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Grant boosts effort to rebuild New Zealand’s Christchurch Cathedral

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 11:00am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church Property Trustees of the New Zealand Diocese of Christchurch have received a grant equivalent to about $4 million toward the rebuilding of Christchurch Cathedral.

The building was all but destroyed in a devastating earthquake in 2011. In September 2017, the Diocesan Synod voted instead to reinstate the cathedral as part of a funding package with local and national government. The new grant is from the Lottery Significant Project’s Fund.

Read the full article here.

Major grant awarded help more bishops attend Lambeth Conference 2020

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 12:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The organizers of the 2020 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops have received a major boost with the announcement that Allchurches Trust – owners of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group – have made a £750,000 grant, worth about $1 million, to help more bishops attend the conference. Every active bishop in the Anglican Communion will be invited to the Lambeth Conference; but the costs of attending can be prohibitive for bishops from developing countries.

Read the full article here.

Third Global Anglican Future Conference underway in Jerusalem

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 12:37pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The third Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON, has begun in Jerusalem. Organizers say 2,000 people are taking part. The ecumenical gathering attracts a large number of Anglicans.

The event includes Bible studies, group work and plenary sessions. The list of speakers includes a number of Anglican primates: Archbishop Laurent Mbanda from Rwanda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali from Uganda and Archbishop Nicholas Okoh from Nigeria, as well as Bishop Héctor Zavala from the Anglican Church of South America’s Diocese of Chile.

Read the full article here.

Two become one in this Virginia Episcopal mission

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 12:14pm

St. Gabriel’s parishioner and volunteer teacher Luz Margery Quiceno-Spencer leads an Educating with Love class for children, teaching them how to read and write in Spanish, which they speak at home while learning English reading and writing at school. Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series profiling the Episcopal Church’s recent work planting new churches and other faith communities. Other stories about recipients of grants from the Episcopal Church’s Genesis Advisory Group on Church Planting can be found here.

[Episcopal News Service] A Puerto Rican corporate entrepreneur-turned-priest wasn’t the obvious answer for a failing church with no permanent home in Leesburg, Virginia, where attendance had dwindled to 20 people.

English is the Rev. Daniel Vélez-Rivera’s second language, and St. Gabriel’s was an Episcopal church where English was the first, and for the most part only, language spoken by its Anglo congregation.

Yet, the congregation’s unlikely choice has been a catalyst for growth and ministry expansion. An expert in start-ups as a lay person and a church-planting priest after being ordained 12 years ago, Vélez-Rivera’s efforts have drawn 98 people to Sunday services since he arrived in 2012. The church has been a flurry of activity — with challenges and rewards — bolstered by its first New Church Start grant of $100,000 awarded during the 2013-2015 budget cycle, followed by a recent $75,000 renewal grant in the current triennium, Vélez-Rivera said.

Today, the priest leads a single congregation with two Sunday services: one in English, the other in Spanish. Membership is about 50-50 of the two populations, he said.

“Serving God’s children is messy. It’s not just liturgy and services. Starting churches the way Peter and Paul did, it’s not easy; it’s not comfortable,” Vélez-Rivera told Episcopal News Service. “It might fail, it might not flourish, but you have to try — like start-ups.”

The Rev. Daniel Vélez-Rivera leads a Eucharist at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Leesburg, Virginia, a mission church with one congregation and a service in English and one in Spanish. Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church

Leesburg is in Loudoun County, one of the wealthiest, fastest-growing counties in the United States with an annual median income of $125,672, according to a 2016 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s a Washington, D.C., commuter city where the Latino population is burgeoning as a result of that growing economy — filling jobs in construction, landscaping and farming — but they can’t afford living there.

In a county where almost one-quarter of its population is foreign-born, St. Gabriel’s had to look outside of itself to minister to the new people in town. It was the key to survival.

That’s pretty much the point of these grants.

Resolution D005 and Resolution A012, approved by General Convention in July 2015, called for the new and continued funding of church plants and Mission Enterprise Zones.

Mission Enterprise Zones are designated geographic areas, congregations or dioceses with a mission focused on serving under-represented groups, such as young people, poor and less-educated people, people of color, and those who never, or hardly ever, attend church.

In the children’s classes of the Educando con Amor program, part of St. Gabriel’s social justice ministry, young students learn skills to improve their bilingual abilities in speaking, reading and writing to improve their college and career prospects. Photo: Eva Maria Torres Herrera

As a single congregation in which two languages are spoken, St. Gabriel’s is a study in contrasts that complement each other: It is both the planting of a Latino congregation, and the restart of an Anglo congregation founded by the Rev. Jeunee Cunningham in 2002-2003 as a mission plant and daughter church of St. James Episcopal Church in Leesburg. Membership dwindled after Cunningham left.

When Vélez-Rivera arrived to be vicar of St. Gabriel’s in 2012, it was almost like he needed to plant a whole new church with the remaining members.

The priest had some tough lessons ahead, despite his business experience in start-ups. Sunday attendance dropped from 20 to 15 people in those early days. He listened to concerns and logistical issues that people expressed and worked on growing the English-speaking congregation first. Then, Vélez-Rivera spent time getting to know the Latino community better, at grocery stores, soccer games and festivals, in order to make his face familiar and learn about people’s needs.

On his first Spanish-language Easter service, only one person showed up.

“I cried on the way home. It was so hard. They said the place was hard to find. That’s when I stopped, full-stop, to think,” Vélez-Rivera said. He turned to the parent church of St. James and was offered their space on Sunday afternoons.

On Sundays, the English service is at 10 a.m. in a middle school, and the Spanish service is at 3 p.m. at Saint James, followed by a meal and Bible study. Once a month from June to October, members from both services unite for a joint, bilingual service outdoors at Chapel in the Woods. The family of a St. James parishioner honored her will and gifted to St. Gabriel’s almost 12 acres of land, where the chapel is located. The outdoor altar and benches are made from the land’s timber, milled by the family.

Once zoning and other administrative issues are figured out, Vélez-Rivera has plans to build a permanent St. Gabriel’s structure for everyone to meet and worship. And by everyone, he means the community at large. “I’m so psyched,” he said.

It’s an example of how the old guard is welcoming and blending with the new.

“One of the primary learnings from St. Gabriel’s is that kind of work is lonely work for any leader, especially for an outspoken, Puerto Rican, prophetic leader like Daniel,” said the Rev. Tom Brackett, the Episcopal Church’s manager for church planting and mission development. “He has struggled to bring along an aging congregation and engage them in ministry with people unlike themselves, and he has done it beautifully.”

St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church members gather for the 2017 annual parish retreat at Shrine Mont, the Diocese of Virginia’s camp and conference center. Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church

Bob and Lisa Cusack have been members of St. Gabriel’s for 14 years, watching membership dwindle and then gradually transform into something new and grow. The older, Anglo members and newer Latino members mingle at special services, such as the Easter service and Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. At the annual St. Gabriel’s retreat at Shrine Mont in the Shenandoah Valley, they unite at meals, bonfires and hikes.

Communication isn’t much of a problem, they say, because there’s always someone around who can help translate if necessary, especially the children. To collaborate better, they recently added two people from the 3 p.m. service to the vestry, said Bob Cusack, also the senior warden. Longtime parishioner and volunteer music director Peter Schweitzer takes a leading role in the music for the English service and participates in the music as a choir member and flautist at the Spanish service.

“When you’re a church that’s lived out of a box for 14 years, you become a very tight-knit community. Everybody contributes,” Bob Cusack told ENS. He and his wife laughed. “And there’s a lot of food, which needs no language. It’s very relaxed. Everybody’s just trying to learn from everybody else. It’s a good learning experience.”

Lisa Cusack, who teaches Sunday school, agreed: “We share our faith, and that’s the most important thing, and that brings us together.”

The goal is to be as welcoming and accessible to all people as possible, Vélez-Rivera said.

At a recent barbecue fundraiser with music and games, tickets were sold on a sliding scale depending how much the person could afford. The same goes for the children’s summer camp fees. When school has an extended break, St. Gabriel’s sends food home for schoolchildren who qualify for the free and reduced lunch programs in collaboration with Backpack Buddies and Loudoun Hunger Relief.

Children are taught to celebrate their cultural heritage, one of the ways that the Rev. Daniel Vélez-Rivera, gathers into the church family parishioners whose first language is Spanish. Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church

“We are serving the people that other churches don’t serve: the marginalized, the poor, the Latinos, not the traditional Episcopalians you think of when you think of the Episcopal Church,” Vélez-Rivera said. “My goal is for more churches to be all inclusive. Many churches are more clubby, and I’m not a club person. We’re a church.”

St. Gabriel’s growth in the last few years is not just because of the ability to worship in Spanish, but because parishioners can receive pastoral care and support for issues affecting their everyday lives, said Aisha Huertas, director of mission, outreach and diversity for the Diocese of Virginia.

“More and more churches should follow the example of congregations like St. Gabriel’s by creating and nurturing congregations that do not ignore the language, cultural diversity and challenges of the communities that surround them, but rather live into God’s call to love our neighbor,” Huertas told ENS. “It is hard to show our neighbors a Jesus kind of love, if we do not meet them where they are.”

Where are they? Crowded in apartment complexes. To solve transportation issues and provide the comfort of home turf, St. Gabriel’s was granted access to one of these apartment building’s community rooms to operate Educando con Amor, or Educating with Love, part of the church’s social justice ministry.

In that program, Eva María Torres Herrera teaches the U.S.-born, English-speaking children of immigrants how to read and write in Spanish so they can become fully bilingual. That way, they’ll be able to get into better colleges and be more marketable for better jobs.

Maria Diaz, a student of St. Gabriel’s Educando con Amor adult ESL program, plays the ball toss game in which the catcher has to say something in English. Photo: Eva Maria Torres Herrera

Sarah Ali Svoboda is the director of Educando con Amor’s adult ESL (English as a Second Language) program, teaching practical life skills literacy in English. She helps each adult with his or her goals, whether it’s tailoring a resume toward management positions, helping someone shop at the grocery store, explaining what to say at a bank, or using role-play to practice sharing symptoms with a doctor and making a medical appointments by phone. One language-learning technique that reduces anxiety is a ball-toss game, in which whoever catches the ball has to say something in English.

“It’s a safe space where no one is going to ask them for papers, and they can learn English without feeling embarrassed,” Svoboda said. “There are no handouts. It’s really about giving them skills so they can help themselves, get jobs and thrive in this country.”

Huertas said she believes that these efforts of radical welcome, justice, and love will prompt growth in the Episcopal Church as a whole.

“The makeup of the United States is changing and we, as a church, must be willing to change in ways that will address the needs of people today,” Huertas said.

“Most importantly, this work is living into God’s dream for human kind, that we will all live together in harmony — even if living in harmony means dealing with the discomfort of doing things unlike ‘we’ve always done them.’”

— Amy Sowder is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. She can be reached at AmySowder.com.

General Convention continues ‘virtual trend’ of going paperless

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 5:33pm

Diocese of Newark Deputies the Rev. Joseph Harmon and the Rev. John Mennell show off the loaner iPads assigned to all deputies and bishops for the Salt Lake City meeting of General Convention in 2015. They contain a “Virtual Binder,” electronically replacing most of convention’s until then-traditional paper systems. Photo: Nina Nicholson/Diocese of Newark

[Episcopal News Service] It used to be that General Convention conducted all of its legislative business on paper – approximately 1.2 million pieces of paper in 2012. No more.

For the second convention running, when each deputy, alternate deputy and bishop arrives in Austin, Texas, for the 79th General Convention, they will get a loaner iPad to use as their “Virtual Binder.” The iPads being used during the July 5-13 gathering are newer and faster than the ones the General Convention office rented in 2015.

The last time bishops and deputies used actual binders to keep track of General Convention legislative action was in 2012 for the 77th meeting of convention. Photo: Julie Murray/Diocese of Southern Ohio

Replacing each actual binder with the digital system will save the cost of those estimated 2,400 reams of paper, which amounted to about six tons, plus the copying costs. Convention veterans recall an actual binder that they gradually filled with their copies as the gathering progressed, often to the point where some used wheeled bags to transport their binders. “Click time” was set aside in each house for bishops and deputies to update their binders. Tracking the progress of resolutions was impossible for people who did not attend convention. No more.

Moreover, not only have the Virtual Binder’s functions been improved and expanded for greater access across the church, the system has made the Episcopal Church and the General Convention an innovative leader in the business of legislation tracking. There is also the prospect of sharing and licensing the system’s basic architecture to other groups.

The Virtual Binder is an app that runs on the bishops’ and deputies’ iPads, and can be accessed online. Those without a General Convention iPad can access the online version here. That latter version mirrors the app running on the iPads and changes along with it in real time.

No matter how it is accessed, the 2015 edition of the Virtual Binder enables users to track the progress of convention resolutions. It also includes each house’s daily agendas, calendars for each day and journals (a list of messages sent between the houses informing the other of actions taken), committee calendars and reports. It contains tabs for checking on current action and floor amendments in each house.

The virtual binder for the 79th meeting of General Convention features new search possibilities and ways to track legislation in both houses. To switch between houses, or to Spanish, click the gear icon at upper right. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

All in all, “this is exactly what the bishops and deputies are seeing on their iPads,” Twila Rios, manager of digital information systems in the convention office, told Episcopal News Service. “It’s replicated in real time which means there’s nanoseconds difference between what’s out there and what’s in here – something that human beings can’t register.”

“The most important thing is that within the budget constraints, which is what everybody in the church has to operate on, the new features are all in response to the questions and the feedback we received after the last General Convention,” said the Rev. Michael Barlowe, executive officer of the General Convention in an interview with ENS.

The 2018 edition of the binder includes these major changes:

  • An expanded resolutions search function will also give users more information about a resolution’s status. Reports of committee actions on each resolution will be available, as will postings of when a committee or a house is due to consider a resolution. Resolution texts will be updated as committees or houses make changes.
  • It used to be the that only way to know what a legislative committee was doing was to find the large stand in a convention hallway on which each committee’s daily agenda was posted. That stand will still operate in Austin but now such information will be searchable on the Virtual Binder by committee, date and/or resolution number. “We hope that this will make a lot better than it was last time,” Rios said. “It’s also dynamic,” she added, explaining that when a committee chair tells the General Convention Office about a meeting it wants scheduled, one of many volunteers enters the information into the system and it shows up immediately in the Virtual Binder. Those volunteers also will process resolution changes in real time.
  • Communications from one house to the other will also be posted to the Virtual Binder. In addition, text-based documents (as opposed to PDFs) being used during debate or announcements in text form will be available in the binder.
  • The church’s Constitution and Canons are also included in the binder. Bishops and deputies often need to reference those rules and “it’s easier to have it right there” than via a separate book or through internet access, Rios said.

Current versions of every resolutions to be considered by General Convention are available via the virtual binder. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The Virtual Binder is the public-facing portion of a multilayered system known as the Legislative Processing Online System that the General Convention Office developed with the help of E-accent, a software developer, according to Rios.

“There’s not a lot of legislative software out there. There’s a limited set of vendors and a limited number of customers,” she said, explaining that government entities are the main users.

“When we jumped into it prior to 2015, there wasn’t much out there.”

The General Convention Office took “a high risk that paid off” to make the switch to digital systems in the run-up to the 2015 convention, Barlowe said. “We actually invented this. No one had done anything like this in the legislative world.”

E-accent “took our ideas and created this thing,” he said, calling his staff the architects and the software developer the engineers.

The Virtual Binder and all of the other systems that mesh to make convention run smoothly require a lot of bandwidth and Barlowe said the Episcopal Church’s director of information technology, Darvin Darling, and his staff have helped his office with some “innovative ways that we can do more within the same bandwidth.”

Both at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City where convention met in 2015 and now at the Austin Convention Center, the buildings’ technical-support people, he said, “were fascinated by what we were doing, too.”

“That’s a really tip of the hat to the Episcopal Church and the General Convention Office is that even in a place like Austin which is pretty cutting-edge technologically, techies are interested in what we’re doing,” Barlowe said, referring to Austin’s annual South by Southwest event.

The Virtual Binder app and its connected systems are also what Barlowe described as an exercise in “ethical software.” Its developers don’t exploit their workers and that the General Convention meets or exceed with U.S. and European privacy rules.

“It’s part of our job to think through those things and to act as you’d except a church to operate, not just at the minimal ethical standards, but maximize the way that we treat data and the way we organize things and the way that we operate digitally,” he said.

“The longer term hope” is that the General Convention Office can find ways to share the systems with dioceses and other denominations, Barlowe said. There have already been conversations with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, for instance.

If the church has been an innovator in software, it has also led the market in the type of hardware convention needs. When Rios was looking to rent 1,200 tablets prior to the 2015 convention for the members of both houses plus the other administrative people who would need them, she discovered it was an unusual request. Also unusual was her request that the iPads be “custom imaged” with the General Convention’s apps.

“We were a new thing to the vendors,” she said.

In fact, the vendor, Meeting Tomorrow, now uses the idea of “custom imaged” iPads as part of its sales pitch. And E-accent, which will have staffers at General Convention, uses its work for the Episcopal Church to showcase its business.

The systems, Rios said, are constantly being refined and update. “It’s a work in progress,” she said.

The aim of that work is “trying to improve the ways that we can provide the information, make it more searchable,” she said. “There’s limitations and I’m always trying to find ways around the limitations and help to make this better, so people can find the information that they need.”

The General Convention mobile app runs on EventMobi. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Some limitations are financial, and some are technological, she and Barlowe said. For instance, some people asked for the ability for individual bishops and deputies to message each other from their iPads. Adding the infrastructure to meet that request “it was beyond our financial capacity,” he said.

Another digital way to follow convention

A free General Convention app is available for anyone using a smartphone or tablet running Android 4.4 or IOS 8.0 or later. The app contains General Convention schedules, maps, vendor information, daily orders of worship services and other useful materials. (Complete orders of service for convention’s daily Eucharists are also included on both the iPads, thus eliminating the need to print hundreds of worship booklets daily.)

Download the app here or from the App Store or Google Play, and then enter the code 79GC when prompted. The app can also be used on a computer. That link is here.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.

Bishop appoints new missioner for returning congregations

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 12:20pm

The Rev. Willis Coyne

[The Episcopal Church in South Carolina] Bishop Skip Adams has appointed the Rev. William Coyne as the new missioner for returning congregations for The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, a new diocesan staff position created to assist parishes and missions that are returning to The Episcopal Church.

“This new ministry is a way for our diocese to manifest good care of God’s people, live out our Diocesan Vision,and always seek the goals of reconciliation and unity in Christ during this important time of transition,” Adams said.

As missioner, Coyne will report directly to the bishop, while developing teams and support systems around the diocese for the successful return of churches to The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, which is the diocese of the Episcopal Church in eastern South Carolina.

“Bill Coyne brings great gifts to this position, both in his education and abilities and in his many years of experience at the parish and diocesan levels,” the bishop said. “His passion for congregational vitality and service to God’s people will be a great blessing to everyone who will be working with him in the months ahead.”

“What does a 21st-century mission-focused congregation look like in the Episcopal Church in South Carolina?” Coyne said. “That is my priority question as we begin this transition time together.”

Read ‘A Word from the New Missioner’ here

At least 28 parishes in the region are returning to The Episcopal Church in South Carolina under a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling in August 2017 in a lawsuit filed by a breakaway group. Prior to 2012, all the parishes were operating as Episcopal churches in the then-unified Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

The transition moved into a new phase on June 11, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the decision. The 1st Circuit Court of Common Pleas is now responsible for implementing the final ruling, a process which may take several months.

Coyne will be the chief diocesan contact person for every returning parish and mission, meeting with their leaders and identifying what is needed for an orderly return to The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. He also will help them with assessing their clergy and staff needs, determining their financial position, and setting up their governance and bylaws in accordance with church law.

One initial goal is for every congregation to be able to continue to worship on Sunday mornings without interruption through the transition period.

Coyne has served in The Episcopal Church in South Carolina since August 2015, when he was called as interim rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Charleston. He led that parish for two years through their successful call of a new rector last summer. In August 2017 he was named priest-in-charge of The East Cooper Episcopal Church, and will continue in that role alongside his new responsibilities.

Before coming to Charleston, he served for 15 years as archdeacon of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, where he was responsible for congregational development for 65 congregations. After retiring from that ministry in 2013, Coyne served in two interim positions in Western Massachusetts before he and his wife Janet moved to Charleston. The Coynes have three grown children and five grandchildren.

Fr. Coyne can be reached at wcoyne@episcopalchurchsc.org or 843-614-0679.

La Iglesia y líderes interreligiosos le piden al gobierno de EE.UU. que le ponga fin a su política migratoria que divide familias

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 9:57am

People hold signs to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order to detain children crossing the southern U.S. border and separating families outside of City Hall in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 7, 2018. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon – RC111056BF20

[Episcopal News Service] A mediados de mayo, un hondureño que cruzó la frontera de México con Estados Unidos en el sureste de Texas con su esposa y su hijo de 3 años se suicidó en un centro de detención, donde luego de solicitar asilo, los agentes fronterizos le dijeron que lo separarían de su familia.

Las separaciones de familia no sólo están ocurriendo en la frontera, las redadas están teniendo lugar en todo el país. A principios de junino, en Seattle, Washington, 206 inmigrantes indocumentados arrestados en la frontera y retenidos por el Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas de EE.UU.—174 de ellos mujeres, y al menos la mitad de ellas madres— fueron trasladados a un centro de detención cerca del aeropuerto. En algún momento de este traslado, a las madres las separaron de sus hijos. A algunas no les dieron la oportunidad de despedirse y podían oír a sus hijos gritar en un cuarto cercano; algunas no saben el paradero de sus hijos. La mayoría, aunque no todas, de las mujeres huían de las bandas y la violencia doméstica en El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras, tres de los países más violentos del mundo.

Menores solos y familias provenientes de América Central comenzaron a llegar a la frontera México-americana en cifras récord en 2014. Estas cifras disminuyeron posteriormente, pero hay un nuevo auge ahora en la frontera sudoccidental donde los agentes de Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas han detenido a más de 252.000 personas  —32.371 menores no acompañados y 59.371 familias— en los últimos ocho meses. Hay unos 11.000 menores no acompañados en detención federal.

El 11 de junio, Jeff Sessions, el secretario de Justicia de EE.UU., esclareció la política migratoria del gobierno de Trump al decir  que las violencias de las bandas armada y la violencia doméstica no eran fundamentos para la obtención de asilo, revocando así un precedente establecido en 2016 por la Junta Federal de Apelaciones de Inmigración del Departamento de Justicia.

A principios de abril, Sessions anunció que cualquiera que fuera detenido cruzando la frontera o intentando cruzarla ilegalmente estaría sujeto a un proceso penal. Luego, el 7 de mayo, durante un discurso en San Diego, Sessions aclaró la política de cero tolerancia, afirmando que incluye la separación de niños y padres.

“Los inmigrantes deben presentar una solicitud legal antes de entrar en nuestro país”, dijo Sessions. “Los ciudadanos de otros países no pueden violar nuestras leyes o reescribirlas por nosotros. Las personas de todo el mundo no tienen ningún derecho a exigir ingreso [en nuestro país] en violación de nuestra soberanía”.

Para llevar a cabo el cumplimiento de las nuevas normas, Sessions envío a 35 fiscales al Suroeste y trasladó 18 jueces de inmigración a la frontera.

El 6 de junio, un juez federal en San Diego rehusó desestimar una demanda presentada por la Unión Americana de Libertades Civiles que se oponía a la política migratoria del gobierno de Trump diciendo que la separación de las familias violaba la cláusula del debido proceso de la Constitución. Sin embargo, el juez sí desestimó otra demanda que argüía que la práctica viola las leyes de asilo.

Entrar o intentar entrar en Estados Unidos ilegalmente y solicitar asilo no es la misma cosa.

Conforme al derecho internacional, las personas que huyen de la violencia y la persecución tienen el derecho de solicitar asilo. La Iglesia Episcopal tiene una política de larga data que afirma el derecho universal de solicitar asilo; reconoce la necesidad de proteger a las personas vulnerables.

La semana pasada, el obispo primado Michael Curry firmó una declaración ecuménica e interreligiosa que expresaba preocupación por una reciente política del gobierno de EE.UU. “que exigía una aplicación más estricta de las leyes federales de inmigración”. Una política, dicen los firmantes, que probablemente dará lugar a un aumento en las separaciones de familias.

“En verdad aprecié que el obispo Curry firmara la declaración… lamentando la separación de las familias a partir de criterios religiosos” dijo la veterana activista de inmigración Sarah Lawton, que preside el Comité de Justicia Social y Política Internacional de la Convención General y es diputada laica por la Diócesis de California. “Aprecio que él reconozca que nosotros, como cristianos, como episcopales, respetamos a la familia como uno de los pilares fundamentales de la sociedad y lo reconocemos en nuestros propios sacramentos”.

Que Estados Unidos implante una política punitiva de separación de familias en la frontera —tomando a los niños y no diciéndoles a sus padres, en algunos casos, adonde van, no permitiéndoles que se despidan— para desalentar a los que solicitan asilo es [algo] inimaginable, afirmó ella, en una llamada telefónica con Episcopal News Service.

“Es tan cruel, realmente depravado. No necesitan hacer eso… Conforme al derecho internacional, ellos tienen el derecho de hacer una solicitud de asilo”, dijo Lawton. “Deberíamos estar todos al teléfono —o en las calles— llamando a nuestros legisladores. La política de EE.UU. ha estado en crisis durante mucho tiempo; eso se ha intensificado bajo Trump y se ha tornado más racista. La Administración busca presas fáciles, familias que están inscritas [en los sistemas de rastreo del gobierno] Es un terror que desciende sobre las familias. Como Iglesia, es nuestro deber proteger la dignidad de todo ser humano”.

Las historias de padres y madres separados de sus hijos en la frontera son sumamente perturbadoras, dijo —en un correo electrónico a ENS— Lacy Broemel, analista de la política migratoria y de refugiados de la Iglesia Episcopal que opera desde la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales [de la Iglesia] en Washington, D.C.

“La Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales insta a los episcopales a que se dirijan a sus representantes del Congreso y les pidan que el gobierno ponga fin a esta política lesiva de separar familias en la frontera. Nuestra oficina comparte la declaración del Obispo Primado con miembros del Congreso y se reúne con ellos para hacerles presente la profunda preocupación de la Iglesia Episcopal respecto a esta práctica y aboga mediante el proceso de partidas [presupuestarias] a que se opongan a la asignación de fondos adicionales a los centros de detención”, afirmó ella.

“Además, seguimos abogando por cambios en mayor escala en nuestras políticas migratorias, tales como la ciudadanía para los “soñadores”[Dreamers] y otras personas indocumentadas en EE.UU., la puesta en práctica de políticas humanas y razonables en nuestra frontera, y abordar la violencia y la pobreza de estas familias que huyen de sus países de origen”, dijo Broemel.

En su 79ª. Convención General en julio en Austin, Texas, la Iglesia Episcopal contemplará una legislación que refuerce sus posiciones sobre los refugiados, inmigración y migración, incluida la Resolución D009, que examina los principios cristianos para responder a la migración humana (la Convención General de 2015 aprobó varias resoluciones que fortalecían su posición sobre la migración y los refugiados).

La Convención se ocupará no sólo de responder a la crisis migratoria actual, sino que también adoptará una estrategia de respuesta a largo plazo en Estados Unidos, así como en lugares tales como la República Dominicana, donde los migrantes haitianos con frecuencia son víctimas de abuso, y en zonas donde el cambio climático amenaza con desplazar a comunidades enteras.

“La Iglesia Episcopal tiene un largo y bien documentado historial de batallar a favor de una reforma migratoria global así como de [brindarles] ayuda humanitaria a los refugiados”, dijo la Rvdma. Anne Hodges-Copple, obispa sufragánea de la Diócesis de Carolina del Norte. “El interés y la energía para esta labor no hace más que crecer mientras nuestras comunidades locales están siendo continuamente bendecidas con nuevos vecinos de otros países. Los relatos de familia rotas y sufriendo debido al inoperante sistema migratorio actual son las historias de familias que conocemos del trabajo, la escuela y la iglesia.

“Cinco resoluciones sobre la reforma migratoria se han presentado hasta ahora ante el Comité de Justicia Social y Política de EE.UU.. Esperamos más presentaciones que aborden la política del Departamento de Justicia de separar a los hijos de sus padres. Esta es una significativa desviación de décadas de anteriores gobiernos demócratas y republicanos que desafía cualquier definición usualmente aceptada de valores de la familia”, afirmó ella. “Un gran don de la Convención General es nuestro proceso de resoluciones como un modo de escuchar, hablar y aprender de una variedad de voces y de discernir devotamente una posición y un llamado a la acción bíblica y teológicamente fundamentados”.

A principios de este mes, Rebecca Linder Blachly, directora de la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales, firmó una declaración interreligiosa que lamentaba la separación de las familias e instaba a los líderes nacionales a proteger la unidad familiar.

Las iglesias y las comunidades religiosas tienen un derecho constitucional a presentarle peticiones al gobierno.  La cláusula del establecimiento de la Primera Enmienda no les prohíbe a las iglesias reunirse con funcionarios electos ni informarles o abogar cerca de ellos con el objetivo de crear leyes en consonancia con los valores de las iglesias. A través de la historia de EE.UU., las comunidades religiosas se han comprometido políticamente con problemas de su tiempo: desde la abolición hasta la reforma migratoria pasando por los derechos civiles.

La Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales – ubicada en el barrio Capitol Hill [donde se encuentra el Congreso]— lleva a cabo la agenda de la Iglesia basada en valores no partidaristas. Cada tres años, la Convención General de la Iglesia se reúne para conducir los asuntos relacionados con la Iglesia y debatir y aprobar una legislación que abarca desde revisiones del Libro de Oración Común hasta resoluciones en apoyo de una reforma de la justicia penal y migratoria. Los episcopales pueden unirse a la Red Episcopal de Política Pública para llegar a participar de esta labor.

Para escribirle a sus funcionarios electos y pedirles que defiendan el acceso al asilo, haga clic aquí.

En mayo, la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales presentó un seminario en la red [webinar] sobre políticas migratorias y defensa social titulado “Amando a tu prójimo: acciones consecuentes sobre la inmigración”. Haga clic aquí para verlo.

— Lynette Wilson es reportera y jefa de redacción de Episcopal News Service. Puede dirigirse a ella en lwilson@episcopalchurch.org. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Cape Town Archbishop welcomes easing of restrictions on sexual violence prosecutions

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 1:43pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishop of Cape Town has welcomed a decision by South Africa’s Constitutional Court which will make it easier for victims of sexual violence to seek justice. A statute of limitation in South Africa prevented prosecutions for sexual offences other than rape, if the alleged offence occurred more than 20 years earlier. The Constitutional Court struck down that law, saying it was inconsistent with the country’s constitution.

Read the entire article here.

Extending the Table pursues Christian ministries as means to build relationships in community

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 1:22pm

The Rev. Jane Johnson, left, and Bobbie Joy Amann, the lead missioner of Beloved Community’s Mission Action Team, enjoy a conversation with Jeffrey, a regular at the Saturday breakfasts. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series profiling the Episcopal Church’s recent work planting new churches and other faith communities. Other stories about recipients of grants from the Episcopal Church’s Genesis Advisory Group on Church Planting can be found here.

[Episcopal News Service] The door of the downtown storefront in this central Wisconsin college town opened into a spacious retreat, a warm gathering place with couches, chairs and tables and one that, every Saturday, offers a modest breakfast.

On this Saturday, a man in a red hooded sweatshirt was the first through the front door promptly at 9 a.m. He made his way first to the coffee, only later wandering over to the Episcopalian and Lutheran volunteers who were serving ham, cheesy potatoes, banana bread and other homemade items.

Another man in stocking hat and coat plopped down on a chair looking weary. “More sick than hungry,” the man said. The Rev. Jane Johnson pulled up her own chair close to sit and talk with him as the rest of the room began to fill with conversation over food.

This weekly community meal for people who are chronically homeless or living on the economic margins is one component of a ministry known as Extending the Table, which has received key support from a $20,000 Mission Enterprise Zone grant from the Episcopal Church. Meals are central to the ministry but only as a means to the underlying goal of building new relationships.

“It’s living out your faith,” Valerie Le Grande, one of the church volunteers, said during Episcopal News Service’s visit to the breakfast. “Because I think we are called to help the poor and the underprivileged.”

“And those who just need a friend,” fellow volunteer Diane Rice said as she prepared to serve food to about a dozen or more people.

Valerie Le Grande serves food to some of the visitors to the weekly community meal organized by Intercession Episcopal Church and Redeemer Lutheran Church, which worship together as Beloved Community in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The ministry is ecumenical because the congregation itself is ecumenical. Johnson is rector of Intercession Episcopal Church and pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church through a partnership they call Beloved Community, involving a shared worship space in Stevens Point, a small city of about 27,000 people. They also collaborate on the Mission Action Team spearheading Extending the Table, which is taking church into the community in innovative ways.

“The challenge that we decided we have is, we don’t know how to build connections with people who are not like us,” Johnson said.

The four groups that Extending the Table aims to connect with are people living on the economic margins, the transgender community, college students and young people.

“This is a good example of the sorts of new ministries that we’re looking to start across the Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Michael Michie, staff officer for church planting infrastructure. “For a lot of people, crossing the threshold of an established church can be hugely intimidating. … So, having a creative, highly relational ministry that really seeks to bring these people in and connect with us, it’s just the kind of thing that we’re so excited about.”

Even before those efforts received the backing of an Episcopal Church grant, Intercession had reached out to the transgender community through a support group called Just As I Am, led by Intercession member Bobbie Joy Amann.

Amann, who now serves as the lead missioner of the Mission Action Team, is transgender and knew some of the therapists in Stevens Point who work with the transgender community, so she began spreading the word about creating a church-based group offering support and socializing.

The LGBTQ community “in the past has been very, very suspicious of Christianity, at least the way it has been misrepresented,” Amann said, so it was important to first build trust and not go in with a religious agenda.

The church began hosting the meetings about two years ago, sometimes drawing 15 to 20 people. Amann thinks the participants were impressed by congregation members’ willingness to listen with acceptance and offer silent witnesses to their experiences.

Members of the Just As I Am group still meet socially around town and remain connected to the church, though the regular church meetings have since ended.

Extending the Table also has organized monthly community dinners at the church for the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at the University of Stevens Point, which helps the church build relationships with both the LGBTQ community and college students. The most recent dinner was May 10 and featured pizza and conversation and “just being present to them in a way they’re probably not used to having Christians be with them,” Amann said.

That is the approach the Mission Action Team is taking with all the communities that are part of Extending the Table.

“It’s putting wings to our gospel and being the hands and arms and feet of Christ,” Amann said.

The weekly meal for people who are chronically homeless or living on the economic margins is one component of a ministry known as Extending the Table, which has received key support from a $20,000 Mission Enterprise Zone grant from the Episcopal Church. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The efforts underway at Intercession coincide with an openness to ministry experimentation and reflection encouraged by Diocese of Fond du Lac Bishop Matthew Gunter, who created the diocesan Commission on Congregational Vitality about three years ago.

The commission, of which Johnson is a member, is working with all congregations in the diocese to assess their strengths and challenges to develop plans for making them more visible in the community. And those plans are not intended to simply get more people into the church on Sunday.

“We’ve been encouraging congregations to think hard about what they can do in their own context,” Gunter told ENS.

Extending the Table has been a leading example. “The way they did that fit very much into the mindset of what can we do to engage mission differently,” he said.

One catalyst for the Extending the Table was the deliberations over Intercession’s building. It was in serious need of repair, and although fixing the building to remain in the congregation’s historic location would have been feasible, the congregation began discerning whether that was really how God was calling them to use their time and money.

Cathy Cowling, another member of the Commission on Congregational Vitality, was asked to help facilitate those discussions, and she told ENS that Intercession didn’t make the decision to move lightly.

“Is the church the building, or is the church the people gathered there and doing ministry? And they said the church is more than the building,” Cowling said.

Intersession already had a growing relationship with Redeemer Lutheran Church, an Evangelical Lutheran Church of America congregation. Johnson had been leading a regular Wednesday night meal and Christian education session involving members of the two congregations. With Intercession assessing its location options and with Redeemer searching for a new pastor, the two churches reached an agreement to share Johnson as rector-pastor and to allow Intercession to move into and share Redeemer’s church building starting last August.

“A lot of folks get fixated on the fact we left our building,” Johnson said, but a church is more than the building. “Do we save the building? Or do we save the church? And we just decided that if our focus continued to be on do we save the building, we’re not going to be able to move into this way of mission that God is calling us to.”

The Saturday breakfasts grew out of an earlier ministry to homeless people staying in a winter warming center housed in Intercession’s parish hall and run by an organization called Evergreen Community Initiatives. That warming center, with a capacity of a dozen people, opened in November 2016.

The church started offering meals to the warming center residents some Saturdays, and when the warming center closed for the season in April 2017, Intercession decided to continue the meals every Saturday morning at a centrally located park in Stevens Point.

The Extending the Table breakfasts are held every Saturday morning at Franciscans Downtown in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Then last fall, the breakfasts moved to its current location in Franciscan Downtown, a kind of day center for the homeless and economically disadvantaged run by a Franciscan order.

“How is Mother Jane?” a man named Jeffrey said to Johnson shortly after arriving at breakfast. Jeffrey is a Saturday morning regular and a former resident of the warming center at Intercession.

“I’m well, thank you,” Johnson said.

Most of the people who come are chronically homeless or people dependent on government assistance to get by. Jeffrey, who declined to provide his last name to a reporter, is 67 and gets by on Social Security checks and selling items at flea markets in the summer months, when he lives out of his car. He and the others who gather here Saturday mornings can take advantage of well-established feeding services provided by other organizations in Stevens Point. The goal of Extending the Table was not to replicate those organizations’ work.

“The whole point isn’t really to serve food,” Johnson told ENS. “The whole point is to build relationships and community.” It’s about “just rethinking what it means to be the body of Christ, and that we need to be in ministry with one another.”

The Mission Action Team follows an open-ended but deliberate cycle: Listen, discern, experiment, reflect, repeat. It’s a template that can be followed by congregations across the church.

“What we’re learning, we’re intent on sharing that with the larger church,” said Michie, the staff officer for church planting infrastructure. Congregations like the one in Stevens Point are “kind of pioneering the way for what the Episcopal Church will look like in the next generation.”

Church members Diane and Harry Rice greet and offer food to guests at the community meal. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

God’s presence is felt every Saturday at Franciscans Downtown, where on this morning the meal was followed by a memorial service for John Jankowski, a beloved regular who died the month before.

“The best way to describe John was, we all have our own idiosyncrasies, tendencies and peculiarities, and his peculiarities were peculiar,” Jeffrey said.

As for Jeffrey, he said he once taught math and economics to high school students. Now he likes to spend his summers in Wisconsin’s Northwoods, or wherever else life takes him. He said he has no family, though it was clear he had made connections among the people at the breakfast.

“You do have family,” Johnson told him. “I’m your family.”

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

Mississippi tolls bells in Medgar Evers’ memory

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 12:19pm

[Diocese of Mississippi] Church bells tolled across Mississippi from Episcopal bell towers in memory of civil rights activist Medgar Evers on June 12.

The Diocese of Mississippi and the Racial Reconciliation Task Force responded to a request by the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute that Evers be memorialized by the bell tolling across Mississippi. Churches were asked to toll the bell 55 times, one toll for each year that has passed since Evers was shot and killed getting out of his car at his Jackson home.

The Rev. Anne Harris, rector of St. Paul’s, Columbus, Mississippi, takes her turn at tolling the church bell in memory of Medgar Evers. Photo: Chuck Yarborough

Evers died June 12, 1963, when he was assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist and Klansman, who was tried three times before conviction in 1994. Beckwith died in prison in 2001.

Anita Parrott George, the chair of the Racial Reconciliation Task Force in the Diocese of Mississippi, and a member of the Episcopal Church Executive Council, said that those gathered at a recent conference the Gray Center in Mississippi came out of the event with a call to remember Medgar Evers on the day of his death by the bell tolling.

George helped assemble the late-May conference in Canton, which was called “55 Years Later: Becoming the Beloved Community.” The event is one of several sponsored by the task force.  This year the conference featured six speakers from across the nation including two presenters from the Episcopal Church Center, Heidi Kim and Chuck Wynder.  Both Kim and Wynder work in racial reconciliation and as social justice officers for the Episcopal Church.

“The task force believes that the first step in becoming the beloved community is to know its history and the stories of its people,” said George prior to the conference.

The Rt. Rev. Brian R. Seage, bishop of Mississippi attended the two-day conference.  As he remembered the slaying of Medgar Evers, the bishop said, “The Episcopal Church in Mississippi strives to live into the baptismal covenant by continuing the important work of racial reconciliation.  Our task force for racial reconciliation is blessed with strong leadership and devoted membership. The mission of the task force follows the baptismal promise ‘to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.’”

-The Rev. Scott Lenoir is the editor of The Mississippi Episcopalian.

Church leaders endorse Season of Creation in rare ecumenical joint letter

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 10:45am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has joined leaders of other Christian churches in a joint letter encouraging participation in the Season of Creation. The annual celebration of prayer and action to protect the environment emerged from a proclamation by the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I in 1989. He called on Orthodox Christians to observe Sept. 1 each year as a day of prayer for creation. Many churches across the world from different traditions began celebrating a Season of Creation between that date and 4 October 4 – the feast of St Francis of Assisi.

Read the entire article here.

Congregations’ pet ministries offer support to pet owners and their four-legged companions

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 10:40am

The Perfect Paws Pet Ministry at All Saints Episcopal Church in Danvers, Massachusetts, hosted a meeting of the West Highland White Terrier Club in September.

[Episcopal News Service] Lord God made them all, the creatures of the world great and small, and God’s smaller creatures are getting a helping hand from the numerous Episcopal congregations around the country with pet outreach in their lineup of parish ministries.

In Roswell, New Mexico, there’s the Four Paws Pet Pantry, a ministry of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. In Danvers, Massachusetts, All Saints Episcopal Church calls its ministry Perfect Paws, with services ranging from pet food drives to a therapy dog program in local schools. And St. Paul’s Church By-the-Lake in Chicago, Illinois, has a monthly food pantry called AniMeals that doubles as a basic pet clinic, with local veterinarians donating their time.

Pets are the focus, but such outreach would more precisely be described as serving the needs of human members of the congregations’ communities who struggle financially with taking care of their pets. AniMeals, for example, was created about 20 years ago out of concern for older and low-income residents forced to decide between self-care and pet care.

“Instead of buying food for themselves, they were buying food for their animals and depriving themselves of that nutrition,” said the Rev. John Heschle, the longtime rector of St. Paul’s. The AniMeals “pet food café” now draws 15 to 25 pet owners every third Saturday of the month.

One of the simplest pet ministries can be found in Episcopal churches across the country: Annual services offering pet blessings have become commonplace and typically are held in early October around the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. Such services were relatively new in metro Chicago in the late 1990s when St. Paul’s held its first pet blessing service, which soon grew into the AniMeals ministry.

Some churches, though, take pet outreach a step further. The Episcopal Church Asset Map, though not a comprehensive listing, shows at least a dozen congregations that offer some form of concerted pet ministry, from the pet supplies collections led by St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Waterford, Michigan,  to the fundraisers that St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in Niceville, Florida, holds to support a local no-kill shelter.

Cat and dog food repackaged in gallon plastic bags is stacked for distribution at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Roswell, New Mexico, for the church’s Four Paws Pet Pantry.

Several churches run their own pet food pantries – think of it like a church food pantry, but for pets – such as St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and St. Andrew’s in New Mexico.

“There’s a whole lot of us there that are big pet lovers, and we saw the need in Roswell,” said Enid Smith, who helps organize the Four Paws Pet Pantry at St. Andrews. “People were having to decide if they could keep a pet or not.”

The pet food pantry was created about two years ago and now serves 70 to 80 pet owners on the third Wednesday each month. The congregation has rallied behind the new ministry, and some local school groups have volunteered to help as service projects.

“I just feel like it’s both community and church,” Smith said. “We’re really helping a lot of people in the community.

St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Alden, New York, created its Pet Food Cupboard about four years ago and runs it out of the church basement. The congregation, directly east of Buffalo, chose the name “cupboard” to clearly differentiate it from its food pantry, said James Wojcik, who organizes the Pet Food Cupboard with his wife, Christine.

“We were volunteering for the food pantry here at the church, and every so often a veterinarian or some people who were donating things would donate some pet food,” James Wojcik, 78, told Episcopal News Service. They began offering the pet food on pantry days, “and pretty soon people started asking for it.”

Now the pet ministry has grown to serve 70 people or more on the second Saturday of each month. Wojcik estimates they give out up to 300 pounds of cat food and 200 pounds of dog food a month. They also sometimes distribute cat litter. They don’t have any income or residency requirements for recipients, and no one is denied the pet supplies.

Their typical clients “just desperately need help feeding the animals,” he said.

Clients of AniMeals in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood can get more than just food and supplies. Its volunteer veterinarians also will spay or neuter pets as needed and even offer microchipping, in case the pets get lost.

St. Paul’s requires pet owners who visit AniMeals to meet income requirements showing financial need, though clients don’t need to be a church member or Episcopalian. Some choose to come back to attend attending church services, but it’s not expected.

“That’s not our primary reason for doing this,” Heschle said. “It really was to meet sort of a need that we saw in the neighborhood.”

These ministries often are driven by the congregation members’ love of animals. What else but love would compel a ministry like Perfect Paws in Danvers, Massachusetts, to host a presentation on dog body language for owners of white terriers on the church green?

Heschle’s congregation goes as far as to set out food and water in dishes between the rectory and church building, for any feral cats roaming the neighborhood. Those cats are then trapped so they can be spayed and neutered.

Wojcik and his wife have two dogs of their own, a hound and a boxer, both shelter dogs.

“We always have been pet lovers,” he said, though he sees a greater purpose in the Pet Food Cupboard at St. Aidan’s. “It’s like the letter of James: Faith without good works is kind of hollow.”

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

Gayle Fisher-Stewart appointed chaplain for Takoma Park Police Department

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 10:07am

[Takoma Park Police Department] Takoma Park, Maryland, Police Chief Antonio DeVaul announces that the Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart has been appointed police chaplain for the Takoma Park Police Department.

“It is an honor to have the Rev. Dr. Fisher-Stewart as our official department chaplain. Her compassion and expertise will be an asset to our agency and the City of Takoma Park,” said DeVaul.

Fisher-Stewart currently serves as the assistant pastor at Calvary Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. A native Washingtonian, prior to accepting the call to ordained ministry, she retired from the Metropolitan Police Department as a captain and then taught at the university level. Her area of special interest is the history of policing as it intersects with race in America. She is the founder of the Center for the Study of Faith in Justice at Calvary which conducts research and creates a safe space for the discussion of issues that vex both society and the church and is the president for the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians.

Fisher-Stewart is a graduate of the University of Maryland University College (BS), the University of Maryland (MS, Ph.D), American University (MS), the University of the District of Columbia (MA) and Wesley Theological Seminary (MTS). She was the 2015 recipient of the Director’s Award, Episcopal Evangelism Society and, in 2017, she was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity from Colgate University.

Fisher-Stewart is the mother of a son, David, who is her heart.

“As a long-time resident of Takoma Park, I am honored to be working with my police department and I thank Chief DeVaul for the opportunity to serve,” said Fisher-Stewart.

South Sudan: Bishop casts doubt on possible rival leaders’ meeting

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 2:37pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The retired South Sudanese Anglican bishop who leads the faith based group in the ongoing peace talks, Enock Tombe, says he is pessimistic about a proposed face-to-face meeting between President Salva Kiir and his rival Dr Riek Machar. The meeting was proposed by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development during talks at the Council of Ministers’ extra-ordinary session in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, last week.

Read the entire article here.

Church, interfaith leaders call for US government to end its immigration policy separating families

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 2:32pm

People hold signs to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order to detain children crossing the southern U.S. border and separating families outside of City Hall in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 7, 2018. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service] In mid-May a Honduran man who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in southeast Texas with his wife and 3-year-old son committed suicide at a detention center, where after requesting asylum border agents told him he’d be separated from his family.

Family separations aren’t just happening at the border, roundups are happening nationwide. In early June, in Seattle, Washington, 206 undocumented immigrants apprehended at the border and held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody  — 174 of the women, at least half of them mothers — were transferred to a detention facility near the airport. Somewhere along their journey the mothers were separated from their children. Some weren’t given the chance to say goodbye and could hear their children screaming in a nearby room, some don’t know their children’s whereabouts. Most, though not all, of the women fled ongoing gang and domestic violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, three of the most violent countries in the world.

Unaccompanied minors and families from Central American began arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in record numbers in 2014. The numbers later dropped off, but there’s a new surge happening now at the Southwest border where Customs and Border Control agents have detained more than 252,000 people – 32,371 unaccompanied minors and 59,113 families – over the last eight months. There are some 11,000 unaccompanied minors in federal custody.

On June 11, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions further clarified the Trump administration’s immigration policy saying gang violence and domestic abuse are not grounds for asylum overturning a precedent set in 2016 by the Department of Justice’s Federal Board of Immigration Appeals.

In early April, Sessions announced that anyone caught crossing the border illegally or attempting to cross the border illegally would be criminally prosecuted. Then, on May 7, during a speech in San Diego, Sessions clarified the zero-tolerance policy, stating it includes separating children and parents.

“Immigrants should ask to apply lawfully before they enter our country,” said Sessions. “Citizens of other countries don’t get to violate our laws or rewrite them for us. People around the world have no right to demand entry in violation of our sovereignty.”

To carry out the new enforcement policies, Sessions sent 35 prosecutors to the Southwest and moved 18 immigration judges to the border.

On June 6, a federal judge in San Diego refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the Trump administration’s immigration policy by saying family separation may violate the Constitution’s due process clause. He did, however, dismiss a separate challenge saying that the practice violates asylum laws.

Entering or attempting to enter the United States illegally, however, and requesting asylum are not one in the same.

Under international law, people fleeing violence and persecution have the right to request asylum. The Episcopal Church has a longstanding policy affirming the universal right to seek asylum; it recognizes the need to protect vulnerable people.

Last week, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry signed on to an ecumenical and interfaith statement expressing concerns over a recent U.S. government policy “calling for more stringent enforcement of federal immigration laws.” A policy, they say, will likely result in an increase in family separations.

“I really appreciated that Bishop Curry signed the statement … decrying the separation of families in faith-based terms,” said longtime immigration advocate Sarah Lawton, who chairs the House of Deputies’ General Convention Social Justice and International Policy Committee and is a lay deputy from the Diocese of California. “I appreciate that he recognized that we as Christians, as Episcopalians, respect the family as one of the fundamental building blocks of society and recognize that in our own sacraments.”

That the United States would deploy a punitive policy separating families at the border, taking children and not telling their parents where they are going in some cases, not allowing them to say goodbye, to deter asylum seekers is unimaginable, she said, in a phone call with Episcopal News Service.

“It’s so cruel, depraved really, they don’t need to do that … under international law they have the right to make an asylum claim,” said Lawton. “We should all be on the phone — out in the streets — calling our legislators. U.S. policy has been in crisis for a long time, it has intensified under Trump and has become more racist. The administration is going after the low-hanging fruit, families that are registered [in government tracking systems] it’s a terror that’s ascending on families. As a church, it’s our duty to protect the dignity of every human being.”

The stories of fathers and mothers being separated from their children at the border are deeply disturbing, said Lacy Broemel, the Episcopal Church’s immigration and refugee policy analyst working out of the Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations, in an email to ENS.

“The Office of Government Relations is urging Episcopalians to contact their members of Congress to ask the administration to end this harmful policy of separating families at the border. Our office is sharing the presiding bishop’s statement with members of Congress and meeting with them to share the Episcopal Church’s deep concern about this practice and are advocating through the appropriations process to oppose additional funding to detention centers,” she said.

“Further, we are continuing to focus on advocating for larger-scale changes to our immigration policies such as citizenship for Dreamers and other undocumented persons in the U.S., implementing humane and reasonable policies at our border, and addressing the violence and poverty these families are fleeing in their home countries,” said Broemel.

At its 79th General Convention in July in Austin, Texas, the Episcopal Church will consider legislation reinforcing its positions on refugees, immigration and migration, including Resolution D009, which examines the Christian principles for responding to human migration. (The 2015 General Convention passed several resolutions strengthening its position on immigration and refugees.)

Convention will look to respond not only to the current migration crisis, but to adopt a long-term response strategy not just in the United States, but in places like the Dominican Republic, where Haitian migrants often suffer abuse, and in places where climate change threatens to displace entire communities.

“The Episcopal Church has a long-standing and well-documented history of championing comprehensive immigration reform as well as humanitarian support for refugees. The interest and energy for this work is only increasing as our local communities are continue to be blessed with new neighbors from others countries. The stories of families torn apart and suffering under the current broken immigration system are the stories of families we know from work, school and church,” said  the Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple, bishop suffragan for the Diocese of North Carolina.

“Five resolutions on immigration reform have been submitted to the Committee on Social Justice and U.S. Policy so far. We expect more submissions addressing the Justice Department’s policy of separating children from their parents. This pointed departure from decades of previous Republican and Democratic-led administrations’ policies defy any commonly held definition of family values,” she said. “A great gift of General Convention is our resolution process as a way to listen, speak and learn from a wide variety of voices and prayerfully discern a biblically, theologically informed position and call to action.”

Earlier this month, Rebecca Linder Blachly, the director of the Office of Government Relations signed on to an interfaith statement decrying family separation and urging national leaders to protect family unity.

Churches and religious communities have a constitutional right to petition the government. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause does not prohibit churches from meeting with, educating or advocating to elected officials with the aim of creating laws in line with the churches’ values. Throughout U.S. history, religious communities have engaged politically on issues of the era: from abolition to civil rights movements to immigration reform.

The Office of Government Relations – housed on Capitol Hill – carries out the church’s nonpartisan, values-based agenda. Every three years, the Episcopal Church’s General Convention meets to conduct church-related business and to discuss and pass legislation ranging from revisions of the Book of Common Prayer to resolutions supporting criminal justice and immigration reform. Episcopalians can join the Episcopal Public Policy Network to become involved in this work.

To write your elected officials to request they defend access to asylum, click here.

In May, the Office of Government Relations hosted a webinar on immigration policies and advocacy titled “Loving Your Neighbor: Faithful Actions on Immigration.” Click here to watch it.

-Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of the Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.

Peace. Prayer. Productivity: California ‘day monastery’ melds prayer, work

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 3:51pm

Deborah Kaufman Giordano, a healthcare recruiter and one of the co-creators of The Divine Office at St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica, California, uses hymnals to convert a plastic card table into a desk for now, while money for renovation is still being raised. Photo courtesy of Katie Cadigan

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series profiling the Episcopal Church’s recent work planting new churches and other faith communities. Other stories about recipients of grants from the Episcopal Church’s Genesis Advisory Group on Church Planting can be found here.

[Episcopal News Service] When Dennis Doherty found working from his West Los Angeles home too distracting and isolating, he went to coffee shops and even the local IHOP.

Then he heard about The Divine Office (TDO) at St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica, California, a few miles away. It blends monastic-style spirituality and the secular phenomenon of creative coworking spaces.

Initially, “I wondered, what’s all this prayer business?” Doherty told the Episcopal News Service during a recent telephone interview. “Then I decided, well, if this is the price I have to pay for having a quiet place to work, I’ll check it out.”

The Rev. Katie Cadigan, associate rector and TDO founder, views it as a “micro-monastic community” operating in underutilized rooms on St. Augustine’s campus.

With growing numbers of people working remotely, Cadigan hoped the church’s location – a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean – and its available space would draw from the area’s boom in younger, home-based professionals.

Funded, in part, through a $40,000 Episcopal Church New Church Start grant last year, TDO is “like a WeWork or like the people who work in Starbucks independently,” but whose participants pray several times daily, Cadigan said.

The Rev. Katie Cadigan

“This is kind of like a day monastery, where people will come to work and worship,” she said.

“Instead of going off to a monastery, having a wonderful retreat and coming home and realizing, after a day, a week, all that good feeling and connection is gone, what if we brought monastery-like experiences into our everyday world? What if we wrapped and enveloped our work lives in prayer?”

Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Diane Bruce, a TDO adviser, said the idea immediately intrigued her. “People working from their homes can be and feel so isolated, which is the opposite of what Jesus modeled in being in community,” she told ENS.

“The Divine Office offers a space in which people can come together and connect – it is a holy space and time!”

The Rev. Thomas Brackett, Episcopal Church manager for church planting and mission development, said TDO’s application captured the imagination of reviewers from the Genesis Advisory Group on Church Planting by saying basically, “We believe that a rhythm of life blesses anybody who engages this.

“And, instead of waiting for people to come and learn our prayer book or the Daily Office, we want to take it to them in ways that are meaningful to them.”

And that it’s a work in progress.

“They said from the very beginning, we don’t know what that is going to look like yet, but if you are willing to venture with us, we’re going to figure it out and we will let you know what we learn,” Brackett said.

Christopher Curzon, IT consultant (left), and Dennis Doherty, founder of DohertyTech GOSLYN (right), are two of more than a dozen co-creators of The Divine Office who working on rickety chairs and card tables while funds for renovation are being raised. Photo courtesy of Katie Cadigan

A work in progress

Doherty is among at least a dozen TDO “co-creators” who meet once, sometimes twice weekly and who take turns leading intervals of morning, noonday and closing prayers.

Another member of the group, Deborah Kaufman Giordano, president and founder of Healthcare Recruiting Inc. especially appreciated that “not everything needed to be perfect to start this community plant. … We didn’t have to have it all figured out on day one.”

While at times working with laptops on card tables and spotty internet has a rough-around-the-edges feel, the collective wisdom of the group of writers, filmmakers, editors and others is rewarding, said Giordano, who is married to actor James Giordano, of “Twin Peaks” fame.

“TDO is making a huge difference in my life, and holds the potential of making a big difference in the lives of others … by balancing our work lives with our God-lives,” Giordano said. “This isn’t a space where we are trying to convert anyone. We never ever proselytize. But … I’m working on not compartmentalizing God, not pushing God into a box where I only reflect on Him maybe once a week, in Sunday worship. It gives me hope.”

Currently, the group meets on Thursdays and some Tuesdays. Eventually, the goal is to expand to five days a week.

Madeline Stewart, storyteller and community builder, coleads one of the three prayer and meditation services that envelop each workday at The Divine Office. Photo courtesy of Katie Cadigan

The days begin with 9 a.m. Morning Prayer and have fallen into a rhythm of morning prayers and a lifting up of daily intentions.

A bell chimes at noon to signal worship, and everyone “puts down the laptop,” Cadigan said. “They do not finish the email they were typing. Just like monks way back when would not finish their calligraphy. They would put down the pen, and at the sound of the bell, go into the chapel and do prayer meditation.”

Noonday prayers are a “kind of check-in, a where we’re at right now vis-à-vis what we’d prayed for in the morning … and people are in gratitude,” Giordano said.

Lunch is fluid; some people bring sack meals. Others walk the four blocks to the Santa Monica Pier or to local restaurants. Closing prayers are typically around 4 p.m., “the group decides when … and the prayers are more around reintegrating with the world or family or what’s next on the horizon,” Cadigan said.

She joins the group for their regular prayer intervals, but “I have never, ever led prayer,” Cadigan said. “My role is as a visionary and a shepherd. The challenge is, how do I grow this organically and listen to the Spirit, so the gifts people have in the community can rise up and flourish in the ways the Spirit calls them to grow.”

The TDO’s pattern is a modern-day take on the traditional daily round of prayer known as the Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Daily Office, which has been practiced since the earliest days of the Christian church. The practice has its roots in the ancient Jewish custom of offering prayers and psalms periodically throughout the day.

Doherty, a distributor for restaurant environmental waste management systems, said he usually schedules his workweek around TDO, and spends his time there invoicing clients and responding to emails.

“The good news is, the prayer has become very important to me. It’s not the price to pay for having a quiet place to work,” he told ENS during a telephone interview from Ireland, where he was vacationing. “Prayer is really part of the appeal and the value … so it’s pretty exciting.”

Jesus as a co-worker

Cadigan, 56, began the TDO startup in August 2017, recruiting Giordano, 53, and Doherty, 64, both St. Augustine’s members.

Over time, and with a more reliable internet connection, Cadigan anticipates that gradually, TDO’s reach will expand, hopefully, to a broader base, “since the nature of independent work is that you are not showing up every day.”

For example, “there’s a writer who’s now in Atlanta, a filmmaker who just got back from several months in Cambodia filming, and another one in Boston editing, so the day-to-day makeup is a bit more fluid.”

There are also physical plant and financial issues: a future building renovation is planned, and plans are in the works for that more reliable internet access as well as a campaign to raise the additional $220,000 needed to finance it all. Eventually, a membership fee will be charged to help defray those costs.

Unanticipated, but necessary additions will include “phone booths” for private calls and even a shower. “The first week, we had a guy go swimming and then come up and work,” Cadigan recalled, chuckling. “So, we discovered we’re going to need a shower … and a feeding station.”

She also discovered that “a good number of people who work and worship with us for just one or two days experience a spiritually meaningful shift of some sort and emerge seeing The Divine Office as a community to participate in on a more infrequent basis than I had originally envisioned.”

This “unexpected rhythm is … stretching us to conceive of membership as something far broader than initially assumed. And a new dimension of discernment opens up for us around how we go about creating a cohesive community with far wider and more fluid edges than anticipated,” she said.

Eventually, she hopes the model of being a cloister in and of the world will be replicable “in any denomination, any space.”

“The way we think about monasteries is, they’re places you go away to,” she said. “You go to get your spirituality fix, but in the life of a monastic, the work and prayer is all integrated.”

So, TDO is reclaiming the experience of the monastic, “milking cows and praying, writing your emails and you’re praying and, as we Episcopalians like to say, praying shapes believing.”

We need places like The Divine Office to help us all to daily grow into discipleship, Cadigan added, quoting Giordano: “‘Jesus is our co-worker, sitting right beside us for every email, every phone call, every everything.’”

— The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.

South American Anglicans meet to discuss joint action on climate change

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 3:38pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishops and other delegates from the six countries in the Anglican Church of South America have met to discuss joint action on the “rapidly mounting issues of global climate change and environmental destruction.” Bishop of Argentina Greg Venables, the presiding bishop of the Anglican Church of South America, called the meeting together with the support of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network. “The church, for the most part, has been in denial about climate change,” he said. “And unless we respond quickly we face not just the tragic outcome, but God’s judgment, since Scripture makes our responsibility clear. We have among us key gifted people to help us, and we pray that this will provide a much-needed point of unity as we move forward.”

Read the entire article here.

Church of South India looks to establish ‘child-friendly churches’ in Karnataka North

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 3:35pm

[Anglican Commuion News Service] Sunday school teachers and Christian educators from the Diocese of Karnataka North in the united Church of South India have received training to develop child-friendly churches. They gathered at the CSI Synod Centre in Chennai for three days of training, sponsored by Evangelical Mission in Solidarity, a German-based mission agency. The training was organised as part of a challenge “to reach out to children with a commitment to establish God’s reign in this present world.”

Read the entire article here.

US Supreme Court refuses to hear South Carolina Episcopal Church property case

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 1:32pm

[Episcopal News Service] The United States Supreme Court refused June 11 a petition by a group that broke away from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina asking it to review a state court ruling that said property, assets and most of the diocese’s parishes must be returned to the Episcopal Church and its recognized diocese, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

The petition for a writ of certiorari from a group that broke away from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina asked the court to consider “whether the ‘neutral principles of law’ approach to resolving church property disputes requires courts to recognize a trust on church property even if the alleged trust does not comply with the state’s ordinary trust and property law.”

The breakaway group said in its Feb. 13 petition that the majority of the South Carolina Supreme Court justices did not take the “neutral” approach.

The high court justices discussed the case (17.1136) during their June 7 conference and denied the request without comment on June 11.

Episcopalians in South Carolina have been reorganizing their common life since late 2012, after then-Bishop Mark Lawrence and a majority of clergy and lay leadership said that the diocese had left the Episcopal Church. They disagreed with the wider Episcopal Church about biblical authority and theology, primarily centered on the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church.

The breakaway group filed a lawsuit in 2013 seeking to control diocesan and parish properties, and a Dorchester County court found in their favor in 2015. The state Supreme Court overturned that decision in August 2017. It was the latter ruling that the group asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review.

“We are grateful for the clarity that this decision offers, and hopeful that it brings all of us closer to having real conversations on how we can bring healing and reconciliation to the church, the body of Christ, in this part of South Carolina,” Episcopal Church South Carolina Bishop Provisional Gladstone B. Adams III said in a statement after the denial.

“Our path continues to be one of reconciliation and love, for love is the way of Jesus,” he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision does not immediately change the physical control of the properties, according to diocesan Chancellor Thomas S. Tisdale Jr. The state court must enforce the ruling.

However, the breakaway group, which calls itself the Diocese of South Carolina, has vowed to continue the legal fight. “The diocese remains confident that the law and the facts of this case favor our congregations,” the group said. “We plan to continue to press both to their logical conclusion, even if that requires a second appearance before the South Carolina Supreme Court.”

In the same statement, Lawrence expressed disappointment, but added “our hope remains steadfast in our heavenly father.

“There are many unresolved legal questions which remain before the State Court as well as matters for prayerful discernment as we seek to carry out the mission to which we are called in Jesus Christ. We shall seek his guidance for both.”

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina said in its statement that it and the Episcopal Church asked the state court May 8 to place diocesan property and assets under control of local Episcopalians, hand over ownership of property of the 28 affected parishes to the Episcopal Church and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and appoint a special master to oversee the transition.

The Episcopal Church has been hoping to engage with leaders of the breakaway group since the state Supreme Court ruling in August, according to the statement. Adams and other diocesan leaders have been seeking direct contact with people in the affected parishes, offering a “Frequently Asked Questions” publication and arranging individual meetings to work with those who want to remain in their home churches as Episcopalians.

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina’s Standing Committee, Diocesan Council, Trustees of the Diocese and deans, will meet June 12 for prayer, hear information and discuss plans for the months ahead.

 – The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.

La Convención General adopta un Nuevo enfoque sobre los temas de Israel y Palestina que provocan un amplio debate

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 4:03am

Una mujer palestina pasa el 1 de junio por el punto de control israelí en Belén, en la Cisjordania ocupada, para asistir a la oración del viernes en la mezquita de Al-Aqsa de Jerusalén, durante el mes de ayuno ritual de Ramadán.

[Episcopal News Service] Un grupo de obispos y diputados a los que les pidieron que encontraran un modo de abordar las discusiones con frecuencia espinosas de la política de la Iglesia Episcopal hacia el conflicto israelí-palestino ha dado a conocer sus recomendaciones auspiciando un debate abierto y productivo sobre el tema en la Convención General en el próximo mes de julio.

Cinco obispos y cinco miembros de la Cámara de Diputados participaron en el Equipo de Trabajo sobre Israel y Palestina, creado el año pasado por el obispo primado Michael Curry y la Rda. Gay Clark Jennings, presidente de la Cámara de Diputados. Curry y Jennings han aceptado las tres recomendaciones fundamentales del equipo de trabajo, según un correo electrónico enviado el 31 de mayo a los miembros de ambas cámaras por el Rdo. Michael Barlowe, director ejecutivo de la Convención General.

“A los miembros del equipo de trabajo no se les pidió que orientaran a la Convención General de ningún modo particular sobre los asuntos esenciales, acerca de los cuales los miembros tienen varios puntos de vista”, dijo Barlowe. En lugar de eso, los 10 miembros dieron a conocer las recomendaciones siguientes para facilitar “una participación devota, ponderada y respetuosa que facilite un genuino discernimiento”.

  • Se insta a todos los miembros de la Cámara de Obispos y de la Cámara de Diputados a revisar la lista de materialesacopiados por el equipo de trabajo. La lista incluye lecturas que se sugieren sobre problemas relacionados con las relaciones israelí-palestinas y antecedentes respecto al papel de la Iglesia Episcopal en el pasado sobre esos asuntos.
  • Cada cámara conviene en reanudar estos temas a través de un “orden del día especial” que permitirá que audiencias y discusiones tengan lugar a principios de la Convención y garantice que el debate no se vea marginado por barreras de procedimiento (Véase aquí la página 204para más información sobre el orden del día especial).
  • La Cámara de Diputados será la cámara donde se inicie cada resolución relacionada con Israel y Palestina.

“Estoy muy agradecido al equipo de trabajo por su labor”, dijo Curry en un comunicado por email. “Su tarea hará posible que la Convención tenga un discusión profunda y piadosa que tome en consideración los aspectos humanitarios en Israel y Palestina. Haciendo así podemos orar y laborar por la paz de Jerusalén”.

Jennings aludió en una declaración por escrito a los retos [que el tema] ha de enfrentar.

“Se nos avecinan algunas conversaciones difíciles sobre Tierra Santa en la Convención General” afirmó. “Le estoy agradecida a los diputados y obispos del Equipo de Trabajo sobre Israel y Palestina por recomendar una estructura que nos ayudará a sostener esas conversaciones de manera que sean respetuosas, sustantivas y representativas de la amplia gama de experiencias y opiniones de los episcopales”.

Iniciar el debate en la Cámara de Diputados, que es un organismo más grande y más diverso, ayudará a garantizar un debate más amplio, dijo el Rdo. Brian Grieves, miembro de la Cámara de Diputados que formó parte del Equipo de Trabajo sobre Israel y Palestina. Ambas cámaras tienen interés en llevar adelante este debate.

Subyacente en las deliberaciones del equipo de trabajo estaba el imperativo: “¿cómo podríamos tener un debate que sea abierto y respetuoso y transparente en el proceso?”, dijo Grieves a Episcopal News Service. “Porque en el pasado ha habido preocupaciones de que no ha sido así. Las cosas se han embotellado en los comités”.

La Convención General ha votado durante décadas en apoyo de la paz para el Oriente Medio; sin embargo, la cuestión de si aplicar mayor presión económica a Israel por su ocupación de los Territorios Palestinos ha sido un punto candente en los últimos años. En 2012, los obispos se unieron a los diputados en aprobar una resolución a favor de una “inversión positiva” en la región como parte de una muestra de apoyo a la paz entre judíos, musulmanes y cristianos en Tierra Santa, pero las dos cámara fueron incapaces de ponerse de acuerdo en una segunda resolución que pedía una mayor participación en la responsabilidad social empresarial a través de la cartera de inversiones de la Iglesia.

En la Convención General de 2015, una resolución que llamaba a la Iglesia a desinvertir en compañías que sostuvieran ciertos negocios con Israel fue rechazada en una votación en la Cámara de Obispos, lo cual significó que nunca se llegó a someter a la consideración de la Cámara de Diputados.

Grieves, que es miembro del Comité Legislativo de Mayordomía e Inversión Socialmente Responsable de la Cámara de Diputados, dijo que la Iglesia ya participa en compromisos empresariales relacionados con Israel y Palestina basados en un informe de 2005 de lo que entonces se llamaba el Comité de Responsabilidad Social en Inversiones del Consejo Ejecutivo. Ese informe tuvo el apoyo del Consejo Ejecutivo, y los resultados pueden verse este año en resoluciones de accionistas respaldadas por la Iglesia que busca influir en Motorola y Caterpillar, dos compañías que tienen contratos con el gobierno israelí.

“Creo que el compromiso empresarial ha sido muy bueno, pero creo que aquí puede que estemos en un punto donde nosotros, como Iglesia, [tendríamos] que ponerle fin a nuestra complicidad en seguir trabajando con estas compañías”, dijo Grieves. “No sé cuándo debe llegarse a ese punto. Creo que debemos pensar con cuidado al respecto, y eso es parte de la discusión que va a tener lugar en la Convención”.

Se esperan numerosas resoluciones de la Convención General sobre temas relacionados con Israel y Palestina para el tiempo en que se inicie la reunión el 5 de julio en Austin, Texas. Hasta ahora se han presentado por lo menos tres, entre ellas una propuesta por la Diócesis de California que reintroduce una presión en pro de la desinversión de “esas compañías que lucran de la ocupación de Israel de tierras palestinas o cuyos productos o acciones apoyan la infraestructura de la ocupación”.

El compromiso empresarial no será el único tema relacionado con Tierra Santa. Dos resoluciones adicionales piden mayor atención al sufrimiento de los niños palestinos, incluidos los que son juzgados en tribunales militares israelíes.

El conflicto israelí-palestino debe finalmente generar una mayor diversidad de resoluciones en esta Convención General, dijo Sarah Lawton, que preside el comité de Justicia Social y Política Internacional de la Cámara de Diputados. Esa variedad está relacionada con el número de importantes sucesos en la región en los últimos años, desde la ruptura del proceso de paz a la indignación mundial por la decisión del gobierno de Trump de mudar la embajada de EE.UU. de Tel Aviv a Jerusalén.

En el pasado, la Convención General ha debatido en ocasiones una sola resolución más amplia que aborda en su conjunto múltiples aspectos del conflicto, lo cual dificulta el avance de medidas individuales, pero Lawton dijo que esta vez debe ser diferente. “No se trata de llevar adelante una sola resolución grande, sino de varias de ellas”, explicó Lawton, que también fue miembro del Equipo de Trabajo sobre Israel y Palestina.

El obispo Barry Beisner, otro miembro del equipo de trabajo, ha presentado una resolución en la que busca reafirmar la posición de la Iglesia en apoyo de Jerusalén como una ciudad abierta, donde cristianos, musulmanes y judíos tengan libre acceso a los lugares sagrados. Él no espera que esa resolución genere mucha controversia, pero “hay un amplio espectro de opinión sobre cualquier número de temas relacionados”.

Beisner enfatizó el valor de la lista de materiales reunidos por el equipo de trabajo, para ayudar a la Convención General a prepararse para esas discusiones. Y los obispos no están renunciando a su voz al convenir en que las deliberaciones comiencen en la Cámara de Diputados, expresó él.

“Ayudará a acelerar la consideración de estas resoluciones el tenerlas inicialmente bajo esa única tienda”, dijo Beisner, que es miembro del Comité de Justicia Social y Política Internacional.

Con tantos asuntos en juego, Lawton cree que las personas de todos los bandos en este debate tienen interés en evitar los errores de procedimiento que puedan conducir a la inacción.

“Hemos tenido un momento difícil con esta conversación [acerca de Israel y Palestina]. Una de las maneras en que resultó difícil se materializó en el proceso”, dijo ella. “Estos son asuntos importantes, y debemos ser capaces de hablar de ellos y no sentir temor de decir algo”.

– David Paulsen es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a él en dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.