[Episcopal News Service – Cap-Haitien, Haiti] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori recently became the first ever primate to visit northern Haiti.
“It is a very significant visit for us,” said the Rt. Rev. Ogé Beauvoir, bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Haiti, during a Dec. 15 interview with Episcopal News Service at the diocesan office in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince.
Each Sunday Episcopalians in northern Haiti pray for the presiding bishop, said Beauvoir, who has lived in Cap-Haitien since becoming suffragan bishop in 2012, but with the exception of very few, they’ve never met her. As worshipers were boarding buses following the Dec. 14 Eucharist, they told Beauvoir, “’please express our thanks and love to our presiding bishop, tell her that we love her,’” he said.
The presiding bishop visited Haiti Dec. 13-15, stopping first in the north where she preached at Holy Spirit Parish, visited the parish’s school and the nearby Holy Spirit trade school. It was her sixth trip to Haiti, the first being in 2008 before the devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that killed thousands of people and leveled Port-au-Prince, including the diocese’s Trinity Cathedral and its complex.
Jefferts Schori was accompanied by Alexander Baumgarten, director of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Department of Public Engagement and Mission Communication, on the trip that began three days earlier with a visit to the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, where they learned about the government’s efforts to strip citizenship from Dominicans of Haitian descent.
“We’ve been in the Dominican Republic the last few days to learn more about the need for good news in the face of what the courts there have said about people of Haitian descent who live there,” said the presiding bishop during her Dec. 14 sermon. “The legal decisions seem to say that even if you were born there, if your parents or grandparents came from Haiti to work there, you have no right to have your birth recorded or your citizenship guaranteed. Many people have been caught between the two nations, effectively unclaimed by either one. Those without a recognized status cannot work, go to school, travel out of the country, or gain recognition for their own children.”
“The roots of this injustice are many – racism, colonial history, a lust for power, even official incompetence and neglect. They are the same sinful realities that have confronted human beings from the beginning – we don’t always choose to love our neighbors as ourselves.
“The good news is that all of us are claimed by the nation called the Reign of God. Together, we can decide to use our voices and actions to change the world’s bad news… ,” she said.
The presiding bishop’s trip to Haiti came at a time of violent protests against the government of President Michel Martelly. Protesters are demanding long-delayed legislative and local elections. On Nov. 28, Martelly appointed an 11-member commission of former officials and religious leaders, including Beauvoir, to help resolve the political stalemate that has since 2011 stalled the elections.
“It is part of our ministry,” said Beauvoir of his appointment to the commission. “When the country is in trouble and the government asks us for help, it is our task to bring the people together.
“Being an Episcopalian means being tolerant, and there is a lack of tolerance in society today and that’s what we bring to the table.”
Martelly has accepted the recommendation of the commission and is willing to act on it, and the prime minister has just resigned, said Beauvoir Dec. 15.
“Those are signs of hope, and the next step is to call on the opposition to come and talk,” he said.
Violent protests continued on Dec. 16 when demonstrators took to the streets of the capital demanding the president’s resignation.
Unless elections are held before Jan. 12, 2015, the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, Haiti will be left without a functioning parliament until its late 2015 presidential elections.
“We have always had political instability but have seen some progress,” said Diocese of Haiti Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin. “The situation is not as it was when the earthquake happened, but we could do more for the Haitian people. Many young people feel they have been abandoned [by the government] regarding education, health care, the financial situation is not good, unemployment is high. I think we have a lot to do.”
The Episcopal Church is well respected in Haiti and has played a large role in the country’s post-earthquake redevelopment; however, the country remains the poorest in the western hemisphere.
Haiti has an 80 percent unemployment rate and millions of people live in extreme poverty; following the earthquake Haitians from throughout the country flocked to the devastated Port-au-Prince to receive international aid. Eventually, NGOs 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, where the diocese is training 54 students in agriculture, and at the technical school where it offers courses in mechanics, plumbing and electricity.
The diocese has a partnership with the Florida-based Food for the Poor in the northern region through which it is helping young people get life skills, said Beauvoir, pointing to the 420 students studying at the trade school.
“With the partnership with Food for the Poor, we pay for 250 of them,” he said. “We are trying to empower young folks. Also we are working with the people in the villages on organizing their lives together… and with women on social justice issues.”
The Diocese of Haiti is the largest diocese of the Episcopal Church and covers the entire 10.7 thousand square mile country; 46 clergy serve more than 200 churches, 254 schools, two hospitals and 13 clinics.
The diocese plans to introduce a resolution at the 2015 General Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, that if passed would establish a second diocese in the north.
Establishing a second diocese in Haiti would allow the leadership to hone and intensify the growth underway in that region by providing more local attention and support, and the ability to respond to opportunities and challenges more quickly, Jefferts Schori told ENS after the visit.
“For example, the Northern Region Assembly held just before we arrived is an example of a proto-diocesan leadership council that can strategize for that part of the diocese,” she said. “Sustainability comes from the ability to match missional resources with missional needs, and it always has to be context-specific.”
– Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service.
[Diocese of Southwest Florida press release] The Rev. John Palarine, a 40-year leader in youth and family ministries in The Episcopal Church, will join the Diocese of Southwest Florida as program director for diocesan youth programs and the DaySpring Episcopal Camp and Conference Center.
The full-time position comes at a time when DaySpring is expanding its diocesan-led programs and embarking on a new master plan that will include enhanced facilities for youth camps and congregational events.
Responsibilities for Palarine include continuing current diocesan youth programs such as New Beginnings and Happening, as well as expanding and enhancing DaySpring Summer Camp from a three-week to a six-week program. He will also look beyond DaySpring to encourage youth ministry in the 77 congregations of the Diocese of Southwest Florida. For DaySpring’s adult visitors, he will build upon current activities in order to foster leadership development for healthy congregations. He will also envision new programming in order to better serve parishioners, congregations and the wider church.
“Fr. Palarine will seek new ministry partnerships with congregations, Episcopal schools, as well as provincial and “national”-level networks,” said the Rev. Michael Durning, canon to the ordinary. “He will be a resource to youth minsters throughout the Diocese.”
Palarine currently heads, and will continue to lead “YP Ministries”, a training and development organization and consultancy dedicated to creating a strong youth presence in congregations.
[Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral press release] Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle announces the calling of Michael Kleinschmidt to serve as canon musician. He will begin his ministry here on March 1, 2015.
Since 2010 he has served as canon for cathedral music at Trinity Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, having previously served at Trinity Church, Copley Square in Boston, All Saint’s Parish in Boston and St. Thomas Fifth Avenue in New York. He holds degrees from Eastman School of Music and Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. A detailed curriculum vitae is on our website here.
Kleinschmidt is an accomplished organist, having played in recital across the world, including an All-Bach concert at Saint Mark’s on the Flentrop Organ in 2012. He also has a keen appreciation for the ministry of music in children, and serves on faculty of Royal School of Church Music summer courses.
Hewrites: “I believe liturgy, with the music that serves it, is the frontline of Christian formation. My own Christian formation was primarily through music. Throughout my life, it has been a vehicle conveying to my heart and mind the Psalms and Canticles, the poetry of George Herbert, T. S. Eliot, and W. H. Auden, and much of the Book of Common Prayer, among other texts. I feel called to share that vehicle with all who seek a deeper communion with God, and have dedicated much of my life to teaching young and old, rich and poor, black and white the craft of liturgical music-making.”
Kleinschmidt succeeds Mel Butler who will retire at the end of 2014 after 23 years as canon musician.
Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral
Located on Capitol Hill in Seattle, Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral is a community grounded in ancient Christian scripture and tradition while at the same time remaining open to the insight and truth of contemporary life. You’ll find us actively involved in service and outreach. Together we pray and worship, study the scriptures, and explore the richness of twenty one centuries of Christian experience.
Saint Mark’s is also the home of great music, and every Sunday evening for over 50 years the ancient service of Compline has been sung.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Bishop Stacy F. Sauls, chief operating officer of The Episcopal Church, has announced that the Rev. Canon Meghan Froehlich has been named acting missioner for transition ministry following a churchwide search.
“Meghan was selected for this important position because she brings the strong technical and interpersonal skills essential to this work as well as an innovative mind and creative spirit,” Sauls stated. “All of us who met her during this process believe she will serve the needs of the church well in this crucial ministry.”
Sauls also expressed his appreciation to the members of the interview committee, which included members of the Board of Transition Ministry, Executive Council, the community of transition ministers and the Missionary Society.
As acting missioner for transition ministry, her duties include overseeing the programmatic, managerial and budgetary responsibilities for The Episcopal Church Office of Transition Ministry, working with clergy, dioceses, transition ministers throughout the Church, and laity. She will also analyze the employment needs and trends in The Episcopal Church in order to plan strategically and offer recommendations for transition ministry programs to enhance the ministry of transition with an emphasis on spiritual health and wellness.
The acting missioner position is slated through October 2015, after which the program and budget vision set at General Convention 2015 will be implemented.
Froehlich’s position with the Missionary Society is within the Mission Department. She is based in Akron, Ohio.
Most recently she was the interim canon to the ordinary for the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas and has served as the rector or assistant rector of churches in the dioceses of Ohio, Dallas and Western North Carolina. She has also been a chaplain, a faculty member of Fresh Start, a consultant and executive leadership coach.
She holds a Master of Divinity degree from the Divinity School of Duke University and a bachelors degree in political science from Old Dominion University in Virginia. She was ordained a priest in June 2000 in the Diocese of Western North Carolina.
Froehlich begins her new position in Jan. 5. She can be reached at email@example.com effective December 22.
[Anglican Communion News Service] The bishop of Peshawar has said that, following what he called “another unimaginable horror,” the Church of Pakistan has decided to cancel its Christmas celebrations.
Peshawar Bishop Humphrey Peters spoke solemnly about the aftermath of the recent attack by the Taliban on a school that left 132 children and nine adults dead.
“It is another unimaginable horror that has been unleashed upon this beautiful city,” he said. “The church has already taken the decision to cancel Christmas as a celebration. Instead we will be using the time to come alongside those in the wider community who are grieving and injured.
“How can we celebrate and host parties when our city has been so devastated? We will still gather to worship but in a simple, stripped back and prayerful way.”
The attack on the Army School in Peshawar, just a few blocks from St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, came just 15 months after twin suicide bombers from a group affiliated to the Taliban murdered more than 100 worshipers of All Saints Church in Peshawar.
The bishop said that the church is looking to support communities in practical ways – visiting the injured in hospital, being with their families and supporting the bereaved – whichever faith group they belong to.
He stressed that the church would continue to minister to those affected long after the world’s focus has moved elsewhere.
“Many of those injured [in 2013] are still receiving treatment,” said Peters. “We need to insure that we stay with families for the long term.” He went on to emphasize that, while there was much anger and despair within the population of Peshawar, the church should remain true to its calling. “We must go on striving to be a source of comfort, of hope and reconciliation – that is the role of church – in good times and bad.”
Insar Gohar, the Diocese of Peshawar’s youth coordinator who lost his mother and children in the 2013 bomb blast, said parents of those killed and injured in the recent attack are experiencing “terror and deep grief.”
“This [event] reminds the Christians of Peshawar of the attack on All Saints’ Church,” he said. “They are crying with the parents of the children killed today.
“Please pray for this situation, for the protection of our city and for peace in our region.”
Peters concluded, “We know the pain the wider community is feeling, we share in their devastation and we will walk with them in their anguish.”
[Lambeth Palace] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby visited Sierra Leone this week with a message of hope and solidarity for all those suffering amid the Ebola outbreak across West Africa.
The archbishop preached at St George’s Cathedral in the Sierra Leonean capital of Freetown before visiting a church-run therapy clinic for children affected by Ebola.
He also met and prayed with faith and community leaders, including Bishop of Freetown Thomas Arnold Ikunika Wilson.
Sierra Leone has the highest number of Ebola cases in West Africa, with more than 8,000 cases and nearly 2,500 deaths since the start of the outbreak. Latest figures show that 1,258 people have survived the virus and recovered.
In his sermon, Welby told those gathered that “your suffering and endurance across the afflicted countries have echoed around the world”, adding that “you are remembered at every moment by God.”
Stressing the solidarity of Christians and Muslims in England for those suffering in West Africa, he said: “In our churches and mosques… we pray for you, long for good news, and are in pain because of your pain.
“I was anxious to share with you the grief that is experienced in this region and especially in Sierra Leone, a country that has already faced such grief and suffering over the years.”
Just as Jesus was born and lived among the poor and suffering, he said, “so must the world come alongside you to support the doctors, hospitals, and volunteers and people of this land who seek to love those caught by Ebola.
The archbishop also praised medical volunteers traveling to West Africa and urged the British government to continue its “courageous” response to the outbreak.
After the cathedral service, the archbishop met with children affected by Ebola being cared for at the Don Bosco Interim Care Centre in Tintafor.
The center, which is run by the Catholic order of Salesians of Don Bosco, provides services including trauma healing, stress reduction, musical and sport therapy, and individual and group counslling. It also provides non-formal school lessons, family tracing and appropriate reunifications with follow-up visits.
Welby said he prayed that communities afflicted by Ebola would find comfort and hope from each other – and from God who is “especially faithful” to those “suffering unjustly through the events of life”.
Looking ahead to Christmas, the archbishop said that if asked what the most important part of the Advent season has been for him, he will say it was being with people in Sierra Leone and in South Sudan, which he visited last week.
“Your presence is a generous gift, of which I am entirely unworthy. Your faces will be before me in my mind on Christmas Day. Your needs will be in my prayers.
“But far more importantly you are remembered at every moment by God, who is faithful and will bring comfort.”
Throughout Archbishop Justin Welby’s short visit to Sierra Leone he followed appropriate infection control procedures. As with others returning from the affected countries, his risk of exposure to Ebola has been carefully assessed by a clinician in accordance with Public Health England’s latest guidelines.
In light of this, having been allocated to the lowest category of risk, he has been advised that no restrictions on his movements or activities are necessary and he will be continuing with his planned commitments over the coming days.
- Find out more about the churches’ response to the Ebola crisis by visiting the Anglican Alliance website.
But intense seasonal flooding, periodic droughts and the burden of malaria and other communicable diseases continue to bring suffering to much of the population.
Responding to these crises and encouraging sustainability has been the focus of Anglican Social Action (ASA), the relief and development arm of the Diocese of Lebombo.
Episcopal Relief & Development has partnered with ASA through the malaria prevention program NetsforLife®, community development initiatives, and in responding to the immediate impact and long-term recovery from flooding disasters.
This video is also featured here as part of Episcopal Relief & Development’s 75 stories over 75 weeks project to celebrate the agency’s 75th anniversary. The 75-week celebration will continue through the end of 2015.
Another video report about how this partnership fosters sustainable livelihoods is available here and below.
Editors’ note: Story updated at 11:40 EST Dec. 17 with statement from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
[Church of England press release] Downing Street has announced that the new bishop of Stockport – and the first female bishop in the Church of England – will be the Rev. Libby Lane, currently vicar of St. Peter’s, Hale, and St. Elizabeth’s, Ashley.
As bishop of Stockport she will serve as a suffragan (assistant) bishop in the Diocese of Chester. She will be consecrated as the eighth bishop of Stockport at a ceremony at York Minister on Jan. 26, 2015.
Lane was ordained as a priest in 1994 and has served a number of parish and chaplaincy roles in the north of England in the dioceses of Blackburn, York and Chester. For the past eight years she has served as vicar of St. Peter’s and St. Elizabeth’s.
She is one of eight clergy women from the Church of England elected as Participant Observers in the House of Bishops, as the representative from the dioceses of the north west.
Speaking at Stockport Town Hall, where she was announced as the new bishop of Stockport, Lane said: “I am grateful for, though somewhat daunted by, the confidence placed in me by the Diocese of Chester. This is unexpected and very exciting. On this historic day as the Church of England announces the first woman nominated to be bishop, I am very conscious of all those who have gone before me, women and men, who for decades have looked forward to this moment. But most of all I am thankful to God.
“The church faces wonderful opportunities, to proclaim afresh, in this generation, the good news of Jesus and to build His kingdom. The Church of England is called to serve all the people of this country, and being present in every community, we communicate our faith best when our lives build up the lives of others, especially the most vulnerable. I am excited by the possibilities and challenges ahead.”
Responding to news of the announcement, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, said: “It is with great joy that on January 26, 2015 – the feast of Timothy and Titus, companions of Paul – I will be in York Minster, presiding over the consecration of the Rev. Libby Lane as bishop suffragan of Stockport. Libby brings a wealth of experience in parish ministry, in hospital and FE chaplaincy, in vocations work and the nurture of ordinands. I am delighted that she will exercise her episcopal ministry with joy, prayerfulness, and trust in God.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “I am absolutely delighted that Libby has been appointed to succeed Bishop Robert Atwell as bishop of Stockport. Her Christ-centered life, calmness and clear determination to serve the church and the community make her a wonderful choice.
“She will be bishop in a diocese that has been outstanding in its development of people, and she will make a major contribution. She and her family will be in my prayers during the initial excitement, and the pressures of moving.”
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said the church gives thanks for Lane’s appointment. “We give thanks for her ministry and that of so many other women in the Church of England, and pray that others will soon be named as bishops in other sees,” Jefferts Schori said. “Would that all the people of God were able to see the image of God reflected in their ordained and lay leaders, and to see themselves reflected as well.”
Bishop of Chester Peter Forster said: “Libby has had a varied and distinguished ministry, and is currently a first-rate parish priest. She has already demonstrated her ability to contribute nationally through her representative role in the House of Bishops, on behalf of the northwest England dioceses.
“As the first woman bishop in the Church of England she will face many challenges as well as enjoying many opportunities to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that she has the gifts and determination to be an outstanding bishop.
“I am delighted at her designation as bishop of Stockport after a lengthy process of discernment across the Church of England and beyond.”
The nomination of Lane as the new bishop of Stockport was approved by the Queen and announced Dec. 17. Lane succeeds the Rt. Rev. Robert Atwell, who is now the bishop of Exeter.
Libby Lane has been the vicar of St Peter’s Hale and St Elizabeth’s Ashley, in the Diocese of Chester, since April 2007, and from January 2010 has also been Dean of Women in Ministry for the diocese. After school in Manchester and university at Oxford, she trained for ministry at Cranmer Hall in Durham. She was ordained a deacon in 1993 and a priest in 1994, serving her curacy in Blackburn, Lancashire.
Prior to moving to Hale, Lane was team vicar in the Stockport South West Team, and assistant diocesan director of ordinands in the Diocese of Chester, advising and supporting those considering a vocation to ministry in the church. She continues to be a bishop’s selection adviser.
Lane has served in the Diocese of York, as chaplain in hospital and further education, and as family life officer for the Committee for Social Responsibility in the Diocese of Chester.
She is one of eight clergy women from the Church of England elected as Participant Observers in the House of Bishops, as the representative from the dioceses of the north west.
Her husband, George, is also a priest; they were one of the first married couples in the Church of England to be ordained together. George is coordinating chaplain at Manchester Airport, licensed in the Diocese of Manchester. They have two grown up children in higher education.
Her interests include being a school governor, encouraging social action initiatives, learning to play the saxophone, supporting Manchester United, reading and doing cryptic crosswords.
An audio interview with the Rev. Libby Lane on today’s announcement is available as part of a Church of England podcast here.
A photostream from today’s announcement including photos of the Rev. Libby Lane are available here.
Porque o Reino de Deus não é comida nem bebida, mas justiça, e paz, e alegria no Espírito Santo. Romanos 14:17
Aos Bispos, ao Clero e ao Povo da Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil,
Saudações em Jesus Cristo!
A profecia do terceiro domingo de Advento nos apontou um modelo de sociedade no qual prevalece os valores da Justiça, da Paz e da Alegria. Nada mais contraditório do que lermos estas passagens e compararmos com a sociedade que enxergamos ao nosso redor. Nossa sociedade está cada dia mais materialista, consumista, imediatista. Tudo se converte em coisa, mercadoria. A linguagem da generosidade e da solidariedade tem sido substituída pela linguagem da violência. Parece criar a sensação de que não temos mais esperanças de vivenciar os valores da plena humanidade e da solidariedade entre povos, nações, religiões, gênero e classes sociais.Além disso, vivemos diariamente o drama de uma sociedade que se desumaniza a passos cada vez mais largos. Uma moderna Babel dividida entre os poderosos e os excluídos.
A Igreja é chamada a viver com firmeza a contracultura que nos é proposta pelo Menino Deus. É ele que vem destronar os poderosos e aqueles que regulam o mundo à luz de suas próprias cobiças. É ele que vem afirmar que os oprimidos é que sentarão à mesa de Deus e vivenciar a beleza e a alegria das bem-aventuranças! O projeto de Deus é de que vivamos a vida plena, abundante. É um menino que nasce na periferia do mundo que vem assegurar que, apesar da aparente impunidade e autoconfiança do modelo que nos circunda, é possível proclamar que a Justiça e a Paz prevalecerão. Esta é a razão de ser da Igreja: anunciar que uma nova sociedade é possível!
Assim como Ele próprio é sinal da generosidade de Deus para com o Mundo, devemos assumir com firmeza o sentimento de generosidade pelos nossos semelhantes. E generosidade (coisa que os poderosos deste mundo não entendem) não é comprar coisas. Generosidade é vivência de sentimentos singulares que não tem preço: é respeito à dignidade humana, é trabalhar por Justiça, Solidariedade e Paz. Por fim, possamos assumir com coragem e alegria o seguimento de Jesus.
Que o milagre da nova vida, manifestada no Menino de Belém, anime a nossa Igreja a assumir com coragem o testemunho da cultura de Paz, Solidariedade e Justiça. Não podemos nos acomodar às tentações de uma ordem que nos faz objetos, que deseja que a abençoemos – pois é assim que ela entende ser a religião – mas devemos assumir o custo de proclamar que em Jesus se fazem novas todas as coisas, inclusive as relações sociais.
Seja este Natal uma oportunidade para renovarmos nosso compromisso com a Paz, com a Solidariedade e com a Justiça!
Um bom e abençoado Natal a todos e todas! Com carinho e orações do vosso Primaz,
BISPO PRIMAZ DA IEAB
[Episcopal News Service] The latest in a slew of religious-themed films this year, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” starring Christian Bale as Moses, opened Dec. 12, but can it and others of its genre be considered Christian movies? And do they help – or hinder – the telling of the biblical story?
Some Episcopalians, like Faith Bryant of Highland, California, believe Hollywood’s creative license with movies like “Noah,” released in March and starring Russell Crowe as the ark-building patriarch, wreak havoc with beloved Bible stories.
But others say making connections matters. That, if the movies – loyal or not to biblical accounts – can lead to deeper engagement of faith or even steer the uninitiated in the church’s direction, all the better.
Lisa Brown, director of children’s ministry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, held a red carpet gala and other activities after “we had children coming out of the woodwork” when “The Fault in Our Stars” was filmed at the church.
The Rev. Alex Riffee, who is set to launch a “Movie Theology Ministry” in January at St. James Church in Louisa, Virginia, considers that even the raunchy television series “South Park” can invite deeper conversations about the faith.
Telling the story, or not
A long-time Episcopalian, Bryant said she eagerly anticipated viewing the epic movie about “Noah,” the beloved biblical story she learned as a child. It starred Crowe, who held a widely publicized meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby after the film’s premiere, to talk about faith and spirituality.
But Bryant didn’t find much faith or spirituality in the movie, and it didn’t receive particularly good reviews. She said it has inspired her own exodus – from Hollywood-style religious movies altogether.
“There were a lot of things in the movie that were false,” recalled Bryant, 55. “They portrayed Noah as somebody who was maybe a little crazy. They didn’t portray him as an upright, righteous person. It was disturbing. It was almost a bit sci-fi. A person who sees the movie first and then reads the Bible will say, ‘No, that’s not like the movie. Where’s all the stuff that was in the movie?’ ”
“Noah” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings” aren’t the only recent big screen attempts to re-tell biblical stories. Within the past few months, a spate of religious-themed Christian movies has included “Son of God” produced by former “Highway to Heaven” star Roma Downey and “Left Behind” starring Nicholas Cage, echoing the Rapture.
And now there’s a priest turned moviemaker (see related story), the Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, who is co-producing “Ports of Call,” an interfaith love story which is more about building bridges than incorporating religious themes.
Riffee says rejecting such movies outright without considering their potential to make connections between church and secular worlds is a missed opportunity.
And while he didn’t think “Noah” was a particularly good movie, “if nothing else it was meant to be entertaining, which is what Hollywood’s trying to do,” he said. “We have to remember they’re not trying to tell the story from a faith perspective at all.
“That means they change the story based on what people want to see and hear” but the popularity of such movies can “also be a conversation-starter for people to open up the Bible in the first place,” added Riffee, 28.
He hopes to use his “movie theology ministry” to engage families and children, because biblical themes are prevalent in all sorts of media, and whatever the movie, “if we believe with our lens that there is always a connection we can engage the entire world and find holiness in it.”
For example, he said, “Noah” could be considered through the lens of maintaining creation and even become an entrée to a discussion about global warming and environmental justice.
He believes it’s good that “they’re even trying to do the stories. Whether the church goes and sees it or attacks it, people are going to see it and we have no control over that. Some will see [“Exodus: Gods and Kings”] because they like Christian Bale. We can do something about it in responding to it happening, engaging it, dispelling some of the stuff we don’t think it’s really trying to say.”
Even television programs such as “South Park,” often considered “one of the worst shows on TV,” spark worthy conversation, Riffee said. “I wasn’t allowed to watch it, I had to go to a friend’s house to see it, but the idea was to express a point by showing extremes to the ridiculous.
“If you’re able to get past that, they actually have something deep and meaningful to say, and they also engage a lot of religious topics. There’s always a nugget you can take away, because they try to portray a central truth that everybody hopefully can agree upon.”
Missouri ‘film forum’ guides believers on journey of discovery
Jim Andris, 76, of St. Louis, Missouri, said the first time he saw the epic “The Ten Commandments” starring Charlton Heston, he believed the movie was gospel.
“Since then I’ve traveled a long path of spiritual investigation,” Andris told ENS. “I grew up on those grand Hollywood visions of the patriarchs in the Bible. At the time, I saw those movies as helping us. I uncritically saw them as doors into understanding the message of the Christian scriptures.”
Now, he views the movies, as well as the biblical stories themselves, as intending “to tell us something about the way we should live our lives. There’s some truth, if we dig for it; we each have our own interpretation.”
Besides, said the retired university professor who now attends Trinity Episcopal Church in East St. Louis, “there’s this fascination with holy battles, or with right-versus-wrong battles where you see hour after hour of the most incredible, unbelievable carnage … with louder sound, and unbelievable graphics. At one level, I think it’s all just baloney. I can be entertained, but that doesn’t get us closer to the truth.”
He added that “the actual truth of Jesus Christ is not very exciting. Jesus Christ gave a nonviolent example and Hollywood seems to be obsessed with violence.”
He credits a film forum series offered by another Trinity parishioner and long-time film critic Martha Baker with inviting deeper understanding of his own faith and theological themes in movie messages.
Baker, a KDHX-St. Louis Radio film critic, has reviewed movies since 1977 and “purposely steers clear of films like ‘Noah’” for discussion by the parish forum.
“I never have purposefully selected a film with what one might call a religious theme except maybe “The Way” with Martin Sheen,” the film about his character’s pilgrimage walking Spain’s El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, said Baker. “The other was a film about Hildegard of Bingen. Both were fabulous in and of themselves.”
But some movies, like Mel Gibson’s 2004 “The Passion of the Christ,” she believes, actually hurt the Christian message. “It was one of the worst movies ever made, generally, and then when you add the specifics of the Christian part of that tone, it does more damage than good. It was hurtful to the greater Christian message.”
Using ‘Fault’ to reach out to young people
Director of Children’s Ministry Lisa Brown maximized the opportunity for discussion and for outreach when the movie “The Fault in Our Stars” was filmed at her parish.
“He was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. He’s known for his Crash Course videos on YouTube, mostly history lessons, and kids watch. Anytime you have an opportunity for the church to be connected to something so culturally relevant, we have an opportunity to reach out to a lot of kids.”
Although some were disappointed in the film’s portrayal of church and clergy, the movie sent a powerful message in a time when many young people may view the church as irrelevant or ineffective, Brown said, because the young couple returned to the church at a crucial moment in the movie.
Her youth group “was giddy to have something so tremendously cool associated with their church,” she recalled.
The church staged a premiere of sorts the evening of the film’s release, with a red-carpet gala open to all young people, Brown said. “We worked with a local movie theater, we rented a red carpet, the congregation made appetizers and food. Some kids wore prom apparel, some T-shirts,” she said.
It was a wonderful experience, but Brown said that, while “you can look at any movie through a Christian lens or perspective, I’m always leery because I think sometimes there’s a lot of reinterpretation that is not necessarily reflective of the way I’d use the story as a Christian educator.
“There’s such a broad spectrum of even Christian beliefs … that I don’t want someone to make assumptions about what I believe based on what was portrayed in a movie. Anytime you take a story out of context, it can be problematic.”
– The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Canon Paul-Gordon Chandler hopes his upcoming film, “Ports of Call,” a “passionate interfaith love story,” will help foster understandings between East and West.
But he hesitates to consider it a religious-themed movie because “I’m somewhat of a skeptic looking at religious films, as in the Middle East and the culture I grew up in, you don’t really separate one from the other. It’s all interwoven, a single thread,” said Chandler, former rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Cairo, Egypt.
For example, he said, if the new movie “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is shown in the Middle East, “no one thinks that it’s a religious film. It’s simply a story related to the Middle East, whether it’s true or not.”
Chandler is the founder and curator of the Caravan interfaith arts exhibition, a nonprofit movement founded in Cairo that since March 2014 has been based in Chicago.
Washington National Cathedral and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York recently showcased the Caravan exhibition, “AMEN: A Prayer for the World.” Chandler co-curated the show with Egyptian artist Reda Abdel Rahman. It included a showing of 30 Egyptian artists with Muslim and Christian backgrounds and 18 Western artists with Jewish and Christian backgrounds.
Similarly, “Ports of Call,” expected to be released in the spring of 2016, aims to deepen understanding between faiths. It is based on the 1996 novel by Lebanese French author and Académie Française member Amin Maalouf and was nominated for a Nobel Prize for Literature.
The story of two ill-fated lovers who meet in Paris during World War II and who are ultimately torn apart by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war will be produced by Ron Senkowski (“Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet,” “Decoding Annie Parker”) and Samira Kawas through their Dubai/L.A.-based Symply Entertainment. Chandler, who initially obtained the rights from Maalouf, is a co-producer.
“It’s quite a story,” Chandler told ENS recently from Chicago. “In some ways, the film is a microcosm of the Middle East but it also links to the West and it addresses East-West issues … it’s got war, tragedy, love, conflict.”
“It involves the story of a Lebanese Muslim man of Turkish origin whose mother was Armenian Christian who falls in love during the French resistance in France while studying there, with a young Jewish woman,” so it involves all three Abrahamic faiths, Chandler said.
Being a film industry novice didn’t faze Chandler, who grew up in Senegal, the son of missionaries, and “always observed this tension, the divide that exists between the two faiths and cultures, especially between the cultures of the Middle East and the West.”
“My father was the pastor of the international church, with services in English and French, in Dakar, the capital city,” he recalled.
Drawn to The Episcopal Church while in college, he began to realize that the arts can “bridge creeds and cultures in the East and West” while serving as St. John’s rector in Cairo, he told ENS.
Danis Tanovic, who won the 2002 Foreign Language Oscar for “No Man’s Land,” as well as the Cannes 2001 screenplay prize for the film, is directing “Ports of Call.”
“The film is about impossible love,” said Senkowski, Symply Entertainment CEO, in an email to ENS about “Ports of Call.” “Love without boundaries. Can two people who are in love survive in a world that is filled with conflict and war dedicated toward destroying people who are of other faiths? Today’s world is filled with blindness toward others.
“Today it is neighborhood versus neighborhood, family against family, tribe against tribe. Lines on a map are dividing people as a result of arbitrary, or at least poorly conceived demarcations. These divisions are disrupting and in fact dominating generations of lives. Love thy neighbor is a notion that has been forgotten.”
The film hopes to “inspire people to look beyond faith as a defining characteristic upon which to base relationships,” he said.
Chandler said the film intends to encourage understanding and respect for one another and to help “overcome the all-too traditional prejudices toward the other” as well as addressing the critical issues of peace-building … “in some ways like an ‘English Patient,’ but with a deeper kind of purpose within it.”
–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) has presented its final report to the 78th General Convention and to the Church, and for inclusion in Reports to General Convention, commonly referred to as The Blue Book.
Also on Dec. 14, TREC also released A Word to the Episcopal Church about its final report.
TREC’s work was directed by Resolution C095, which was approved by the 77th General Convention in 2012, with the specific task of preparing recommendations to the 78th General Convention for reimaging and restructuring the church.
The Episcopal Church’s 78th General Convention, June 25-July 3 will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It is comprised of the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay representatives elected from the 109 dioceses of the Church, at more than 800 members.
[Episcopal Diocese of Western New York] Bishop R. William Franklin of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York and Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo are asking members of their respective churches to do what they can to insure that the new economic growth and opportunity in Western New York is shared among all people.
The joint pastoral letter, co-written by both bishops, was issued on the Third Sunday of Advent, Dec. 14. It is believed to be the first joint pastoral letter in the history of the two dioceses. [The complete text of the letter is here].
“A new generation of Western New Yorkers is envisioning new opportunities and making them a reality. With regard to education, medicine, technology and quality of life, this is the time for which we have all waited and prayed and worked. This wave of prosperity benefits not only the city, but the entire region,” they wrote. “Yet at this time not everyone is benefiting. Blacks and Hispanics still live in poverty in greater proportion than do other groups in our population. Children still go to bed hungry. Jobs and security elude too many families. And because some are left out and locked out, the rest of us are poorer. We fail to benefit as much as we might from this new golden age.”
In announcing the letter, Malone explained that their goal “is really to raise consciousness among our own parishioners, both in the Catholic and Episcopal dioceses. Perhaps in a humble way to suggest, here is a lens that the two bishops are providing to which we as Christians can look, both at the reasons for hope right now with the development happening in our area, but also to see the challenges and opportunities to make sure what is happening becomes inclusive of the broad spectrum of our people.”
“I think we’re saying this is a great moment of renewal for Buffalo and the region, but it’s also a moment of renewal of Christian values, of dignity and opening dignity to all people,” Franklin added. “We are speaking as bishops to our own people, but we’re also speaking to business and political leaders to say, ‘Let us not lose this opportunity to create a new city, which is beyond a new city of hotels and apartment buildings, but a new city of justice.’ We think it’s a fantastic opportunity for growth, not just economically, but spiritual growth for our region.”
“This is consistent with both our churches’ teachings for centuries,” Malone said. “It speaks to the relationship of the church with the modern world. We see it as a time for breaking down barriers and answering the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’”
“Too many barriers remain,” said Malone. “It is like there is a wedge in the community.”
In the City of Buffalo the poverty rate in 2013 increased to 31.4% overall according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even more shocking is the 50.6% poverty rate reported for children under the age of 18.
Overall poverty rates in some of the region’s more rural counties are also high — 19.1% in Chautauqua, 17.2 in Cattaraugus and 17.1% in Allegany.
“We are really talking about a wall that we sometimes forget,” said Franklin. “This moment of economic opportunity allows us an opportunity to address that wall and say that all can rise together. This is part of the message of the Gospel.
“Economic opportunity leads to human dignity. That’s a reality,” he said. “So it’s a spiritual value to open the workforce to a more diverse population. It’s good business, because it’s opening a perspective of people who may be left out of a boardroom or a workplace.”
The bishops acknowledge that many people are already reaching out to less fortunate people. But great needs remain — needs that must be addressed in our spiritual lives, community circles, the business sector and the civic arena. Franklin cited Terry Pegula and his wife Kim as two businesspeople who strive to make their workforce inclusive of women and minorities. The Pegulas own three sport franchises in Buffalo, the Buffalo Sabres, the Buffalo Bandits and the Buffalo Bills. They are also the developers of the new HarborCenter in Buffalo’s Waterfront district.
“Every single Christian, whether they are in a position of leadership or not, I think, is called upon to tend to the concerns we put out there, said Malone. “This is to support those who are already moving in that direction and also to stimulate the attention and commitment of others.”
The bishops envision this letter being a springboard for conversations in parishes.
“A letter like this one, I think, is an invitation to everybody who reads it and those who have written it, to an ongoing examination of our own consciousness around these issues,” Malone said.
“It’s probably never happened between our two dioceses, and probably rarely happened in any other parts of the United States, that an Episcopal bishop and a Roman Catholic bishop have issued a joint pastoral,” said Bishop Franklin. “That has an importance because when bishops issue a pastoral like this, we’re saying you really need to read this or make this available. It’s a solemn moment when two bishops speak like this. I think the fact that we feel comfortable to speak together is a sign of the kind of energy that we want our region to project. We’re trying to symbolize bringing our communities together to speak together, so that in other ways communities may be brought together.”
Sharing the same Gospel values and deep love and concern for their adopted home paved the way for the writing of the letter.
“It’s a chance to strengthen the human community that is the common factor. Generally, [our two dioceses are] the same territory with the same issues, the same challenges, and the same opportunities and hopes,” Malone explained. The Episcopal Diocese of Western New York includes New York State’s seven most western counties: Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo covers the same seven, plus the largely rural Allegany County.
The genesis of the letter began months ago. That it is issued now, when streets in many American cities are filled with protestors seeking racial equality and justice, is a coincidence.
Today’s protests take Franklin back to his childhood in segregated Mississippi in the 1950s. It was, he says, illegal for him to interact with half the population of his state. In the face of laws that forbade black and white citizens from sitting down together in public places, his grandmother organized meals in her home that brought individuals of both races together.
“As a boy I saw black and white holding hands together at my grandmother’s dining room table, so in a way I am following the inspiration I already saw in the 1950s of holding out our hands to one another.
“We’ve come a long way in our region and in our churches,” Franklin added, “and yet [Bishop Malone and I] are saying the job is not over.”
[Seminary of the Southwest press release] Academic Dean Scott Bader-Saye has announced the appointment of Alison O’Reilly Poage to serve as interim director of the Booher Library at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. Poage’s presence “will strengthen our current library staff, provide fresh eyes in a time of transition, and allow the search committee to continue its work with confidence that the library is fully staffed and in good hands,” according to a seminary press release.
Poage served most recently as director of the Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library in Cutchogue, New York. She has lived in Austin before, having worked for the Austin Public Library system from 2007-2010. She received her Masters of Library Science from City University of New York in 2001.
“She brings great experience, enthusiasm, and vision to this position, and I am sure she will assist us well in her time here,” said Bader-Saye.
Poage will begin her work at Southwest on Jan. 5, 2015.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] In the next four months – January 1 to April 30 – The Episcopal Church will witness the consecration of one bishop, the elections of three bishops, and the consent process of one bishop.
One consecration of a bishop is slated for January to April.
February 28: Diocese of West Texas, Bishop Suffragan David M. Reed, elected on October 25, pending successful approval of consents, will be recognized as Bishop Coadjutor
During January – April, three bishop elections are scheduled:
January 31: Diocese of Southeast Florida
February 21: Diocese of Central Gulf Coast
March 21: Diocese of Central Pennsylvania
Canonical Consent Process
Currently there is one canonical consent processes underway for January to April. The deadline is:
March 18 – Bishop David M. Reed, elected Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of West Texas on October 25
The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org
Diocese of Central Gulf Coast www.diocgc.org
Diocese of Central Pennsylvania www.diocesecpa.org
Diocese of Southeast Florida www.diosef.org/
Diocese of West Texas http://www.dwtx.org/
Los problemas en México y en especial su presidente Enrique Peña Nieto se agravan sin que se vislumbre una solución en un futuro cercano. Las manifestaciones de protesta por todo el país siguen en aumento y la prensa no cesa de hablar de los problemas de Ayotzinapa y la nueva y lujosa Casa Blanca que ocupa la pareja presidencial. Televisa el gigante de las comunicaciones en México y Estados Unidos parece alejarse del presidente y porque “no deja de criticar su actuación”. Por otra parte, han aparecido restos de un jovencito que según los expertos en ADN corresponden a uno de los 43 estudiantes desaparecidos.
La violencia policial se ha incrementado en Estados Unidos como consecuencia de la muerte de dos ciudadanos afro-americanos a manos de la policía. Por lo menos diecisiete ciudades del país han visto las manifestaciones de la comunidad afro-americana exigiendo justicia y mejor protección de los cuerpos armados. En casi todas las ciudades la proporción entre policías blancos y negros es grande y activistas de la causa racial dicen que eso da lugar a los abusos y excesos de poder de la policía.
Según un informe divulgado por la Organización Mundial de la Salud, cada año en América Latina y el Caribe un total aproximado de cuatro millones de mujeres recurren al aborto por diferentes motivos. De ese total 1,4 millones corresponden a Brasil. El informe añade que una de cada 400 mujeres muere a causa de prácticas ilegales, muchos abortos “ponen en riesgo su salud reproductiva e imponen una severa presión a los sistemas de salud y hospitales ya sobrecargados”. El aborto inducido se encuentra penado en casi todos los países con excepción de Cuba y algunos países del Caribe. Existe además un alto nivel de abortos clandestinos que aumenta paulatinamente cada año. Países como México y Colombia han reducido el número de abortos mediante el uso de anticonceptivos.
A fines de noviembre más de 570 maestros, directores y administradores de escuelas, además de obispos y capellanes se reunieron en Los Ángeles para intercambiar ideas sobre la misión y ministerio de las escuelas y colegios episcopales. La ocasión dio lugar a la celebración del 50 aniversario de la Asociación de Escuelas Episcopales, la organización que reúne a la gran mayoría de las 1,000 instituciones educativas relacionadas con la Iglesia Episcopal. Entre esas instituciones existen cuatro antiguas universidades fuera de Estados Unidos: Cuttington University en Liberia, África; Rikkio University en Japón; St. John´s University en Shanghai, China y Trinity University en Filipinas. “Nuestra misión debe ser formar hombres y mujeres que trabajen en la creación de un mundo mejor, más humano y más cristiano”, dijo un grupo de trabajo.
El arzobispo de Cantórbery Justin Welby y el papa Francisco acaban de participar de un grupo de líderes de las principales religiones del mundo con el fin de terminar para 2020 todas las formas de esclavitud humana existentes en el mundo de hoy. Un informe dijo que la esclavitud moderna se manifiesta principalmente en el tráfico humano, el trabajo forzado y la prostitución. Una declaración conjunta al final de la reunión dice en parte que “todos los seres humanos tienen la misma libertad y dignidad”. En la reunión participaron cristianos, hindúes, budistas, judíos y musulmanes entre otros.
En una audiencia con la Comisión Teológica Internacional el papa Francisco dijo “los teólogos deben escuchar más al pueblo de Dios y auscultar, discernir e interpretar con la ayuda del Espíritu Santo” las necesidades del pueblo. Añadió que de esta manera la verdad revelada podrá ser percibida y entendida en forma más adecuada. El papa mostró su agrado porque en la comisión ha aumentado la presencia de mujeres que pueden con su inteligencia y experiencia interpretar mejor las necesidades de esa gran parte del pueblo de Dios.
El presidente de Estados Unidos Barack Obama anunció recientemente que es necesario imponer sanciones punitivas al gobierno de Venezuela por la constante violación de los derechos humanos en esa nación suramericana.
El plan de la Unión Democristiana de Ángela Merkel ha esbozado en un proyecto de ley en un congreso celebrado en Colonia que “todo aquel que piensa vivir indefinidamente en el país debe aprender a hablar alemán, tanto en los espacios públicos como en su casa”. Pese a las innumerables críticas al plan, aliados de la Merkel dicen que la idea prosperará por el voto de la mayoría. Un periódico dijo en su editorial en tono de guasa que si eso se hace “tendremos que colocar cámaras en las casas de nuestros inmigrantes”.
VERDAD. Libertad es el derecho que tiene todo ser humano de pensar y hablar sin hipocresías. José Martí (patriota cubano, 1852-1895)
[Episcopal News Service] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania has announced a slate of three nominees to stand for election as the 11th bishop of the diocese.
The nominees were presented to the Standing Committee by the Bishop Search Committee on Dec. 1.
The three are:
The announcement of the slate opens a nomination-by-petition process for possible additional nominees that begins Dec. 11 and closes Dec. 18. Information about that process is here.
The next bishop will be elected March 14 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg. Pending the subsequent required consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of The Episcopal Church, the bishop-elect will be ordained and consecrated on Sept. 12, 2015 at the Hilton Hotel in Harrisburg.
The bishop-elect will succeed the Rt. Rev. Nathan Baxter, who retired in May. Since that time, retired Diocese of Western Michigan Bishop Robert Gepert has been serving as the diocese’s bishop provisional.
[Episcopal News Service – Charleston, South Carolina] Former Southern Malawi Bishop James Tengatenga, who chairs the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), says the Anglican Communion is still in the middle of painful struggles, but those struggles have made its members “think about who we are, what we are about, and not only think about it but actually talk about it and engage with it.”
“So, one hopes then that we are more intelligent about our faith and our being,” Tengatenga said during a recent interview with Episcopal News Service.
Tengatenga also spoke during the interview about the structure and importance of the ACC (the Communion’s main policy-making body), the possibility of an Anglican Congress and the influences on his religious life.
ENS spoke with Tengatenga during his visit to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina’s 224th annual convention. He was the preacher for the convention’s opening Eucharist.
Tengatenga was appointed in May as distinguished visiting professor of global Anglicanism at the University of the South’s School of Theology in Sewanee, Tennessee.[There is a video that cannot be displayed in this feed. Visit the blog entry to see the video.]
An edited transcript of the rest of the ENS interview follows.
As chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, what do you identify as the mission priorities for the Anglican Communion at this time?
The first one is just being present with people in their circumstances – given all the pain, hatred and war, and the natural calamities that have befallen the world at the moment –either simply by prayer or by coordinating relief work; being the presence of Christ in the world in that way.
Secondly, and it is strange to put it second because it undergirds everything, the actual proclamation of the Gospel in word by evangelizing; continuously standing for the Gospel for the people of God and also bringing people to Christ because that’s our job individually and as Communion.
And, obviously, reconciliation in the glaring, controversial decade we have been through and also simply reconciling with our own humanity [which] I hope also then becomes a witness [to] the world, with creation, with wealth disparity, ideological disparity. We’re talking about a globalization which should resonate with catholicity but it doesn’t. The current globalization is hegemonic of a particular ideological kind. So the mission now of the church, I believe, is reconciling that and turning people back to God, to being reconciled with themselves, reconciled with nature, reconciled with the economic order.
How have you enjoyed this role since you took the helm of the ACC in 2009? I imagine there have been both moments of joy and frustration.
The church of God lives on in spite of our squabbles and misunderstandings and divisions. So the joy of being able to see the church catholic alive at work in the midst of all the confusion is priceless. And also I’ve now had two different archbishops [of Canterbury] with two different styles, each one so committed to lead the church and the people of God in the direction that will truly proclaim the Gospel … and continuing to build on that which we have received through Christ and through his church.
Of course, the pain is the continued declaration of cessation of relationships. I hear it – it hurts to hear that – and [I hear the] blames left, right and center about what causes that and where it’s going to be. I’ve yet to see the physicality of that because the theological reality of the body of Christ remains, albeit strained, but it is watching that strain that is painful and stressful because it eats on you when you see brother turning against brother and sister turning against sister, and beginning to demonize each other and forgetting the truth that we are saints.
Do you believe the Anglican Communion is in a healthier place than it was a decade ago?
Yes, because sometimes people confuse painlessness and health. I mean, I used to run once upon a time when I was young, and running in Texas heat in midday doing 10 kilometers just for the fun of it hurt, but it was fun and it was healthy. I think that’s where we are. We are in the middle of painful struggles, like I said, but it has made us think about who we are, what we are about, and not only think about it but actually talk about it and engage with it. So, one hopes then that we are more intelligent about our faith and our being.
Communion for those of us who have always been Anglican is something we’ve always taken for granted and that’s why it’s been difficult to define what holds us together. Paper doesn’t, law doesn’t, even sacraments don’t. It’s something beyond words that holds us together and that is Christ himself and his very spirit. So struggling to articulate that, which I hear all over the place, is for me a healthy sign.
And even for those who have chosen to leave, guess what they’re called? Anglican this, Anglican that. We are struggling to actually articulate what it is that we hold so dearly and can’t let go. So if I really don’t want this, I would quit and when I quit I wouldn’t want to be identified with it in any way, shape or form. So, why do you quit and want to continue to be identified with something?
It means there is something significant about the nature of the church and the struggle to find ourselves and our soul and where God is moving us to. If that is painful, I would want to think that it is painful in the kind of exercise pain [way] where you feel that healthiness of coming out of that struggle of self-identification and self-understanding in God. Whether someone will come and fully take [the] temperature and say ‘this is healthy,’ I always believe that’s God’s business, not human business. We can see signs, we can do something about them but it’s God’s business to actually declare the health of God’s people.
With centuries-old church structures being challenged and facing reform, do you think the Anglican Consultative Council, in its current make up, is the right model for the work it and the Communion have to do in the 21st century?
Currently, I would want to say yes and I don’t think it can be anything else from what it is now, in the sense of … we have a model. Now that we have that model, how do we perfect it and make it do what we intend for it to do in order to organize ourselves?
We can’t call ourselves ‘Communion’ and not have a physical reality of experiencing that. The only place we experience that – and I want to emphasize that – the only place currently where we experience that is the ACC. There is never any time when the Communion comes together in a visible form, physical representatives of each and every province, and each and every order, in the way that we organize ourselves [other than the ACC]. The question is how do we make it work better. How do we make it be that body that we have intended it to be?
I think for a long time the Communion in its life has lived as though [the ACC] didn’t exist. Not that it didn’t exist, but we lived as though it didn’t; it didn’t matter. I think that is why I am saying the church is in a healthier place now because it is actually looking at itself and the systems that it set in place to be able to fully minister and to fully reflect its catholicity and to fully reflect the Gospel in a way that is respectful of the uniqueness of each member individually, the uniqueness of each member in orders, uniqueness of each province – each church – because we are a communion of churches. It is this that facilitates that uniqueness and yet that unity at the same time.
Certainly, I am not saying that it is perfect, not only because I think perfection is for the future and is that which we work at every day, but because I think it’s a living organism. And was there ever a time when the church was continuously the same? No. From Jesus’ time we’ve been in transformation . . . morphing into what we have become.
I’m not sure we can do much better than where we are now. It would take a few decades to get anywhere because we work in triennials and sometimes in other places biennials in the different provinces. So, even if we were to say overnight we want to change this, it would take a minimum of six years even to define what it is that we want before we can begin to ask [if] we have defined it, now do we accept it. Then another six years before we can accept it.
A group of bishops from around the Anglican Communion recently met in New York and their communiqué asked whether it was time for another Anglican Congress. What is your reaction to that idea?
It’s always been time for another congress. The first one was in 1908 and as a Communion we intended not only to have another one, we intended to celebrate a century of that with the Lambeth [Conference] 2008, but the finances were wanting in that process. It failed us.
I was part of the planning of the last Lambeth Conference and our initial charge was to plan a congress – a gathering – alongside Lambeth Conference, which was almost an exact mirror of 1908.
Then, of course the next [Anglican Congress after the 1908 gathering] happened in ’54 in Minneapolis and the last one in Toronto [in 1963] and the idea was, that given the Toronto timing which was five years before the next Lambeth Conference, to be a possible pattern in which we could do congresses every five years.
Interestingly enough, I was dealing with this in my class earlier this week and talking about jamborees. I know there is a cynical view of jamboree but if you ask anyone who has been to a jamboree, given that the language that comes from the Boy Scout movement, which incidentally began in 1908, it has transformed their outlook not only of the Scouting movement but of their own personal being. That is what this is about.
[Anglican Congresses] are seminal in the sense that we think afresh, unencumbered admin[istration]. Admin is important and I don’t think, like some people have been saying, simply maybe we should replace the Lambeth Conference and just have congress instead. I think that’s a fallacy, really. You can’t do that; you will create another Lambeth-type thing because you can’t have an organization and not have leaders meeting and doing admin. [But there isn’t time there in those type of meetings] to get down to the roots of what we believe and what we may be looking at in a seminal way that congresses have done.
[Congresses] have marked our life . . . 1963 made us reflect on what does it mean to engage in mission in a multinational, multicultural body and in an unequal society where some have and some don’t. And is it true that some have and some don’t? Or is it the question that some have something else and others have something else, and together we are therefore mutually responsible to one another and mutually interdependent? [The 1963 Anglican Congress] gave us the language of mutual responsibility and mutual interdependence …
We became attentive and attuned to the fact that we are partnered with one another, but had never quite defined what that was, and how long it can be and what form it takes, and the givers and takers, and so forth. And we [had] never figured out what it was to be in mission so those that were involved in mission simply went to places to do what they thought was important to them. We can almost say that what we are working through is what we said in ‘Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence.’ And mutuality continues to be questioned; responsibility to one another [continues to be questioned].
So these [congresses] are seminal to the way we look at ourselves and engage in God’s work. I don’t think there will ever be a time when we don’t need one. I think the question is can we be responsible enough as Communion to figure out to organize one, foot the bill and make it work, and not turn it into showmanship.
You were at the center of a controversy last year when your appointment at Dartmouth College was withdrawn over comments you had made about homosexuality. What did you learn from that experience or are you still learning from it?
I don’t think there will be a time that I exhaust the learning from that experience; it’s fraught with all kinds of things. It was a painful experience.
Basically you find that people are still suspicious of the ‘different,’ whatever the different is, and, on the basis of that, make judgment calls that don’t hold substance, but unfortunately if you are so inclined as to believe yourself rather than the truth that’s facing you then you end up doing stuff.
And also learning to appreciate the love of God’s people because the response I got in my support after that experience, I cannot even begin to tell.
And also then obviously learning to be in the wilderness because at that point then, what next?
And then Sewanee came next. What is your focus at Sewanee?
Teaching mission studies – missiology – and teaching it, looking at it from my perspective, from the world I live in as a recipient – a product of – mission, and an agent of mission … It’s basically like, well, here’s time to share my story with Jesus and his work and what it has been, but in an academic sense and shaping people for ministry. And also talking about global Anglicanism.
It is a privilege, really, to be able to share my lived experience of the catholicity of the church and the way the councils of the church work. All of us imagine we know, but what we know is only what we have experienced or heard within the context of the controversy today, but to think that the Communion is bigger than that and is older than that. We may not have articulated it the same way, but we have seen it unfold before our eyes from way back when.
[I also ask about] how is that Anglicanism today an expression of God in the world, in the participation in God in the world, an expression of but one experience of the people of God in his catholic church. Being able to talk about that and also discovering with the students the humility of an Anglican stance, which is, from day one, Anglicanism never considered itself to be the full and sum total of the church catholic. It has always seen itself as but one expression of the church catholic and making us so disposed, therefore, towards the unity of the people of God and working towards it.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.