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Modern theological education mustn’t lose sight of final goal, warns Canada primate

13 min 5 sec ago

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has said that as Anglican educators, bishops and clergy debate how theological education should be adapted to meet the needs of the 21st century church, they should not lose sight of the fact that the final goal is to produce ministers with a “Christ-like character.”

Full article.

Episcopal dioceses to test variety of approaches to racial reconciliation with grant money

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 3:07pm

[Episcopal News Service] A “peace camp” for children in New Mexico, translated into a new program for adults.

American cultural assimilation classes for women who recently arrived in Dallas as refugees.

Ecumenical outreach in the black community by a half dozen predominantly white churches in east Texas, where hate groups have been reported in alarming numbers.

The Episcopal Church’s Province VII is pursuing racial reconciliation ideas as varied as the province’s 12 dioceses, and these efforts are getting an added boost this year through an initiative by the province called Building Bridges: Reaching Across the Lines. The province’s Anti-Racism Network lined up seven projects this spring and summer, and the Episcopal Church announced this month that Building Bridges was awarded one of its 2017 Constable Grants.

Ayesha Mutope-Johnson

“Sometimes people live just across the street, across the train track, across the way by just a couple miles, and culturally they don’t see each other,” said Ayesha Mutope-Johnson, who leads the Province VII Anti-Racism Network.

Building Bridges, then, is a metaphor for crossing those racial and cultural divides, she said, noting racial reconciliation is a priority identified by the Episcopal Church at General Convention and emphasized by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

Racial reconciliation is a theme found in several of the seven initiatives that received $380,000 in Constable grants this year. Episcopal Migration Ministries was awarded $60,000 to train Episcopalians to be “agents of reconciliation” for refugees in their communities. Province IX will receive $40,000 to develop a Spanish-language youth event. The grants are named after Mary Louise Constable, who left money after her death in 1951 to pay for religious education programs not already included in the church’s budget.

Building Bridges will receive just under $30,000 to support programs from Louisiana to New Mexico and Texas to Kansas. Mutope-Johnson has recruited 24 people from across the 12 dioceses to take the lead locally as part of the Anti-Racism Network.

“Network members have identified myriad program needs in our area, where issues of race, privilege and reconciliation have been neglected for a very long time,” Province VII said in its grant application. “It is the goal of the Network to take aggressive steps to begin the process of reconciliation.”
Some of the money will be used to expand existing efforts, while other projects are new and will be launched this spring or summer:

Kansas City, Diocese of West Missouri: St. Augustine’s is one of the only historically black Episcopal churches in the region, but with gentrification changing the demographics of its community, the church is working with the Anti-Racism Network to hold welcoming events that will draw people of all races.

Kansas City, Diocese of West Missouri: St. Andrew’s has participated for many years in a local MissionPalooza youth outreach program. This year the predominantly white congregation will invite youths from a local African Methodist-Episcopal church to take part with them.

New Mexico, Diocese of the Rio Grande: The diocese will receive money to bring back a multicultural interfaith camp offered in July in Roswell. The peace-focused camp also will be adapted for adults in a separate retreat in Taos, likely with an emphasis on storytelling exercises.

Dallas, Diocese of Dallas:  The diocese will build on the work of Gateway of Grace, an organization formed by a former Iranian refugee.  Grant money will support efforts to teach cultural assimilation, English and other skills to refugee women who are new to this country.

Diocese of Texas: The Anti-Racism Network is coordinating with six predominantly white congregations in east Texas, a region where the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported activity by the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups. With the province’s support, the congregations plan to hold community events that will bring people of all races together.

Diocese of Western Louisiana: Province VII is working with Episcopal leaders in Louisiana to schedule three anti-racism training sessions this year to accommodate 150 lay and clergy leaders in the diocese. Such efforts mirror the racial reconciliation work in other dioceses around the country.

“Many of our dioceses and quite a few of our provinces are in various stages of getting this done, and some have not even started,” Mutope-Johnson said.

Some of the plans underway this year in Province VII are ambitious, she said, but since they mostly rely on volunteers, none of the money from the Constable grant will be spent on personnel.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Anglican women to make case for economic empowerment at meeting of United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 1:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Women from more than 20 countries around the Anglican Communion will be at the United Nations in New York next month to press for greater economic empowerment for women across the globe.

Delegations from the Anglican Communion and the Mothers’ Union will be attending the 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. There will also be 20 delegates from the U.S.-based Episcopal Church.

Full article.

Archbishop of Canterbury in Kenya on last leg of African whistlestop tour

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 1:31pm

[Anglican Communion News Service]  The Archbishop of Canterbury has spent the day in Kenya as he concludes his visit to a number of countries in the region. He met the Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya,  Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, who was elected last year as well as provincial staff. He also met the chair of CAPA (the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa), Archbishop Albert Chama; themes under discussion included the drought situation in Kenya, strife in South Sudan and radicalisation of youths in the region. Welby then visited the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi where he was briefed on preparations for centenary celebrations later this year. The archbishop and Caroline Welby then spent time with the primate at his official residence.

Full article.

Priest in America’s ‘murder capital’ brings public-health approach to gun violence prevention

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 1:58pm

The Rev. Marc Smith, at an Easter service in 2016, was vicar at Church of the Ascension in St. Louis before being named the Diocese of Missouri’s deputy for gun violence prevention. Photo: Church of the Ascension.

[Episcopal News Service] St. Louis has been called America’s “murder capital” after a recent spike in gun violence that resulted in more killings per capita than any other major U.S. city.

Chicago recorded the most total homicides in 2016 at 762, but for a smaller city like St. Louis, its 188 killings last year are part of an alarming local trend that has prompted a renewed focus – including by the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri – on the causes and possible solutions of such violence.

“One death is too many,” the Rev. Marc Smith said, but developing a plan of response to 188 deaths defies easy answers. “Looking for the elegant, simple solution is wrong,” he said. “It is an incredibly complex problem.”

Smith is the Diocese of Missouri’s point person in the search for answers. Last year, he was named by Bishop Wayne Smith to the newly created position of deputy for gun violence prevention, and this year, the diocese and community are beginning to see some of the early fruits of his efforts.

One of his tasks is to help 36 community organizations coordinate more effectively on the issue of gun violence, but he’s also trying to mobilize Episcopalians at the parish level to work toward an initial tangible goal: buying gun locks for gun owners.

Accidental shootings and suicides often are overlooked in the debate over gun violence, Smith said, but this danger is “probably the easiest to solve.” He sent a letter to clergy in the diocese earlier in February outlining the diocese’s new partnership with Washington University’s School of Medicine and a group called Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice to support the group’s Lock It for Love initiative.

Barbara Finch of Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice demonstrates a gun lock at a Lock It for Love booth in October. Photo: Women’s Voices Raised

Lock It for Love aims to reduce the frequency of suicides and accidental shootings by children by distributing gun locks for free. Since April 2015, Women’s Voices Raised has given out about 1,500 gun locks to families, mostly at health fairs and similar events, president Lise Bernstein said.

“Sometimes the issue of gun violence can just seem overwhelming and frustrating and depressing,” Bernstein said. The focus on gun locks was a way to rally the community around a hands-on solution to one slice of the larger problem.

“We are very much interested in engaging as many people in the community as possible in addressing this issue of kids and keeping kids safe,” Bernstein said, “so the interest of the diocese is very welcome.”

Bernstein and Smith also share the belief that gun violence should be tackled as a public health issue, an approach that draws on Smith’s experience as a health care administrator, including more than a decade as president of the Missouri Hospital Association.

Smith, who grew up in the St. Louis area, left the health care industry to become an Episcopal priest and was assigned in 2011 to his first congregation, the Church of the Ascension on St. Louis’ north side. About six months into the job, he remembers attending the wake and funeral of a woman who was killed in a drive-by shooting. It was a somber scene he would witness again and again in the city.

“The sense of desperation and hopelessness and powerlessness is crippling,” he said.

The opportunity to tackle the issue directly for the diocese grew out of ongoing conversations he was having with Bishop Smith about gun violence and public health solutions. The bishop asked last year if Smith would work toward those solutions in a new role with the diocese, and Smith agreed to take it on.

“Preventing gun violence is a critical issue in the communities of Eastern Missouri, especially St. Louis City and County,” Bishop Smith said in a written statement to the Episcopal News Service. “I am glad that parishes in our diocese can find a focus for mission in this work, and Marc Smith, with his passion and experience, is well-suited to provide leadership for it.”

National concerns, local solutions

Much of the national attention has been focused on Chicago’s dramatic surge in homicides, which even prompted President Donald Trump to suggest he would send in federal authorities if the trend isn’t reversed.

But while Chicago may have outpaced the United States’ other largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Houston, smaller cities like St. Louis, Detroit and New Orleans have suffered from much higher rates of homicide per capita. St. Louis recorded nearly 60 homicides per 100,000 people last year.

The national murder rate, despite remaining under the elevated level seen in the 1990s, also has risen over the past two years, and the possible causes, from gang activity to policing policies, are hotly debated.

At the local level, gun violence prevention often emphasizes the practical. In St. Louis, for example, Smith said there is a group of black clergy known as “homicide ministers” who reach out to victims’ families, attend funerals and provide assistance as it is needed. The Episcopal diocese is developing a plan to partner with the ministers.

Smith also is looking for additional, simple ways for Episcopalians to get involved.

“So many people have expressed a desire to help, and yet most people are not inclined or well equipped to be homicide ministers,” he said.

He has asked each congregation to identify one parishioner to serve as a liaison to the diocese as it coordinates efforts. Each congregation can support Lock It for Love in its own way, such as by holding fundraisers for the money to buy the gun locks or by sending volunteers to help promote the campaign at health fairs.

Smith hopes this initial project will inspire Episcopalians in the St. Louis area to get active on the issue of gun violence and eventually help expand the diocese’s outreach in ways that will address some of the underlying causes.

“Regardless of the debate over gun safety and constraints on guns, young people are still going to kill young people,” he said. “And toward that end, I want our limited resources to try to minimize that from happening, to help families pick up the pieces and not get caught in a cycle of retaliation.”

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

Archbishop of Canterbury kicks off African tour

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 11:37am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishop of Canterbury has been visiting Burundi and Rwanda over the weekend as part of a week-long visit to Africa. His first stop was Burundi, to pray with the new primate. Archbishop Justin Welby and his wife were greeted on their arrival at Bujumbura International Airport by all the bishops of the province and the permanent secretary of foreign affairs.

Full article.

London churches plant trees to make neighborhoods more ‘bee friendly’

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 11:33am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A tree-planting program for London’s churches supported by the mayor of London is aiming to make neighborhoods greener and more attractive for bees. The tree plantings will also offer an opportunity for churches to organize events and ceremonies that involve members of other faiths in their parishes to celebrate and help to enhance the environments that people of all faiths and no faith share. The project is supported by the diocesan bishops.

Full article.

National Cathedral continues to debate the Lee, Jackson windows

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 11:28am

Stained glass fabricator Dieter Goldkuhle, who worked with his late father to install many of the stained glass windows at Washington National Cathedral, replaces an image of the Confederate battle flag after cathedral leaders decided in 2016 that the symbol of racial supremacy had no place inside the cathedral. The long-term fate of the windows honoring Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson remains under debate. Photo: Danielle E. Thomas/Washington National Cathedral

[Episcopal News Service] When sunlight shines through the Washington National Cathedral’s stained glass windows, colors disperse. Hues take flight from the visual stories that normally confine them to a framed, defined space. Illuminated, the freed colors alight on cathedral walls as patches of blue, shades of pink and splotches of purple, transformed from visual narratives into an ephemeral pastel version of a Rorschach test.

The aftermath of a hate crime brought two particular stained glass windows at the cathedral into sharp relief. On the evening of June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof shot 12 people, killing nine of them, during a Bible study at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The racially motivated violence prompted many institutions to take down Confederate flags. At Washington National Cathedral, then-Dean Gary Hall called for the removal of two windows – one commemorating Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the other memorializing Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Both are inlaid with a small Confederate flag, offering a clear acknowledgment of the Civil War-era South for which the generals fought.

Roof “surrounded himself in these Confederate symbols,” said Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, canon theologian at the cathedral and professor of religion at Goucher College. Acknowledging the modern-day violence associated with the symbols, the cathedral’s chapter (its governing body) formed a task force to recommend a way forward, rather than simply removing the windows.


A stained glass window dedicated to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee window was originally donated to Washington National Cathedral by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1953. Photo: Washington National Cathedral

In a report last June, the task force proposed leaving the windows in place for the time being: “The windows provide a catalyst for honest discussions about race and the legacy of slavery and for addressing the uncomfortable and too-often avoided issues of race in America. Moreover, the windows serve as a profound witness to the cathedral’s own complex history in relationship to race.” The report further urged the chapter to resolve the matter by June 2018.

Report in hand, the chapter decided that while the windows should stay, the inlaid Confederate flags could not, and swiftly replaced them with clear two clear glass panels, one blue and one red.  “The [Confederate] battle flag is a problematic, racist image that has no place in the cathedral,” said Washington National Cathedral Chief Communications Officer Kevin Eckstrom. Brown Douglas, who sat on the task force, agrees. “Whatever the Confederate flag meant historically, it has come to symbolize white supremacy,” a stance in conflict with “Christian values,” she said. Flags aside, Lee and Jackson “fought for the Confederacy, and in so doing, they were fighting to uphold the institution of slavery,” Brown Douglas added.

Cathedral leaders haven’t always believed that the Confederate legacy clashes with Episcopal principles. The cathedral accepted an offer from the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) to fund a memorial of Robert E. Lee, an Episcopalian, in 1931. UDC’s top goal is “to honor the memory of those who served and those who fell in the service of the Confederate states.” Twenty-two years would pass before the project came to fruition in the form of the stained glass windows. Cathedral archives included in the task force report show a friendly, supportive repartee between cathedral and UDC representatives. On paper, at least, no one seems to have questioned including the Confederate battle flag.

A stained glass window honoring Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in the nave of Washington National Cathedral features scenes from Jackson’s life and his death in battle. Photo courtesy Washington National Cathedral.

“It’s taken us a while to get here,” said Heidi Kim, the Episcopal Church’s staff officer for racial reconciliation. While Washington National Cathedral’s foundation was laid in 1907, decades after the abolition of slavery, Kim pointed out that slaves built many Episcopal churches. Many Episcopalians owned slaves and others, northerners among them, profited by trading slaves, a story told in personal terms in the documentary, “Traces of the Trade.”

“The degree to which almost anyone in the nation who had any economic privilege benefited from slavery, in the North and the South” was considerable, said Rev. Dr. Robert W. Prichard, a professor of church history at Virginia Theological Seminary and author of “A History of the Episcopal Church.”

In 2008 the Episcopal Church apologized for its role in slavery. The apology followed a resolution passed at the General Convention in 2006 urging the church “…to address systemic racial disparities and injustice in the church and the wider culture” deepened that sensibility. Opinion on what this means and how far it should go varies among Episcopalians.

Many think the windows should stay at the cathedral as a reminder of the Episcopal Church’s past. “There’s something about taking away those windows that seems a bit of a denial of where we’ve been,” said Danielle A. Gaherty, a member and lay leader at Trinity Lime Rock in Lakeville, Connecticut.

“I don’t think they should leave the building, especially at this time when there’s so much controversy in the world over race relations,” she said. “It just seems that it’s more important now than ever to remember.”

Retired parish priest William Thomas Martin of Williamsburg, Virginia, agreed. “By getting rid of the windows we [would] throw away the memory, and if we throw away the memory, we’re going to repeat [our mistakes]. The Confederate flag is a symbol of our original sin, I think. It reminds us of our own fallibility and our need for God’s grace.”

Doug Desper, an Episcopalian in Waynesboro, Virginia, thinks the Lee-Jackson windows should leave Washington National Cathedral. Like Gaherty, Martin and Riley Temple, he felt compelled to comment on a Religious News Service article about the windows posted on the ENS website in October. “I don’t think that battle flags of any sort belong” in a house of worship, he says. More importantly, he doesn’t like “the criminal South versus the virtuous North” feeling he gets from the discussion. That trope, he contends, ignores the complexities of mid-19th century American life. He advocates a reconciliation window to replace the Lee-Jackson windows, but “I don’t think we need to keep apologizing. I think what we need to do now is to look at how far we’ve come from where our ancestors were.”

As for a continued “we’re sorry” mantra, Brown Douglas agreed that’s not the answer. “Apologies are cheap grace,” she said. “The church should be talking about repentance. You have to name the sin, then turn around and go in a different direction.”

The point that Lee and Jackson were as complex as any men, the nuances of their life stories larger than stained glass windows, Rev. Delman Coates, senior pastor at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland, said that acknowledgment isn’t enough to put him at ease about the windows, even if their context is explained. “For me as an African-American, those are symbols of a very painful, horrific past,” said Coates, who participated in the cathedral’s panel discussion “What the White Church Must Do” last July. So much so, he says, that leaving the Lee-Jackson windows as-is would “make it difficult” for him to feel fully welcome at the cathedral.

Former cathedral task force member Riley Temple wants the cathedral to beef up its efforts around the windows now. He thinks the events to date have been intellectual to a fault; that they fail to address the array of emotions at play. He wants the cathedral to address this imbalance. “No one’s thinking about our level of discomfort and the continued injury and assault of the windows,” he said. “They don’t want to make white people uncomfortable. The truth is going to make us squirm, and we can’t get to reconciliation without squirming.”

But Brown Douglas cited another essential step in this process: “Before we can talk about reconciliation, we have to talk about justice.” To that end, she said the cathedral is creating programs and forming partnerships, including one with Coates’ congregation. During Lent, Brown Douglas will run a study program on social and racial justice. And on March 29, she will participate in the cathedral’s panel “Saints and Sinners: Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.”

Mobilizing a social justice and reconciliation movement within the broader Christian church makes sense to Coates. “Racism and structural racism in America were justified theologically,” he said. “In order to make progress on a range of social justice issues, we must reclaim and reimagine our own theology.” Willie James Jennings, associate professor of systematic theology and Africana studies at Yale Divinity School, author of “The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race,” agreed. “Racism has a deep Christian architecture to it, and there’s no way to reckon with that past without coming through Christianity,” he said.

The theological and ethical journey of reckoning for Episcopal churches and others with very few African-Americans must include an honest look within. “It does come down to a denomination having a sense of its own whiteness,” he says. “They don’t understand how their Christianity and their whiteness feed each other. [As Christians] it is always important for us to show people what it means to be living in the truth.”

The strong emotions unleashed when people talk about race warrant attention – they’re important. Jennings pointed to “deep frustration about how people just refuse to honor the horror of all this.” If there’s good news on this challenging path, it’s that “the church has a vital role in helping people come to terms with what they feel, not just what they think,” he said.

Right now, feelings about the windows seem inextricably linked to a pervasive concern not about this country’s past, but about its current interpersonal and political climate.  “We’re as divided a nation as we’ve ever been. We’re as divided racially as we’ve ever been,” Brown Douglas said. By calling its Lee-Jackson windows into question, the cathedral stepped squarely into that sensitive, uneasy space.

Whatever the outcome, Coates and Jennings credit cathedral leaders and community members for calling the question on their role in memorializing and glorifying a painful past with omnipresent fingerprints. “I want to acknowledge the courage it takes to see what others refuse to see,” Jennings said. “I’m thankful that they’re doing that. It’s really important.”

In its report, the task force recommended digging into the topic as a community with forums, an “audit” of the stories the cathedral close buildings tell and with art of all kinds. Brown Douglas hopes the process will answer the questions: “What are we suggesting about who we are? But more than that, what are we saying about who God is?” She also hopes it will uncover “the voices that have gone unheard, the subjugated history.” How to incorporate those voices into the National Cathedral and just how the Lee-Jackson windows will fit into a now-evolving narrative remains to be seen.

— Heather Beasley Doyle is a freelance journalist based in Massachusetts. 

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaches at St. John’s in Hong Kong

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 7:58pm

[Episcopal News Service — Hong Kong] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached to a standing room only crowd that overflowed into the courtyard at St. John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong’s central business district on Feb. 19.

Curry is on his first official visit to Asia since his July 2015 election as presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church. Hong Kong was the second stop on a four-country tour that includes the Philippines, China and Taiwan.

Standing Rock camps face another deadline due to melting snow, changing tactics

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 5:49pm

Crystal Houser, 30, of Klamath Falls, Oregon, bags excess blankets for delivery to nearby communities Feb. 8 while helping to clean up the opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo: REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

[Episcopal News Service] Standing alongside the road in Solen, North Dakota, Feb. 17 and looking out over the Cannonball River, the Rev. John Floberg declared the weather too hot.

“It’s 43 degrees,” he said during a telephone interview, as a car sped by at midmorning.

The day before the temperature was above 50.

Weather like that is enough to speed the melting of the more than 40 inches of snow that have fallen on the Standing Rock Sioux Nation this winter. It prompts predictions of ice jams in the Cannonball River next week. It’s enough to hasten the cleaning up and breaking down of the Oceti Sakowin protest camp that has been filled with people there to protect the waters of the Missouri and Cannonball from what they see as the threat of pollution from the nearly complete Dakota Access Pipeline.

Federal and state officials, as well as the tribe, have set Feb. 22 as the latest date for the camps to close. Reducing the size of the camps, or relocating them, has been a multi-week effort. Tribal officials earlier had said that the harshness of the winter made the camps unsafe. Now, they are worried about the safety of the several hundred still camped there when the snow melts and the Missouri and Cannonball run high. They are also worried that floodwater will sweep debris from the camps into the rivers, polluting them when the ultimate goal of the encampment was to prevent pollution. And, they are worried about talk of last stands and people staying until the bitter end.

The majority of the northeastern portion of Oceti Sakowin Camp has been cleaned up and many sections of camp have been cleared. “We are cooperatively working together to clean camp up in a good and timely way,” organizers said Feb. 16. Photo: Oceti Sakowin Camp via Facebook

However, Oceti Sakowin residents have been cleaning up the land and there is a systematic plan for that work. Camp residents and officials who wanted access to the camp to judge how much clean-up work remains held a tense meeting Feb. 16. Floberg and others are concerned about this next round of attempts to shut down the camps, hoping for a peaceful reaction from both officials and residents. What some call an over-militarized law enforcement response and instances of provocation by self-described water protectors at times have marred the months-long encampment.

Oceti Sakowin is flooded this week. Water is standing on the camp’s frozen ground. Just “squishy under your feet” in some places, said Floberg, but close to a foot of water in other places.

State officials warn of river contamination https://t.co/ylfp6GC7Cq pic.twitter.com/hUT7HyZ6cM

— The Bismarck Tribune (@bistrib) February 15, 2017

It is just enough to make the ground muddy but not enough to bog down the skip steer that he is using to help in the cleanup. Floberg, using the small, engine-powered machine with lift arms to move heavy loads, has recovered about 5,000 pounds of donated but unclaimed rice and another 5,000 pounds of flour that are salvageable for reservation food pantries. He loads such material into a trailer hitched to his pickup, which he drives in four-wheel drive low gear through 8 inches of mud up the hill to the highway.

“You keep feeling for momentum, but you don’t want to start spinning your wheels,” said Floberg, priest-in-charge of Episcopal Church congregations on the North Dakota side of Standing Rock, who added that “all of these skills I learned in seminary.”

The Episcopal Church has advocated with the Sioux Nation about the Dakota Access Pipeline since summer 2016. Local Episcopalians have also provided a ministry of presence in and around Cannon Ball, North Dakota, the focal point for groups of water protectors that gathered near the proposed crossing. That work and everything else that followed, Floberg said, “is our vocation as Christians.”

The work does not come without risk, he said, especially to the Episcopal Church’s reputation. “There is a risk to the reputation to our congregations in predominantly white communities around the state; how they will be viewed because of the actions we take here on Standing Rock,” Floberg said.

Then there are the practical implications of that risk. For instance, an engineer from the local power cooperative has been slow to help Episcopalians install an array of solar panels purchased with a United Thank Offering grant because he is “upset with the Episcopal Church for having gotten involved in this protest.”

Moreover, Floberg said, the Episcopal Church’s long-standing ministry to, among and with the people on Standing Rock has paid a price. “There’s only so many hours in the day so who’s not getting visited in the hospital?” he explained. “What else is not being accomplished or attended to that otherwise would have been?”

Floberg said he continues to be grateful for the support the local Episcopal community has gotten from the wider church in terms of both solidarity and donations.

The work of the Episcopal Church and local Episcopalians is taking place against the backdrop of a constantly changing legal and political landscape. The Army on Feb. 17 formally ended a month-old environmental impact study of the pipeline’s disputed crossing. That study was eight days old when newly inaugurated President Donald Trump called for a rapid completion of the pipeline. The Army gave Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners permission for the crossing on Feb. 8.

The lights of the drill pad built for the final portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline can been seen from Oceti Sakowin Camp. Photo: Oceti Sakowin Camp via Facebook

The remaining work on the pipeline involves pushing pipe under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe just north of the Standing Rock Reservation. The pipeline company set up a drill pad very near the proposed crossing point, which is upstream from the tribe’s reservation boundaries. The tribe has water, treaty fishing and hunting rights in the lake. Workers have drilled entry and exit holes for the crossing, and filled the pipeline with oil leading up to the lake in anticipation of finishing the project, according to the Associated Press.

The Standing Rock and neighboring Cheyenne River Sioux also are fighting the pipeline work in court, with the next hearing set for Feb. 28. Standing Rock officials have been saying for weeks that they must wage the fight against the pipeline in the courts, not on the land in North Dakota.

“Don’t confuse the Camp with the movement or its goals,” Floberg said in a Feb. 16 Facebook post. “Keeping the Camps open was never the goal. Keeping clean water is the goal. In this particular place and time, respecting Treaty Obligations is the main road to that goal.”

Related to the changing venues for the movement, Standing Rock has called for a March 10 march in Washington, D.C. Organizers are still working out the details but the plan is for people to gather on or near the National Mall and march to a place near the White House.

Floberg is amplifying the tribe’s call by asking Episcopalians to join that march. He has established a Facebook page, Standing Rock Rocks the Mall, where details will be posted. Floberg is also organizing a prayer service for the night before the march at Washington National Cathedral. Advocacy in congressional offices is also part of the plan.

Dakota Access Pipeline developers have been publicizing this infographic to show the engineering of the pipeline’s last stretch. Photo: DAPLPipelinefacts.com

The 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline is poised to carry up to 470,000 barrels of oil a day from the Bakken oil field in northwestern North Dakota – through South Dakota and Iowa – to Illinois, where it will be shipped to refineries. The pipeline was to pass within one-half mile of the Standing Rock Reservation, and Sioux tribal leaders repeatedly expressed concerns over the potential for an oil spill that would damage the reservation’s water supply and the threat the pipeline posed to sacred sites and treaty rights. Energy Transfer Partners says it will be safe and better than transporting oil by truck or railcar.

Also on Feb. 17, CalPERS, the $300 billion California public employee pension fund, said it joined more than 120 other investors in calling on banks funding the pipeline to get it routed away from Native American land.

“We are concerned that if DAPL’s projected route moves forward, the result will almost certainly be an escalation of conflict and unrest as well as possible contamination of the water supply,” the letter says. “Banks with financial ties to the Dakota Access pipeline may be implicated in these controversies and may face long-term brand and reputational damage resulting from consumer boycotts and possible legal liability. As major shareowners of these banks, we are very concerned about the financial risks this poses to the investments we oversee and to those whom we serve as fiduciaries.”

The list of banks and investors, including four New York City public employee pension funds and a number of religious groups, is here. In all, the signatories control a total of $653 billion in assets.

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

Virginia congregation honors slaves who built church, offers ‘gratitude and repentance’

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 1:10pm

Nikki Henderson, left, and Edwin Henderson, center, listen as the Rev. John Olmer speaks at the dedication Feb. 11 of a plaque honoring the slaves who built the Falls Church, in Falls Church, Virginia. Photo: The Falls Church, via Facebook.

[Episcopal News Service] If an appreciation for history warms your heart along with the Holy Spirit on Sunday morning, there are a few things to know before worshiping at the Falls Church.

First of all, there are two Falls Churches. The city of Falls Church, Virginia, was incorporated after the Episcopal church that gave it the name. The congregation predates the Revolutionary War and worships in a church built in 1769. It was designed by James Wren, an architect whose name can be found on a plaque embedded in the brick walkway leading up to the church door.

And, the church was built by skilled but enslaved laborers – an longtime omission in the church’s history that recently was corrected with a second plaque honoring those slaves and offering “gratitude and repentance.”

The brick walkway now features parallel plaques to architect James Wren and the slaves who built the church he designed. Photo: Falls Church, via Facebook

“It was an opportunity to say more than to just acknowledge,” said Nikki Henderson, one of the leaders of the effort to identify slaves’ role in the church’s early years. “It was an opportunity to say something about the institution that put them in the position to be forced laborers.”

It also follows broader efforts by the Episcopal Church to emphasize racial reconciliation and come to grips with the church’s past complicity in slavery and racism.

Bishops and deputies began discussing racism as early as the 1976 meeting of General Convention. A resolution approved at the 1991 General Convention committed the church to “addressing institutional racism inside our Church and in society,” and a 2000 resolution renewing that commitment for another nine years lamented “the historic silence and complicity of our church in the sin of racism.” The issue of racism has been discussed at every subsequent General Convention.

The Falls Church was eager to end “the historic silence.”

“Racial reconciliation is a huge part of living out our baptismal covenant, and that’s what drives so much of our identity here,” said the Rev. John Ohmer, rector of the church.

He said the congregation and community have enthusiastically supported efforts “not to run from our history but to own that part of our history that was slaveholding, and then to own the fact that racism in our country – systemic racism, church racism, individual racism are still very much with us.”

Henderson and a team of volunteer researchers at the church spent several years trying to bring the slaves who build the church out of anonymity. There were no clear-cut records attributing the church construction to slave labor, but the researchers found enough evidence to reach that conclusion with confidence.

“It’s right up under the surface, and like many historical facts during that time, because of the sensitivity of it, you’re not going to find a document that says (it), so you have to take an educated guess,” she said.

The project stemmed from Henderson’s conversation years ago with a woman at the church who had some initial information that pointed to the true story of the building. With the help of a church archivist and the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, which Henderson and her husband lead, more documentation began painting a clearer picture.

A labor shortage was one key detail. Just as free and enslaved Africans built the White House later in the 18th century because other workers couldn’t be found to do the job, Henderson’s team discovered that Wren was unable to recruit men to build the new Falls Church despite advertising in a local newspaper.

He eventually decided to build it himself, Henderson said. Such a project would be too much for one man to accomplish.

The church researchers also found Wren’s will, which revealed he had 23 slaves who were given to his wife after he died. One was identified by name, Charles, and said to be a skilled laborer. Furthermore, slaves at that time were known for their brick-making skills, another detail supporting the conclusion of the researchers.

Now the contributions of those enslaved laborers are being fully acknowledged. The new plaque was dedicated in a ceremony Feb. 11, and it rests right alongside the plaque honoring Wren.

Falls Church deliberately chose the word “repentance” over “apology” in crafting the plaque honoring the enslaved laborers who built the church. Photo: Falls Church, via Facebook.

“With gratitude and repentance we honor the enslaved people whose skills and labor helped build the Falls Church,” the new plaque reads.

Ohmer emphasizes “repentance,” saying church members felt “apology” would not have been a strong enough word. That quest for repentance is one that has been adopted by the Diocese of Virginia in its racial reconciliation efforts.

“By expressing repentance and by naming with gratitude ‘the enslaved people’ who helped build their church, the clergy and parishioners of The Falls Church have not only corrected an error of omission, they have committed themselves to further acts of reconciliation,” said Aisha Huertas, the diocese’s intercultural ministries officer. “As a diocese and as a community of faith, that’s precisely what all of us are called to do, both within our own walls and in the broader community.”

The experience has strengthened Henderson’s appreciation for Falls Church Episcopal.

“It’s a wonderful congregation,” she said, adding, “I am African American and the church is predominantly white, and I feel strongly that part of our racial divide is because we don’t know each other.”

Henderson, 68, joined the church a few years ago partly out of her interest in bridging that divide, with a nod to Martin Luther King Jr.’s observation that 11 a.m. Sunday is America’s most segregated hour.

“We’ve talked about healing the racial divide,” Henderson said. “I think we need to broaden that range.”

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

Archbishops of Canterbury and York issue letter after Synod vote

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 11:18am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written to members of the General Synod of the Church of England setting out the next steps following this week’s vote at Synod not to “take note” of a report on marriage and same-sex relationships.

“First, we want to be clear about some underlying principle,” they said. “In these discussions no person is a problem, or an issue. People are made in the image of God. All of us, without exception, are loved and called in Christ. There are no ‘problems’, there are simply people called to redeemed humanity in Christ.”

Full article.

Immigrants’ fears fuel outreach at Maryland church targeted by post-election racist graffiti

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 3:32pm

Washington Bishop Mariann Budde, left, and the Rev. Francisco Valle, assistant priest and leader of the Spanish-language Mass at Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring, Maryland, hold a sign that reads “Love Wins” following an incident of racist vandalism at the church on Nov. 13. The Rev. Robert Harvey, the church’s rector is at the far right. Photo: Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] The four hate-filled words were gone almost as quickly as they were discovered, scrawled across a sign and a wall at Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring, Maryland, on the first Sunday after November’s presidential election.

The Rev. Robert Harvey said the church waited long enough that day for authorities to take pictures of the graffiti before removing any trace of the message – “Trump Nation Whites Only” – and responding with messages of love and welcome.

The church has not been targeted by any additional acts of vandalism, Harvey said, and surveillance cameras are being installed to improve security. But the sense of unease has only grown in this congregation since Donald Trump’s inauguration as president. About 85 percent of the church’s members are immigrants, many of them from West Africa and Latin America, and they have been particularly alarmed by two developments: Trump’s executive order restricting entry to the United States from seven Muslim-majority nations and reports of federal immigration raids in some U.S. cities.

“Right now, many of my members are afraid,” Harvey said. “Many of the people here realize how urgent this issue has become about their immigration status.”

That urgency has led to action. In response to the vandalism in November and the Trump administration’s moves on immigration this year, Our Saviour has joined with other churches in the area, as well as synagogues and mosques, to develop an interfaith alliance seeking solidarity against religious and racial hatred. Harvey, meanwhile, is developing contacts with both lawmakers and immigration attorneys to directly assist parish members in documenting their legal status.

And, Our Saviour is one of several churches in the Diocese of Washington considering becoming sanctuary churches that offer safe haven for immigrants facing deportation.

“It’s a very sobering time. People are organizing in a variety of ways,” Washington Bishop Mariann Budde said, adding that there is “strength in that solidarity.”

“The Episcopal Church is part of a larger movement here, and that’s a good thing,” she said.

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington extends into the Maryland suburbs around the District of Columbia and includes Silver Spring,

home to more than 70,000 people just north of the capital city. Our Saviour includes members from more than 50 countries, Harvey said, from Sierra Leone to El Salvador. The multicultural congregation has grown over the past decade even as white membership has declined, he said.

About 380 people now attend one of the parish’s three Sunday services, with significant growth at the Spanish-language service on Sunday afternoons.

Budde made a point to attend the afternoon service on Nov. 13, hours after Harvey called to notify her that someone had vandalized the red-brick wall in the church’s memorial garden and a sign advertising its weekly Spanish-language mass.

In a show of support, attendance at that Sunday’s afternoon service nearly tripled from the typical 100, and Budde spoke out against hate speech in comments to reporters after the service.

“I would call especially upon the president-elect and those who voted for him to separate themselves from acts of violence and hate that are being perpetrated in his name,” Budde said during the service.

That imperative resonated with Harvey. “I stand by that still,” he said this week, but he does not think Trump or his supporters have done enough to reject hate-filled rhetoric.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “Not even close.”

At a freewheeling and often combative news conference Feb. 16, Trump responded briefly to a reporter’s question seeking comment on racist comments made in his name, turning the focus instead to what his opponents have been saying.

“Some of the signs you’ll see are not put up by the people that love or like Donald Trump,” he said. “They’re put up by the other side. … It won’t be my people, it will be people on the other side.”

‘Anxiety and uncertainty’

Budde said this week that Trump’s recent comments and executive actions on immigration are concerning.

“That does nothing to calm people’s fears or to assuage any doubt about the priorities of the administration,” she said. “I think it’s pretty obvious that in terms of the anxiety and uncertainty that immigrants feel in this county, it’s gotten worse since the president has taken office.”

Such uncertainty has prompted immigrants who attend Our Saviour to take precautions to ensure their residency status is secure, making sure their documentation is in order, Harvey said. Some are here with work permits, others green cards. Some may be married to American citizens but have not yet finished the citizenship process themselves. Others came to the country legally but may be at risk of deportation because of expired paperwork.

Harvey also said some parishioners reported seeing federal immigration agents in the Silver Spring area, in one case taking two people off a Metro bus.

In making contacts with immigration lawyers, he hopes some will provide pro bono assistance to parishioners, and he invited the immigrant support organization CASA de Maryland to speak at next month’s vestry meeting.

The Our Saviour vestry, at its Feb. 15 meeting, discussed becoming a sanctuary church, as other Episcopal churches around the country have. Sanctuary churches vow to help protect immigrants from imminent deportation, such as by providing shelter, clothing, food and legal support.

Budde said two congregations in the diocese  have committed to becoming sanctuary churches, and four, including Our Saviour, are actively studying it. About a half dozen more have expressed interest in learning about the process.

Our Saviour’s vestry decided to wait another month before voting on whether to become a sanctuary church, but the issue of immigration and the Trump administration’s policies continue to motivate the church’s current outreach work toward immigrants.

“I was not aware of how critical this was going to be, but it certainly has changed the conversation quite a bit,” Harvey said.

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

Ghana reconciliation pilgrimage a ‘homecoming,’ presiding bishop says

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 11:55am

From left, Pilgrim Constance Perry, a former Episcopal Relief & Development board member, and Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris cross in front of the Presbyterian chapel in the courtyard of Elmina Castle. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Accra, Ghana] Most Episcopalians and Americans know the United States’ history of slavery, and how Union and Confederate soldiers fought a bloody civil war opposing and defending it. But lesser known is the horrific story that preceded slaves’ journey to the New World; a journey that carried them from Africa to plantations and cities in the Americas and the Caribbean.

In late January, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry led a reconciliation pilgrimage for bishops and Episcopal Relief & Development friends and supporters to Ghana. The pilgrims visited cities and sites critical to understanding the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and Episcopal Relief & Development partners and programs working to improve Ghanaians’ lives.

It was a pilgrimage that the presiding bishop described as akin to going home.

“I was really thinking of it as a kind of ‘homecoming’ for me as an African-American, as someone born and reared in the United States. Whenever I’ve come back to Africa, whether east, central or west, I’ve often had that strange feeling like I was coming to a land that knew me before,” he said, while standing in the courtyard of Elmina Castle, a castle built by the Portuguese in 1482.

“But this time, knowing we were coming to the place of [initial] enslavement, of embarkation, where the slaves began their journey through the middle passage … knowing that was like returning to the roots of who I am. And when you go back to your roots, you’re really going home.”

From left, Anglican Diocese of Tamale Bishop Jacob Ayeebo, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and retired Bishop of Tamale Emmanuel Arongo share a laugh during a service at St. James Anglican Church in Binaba, a church built by a United Thank Offering grant. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

From Accra, Ghana’s capital, the pilgrims flew north to Tamale and boarded a bus that took them further north to the Upper East Region, where they spent a morning walking the paths of Pikoro Slave Camp, the same paths walked by and estimated 500,000 enslaved people between 1704 and 1805. Newly captured slaves from Mali and Burkina Faso were brought to the camp where they were chained to trees, where they ate one meal a day from bowls carved into rock, and where the process of stripping them of their humanity commenced.From Pikoro slaves were marched 500 miles south to one of 50 castles on Africa’s west coast, 39 of them in Ghana, where they were held in dungeons, standing and sleeping in their own excrement, before their captors loaded them onto ships bound for the New World. The pilgrims traced that journey, as well, flying back to Ghana and boarding a bus bound for the coast.

From Pikoro slaves were marched 500 miles south to one of 50 castles on Africa’s west coast, 39 of them in Ghana, where they were held in dungeons, standing and sleeping in their own excrement, before their captors loaded them onto ships bound for the New World. The pilgrims traced that journey, as well, flying from Tamale back to Accra and then boarding a bus bound for the coast.

“In so many ways this pilgrimage has birthed reconciliation for those of us who participated as we’ve been reconciled with one another and been formed in beloved community,” said the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, the canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation. “Reconciliation with our history and with the slave trade and the ways that so many were implicated in it and suffered because of it, and reconciliation because what we’ve seen through the work of Episcopal Relief & Development, that history does not have to define the way as we as church show up today in Ghana and around the world.”

Captured Africans from Mali and Burkina Faso were held at Pikoro Slave Camp in Ghana’s Upper East Region before forcibly marched to the dungeons of one of the many castles along the Gold Coast. Here Aaron Azumah, a guide at the camp, demonstrates how slaves were bound and made to sit on punishment rock. If they didn’t show regret for their transgression, they were left to die in the hot sun. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The Church of England and the Episcopal Church were complicit in the slave trade, with many Episcopalians owning slaves and profiting from the slave trade and its ancillary trade in raw materials – rum, sugar, molasses, tobacco and cotton. The “middle passage” worked as a triangle: Ships sailed from Europe with manufactured goods to Africa where the goods were exchanged for slaves that were captured in other African countries. Those slaves were sent to the Caribbean, where some worked on plantations; others were taken to North and South America along with sugar and molasses, where they were again sold. Ships then carried commodities, such as coffee, rum and tobacco, to Europe to sell and process, then sailed back to African where slave traders swapped goods for more slaves and continued the triangular journey.

The Portuguese, the Dutch and the British, all at one time or another, occupied the castles and controlled the trans-Atlantic slave trade. An estimated 12 to 25 million Africans passed through Ghana’s ports to be sold as slaves in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 and in 1834 declared owning slaves illegal. U.S. President Thomas Jefferson in 1808 signed a law prohibiting the importation of slaves but slave ownership continued until 1865 and the passage of the 13th Amendment.

Even though Anglican and Episcopal churches later participated in and sometimes led the abolitionist movement, the churches and individual Anglicans and Episcopalians benefited from the slave trade. The 75th General Convention in 2006 sought to address the church’s role in slavery. In 2008, the Episcopal Church formally apologized for its involvement in slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris share a moment at Elmina Caste, one of 50 castles on Africa’s west coast that served as points of embarkation for slaves shipped to the Americas and the Caribbean. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Slavery’s legacy is “not only race,” said Curry, but the contradiction that the American republic was founded on democratic principles and the idea that all are created equal.

“Bearing the language of the equality of humanity, though not fully living into it yet, that was a living contradiction … America has struggled to resolve. A civil war happened because it was unresolved,” he said. “And all the struggles after that, Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow segregation, the emergence of the civil rights movement … a lot of the tensions and divisions that you see in American society now, some of their origins are traceable to the fact that in our [nation’s] originating DNA, the issue of freedom and slavery was not resolved, human equality was not fully resolved. Although they [the Founding Fathers] were headed in the right direction, they weren’t quite there.”

When Thomas Jefferson wrote “that all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, he owned slaves; other Founding Fathers owned slaves; President George Washington owned slaves; slaves also served Presidents James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James Knox Polk and Zachary Taylor. Slave labor helped build the White House in Washington, D.C.

This legacy of contradiction, of inequality and racism, that Americans and Episcopalians, black and white, continue to live with today is a legacy the Episcopal Church seeks to confront through its racial reconciliation work.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry led an Episcopal Relief & Development reconciliation pilgrimage to Ghana in January. The group posed for a photo following a Jan. 22 Eucharist at the Cathedral Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Accra. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

In 2015, General Convention passed a budget that emphasized racial reconciliation, something Curry has focused on and has asked the church to work on since his installation as presiding bishop in November 2015.

Slavery’s legacy is also something Upper South Carolina Bishop Andrew Waldo, who grew up in the Jim Crow South and has studied his family’s history, grapples with in his life.

“I come from a family that has been in this country for a very long time, many generations of Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi slaveholders, probably two dozen Confederate officers, naval infantry, cavalry, the whole works,” said Waldo in an interview at Cape Coast Castle, another slave castle not far from the one in Elmina.

The courtyard at Cape Coast Castle. Slaves occupied the dungeons, soldiers the next level and officers the upper level. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Waldo made these discoveries while studying his family’s genealogy, not because his parents discussed it. He began to discover how deeply involved his family was in enslaving people. Ancestors owned plantations in Virginia and southern Mississippi, and his great-great-grandfather likely attended an Episcopal church alongside Jefferson Davis, who served as president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

“I realized that if I was going to be faithful to God’s call to me as a reconciler, then I couldn’t let that history just lie there, that I was going to be somebody finding ways to heal, to repair, to reconnect,” said Waldo, saying that the reconciliation pilgrimage added a sense of urgency to his work.

“When you see how many hundreds of thousands, millions of people came through these places, and sat in those dungeons,” he said, to arrive in the United States to meet the master’s whip, to be baptized and be stripped of their names. “I can only be certain that my ancestors did that to people, so I had to shift course for my family.”

Christ the King Church’s red spire can be seen from the upper levels of Cape Coast Castle, where slaves were held and where the British once had an Anglican chapel above a slave dungeon. Christ the King was the first Anglican church in Ghana. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Waldo also is shifting the course in his diocese, where six years into his episcopacy, after he’d gotten a sense of “the lay of the land,” he’s initiated a race and reconciliation committee. The 13 members of the committee came from among 40 people, all with “deep stakes” in the conversation, who applied for an appointment.

Through personal stories, including Waldo’s own, Upper South Carolina Episcopalians are beginning to confront racism and slavery’s legacy in their lives and communities. The same thing is beginning to happen on a deeper level across the Episcopal Church, which is why Oklahoma Bishop Ed Konieczny, after joining an Episcopal Relief & Development reconciliation pilgrimage in 2016, suggested one particularly for bishops.

Konieczny initiated a conversation with Robert Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief & Development, asking if the presiding bishop had been on a pilgrimage to Ghana; a year later Curry was leading one.

“Michael Curry had just been elected presiding bishop and one of his big priorities is racial reconciliation … what I was saying to Rob was that as a privileged white male bishop of the Church who was being asked to speak out about racial reconciliation as a voice of reconciliation, I didn’t feel I had the authority to do that because I come from a different place,” said Konieczny, who grew up in Orange County, California, and had a 20-year law enforcement career before the priesthood.

“I still don’t have the authority, but this trip gives me a story to tell about my own reconciliation of who I am, how I have been part of the racial strife and discord in our country. … I remember growing up the way the adults around talked about blacks and the words they used,” he said. He shared the story about how when his police station was first integrated, his colleagues refused to dress alongside the black officer in the locker room.

The Ghana pilgrimage, he said, made him realize everything he’d been taught about slavery and racism was wrong.

“I wasn’t given the truth, and then it was just the collision of my world and this other world and the recognition that I’m a racist. Hopefully a recovering racist, but yeah, whether I was overtly involved, or whether I condoned, ignored or contributed to things that were done or said, the way people acted, I think puts me in a place now where I have at least something to say and I can raise the questions and people can at least reflect and search in their own lives,” said Konieczny.

Pilgrims laid an Episcopal Relief & Development wreath at Elmina Castle in Cape Coast, Ghana. Slaves were led out of the castle and loaded onto ships through “the door of no return.” Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The pilgrimage challenges each participant’s preconceived notions about slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“The narrative that so many of us have come up with was that the great evil of slavery was actually being a slave, actually being someone held like an animal on a plantation,” said Spellers, whose great-grandmother was a slave. “I had no idea the gravity and the depth of the suffering that occurred before anyone even got to the slave ships or got to Cape Coast, how many died on the way.

“One of the members of our group said, ‘This was the African Holocaust, wasn’t it?’ And I realized it was. Again, it helps me to understand why race is so hard for us to work within America, why it keeps coming back up … because there’s still so much we’ve not talked about.”

The Church can offer a safe place to have difficult conversations, conversations that may involve pain, uncertainty and ambiguity, but conversations that are bathed in a mutual love and care for one another, a safe place where we can all share honestly and move into the future, said Curry.

“My hope is that this journey will help us reclaim and reface a common history that we have, a painful past, not for the sake of guilt, and not for the sake of wallowing in the past, but for the sake of us, black, white, red, yellow and brown, finding ways to face our past and then turn in another direction and create a new future,” he said, quoting the words of the poet Maya Angelou: “The history, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again.”

“That’s our goal and that’s how the past is redeemed and a new future is claimed,” said Curry. “And that is the task of the Episcopal Church.”

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

Ghana pilgrims study development as reconciliation

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 11:41am

Daniel McNeel “Neel” Lane, chair of Episcopal Relief & Development’s board, takes a selfie with children from the Anglican Primary School in Bolgatanga, Ghana, during a visit to the office of the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organization, an Episcopal Relief & Development partner. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Accra, Ghana] It’s not uncommon to see women using donkeys to plow fields during the growing season in Ghana’s Upper East Region. Donkeys, it turns out, are easier to manage than bullocks, and when hitched to a plow, women can manage them on their own.

“As in any part of the world, there’s a very defined season for planting and growing, and giving women cows so that they could plant with the men wasn’t workable,” said Lindsay Coates, a development professional and an Episcopal Relief & Development board member. “Finding an alternative to bullocks, an animal that women could work, and then supporting them in their efforts is an example of development that is grounded in local experience and local assets.”

Women who participate in Episcopal Relief & Development’s donkey program in the Upper East Region, Ghana, receive a donkey, a plow and a cart. A donkey, which is smaller and easier to control than a bullock (male bovine), allows women farmers to plow fields themselves.  With money earned from selling what they grow, they can pay their children’s school fees and gain financial independence. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The “donkey program,” as it’s called, was just one of the asset-based community development programs operated by the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organization and supported by Episcopal Relief & Development that a group of pilgrims studying the trans-Atlantic slave trade and reconciliation visited last month in Ghana’s Upper East Region.

Episcopal Relief & Development began pilgrimages to Ghana in 2010; pilgrimages are intentionally structured to look at the development and the reconciliation piece, said Rob Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief & Development.

“Development and reconciliation work are about repairing relationships and restoring God’s Kingdom in the world,” he said. “It’s clear that throughout all of Africa many millions of people were kidnapped, and you ask yourself the counterfactual question of ‘what would Africa be like had the slave trade not happened?’ What would Africa’s present be like if that hadn’t happened in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries?’

“The philosophy that we have in our development work is about repairing and ‘healing a hurting world.’ ”

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, the Episcopal Church’s canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation, laughs with the Rev. Jeffrey L. Bower, the Diocese of Indianapolis’s chair to the Global Missions Commission, during a visit to the to the office of the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organization, an Episcopal Relief & Development partner in Ghana. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

One of the pilgrims’ first stops in Ghana was to Episcopal Relief & Developments office in Ghana, from which staff officers have operated its NetsForLife malaria prevention program across. They later traveled north to Tamale, and then on to Bolgatanga, where the Diocese of Tamale’s Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organization is based.

“The groups that come are unique and add dimension to our ministry,” said the Rt. Rev. Jacob Ayeebo, bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Tamale, upon welcoming the pilgrims.

ADDRO, he explained, began in 1971 as a small project to support farmers. From there it moved to supporting communities; later the church recognized the need to consolidate its development work and incorporated as a nongovernmental organization in 1998 with an independent board of governors. ADDRO and Episcopal Relief & Development became partners in 2006.

A member of a savings-with-education group counts money while the treasurer records the details during a presentation in Chuchuliga, Ghana. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

ADDRO operates an integrated health program in six regions, providing education on treatable illnesses, including malaria, diarrhea and acute respiratory diseases; in partnership with Ghana’s department of health, it distributes malaria nets treated with insecticide; and its staff works on gender issues, including advocating for widows’ rights, empowering women through a savings and loan program and the donkey program; and providing families with animals to raise for food and income.

In the case of the donkey program, through affordable credit and training, women acquire a donkey, plow and cart, along with improved seeds and fertilizer. Instead of using traditional hand tools in the field, women farmers learn how to properly care for their animals and apply new farming and business techniques to help increase productivity.

Because of this innovative program, women sell their produce at the local market. They also earn additional income by renting out the cart to carry supplies for others in the community.

Sharon Hilpert, a former Episcopal Relief & Development board member, talks with teenage school girls following a community meeting in Yelwoko, Ghana, where the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organization supports small agro-processing activities for women and operates a health clinic. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Like Coates, Sharon Hilpert, a former Episcopal Relief & Development board member, was impressed by the donkey program and Esther, one of the program’s participants.

“She [Ester] was just beaming as she stood alongside her donkey and she named it ‘God Be With Her’ because she believes that this donkey coming to her is part of God’s goodness,” said Hilpert.

Esther grows vegetables, rice, millet and corn for her family and to sell in the market.

“With the income she earns from her crops, she can pay her children’s school fees,” said Hilpert.

The success of the savings-and-loan, donkey and basket weaving programs all create conditions where people can become empowered.

“We don’t empower people; people seize empowerment,” said Radtke. “What we help them to do is to own their own agency, and that, I think, is one of the real markers of Episcopal Relief & Development, that it’s not us doing to, it’s us creating a context, providing information and technical support that unlocks the abundance that exists in these places.

“These are some of the poorest places in the world and yet we see savings circles where people are using their own resources and creating economic vibrancy with their own assets. We provide a framework and an approach and some guidelines and some training about that, but it’s growing by the local resources.”

Women weave baskets as part of an Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organization microfinance program to help women generate income by producing quality products and learning basic business skills. The women weave baskets to sell in local markets. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Coates said she thinks Episcopal Relief & Development is a leader for its focus on asset-based community development.

“Episcopal Relief & Development is very intentionally grounded in local structures. That has become fashionable in the last 10 years, but this has been the business model for a very long time. The partnerships with the Anglican Communion and the working through existing faith partners really creates that local ownership,” said Coates. “And it’s not building something new locally, it’s taking what exists locally and really supporting it in a respectful and sustained way. Episcopal Relief & Development is ahead of the curve in doing that work.”

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

South Sudan bishop accuses army of mass rape and torture

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 11:28am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A South Sudanese Anglican Bishop has accused government soldiers of raping women and young girls. The Rt. Rev. Paul Yugusuk, of the Anglican Diocese of Lomega, quoted by local media, says he’s met several women who claim they were raped by government troops. “We do not know the exact number of women who were raped but we have five women and girls here in Juba Teaching Hospital,” he told reporters after visiting the victims earlier this week. “Most of them are underage girls and women.”

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No easy solution to same-sex marriage issue, secretary general tells Synod

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 11:21am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Resolving issues around human sexuality within the Anglican Communion is like threading a needle – and there is no one solution in sight at present, the secretary general of the Communion has told the Church of England Synod.

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon said the disagreements and struggles facing the Church of England were not unique to it but could not easily be resolved in some institutional or structural fashion.

“We are not up to the task of resolving them faithfully right now,” he said.

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Courtney Cowart named to head Society for the Increase of the Ministry

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 10:51am

[Society for the Increase of the Ministry press release] The Society for the Increase of the Ministry announces the appointment of Courtney V. Cowart as its incoming executive director effective March 1. SIM’s current executive director, Thomas Moore, will serve with Cowart until his retirement from that position on SIM’s 160th birthday, October 2, 2017.

Cowart brings a wealth of experience in theological education and leadership development along with strong working relationships with Episcopal leaders and major foundations investing in formation. With her close understanding of SIM’s ministry, she expresses her enthusiasm for this new position and challenge.

“In its 160th year, the board’s vision for the Society for the Increase of the Ministry never mattered more: To build a diverse army of outstanding faith leaders with a strong public witness for the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, and to lead a turnaround in funding theological education through significantly expanding scholarships for those consecrating their lives to God’s loving, liberating, life-giving presence in the world,” she said.

Part of Cowart’s work at SIM will be focused on long-range and strategic planning; she envisions developing a funding mechanism that equips all Christians to receive the training and formation to live out a baptismal call to ministry.

Cowart comes to SIM from the School of Theology of the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, where she has served as the director of the Beecken Center and associate deanAt the Beecken Center she developed educational resources and networks for delivering resources for vocational discernment, leadership formation, and church renewal.

Her career in the Episcopal Church has been devoted to a vision of the church passionately engaged in the transformation of lives and society. Her thesis as a doctoral student at General Theological Seminary documented the ways nineteenth-century New Yorkers through voluntary societies sought to heal the spiritual and social wounds of their day. Later as a theological educator at GTS, she helped manage the ministry of St. Paul’s Chapel at Ground Zero. Her impact at Ground Zero led to a five-year deployment in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to steward the largest domestic grant ever made by Episcopal Relief & Development. After the completion of her work in New Orleans, Cowart was hired by the Fund for Theological Education to create new curricula for theological education programs and deliver them to the church on a national scale.

In this opportunity to lead SIM, the only organization raising funds on a national basis for support available to all Episcopal seminarians, Cowart sees potential for developing a funding mechanism that equips the baptized to receive the training and formation that can mobilize large numbers to live out their calls to ministry.

The Society for the Increase of the Ministry invests in theological education of Episcopal seminarians and in their formation as leaders to increase the ministry of the Episcopal Church.  Since its founding in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1857, SIM has supported over 5000 seminarians with over $6 million in scholarships.  In the current academic year, SIM is providing support to 48 students attending nine seminaries.

About his successor, Moore said: “Of SIM’s accomplishments of which I am most proud, attracting Courtney Cowart as my successor is at the top. We will be in the good hands of a proven leader.”

Archbishop of Canterbury issues statement on Synod vote on marriage, sexuality report

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 10:45am

[Episcopal News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issued the following statement Feb. 15 after the General Synod’s vote “not to take note” of a report by the House of Bishops on marriage and same-sex relationships:

No person is a problem, or an issue. People are made in the image of God. All of us, without exception, are loved and called in Christ. There are no ‘problems’, there are simply people.

How we deal with the real and profound disagreement – put so passionately and so clearly by many at the Church of England’s General Synod debate on marriage and same-sex relationships today – is the challenge we face as people who all belong to Christ.

To deal with that disagreement, to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.

We need to work together – not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone – to move forward with confidence.

The vote today is not the end of the story, nor was it intended to be. As bishops we will think again and go on thinking, and we will seek to do better. We could hardly fail to do so in the light of what was said this afternoon.

The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ – all of us, without exception, without exclusion.

Church of England’s report on marriage, sexuality suffers setback at Synod

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 3:37pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A report from the Church of England‘s House of Bishops about marriage and same-sex relationships has received a significant setback in a vote at the General Synod in London. It is an embarrassing symbolic rejection of the bishops’ report which had stated that there should be no change in the church’s teaching while calling for a “fresh tone” on the issues. Speaking before the vote, the Archbishop of Canterbury said he believed passionately that the report that had been worked on and struggled with was a roadmap and he promised the church would find a new “inclusion.”

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