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Church of South India urged to back environmentally sustainable development

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 1:42pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Environmental campaigners from across the Church of South India have called on the CSI Synod to step up its commitment to sustainable values.

Delegates from 24 dioceses across CSI issued a wide-ranging declaration after a two-day workshop last month. The Kanyakumari Declaration urges the CSI to be more far-sighted – and support development which does not compromise future generations’ ability to meet their own needs.

Full article.

Bethlehem accepting nominations for bishop

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 1:28pm

[Diocese of Bethlehem] The search committee for the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem is now accepting nominations. 

Information about the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem and the process for nominations can be found here.

The person elected will succeed the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, who was elected provisional bishop in 2014. Rowe is also bishop of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

The deadline for nominations is Sept. 11 and the deadline for applications is Sept. 18.

British bishop says that the church has forgotten the poor

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 1:13pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The bishop of Burnley in the northwest England diocese of Blackburn has accused priests of deserting the nation’s poor and working class areas.

In a speech at the evangelical New Wine festival, Bishop Philip North told the stories of people who had come to faith through ministry in deprived areas.

Full article.

Caribbean bishop calls for stronger rape laws in sexual offenses consultation

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 1:07pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands Howard Gregory has called for equal treatment for male and female victims of rape, a clearer definition of rape and an end to the exemption that prevents men being charged with raping their wives. He also called for the current legal prohibition against anal sex to be removed.

A Jamaican parliamentary committee has been set up to review the Sexual Offenses Act and related legislation.

Full article.

Episcopalians join immigration activists in vowing to ‘melt the ICE collusion’

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 12:52pm

Episcopal clergy join about 200 interfaith immigration activists calling upon the Los Angeles Sheriff to stop collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in detaining and deporting undocumented persons. Photo: Cam Sanders

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians joined about 200 immigration activists in front of the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice on Aug. 3, bearing signs, beating drums and chanting “Escucha, estamos en la lucha” (“Listen, we are in the struggle”). They also chipped away at a melting ice sculpture, shaped in the letters I-C-E, acronym for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Gathered in the 90-degree heat, they chanted, “Melt the ICE Collusion,” challenging Los Angeles Sheriff Jim McDonnell’s support of federal deportation policies deemed unjust, according to the Rev. Francisco Garcia, co-chair of Episcopal Sacred Resistance, the sanctuary task force of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

“In California, we really have an opportunity to show a different way,” said Garcia, rector of Holy Faith Episcopal Church in Inglewood.

“We are hearing all kinds of things coming from the White House in terms of immigration … including the president painting this broad picture of immigrants as criminals and how bad these people are and how they have hurt our country. But in California we can be a community that really does welcome and include all and make that policy and practice.”

The gathering of Jewish and Christian clergy and laity also intended to show that activists will keep fighting for immigrant rights, chipping away at law enforcement policies and agencies that intimidate undocumented persons and prevent them from reporting crimes when they are victimized, he said.

“Recent history has shown that President Trump’s statement about detaining and deporting only ‘violent felons’ has meant in practice the targeting and detention of people who have lived in this country for years or decades, have become central pillars of their communities, are supporting families and whose only crime is having come to this country illegally,” according to a letter the group attempted to hand deliver to McDonnell.

They were not allowed inside the Hall of Justice, where McDonnell’s office is located. Instead, they were met with barricades and by a wall of deputies stationed outside, but were promised that the letter would be given to him, according to the Rev. Jaime Edwards Acton, rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Hollywood, also co-chair of the diocesan sanctuary task force.

“We also wanted to highlight the stories of those who are affected by these policies,” he said.

The letter cited several cases, including that of the Rev. Noe Carias, leader of the Southern Pacific District of the Assemblies of God Church for more than two decades. Carias is married to a U.S. citizen and has two young children, and he was detained during a routine July 24 check-in with an immigration officer.

According to published reports, Carias was deported in 1993 as a teenager, but returned to the United States and ignored a deportation order two years later. He had been granted one-year stays in 2015 and 2016, but earlier this year a request for a third stay was denied.

Carias, according to the letter emailed to McDonnell earlier in the day and given to deputies, “is and has been a faithful and very active member, local church leader and … has 25-year-old deportation orders resulting simply from entering the U.S. without permission as a teenager.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that ICE explained the July 24 action in a written statement, calling Carias “a repeat immigration violator who has assumed multiple identities and nationalities over the years in order to evade federal immigration enforcement.

“During previous encounters with immigration authorities, his actions have established a pattern of misrepresentation or deception to law enforcement, resulting in his removal from the United States on at least three occasions,” according to the report.

Activists at the rally chipped away at the melting ice sculpture, symbolizing chipping away at unjust ICE policies and practices. Photo:Cam Sanders

The activists also cited the nationally publicized case of Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, 49, arrested in front of his daughter, now 14, after dropping off another daughter at her Lincoln Heights school. He could be deported as early as Aug. 7, Garcia said.

“He has been held at the Adelanto detention facility since Feb. 28. … He had two misdemeanor convictions from two decades ago,” Garcia said. The facility in San Bernardino County is run by GEO, the nation’s largest private prison company.

According to a Los Angeles Times report, lawyers for Avelica-Gonzalez in June settled those convictions, for driving under the influence and for receiving stolen car tags, in the hopes authorities would vacate the deportation order. A request for an emergency stay of removal of the deportation order filed with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal was dismissed in June. Subsequent requests for stays have been denied.

“Nine detainees at the Adelanto facility staged a hunger strike because they were beaten and pepper sprayed,” according to Garcia and the Aug. 3 letter. “These were also not ‘violent felons;’ they were refugees who were demanding asylum, and were refused due process.”

The two-day hunger strike was intended to heighten awareness of conditions at the Adelanto facility, and the need for better medical care and lower bail amounts.

The letter also urged McDonnell to halt opposition to state Senate Bill 54, known as the California Values Act, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León, a Los Angeles Democrat, which would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from using resources to investigate, detain, report or arrest people for immigration enforcement.

De León has argued that the bill, which would make California a sanctuary state and prohibit ICE agents from entering county jails without a warrant, is needed to ensure public safety.

The Rev. Francisco Garcia, rector of Holy Faith Episcopal Church in Inglewood, leads the demonstrators in one of several chants, calling for justice for all. Photo: Cam Sanders

But Garcia said that, as the Trump Administration has intensified its rhetoric, McDonnell has joined increased efforts to lobby state lawmakers to prevent the bill’s passage.

“We demand that, at the least, you stop lobbying against SB54,” according to the letter. “We also urge you to stop the Sheriff’s Department’s cooperation with ICE. The Trump era deportation agenda does not represent the will of the vast majority of Angelenos. As faith leaders and faithful residents of this city, we ask you to work with us to create a city ‘in which righteousness dwells,'” according to the letter, signed by Christian, Jewish, Muslim and a range of interfaith immigration activist groups.

Other law enforcement agencies have responded differently. The California College and University Police Chiefs Association, supports SB54. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has said that he will not engage in law enforcement activities based on immigration status, nor will the department work in conjunction with Homeland Security on deportation issues.

The California Senate has passed the measure. It goes next to the State Assembly and, if approved there, to Gov. Jerry Brown to be signed into law.

The immigration activists also were met by a handful of counter-protestors, who carried signs saying they support law enforcement and attempted to disrupt the demonstration, Edwards Acton said.

Garcia said they were not deterred by the protestors or being turned away by deputies, and will continue to reach out to McDonnell.

“We plan to keep the pressure up, to pray and act,” Garcia said. “We’re going to continue to, as people of faith, make this case, so we can actually have a face-to-face sit-down with him.”

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

‘Mainstream, not extreme’ was sentiment for interfaith advocacy day at Texas capitol

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 2:11pm

The Rev. Lisa Hunt, rector of St. Stephen’s, Houston and the Rev. Jon Page, pastor of First Congregational Church, Houston met with Rep. Todd Hunter, chair of the Calendar Committee of the Texas Legislature during an Interfaith Advocacy Day to oppose the “bathroom” bill.

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] A broad coalition of mainstream Texas religious leaders spoke out Aug.1 against Senate Bill 3 and other so-called “bathrooms bills” that would discriminate against transgender youths and adults.

The speakers, who represent millions of mainstream faith community members, included leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions, and a non-denominational Christian parent of a transgender child.

More than 350 people gathered on the Capitol steps in Austin and under the shade of oaks lining the walkway to lend their voices in opposition to the contentious “bathroom” bill (HB46, SB3) in a day of interfaith advocacy sponsored by Texas Impact.

“This is what theology looks like,” General Presbyter Sallie Sampsell Watson of Mission Presbytery in San Antonio told the crowd.

Mufti Mohamed-Umer Esmail of Austin also spoke at the morning press conference. “The Quran states, God is the one who shapes you in the wombs however He pleases,” Esmail said. “The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, ‘Indeed God does not look at your faces and bodies, rather he looks at your hearts and deeds.’ I call upon the governor of Texas and the legislature: Enough of the transphobia! Y’all means all!” echoing the slogan on signs that many were carrying.

Citing “emotional and spiritual damage that discrimination does to transgender people,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, wrote to House Speaker Joe Straus earlier in support of his opposition to any bathroom bill. The Episcopal Church will hold its General Convention in Austin in July 2018.

Following the morning press conference, Texas Impact, offered a brief training on the “10 commandments” of speaking with elected officials, then small groups went to meet with individual senators and representatives and their staffs.

The Rev. Lisa Hunt, rector of St. Stephen’s, Houston; the Rev. Judith Liro (ret) and the Rev. Janice Krause, priest-in-charge of St. James’, Austin, participated with a number of Episcopal lay people including Molly Sharp of St. David’s, Austin and S. Wayne Matthis of Grace, Alvin.

Participants were reminded to be positive, brief and to say “Thank you.” By all accounts, those who gathered had very positive experiences in meeting with either a staff person or their representatives and senators.

Rep. Todd Hunter is chair of the Calendars Committee. An active Episcopalian, Hunter met with Hunt and the Rev. Jon Page, pastor of First Congregational Church of Houston.

Hunt told the seven-term congressman that transgender children and their families will have a hard time finding a safe environment for school if the bill were to pass. She also noted promises in the Baptismal Covenant to respect the dignity of every human being.

“You are the first Episcopalians who have come to visit me,” Hunter said. He told Sharp, Hunt and Page that personal visits matter and encouraged them to continue the practice. “A common sense vote in the House (the bill has passed in the Senate) would neutralize these kinds of bills in the future,” he added. Hunter shared some of the complicated process of legislation and lamented the decline in civil discourse in politics in recent years. Early in July, a fire consumed Hunter’s Corpus Christi office and is still under investigation. And while Hunter seemed unruffled by the bodyguards who now stand outside his door, he was grateful for the prayers Hunt offered for him, his staff and the Legislature.

“In this season of intense partisanship it is tempting for us as Episcopalians to shy away from our role as citizens,” Hunt said, “but meeting with fellow Episcopalian Todd Hunter and learning about the arson of his law office, I am reminded we are citizens together. He, and the other legislators need our support in their critical ministry as a legislators, especially now.”

Texas Impact set up the Interfaith Advocacy Day and helped prioritize House members to be visited, because the House has yet to vote on the bill. According to Texas Impact, a minority misrepresent that the faith community supports the bathroom bill and it was important for legislatures to hear from others of faith who did not. “Regulating who uses what bathroom is a solution in search of a problem,” they said, pointing out that proponents could not point to a single incident not already addressed by the Texas Penal Code. Further, they said it is a waste of time when the state has real challenges.

Texas Impact is a statewide religious grassroots network whose members include individuals, congregations and governing bodies of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. Texas Impact exists to advance state public policies that are consistent with universally held social principles of the Abrahamic traditions.

Anglican shelter for child victims of human trafficking to open in 2018 in Ghana

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 1:11pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A new Anglican-run community shelter to provide a home for trafficked children is on course to open next year in Accra, Ghana. Bishop of Accra Daniel Mensah Torto told journalists this week that the Hope Community would resettle and educate trafficked children who had been rescued. The refuge, funded by the Diocese of Accra in partnership with the U.S. embassy to Ghana, is part of a five-year anti-trafficking program.

Full article.

Horn of Africa Bishop Grant LeMarquand to step down

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 1:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Horn of Africa Bishop Grant LeMarquand is to step down at the end of October because of the ill health of his wife and ministry-partner, Wendy LeMarquand. Bishop Grant made the announcement at the conclusion of the graduation ceremony of the Alexandria School of Theology, which was held in All Saints’ Cathedral in Cairo, on 29 July.

Full article.

Sexuality working group of Anglicans in New Zealand publishes interim report

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 1:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A working group set up explore how different strands of thinking on sexuality could be kept together in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has published its interim report. The group was established after the May 2016 meeting of the province’s General Synod agreed to “let lie on the table” a motion on the blessings of same-sex relationships. The Synod instead called for a working group to look at structural arrangements to keep the different sides of the debate together.

Full article.

‘Sanctuary’ defines San Francisco congregation’s sense of mission on more than immigration

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 12:27pm

“Sacred sleep” mats are arranged on the floor at the Episcopal Church St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco, California. Homeless visitors can rest weekday mornings on the mats in the church. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Richard Smith.

[Episcopal News Service] The small Episcopal congregation of St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco, California, has embraced its role as a “sanctuary” church in ways that go well beyond the current political debate over federal immigration policy.

St. John is engaged in the immigration debate, to be sure, with its vestry voting this year to offer sanctuary to those facing deportation by the Trump administration. The congregation had offered immigrants similar protection during the first sanctuary church movement in the 1980s.

But for the congregation’s few dozen active members, sanctuary also means providing a place every weekday morning for the city’s homeless population to rest. It means reaching out to members of the LGBTQ community and making them feel welcome. And it means mourning victims of police brutality and supporting victims’ families.

“I’m always sort of worried we’re going to stretch ourselves too thin,” said the Rev. Richard Smith, St. John’s vicar. But as the congregation updates its list of commitments, it has been able and willing to take on more than its modest size would suggest.

“We have to be able to tell our kids and our grandkids that at the end of the day we did everything we could, whatever that may be,” he told Episcopal News Service.

At St. John, this sense of mission – Smith calls it “radical hospitality” – extends to Episcopal rituals as commonplace as the post-worship coffee hour. But it doesn’t end on Sunday. On Monday morning, the doors of the church open at 6 a.m. to invite 70 to 75 homeless city residents each weekday to take shelter.

St. John is open to homeless visitors every weekday morning, with breakfast served once a week. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Richard Smith.

This homeless outreach program started about a year and a half ago through a partnership with the local Gubbio Project. Known as “sacred sleep,” the program offers homeless visitors comfortable orange mats, similar to what a hiker might take for sleeping on a backpacking trip. The congregation also serves coffee and, once a week, breakfast before sending the visitors on their way by noon.

“It came as a big relief because homelessness has been a big problem in our neighborhood for many years,” Smith said. “We just didn’t know what to do about it, so this gave us a chance to do something.”

Sometimes, the homeless visitors return to attend Sunday service, though filling the pews isn’t the priority. It has been worthwhile, Smith said, just for St. John to connect with members of its community who otherwise might not set foot in the church.

The congregation has been small for much of its history, starting with its founding 160 years ago in San Francisco’s Mission District, said senior warden Diana McDonnell. Today, average attendance at Sunday worship service is about 65 to 70.

Such numbers tell only part of the story, McDonnell said. The congregation is small, but many of its members are passionate about supporting social justice ministries.

“We’re all there because we want to be there,” McDonnell told ENS. “We are doing this specifically because we are Christians. This is what Christians are about.”

It’s what drew McDonnell, 47, and her wife to St. John about 10 years ago, after they moved to San Francisco from New Jersey. She saw it as a “Goldilocks” congregation – not too big, not too small – and one that worked to bring the word of God into the world.

St. John’s commitment to social justice isn’t a new development. The 1980s were a particularly active decade, when the congregation joined with churches across the country, and across denominations, in offering sanctuary to people fleeing wars in Central America. Children arriving in San Francisco from El Salvador also benefited from a tutoring program launched around that time at St. John.

Separately, St. John was becoming another kind of sanctuary to gay men facing discrimination and the rising AIDS epidemic.\

“It was a community that was really under siege, even here in progressive San Francisco,” Smith said.

The congregation welcomed them then and continues to do so now, at a time when the Episcopal Church has pursued full inclusion of the LGBTQ community, such as through the ordination of gay clergy and creation of same-sex marriage rites. And partners and friends still visit St. John to remember some of those who died of AIDS years ago, their ashes scattered on church grounds.

Smith, 67, was ordained as a priest in 2001 after leaving a career in the corporate world of Silicon Valley. He became vicar at St. John about five years ago and embraced the congregation’s social ethic.

The church houses a food pantry, open every Saturday morning. It has participated in regular antiwar vigils, raises money to provide clean water in a Nicaraguan village and joined marches in the city after a 21-year-old immigrant from Guatemala was shot and killed by San Francisco police in February 2015.

The Guatemalan man, Amilcar Perez Lopez, had been involved in a violent argument with another man when he was killed, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Smith officiated at a memorial service for Perez Lopez held at St. John.

During his tenure, the congregation also has assisted three immigrants from Central America, a Guatemalan woman and two Honduran men, who are seeking asylum because of threats of violence in their home countries. Each is staying with parishioners in the community, not at the church, but the congregation is prepared to shelter them in the church if that becomes necessary to protect them from deportation orders, Smith said.

The decision this year to become a sanctuary church wasn’t a difficult one, McDonnell said, given the congregation’s 1980s history and its continuing social justice work. Several other Christian churches in San Francisco did the same.

“We’re Christian, and this is what I believe Christians are supposed to do,” she said.

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

Hearing panel calls for J. Jon Bruno’s suspension, return of Newport Beach congregation to its building

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 7:55pm

[Episcopal News Service] The hearing panel that considered disciplinary action against Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno issued a final order Aug. 2 reaffirming its draft recommendation that he be suspended from ordained ministry for three years because of misconduct.

The hearing panel also strongly recommends to the Diocese of Los Angeles that “as a matter of justice” it immediately suspend its efforts to sell St. James the Great’s property in Newport Beach, California, that it restore the congregation and vicar to the church building, and that it reassign St. James the Great appropriate mission status.

The five-person panel said that it is convinced the Diocese of Los Angeles, particularly its Standing Committee with the supportive leadership of its recently ordained and consecrated bishop coadjutor, must consciously choose to take part in a process of self-examination and truth-telling around these unfortunate and tragic events.

The hearing panel conducted three days of testimony on those allegations in March. Bruno subsequently attempted to sell the property as the panel considered how to rule on the case. That attempted earned Bruno two ministerial restrictions from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

The most recent came just a day before the final order when Curry removed St. James from Bruno’s authority and put the congregation under Los Angeles Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor’s control. The previous restriction was designed to prevent Bruno from trying again to sell the property.

Diocese of Southern Virginia Bishop Herman Hollerith IV is president of the hearing panel that considered the case against Bruno. The panel, appointed by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops from among its members, includes Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, the Rev. Erik Larsen of Rhode Island and Deborah Stokes of Southern Ohio.

The original case against Bruno involved his unsuccessful 2015 attempt to sell the church property to a condominium developer for $15 million in cash. That effort prompted the members of St. James to bring misconduct allegations against Bruno, alleging he violated church law.

Forty days after the final order is issued, the Rt. Rev. Catherine Waynick, president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, has 20 days to sentence Bruno as provided in the order. He can appeal that sentence and, if he does, the sentence is not imposed while the appeal proceeds. Meanwhile, however, the order is clear that Curry’s partial restrictions on Bruno remain in force, the order said.

The hearing panel found Bruno guilty of the St. James complainants’ allegations that Bruno violated church canons because he:

  • failed to get the consent of the diocesan standing committee before entering into a contract to sell the property;
  • misrepresented his intention for the property to the members, the clergy and the local community at large;
  • misrepresented that St. James the Great was not a sustainable congregation;
  • misrepresented that the Rev. Cindy Evans Voorhees, St. James’ vicar, had resigned;
  • misrepresented to some St. James members that he would lease the property back to them for a number of months and that the diocese would financially aid the church; and
  • engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy by “misleading and deceiving” the clergy and people of St. James, as well as the local community, about his plans for the property and for taking possession of the property and locking out the congregation.

Taylor issued a statement saying that “Bishop Bruno’s 40 years of ordained ministry and 15 years as sixth bishop of Los Angeles are not summed up by this order or the events that precipitated it.”

The bishop coadjutor called him “a courageous, visionary leader.”

“Like every successful executive inside and outside the church, he would be the first to acknowledge that there are things he would have done differently,” Taylor said. “I look forward to continuing to learn from him and consult with him about the life of the diocesan community he has served and loves so well.”

Taylor said he and the Standing Committee “will do everything we can to promote a just solution that takes into account the interests of all in our community (including the faithful members of the Newport Beach church) and gives us the opportunity to move forward together. In a dispute such as this one, truth-telling, open communication, and reconciliation can be difficult for everyone involved.”

The St. James congregants said they “deeply thank the hearing panel for its diligent hard work to get to the truth, administer fair justice and foster reconciliation.” They said the “hearing panel’s final recommendation points the way forward for the Diocese of Los Angeles and its leadership.”

“We believe the reconciliation process begins now, and we look forward to a time – in the near future, we hope and believe – when we are back in our holy church and the Diocese of Los Angeles is once again a strong, united and joyful community in Christ, dedicated to spreading God’s word and doing His work on earth,” the St. James statement said.

The congregation has been worshipping in a meeting room at the Newport Beach City Hall. Its canonical status with the diocese is in limbo.

The first attempted sale of St. James occurred less than 18 months after Bruno reopened St. James in late 2013, after recovering the property via a lawsuit prompted by a split in the congregation. Three other congregations in the diocese also split in disputes about the Episcopal Church’s full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life of the church.

Bruno’s effort to sell the property even after the March hearing, which the bishop tried to conceal, earned him a rebuke from the hearing panel in June. The panel said Bruno had to stop trying to sell the property during the disciplinary process. If he did try, or succeeded, before the panel decided the original case against him, that behavior would be “disruptive, dilatory and otherwise contrary to the integrity of this proceeding,” the panel said at the time. The same was true of his failure to give the panel the information it asked for about the accusations, the notice said. Such behavior violates the portion of canon law that governs the behavior of clerics who face disciplinary actions (Canon IV.13.9(a) page 151 here).

A few days later, on June 29, Curry placed his initial restriction on Bruno’s ministry.

Bruno’s July 10 appeal of the panel’s sanctions failed.

Curry’s Aug. 1 restriction came about 10 days after a draft of the hearing panel’s order became public in late July.

South Carolina Supreme Court issues ruling in church property case

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 4:58pm

[Episcopal News Service] In a complex ruling Aug. 2 the South Carolina Supreme Court said that most but not all the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina congregations whose leaders left the Episcopal Church could not continue to hold on to the church property.

The justices said 29 of the congregations specifically agreed to abide by the “Dennis Canon” (Canon 1.7.4), which states that a parish holds its property in trust for the diocese and the Episcopal Church. That agreement means they cannot retain church property. However, they said that eight congregations had not agreed to the canon and thus could keep those properties.

The diocesan St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center on Seabrook Island must also be returned to the Episcopal Church.

Episcopalians in South Carolina have been reorganizing their common life since late in 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.

“We are grateful for this decision and for the hard work of the court in rendering it. We also give thanks to God for the faithfulness, support, and sacrifices of countless Episcopalians within our diocese and throughout the church,” South Carolina Bishop Provisional Gladstone B. “Skip” Adams III said in a letter to clergy and lay leaders after the ruling was issued.

“This is a lengthy and detailed ruling, and our legal team and leadership will be studying it closely in the days ahead. It is important to note that the legal system allows for periods of judicial review and possible appeal, so it will be some time before we can say with certainty what the journey ahead will look like.”

The Lawrence-led group said after the ruling came down that its legal counsel is “reviewing the ruling, its implications and deliberating the appropriate response.”

The parties have 15 days to decide whether to ask for a rehearing.

The breakaway group filed suit in January 2013 against the Episcopal Church. The diocese came into the lawsuit later. After a three-week trial in July 2014, Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein ruled in February 2015 that the breakaway group had the right to hold onto the diocesan name and property, including individual church buildings.

The state Supreme Court agreed in April 2015 to consider the case. The court took more than two years to issue its ruling.

The remaining Episcopalians offered in June 2015 to let 35 parishes keep their church properties, whether or not they choose to remain part of the Episcopal Church.

In exchange, the proposal required the breakaway group to return the diocesan property, assets and identity of “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina” to the diocese that is still affiliated with the Episcopal Church. The breakaway group rejected the offer the day it was made public.

The 77-page state Supreme Court ruling, which includes opinions from each of the justices, is here.

The two groups are also involved in a separate federal case filed under the Lanham Act, claiming that Lawrence is committing false advertising by continuing to represent himself as bishop of the diocese. The Lanham Act governs trademarks, service marks and unfair competition. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in February 2017 sent the case back to U.S. District Court in Charleston for another hearing.

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

EPPN: Protect immigrant youth today

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 4:53pm

[Episcopal Public Policy Network policy alert] Since the end of June, there have been two major developments concerning protections for young people brought to the U.S. as children, known as DREAMers. We need you to speak out today for protections for these young adults today by taking TWO actions.

Update on Protections for DREAMers

In late June, 10 attorneys general wrote a letter to the Trump administration demanding it terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before September 5. Then in late July, Senator Graham (SC-R), with Senators Flake (AZ-R), Durbin (IL-D) and Schumer (NY-D) and Representative Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18) and Roybal-Allard (CA-40) introduced the Dream Act, a bill that would offer a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers who qualify; to do so, they would need to pay a fee and pass criminal and national-security background checks.

Episcopal Policy

The Episcopal Church calls for a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth. As such, we applaud the introduction of a bipartisan legislative solution to protect DREAMers.

We also urge the administration to protect DACA. Since 2012, nearly 800,000 DREAMers have come forward, passed background checks, and have been granted permission to live and work legally in the U.S. through DACA program.

Administrative DACA protections and work authorization must not be repealed before Congress passes the Dream Act and the bill is signed by the President.

Take Action

Speak out for protections for these young adults today.

1. Write your Governor and urge him or her to urge the administration to keep DACA protections

2. Write your members of Congress and urge them to co-sponsor the Dream Act

Rafael L. Morales Maldonado consecrated bishop of Puerto Rico

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 1:07pm

The Rt. Rev. Rafael L. Morales Maldonado was consecrated bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Rico on July 22. Photo: Diocese of Puerto Rico

[Diocese of Puerto Rico] The Rt. Rev. Rafael L. Morales Maldonado was ordained and consecrated the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Rico on July 22 during a Eucharist celebrated at the Pedro Rosselló Convention Center in San Juan. 

A native of Puerto Rico, Morales lives in Toa Alta and is the second Puerto Rican to be elected bishop of the diocese.

Twelve hundred people attended the event, including ecumenical guests, government representatives and Episcopalians representing parishes throughout the island. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached and served as chief consecrator, co-consecrating bishops included, Bishop David A. Alvarez, retired bishop of Puerto Rico, Bishop Wilfrido Ramos Orench, who served as bishop provisional of Puerto Rico since 2014, Bishop Julio Holguin of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, and Bishop Peter Eaton, of the Diocese of Southeast Florida. President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings also attended. Parishioners from across the island sang in the choir, played music and served as liturgical dancers. Morales was formally seated at the Cathedral of San Juan the Baptist in Santurce on July 23. 

Archbishop Welby calls Mothers’ Union ‘the heart and love of the church’

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 12:56pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby paid tribute to the Anglican mission agency Mothers’ Union on July 30, describing the agency as “the heart and love of the church.” Speaking at the inauguration of the new Anglican Province of Sudan in Khartoum, the archbishop said he recognized “the importance of Mothers’ Union in Sudan.”

Full article.

Anglican Communion Secretary General Idowu-Fearon reflects on second year

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 12:53pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] “It is a particular joy for me to travel to many parts of the communion. Indeed my role is becoming more ambassadorial,” Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Josiah Idowu-Fearon writes.

Read his full article here.