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Church of England ordains, consecrates Lane as first female bishop

Episcopal News Service - seg, 26/01/2015 - 17:56

Archbishop of York John Sentamu prays over the Rev. Libby Lane during her ordination and consecraion as the first female Bishop in the Church of England at York Minster in York, northern England Jan. 26. Photo: Reuters/Lynne Cameron

[Episcopal News Service] In a packed service at York Minster Jan. 26 attended by more than 100 bishops from the Church of England and women bishops from across the Anglican Communion, Libby Lane was ordained and consecrated as the first female bishop in the history of the Church of England.

Lane became the eighth bishop of Stockport and will serve as a suffragan (assistant) bishop in the Diocese of Chester.

Lane was anointed with oil by Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who later gave her a Bible.

Libby was first presented by the Bishops of Chester and Exeter (the Rt. Rev. Peter Forster and the Rt. Rev. Robert Atwell) and surrounded by fellow bishops at the foot of the nave platform, according to a Diocese of Chester press release.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby attended as did other senior Christian pastors and faith leader, the release said.

Bishop of Southport Libby Lane (above) is with close friends and colleages from the Diocese of Chester, including George Colville (Diocesan Secretary), Canon Betty Renshaw (Chairman of the Diocesan Board of Finance), Ian Bishop (Archdeacon of Stockport) and Michael Gilbertson (Archdeacon of Chester). Photo: Diocese of Chester

At the end of the service she was given a pastoral staff and went in procession outside the minster where she was photographed and filmed by various media. The consecration was filmed by the major British broadcasters and shown on lunchtime news programs across the various networks, including BBC, Sky News and ITV. The historic event was covered by media from around the word, according to the Chester diocese.

The service was interrupted by a lone protester, the Rev. Paul Williamson, the Associated Press reported. He stepped forward and objected when the congregation was asked if it was their will that Lane be ordained. Williamson said “No!” and asked to speak, arguing there was no precedent in the Bible for women bishops.

Lane remained stoic. Sentamu seemed prepared, according to the AP report, and answered with a prepared statement, a nod to the controversy that led to this moment.

Sentamu then simply moved on, asking the packed church once again if they approved. This time, the response was a thunderous “Yes!”

Lane was appointed Dec. 17. Her appointment and the ordination and consecration on Jan. 26 followed more than a decade of often-emotional debate accompanied by various stages of legislative action. The Church of England voted in July to allow women to become bishops, a decision that was later approved by the U.K. Parliament and given the assent of Queen Elizabeth II. The approvals were required because the church’ effectively changed English law. (The Church of England is an officially established Christian church with Queen Elizabeth II as its supreme governor.)

Libby will be installed in a separate ceremony March 8 at Chester Cathedral.

In a statement shortly after being consecrated, Libby said she had been encouraged by the thousands of messages of support she has received since the news of her appointment was announced. She said:

“Archbishop Sentamu has observed, ‘the way that we show our faith and our love for one another is with two simple things, prayer and parties.’ Today is an occasion of prayer and of party – and I am thrilled that so many want to share in both. I cannot properly express how encouraged I have been in the weeks since the announcement of my nomination, by the thousands of messages I have received with words of congratulation, support and wisdom. I’ve heard from people of all ages, women and men – people I have known for years, and people I have never met; people from down the road, and people from across the world.

The Rt. Rev. Libby Lane, the first female bishop in the Church of England Libby Lane laugh with other bishops after her consecration service at York Minster Jan. 26. The other bishops include Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath and Kildare Pat Storey (left), Diocese of New York Assistant Bishop Chilton Knudsen (behind Lane) and Anglican Church of Southern Africa Diocese of False Bay Bishop Margaret Vertue. Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble

“Many those who have been in touch have little or no contact with the Church of England; not all have been people of faith, but every one of them has felt this moment marks something important. That all this personal – and media – attention has centred on me has been a little overwhelming: I cannot possibly live up to everyone’s expectation. And so today, at my consecration, I hold on to words of promise from the Bible, a reassurance that all this does not depend on me … ‘the God who calls you is faithful: He will do it’ (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

“My consecration service is not really about me. With echoes of practice which has been in place for hundreds of years in the church, it is a reminder that what I am about to embark on is shared by the bishops around me, by those who have gone before me and those who will come after. It places the ministry of a bishop in the context of the ministry of all God’s people. And most importantly it retells the good news of Jesus, the faithful one, who calls each of us to follow him.

“Thank you to all who are praying for me and partying with me today. Please continue to hold me in your prayers as, after the example of St. Timothy and St. Titus who are celebrated by the Church on this day, I share in work of proclaiming the gospel, in word and action, and bearing witness to the name of Jesus.”

Sentamu said after the service that history had been made in York Minster. “It is a momentous occasion: a solemn act of worship and a jubilant celebration. I was thrilled to be presiding at the service,” he said. “Jesus Christ calls ordinary people like you and me to serve him joyfully and confidently. We are simply called to serve.”

More biographical information about Lane is included in this story.

Presiding Bishop addresses statelessness in the Dominican Republic

Episcopal News Service - seg, 26/01/2015 - 16:15

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached in mid-December at Holy Cross Church in Santa Fe, in what was once the heart of the Dominican Republic’s sugarcane producing region in San Pedro Macoris. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic] A large crowd gathered to meet Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in mid-December at Holy Cross Church in Santa Fe, in what was once the heart of the Dominican Republic’s sugarcane producing region in San Pedro Macoris.

Jefferts Schori would later preach, but first she was scheduled to have a conversation with the immigrant community about its experience in the wake of a 2013 Constitutional Court sentence that annulled the citizenship of an estimated 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian ancestry, many of them women and children.

“The current reality is that there are generations of people with Haitian ancestry in the Dominican Republic; children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren born in the DR who now have been told that they are not citizens, which means that now they can’t get passports (or) cellphones because they don’t have identification numbers,” said Jefferts Schori, in an interview with Episcopal News Service. “In a number of cases their birth records have been expunged or declared invalid. They can’t go to school, they can’t go to university, they can’t get loans; they simply can’t function in the normal areas of society.

“They are not just undocumented, they are ‘de-documented.’ ”

The court’s 2013 ruling came three years after the Dominican Republic changed its constitution removing jus soli, the right of anyone born in the territory of a state to nationality or citizenship – an almost universal right in the Americas. The 2013 sentence, or ruling, furthered the constitutional change, making it retroactive to 1929 and stripping the citizenship of three generations of people born in the Dominican Republic.

“The de-nationalization imposed by the sentence is an act of injustice, an iniquity; they are Dominicans that have been dispossessed by the sentence,” said Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Holguín, who from the start has been involved with a solidarity committee of lawyers, activists and academics who’ve condemned the court’s action and defended the rights of those affected.

“As a church we feel very committed and obligated to be the voice of those who don’t have a voice.”

Eight months after the sentence, in May 2014, following intense political pressure and international calls for justice, the president introduced and the Dominican Congress passed a law allowing children of “irregular” migrants, or non-residents deemed “in-transit” under a 2004 law who have birth certificates, to become citizens and those without to apply for legal residency and later citizenship.

The May 2014 law would apply to about 20,000 people, which critics say falls short.

Without a birth certificate, a person cannot obtain an identification card, which is required to study, to apply for dignified employment, to marry, to register children, to qualify for state health insurance and pensions, to open a bank account, to apply for a passport, to participate in elections, or even to be baptized.

Obtaining a birth certificate, however, can be an arbitrary, expensive process in the Dominican Republic, given the current right-leaning, anti-immigrant sentiment percolating in advance of presidential elections in 2016. It’s an already arduous task in a developing country with irregular record-keeping procedures made more difficult in small towns and rural areas where workers continue to live in bateyes – the informal communities that grew up around the sugarcane plantations where Haitian migrants typically lived and where poor, marginalized people continue to live long after the sugarcane industry’s crash.

Back at Holy Cross Church, one young woman, Linda, a 24-year-old mother of two, shared her story of living without a birth certificate and thus an ID, which is necessary for her to continue her education and to register the births of her children, a 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, both born in the Dominican Republic, one to a Dominican father, the other to a Haitian.

Linda held documents from the secretary of education saying she couldn’t continue her night school studies without a birth certificate, a photocopy of her mother’s identification card issued by the Dominican government in 2005, and a “to whom it may concern” letter signed and stamped with the seal of a Roman Catholic parish confirming her birth in 1990 and her mother’s identity.

Without a lawyer to assist her in navigating the bureaucracy and what activists, lawyers and members of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic’s Pastoral Committee on Immigration describe as an arbitrary process, Linda’s life and that of her two children will likely remain in limbo.

Others in similar situations or with affected family members in the crowd of more than 250 people were fearful of sharing their story publicly. Following the meeting, however, outside the church during the Eucharist, they came forward in the hope of finding some assistance. Like Linda, many were looking to legitimize their residency in order to study, to work in the formal economy and provide a better life for their families. Without a birth certificate and a nationality, they are stateless, “a person who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law.”

An estimated 10 million people are stateless worldwide, many of them made so by war and others because of economic migration, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which in 2014 launched a 10-year campaign aimed at eradicating statelessness.

In addition to UNHCR, statelessness has caught the attention of the International Anglican Family Network, which supports the campaign for universal birth registration, meaning it supports global efforts to ensure compliance in countries that recognize the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Dominican Republic is party to the convention and therefore agreed to Article 7 which says children have a right to be registered immediately following birth and have a right to nationality, particularly where they otherwise might be stateless.

That said, the United Nations has resisted taking formal action against the Dominican Republic, which is not a party to either the 1954 nor the 1961 conventions on statelessness; and the country has ignored previous international legal attempts to protect the rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent.

In 2005, after seven years of litigation, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Dominican Republic to grant birth certificates, and thereby citizenship, to two Dominican-born girls of Haitian descent.

The court concluded that the Dominican Republic had “violated the rights of children of Haitian ancestry and rendered them stateless by refusing to issue their birth certificates because of their race.” Further, the ruling required the Dominican government to reform public policy to address historic discrimination in its birth registration procedures – to issue birth certificates to children regardless of their immigration status or the race of their birth parents, as well as to reform the education system.

In a press release issued immediately following the October 2005 court decision, one of the plaintiffs predicted the historical significance of the decision.

“This watershed decision will change the Dominican Republic just as Brown v. Board changed the United States,” said Laurel Fletcher, the director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

It did not.

Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Holguín and members of the solidarity committee held a press conference on Jan. 14 denouncing a recent decision by the electoral board to invalidate the IDs of 2 million people.

In 2007 the Central Electoral Board, which in addition to organizing and monitoring elections oversees the country’s national identification program, implemented a resolution limiting access to birth certificates and government identification cards to Dominicans of Haitian descent. Recently, Holguín and other members of the solidarity committee held a press conference on Jan. 14 denouncing a recent decision by the electoral board to invalidate the IDs of 2 million people, “continuing the work initiated by the 2007 ruling.”

Years of legislative changes and administrative policies aimed at limiting access to citizenship have further complicated an already complicated, unjust system.

“The justice issues are enormous. The human rights courts in Latin America have ruled this is illegal and have told the DR that it has to change its laws. But thus far the administration in the DR has resisted all such efforts by changing the interpretation of the law, denying that they have exceeded to the human rights covenants in Latin America. It’s not clear that there is going to be any real resolution, quickly,” said Jefferts Schori, during her mid-December visit.

“It’s also apparent that if people have the financial resources to litigate, they often can get relief. But it’s often very expensive and it takes a long time and clearly many people in the working class simply can’t manage it.”

Numerically, the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti is the largest in The Episcopal Church; the Diocese of the Dominican Republic is one of the fastest growing dioceses in Province IX, which covers Latin America. Following the Constitutional Court’s 2013 decision, Executive Council suggested the presiding bishop travel to the Dominican Republic on a fact-finding mission.

Through her visit, which included briefings from the diocese’s pastoral committee; a visit to Centro Bonó, a Jesuit-sponsored nongovernment organization; and informal conversations with journalists, academics and lawyers, who described the situation “as a threat to democracy,” the presiding bishop hoped to make the larger church aware of the situation in the Dominican Republic.

“Certainly education helps people be better advocates with their own legislators. I think our own government has some ability to apply pressure on the Dominican Government. I think the change will come from international pressure,” said Jefferts Schori.

“Trade relationships between the DR, the US and other developed nations are increasing and at some point the economic pressure, the economic and political pressure, is most likely to have an effect.”

Not unlike the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants who have crossed the border into the United States to find work, an estimated 1 million Haitians have crossed the 170-mile border separating Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The similarities don’t end there: Recently minors have been crossing the border in record numbers, and tensions have flared after Haitian fishermen were arrested in Dominican waters near Pedernales, the southern-most border town on the Caribbean Sea.

Occasionally conflicts arise on the border. Particularly when it is opened to make way for traders on both sides to sell their products,” said Holguín, adding that in this case there were protests outside the Dominican consulate in Haiti. The protest stopped following the fishermen’s release. And that many Haitians cross the border during the holidays, which increases traffic and the potential for conflict.

Additionally, months of ongoing violent protests in Haiti – calling for long-delayed elections and the president’s resignation – and the Haitian parliament’s recent dissolution have further created tension on both sides of the border.

“The political situation in Haiti has become difficult … which worries some sectors on the Dominican side,” Holguín.

Colonization and history of Hispaniola

The Dominican Republic, population 10.4 million, and Haiti, population 10.3 million, share the island of Hispaniola, with the Dominican Republic occupying approximately the eastern two-thirds and Haiti the western third of the island. Hispaniola is the second largest of the Greater Antilles’ four islands and the only one shared by two nations.

In 1492, explorer Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola in what would become Haiti; a year he later established the first permanent European settlement on the island in what is now the Dominican Republic. The Spanish colonized the island and ruled it until the French claimed the western part, Haiti, in 1660. During centuries of colonial rule the Spanish and the French exploited the island’s natural resources. When labor ran short, the French imported millions of African slaves to work Haiti’s sugarcane and tobacco plantations in what was considered by far the richest colony in the Caribbean. When the slaves rebelled, Haiti became an independent nation in 1804, and the Dominican Republic, then known as Santo Domingo, followed in 1821.

A year later the Haitian army invaded and the two countries were governed by Haiti until 1844, a 22-year occupation portrayed as “harsh and oppressive” that continues to fuel tensions and anti-Haitian sentiments today. On February 27, annually, Dominicans celebrate independence not from Spain, but from Haiti.

Independence in Haiti and the Dominican Republic did not, however, bring about democracy. Instead it eventually brought the likes Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and Rafael “El Jefe” Trujillo, the latter ordering the massacre of between 9,000 and 20,000 Haitians living along the border in October 1937.

The massacre and Trujillo’s denigrating portrayal of the Haitian people have left a stain on Dominican-Haitian relations, say historians, politicians and others.

The rise in sugarcane production

Beginning in the 1870s and into the 1880s sugar production began to develop on an industrial scale in the Dominican Republic. Haitians eventually dominated its migrant labor workforce; by 1952 the two countries came to a bilateral agreement ensuring a continuing supply of Haitian workers to meet the seasonal demands of sugarcane production.

At one time, there were eight major sugarcane plantations near Santa Fe, where the presiding bishop visited.

“Many, many Haitians came to work in the DR in the sugar industry under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo,” said Jefferts Schori.

The arrangement was similar to the bracero program in the United States, which ensured a steady stream of manual laborers from Mexico from 1942 to 1964.

“When the sugar industry collapsed and the labor was no longer needed, the Haitians stayed,” she said.

The Rev. Alvaro Yepes, a member of the diocese’s pastoral community who serves at the Camp of the Mount of the Transfiguration in El Pedregal, said at least 10 members of his community lack birth certificates. Aside from offering prayers and pastoral counseling, he’s frustrated by what little else he can do for them, he said.

“It’s easy to say we are all children of God, but hard to put into practice” when not all members of society are treated equally, said Yepes. He said that, for political reasons, the government often stirs resentments between Dominicans and those perceived to be Haitian immigrants.

In times of crisis, the Dominican Republic has responded generously to Haiti. Given its proximity, it was the first country to respond following the Jan. 12, 2010, catastrophic earthquake that killed between 200,000 and 300,000 people and leveled parts the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and nearby Léogâne. The Dominican Republic provided emergency assistance, organized volunteers, and most significantly, opened the border restrictively at Jimani, 40 miles east of Port-au-Prince, to Haitians fleeing disaster.

An estimated 1 million Haitians fled to the Dominican Republic, doubling the size of the immigrant population. Of the 2 million Haitians living the Dominican Republic, 70,000 were there legally, according to Human Rights Watch data.

Shared border, shared struggles

Haiti is classified as a low-income country where 58.5 percent of the population lives in poverty; in comparison, the Dominican Republic is classified as an upper-middle-income country, with 40.9 percent of the population living in poverty, according to data from the World Bank.

Both the Haitian and the Dominican economies depend on wages earned by immigrants working abroad and sent back to support families in-country. Remittances make up 7.3 percent of the Dominican economy and 21.1 percent of the Haitian economy, according to World Bank data.

An estimated 1.5 million Dominicans and some 600,000 Haitians reside in the United States.

“When our economic system depends on the transportability and the ability of people who want to work to move, as well as the need for people to move for lack of opportunity or (because of) violence, state violence or non-state violence, we’re faced with a recognition that our ancient ways of doing things no longer function,” said Jefferts Schori. “Look at the Philippines: Its economy depends on its migrant labor (and) that’s increasingly true of some nations in Latin America.”

The Dominican Republic has recently ranked consistently among the fastest-growing economies in the world, averaging a 5.5 increase in gross domestic product annually for 20 years. The labor market, however, has remained stagnant, with workers largely employed in low-wage jobs or in the informal economy, according to studies.

In that same two-decade period, remittances – wages transferred home by migrant workers – rose steadily peaking at 11.4 percent of GDP in 2004, and dropping to 6.5 percent in 2011; income inequality has increased in the last decade.

That the economy grows but demand for labor and wages remains stagnant stokes the fires of resentment, which have increases noticeably since 2013, said Franklin Paula, who teaches English at an Episcopal school in Santa Cruz.

There have been demonstrations in response to incidents perceived to be racially motivated, a May 2014 flag burning, for instance, said Paula, who was born in the Dominican Republic but whose family is from Antigua.

And Haitians, he said, who come to the Dominican Republic speaking two or three languages, often are preferred hires at the resorts that cater to European and American tourists, which leads to further resentment among low-wage Dominican workers.

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

Kenneth Kearon consecrated bishop of Limerick and Killaloe

Episcopal News Service - seg, 26/01/2015 - 15:26

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Service of Consecration and Ordination of Kenneth Kearon as the new Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe took place at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Jan. 24 on the Eve of the Conversion of St Paul.

A large number of bishops — both Anglican and Methodist – participate Jan. 24 in the ordination and consecration of Kenneth Kearon as Limerick and Killaloe. Photo: Church of Ireland

The preacher at the service, Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan, , said: “Life as a bishop is like a ride on a zip wire … Just as zip wire riders need someone to launch them at the start and haul them in at the end, so too a bishop sets people off on their sometimes daunting journeys of faith and holds them safe as they travel.’ More than that, though, he added, ‘a bishop is someone who climbs onboard the ride first – to lead by example’.”

As well as Morgan and a number of serving and retired bishops of the Church of Ireland – including the Rt. Rev. Sam Poyntz, the new bishop’s father-in-law – Kearon’s consecration brought together a large number of attendees from across the Church of Ireland, the wider Anglican Communion and, notably, the Methodist Church in Ireland also. The president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Rev. Peter Murray, along with the Rev. Donald Ker, former president and general secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and former president and co–chair of the Covenant Council, the Rev. Winston Graham, joined with other bishops in the laying on of hands on the new bishop – the first time that participation by Methodist leaders has taken place. Since the decision of both the General Synod and the Methodist Conference allowing for the inter-changeability of ministry, Methodist presidents are now regarded as Episcopal ministers and as such can participate in a consecration service.

The service was led by the Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson, Bishop of Meath and Kildare Pat Storey, and Bishop of Tuam and Killala Patrick Rooke were co–consecrators.

The first reading from Numbers 27: 15–20, 22–23 was read by one of the new bishop’s three daughters, Rachel Kearon; the second reading from 2 Corinhtians 4: 1–10 was read by the Rev. Gillian Wharton and the Gospel, John 21: 1–17, was read by the R.t Rev. James Tengatenga, chair of the Anglican Consultative Council. The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral sang Mozart’s Coronation Mass during the Eucharist.

Kearon was also surrounded by many family and friends at the service, including his wife, Jennifer, and two of his three daughters – Alison and Rachel (pictured right); his daughter Gillian is living in New Zealand and was unable to attend. Kearon’s mother, Ethel Kearon, was joined by his sister, Lynda Goldsmith.

Born in Dublin in 1953, Kearon attended Mountjoy School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied Philosophy. Following further study at Cambridge and in Dublin, he was ordained a priest in 1982 and served as curate in All Saints Raheny and St John’s Coolock before his appointment as dean of residence at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1991 he became rector of Tullow before becoming director of the Irish School of Ecumenics in 1999 and secretary general of the Anglican Communion in 2005, the role which he performed until late last year.

Kearon is no stranger to Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, having been a member of the chapter since 1995 and served as its chancellor from 2002. In September 2014, he was elected bishop of Limerick and Killaloe following a meeting of the Episcopal Electoral College which took place at Christ Church Cathedral, and he succeeds the Rt. Rev. Trevor Williams who retired as Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe in July last year.

Enthronement services in the cathedrals in his new dioceses will take place at later dates.

Extracts from the sermon given at the consecration by Morgan are included in the full ACNS story here.

Georgia bishop asks pardons board to spare inmate’s life

Episcopal News Service - sex, 23/01/2015 - 17:46

[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] Bishop Rob Wright Jan. 26 sent a letter to the chair and members of Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Paroles asking them to spare the life of an intellectually disabled death-row inmate. Warren Lee Hill is scheduled to be executed Jan. 27.

Warren Hill

Hill, whose intellectual disability has been twice confirmed by lower courts, had his final appeal to the State Supreme Court denied Jan. 20. The Board of Pardons and Paroles, which meets Jan. 26, provides Hill with a last opportunity for avoiding the death penalty unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes.

In his letter Wright made a biblical argument against executing Hill. “While many people support capital punishment, Holy Scripture clearly shows Jesus never taught that we should murder a human being, no matter how heinous the crime.”

He told the board that he was greatly encouraged in July 2014 when they commuted the death sentence to life without parole in the case of Tommy Lee Waldrip.

“Your decision was a victory for morality and human dignity and I praise you for your action. Today I urge you to again take the courageous path and spare the life of Mr. Hill,” he said.

Since 1984, Georgia has executed 56 people, an average of two per year. However, in the past year Georgia has increased the frequency of executions with six scheduled executions.

Since 1954, The Episcopal Church has called repeatedly for an end to executions. Wright said in a letter to more than 200 clergy in his diocese that he hopes they will express concern to state officials — and physically witness their opposition to the death penalty. “As we all know, capital punishment can never bring an end to killing,” he said.

This is not the first time Wright has called an end to Georgia executions. In December, he wrote a letter to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal urging a halt to the practice. At that time Robert Wayne Holsey was facing execution. Holsey was executed Dec. 9 for the murder of Baldwin County sheriff’s deputy Will Robinson.

On Jan. 13 the state also executed Andrew Howard Brannan, a decorated war veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to court records. Brannan was put to death for the 1998 murder of 22-year-old Laurens County Sheriff’s Deputy Kyle Wayne Dinkheller.

Georgia is the only state to require evidence of intellectual disability to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. All other states use a less-strict standard of proof.

In a New York Times editorial published Jan. 23, the editors said “Mr. Hill’s case is a catalog of everything that is wrong with the death penalty.”

Vigils protesting the death penalty are planned for outside Georgia’s death-row prison and in Atlanta and 10 other locations throughout Georgia, according to Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty website.

RIP: Marcus Borg, theologian and historical Jesus expert, dies at 72

Episcopal News Service - qui, 22/01/2015 - 19:38

Marcus Borg

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10:15 a.m. EST Jan. 23 to include information about a memorial service and additional details.

[Episcopal News Service] Marcus J. Borg, a New Testament scholar, theologian and author who was associated for years with the search for the historical Jesus and who sought to put the New Testament in what he believed was its proper context, died Jan. 21.

Borg, 72, had been suffering from Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, according to an announcement from at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, where he had been a member for years.

He died peacefully and without pain at his home in Powell Butte, Oregon, at 7:05 a.m. PST, the Rev. Nathan LeRud, acting cathedral dean, said in the announcement.

The Rev. Marianne Borg said “Marcus rose before the sun,” according to the announcement.

There will be a memorial service honoring Borg’s life at the cathedral on March 22. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will officiate.

“Marcus Borg was a gifted teacher and profoundly significant voice of reasoned faith for many, both in and outside the church,” Jefferts Schori said via e-mail from the Holy Land where she is leading an interfaith pilgrimage. “His teaching and writing led countless numbers of people into deeper and more authentic relationship with the Holy One. His gifts of insight, profound faith, and the ability to show others a path will be greatly missed.”

“Marcus also modeled for the world and the church what it is like to build collegial relationships with people who hold deep and differing convictions, and to discover greater truth and friendship in the midst of that kind of dialogue,” she continued. “I had the great privilege to know him as a teacher and a colleague over more than 30 years, and I will miss him deeply. May he rest in peace and edify the angels. Pray for Marianne and his children and give thanks for a life well lived in the search for truth.”

Borg, 72,  was a leader in the Jesus Seminar, which worked to construct the life of Jesus through historical critical methods that looked at ancient texts such as the Bible to discern the world they described. The seminar’s fellows voted on the relative authenticity of about 500 statements and events concerning Jesus.

The seminar portrayed Jesus as a Jewish wise man and faith healer who traveled the countryside, dining with and healing people whom Jewish dogma and social norms treated as outsiders. This Jesus was seen as a prophet who preached about the possibility of liberation from injustice.

Not all theologians and religious scholars agree with the seminar’s approach and findings. Yet others passionately agreed and many Christians credit Borg and others such scholars with reviving their faith.

“Very many people who had left the Christian faith have returned to it through Marcus’ evangelism (though he would grimace at my use of the word, I suspect),” the Very Rev. Barkley Thompson, dean and rector of Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, wrote in his blog after learning of Borg’s death. “Marcus was a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ in word and in deed.  He understood Jesus (and especially the Resurrection) differently than I do.  But the veracity of his faith was clear.  And calm.  And passionate.”

“Imagine that Christianity is about loving God. Imagine that it’s not about the self and its concerns,” Borg suggested in his last book. Photo: Marcus Borg/Facebook

Borg had been national chair of the Historical Jesus Section of the Society of Biblical Literature and co-chair of its International New Testament Program Committee and president of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.

Borg was installed May 31, 2009, as canon theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, where he had taught frequently and where the Rev. Marianne Borg was on staff at the time. Since their retirement, the Borgs have attended Trinity Episcopal Church in Bend, Oregon.

“Adult theological re-education at the congregational level is an urgent need within American churches today,” Borg said at the time. “It is essential to Christian formation. And from my own experience and from a number of studies, I know that it has been a source of re-vitalization in hundreds of congregations around the country.”

As a lecturer and author, Borg traveled as much as 100,000 miles a year. He was the Hundere Chair of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University where he taught for 28 years until his retirement in 2007. He was the author of 21 books, including Jesus: A New Vision (1987) and the best-seller Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (1994); The God We Never Knew (1997); The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (1999); Reading the Bible Again for the First Time (2001), and The Heart of Christianity (2003), both best-sellers.

His latest books are Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most (2014) Speaking Christian (2011); Putting Away Childish Things (a novel – 2010); Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (a New York Times Best-Seller – 2006); Conversations with Scripture: Mark (2009); and three books co-authored with John Dominic Crossan, The Last Week (2006), The First Christmas (2007), and The First Paul (2009). He is the co-author with N. T. Wright of The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions.

In Convictions, a book that he said grew out of a sermon he preached at Trinity Cathedral on his 70th birthday, Borg wrote that there was “nothing remarkable about my life, nothing heroic.” And he said that while it was hard for him to turn 60 because that milestone felt “like the end of potential and the beginning of inevitable and inexorable decline,” turning 70 in 2012 felt “interestingly empowering.”

Borg said that from this vantage point he was exploring what it meant to be Christian and American, having been shaped by those two memberships, and more especially “to be Christian and to live in the richest and most powerful country in the world, often called the ‘American Empire.’”

He called God “real and a mystery,” in Convictions and asked his readers to “Imagine that Christianity is about loving God. Imagine that it’s not about the self and its concerns, about ‘what’s in it for me,’ whether that be a blessed afterlife or prosperity in this life.”

More information about Borg can be found on his website.

– Religion News Service contributed to this obituary.

Church of England makes history with online pastor role

Episcopal News Service - qui, 22/01/2015 - 18:43

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of England’s Lichfield Diocese has broken new ground by advertising for a lay or ordained diocesan pastor to connect and support people online.

According to Bishop of Stafford Geoff Annas, the Diocesan Online Pastor is “a brave new role” with a focus on enabling teenagers and young people to “build up and nurture each other in the Christian faith.”

Speaking on the Church of England’s weekly podcast Annas stressed that while it was “not a substitute for face-to-face contact” the role would help the church meet needs that young people had and that weren’t currently being met.

“The emphasis is about how [young people] can better join in in their churches, but it’s also about keeping them aware of what’s going on in other churches,” he said.

“A lot of young people nowadays don’t see themselves even in denominational terms they see themselves as young Christians and the way they live out their faith is very different from traditional ways. It’s all part of reimagining of what it means to be ‘church’ in the coming years.

“I think where we’ve got problems is that young people see church in a totally different way. We’re not going to get them to sign up to endless meetings…the Church of England particularly is at an interesting moment. It’s at a turning point.”

Archdeacon of Stoke on Trent Matthew Parker told the Church of England’s Jillian Moody that success in this role “will look like more of our young people feeling that they are involved, connected. Relating not just to one another, not just to the wider church, but ultimately relating to God in a way that feels appropriate to them and speaks to where they are.”

The job description states, “To reach new generations we recognise that we must learn to relate more effectively to the world and the experience of young people and young adults. Increasingly, this generation inhabits a virtual environment sustained by an array of social media applications and digital devices.”

It cited recent research that found that adults in Britain spend more time in each day using devices than they do sleeping. Those aged 16-24, doing more than one task at a time, squeeze 14 hours and 7 minutes of media activity into each day, in just over 9 hours.

The job advert continues, “If Christian mission requires a commitment to going where people are and speaking the language they speak, then we cannot afford not to have a focused and engaged online presence if we wish to reach new generations with the gospel.”

The Online Pastor’s work would enable younger people to:

* become Christians through hearing the gospel in the language of digital media;
* grow in their faith and discipleship if they are already Christians;
* connect with other Christians in the diocese both on and offline;
* worship regularly and participate in their local church as well as a wider fellowship and lived out faith online;
* receive invitations to local Christian worship, events and gatherings appropriate to their age group;
* engage online in fellowship and the lived-out faith of transforming communities and practicing generosity;
* receive alerts, post and respond to prayer requests, access daily devotional material and discover links to appropriate and helpful online communities and resources;
* safely report any concerns they may have to the appropriate person (particularly in respect of safeguarding issues)

This is not the first time an Anglican has been appointed exclusively for an online ministry – the Rev. Mark Brown was ordained to a digital ministry by the Anglican Church of Australia more than a decade ago and, among other things, set up an Anglican Cathedral in the online virtual world Second Life.

Nevertheless, this is thought to be the first time a Church of England diocese will appoint someone specifically to a ministerial role that puts the digital space, and young people, at its heart.

For more information is here.

Claire Miller Colombo names SSW Writing Center head

Episcopal News Service - qua, 21/01/2015 - 17:54

[Seminary of the Southwest press release] Academic Dean Scott Bader-Saye has announced the appointment of Claire Miller Colombo to serve as director of the Writing Center at Seminary of the Southwest. Dr. Colombo has already contributed significantly to the seminary in recent years — teaching courses in theopoetics, serving as a writing consultant, and leading several well-attended and highly praised writing workshops for our students. She brings a wealth of wisdom and experience to the task of teaching effective writing and critical thinking.

Claire received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas at Austin in 1997 and holds a Diploma in Theological Studies from Southwest. She has taught writing and literature in a variety of settings — including university and secondary school — and has published articles on topics ranging from English poetry to faith-filled parenting. As an educational writer and consultant, she develops religion and language arts curricula for Loyola Press of Chicago, is managing editor of their Seasons magazines, and contributes regularly to their Finding God newsletters. Claire also serves as co-literary editor of Theopoetics: A Journal of Theological Imagination, Literature, Embodiment, and Aesthetics.

“Claire already enjoys a great reputation among the students. She combines writing expertise, pedagogical skill, and theological depth in ways that will impact all of our degree programs,” said Dr. Bader-Saye.

The previous director of the Writing Center, Dr. Greg Garrett, will continue to serve as writer in residence and to contribute his gifts to the life of the seminary.

Dr. Colombo began her new position at Southwest on January 1, 2015.

Miller Colombo to serve as director of Southwest Writing Center

Episcopal News Service - qua, 21/01/2015 - 13:52

[Seminary of the Southwest] Academic Dean Scott Bader-Saye has announced the appointment of Claire Miller Colombo to serve as director of the Writing Center at Seminary of the Southwest. Dr. Colombo has already contributed significantly to the seminary in recent years—teaching courses in theopoetics, serving as a writing consultant, and leading several well-attended and highly praised writing workshops for our students. She brings a wealth of wisdom and experience to the task of teaching effective writing and critical thinking.

Claire received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas at Austin in 1997 and holds a Diploma in Theological Studies from Southwest. She has taught writing and literature in a variety of settings—including university and secondary school—and has published articles on topics ranging from English poetry to faith-filled parenting. As an educational writer and consultant, she develops religion and language arts curricula for Loyola Press of Chicago, is managing editor of their Seasons magazines, and contributes regularly to their Finding God newsletters. Claire also serves as co-literary editor of Theopoetics: A Journal of Theological Imagination, Literature, Embodiment, and Aesthetics.

“Claire already enjoys a great reputation among the students. She combines writing expertise, pedagogical skill, and theological depth in ways that will impact all of our degree programs,” said Dr. Bader-Saye.

The previous director of the Writing Center, Dr. Greg Garrett, will continue to serve as writer in residence and to contribute his gifts to the life of the seminary.

Dr. Colombo began her new position at Southwest on January 1, 2015.

Episcopalians tackle the toughest lesson – forgiveness

Episcopal News Service - ter, 20/01/2015 - 17:30

[Episcopal News Service] Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”                                         Matthew 18:21-22

At least 90 percent of Georgia neuropsychologist Ona Graham’s counseling work with individuals and families involves assisting those “who feel resentment and carry grudges and … teaching people how to identify where they’re holding onto anger and hatred” and to seek and extend forgiveness.

“Anger is like a cloak we wrap ourselves in that cuts us off from God. I tell people that being resentful is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. This is not what God wants for you,” said Graham, 62, a parishioner at St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Hamilton, Georgia.

Richard Blackburn, executive director of the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center in Lombard, Illinois, said rising societal anxiety impacts families and congregations. Minor misunderstandings can accelerate into chronic church conflict and damage congregational and even diocesan life.

“Forgiveness is crucial if we’re going to be able to get beyond conflict and stay focused on mission and the purpose we have as the church,” said Blackburn, in an interview with the Episcopal News Service. He estimated that he spends about 180 days yearly either educating about conflict or mediating disputes with a wide variety of church groups, including Episcopalians.

“Part of the fallout of chronic anxiety … is that people seem increasingly less able to look at [themselves] and to acknowledge their own part when conflict develops,” Blackburn said. “People get stuck in this blaming mode and can’t even see their own part. That is the key to forgiveness – all parties being willing to look at themselves and acknowledge that whenever there’s conflict in relationships we all play a part in it.”

It also helps, he said, to nurture a culture of forgiveness, reconciliation and awareness of God’s ever-present grace given to everyone.

Forgiving self, cultivating transformation
About four decades ago, Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno shot and killed a man, something he still remembers daily.

Before he was ordained a priest and a bishop, he was an undercover police officer in Burbank, California, and had to make a split-second decision to save his partner’s life.

A suspect had opened fire on them, Bruno told ENS recently. “He took one shot and it landed in the pole next to me,” he recalled. “My partner stood up with a flashlight in his hand and shined it on him, which you’re not supposed to do. The man turned and raised his arm to fire, so I shot him.”

The suspect was someone he had come to know during his undercover investigation, Bruno said. “He had invited me into his home. I had bounced his kids on my knees,” he said. “I shot him with a double-barreled shotgun and he died there at the scene. For a long time I woke up every night dreaming about what had happened. It was very painful to relive that every night of my life.”

An investigation and coroner’s inquest cleared Bruno of any wrongdoing but it wasn’t until he sought counsel with an Episcopal priest that he was able to begin a process of forgiveness that ultimately led to transformation.

“He gave me absolution after I’d done the Reconciliation of a Penitent in the prayer book,” Bruno recalled. “I had believed we had to suffer the reasonable consequences of our actions. I was convinced that I had committed a sin against God. At the time, I thought, what is this, that’s going to take these things away? But I went home that night and slept peacefully.”

It led to transformation. “It changed my attitude about what forgiveness was, it comes from the heart and mind as well as the presence of the holy, all in parallel at the same time and I’ve been open to forgiving people ever since.”

Now, “every time I hear about a police-involved shooting, I pray for those people,” Bruno said.  “For years, I’ve been a chaplain for the police department here in Los Angeles, and I work with guys who’ve killed people. And what I tell them is, you need to forgive that person so you can forgive yourself, because the sin of anger is just as bad as the taking of a life.

“It tears you away from your center. It doesn’t allow you to be fully human, it doesn’t allow you to be a true follower of God.”

Maryland: A tragedy turned transformational
Frank Kohn says he didn’t have to search for ways to forgive his sister’s murderer, but only to remember how she’d lived her life.

His sister, the Rev. Mary-Marguerite Kohn, co-rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, was fatally shot in a widely publicized May 2012 incident. Also killed were the parish administrator, Brenda Brewington, and the shooter, Douglas Jones, who turned the gun on himself.

“Apparently, he was a frequent visitor to the church’s food pantry and nobody knows what really happened because there aren’t any living witnesses,” Kohn told ENS.

“Obviously I didn’t know this person and there’s certainly anger I had for somebody who would do something like that in my family and affect my life that way, but I’m pretty certain that’s not the way my sister would have dealt with it,” he said. “She would have understood the situation he was in.”

His sister was seven years his senior. She’d dedicated her life to ministry to the marginalized and those affected by trauma, said Kohn, 57, a plant pathologist. When the shooting occurred he immediately left his St. Louis home and headed to Baltimore where “the whole parish and community support enveloped me, and they were wonderful. As a result I have become very good friends with some of her close friends,” he said.

More than a month after the funeral, on another trip to Baltimore, he also met members of Jones’ family in a transformational moment. “They were actually renting a house adjacent to the church property. That may be the reason this guy was hanging around there. So the parish and this family knew each other well,” Kohn said.

“It was immediately apparent how much suffering his family was going though because of what happened,” he said. “They were certainly victims and they had nothing to do with what their brother and brother-in-law did.”

Extending forgiveness was immediate, Kohn said. “I said I didn’t think they had done anything to be forgiven for, but it was obvious it was like a huge weight off their shoulders. I had a chance to express our sympathy and understanding for what they going through as well.”

The Rev. Tom Slawson, St. Peter’s vicar, said the church renovated the space where the shootings happened, enlarging a chapel which since has been dedicated in commemoration of Kohn’s ministry there.

The shootings also sparked “an almost collective repentance” among the previously conflicted congregation.

Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton said the entire diocesan community has focused on cultivating a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. “The real issue is, the church constantly announces the kingdom has come with a spirit of reconciliation, compassion, forgiveness, justice and peace, and nobody else is saying that. The church is the institution that’s going to get us there,” Sutton said.

Forgiveness in baby steps
Sutton and others say the church is uniquely positioned to help society move toward forgiveness, Sutton said.

“The church is the only place saying that during every Eucharist whoever’s sitting next to you or around you, you wish them God’s blessings and peace … that I’m reconciling with you and I need to do that because God has forgiven me and I can’t go to the table of the Lord and be fed by the Lord if I don’t try to be a good host to those who’ve wronged me.

“We’ve all wronged the Lord and he still bids us welcome,” Sutton said.

The Rev. Jeff Jackson, rector of St. Nicholas in Hamilton, near Atlanta, said the rite of reconciliation is another “wonderful way of teaching forgiveness.

“The Episcopal Church has a wonderful tradition, that God has given priests the gift of being able to listen and to pronounce that forgiveness, that absolution and it allows us to tangibly hear the words that God is speaking to us intangibly all the time, that we are forgiven and loved and that he will make us whole.”

Graham, the neuropsychologist, offers a prescription for learning to forgive:
• Forego seeking vengeance
• Forbear or “stop pressing the replay button”
• Forgive or release the anger
• Forget the pain associated with it “and take the lesson that’s there for you.”

“If you’re angry at someone,” she said, “for the next two weeks ask God to give that person everything you want in your life and I guarantee you that, at the end of two weeks, you will see that person differently.

“You will start to see that person from God’s point of view and then you’ll have freedom of spirit.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent with the Episcopal News Service.

Communiqué from the Council of Episcopal Seminary Deans

Episcopal News Service - qui, 15/01/2015 - 19:02

Seminary Deans/Presidents at annual Council of Deans meeting, January 11–13, 2015. L-R, front row: Salmon, Ragsdale, Ferlo, Kittredge, Mapangdol; back row: Markham, McGowan, Richardson, Dunkle, Terry, Alexander.

The Council of Deans met in its annual meeting at the Bexley Seabury campus in Columbus, Ohio Sunday, January 11 to Tuesday, January 13, 2015.

All 10 seminary deans were present at the meeting, joined by their academic deans, as well as the dean and president of St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary in the Philippines. Across a range of theological viewpoints, there was a shared commitment to theological education and formation as well as mutual recognition of the distinctive gifts of each school.

The Council of Deans recognized the many opportunities and challenges facing theological education in the United States. There was an appreciation of the sheer variety of programs that, collectively, Episcopal seminaries are providing in response to our changing world and church. In addition to the three-year residential MDiv, the MDiv can be taken in hybrid, distance, and part-time forms. Theological studies can be as short as a summer or a January term, to a quarter, to a semester, to a full year or more. Training is provided in Spanish language and Latino/a culture, and different tracks are offered in missional leadership; hospital, school, and military chaplaincy; and community organizing. MA and other degrees are offered in counseling, Christian formation, ministry, and all the major academic disciplines. There is a plethora of certificate and short-residency courses for lay and ordained leaders.

In recent years, three seminaries have completed or are in the process of completing capital campaigns. In all, over $40 million has been raised thus far. The demographics of Episcopal seminary student bodies are increasingly young and diverse. Placement rates are high, with many seminaries reporting over 90% of graduates placed within six months. This confirms the data from the Church Pension Fund that established the high placement rate and subsequent vocational progress made possible by an Episcopal seminary education. Several seminaries are engaged in thoughtful restructuring and reorganization that will ensure long-term sustainability and relevance.

The Council of Deans will seek conversation with diocesan leadership to recruit gifted candidates for leadership in the church. Discussion began about sharing opportunities for cross-cultural immersion among the 10 seminaries, as well as exploring cross-registration among our programs.

The Council of Deans concluded its meeting by affirming its commitment to continue to serve the church both domestically and globally. The Council welcomes conversations with all parties in the Episcopal Church about the future needs of the church.

The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, Dean of the School of Theology of the University of the South
The Very Rev. Kurt Dunkle, Dean and President, General Theological Seminary
The Rev. Roger Ferlo, President, Bexley Hall Seabury Western Theological Seminary Federation
The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Dean and President, Seminary of the Southwest
The Very Rev. Ian Markham, Dean and President, Virginia Theological Seminary
The Very Rev. Andrew McGowan, Dean and President, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale
The Very Rev. Gloria Lita D. Mapangdol, St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary, Quezon City, Philippines
The Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, Dean and President, Episcopal Divinity School
The Very Rev. Mark Richardson, Dean and President, Church Divinity School of the Pacific
The Rt. Rev. Edward Salmon, Dean and President, Nashotah House
The Very Rev. Justyn Terry, Dean and President, Trinity School for Ministry

Yancy appointed interim missioner for young adult ministry in North Carolina

Episcopal News Service - qui, 15/01/2015 - 18:56

[Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina press release] The Rev. Stephanie Yancy has been appointed Interim Missioner for Young Adult Ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. Yancy most recently served as interim rector of St. Luke’s, Durham.

Yancy is excited about taking on the interim young adult missioner role, a position expected to last four to six months. Though a different kind of interim ministry from that to which she is accustomed, Yancy believes the goals are the same. “Change is constant,” she says. “I see my role as keeping things going and keeping people focused on mission during the times between settled leaders. I love knowing that our ministries are all connected.”

Yancy will also direct A Movable Feast (AMF), a new mobile outreach ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. AMF is focusing upon Durham Technical Community College and North Carolina Central University this semester.

Yancy comes to this diocese from the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, where she was ordained deacon and priest in 2007. After serving as assistant to the rector at St. John’s in Hagerstown, Maryland, Yancy received additional training in interim ministry and served as interim rector for three congregations in Maryland before moving to North Carolina. She is an M. Div. graduate of The General Seminary in New York.

“I am thrilled to have a priest with the experience as well as the wisdom and passion that Stephanie Yancy brings,” says the Rt. Rev. Anne E. Hodges-Copple, bishop suffragan for the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. “I am especially grateful that Stephanie brings a rare combination of warm heart, pastoral spirit and business organizational skills. This will be especially important as we enter this next phase of grant administration.”

Yancy began her tenure earlier this week.

Lee, Razim, Stoever join Episcopal Relief & Development Board

Episcopal News Service - qua, 14/01/2015 - 12:20

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] Episcopal Relief & Development welcomes three new members to its Board of Directors: The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago; The Rev. Canon Genevieve Razim, Canon for Welcome and Evangelism at Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, Texas; and Mr. Thomas W. Stoever, Jr., partner at Arnold & Porter LLP and member of Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colorado.

“I am delighted to welcome three excellent new members to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Board of Directors,” said The Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, who begins his new term as Board Chair.  “These individuals possess a breadth of experience and expertise that will benefit Episcopal Relief & Development immensely, helping the organization to engage Church leaders and congregations more deeply in working for social justice and global development.”

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee is the twelfth bishop of Chicago, a position he has held since 2008.  He is the author of “Opening the Prayer Book” in the New Church’s Teaching Series, a former member of CREDO Institute, and has served on the boards of the North American Association of the Diaconate, the Council of Associated Parishes and Affirming Catholicism.  He served on the Advisory Committee of the NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund and has led the Diocese of Chicago in numerous efforts to increase awareness and support for Episcopal Relief & Development’s work worldwide.

The Rev. Canon Genevieve Razim was ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas in 2007 and served as associate rector at Palmer Memorial in Houston and Trinity in The Woodlands before beginning her ministry at Christ Church Cathedral.  In 2013, she was President of the Standing Committee and Chair of the Sharing Faith Dinners.  At The Regis School of the Sacred Heart in Houston, she initiated and led the annual summer service retreat with Cathedral Urban Service Experience.

Mr. Thomas W. Stoever, Jr. has been a member of Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver for 20 years, serving as senior warden from 2009-2014.  During that time, the mission and ministry of Saint John’s grew to include a women’s homeless shelter, and new and broader support for programs that assist homeless individuals and the working poor.  He and his wife lived in the Philippines from 1984-87 and witnessed first-hand the value of working through local organizations on political and economic development.

“I very much look forward to working with our three new board members, and I join Episcopal Relief & Development’s staff and board in welcoming them wholeheartedly,” said Rob Radtke, the organization’s President.  “Their collective experience in parish ministry, community organizing and non-profit governance will be a tremendous gift, helping us achieve new levels of outreach and engagement while deepening our programmatic impact.”

Lee, Razim and Stoever join Episcopal Relief & Development’s Board effective January 1, 2015.  Board members are invited to serve three-year terms, which may be renewed once.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization operating under the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, Episcopal Relief & Development is governed by a Board of Directors that includes clergy and lay leaders from around the country. The Honorary Chair of the Board is the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori.  Members of the board are nominated by the Presiding Bishop and the Chair of the Board of Episcopal Relief & Development, with assistance from the board’s Governance Committee.  New members are then elected by the board, and this decision is ratified by the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church.

For more information about the Board of Directors, please visit our Board and Staff page.

Five years after devastating earthquake, Haiti shows signs of recovery

Episcopal News Service - seg, 12/01/2015 - 21:07

Students filled the primary and secondary school classrooms at Holy Trinity Episcopal School in Port-au-Prince. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service] Students filled the primary and secondary school classrooms at Trinity Cathedral complex in Port-au-Prince, music students continue training in what was a convent, and a covered, temporary worship space has been constructed on the grounds, all signs of life noted by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori when she visited the cathedral during a mid-December visit to Haiti.

“The Episcopal Church in Haiti continues to play a major and essential role in this renaissance.  The cathedral church in Port-au-Prince was long seen as the spiritual and cultural soul of Haiti.  Today, its bells are quiet (in storage), its world-renowned murals largely destroyed (three have been preserved for reuse), and its naked altar platform awaits the cathedral’s rebuilding,” said Jefferts Schori in a statement released by The Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs on Jan. 8

“The cathedral grounds are lively, with primary and secondary school now serving more children than before, a music school that continues to train internationally renowned choirs and instrumentalists, and a trade school that is rising from the spot where bodies lay for days in the ruins of its former collapse.”

On Jan. 12, 2010, Haiti suffered a magnitude-7, catastrophic earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people, left as many wounded, and displaced more than 1.5 million people, in what was one of the world’s worst natural disasters in recent history. The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, numerically the largest of The Episcopal Church’s 109 dioceses, in a matter of seconds lost 80 percent of its infrastructure in Port-au-Prince and Léogâne, the epicenter of the earthquake less than 20 miles west of the capital.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Haiti Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin and Alexander Baumgarten, director of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Department of Public Engagement and Mission Communication, look at one of the three surviving cathedral murals from among the 14 world-famous ones that adorned the walls of the previous cathedral depicting biblical stories and religious scenes in Haitian motifs. The surviving murals are stored on the cathedral grounds. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

In the earthquake’s immediate aftermath, governments and international relief agencies committed billions of dollars in aid to rebuild the Caribbean nation, long considered the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.

“On January 13 of that year, the world was in Haiti helping us,” said the Rt. Rev. Ogé Beauvoir, bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Haiti, in a statement commemorating the fifth anniversary of the earthquake. “In March 2010, I was at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City watching the whole world pledge about $11 billion dollars to help rebuild Haiti.”

The 1.5 million displaced people sought shelter and humanitarian relief in 1,500 tent cities that formed in the earthquake’s aftermath. And for months it was almost impossible for vehicles and pedestrians to navigate most of the streets of the capital, Beauvoir said.

For now, members of Trinity Cathedral gather at a temporary, covered worship space on the cathedral grounds. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

In addition to the progress visible on the campus of Holy Trinity Cathedral, progress can be seen in the way that streets have been cleared of rubble, new government buildings and stronger building codes have been implemented, and more than 90 percent of people living in the tent cities have left.

“The government has given assistance to those people to move to their previous neighborhood by helping them renovate their homes, and has built new apartment compounds for the others. The Champs-de-Mars area and other places of the Port-au-Prince and Léogâne are now free of those camps,” said Beauvoir. “The current government has made a lot of efforts.”

Elected in 2011, President Michel Martelly has overseen the bulk of the country’s recovery, though in recent months violent protests against his government and a call for long-delayed legislative and local elections have undermined his role.

The country’s parliament was set to dissolve and the president to rule by decree on Jan. 12, the same day as the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, if a deal isn’t reached.

Beauvoir recently served on an 11-member commission of former officials and religious leaders to help resolve the political stalemate that stalled elections since 2011.

There has always been political instability in Haiti, said Duracin, during an interview with Episcopal News Service in Haiti in mid-December, noting that many young people feel abandoned by the government.

Beauvoir acknowledged the instability and the concerns of young people in his statement.

“At the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, our biggest challenge is to rebuild the Haitian person in mind, spirit, and body. We need to develop a new Haitian man, a new Haitian woman, who will provide the new leadership that is required to take Haiti into the 21st century,” he said.

An exterior wall of Holy Trinity Cathedral still remains and will be incorporated into the new cathedral. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

The presiding bishop made a historic visit to northern Haiti in mid-December and preached at Holy Spirit Parish in Cap-Haitien, visited the parish’s school and the nearby Holy Spirit trade school, before heading south to spend a day in the capital. It was her sixth trip to Haiti, the first being in 2008.

In the earthquake’s aftermath, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society began raising money to rebuild the cathedral and its ministry.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the legal and canonical name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business, and carries out mission.

Architectural plans have been approved and the cathedral will be constructed in three phases, said Elizabeth Lowell, director of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Office of Development, adding that $2.5 million has so far been raised to fund construction. The total project is estimated between $21 and $25 million.

In addition, many of the small, rural schools outside the capital have been rebuilt, many with the help of the 600 Episcopal parishes and entities in the United States that have formed Haitian partnerships, said Lowell.

Still, she said, “in terms of what we’ve done the needs are so great and so expansive,” citing an Episcopal hospital that remains damaged in Léogâne.

Since 2012, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has led seven pilgrimages to Haiti in an effort to connect Episcopalians in the United States with the rebuilding of the church and the country, and working with local partners to determine their needs.

The Diocese of Haiti includes 46 clergy serving more than 200 churches, 254 schools, two hospitals and 13 clinics.

Eighty percent of Haitians live in poverty; the earthquake laid bare the everyday struggles of life. The tent cities, which provided homes to people displaced by the earthquake, also attracted Haitians from the countryside seeking relief from international aid organizations and foreign governments engaged in relief and recovery efforts.

Eventually, non-governmental organizations and donors realized they needed to invest in rural and urban development outside the capital to encourage Haitians to return home. That work can be seen both at St. Barnabas Center for Agriculture near Cap-Haitien, where the diocese is training 54 students in agriculture, and at the technical school where it offers courses in mechanics, plumbing and electricity.

With more than 300 acres of fertile land in a country where food insecurity is common, St. Barnabas has attracted support from Episcopal partners, other organizations, the Haitian government and universities.

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

Council proposes draft budget with reduced churchwide asking

Episcopal News Service - dom, 11/01/2015 - 20:29

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Jan. 11 approved a draft budget for the 2016-2018 triennium that is based on reducing the amount of money asked of dioceses to 15 percent by the last year of the triennium.

In a related move, council agreed to establish a Diocesan Assessment Review Committee to work with dioceses that do not to meet the full churchwide asking.

The Episcopal Church’s three-year budget is funded primarily by pledges from the church’s dioceses and regional mission areas. Those entities are currently asked annually to contribute 19 percent of their income from two years earlier, minus $120,000.

Council’s draft budget increases that exemption to $175,000. Its revenue projection is based on asking the church’s dioceses and regional mission areas to give 18 percent of their income to fund the 2016 budget, 16.5 percent for the 2017 budget and 15 percent in 2018.

The budget is far from final. Council must give (Joint Rule II.10.c.ii) its draft budget to the General Convention’s Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) no less than four months before the start of the next meeting of convention (essentially by February of convention year). The budget will be released to PB&F and the rest of the church in early February, said Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, chair of council’s Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission (FFM).

PB&F is due to meet from Feb. 23-25 to begin work on council’s draft budget. The committee uses the draft budget and any legislation passed by or being considered by General Convention to create a final budget proposal. PB&F must present its budget to a joint session of the houses of bishops and deputies no later than the third day before convention’s scheduled adjournment. The two houses then debate and vote on the budget separately. The budget needs the approval of both houses.

Out of 109 dioceses and three regional areas, 49 dioceses paid the full asking or more in 2014. A list of 2013 diocesan commitments and payments made, and 2014 commitments, is here. Kurt Barnes, treasurer for The Episcopal Church, told ENS that if all dioceses participated fully in the asking adopted by General Convention for 2014, nearly $7.4 million more would have been available for churchwide ministry. Payment of the full asking is not canonically required and there are no penalties for not paying the full percentage.

The Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church called in its final report, issued Dec. 15, for a lower and canonically mandated diocesan assessment. In her opening remarks to council on Jan. 9 Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori noted that TREC’s requirement could be seen “in the same way that audits are expected of every diocese, in the same way that every part of the body is expected to care for the dignity of vulnerable persons, in the same way that each diocese is expected to share the same canonical limits and privileges adopted by the General Convention.”

TREC did not suggest a specific percentage for a lowered assessment. At the last meeting of General Convention in 2012, the House of Bishops overwhelming passed a mind of the house resolution (B016) calling for a 15 percent rate for the 2016-2018 budget.

Hollingsworth told the council during a Jan. 10 briefing on FFM’s work to that point that the committee is “very realistic” about the chances that all dioceses will meet the asking described but not mandated in the church’s canons (Title I.4.6). However, Hollingsworth said, if in 2018 the dioceses that pay less than 15 percent moved up to that level, it will result in an additional $2.7 million for that year.

Barnes told ENS that the three-year movement to reduce the asking to 15 percent results in $74,931,206 in total revenue. This total assumes a $175,000 diocesan exemption and assumes that each diocese not paying the full asking will increase its percentage contribution by 10 percent above the rate it is contributing in 2014. Full participation in a mandatory 15 percent assessment for all three years of the 2016-2018 triennium, with the same diocesan exemption and growth in giving assumptions, would result in $80,236,645 in revenue, he said.

FFM’s decision to move to a 15 percent asking in 2018 came in part as a response to the “overwhelming support” for a reduced asking expressed by those who commented on a version of the budget after its November release, Hollingsworth said. Many of those people called for 15 percent while a few wanted the churchwide budget to go to an annual biblical tithe of 10 percent, he said.

FFM received 334 responses, he said, and 90 percent of them came from Episcopalians who are not bishops and deputies.

In her opening remarks Jefferts Schori challenged the council to change its fundamental approach to budgeting. She wanted them to consider whether the proposed budget asks “each part of the body of Christ for what is needed to support the growth toward full and abundant life of the more dependent parts of the body of Christ.”

“I believe that means it ought to start with need, rather than an artificially determined base income,” she said of the budget. “It should expect and plan for full participation by all who are able.”

She told the council that “we have embarrassed the parts of the body that lack the basic financial resources necessary to full and vigorous life as a diocese in this Church. We have often failed to respond to their cries for help.”

“At the same time, we failed to expect the full participation of other parts of the body in response to those cries for help. We need new courage and honesty, and we may need more accurate definitions of what a diocese is, and what constitutes a missionary district.”

Jefferts Schori based her challenge in the Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ statement developed at the last Anglican Congress in Toronto in 1963.

The resolution calling for a Diocesan Assessment Review Committee says FFM will discuss “further practical details/refinement” of the plan during the March 19-21 council meeting in Salt Lake City. However, at present, the resolution calls for committee members, appointed by the presiding bishop and president of the House of Deputies, to talk with leaders in those dioceses that do not pay the full asking to learn the reasons for that decision. The committee could also review diocesan financial statements and “encourage and work with” dioceses to create a plan for reaching the full assessment amount.

The committee could recommend that Executive Council grant a full or partial waiver of assessment to any diocese, based on financial hardship, having developed a plan for reaching the full assessment over time, or other factors, according to the resolution. Any diocese that does not plan to pay its full assessment amount, and has not received a waiver will be asked to “account in writing to Executive Council and the wider church for that choice,” the resolution said. And a diocese that does not pay its full assessment in any year, and has not received a waiver of assessment, shall not be eligible to receive any grants or loans from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

The Jan 9-11 meeting took place at the Maritime Institute Conference Center.

Summaries of the resolutions council passed at this meeting are here.

Some council members tweeted from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1)(a). The council is composed of 38 members, 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

A summary of Executive Council resolutions

Episcopal News Service - dom, 11/01/2015 - 20:26

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] During its Jan. 9-11 meeting here, The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council adopted multiple resolutions, which are summarized below.

Executive Council

* Approve council’s Blue Book report to the 78th General Convention.

* Express gratitude for the hospitality, service and care shown this Council by the people of the Maritime Institute of Technology during our five meetings at the center this triennium; express its appreciation to Brian Senft, director of sales and marketing; John Krikorian and Rachel Geise of conference services; and the staff of Presentation Media; give thanks to the entire staff for their efforts in making council’s time in Linthicum Heights so enjoyable (unnumbered courtesy resolution).

Advocacy and Networking for Mission

* Accept and adopt the updated proxy voting recommendations made by the Executive Council Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (A&N037).

* Accept the report made by the Executive Council Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (CCSR) on corporate responsibility and climate change (see attachment); direct CCSR to continue to engage in shareholder activism, including corporate dialogues, proxy voting in favor of resolutions seeking changes in corporate behaviors vis-à-vis greenhouse-gas emissions and climate change, and shareholder resolutions; direct CCSR to coordinate its efforts with regard to shareholder activism on greenhouse-gas emissions climate change with The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations and other religious organizations (including members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility; direct CCSR to study additional options for witness and to report back to council at its fall 2016 meeting (A&N038).

* Request that the presiding bishop and president of the House of Deputies appoint a task group to consider how The Episcopal Church can better support Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including financial, administrative, leadership, and other forms of support; task group to report its progress to Executive Council at the first meeting in 2016 (A&N039).

Finances for Mission

* Establish Trust Fund 1073 as an investment account for the Episcopal Diocese in Lexington, Kentucky (FFM069).

* Establish Trust Fund 1074 as an investment account for Trinity Episcopal Church in Staunton, Virginia (FFM070.

* Allocate 50 percent of the income from Trust Fund No. 815, The Vincent Astor fund, to the Diocese of New York and 50 percent to the Diocese of Long Island for 2015-2017 (FFM071).

* Approve modifications to the 2015 Budget for The Episcopal Church (FFM072).

* Approve draft budget for The Episcopal Church for the 2016-2018 triennium (FFM073).

* Approve creation of a Diocesan Assessment Review Committee, under the oversight of the Joint Standing Committee Finances For Mission, to work with dioceses that do not commit to pay their full assessment to The Episcopal Church in any year, to talk with diocesan leaders about the reasons for not paying the full amount, including reviewing diocesan financial statements, to encourage and work with such dioceses to create a plan for reaching the full assessment amount; presiding bishop and president of the House of Deputies shall appoint the members; Diocesan Assessment Review Committee to have authority to recommend that Executive Council grant a full or partial waiver of assessment to any diocese, allowing it to pay a lower assessment amount than levied in The Episcopal Church’s budget, based on financial hardship, an appropriate plan for reaching the full assessment over time, or other factors;

Council will have the authority to consider the Diocesan Assessment Review Committee’s recommendations and determine whether a waiver of assessment shall be granted; any diocese that does not plan to pay its full assessment amount, and has not received a waiver of assessment be asked to account in writing to Executive Council and the wider church for that choice; a diocese that does not pay its full assessment in any year, and has not received a waiver of assessment, shall not be eligible to receive any grants or loans from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (FFM is responsible for further practical details/refinement at the March council meeting) (FFM074).

*Authorize the Executive Officer of The Episcopal Church to make any editorial changes to council’s Blue Book report that are needed to harmonize the report with council’s actions on the 2016-2018 draft budget; that any financial requests previously contained in council’s Blue Book report be forwarded to FFM at its November 2015 meeting for consideration in allocating general budget line items to particular projects for the 2016-2018 triennium (FFM075).

Governance and Administration for Mission

* Consent to the nomination by the presiding bishop of the slate of nominees for election to The Episcopal Church Women National Board recommended by the ECW National Board Nominating Committee with the exception of the Province IX representative who shall be recommended by the Province IX Synod (GAM025).

* Extends the expiration date for the following committees of Executive Council to December 31, 2015: Episcopal News Service Resource Council and Executive Council Investment Committee (GAM026).

Local Mission and Ministry

* Affirm six entities as Jubilee Centers, including Servicios Sociales Episcopales Inc., Saint Just, Puerto Rico (Diocese of Puerto Rico); Jovenes Salvando Jovenes (Iglesia San Juan Evangelista), Tegucigalpa, Honduras (Diocese of Honduras); Trinity of Woodbridge Outreach Ministries,

Woodbridge, New Jersey (Diocese of New Jersey); Path To Shine, Smyrna, Georgia (Diocese of Atlanta); Cathedral of St. John, Denver, Colorado, (Diocese of Colorado); Denver Urban Ministries, Denver, Colorado (Diocese of Colorado) (LMM012).

* Approve Constable Fund grants for four projects, totaling $187,250 (LMM013).

* Approve resolution to General Convention celebrating the work initiated by GC2012-A073 Establish Diocesan Mission Enterprise Zones, honoring the “holy experiments emerging throughout the Church,” that the 78th General Convention continue to fund the start-up of Mission Enterprise Zones and New Church Starts with a significantly increased budget allocation over the 2012-2015 budget; that the Church continue to develop the Mission-Centered Episcopalians web-based sharing platform and to bring together mission developers for a face-to-face gathering; that diocesan leaders be encouraged to share what they learn from these Mission Enterprise Zones; that applications for partnership and funding from these new ministries will be discerned, supported and called to accountability by a 1st Mark of Mission task force appointed by the Missionary Society and The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, with the seed money administered by the Church’s Missioner for New Church Starts and Missional Initiatives, for the 2016-2018 triennium; that the 78th General Convention request that the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance allocate not less than $3 million (the amount designated in council’s draft budget for the 2016-2018 triennium) to continue funding the start-up of Mission Enterprise Zones and New Church Starts to implement this resolution during the 2016-2018 triennium (LMM014).

World Mission

* Celebrate U.S. government initiatives in opening up new lines of communication and dialogue with the government of Cuba in order to achieve the objective of normalizing relations between our two nations; applaud the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Cuba (a part of the Anglican Communion since 1901 and currently an extra-provincial diocese of the Communion overseen by a Metropolitan Council comprised of the Primates of the provinces of Canada, West Indies, and The Episcopal Church); look forward to renewed opportunities to enter into ministry with The Episcopal Church in Cuba, learning from them and sharing with them (WM033).

Report To The Church 2015

Episcopal News Service - sex, 09/01/2015 - 22:17

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Report To The Church 2015, an innovative online magazine detailing the mission and ministry, accomplishments and achievements of the Domestic and Missionary Society during the current triennium, has been unveiled at the Executive Council meeting on January 9.

Calling Report to the Church 2015 “an exciting, creative and comprehensive mission Report to the Church on some of the impact of our partnerships in churchwide mission and ministry so far this triennium,” Samuel McDonald, Director of Mission and Deputy Chief Operating Officers, said as he presented the online magazine.

Report To The Church 2015 is available here and can be downloaded at no charge.

“We’re in the midst of trying to create a change in the culture of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society—toward being a service organization supporting and contributing to mission at the local level and away from being a regulatory agency,” commented Bishop Stacy Sauls, Episcopal Church Chief Operating Officer. “We’re all about leveraging the unique resources that can be made available by the churchwide level—funding to the less-resourced local levels and human resources to supplement efforts on the ground—to make mission happen that might not otherwise happen.  The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is about all mission all the time at all levels of the Church.  We’re making progress.  We’re committed to continuing to make progress with the help of the people of The Episcopal Church.”

With a focus on the Five Marks of Mission, Report to the Church 2015 is an interactive magazine which includes videos, photos and narratives detailing how the churchwide resources have been put to action on the local level. The 200+ page document includes an extensive appendix arranged by diocese for quick reference.

Since The Episcopal Church budget is based on the Five Marks of Mission, “This allowed us together, staff and Executive Council in collaboration together with people from across our church, to develop some of the most creative and compelling impact ministries this triennium,” McDonald said.

“The purpose of the report is to engage the whole of The Episcopal Church in a conversation about mission in order to equip all Episcopalians to be missionaries engaging the wider world in the transformation we encounter in the Gospel,” said Alexander D. Baumgarten, Director of Public Engagement and Mission Communication for The Episcopal Church.  “Throughout the report, you will see the question ‘How can we partner with you?’  We hope this question is answered widely by Episcopalians in every part of the Church, and the report’s page on our website has a response form for that.”

Report To The Church 2015 focuses on the Five Marks of Mission: To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; To teach, baptize and nurture new believers; To respond to human need by loving service; To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation; To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

McDonald explained that “Report To The Church 2015 is comprehensive, but could not be all inclusive of every mission and ministry effort.” Among the details presented are: new churches and ministries planted this triennium; work toward racial justice; the good news of the Diocesan Partnership program; the Young Adult Service Corps, and other efforts to make missionary service normative; Province IX sustainability; campus ministries; Jubilee ministries; grants and scholarships; missionary zones; Episcopal Youth Event (EYE14).

 McDonald concluded, “Report To The Church 2015 has been created to celebrate the incredible work the staff has done in collaboration with many others across the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion.  It reports back on our specific goals and deliverables named in our current budget.  We hope it expresses the excitement we have for mission as the heartbeat of the church, and the inspiration by God’s Spirit we find in that mission.”

See Episcopal News Service for additional coverage of these Episcopal works in action.

Maryland bishop suffragan faces numerous charges in fatal accident

Episcopal News Service - sex, 09/01/2015 - 20:02

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby Jan. 9 announces the initial charges against Diocese of Maryland Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook in the Dec. 27 fatal accident that killed a bicyclist. Standing with her are Lt. Colonel Melissa Hyatt and Don Giblin, chief of homicide for the State’s Attorney’s Office. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:13 p.m. Jan. 9.

[Episcopal News Service – Baltimore, Maryland] Episcopal Diocese of Maryland Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook surrendered to Baltimore law enforcement hours after she was charged Jan. 9 with eight offenses for allegedly causing a fatal car accident in which she temporarily left the scene after striking and killing a bicyclist.

Cook turned herself in to police mid-Friday afternoon and was being processed at Central Booking, police told The Baltimore Sun. A court commissioner was expected to determine her bail in the evening, a judiciary spokeswoman said, the Sun reported.

Earlier in the day, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said at a news conference that charges had been filed in district court accusing Cook of four criminal charges. They include negligent manslaughter by vehicle (maximum penalty 10 years and/or $5,000 fine), criminal negligent manslaughter by vehicle (three years and/or $5,000 fine), negligently driving under the influence resulting in a homicide (five years and/or $5,000 fine) and negligent homicide involving an auto or boat while impaired (three years and/or $5,000 fine).

Cook also faces traffic charges of failing to remain at an accident resulting in death, failing to remain at the scene of an accident resulting in bodily injury, using a text messaging device while driving causing an accident with death or serious injury, and driving under the influence of alcohol.

Media representatives crowd the small news conference room in the offices of Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby Jan. 9. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS

Mosby said a breathalyzer test administered to Cook after the accident showed the bishop had a blood alcohol content of .22 percent. The legal limit in Maryland is .08 percent.

Thomas Palermo, 41, the married father of two young children, was pronounced dead on the afternoon of Dec. 27 at a hospital near the accident scene. He died from head injuries suffered in the accident.

Mosby reminded those at the news conference that Cook is presumed innocent until and unless she is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

When Mosby met with the Palermo family Jan. 8, she said she “assured them that we’re going to pursue justice.”

The state’s attorney outlined the accident, citing the statement of probable cause that was filed in court. She said both Palermo and Cook were traveling southbound on Roland Avenue with Palermo in the bike lane and Cook in the traffic lane. Cook, who was texting while driving at the time, veered off to the right and into the bike lane, striking Palermo from the rear. The collision caused Palermo to strike the hood and windshield of Cook’s 2001 Subaru, Mosby said. He was thrown to the right-hand side before coming to a final rest against the curb.

She said the statement of probable cause alleges that Cook did not stop at the scene of the accident, and continued south on Roland. Roughly 30 minutes later she drove past the scene, heading northbound on Roland, but continued past the scene northbound to her residence, according to Mosby. The timeline in the statement of probable cause alleges that Cook was gone from the scene for a longer period of time than what was reported in earlier news accounts.

Cook left that residence shortly after her arrival there and returned to the scene. Mosby said that Cook then was taken from the scene to a police station by members of the Baltimore Police Department where she was given a breathalyzer test which resulted in the .22 reading.

Mosby said that the case will be presented to a grand jury scheduled to be impaneled on Jan. 12. The jury could drop some of the charges and/or add others.

Mosby, 34, was acting on her first full day as Baltimore City State’s Attorney, having been sworn into office the day before.

Just after Mosby concluded her news conference, Diocese of Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton released a statement saying in part: “Please know that we are deeply heartbroken over this, and we cry for the Palermo family, our sister Heather and all in the community who are hurting.”

“Our Lord Jesus would be a healing presence in the midst of this tragic situation, and we are seeking ways to walk in his footsteps in the days and months ahead,” he said. “As we do so we are truly being the church, and we will always be guided by our core Christian values of personal accountability, compassion and respect for the rule of law.”

Neva Rae Fox, Episcopal Church public affairs officer, also issued a statement acknowledging the charges and saying “as this is a legal matter, we will not comment on the charges or the proceedings that will follow.”

“Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori maintains a pastoral and canonical relationship with Bishop Cook,” Fox said. “As a result, Cook will not be permitted to exercise her ordained ministry in the foreseeable future.”

Sutton had placed Cook on administrative leave shortly after the accident and The Episcopal Church’s disciplinary processes have been put in motion. Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church governs ecclesiastical discipline of clergy members. Canon 17 of Title IV outlines the disciplinary process of bishops. Title IV requires confidentiality at this point in the process.

Cook became the diocese’s first female bishop when she was ordained and consecrated Sept. 6. Cook’s biography is here on the diocesan website.

The Dec. 27 fatal accident brought to light a 2010 traffic incident in which Cook was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and for marijuana possession. Cook pleaded guilty to drunken driving in that incident, and the prosecution of marijuana possession charge was dropped. A judge sentenced her on Oct. 25, 2010, to pay a $300 fine and supervised probation. Court records available online do not note the length or conditions of Cook’s probation.

A Dec. 30 statement on the diocesan website said that during the search process that resulted in Cook being elected suffragan in 2014 she had “fully disclosed” the 2010 arrest for which she received “probation before judgment” from the court. “After extensive discussion and discernment about the incident, and after further investigation, including extensive background check and psychological investigation, it was determined that this one mistake should not bar her for consideration as a leader,” the statement said.

The convention that elected Cook on May 2, 2014, however, was not told about the 2010 arrest, Sharon Tillman, the diocese’s director of communications, confirmed to ENS Jan. 9.

Previous ENS coverage of the accident is here.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Michael B. Curry named chair of Episcopal Relief & Development board

Episcopal News Service - qui, 08/01/2015 - 19:04

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] The Right Reverend Michael B. Curry, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, has been appointed as Chair of Episcopal Relief & Development’s Board of Directors.  The appointment was made by the board’s Honorary Chair, The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church.

Bishop Curry succeeds The Right Reverend Robert J. O’Neill, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, who has served since 2009.

“Bishop Curry will bring vigor, passion, and insight to his work,” said Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori.  “I give thanks for his willingness to serve in this way, and pray that his ministry may help to bless the world with healing.”

A key leader in The Episcopal Church and a prophetic voice for social justice, Bishop Curry joined Episcopal Relief & Development’s board in 2013.  Prior to his consecration as Bishop of North Carolina in 2000, he served parishes in North Carolina, Ohio and Maryland, implementing social development programs that improved the lives of children and youth in inner-city neighborhoods.  As bishop, in addition to championing Episcopal Relief & Development at the diocesan and Church levels, Bishop Curry plays an important role on the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC).

“Serving as Chair of Episcopal Relief & Development’s Board of Directors is a privilege and a responsibility that I take very seriously,” Bishop Curry said.  “I am grateful for the leadership of Bishop O’Neill in the growth, professionalization and demonstration of expertise that has solidified the organization’s standing as a global leader in development – and as something of which all Episcopalians can be incredibly proud!  I believe that the work of Episcopal Relief & Development is one of the finest and most important things we do as followers of Jesus in ​T​he Episcopal Church.  It really is a way we can all together share in God’s work of helping and healing a hurting world.”

In support of Episcopal Relief & Development, Bishop Curry notably co-chaired the Advisory Committee of the church-wide NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund and spearheaded diocesan efforts in support of the campaign.  Altogether, the NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund raised $5 million over three years to grow the award-winning, flagship malaria prevention program, which to date has distributed over 11 million nets and saved the lives of more than 100,000 children under age five.

“I am delighted by Bishop Curry’s appointment to chair Episcopal Relief & Development’s Board of Directors,” said Bishop O’Neill.  “I am grateful to Episcopal Relief & Development’s staff and partners for their courageous work on behalf of communities worldwide, and I look forward to seeing what creative and deeper engagement will flourish under Bishop Curry’s leadership.”

Bishop O’Neill finishes his board term at the end of 2014 after eight years, including six as chair.  Under his leadership, the organization has developed and expanded through two transformative strategic plans – broadening the scope of NetsforLife®, strengthening Church capacity to respond to emergencies through the US Disaster Program and increasing focus on robust monitoring and evaluation practices.  This organizational growth has enabled Episcopal Relief & Development to secure significant grants from leading foundations, including the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and a Grand Challenges Explorations Grant funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“In addition to taking Episcopal Relief & Development to the next level as an organization and further professionalizing our operations, Bishop O’Neill has also been an invaluable mentor to me in my role as President,” said Rob Radtke, President of Episcopal Relief & Development.  “He has created a tremendous legacy, and I very much look forward to working with Bishop Curry to build on our organizational successes, reaching more people and saving more lives through our partnerships worldwide.”

Bishop Curry assumes Board leadership at an exciting time in the organization’s history, as it celebrates 75 years of healing a hurting world.  The 75th Anniversary Celebration brings together Episcopalians and friends to commemorate and engage more deeply with its work.  This celebration has been made possible by contributions from leaders across The Episcopal Church, notably outgoing Chair Bishop O’Neill.

“Bishop O’Neill has served faithfully and creatively as a member and as Chair of the Board,” said Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori.  “His experience and his persistent energy have given important impetus to the 75th Anniversary we celebrate this year.  He will be missed, and as we give thanks for his service, we pray that his gifts will be offered in new ways in the years ahead.  Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Companions of St. Luke, OSB elects a new Episcopal Visitor

Episcopal News Service - qui, 08/01/2015 - 14:28

The Right Reverend R. William Franklin, Bishop of the Diocese of Western New York, was elected by the professed membership of the Benedictine Community, The Companions of St. Luke – OSB to be their Episcopal Visitor.

The Episcopal Church requires religious communities and orders that operate independently from normal diocesan structure to elect a Bishop Visitor to assure that they have ecclesiastical support and oversight. Bishop Franklin, who follows Bishop Deane Wolfe from the Diocese of Kansas, assumed his role on January 1, 2015.

Early in his career, Bishop Franklin taught courses on monastic history at the Benedictine St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. While at St. John’s he also taught at several Benedictine Experiences, a weekend retreat held annually at the Episcopal House of Prayer located on the grounds of the abbey. He also taught at General Seminary, Harvard Divinity School and Yale Divinity School.

Before being elected the tenth bishop of Western New York, Bishop Franklin worked in the Diocese of Massachusetts, the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, where he was an Associate Priest at St. Paul’s Within the Walls in Rome and taught aspects of Anglican monastic history at the Pontifical Angelicum University, and the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

Bishop Franklin was born in Brookhaven, MS on January 3, 1947. He holds a B.A. from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in Church History from Harvard. He was recently awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, where he once served as dean.

Within The Episcopal Church, Bishop Franklin serves on the Committee to Nominate the next Presiding Bishop, the General Board of Examining Chaplains and the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education.

He and his wife, Carmela Vircillo Franklin, who is a scholar in medieval studies at Columbia University, have been married since 1971. They have two adult daughters.

The Companions of St. Luke (CSL) is a dispersed Benedictine Community with members in 20 states, the District of Columbia, and England. CSL began in the Diocese of Chicago in June 1992 and is a recognized Christian Community of the Episcopal Church. The community is an active member of the National Association of Episcopal Christian Communities.  Our website is and our application program Opus Dei is