[Anglican Communion News Service] A new church building has been consecrated for an Anglican worshiping community in Cuba, some 84 years after it was founded as a mission outpost.
The Rev. Vicente Tuzzio founded the community at Bermejas, near the Bay of Pigs, in 1932. A year later some 48 people were confirmed by Bishop Hiram Hulse and the following year it was recognized as an organised mission of the Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba – the Anglican Church of Cuba.
The building, which has been supported by many churches and individuals, has taken a year to complete. Work will continue in the coming months to build an annex room.
Until the new building was consecrated last month, the worshiping community at Bermejas met in a small rented space.
[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] In court on Feb. 2, Isaac Tiharihondi, the oldest son of the Rev. Israel Ahimbisibwe and his wife Dorcus, was sentenced to life without parole after he pleaded guilty to murdering his parents in their Houston apartment on Jan. 27, 2015. Authorities also believe Tiharihondi fatally stabbed his five-year-old brother Israel Jr.
Court documents say Tiharihondi told his family days before the killings that he was about to report for duty with the Marines, although police say the U.S. Marine Corps has no record of him enlisting. His parents had planned to confront their son in the days prior to their murders and were found dead Feb. 2, 2015, after repeated attempts by church members to contact the family went unanswered. Ahimbisibwe had failed to show up for church services on Sunday.
Tiharihondi, who graduated from Memorial High School in 2014, shared the apartment with this parents and little brother, Israel. A third son, Emmanuel, 18, was attending private school in California.
Ahimbisibwe was priest in charge at Redeemer Church, Houston at the time of his death. He had previously served as assistant rector at Holy Spirit, Houston.
[Anglican Communion News Service] Churches in Australia are offering to test the common law principle of sanctuary after the country’s High Court ruled that it was lawful for the government to return some 270 asylum seekers – including almost 40 children – to off-shore detention camps on the island nation of Nauru and on Papua New Guinea’s Manus island.
The primate of Australia,Archbishop of Melbourne Philip Freier, has argued that just because the government can return refugees to the islands, it doesn’t mean that it should return them.
The test case was brought by a Bangladeshi woman who had been held on Nauru after being caught trying to enter Australia by boat. She was taken to Australia for medical treatment while she was pregnant and gave birth to her child there. But in the test case she challenged the government’s right to return her to Nauru, saying this was in breach of Australia’s constitution.
The High Court rejected her claim, saying that off-shore detention of illegal migrants was not in breach of the law; but the judges said that such detention should not be indefinite.
Responding to the judgment, Freier, along with his assistant bishops Philip Huggins, Genieve Blackwell and Paul White, issued a statement calling on the government to “change the narrative on children in detention.”
Huggins chairs the Anglican Church of Australia’s Working Group on Refugees. With the other bishops, he said: “The fact that a legal determination has been made does not require the Government to act to return women and children to off-shore detention.
“No reasonable Australian wants to encourage people smugglers in any way, but it is simply morally unacceptable to leave children to languish in appalling conditions in off-shore detention centers. If the nation can agree on these two principles, surely it is not beyond us to find a solution.”
Some Anglican clergy have gone further and are offering to provide sanctuary for the refugees in their churches. This is based on the old English common law principle that fugitives would be free from arrest when within the confines of a church. The legality of sanctuary was removed from the Common Law in England in 1624; but is still sometimes observed out of tradition or respect for the religious establishment.
The validity of the right of sanctuary in Australia is unknown.
“Many of us are at the end of our tether as a result of what seems like the government’s intention to send children to Nauru,” the Dean of Brisbane, the Rev. Dr Peter Catt, told ABC News. “So we’re reinventing, or rediscovering, or reintroducing, the ancient concept of sanctuary as a last-ditch effort to offer some sense of hope to those who must be feeling incredibly hopeless.”
In a statement reported by BBC News, Catt added: “This fundamentally goes against our faith so our church community is compelled to act, despite the possibility of individual penalty against us. Historically churches have afforded sanctuary to those seeking refuge from brutal and oppressive forces.”
The Archdeacon of the Central Coast, the Venerable Rod Bower, is well known for his controversial billboard messages outside his Gosford Parish Church. He used the board to announce that it would offer sanctuary to those facing deportation to the off-shore detention centers; and he took to Twitter to liken the government’s policy to that of Nazi Germany.
In one Tweet, he said: “Can’t deny the similarities to Nazi Germany”; and in another he said: “Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless or corrupt.”
Responding to the growing offers of sanctuary, the archbishop and his three assistant bishops said that “the Anglican Church in Melbourne – and nationally – will continue to support asylum-seekers and refugees with services and advocacy and spiritual help. The church and its welfare agencies have long had considerable involvement in resettling refugees and helping them build a life in Australia.
“We applaud the motives of those Christian churches who intend to test the ancient common law notion of sanctuary, but our churches are not equipped to provide temporary accommodation. A better answer would be for Mr Turnbull [Malcolm Turner, the Australian Prime Minister] to exercise compassion and moral principle and allow the asylum-seekers to remain in Australia as the processes unfold.”
But the court’s decision was welcomed by the Australian government. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: “Our commitment today is simply this: the people smugglers will not prevail over our sovereignty. Our borders are secure. The line has to be drawn somewhere and it is drawn at our border.”
[Anglican Communion News Service] When the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women convenes in New York next month to explore women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development it will benefit from the experience and knowledge of some 22 Anglican women from 18 provinces.
The 60th meeting of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) will take place at the U.N.’s headquarters from March 14-24. Since its inception in 1947, it has been at the forefront of developing international conventions on a range of issues, including the political rights of women, women’s rights in marriage – such as consent, minimum age and registration – and equal pay.
Since 1960, evidence began to accumulate that women were disproportionately affected by poverty so UNCSW geared its work towards women’s needs in community and rural development, agricultural work, family planning, and scientific and technological advances.
It is a theme that it returns to for its main discussion next month as it explores women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development. The commission will also review progress since its 57th session in 2013 on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls, and also a third strand on an emerging theme yet to be decided.
“The session will provide Anglican delegates with a platform on which to spread awareness of the challenges faced by women and girls in their home countries and to advocate on their behalf,” said Rachel Chardon, the general program and administrative officer of the Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations.
“The delegates will also have the opportunity to network, share, and build their own capacity by attending side events planned by non-governmental and faith-based organizations advocating for gender justice within a wide range of developmental and human rights issues,” she said. “We hope they will leave the session having formed a close and empowering network with a global reach. Furthermore, we hope the delegates will communicate with others about their experience and continue to engage with the issues addressed at CSW60 within their sending church and in their local communities.”
The primates of the Anglican Communion and secretary general Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon nominated the 22 Anglican delegates for the CSW60 meeting. They are from Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Australia, Brazil, Burundi, Central Africa, England, Hong Kong, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Southern Africa, Sri Lanka, United States, and West Africa.
They will be supported by the staff and volunteers of the Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations.
[Anglican Communion News Service] The moderator of the Church of South India, the Most Rev. Govada Dyvasirvadam, has spoken out against continuing caste-based discrimination in schools and higher education institutions after meeting the mother of Rohith Vemula, a research student at Hyderabad Central University, who killed himself following “heinous” discrimination.
Vemula’s death, on Jan. 17, has sparked protests, outrage and debates throughout India and widespread media attention on the continuing discrimination faced by Dalits and “low status caste classes” in India.
The controversy focuses on the role played by “elite educational institutions.” Hyderabad Central University canceled Vemula’s 25,000 rupees per month bursary (approximately £254 GBP) in July last year and expelled him and five other members of the Ambedkar Students Association from their hostel. A university official denied that the bursary had been stopped, telling the Indian Express newspaper that the non-payment was caused by a delay in paperwork.
There are conflicting accounts of the expulsion from the student accommodation, with some claiming it was in return for political activities and others claiming it was connected with his Dalit background.
The Church of South India says that “the suicide of Rohith Vemula . . . because of the heinous caste-based discrimination he faced, shocked secular India and brought to the fore the continuing discrimination the students from Dalit and other marginalized communities suffer in higher educational institutions.”
After Dyvasirvadam visited Vemula’s mother in Hyderabad, he called a press conference at which he expressed the church’s solidarity with the family. He also “demanded justice for the family of Rohith and stringent measures to curb the caste-based discriminations in the schools and higher education institutions.”
[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans in Ethiopia are asking for prayers following an increase in tribal tensions between the Nuer and Anyuak ethnic groups. Local Anglicans have acted as human shields by escorting students from one tribe through the territory of the other, with the support of the security services.
A statement from the Diocese of Egypt with the North of Africa and the Horn of Africa says that lives have been lost in recent days and that the situation continues to be tense; but they say the government remains in control.
“Tribal tension has flared up . . . after a pregnant woman from one tribe, who was beaten by thugs from another tribe, died last night,” the diocese said on its website. “A bomb exploded after security personal discovered it being carried by a student at a local college. As far as we know, no one was injured in that attack, but subsequent clashes have definitely resulted in loss of life.”
The diocese stresses that it is “not sure about all the facts” and that they “have heard many stories from both sides of the conflict. This much we do know – there are many who are mourning today.”
The Sudan Tribune newspaper reports that dozens of people have been killed on both sides and many more wounded in the dispute between the Nuer and Anyuak ethnic groups. The newspaper reports that the two groups have been living peacefully for many years, and that the cause of the current tensions remains unclear.
In their request for prayer, the diocese says: “We had to escort our students from one tribe through the other tribe’s territory together with members of the local security forces traveling behind our vehicle. They are all safe. Pray that this action will not be misinterpreted as taking sides.”
The diocese is asking people to “pray against any desire for retaliation from both sides” and say that, at present, “all is quiet and everything appears to be under control.”
[Episcopal News Service] The season of Lent, the 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, begins Feb. 10 this year, and across the Episcopal Church there are a number of devotional resources to help Episcopalians observe a holy Lent.
Below are links to information about resources that ENS has received to date. Additional resources, including the presiding bishop’s Lenten message will be available in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent.
A video for inviting people to Ash Wednesday liturgies
While not exactly a devotional tool, this free customizable 1-minute video from the Acts 8 Movement can help congregations use their social media presence to invite their communities to Ash Wednesday. Both English and Spanish versions contain subtitles which make engagement easier for people who may be scrolling quickly through feeds.
The video can run as it stands or people with basic video-editing skills can customize it for individual parishes. On her blog Churchwork, Nurya Love Parish provides a tutorial for customizing the video using iMovie and then using it to create a Facebook ad. An Instagram version is also available.
The group plans to release an Easter video as well.
The Acts 8 Movement is a volunteer group of lay and clergy Episcopalians whose mission is to proclaim resurrection in the Episcopal Church. The group formed at General Convention in 2012 and has been active in carrying out their mission in various ways since then.
Meditations on the theme of Go!
Daily reflections on a Scripture verse containing the word “Go!,” prepared by many authors including Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, other bishops, Episcopal Church staff and members of United Thank Offering, Episcopal Migration Ministries, National Association of Episcopal Schools and Episcopal Relief & Development, will be will be available on the Episcopal Church’s website here and on Facebook here.
Reflecting on racial reconciliation
Both the Episcopal Public Policy Network and the Episcopal Church’s Young Adult and Campus Ministries are offering reflections on racial reconciliation for Lent.
The Episcopal Public Policy Network Lenten series on the beloved community and racial reconciliation will be found here starting Ash Wednesday.
Young Adult and Campus Ministries’ reflections will be here.
Episcopal Church-sponsored group offers daily “Journey to the Cross” devotions
d365, a daily devotional site produced by Passport, Inc. for young people funded through individual gifts and the support of three denominational sponsors – Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Presbyterian Mission Agency, and the Episcopal Church – is offering Lenten devotions online here. The devotions have five parts: pause, listen, think, pray and go. The devotions are also available via Facebook, Twitter via @d365 and via an iPhone app.
Sharing your experiences
Episcopalians are invited to share photos of congregations and individuals focusing on Ash Wednesday and Lent. Submit your photos to the Episcopal Church’s website via this link.
House of Bishops offers Lenten meditations on ‘economic imagination’
This Lent, the theology committee of the House of Bishops invites the church to explore ways to recover and renew economic imagination with a new resource, Repairing the Breach: Discipleship and Mission in a Global Economy.
Produced in partnership with Forward Movement, Repairing the Breach provides daily meditations and videos during the season of Lent. The meditations move through a pattern of reading, watching, reflecting, and praying, and each week of Lent is devoted to a particular aspect of economic life.
The reflections examine the causes of economic injustice and our role, both personally and corporately, in unsustainable patterns of consumption and self-interest. The project also highlights specific practices where the Spirit of God is moving in local congregations and communities to bring new life.
Visit repairingthebreach.forwardmovement.org to learn more, register to receive daily meditations and watch for the first meditation on Ash Wednesday. A print-friendly downloadable PDF of the reflections is also available for download here.
‘Walk the Path of Lent’ with Episcopal Relief & Development’s 2016 Lenten meditations
Episcopal Relief & Development invites supporters to “Walk the Path of Lent” with this year’s Lenten Meditations series, featuring reflections on spiritual practices written by the organization’s staff, partners and friends from around the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
Program staff, disaster response volunteers, board members and others share the breadth of spiritual practices that give them strength for the journey.
Digital versions of the English and Spanish booklets are available online at episcopalrelief.org/Lent, and all are invited to sign up for daily email meditations.
Making a Lenten discipline of discussing racial equality
Trinity Institute and ChurchNext have teamed up to help Episcopalians go deeper with one of the most pressing issues of our time. Based on Trinity Institute’s 2016 conference, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice, a complete Lenten curriculum is being offered including these presenters: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Kelly Brown Douglas, Jennifer Harvey and J. Kameron
Each course is free during Lent 2016.
The first of five courses: Spirituality and Racial Equality with Michael Curry, is available in two formats, for individuals and for groups. The second course, Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas, is also available, for individuals and for groups.
The other three courses in the series will launch on Feb. 7. Their titles are: Reparation and Racial Justice with Jennifer Harvey, Theology and Racial Justice with J. Kameron Carter, and Racism and Racial Justice with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva.
Curry has made racial reconciliation one of the priorities of his ministry as presiding bishop. He has said, “The choice is ours: chaos or community. That work is the work of finding ways for people to come together to really create and be what Dr. King called the ‘beloved community.’ That’s not just some Utopian ideal. That, frankly, is the difference between life and death for the world.”
Trinity Institute is an annual conference in its 45th year that presents emerging and inclusive theological and social perspectives and engages participants in inquiry, dialogue, and reflection. Participants from all faith perspectives are welcomed. The conference is sponsored by Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopal parish in New York City.
Growing a rule of life with the Society of St. John Evangelist
The Society of St. John Evangelist and Virginia Theological Seminary have designed Growing a Rule of Life for individuals or small groups. It uses a tool from monastic spirituality called a “rule of life” to explore and cultivate our relationships with God, self, others and creation.
The series includes daily videos and reflections along with a corresponding workbook which can be purchased for $3 each or $20 for 10 at Amazon. To subscribe to a daily morning email with a short video and download a PDF of the accompanying workbook click here.
Explore Lent through life in the West Bank and Gaza
The Rev. Diane Dulin has written a series of meditations for the Episcopal Peace Fellowship based on the lectionary readings for each of the six Sundays of Lent. They are offered, writes Dulin, “to those who live under the yoke of oppression in Palestine and those who work tirelessly for justice and refuse to give up.”
The reflections can be used in worship, study groups, organizational meetings and individual time. These reflections delve deeply into the occupied villages and besieged cities of the West Bank and the agony of Gaza, and the struggle for equality, dignity and freedom on the part of Palestinians. The stories found there will inspire readers “for the ongoing struggle for equality in our own society and for freedom from fear and want across the world in these increasingly urgent times,” the group says.
Get your 2016 Saintly Scorecard, a guide for Lent Madness
Inspired by college basketball tournaments, Lent Madness pits 32 saints against each other in a bracket, as each saint seeks to win the coveted Golden Halo. This indispensable guide includes biographies of the 32 saints vying for the golden halo, tips on how to use Lent Madness as a tool for formation, a handy fold-out bracket with all the pairings, and Saintly Sprinkles recipes for saints-related sweet treats and tasty breads.
New this year are Pocket Lent Cards of previous Golden Halo winners with key vital stats.
The 2016 Saintly Scorecard is available now, with a cover price of $3. Bookstore and bulk orders receive additional discounts. To order, call 1-800-543-1813 or visit www.forwardmovement.org. Ebook is available on Kindle, Nook, and iBook.
Lent Madness was initiated by Episcopal priest Tim Schenck in 2010 and found its home at Forward Movement in 2012. Lent Madness engages thousands of people each season of Lent as they learn together about the lives of amazing men and women – and have a lot of fun!
Protect the environment with a candlelit dinner during Lent
Anglicans and other Christians are being challenged to enjoy a candlelit dinner as part of a series of challenges for a “carbon fast” during Lent. The initiative comes from the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and is being supported by the Anglican Communion’s Environmental Network (ACEN).
For Anglicans, Roman Catholics and many others, “Lent is the time when we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, facing challenge and temptation,” the Southern Africa environmental group Green Anglicans, says. “It is a time when we reflect on God’s purpose for our life. This year we challenge you to take a carbon fast – to reduce the actions which damage God’s creation.”
The Carbon Fast for Lent crib sheet can be downloaded from the Green Anglicans’ website.
Fourteen-year-old partners with Forward Movement to develop app for Lent
Jack Whittaker has been programming since he was nine years old and his latest project is a new app for Lent from Forward Movement.
The app, Journey Through Lent 2016, brings Forward Movement’s popular Join the Journey Through Lent daily coloring calendar to the digital world. The app provides daily images and reflections illustrated by award-winning cartoonist Jay Sidebotham, offered alongside daily Eucharistic gospel readings, a space for journaling, and the option to add color and share your images.
“Jack approached us about building a Lent app based on work he had done previously. He is a talented programmer and he was a delight to work with,” says the Rev. Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement.
The Journey Through Lent 2016 app is available now in the app store for $1.99 for iPhone or iPad. To learn more or download, click here.
[Anglican Communion News Service] Ten children are amongst 26 Kurdish refugees from Iraq who have been confirmed to have drowned off the coast of Samos Island in Greece yesterday, the Anglican mission agency United Society (formerly USPG) say.
The 26 dead – including five boys and five girls – are amongst more than 200 who have drowned so far this year as they attempted to cross from Turkey. Despite the winter weather and dangerous seas, refugees are continuing to make the perilous journey to the Greek islands in their thousands.
“For those refugees who arrive safely, the medical issues are numerous,” the United Society’s Max McClellan, who is in Greece assisting the Diocese in Europe and ecumenical partners as they respond to the crisis, said. “Beside routine maladies and medical conditions, the refugees suffer from conditions brought on by their arduous journeys and cramped living conditions, like scabies.”
The Anglican Chaplaincy in Greece, in partnership with United Society is supporting the work of the Greek medical organisation Medical Intervention (MedIn) on the island of Samos. Together, they are providing medical help, with the church also helping to pay for medicine, soap, blankets and sleeping bags. MedIn also provides baby milk to those with young infants.
“Urgent action to support refugees is vital,” Max McClellan said. “While countries disagree over their responsibilities and their response, refugees are dying.
“As was noted during a joint statement issued by the World Council of Churches and the UN: ‘It is of urgent importance that safe and legal passage for refugees coming to Europe be expanded and facilitated. Closing national borders to refugees is not a solution because it only shifts the responsibility to the next country.’”
He said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost family members off the coast of Samos yesterday.”
The United Society’s director of global relations, Rachel Parry, added: “This tragic accident serves to further underline the shocking situations that are forcing people to make these inherently risky journeys. Desperate families choose to travel to Europe knowing the risks, but they have no other option.
“While governments are depriving refugee families of assets and closing borders, the loss of these Kurdish lives is yet another appalling tragedy; may it be a reminder that motivates governments into action, rather than falling on closed minds, cold hearts and unmoving policies.
“Change must happen, and happen fast.”
- Click here to read more about how the United Society and Diocese in Europe are responding to the refugee crisis.
[Anglican Communion News Service] A proposed ecumenical agreement between the Church of England and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland is not about “novel doctrinal statements or additional institutional structures, but about growing in communion and partnership in mission, so that people may be drawn to the good news of peace, the gospel of Jesus Christ,” the co-chairs of the talks say in the introduction to their full report, Growth in Communion – Partnership in Mission, which was released today.
Part of the report, the Columba Declaration, was released on Christmas Eve and had been criticised by the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) over concerns about shared worship and exchange of ministers. Today, the SEC issued a second statement, in light of the full report, which seems to soften its position.
In it, the SEC say that following its initial statement, “we have been in direct contact with both the Church of Scotland and Church of England and have obtained a copy of the final report. . . We have been able to ask a number of initial questions which have been helpfully answered jointly by the Church of Scotland and the Church of England.”
They say that a formal response will be prepared by its Faith and Order Board in September, following discussions next month by the C of E’s General Synod and in May by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. In the meantime, they say that “the Board believes that publication of Growth in Communion – Partnership in Mission now provides an opportunity to build on the warm relations which the Scottish Episcopal Church already enjoys with the Church of Scotland and very much looks forward to continuing discussions. The Board similarly looks forward to strengthening our relationship and mutual regard with the Church of England.”
The Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Revd Donald Allister, chairs the C of E’s Council for Christian Unity. In a covering note to the report for members of the General Synod, Bishop Donald explains that the text of the report has “undergone an extensive process of scrutiny and revision” by both the C of E and the Church of Scotland.
“The contents of the chapter on ‘Establishing Shared Foundations: Agreement in Faith’ and of the Columba Declaration itself are closely modelled on existing agreements between the Church of England and other churches, including in particularly the Reuilly Common Statement between the Anglican Churches of Britain and Ireland and the French Lutheran and Reformed Churches,” he said.
“The Synod is not therefore being asked to make affirmations that are substantially different from those it has made in other ecumenical contexts. What is different is the particular church about which those affirmations are being made, and about the particular relationship that exists here.
“The Church of England has not made a new formal agreement of this kind with one or more other churches since the Anglican-Methodist Covenant was signed in 2003. It is therefore not unreasonable to ask why it should enter such an agreement at this point with the Church of Scotland.
“The view of the Church of England participants in the conversations has been that such an agreement would be valuable in enabling us to place our long-standing relationship with the Church of Scotland on a clear, public footing; work together more effectively on matters of intersecting priorities, particularly in relation to our public roles as ‘national’ churches with constitutional standing; provide a stronger framework for addressing practical issues of sharing in ministry and mission and making the fullest use of opportunities here; [and to] coordinate the many different facets to the current relationship in a way that enhances them all.”
In a statement released today, the convenor of the Church of Scotland’s Ecumenical Relations Committee, the Revd Alison McDonald, said: “The joint report sets out clearly the shared foundations of faith of the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, which enable us to recognise one another formally for the first time.
“This provides a sound basis for our ongoing cooperation and for exploring future partnership.”
Under the terms of the proposed declaration, “both denominations would welcome one another’s members into congregations and ordained ministers would be allowed to exercise ministry within the existing discipline of each church only within England and continental Europe,” the Church of Scotland said.
In their foreword to the report, the two co-chairs of the talks, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, and the The Revd Dr John L. McPake, convenor of the Church of Scotland’s Panel of Doctrine, say: “We believe that approval of the Columba Declaration by our two churches will represent a significant step in the long history of their relationship, one that affirms the place we have come to and opens up new possibilities for the future.
“The new arrangements we are proposing are modest and ‘light touch’: a small contact group meeting yearly and reporting to the ecumenical bodies within each church. The new possibilities that energise us are not about novel doctrinal statements or additional institutional structures, but about growing in communion and partnership in mission, so that people may be drawn to the good news of peace, the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
- The full report, Growth in Communion – Partnership in Mission, including the full text of the Columba Declaration, can be read here (pdf).
[Episcopal News Service] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania has announced a five-person slate of nominations for the next diocesan bishop.
The candidates are:
The Rev. W. Frank Allen, rector, St. David’s Episcopal Church, Wayne, Pennsylvania, Diocese of Pennsylvania;
The Rev. Daniel G.P. Gutierrez, canon to the ordinary, chief operating officer and chief of staff, Diocese of the Rio Grande;
The Rev. John T.W. Harmon, rector, Trinity Church, Washington, D.C., Diocese of Washington;
The Rev. Martha N. Macgill, rector, Emmanuel Parish of the Episcopal Church, Cumberland, Maryland, Diocese of Maryland;
The Rt. Rev. Dean E. Wolfe, ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas and vice-president of the House of Bishops.
The announcement opens a process by which Episcopalians may petition to have other clerics added to the slate. Information on that process is here.
The election is set to take place March 12 at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral. The person elected will be ordained and consecrated on July 16 at New Covenant Church in the Germantown area of Philadelphia.
The diocese has been led since early 2013 by former Diocese of East Carolina Bishop Clifton Daniel III as its bishop provisional. Daniel resigned from his East Carolina post to work in Pennsylvania. The need for a provisional bishop arose after Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison retired at the end of 2012 after an at times contentious episcopate. The Pennsylvania Standing Committee had been at odds with Bennison since the mid-2000s over concerns about how he managed the diocese’s assets and other issues.
In its announcement about the five persons nominated, the Standing Committee said, “This is an exciting time for our Diocese and we are grateful for your continued discernment, prayer, and participation.
“Please pray that all of us will be inspired by the Holy Spirit to discern clearly whom God is calling to be our next Bishop and to work with her/him to joyfully continue the ‘Jesus Movement’ in the Diocese of Pennsylvania.”
[Anglican Alliance] Bishops from Equatoria, South Sudan, have given harrowing accounts of how recent conflict is affecting local communities and urged the Anglican Alliance and Anglican partners to advocate for relief assistance.
Recently the armed conflict that has severely affected the population of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states for two years has spread to Greater Equatoria, the Anglican Alliance learned from representatives of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan & Sudan (ECSS&S) during a recent conference call that it hosted for Anglican Communion partners.
“It is important to speed up the process of mobilising resources so that help can reach people suffering now, with no water, no food, no medicine . . . Please share with friends, partners, so that people can get something. It’s a sad situation, very painful,” urged Bishop Stephen Dokolo of Lui Diocese.
Bishop Stephen explained that communities in Greater Equatoria depend on the land for their livelihood, growing and harvesting food to sustain them throughout the year. Pastoralist communities that rely on livestock have come from the north looking for green pastures for their animals.
“The two can’t really mix,” said Bishop Stephen. Underlying tensions have exploded into conflict, particularly when a governmental decree that the cattle should be taken back home was not respected, he reported. This escalated with the involvement of government forces. Communities have fled to the forest or further afield to camps in nearby towns or even Juba, the capital.
People hiding in the forest do not have access to water and are relying on wild plants for food, said Bishop Stephen.
There is also great concern that the current violence could result in longer term food insecurity given reports that farmers have not been able to harvest their crops. People have been attacked as they try to get back to their fields, reported the Revd Joseph El Hag, director of SUDRA, ECSS&S’s relief and development arm, and food granaries and shops looted and burned to the ground.
Meanwhile, the health situation is worrisome, said Bishop Tandema Andrew of Olo Diocese, with scarce food and medicine reaching remoter areas.
“People are dying, it is very precarious,” he said. “Children are dying of malaria, women are dying in childbirth, it is very difficult for people in the bush.”
The bishops also called for advocacy for peace to end the conflict that, according to the latest Global Emergencies reports, has left 6.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, displaced 1.7 million internally and caused 640,400 South Sudanese to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.
“Tell our brothers [and sisters], let this peace be implemented and let us help [the] Government of South Sudan and opposition to implement peace in South Sudan,” said Bishop Tandema.
The Anglican Alliance will continue to facilitate support from the Anglican Communion for Equatoria and other areas of South Sudan, and serve as an advocacy and “early-warning” platform for the churches, affirmed Dr Janice Proud, Anglican Alliance Relief and Programmes Manager.
“It is good to flag up the real threat to longer term food security. We keep seeing that with emergencies the Church is like an early warning system. We hear about a situation of impending food insecurity from the local church and then three to six months later it becomes international news. By partnering [we] can get things done,” she said.
Support the people of South Sudan
Please pray for the situation in South Sudan, both in Greater Equatoria and in the others areas affected by the conflict. Pray that the leaders of the different groups may listen to the cry of their people for peace, so that they and their children can return to their homes and resume their normal lives.
[Anglican Communion News Service] The ecumenical body which advises church members of the “spiritual, ethical and cultural issues connected to biotechnology and related issues” in New Zealand has responded to a government consultation by stressing its opposition to the introduction of “physician-assisted suicide.”
In making its submission, the InterChurch Bioethics Council (ICBC), an ecumenical, cross-cultural body supported by the Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches of New Zealand, accepted that its views were not shared by all members of its constituent denominations, but it said that “as a designated committee, we are providing our ‘expert’ opinion following our own discussions, research and reading over the past three years and some limited wider consultation.”
The ICBC criticised the country’s Health Select Committee for considering the “social, legal, medical, cultural, financial, ethical, and philosophical implications” of such a move; saying that they “have negated to include spiritual considerations which are also part of current legislation guidelines.”
In addition, the ICBC challenged the phrase “physician-assisted dying” that had been used in the debate, saying that that the phrase was “inadequate” because it “confuses scenarios where the intention of the physician is actively to cause death with those where the intention is to relieve suffering.
“Where the intention is to cause death this may be either through prescription of drugs which the patient takes (physician-assisted suicide) or where the doctor administers a lethal dose of drugs (active euthanasia).
“Where the intention of the physician is to relieve suffering this may include withholding or withdrawal of treatment and administration of appropriate treatment through which ‘nature’ is allowed to take its course and death is allowed to occur. This is not defined as euthanasia and is currently legal. For the purposes of our submission the term ‘physician-assisted suicide’ will be used.”
In its submission, the ICBC said that “the right to self-determination does not take place in a vacuum – no-one is completely free, we are embedded in family and society involving critical relationships, including a debt to future generations. Our personal freedom is always held alongside the rights of others, and from a Christian perspective, our personal rights have to be considered alongside our responsibilities to others that reflect our love of God as indicated in the command to love both God and neighbour (Mark 12:28-32).
“In the face of suffering, the Christian and humane response is to maximise care/compassion for those in most need. However killing is not a part of the arsenal of care/compassion for the dying.”
They continue: “A change in the law to permit physician-assisted suicide would cross a fundamental legal and ethical boundary, since the respect for the lives of others goes to the heart of both our criminal and human rights laws and ought not to be abandoned.
“While it is not a crime for someone to take his or her own life, as a society we recognise that it is a tragedy and we, rightly, do all that we can to prevent suicide. Any move towards physician-assisted suicide requires us to turn this stance on its head, not merely legitimising suicide, but actively supporting it and sanctioning doctors to participate with individuals taking active steps to end their lives.”
They cite a number of concerns, including the potential pressure that might be placed on vulnerable elderly and disabled people; before concluding that it would not support “the decriminalising or legalising physician-assisted suicide.” Instead, they want people to recognise “that death is a natural part of life, and that many cultures have traditions for managing the process of dying which should be respected and from which we can learn.
“We recommend that skilled palliative care is made freely available (and publicly funded) to all of those who suffer to enable them to die ‘well’. In addition, we commend current efforts to address the needs of vulnerable groups, to prevent elder abuse, and to include people with disabling conditions in making decisions about their own treatment and care. We note that support for carers, including adequate remuneration, needs to be strengthened.”
- The full report can be read on the Website of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of England has launched a savings scheme aimed at helping primary school children to learn about saving while building up a small nest-egg. The LifeSavers programme has been piloted in schools across south-east London, Nottinghamshire and Bradford and is now being rolled out across the country.
The LifeSavers scheme has been created by To Your Credit – an initiative of the C of E’s task group for responsible credit and savings – and will be run in partnership with Young Enterprise and local credit unions. The pilot was supported by Virgin Money and the C of E has secured a government grant to roll out the scheme across the UK.
It encourages children to save small, regular amounts of money and is combined with teaching resources to help children understand the values that underpin this kind of approach to money.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, praised the new savings-club, saying it was “at the core of the church’s mission at the heart of vibrant and caring communities.”
After visiting St Bartholomew’s Church of England primary school in south London this week where he met children who were part of the pilot scheme, Archbishop Justin said: “The children I spent [the] morning with weren’t just going through the motions. This wasn’t just another thing to sit through in class. They were inspired. It was really sinking in.
“Another great thing to see was how the teacher was using the programme to bring in lots of other parts of the curriculum – basic numeracy, of course, but also emotional intelligence, and the whole idea of service, of doing things for other people. It’s a really rounded educational process.”
He continued: “Now, on the surface this might sound like a modest gesture. Not a bit of it. The programme is certainly down to earth and extremely practical, and rightly so. Yet it aims at the heart of some of the deepest, most painful and most intractable problems that families can face, and seeks to help put people on a new footing – a footing that Jesus would recognise as healed and renewed.
“The way that money is dealt with is about human flourishing at its deepest level – and it is absolutely right that the church is helping to try and break this cycle before it affects another generation. Meanwhile, on a practical level it makes perfect sense for the Church of England, which is involved in the education of a million children around the country, to be using our particular platform to make this contribution.
“We now know, thanks to academic research, that our thinking and habits around money are formed much earlier than we’d ever assumed. And they are usually formed subconsciously as you observe your parents or guardians, and absorb whatever the culture of your home life happens to be. Both traditional media and social media also play their part.
“So what we are doing with LifeSavers is providing serious, early formation of those values of how we handle money – so that children are given the opportunity to learn that it can and should be a servant, not a master. Many things go to make full and contented lives, but without doubt one of them is not being trapped in the lonely, frightening prison of debt.
“As a society we’ve become overly accepting of approaches to money that mean it ends up running people’s lives; we want to see people running their money.”
[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican mission agency Mission to Seafarers has teamed up with the North American Maritime Ministry Association to launch a new international digital center for Seafarers’ Ministry. The MARE project (pronounced mar-a) will bring together a number of seafarers’ ministry organizations to deliver support, information and professional development using social media.
The Mission to Seafarers (MTS) say that MARE has been designed with the aim of “enhancing the ability of seafarers’ welfare agencies to connect with seafarers using innovative digital tools.”
The North American Maritime Ministry Association (NAMMA) is a “broad association of Christian ministries . . . that provides encouragement, advocacy, and professional development to its members.” It has developed the MARE project “to equip maritime ministries to use the Internet as a primary opportunity to broaden their support service for seafarers. Funding for the initiative is being provided by the MTS.
“The MARE project will serve three purposes: first, to provide a tool that will actively help seafarers make the connection with shore-based seafarers’ welfare personnel. Second, to produce and distribute social media on seafarers’ welfare that is shareable by local maritime ministries. And, third, to produce high-quality internet-based professional development tools for those involved in maritime ministry,” the MTS said.
“We are delighted to partner with NAMMA in this exciting project,” the MTS secretary general, the Rev. Andrew Wright, said. “Technology has changed the way seafarers interact with their loved ones and we have made much progress in adapting to ensure our support remains relevant and effective to their needs.
“We hope that the MARE project will inspire all maritime ministries to try new methods of service delivery that will enhance seafarers’ wellbeing.”
Jason Zuidema, executive director of NAMMA and the leader of the MARE project, said: “Like many other traditional social service ministries, our members have had great success using seafarers’ centers and when they visit crews on board ships. But it is not always clear how to serve those who live more and more online. NAMMA’s MARE project will help develop new digital tools so that all ministries can continue to be effective.”
The Mission to Seafarers works in more than 200 ports worldwide. In some places in North America it delivers services alongside the NAMMA network in North America.
- Click here to read the inaugural edition of the MARE Project’s MARE Report.
[Anglican Communion News Service] Pope Francis has apologized for behavior towards Christians from non-Roman Catholic churches that “has not reflected Gospel values.” The Pope made his comments during a Vespers service in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome last night attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See, Archbishop Sir David Moxon.
The service was held to mark the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and was also attended by Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. At the end of the service, the Pope invited Metropolitan Gennadios and Archbishop David to join him in blessing the congregation.
On its Facebook page, the Anglican Centre in Rome described the homily and the joint blessing as “very powerful words and a very powerful gesture.”
“In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we must always keep in mind that there cannot be an authentic search for Christian unity without trusting fully in the Father’s mercy,” Pope Francis said. “We ask first of all for forgiveness for the sins of our divisions, which are an open wound in the Body of Christ.
“As Bishop of Rome and pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to ask for mercy and forgiveness for the behavior of Catholics towards Christians of other Churches which has not reflected Gospel values.
“At the same time, I invite all Catholic brothers and sisters to forgive if they, today or in the past, have been offended by other Christians. We cannot cancel out what has happened, but we do not want to let the weight of past faults continue to contaminate our relationships. God’s mercy will renew our relationships.”
Today, Archbishop Sir David Moxon said that the Pope’s words and gesture “immediately challenges Christians who aren’t Roman Catholic to respond in the same way, asking for forgiveness for the wrongs we have done and the wounds we have inflicted on the body of Christ.”
He continued: “This mutual confession automatically brings forth a sense of forgiveness, grace, and hope and we can be closer than we were before because of this. Such a movement of grace is indeed a blessing we can all share.”
In his homily, Pope Francis spoke of the need for evangelism, saying: “The mission of the whole people of God is to announce the marvelous works of the Lord, first and foremost the Pasqual mystery of Christ, through which we have passed from the darkness of sin and death to the splendor of His new and eternal life.
“In light of the Word of God which we have been listening to, and which has guided us during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we can truly affirm that all of us, believers in Christ, have been called to proclaim the mighty works of God.
“Beyond the differences which still separate us, we recognize with joy that at the origin of our Christian life there is always a call from God Himself. We can make progress on the path to full visible communion between us Christians not only when we come closer to each other, but above all as we convert ourselves to the Lord, who through His grace, chooses and calls us to be His disciples.
“And converting ourselves means letting the Lord live and work in us. For this reason, when Christians of different Churches listen to the Word of God together and seek to put it into practice, they make important steps towards unity.
“It is not only the call which unites us, but we also share the same mission to proclaim to all the marvelous works of God. Like St Paul, and like the people to whom St Peter is writing, we too cannot fail to announce God’s merciful love which has conquered and transformed us.
“While we are moving towards full communion among Christians, we can already develop many forms of cooperation to aid the spread of the Gospel. By walking and working together, we realise that we are already united in the name of the Lord.”
- The full text of Pope Francis’ homily can be read on the website of Vatican Radio.
[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of Newcastle Christine Hardman on Jan. 26 become the second female bishop in the Church of England to take her seat in the U.K.’s House of Lords – the upper house of the U.K. Parliament. The ceremony took place the day after her neighboring bishop secured a Lords’ victory over the government on child poverty reporting.
Bishops have played a part in Britain’s legislature since before the era of democracy; and today some 26 bishops have seats in the upper chamber. The archbishops of Canterbury and York and the bishops of London, Durham and Winchester are automatically members of the House of Lords. The remaining 21 places are taken by the most senior diocesan bishop by length of service. However, under transitional arrangements, for the next nine years the most senior female diocesan bishop will jump the queue and leapfrog their male counterparts.
At the start of business in the House of Lords this afternoon, Hardman was led into the Lords’ Chamber by Bishop of Southwark Christopher Chessun and was followed by Archbishop of York John Sentamu. Immediately prior to becoming a bishop, Hardman served the Diocese of Southwark as an archdeacon. Her new diocese, Newcastle, is in the Church of England’s Province of York.
Her Writ of Summons – the Queen’s instruction to sit as a bishop – was presented to a House of Lords official who read it out loud. Hardman swore the parliamentary Oath of Allegiance. She was then taken to her place on the bishops’ benches, shaking the hands of the Lords’ Speaker and the Leader of the House of Lords on the way.
“Joining the House of Lords is a great privilege and responsibility,” Hardman said before the ceremony. “God cares about the world as a whole – not just about the Church. I look forward to engaging and working with the other bishops and with key partners for all that leads to the flourishing of communities.
“I will make the most of this opportunity to speak on behalf of those whose voices are not always heard, and particularly alongside the Bishop of Durham to speak up for the North East.”
[Episcopal News Service] Churches and other community-based organizations responded first, providing Flint residents with bottled water and filters for their taps long before Michigan officials acknowledged people were drinking lead-contaminated water.
Over the last two weeks, Flint’s water crisis and the state’s failure to respond, have dominated mainstream headlines, with President Barack Obama declaring a “state of emergency,” and last week Governor Rick Snyder using his State of the State address to apologize to Flint residents.
It was the persistence of community groups, like Water You Fighting For and Concerned Pastors for Social Action, who organized protests, press conferences and publicity for more than a year and a half, that brought the crisis to the attention of local and state officials, explained the Rev. Dan Scheid, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
“This is a social-justice issue. The poor and marginalized simply were not listened to by those in power, they were repeatedly told the water is fine, the water is fine, and at some point they realized that the water wasn’t good and it’s going to take additional reporting and digging to find out who knew what when,” he said. “October 1st  is when the governor said he knew, and that’s when things started to change.”
In April 2014, under the leadership of an emergency manager and in an effort to save $5 million, the city’s water supply was switched from Lake Huron via Detroit’s municipal water system to the Flint River, a more corrosive source that caused lead leaching from aging pipe infrastructure to contaminate resident’s water. (The city of Detroit has had its own water issues.)
The water also didn’t meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for carcinogens associated with industrial pollution, explained Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley, whose diocese includes Flint.
“Furthermore,” he said. “There is evidence of falsification of water tests, withholding of test information, and coercion of state and local officials to ignore disturbing water test results.”
Earlier this month, the regional EPA official resigned over the crisis.
Almost immediately following the switch, residents began to complain about the water’s color, taste and smell, and the skin irritation caused by bathing in it, yet government officials maintained the water’s safety. It was the efforts of community leaders and pastors, who spoke up for the city’s majority black and impoverished residents, that caught the attention of physicians and academics who conducted studies countering the government’s claims. Of the city’s 100,000 residents, 9,000 are children under age 6, the population most vulnerable to the cognitive and developmental delays associated with lead poisoning.
“As for the long-term health, educational and psychological effects on the generation of babies, toddlers and preschoolers, we don’t know what that will look like, how will that be measured and attended to,” said Scheid.
Scheid became the rector of St. Paul’s in May of 2015, after serving as rector of St. Augustine of Canterbury in Benton Harbor, another Michigan city that has been under emergency management.
Before state officials acknowledged the public health crisis and deployed the National Guard door-to-door handing out bottled water, filters and testing kits, community-based organizations and churches stepped up.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Flint served as a water distribution point, and with grant assistance from the dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan and donations from parishes across lower Michigan, partnered with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, the soup kitchen at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, on the city’s east side, the north side’s Christ Enrichment Center and other organizations to make sure the city’s residents had access to clean water.
With a $5,000 grant from Episcopal Relief & Development, St. Paul’s, channeling the money through the United Way, was able to replace water filters in schools, reaching 25 percent of the student population.
Moving forward, one of the ways churches and other community-based organizations are looking to respond to residents’ needs is by making sure they have access to healthy, fresh foods. Evidence has shown that foods rich in iron and vitamin C can ameliorate the effects of lead poisoning, said Scheid.
“The issue is that much of the food that comes through the food bank, fresh stuff, is on the verge of spoiling and getting appropriate food from the food bank is a challenge,” said Scheid, adding that Flint is a food desert. “This is something we are looking at, could we do something to address nutrition in a meaningful way, could we purchase top quality food for distribution to families.”
Another long-term issue is addressing residents’ spiritual and psychological needs.
“The trauma, the fear and the anger of the adults, parents and grandparents, knowing that you may have given your children contaminated water for months and months and the associated guilt,” said Scheid.
With a population less than 100,000, Flint, once one of the largest, most industrial cities in Michigan, now ranks seventh in the state. Sixty percent of the population is African-American; more than 40 percent live below the poverty line. Like Detroit, 60 miles south down Interstate 75, Flint has experienced a massive population decline and an eroded tax base.
“Flint is seen as poor and disposable and is largely populated by a demographic that remains voiceless and on the margins,” said Ousley.
It’s not just in communities like Flint where poor and marginalized citizens are without voice, it’s in cities, towns and rural areas across the United States. Aside from financial contributions, one way Episcopalians can stand in solidarity with Flint’s residents is to address issues of injustice and inequality in their own communities, said Scheid.
“The church has the moral and civil authority to lift those voices up; the church should take care of those issues in its own context,” he said. “That is one way to be responsive to what’s happening in Flint.”
Flint’s water crisis laid bare the city’s existing social and economic justice issues, and revealed the impact of citizens being stripped of their democratic rights. At the start of the water crisis, Flint was under emergency management appointed by and reporting directly to the governor, thereby bypassing the authority of locally elected officials. Five Michigan cities (Detroit, Flint, Inkster, Benton Harbor and Highland Park), all with majority African-American populations, have been under emergency management at one time or another.
“A further racial justice dimension to address is that at one time state-appointed managers have replaced democratically elected leaders in cities which together are populated by more than half of all African-Americans in the state,” said Ousley
-Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service.
[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans and other Christians are being challenged to take enjoy a candlelit dinner as part of a series of challenges for a “carbon fast” during Lent. The initiative comes from the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and is being supported by the Anglican Communion’s Environmental Network (ACEN).
“For Anglicans, Catholics and many others, Lent is the time when we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, facing challenge and temptation,” the Southern Africa environmental group Green Anglicans, say. “It is a time when we reflect on God’s purpose for our life. This year we challenge you to take a carbon fast – to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation.”
A downloadable crib-sheet of daily challenges is available online. Participants are encouraged to take part in a variety of activities, including, on February 15, “Reduce your meat consumption, starting with a Meat Free Monday.”
Other suggestions include, on March 2, “On bin day, look at the size of your rubbish and commit to reducing it by half”; and, on March 16, “Think of a place to plant a tree and make it happen this month.”
Other suggestions are less taxing. On February 18, participants are encouraged to “fix your fridge” by “setting the temperature around three degrees Celsius”; and on March 3 to “create your own green cleaning spray with water and white vinegar solution.”
And there is also a romantic side to the challenge. On February 26, participants are encouraged to “have dinner by candlelight, talk, play games and enjoy.” And, if that encourages couples to want to spend more time with each other, they are helped by the challenge on the following day, February 27, which is dubbed “No electronics day” with participants challenged to “not use any electronics”, presumably including tablets, laptops and mobile phones.
The Carbon Fast for Lent crib sheet can be downloaded from the Green Anglicans’ website.
[Episcopal News Service – Ferguson, Missouri] In the months following General Convention, the Episcopal Church has been working to fulfill its mandate to confront racism and the institutional structures that support it.
On Jan. 21, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached the sermon at the opening Eucharist of the 2016 Trinity Institute, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice. As he invited those assembled to embrace difficult conversations around racism, he offered some advice; “As you prepare to march, meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus. “ Keynote speaker Michelle Norris also offered her belief that “listening is an act of courage.” Trinity Institute is hosting this year’s institute on racial justice as a means of creating new understanding, opportunity, and encouragement for deeper conversations about racism.
February is Black History month, following the many celebrations this week of the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., and the church’s collective hope for racial reconciliation. Next month, the presiding officers of the Episcopal Church will meet in Austin, Texas, to begin to discern how to move forward with Resolution C019, through which the General Convention made racial reconciliation a priority for the next triennium. Yet significant learning and leadership development around issues of racial justice and reconciliation began back in October of 2015, when the Episcopal Church sponsored a Young Adult Pilgrimage to Ferguson, in partnership with the Union of Black Episcopalians and the Diocese of Missouri.
Fourteen months to the day after the Aug. 9, 2014, death of Michael Brown, 25 Episcopal Church pilgrims visited the site where the teenager died after being shot in a struggle with a Ferguson police officer.
In the aftermath of Brown’ death much attention has focused on policing and racial profiling. The pilgrims traveled to Ferguson in search of a better understanding of what happened that day and the protests and community response that has followed, both in the context of Ferguson and in their own lives. The intention was that pilgrims would bring that understanding back to their work, churches and communities, and begin to tell their own stories.
“We need to create spaces where people are telling their stories and actually being heard. And I think part of it is young people doing the work in their own context and doing the work in the spaces they inhabit,” said Leandra Lambert, a young adult member of the Union of Black Episcopalians who helped plan the pilgrimage, adding that anti-racism committees and anti-racism trainings for leaders are not enough.
“There are also spaces where decisions are being made and it would be helpful to us to know exactly where those spaces are, what committees, what organizations, exactly where in the church do we need to be so we are at the table, because if you are not at the table you are on the table,” she said. “A critical piece is not just saying it’s important to have people engaged, but really working towards that and taking those conversations to heart and putting the resources behind it.”
The Episcopal Church sponsored the Oct. 8-12 pilgrimage, which brought together a cross section of young adults aged 19 to 34, representing white, black, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander and mixed-race people from across church to study racial justice and reconciliation in the context of Ferguson. The pilgrimage was funded via a grant of the Constable Fund approved by the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church in early 2015.
The four-day pilgrimage included two visits to the site where Brown died, presentations and conversations with local clergy, non-profit and community leaders, small table discussions and worship.
Brown, 18, was fatally shot by a white Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, after an altercation. Wilson later testified that he stopped Brown and his friend because they matched the description of two teenagers involved in the robbery of a convenience store moments earlier. Video surveillance indicated Brown had robbed the store.
A struggle ensued between Wilson and Brown, and Wilson fired multiple shots at close range into the head and chest of Brown, who was unarmed.
Protesters quickly took to the streets and images of police officers in riot gear clashing with them filled television and computer screens. The protests that followed Brown’s death continued into November 2014 when it was announced that a grand jury decided not to charge Wilson in Brown’s death. An independent federal investigation initiated by the Justice Department later cleared Wilson of violating Brown’s civil rights but raised multiple concerns about racial disparities in the Ferguson police department’s conduct of its duty. On the anniversary of Brown’s death another protest broke out and a state of emergency was declared.
Ferguson becomes a national focal point
Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, is 67 percent black, and a quarter of its 21,086 residents live below the poverty line. Brown’s death put Ferguson on the map; the community has become a nationwide symbol of racial disparity and injustice and the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color.
Ferguson also has become a symbol of hope and a site for pilgrimage in a quest for understanding what happened the day Brown was shot and the protests and grassroots and community responses that have followed.
For the pilgrims, many of whom work for or serve the church in some capacity, the pilgrimage was an opportunity to learn about what happened in Ferguson and to take the lessons and stories back into their own communities, churches and work.
“These young people are not the future of our church, they are the here and now of our church. They are the growing edge of our church, and they are our best ambassadors and best evangelists. They are our best missionaries to other youth and young adults in the church – they can spread the word of who we are,” said Heidi Kim, the Episcopal Church’s missioner for racial reconciliation.
“I think that they have a different and powerfully compelling notion of what makes our church relevant, and I would love to see that message work its way throughout the rest of the church,” said Kim. “I think they understand very clearly what it means to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. So for them ministry is about worship and liturgy and studying and reflection, but it’s also about being present in a world that is suffering, and moving and engaging in a way that will bring grace and healing.
“My belief is not that The Episcopal Church is here to save Ferguson, but that the lessons from Ferguson can redeem The Episcopal Church. I think that the prophetic witness of these young people can help to redeem us all.”
Many of the pilgrims were anticipating incorporating their experience on the pilgrimage into programs and curricula to facilitate conversations and healing in their own communities.
For instance, Donnecia Brown is participated in Servant Year, a 15-year-old program in the Diocese of Pennsylvania that places Episcopal Service Corps members in intentional communities and pairs them with social service agencies, schools and social justice community organizations. She is working on building up a support group for teens by teens to address the culture of violence and the community trauma that young people face every day in Philadelphia.
Aaron Rogers, of the Diocese of Newark, works with the Newark Mentoring Movement, and is seeking to connect leaders in his community to leaders in Ferguson.
Timothy J.S. Seamans, who serves as school chaplain at Holy Innocents Episcopal School in Atlanta, Georgia, is developing a justice curriculum centered in healing and particularly racial healing for schools.
Short- and long-term response
In the immediate aftermath of Brown’s death, the Episcopal Church and Episcopal Relief and Development awarded the Diocese of Missouri a $40,000 grant to address domestic poverty, pastoral and community work in northern St. Louis County, where Ferguson is located.
Before Brown was killed and protesters took to the streets of Ferguson, the Rev. Steve Lawler, rector of St. Stephens & the Vine, and Pastor F. Willis Johnson, of Wellspring Church, had done asset mapping in the community. They were poised to respond to the immediate needs of residents who were confined to their homes because of the protests and the militarized police presence that shut down buses and businesses.
St. Stephen’s food pantry delivered food and toilet paper to people stuck inside.
The asset mapping also made Lawler and Johnson recognize that they needed to focus on economic growth and social engagement, said Lawler.
To that end, St. Stephen’s started Incubate Ferguson as a way to encourage small business development and Wellspring founded The Center for Social Engagement and Justice as a way to foster and offer space to nonprofit, grass-roots organizations.
“Most economic growth that is going to reasonably occur here is going to be small-business growth,” said Lawler. “Even if you are given job-preparedness training the real question is, where are the jobs? Where are jobs that you can actually live on? That’s why we are focusing on business creation.”
In addition to loss of manufacturing jobs over the last 40 years, Ferguson was hit particularly hard during the mortgage crisis, with 50 percent of the community’s 6,000-plus homeowners owing more than their homes were worth.
Throughout the pilgrimage, a picture of Ferguson began to emerge that went beyond the death of Michael Brown and the subsequent protests.
On the first full-day of the pilgrimage and again on the eve of departure, the pilgrims had an opportunity to listen and ask questions of Bishop Wayne Smith and to learn about some of the ways the diocese responded in the short- and long-term.
In their first meeting, Smith outlined the St. Louis metropolitan area’s political and geographical boundaries and explained how the region became one of the most racially segregated in the country.
As far back as 1876, the city of St. Louis removed itself from St. Louis County, “the city thought it had all the space it needed,” explained the bishop. The city of St. Louis has 22 wards, each represented by an alderman, and the county was long ago carved up into 90 separate municipalities, which he described as “political fiefdoms that set the grid work for segregation.”
Smith described Ferguson as an inner-ring suburb once home to white working-class residents who labored in big three auto factories and the former aerospace manufacturer and defense contractor McDonnell Douglass, which was headquartered in St. Louis County.
“Twenty years ago, Ferguson was 80 percent white and 20 percent African-American, that has now flipped,” Smith said.
Later that same day, the pilgrims heard from the Rev. Chester Hines, a deacon at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis and one of two black clergy in the diocese, who shared his story of living three-quarters of a century in St. Louis.
“I’ve seen a lot,” said Hines, who as an infant was brought to St. Louis by his parents who were sharecroppers in Mississippi.
Hines talked about geopolitical factors and the long history of institutionalized racism that has existed in public education, public safety and policing, the judicial system, housing and economic development – the environment that led to Brown’s death and the protests in Ferguson.
With more than 90 municipalities in St. Louis County there’s “fighting over the limited resources available to support and sustain communities.”
In fact, one of the things the Department of Justice’s investigation into the Ferguson Police Department uncovered was that city officials put making money, through traffic tickets and other citations, above providing public safety to the community. It also found that Ferguson’s black residents were disproportionately targeted.
Hines also outlined how the public schools ignored the 1954 Supreme Court ruling to end segregation of schools. It wasn’t until a black parent sued one of the districts in 1972 that “voluntary desegregation” was implemented under threat that schools would face the loss of federal funds. Still, he said, desegregation wasn’t fully achieved, to the extent that it has been, until the 1990s.
Hines described race as “the horse in the middle of the table” that no one wants to talk about. “The psychology of our community is that we live in a state of denial … we are our own worst enemy,” he said.
The rise of community leaders
Leaders are emerging, however, in people like Shawntelle Fisher, who started a nonprofit organization to address the school-to-prison pipeline and the problem of mass incarceration, and like Felicia Pulliam, who serves on the Ferguson Commission, created to study the underlying social and economic conditions underscored by the unrest in the wake of Brown’s death.
Before the commission could produce the Ferguson Report, its members had to hold meetings and listen to the marginalized voices in the community. At first she said, “hundreds and hundreds of angry people would show up, we spent hours listening.”
Pulliam has lived most of her life in north St. Louis County; she remembers when her family left the city for the suburbs, she watched as the Baskin-Robbins closed and liquor and payday loans stores opened.
“I watched the community change; black people try to move here to make a better life and this happens,” she said.
Policing and the criminal justice system are two things the Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart, a transitional deacon in the Diocese of Washington who served 20 years in the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., knows something about.
Fisher-Stewart led the pilgrims through an exercise on Oct. 11 where they were the police recruits and she played the role of police captain. She asserts that community policing in minority neighborhoods is a fallacy and that “the police are not change agents, they are the status quo.”
Citing works such as Kelly Brown Douglas’ “Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God,” Fisher-Stewart contends that today’s U.S. policing practices are based on the slave patrols in the South, and that “the criminal justice system needs fuel – bodies – and the police are the gatekeepers.”
Brown’s death came less than a month after Eric Garner, 43, was killed in a chokehold by a New York City police officer on Staten Island, and four days after police shot and killed John Crawford, 22, in Beavercreek, Ohio. In Cleveland on Nov. 23, 2014, a police officer killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice. (Last week investigators ruled the shooting of Rice was justified.
A need to address institutional racism
Throughout the four-day pilgrimage, participants said it became increasingly obvious that racial reconciliation cannot be achieved until the structural and institutional racism is addressed, and that all people, black, white, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, and Pacific Islander face one another as equals.
On Oct. 10, both a panel on “The Role of the Prophet” and Chuck Wynder Jr., the Episcopal Church’s missioner for social justice and advocacy engagement addressed the topic of racial justice.
“In order to have reconciliation there has to be justice making, (and) part of that justice making is affording the person or the group that has been harmed to name the harm, to speak to the harm, and to state what they need in order to be whole,” said Wynder in an interview with ENS. “There’s still a need in our communities to repair the breach and make justice in order for people to sit down in our communities and heal the wounds.”
Reconciliation is a dynamic and active process, he said.
“That’s why we talk about racial justice and reconciliation, if you speak about reconciliation first it can be perceived that you just want to make a cheap peace, you just want to have calm, and even at the personal level often people don’t want to repair the breach, they just want to have peace with the other person without saying I’m sorry and doing the work to make the other person whole,” said Wynder. “It’s much more complex when we talk about it at the institutional, systemic and cultural level, but the same principles apply.”
A second walk, a deeper understanding
After the pilgrims’ second visit to the site where Michael Brown was fatally shot, they began to prepare to go back into their own communities, and some shared new insights.
“The first time I went there was so much going on – I was learning so much about St. Louis and Ferguson and everything that led up to that event that I was a little over-stimulated and overwhelmed and I couldn’t quite process it,” said Adiel Pollydore, a member of Episcopal Service Corps resident of Life Together in Boston.
Pollydore is from Albany, New York, where she said gun violence also is an issue.
“I think that as I had more time to process, and then going back on Sunday I really allowed myself to feel all of the emotions. And I was surprised that sure enough there was that initial tang of like hurt and pain, but also an overwhelming feeling of hope as I was able to learn what has come out of this place and what this dramatic, traumatic event has done for the people of Ferguson in terms of really bringing about change. And that made me really hopeful.”
Pollydore works with youth in Boston interested in building a local movement. “Youth who are saying ‘You know what, being black and poor, being brown and poor in Boston and being a young person is hard and we want people to know about us and our stories and we want to feel connected to other young people who feel similarly disenfranchised and what can we do about it’,” she said.
Pollydore said she has a lot to bring back.
“I’ve learned so much from the activists and speakers about what that (starting and sustaining a movement) might look like and I’m excited to bring that back,” she said. “I’m also excited to push faith communities that I’m part of, including Life Together, and including St. Mary’s in Dorchester, to continue to think about race.
“I know there’s a lot of work done in both of those communities, and so thinking about sharing ways in which to tell this story and my story interacting with the larger story of Ferguson, I’m really excited.”
– Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry kicked off Trinity Institute’s 2016 conference, “Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice,” on Jan. 21 with a sermon focusing on Chapter 8 of the Gospel according to Matthew, the story of the centurion’s servant, urging his listeners to join the “Jesus Movement” to change the world.