and Honduras, a crisis that has led people to flee Central America’s northern triangle, either for the United States or regionally. In 2015, 17,5000 people suffered violent deaths in El Salvador, and an estimated 500,000 were internally displaced by violence. Jose Bringas Lisare of the Diocese of Cuba described the island’s most recent wave of outward migration, as record numbers are fleeing the island in fear of an end of the Cuban Adjustment Act that has favored Cuban immigrants since 1966.

Cuba’s modernization of its economy based on “private property ownership and cooperatives,” has excited some and terrified others, said Bringas, adding that Cubans still believe in the “American Dream,” and that leaving Cuba for the United States “will solve their problems,” when that’s not the case. The Episcopal Church of Cuba, he said, is working to help people improve their lives at the community level, in hopes that they will decide to stay and make a life in Cuba.

More than 120 Episcopalians – including 20 young adult and adult missionaries – gathered at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico at Ponce for the May 18-20 conference. In addition to networking, the annual conference provides workshops on educating and empowering them in their mission work and an opportunity to worship together.

As was made clear during the last day’s panel, migration – which is really a catch-all term used to label people on the move – has worldwide impact. The Episcopal Church is responding in various ways to address the needs of migrants, refugee and asylum seekers.

In Seattle, Washington, for instance, the Mission to Seafarers provides support to merchant seafarers, many of whom spend nine to 12 months a year aboard cargo ships, moving goods around the world. These men, said Ken Hawkins, executive director of the Seattle Seafarers Center, often do not have the visas required to leave the ships docked in port. Through a network of more than 400 volunteers and chaplains, the mission provides support, in terms of phone cards and access to the Internet, and through emotional and spiritual counseling to seafarers.

The Syrian refugee crisis has led to a greater awareness of the large number of refugees fleeing war, violence and persecution; it’s a crisis that has led to fear and panic, both in Western Europe and the United States. In Europe, the church has responded by providing direct assistance to refugees living in camps in France, and Episcopal Relief & Development is providing assistance to partners in the Middle East.

Domestically, the Episcopal Church has a long history of working with the U.S. government to resettle refugees. Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Episcopal Church’s refugee resettlement ministry, is one of nine agencies working in partnership with the U.S. Department of State to welcome and resettle refugees to the United States.

In addition to working with 30 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses, providing direct assistance to recent arrivals, Episcopal Migration Ministries offers ways for congregations to engage in refugee resettlement in their communities, it also encourages Episcopalians to join the Episcopal Public Policy Network and advocate for policies that protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

Whereas people engaged in refugee resettlement are typically fighting to make sure the resettlement process stays on track, now they are fighting for the resettlement program’s survival, said Allison Duvall, EMM’s manager for church relations and engagement, during a May 19 plenary session where she and Wendy Johnson, EMM’s communications manager, gave an overview of the refugee crisis, the resettlement process and the Episcopal Church’s historic and contemporary role in refugee resettlement.

Over the past year, partially in response to the fear generated by the large number of Syrian refugees, 48 states have introduced legislation to either ban refugees from their states or to weaken the U.S. government’s resettlement program.

One of the key ways Episcopalians can become engaged in the issues of migration and refugee resettlement, Johnson said during the plenary, is through participation in the democratic process.

Of the 20 million refugees worldwide, less than 1 percent will be resettled; moreover, the United States resettles more refugees and any other country in the world. The church’s response is not just rooted in welcoming the stranger, but in the Baptismal Covenant.

Last week, the Episcopal Public Policy Network released an Election Engagement Toolkit offers ways for congregations and individuals participate in the electoral process “faithfully, responsibly and legally.” The toolkit anchors such engagement in the Baptismal Covenant’s promise to “strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.”

⎯ Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service.