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Con Cuba: fortalecer los lazos de familia y provocar una transformación

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 9:40am

La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba celebró su Sínodo General en la Habana del 21 al 23 de febrero de 2014 y adoptó un plan estratégico de tres años. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service] Ahora que la Diócesis de Cuba está oficialmente de vuelta al redil de la Iglesia Episcopal, la obispa de Cuba, Griselda Delgado del Carpio  tiene grandes ilusiones de fortalecer los lazos de familia y de provocar una transformación.

Para empezar, Delgado quiere “que todo el mundo sepa lo feliz que estoy de estar de regreso a la familia” y espera extender a otras diócesis y congregaciones los puentes que ella ha tendido con la Diócesis de la Florida a lo largo de las últimas tres décadas.

“Durante 30 años, hemos aprendido a amarnos mutuamente, a trabajar juntos, a respetarnos y a compartir los dones que cada comunidad tiene que ofrecer a la otra”, dijo ella en una reciente entrevista telefónica con Episcopal News Service a través de un intérprete.

“Para nosotros, una asociación significa que dos comunidades trabajen juntas, que reciban y den y evalúen mutuamente la trayectoria en ese proceso, y que valoren mutuamente sus dones”.

Luego de una separación de 52 años, la 79ª. Convención General [que sesionó] del 5 al 13 de julio en Austin, Texas, aprobó la reunificación con la Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba.

La Resolución A238 llama a “a las diócesis, congregaciones y miembros de la Iglesia Episcopal  a familiarizarse con los ministerios de la Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba  y a trabajar en armonía y compañerismo por la evangelización, la comprensión mutua y la plena expresión de la misión de Dios, así como a contemplar las maneras de estar en colaboración.

La obispa Griselda – como la llaman afectuosamente – espera vivir más plena y profundamente en el espíritu de la resolución, creando asociaciones, al tiempo que profundizando las relaciones de la Diócesis de Cuba con sus [diócesis] hermanas de EE.UU. Ella aspira a provocar una transformación al centrarse en la creación de comunidades a través de la reedificación de iglesias, y espera proporcionarle pensiones al clero diocesano.

La Diócesis de Cuba está compuesta de 46 congregaciones y cinco misiones pequeñas que están transformándose y creciendo y comenzando a desarrollarse”, afirmó ella. Cada una enfrenta diferentes retos, pero “cada uno puede resolverse individualmente”, subrayó Delgado con confianza.

“Lo principal es poder seguir llevando la Buena Nueva al pueblo”, dijo ella “con la herramienta evangelizadora del amor y de conocer a Jesús.

“Tenemos mucho que aprender  unos de otros”, añadió. “Queremos hacer todo eso mientras reafirmamos la identidad del pueblo de Cuba. Esto es lo que los cubanos tienen que dar al mundo: su propia experiencia y trayectoria de fe en la Iglesia”.

Evangelización: agua potable, comidas calientes, huertos

Chip Weismiller regresó recientemente de ayudar a instalar un sistema de filtrado de agua en la iglesia episcopal de Santa Cruz del Norte  cerca de La Habana, junto con otros miembros de la iglesia de San Lucas [St. Luke’s Church] en Darien, Connecticut, y de la iglesia de Cristo [Christ Church] en Bronxville, Nueva York.

Members of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Darien, Connecticut, and Christ Church, Bronxville, New York, join their Cuban counterparts to help assemble and install water filtration systems at Santa Cruz del Norte Church. Photo: Stuart Weismiller

Eso significa agua pura, no sólo para la iglesia, sino para toda la comunidad. “Esperan que hasta 100 personas al día vengan en busca de agua potable”, explicó él.

Es un modelo para ministerios de arrancada en zonas con infraestructura ruinosa y donde, durante varias generaciones, la sociedad no ha respaldado a la Iglesia, según Pat Cage, que ayudó a crear Amigos de la Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba, a petición de Delgado.

La organización de voluntarios con sede en EE.UU. se fundó para asistir a Delgado y a la Diócesis de Cuba a “llevar a cabo su visión transformadora de crear una Iglesia que, unida en la diversidad, celebra, predica, enseña, sirve y comparte el amor de Dios”, según Cage.

“Una manera en que la obispa Griselda está tratando de reconstruir la comunidad eclesial es sirviendo a las necesidades básicas de las personas”, afirmó Cage, miembro de San Lucas en Darien, quien también ha visitado Cuba.

La Rda. Yamily Bass-Choate, vicaria de la Iglesia Memorial de San Andrés, en Yonkers, Nueva York, dijo que su congregación, junto con miembros de la iglesia de Cristo, en Bronxville, se han asociado con la Diócesis de Cuba, y llevan grupos de adolescentes a Cuba para aprender de la cultura [del país] y de su gente y ayudar con el establecimiento de sistemas de purificación de agua.

“Hemos instalado alrededor de 26 sistemas de filtrado de agua desde que comenzamos hace varios años y también hemos adiestrado a personas allí que lo hagan”, le dijo Bass-Choate a ENS.

“La obispa Griselda tiene una estupenda visión para la diócesis”, señaló Michael Pollack, miembro de la iglesia de Cristo que recientemente regresó de su octava visita a Cuba para ayudar con los sistemas de agua.

Él sigue volviendo porque “Cuba es un lugar especial. La gente es maravillosamente cálida. Su alegría de vivir y su bondad son palpables. Era evidente, justo ahí. Hay un sentido real de que ‘estamos en esto juntos y que debemos ayudarnos mutuamente’”, afirmó él.

La visión de Delgado se originó durante su ministerio como sacerdote en la iglesia de Santa María Virgen en Itabo, la congregación que ella atendió durante 25 años antes de ser elegida obispa.

La asociación con iglesias en la Diócesis de Florida y la instalación de sistemas de filtrado de agua provocó la transformación.

“En su iglesia en Itabo, la gente venía hasta de 100 kilómetros de distancia en caballos y carretones a buscar agua potable”, contó Cage. “Puedes imaginar el impacto que tiene el agua potable en la comunidad desde el punto de vista de la salud y el bienestar; las enfermedades se han reducido significativamente”.

La iglesia de Santa María Virgen, localizada en una zona rural a unos 370 kilómetros de La Habana, tiene ahora un huerto donde cultivan frijoles, maíz y café, y el plan es llegar a añadirle, con el tiempo, pollos y cerdos. “Los productos agrícolas [provenientes del huerto] se le venden a la comunidad a un precio muy módico. Al final de cada estación, se le reparten las semillas a la comunidad”, dijo Cage.

Como resultado, los huertos están prosperando en toda la comunidad de Itabo y también la asistencia a la iglesia. “Se trata de responder a las necesidades, mostrar compasión y amor y llevar la iglesia a la comunidad”, recalcó Cage.

Además, Delgado fue capaz de apuntalar en Itabo el edifico de la iglesia que estaba inestable y de levantar un albergue estilo dormitorio para visitantes, explicó Pollack. Un generador de biogás utiliza los desperdicios de los cerdos para hacer gas para cocinar, y el desarrollo de los huertos fue de vital importancia, afirmó Pollack “porque me explicaron que, antes, los alimentos tenían que importarse”.

Y agregó, “la visión de la obispa Griselda es sostenible. No hay manera de negar lo que ella ha llevado a cabo, dadas las circunstancias en Cuba y la situación histórica”.

Cage dijo que la organización Amigos de la Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba  espera coordinar relaciones semejantes entre otras iglesias estadounidenses y cubanas.

Asociaciones: Un ministerio transformador y de relación

Comiendo juntos, adorando juntos y visitando a los enfermos en sus hogares y orando por ellos resultó tan convincente para Stuart Weismiller como ver a una joven darle de beber las primeras gotas de agua pura a su marido, Chip, durante el viaje de ambos del 6 al 13 de noviembre de 2018.

Miembros de la iglesia de San Lucas, en Darien, Connecticut, y de la iglesia de Cristo, en Bronxville, Nueva York, se unieron a sus homólogos cubanos en comidas, cultos y visitas pastorales para orar por los enfermos en sus casas, entablando relaciones y fortaleciendo los lazos familiares. Foto de Stuart Weismiller.

Fue el segundo viaje a Santa Cruz del Norte de la pareja, miembros de la iglesia de San Lucas, en Darien, quienes lo consideran evangelización pura, no un ministerio de “proyecto”. “Queremos tener una relación con las personas. Es muy importante para nosotros participar en todas partes de los servicios de culto. Algunos miembros de nuestro grupo leen lecciones [en los oficios]. Comemos juntos. Nos abrazamos”, cuenta Chip Weismiller.

Él dijo que la visión de Delgado es sostenible y transformadora porque “una de las formas en que uno atrae gente a la iglesia es proporcionando un ambiente amoroso, de aceptación, y antes de que prediques nada, funcionas con hechos, y con acciones”.

Roger Martin, otro de los miembros de San Lucas en el viaje, se mostró de acuerdo. La iglesia de Delgado, dijo él “es un modelo de lo que puede hacerse”.

Según Martin, la asociación entre San Lucas y la iglesia de Santa Cruz del Norte ha crecido y ha prosperado. La adición de una comida dominical ha comenzado a edificar la comunidad, y la donación de un equipo de béisbol le ha permitido al rector, el Rdo. Frank Fernández Triana, organizar equipos de jóvenes y también llevarlos a la iglesia.

“Lo maravilloso de Cuba es que la gente que asiste a las iglesias episcopales son jóvenes. Sus padres puede que no vengan a la iglesia, pero ellos sí”, dijo Martin. Otras oportunidades siguen presentándose. “Debido a los huracanes [específicamente Irma], el techo de la iglesia está inestable”, apuntó Martin, que fue decano adjunto de la Escuela de Teología de Harvard de 1980 a 1986. “Nuestro plan es ayudarles a reconstruir el techo de la iglesia y pintarlo y repararlo. Mientras avanzamos, va a haber muchísimas cosas que hacer para mejorar la iglesia”.

Y añadió, “yo enseñaba misión en Harvard. No veo esto como una misión. Veo esto como trabajar con personas que pueden enseñarnos muchísimo acerca de la Iglesia”.

Grades desafíos, mayores sueños: descanso y pensiones para el clero

La visión de Delgado también incluye ayuda y apoyo para los clérigos cubanos que “no tienen pensiones del Estado o categoría equivalente de la seguridad social porque su servicio no se reconoce como empleo”, dijo la ex obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori, que actualmente es obispa auxiliar de la Diócesis de San Diego.

“En la Convención General de este verano, durante nuestra conversación sobre Cuba en la Cámara de Obispos, yo reté a la Cámara a pedirles a sus feligreses que donaran 0,50¢ para ayudar a las pensiones del clero cubano”, dijo Jefferts Schori.

“La cantidad total que se necesita es de unos $800.000, y ese monto es aproximadamente 0,50¢ por cada episcopal”, dijo ella en un email reciente a ENS. “Varias [diócesis] ya han respondido, y algunas han enviado más que eso. El Tesorero [de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera] ha establecido un fondo dedicado a recibir donaciones, y cualquier funcionario diocesano de finanzas puede pedirle  detalles a Kurt Barnes”.

Ella dijo que el clero cubano jubilado con frecuencia “vive en penuria, dependiendo de miembros de la familia o de sus propios magros ahorros para sostenerse. Algunos clérigos en Cuba, que prestaron servicios allí antes de que esa diócesis se quedara a la deriva en 1965, si reciben pequeñas pensiones del CPG [el Grupo de Pensiones de la Iglesia], pero hasta hace pocos años ha sido muy difícil enviar esos fondos limitados desde EE.UU.”.

Varias diócesis, entre ellas San Diego, Arkansas, Luisiana, Nueva York, Vermont y Utah, han respondido, haciendo llamados a sus congregaciones a ayudar en este empeño. Sin embargo, N. Kurt Barnes, el Tesorero de la Iglesia Episcopal, rehusó hacer comentarios  sobre el monto de lo recaudado hasta ahora.

“Esto sólo ha comenzado recientemente; y no creo que podamos proporcionar totales actualizados”, dijo él a ENS en un email. “No obstante, hemos abierto una cuenta de custodia para recibir y guardar los fondos”.

Jefferts Schori añadió que la Iglesia de EE.UU. tiene mucho que aprender de su hermana cubana.

“Ellos son muy emprendedores y están apasionadamente dedicados a ayudar a sus prójimos”, le dijo en un email a ENS. Además, Delgado “ha ayudado a producir un plan de desarrollo para la diócesis que está empezando a dar abundante fruto —en lo que respecta a formación, responsabilidad y pastoralmente. Yo animaría a cualquiera que esté interesado en visitar, aprender más y entablar una relación de mutualidad a largo plazo.

“Nuestros hermanos y hermanas en Cristo en Cuba tienen mucho que mostrar y enseñar y ofrecer”, dijo Jefferts Schori. “Lo que no tienen son muchos dólares. Piensen en esto como algo semejante a la colecta de Pablo para los pobres de Jerusalén. Hemos recibido de vuelta a la Diócesis de Cuba en la Iglesia Episcopal : esta es una manera de salvar el abismo entre EE.UU. y Cuba”.

– La Rda Pat McCaughan es corresponsal de Episcopal News Service.

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Anglican leaders from the Americas conclude regional primates meeting

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 3:31pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican primates from the Americas and the Caribbean have concluded their regional meeting Nov. 29 with a commitment to continue meeting regularly and working together in the coming years. The three-day meeting, at the convent of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine in Toronto, was characterized as being “not just honest talks, but very honest talks which enabled us to face the difficulties in the Communion and move forward together in Christ.”

Read the full article here.

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Se aceptan solicitudes para el cargo de Director Ejecutivo Adjunto

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 8:12am
La Iglesia Episcopal está aceptando solicitudes para el cargo de Director Ejecutivo Adjunto, el cual es parte de la Oficina Ejecutiva de la Convención General.

El Director Ejecutivo Adjunto organiza y supervisa el trabajo de investigación canónica de la Convención General (los informes diocesanos y parroquiales y demás datos relacionados), trabajando con asesores profesionales, el Church Pension Group (CPG) y otros colaboradores que realizan análisis estadísticos y demográficos. El Director Ejecutivo Adjunto también organiza y supervisa las funciones de la Oficina de la Convención General que tienen que ver con encuentros presenciales y la planeación o ejecución de eventos. Así mismo, coordina el trabajo de logística que realizan el personal y los consultores para las reuniones de la Convención General, el Consejo Ejecutivo, los organismos interinos y otras reuniones similares. Por pedido del Director Ejecutivo, el Director Adjunto representa al Director Ejecutivo en reuniones y funge como Registrador Adjunto, a la vez que realiza otras funciones según sean asignadas.

El Director Ejecutivo también deberá recibir capacitación de la Suplente de Legislación, adquirir los conocimientos de las funciones legislativas de la Oficina de la Convención General y prestar apoyo cuando sea necesario.

La información sobre este cargo y los detalles para presentar solicitudes están disponibles aquí.  Además de completar su perfil y de enviar su currículum, sírvase también enviar una carta de presentación que incluya por los menos tres referencias profesionales. La fecha límite para presentar solicitudes es el 21 de diciembre de 2018.

Para más información, comuníquese con la oficina de Recursos Humanos de la Iglesia Episcopal en HRM@episcopalchurch.org.

El Centro de la Iglesia Episcopal (The Episcopal Church Center) es la oficina [central] de la Sociedad Misionera Doméstica y Extranjera (DFMS, por su sigla en inglés), que es la entidad corporativa de la Iglesia Episcopal. La DFMS es un empleador que garantiza la igualdad de oportunidades laborales e incentiva la participación de solicitantes calificados que son miembros de grupos protegidos contra la discriminación de empleo según las leyes federales, estatales y municipales, así como también los cánones de la Iglesia y las resoluciones de la Convención General.

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South Sudan archbishop prays for peace with country’s president

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 4:53pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] South Sudan Archbishop Justin Badi Arama has paid a visit to South Sudan President Salva Kiir to pray for peace in the country. During the visit, Arama thanked Kiir for his continued support for the country’s churches and for his support for the funeral of the late Bishop Peter Munde, who died last month.

Read the full article here.

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Archbishop of Central America elected to Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 4:50pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Julio Murray, primate of the Anglican Church in the Central America Region, has been elected as the Americas’ regional primate on the Anglican Communion’s Primates’ Standing Committee and the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council. The elections took place as the leaders of the Anglican Church in the Americas and Caribbean gathered in Toronto, Canada, for a regional primates meeting.

Read the full article here.

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Strengthening family ties, sparking transformation with Cuba

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 11:41am

The Episcopal Church in Cuba held its annual General Synod in Havana Feb. 21-23, 2014, and adopted a three-year strategic plan. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Now that the Diocese of Cuba is officially back in the Episcopal Church’s fold, Bishop Griselda Delgado Del Carpio has big dreams for strengthening family ties and sparking transformation.

For starters, Delgado wants “everybody to know how happy I am to be back in the family” and hopes to extend to other dioceses and congregations the bridges she’s built with the Diocese of Florida, over the past 30 years.

“For 30 years, we have learned to love each other, to work together, to respect each other and share gifts that each community has to offer the other,” she said in a recent telephone interview with the Episcopal News Service, via an interpreter.

“For us, a partnership means for two communities to work together, receiving and giving and valuing each other’s journey in the process, and valuing each other’s gifts.”

After a 52-year estrangement, the 79th General Convention July 5-13, 2018. in Austin, Texas, approved reunification with the Episcopal Church in Cuba.

Resolution A238 called “upon the dioceses, congregations and members of The Episcopal Church to acquaint themselves with the ministries of La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba,” and to work in harmony and companionship for evangelism, mutual understanding, and the full expression of God’s mission, and to consider ways to be in partnership.

Bishop Griselda—as she is affectionately called—is hoping to live more fully and deeply into the spirit of the resolution, creating partnerships while deepening relationship with U.S. siblings. She aims to spark transformation by focusing on building community through rebuilding churches, and hopes to provide pensions for diocesan clergy.

The diocese encompasses 46 congregations and five small missions that are “becoming and growing and staring to grow up” she said. Each one faces different challenges but “each one can be worked out individually,” Delgado said confidently.

“The main thing is to be able to continue to bring the Good News to the people,” she said, “with the evangelistic tool of love and of knowing Jesus.

“We have much to learn from each other,” she added. “We want to do all of that while reaffirming the identity of the people of Cuba. This is what Cubans have to give to the world, their own experience and journey of faith in the church.”

Evangelism: clean water, hot meals, gardens

Chip Weismiller recently returned from helping to install a water filtration system at Santa Cruz del Norte Episcopal Church near Havana, along with others from St. Luke’s Church in Darien, Connecticut, and from Christ Church in Bronxville, New York.

Members of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Darien, Connecticut, and Christ Church, Bronxville, New York, join their Cuban counterparts to help assemble and install water filtration systems at Santa Cruz del Norte Church. Photo: Stuart Weismiller

It means clean water, not just for the church, but for the entire community, “they are expecting to have 100 people a day come there to get fresh water,” he said.

It is a model for jump-starting ministries in areas with crumbling infrastructure and where, for several generations, the society has not approved of church, according to Pat Cage, who helped form Friends of the Episcopal Church of Cuba, at Delgado’s request.

The U.S.-based volunteer organization was created to assist Delgado to “realize their transformational vision of creating a church that, united in diversity, celebrates, preaches, teaches, serves and shares the love of God,” according to Cage.

“A way Bishop Griselda is trying to rebuild the church community is to serve the basic needs of the people,” according to Cage, a member of St. Luke’s, Darien, who has also visited Cuba.

The Rev. Yamily Bass-Choate, vicar of Iglesia Memorial de San Andres, Yonkers, New York, said her congregation, along with members of Christ Church, Bronxville, has partnered with the Diocese of Cuba, taking groups of teenagers to learn about the culture and people and to assist with establishing water filtrations systems.

“We have installed about 26 water filtration systems since we began several years ago, and have also trained people there to do it,” Bass-Choate told ENS.

“Bishop Griselda has a wonderful vision for the diocese,” said Michael Pollack, a Christ Church parishioner who recently returned from his eighth visit to Cuba to help with the water systems.

He keeps returning because “Cuba is a special place. The people are wonderfully warm. Their joyfulness for life and the goodness in it is palpable. It was right out there in front of everything, right there. There is a real sense of ‘we’re in this together and we need to help each other,’” he said.

Delgado’s vision originated during her ministry as priest at Iglesia Maria Virgen in Itabo, the congregation she served for about 25 years before she was elected bishop.

Partnering with churches in the Diocese of North Florida, the installation of a water filtration system sparked transformation.

“At her church in Itabo, people come from literally a hundred miles away in horses and buggies to get clean drinking water,” Cage said. “You can imagine the impact clean drinking water has on the community from a health and wellness standpoint; illness has been significantly reduced.”

Iglesia Maria Virgen, located in a rural area about 850 miles from Havana, also created a garden, growing beans, corn, coffee, eventually adding chickens and pigs. “The agricultural products are sold at a very low price to the community. At the end of each season, the seeds are given out to the community,” Cage said.

As a result, gardens are on the rise around the entire community of Itabo and so is church attendance. “It is meeting the needs, showing compassion and love and bringing church into the community,” said Cage. She said the Friends’ organization is hoping to facilitate similar partnerships between U.S. and Cuban churches.

Additionally, Delgado was able to shore up an unstable church facility and erect a dormitory-style dwelling for visitors in Itabo, Pollack said. A bio-gas generator uses waste from pigs to make cooking gas, and developing the gardens was vitally important, said Pollack, “because it was explained to me that before, food had to be imported.”

He added that: “Bishop Griselda’s vision is sustainable. There is no way to deny what she’s accomplished, given the circumstances in Cuba and the historical situation.”

Partnerships: a transformational, ‘relational’ ministry

Eating together, worshipping together, visiting the sick in their homes and praying for them felt as powerful for Stuart Weismiller as did watching a young girl sip her first drops of clean water for her husband Chip during their Nov. 6-13, 2018, trip.

St. Luke’s and Christ Church’s team joined their Cuban counterparts for meals, worship, even pastoral visits to pray for the sick in their homes, developing relationships and strengthening family ties. Photo: Stuart Weismiller

It was the second trip to Santa Cruz del Norte for the couple, members of St. Luke’s, Darien, who consider it pure evangelism, not a “project” ministry. “We want to have a relationship with the people. It was very important for us to partake in all parts of the worship services. Some members of our group read lessons. We ate together. We hugged each other,” according to Chip Weismiller.

He said Delgado’s vision is sustainable and transformational because “one of the ways you attract people to church is to provide a loving, accepting environment, and, way before you preach anything, you behave in deeds and actions.”

Roger Martin, also a St. Luke’s member who joined the trip, agreed. Delgado’s church, he said, “is a model for what can be done.”

According to Martin, the partnership between St. Luke’s and Santa Cruz del Norte Church has grown and blossomed. The addition of a Sunday evening meal has begun to build community, and the donation of baseball equipment has allowed the rector, the Rev. Frank Fernandez Triana, to organize teams of young people and also to bring them into the church.

“The wonderful thing about Cuba is the people going to Episcopal churches are young. Their parents may not come to church, but they do,” Martin said.Other opportunities continue to unfold: “because of the hurricanes [specifically Irma], the roof of the church is unstable,” said Martin, who served as associate dean of the Divinity School at Harvard from 1980 to 1986. “Our plan is to help them reconstruct the roof of the church and have it painted and fixed up. As we move forward, there’s going to be a lot of things to do to really improve the church.”

He added: “I taught mission at Harvard. I don’t see this as mission. I see this as working with people who can teach us a whole lot about the church.”

Big challenges, bigger dreams: Rest, pensions for clergy

Delgado’s vision also includes aid and support to Cuban clergy, who “have no state pensions or equivalent kind of social security because their service is not recognized as employment,” said former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, now assisting bishop in the Diocese of San Diego.

“At General Convention last summer, during our conversation about Cuba in the House of Bishops, I challenged the House to ask their congregants to offer $0.50 to help fund pensions for the Cuban clergy,” said Jefferts Schori.

“The total need is about $800,000 and that amounts to about $0.50 per Episcopalian,” she said in a recent email to ENS. “Several have already responded, and some dioceses have sent more than that. The [Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s] treasurer has established a dedicated fund to receive donations, and any diocesan finance officer can ask Kurt Barnes for details.”

She said retired Cuban clergy often “live in penury, depending on family members or their own meagre savings for support.  Some clergy in Cuba who served in Cuba before that diocese was set adrift in 1965 do receive small pensions from CPG [the Church Pension Group], but until the last few years it’s been very difficult to send those limited funds from the USA.”

Several dioceses, among them San Diego, Arkansas, Louisiana, New York, Vermont and Utah, have responded, issuing calls to their congregations to aid the effort. Episcopal Church Treasurer N. Kurt Barnes declined, however, to comment about the amounts raised thus far.

“This has only recently begun; and I don’t think we are likely to provide running totals,” he told ENS in an email. “We have, however, established a custodial account to receive and hold the funds.”

Jefferts Schori added that the U.S. church has much to learn from its Cuban sibling.

“They are highly entrepreneurial and passionately focused on aiding their neighbors,” she told ENS in an email. Additionally, Bishop Griselda “has helped produce a development plan for the diocese that is beginning to bear abundant fruit – in terms of formation, accountability, partnerships and pastorally. I would encourage anyone with an interest to visit, learn more, and build a long-term relationship of mutuality.

“Our brothers and sisters in Christ in Cuba have much to show and teach and offer,” she said. “What they don’t have is much in the way of dollars. Think of this as something like Paul’s collection for the poor in Jerusalem. We have welcomed the Diocese of Cuba back into the Episcopal Church – this is a way of bridging the divide between the U.S. and Cuba.”

— The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

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UTO grant allows seminarian to work for peace internationally

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 4:26pm

[Episcopal News Service] When her kindergarten teacher issued the classic assignment, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, Caroline Carson, 47, didn’t have a single answer. Instead, she had about 25 options—including becoming a horse and an interest in space travel.

Remarkable curiosity and uncommon exuberance have been a divining rod of sorts for Carson, helping her seek out spiritual nourishment by building relationships with people around the world.

Carson, a third-year seminarian at the School of Theology at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, has visited 40 countries, most in a quest to see and experience firsthand the movement of the Holy Spirit. Her latest endeavor has been teaching and learning about pastoral care for refugees in Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

Funded by a United Thank Offering grant, the project included a trip this spring to Cairo to serve as a volunteer for Refuge Egypt. Pastoral care—especially interreligious care—is often an unfamiliar concept in the Arab community, Carson said. During her visit, she led a training about pastoral care, showing the variety of ways that care can be expressed, including art and music, and she spoke about the Anglican Communion’s commitment to peace and reconciliation. But most of her time was spent listening, learning about the needs of the community and talking with asylum seekers and refugees.

“When you look in the eyes of so many of these asylum seekers, you see that they’re lost,” said Carson. “They’re in shock. Sometimes they just need someone to listen to them, to be with them. There’s a story behind every person.”

The United Thank Offering, a ministry of the Episcopal Church, receives the offerings from individuals and congregations and distributes 100 percent of the collections to innovative mission and ministry.

“Goodness can foster goodness,” Carson wrote in her application for the grant. She recalled the directive from Leviticus 19:34: “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

“The care of soul is of vital importance. Addressing injustice can spur the actions of justice. The displaced deserve a change to be shown godly love whether by sharing silence and presence, a story, a meal or being allowed to grieve.”

Though fascinated by ancient history, Carson’s connection to Egypt began with a post-modern twist: a priest in Egypt re-tweeted a photo that she had posted in her role as a volunteer in NASA’s Solar System Ambassadors Program.

“I thought, ‘I wonder who re-tweeted that picture?’ So I followed up,” said Carson. Her curious nature found a friend in the Rev. Kerry Buttram, a priest at All Saints Cathedral in Cairo. “I told him that I was going on a choir tour to Jerusalem and since that’s pretty close, what would it be like to come by the cathedral and shake his hand.”

So she did. And a few years later, Carson reached out again, asking, “What would it be like to offer some teaching on pastoral care?” So she did.

What might seem bold to some is part of Carson’s approach to a faithful life, one that takes joyful risks in seeking and building relationships with people around the world. This commitment to community is evident in another passion: music. Although she considered becoming a nun in high school, Carson couldn’t resist the sound of music; she eventually earned a doctorate degree from the University of South Carolina with a major in conducting.

“I love working with students, of being a part of making something collaborative happen,” Carson said. “Choral music is about communication, not just with your audience but with the text … that’s the nature of an ensemble. You might have that one flute line or an alto part, but you’re still part of the whole, part of a community.”

Her work as a conductor and teacher took her around the world. She began adding time on either end of her music trips to volunteer for mission work. Soon, she felt God beckoning her to a different vocation, and within the community of the Diocese of Louisiana, Carson discerned a call to the priesthood.

Scheduled to graduate from seminary in the spring of 2019 – and, God willing, ordained as a transitional deacon on Dec. 15, Carson has sought numerous opportunities to develop relationships. She traveled to the Philippines and taught a liturgy and music course at Saint Andrew’s Theological Seminary, and she volunteered at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center in Rome, Italy, before making her way to Egypt.

While Carson plans to work in parish ministry after graduation and ordination to the priesthood, she hasn’t lost her youthful enthusiasm. She still has a full list of things she wants to do. Returning to Egypt and continuing to listen to the needs and stories of refugees is a top priority. She has plenty of other plans too, all focused on peace building—in our churches, in our communities and in our world.

“Peace-building is the future of our church,” said Carson. “We are all called to be missionaries.”

– Richelle Thompson is deputy director and managing editor of Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church committed to inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists.

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Diocese of Texas announces slate for bishop suffragan

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 4:18pm

[Diocese of Texas] Three candidates for bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Texas were approved by the Standing Committee on November 26. They include: the Rev. Hannah E. Atkins Romero, the Rev. Canon Glenice Robinson-Como, and the Rev. Canon Kathryn ‘Kai’ Ryan.

“After diligent work and prayerful discernment with male and female applicants from inside and outside the Diocese, it was our joy to present these three outstanding candidates for Bishop Suffragan to the Standing Committee for final approval,” said the Rev. Chuck Treadwell, chair of the Search Committee and rector of St. David’s, Austin. The Standing Committee met Monday, November 26 to finalize the slate of candidates. Instructions for the petition process for additional candidates, which opens at 9 a.m. CST on Nov. 27 and closes five business days later on Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. CST, can be found here. Please save Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, at Camp Allen to meet the candidates for bishop suffragan. The day will begin at 9:30 a.m. with prayer. Each candidate will offer a brief presentation followed by a question and answer session. Register here. The election of the new bishop suffragan will take place at the diocese’s 170th Council at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Conference Center on Feb. 22, 2019. The new bishop suffragan will succeed the Rt. Rev. Dena A. Harrison, who retires at the end of 2018. A celebration of Harrison’s ministry will be held at Council.

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Lambeth Conference seen as chance to proclaim ‘good news of Jesus’

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 3:10pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has set out his vision for the next once-in-a-decade meeting of the bishops of the Anglican Communion, saying that “the world . . . needs the good news of Jesus Christ.” Welby said that the world “needs to see it in our actions, envy it in our love together, and hear it in our confident proclamation of the good news of Jesus.” He made his comments in a video for the brand new Lambeth Conference website as the dates for the meeting were confirmed as July 23 to Aug. 2, 2020.

Read the full article here.

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Bishop Silvestre Romero installed as Anglican leader in Guatemala

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 3:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop Silvestre Romero has been installed at the new Bishop of Guatemala in a special service at St James cathedral in the capital, Guatemala City. Silvestre, who was consecrated as coadjutor bishop a year ago, succeeds Bishop Armando Guerra, who has held office in the Church for more than 35 years.

Read the full article here.

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Anglican leaders from the Americas gather in Toronto for regional primates meeting

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 3:04pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The leaders of eight Anglican Provinces whose churches cover the territory from Cape Horn to the Arctic are gathering in Toronto for a regional Primates’ Meeting. Seven Primates and a bishop from the West Indies, where there is a primatial vacancy, are meeting in to discuss the Lambeth Conference 2020 and other issues including the Anglican Communion’s Instruments of Communion and relationships within the Communion.

Read the full article here.

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Diocese of West Tennessee elects Phoebe Roaf as bishop

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 3:00pm

[Diocese of West Tennessee] The Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee elected the Rev. Phoebe Roaf, rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia, as its fourth bishop on Nov. 17.

Roaf will be in stalled in a consecration service May 4 at Hope Presbyterian Church. The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, will preside.

The Rev. Phoebe Roaf

Roaf is a lifelong Episcopalian. She grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. She is rector at St. Philip’s, the oldest African-American church in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, where she has served as the parish leader since 2011. Before St. Philips’s, Roaf was associate rector for three years at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans.

Roaf, who earned a law degree from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, and clerked two years for Judge James L. Dennis, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, worked in commercial real estate before pursuing a call to serve the Episcopal Church as clergy.

She completed her bachelor’s degree at Harvard University and MPA at Princeton University. She attended Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. She is vice chair of the board of trustees at Virginia Theological Seminary.

The other nominees for the position were the Rev. Marian Dulaney Fortner, rector, Trinity Episcopal Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and the Rev. Sarah Hollar, rector, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Huntersville, North Carolina.

“The mission of the church is to promote reconciliation among people and with God. Phoebe Roaf has the creativity and vision to help the Diocese of West Tennessee set a bold vision for the work of Christ in this region at this time, and the ideal skillset to help us achieve it,” said the Rev. Sandy Webb, rector of the Church of the Holy Communion and chairman of the committee overseeing the bishop transition process.

Roaf was chosen in a balloting process in the diocese’s annual convention at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown. All clergy and elected lay delegates are allowed to vote. Under the canons of the denomination, bishops are chosen by a clergy and lay leader votes. They must receive a majority from each group on the same ballot in order to be elected.

Roaf succeeds Bishop Don E. Johnson, who has served the Diocese of West Tennessee as bishop since 2001. The diocese, which covers all of Tennessee west of the Tennessee River, has 8,260 active members and an average Sunday attendance of more than 3,000.

The diocese announced the three nominees in late summer. They visited in late October, meeting with parishioners and clergy in Memphis and Dyersburg and responding to questions in a public forum.

In her application materials, Roaf referenced the divisions in the society and the role of the church.

“The Episcopal Church is ideally suited for a time such as this, when community building and reconciliation are needed. There is a deep hunger among many people to bridge our differences and to form meaningful connections. My life and ministry in multicultural and multiracial environments make me uniquely suited to serve among the geographic, economic, racial and ethnic diversity found within in the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee.”

For more information on Roaf, including her resume, photo and video reflection, go to wtnbishop.com/bishop-elect.

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Oklahoma Bishop Konieczny to retire in 2021

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 3:25pm

[Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma] The Rt. Rev. Dr. Edward J. Konieczny, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, has announced his intention to retire on January 1, 2021. Bishop Konieczny was elected and consecrated as the fifth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma in 2007, and at the time of his retirement will be in his 15th year as Bishop.

Bishop Konieczny intends to call for the election of a Bishop Coadjutor to be consecrated on April 18, 2020. A Bishop Coadjutor is elected to succeed a Diocesan Bishop. By electing a Bishop Coadjutor, there will be a time of overlap for the new Bishop and Bishop Konieczny to work together to ensure a smooth transition.

The responsibility for discerning Bishop candidates and conducting an election rests with the Standing Committee of the Diocese. More information about the process and timeline for the election of the new Bishop will be published soon.

In his letter to the diocese, Bishop Konieczny stated, “We have accomplished much during my tenure: we are healthy spiritually, financially, and prepared to grow and develop in new and emerging ways. It is time to discern the next Bishop who will lead the Diocese of Oklahoma into this new season of ministry.”

During his tenure, Bishop Konieczny has served in numerous leadership roles throughout The Episcopal Church, including as member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence who participated in the Claiming Common Ground Against Gun Violence March at 2015 General Convention, member of Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, member of Executive Committee of Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, member of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice, member of the Presiding Bishop Transition and Installation Committee, Co-Chair of the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop, and Key Note Speaker at the Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace Conference, and is a participating member in the Consultation of Anglican Bishops. In 2018, Bishop Ed was elected and appointed as the Bishop Representative to the Anglican Consultative Council for The Episcopal Church, a role in which he will continue to serve.

Additionally, Bishop Konieczny has served on numerous community, civic, and faith-based committees and commissions, as well as a consultant to corporations and municipalities on corporate leadership.

The Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma includes all Episcopal congregations in the state of Oklahoma, spanning nearly 70,000 square miles and including numerous geographic landscapes. Our diocese includes approximately 25,000 Episcopalians; 70 congregations; and 150 resident clergy. We support 5 Episcopal schools, 2 residential communities for mature adults, and St. Crispin’s, a thriving Camp and Conference Center. The Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma is a member of The Episcopal Church’s Province VII, which consists of 12 other dioceses in close proximity. Our Diocesan Offices are located in downtown Oklahoma City, and our Cathedral, St. Paul’s, is located just one block away.

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La cumbre de los ministerios de la frontera reúne a diócesis del suroeste, de California y de México

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 6:31am

La frontera entre El Paso, Texas, y Ciudad Juárez, México, es el segundo cruce fronterizo más concurrido entre EE.UU. y México. Una estrecha franja del Río Grande separa las dos ciudades, cuya población conjunta asciende a más de 2 millones de personas. Desde las montañas Franklin en El Paso la frontera es invisible. Foto de Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – El Paso, Texas] Mientras conducía a lo largo de la autopista Interestatal 25 de Albuquerque en dirección a Las Cruces, Nuevo México, Michael Hunn, el obispo de Río Grande, divisó una valla al lado izquierdo de la carretera , justo al sur de Belén, que casi le hizo chocar su camioneta.

“Me quedé tan confundido por el cartel. Decía en grandes letras, dos oraciones: ‘El cielo tiene un muro y estrictas normas migratorias. El infierno tiene fronteras abiertas’”, dijo Hunn, que entonces era obispo electo. “Casi arruino la camioneta… Tuve que desacelerar… ¿Realmente dice eso? Me sentí tan confundido, y aún sigo confundido”.

La valla le recordaba a Hunn —que antes de su elección como obispo de Río Grande fue el canónigo del obispo primado Michael Curry para el ministerio dentro de la Iglesia Episcopal— que “para aquellos de nosotros en la Iglesia, parte del quehacer de vincularse a Jesucristo y seguirle siempre es teológica. Y estamos viviendo en una sociedad y en una cultura donde hay cristianos que van regularmente a la iglesia e interpretan su fe de tal manera que pueden comprar una valla anunciadora que diga: ‘El cielo tiene un muro y estrictas normas de inmigración. El infierno tiene fronteras abiertas’.

“Si ese sentimiento está ahí, si esa teología está ahí —y yo creo que es real en todos nuestros lugares— luego tendría sentido para nosotros como episcopales, para nosotros como anglicanos, hacer alguna labor teológica”, dijo Hunn, el 18 de noviembre en su sermón durante la eucaristía de clausura de la primera Cumbre de Ministerios de la Frontera que [tuvo lugar] aquí en El Paso.

La próxima Cumbre de Ministerios de la Frontera tendrá lugar en Tucson, Arizona, del 14 al 16 de noviembre de 2019.

Alrededor de 60 personas asistieron a la cumbre que se celebró del 16 al 18 de noviembre en el [hotel] Marriott de El Paso. Aunque la cumbre se centró en los ministerios de la frontera llevados a cabo por las diócesis que comparten una frontera con México, los asistentes vinieron de tan lejos como Massachusetts. Una vez que un migrante o un solicitante de asilo cruza la frontera de EE.UU., con frecuencia viaja a otros estados en busca de trabajo o para reunirse con su familia. La Diócesis de Río Grande, que abarca el 40 por ciento de la frontera entre EE.UU. y México, auspició la cumbre para reunir a personas dedicadas a un ministerio fronterizo a fin de compartir experiencias y para relacionarse.

“Aproximadamente hace un año, comencé a fijarme en los ministerios fronterizos y pregunté que estaba pasando en otras diócesis”, dijo el Rdo. Paul Moore, que preside el Ministerio Fronterizo de la Diócesis de Río Grande y quien organizó la cumbre. La próxima cumbre tendrá lugar del 14 al 16 de noviembre de 2019 en Tucson, Arizona.

La cumbre coincidió con caravanas de migrantes que seguían llegando a la frontera de EE.UU. y México. Cientos de migrantes centroamericanos comenzaron a llegar el 14 de noviembre a Tijuana, México, y a otros puertos de entrada. Las caravanas han sido politizadas en Estados Unidos y en sus países de origen en Centro América, Guatemala, El Salvador y Honduras, donde uno de los principales móviles de la migración y de los desplazamientos forzosos por causa de la violencia, con frecuencia se niega. Aquí en Estados Unidos, el presidente Donald Trump ha definido a los migrantes económicos y solicitantes de asilo como un “asalto a nuestro país” y su administración ha desplegado 8.000 soldados en la frontera. El Presidente ha prometido negar peticiones de asilo a los migrantes que intenten entrar ilegalmente en Estados Unidos, es decir no a través de uno de los puntos de entrada designados como tales.

Sin embargo, como bien lo saben las personas como Moore, al vivir junto a la frontera, como él lo ha hecho durante más de 25 años, uno puede sentirse a horcajadas sobre dos culturas, y los cruces fronterizos, ya para ir de compras o a la escuela, en busca de atención médica o de trabajo, o para reunirse con la familia, tienen lugar a diario. De hecho, antes de 1996, la gente cruzaba la frontera fácilmente para trabajar y regresaba a su hogar con su familia. Pero cuando el entonces presidente Bill Clinton firmó la Reforma de la Inmigración Ilegal y la Ley de Responsabilidad del Inmigrante, los cruces se hicieron demasiado peligrosos y la gente comenzó a quedarse en Estados Unidos.

La ley, dijo Moore, “creó una población permanente”, en algunos casos, separando a las familias, mientras la gente se quedaba en Estados Unidos a fin de trabajar y enviarles dinero para sostenerlos.

Durante los últimos dos años, Moore, que también presta servicio como rector de la iglesia del Buen Pastor [Church of the Good Shepherd] en Silver City, Nuevo México, ha celebrado la eucaristía el domingo más cercano al Día de la Madre en México, el 10 de mayo, en medio del Río Grande, que separa a EE.UU. y México, cerca de Lajitas, Texas. La eucaristía es parte de un evento anual que congrega a personas y reúne brevemente a familias de ambos lados de la frontera.

La eucaristía es uno de los muchos ministerios episcopales-anglicanos que tienen lugar a lo largo de la frontera.

El 17 de noviembre, representantes de las diócesis del Norte de México, de Texas Occidental, de Arizona,  de San Diego, de México Occidental y de Río Grande hicieron presentaciones. En McCallen, Texas, el Rdo. Rod Clark, vicario de San Pedro y San Pablo [St. Peter and St. Paul] en la vecina Mission, ofreció un ‘martes de tacos’para alimentar a los hambrientos; él también organiza inmersiones para personas interesadas en aprender a vivir en la frontera; y proporciona acercamientos con los agentes de la patrulla fronteriza, que con frecuencia tienen un trabajo difícil e ingrato y que, a veces, puede ser malinterpretado.

La Diócesis de Texas Occidental ha dirigido durante décadas Fronteras Unidas, un [programa] que ofrece educción continua a clérigos de ambos lados de la frontera y proporciona préstamos para microempresas a mujeres en el sur de México.

En Nogales, México, el Rdo. Rodger Babnew, Jr., diácono que presta servicio en la iglesia episcopal de San Andrés [St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church] en la Diócesis de Arizona, junto con un colega del Sínodo del Gran Cañón de la Iglesia Evangélica Luterana en América, dirige un sistema de albergues de cinco instalaciones y capacidad para 780 personas. Desde que las caravanas empezaron a llegar, de 18 a 22 familias han estado saliendo diariamente del albergue para solicitar asilo en la frontera, mientras hace dos semanas, veían salir del albergue de tres a cinco por semana.

En San Diego, California, fronteriza con Tijuana, México, el puerto de entrada más concurrido, donde los agentes de Inmigración y Aduanas han estado liberando diariamente de 75 a 100 solicitantes de asilo a quienes dejan sin ayuda en la estación de autobuses, los episcopales han estado supliendo paquetes con útiles de aseo y otros artículos esenciales, y han llevado una ducha de emergencia portátil.

En Tucson, han estado sirviendo voluntariamente en Casa Alitas, un albergue de corto plazo, que ofrece a migrantes y solicitantes de asilo un lugar para estar antes de abordar autobuses y aviones para reunirse con familiares en otras partes del país mientras esperan su juicio de inmigración.

Estas son sólo una muestra de los permanentes ministerios episcopales que han estado ocupados a lo largo de la frontera durante años. Dada la cobertura que los medios de prensa le han dedicado a la caravana, puede resultar fácil olvidar que varios miles de personas llegan dodos los días a la frontera de EE.UU. En 2017, un promedio de 850 personas eran arrestadas intentando cruzar ilegalmente la frontera, sin embargo, esa cifra es bastante menor que los 1.983 de 2007, según el Servicio de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza de EE.UU.

Por ejemplo, cientos de personas salieron de El Salvador el 31 de octubre en tres diferentes caravanas, pero como el obispo David Alvarado de El Salvador dijo durante una presentación el 18 de noviembre sobre las causas fundamentales de la migración, entre 200 y 300 personas se van diariamente de El Salvador, uno de los países más violentos del mundo.

A través del Triángulo Norte de América Central, una región que incluye El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras, más de 700.000 personas han sido desplazadas forzosamente por la violencia. No obstante, este es un fenómeno global que afecta a 68,5 millones de personas, una cifra récord, en todo el mundo.

La Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal con sede en Washington, D.C., compiló Una respuesta fiel a la caravana: cinco cosas a saber

Entre presentaciones diocesanas, los talleres de la cumbre se centraron en la labor social, las leyes de inmigración, la lucha contra el racismo así como la defensa social y la participación de la Iglesia Episcopal respecto a la inmigración, la migración y los refugiados en el ámbito federal.

“La política oficial de la iglesia sobre la inmigración se remonta a las resoluciones de la década del 30 [del pasado siglo] que piden la atenuación de las políticas migratorias restrictivas y racialmente discriminatorias, y luego, a través del siglo XX, instando a las parroquias a participar activamente en el auspicio de reasentamiento de refugiados y en las protecciones de los derechos civiles para inmigrantes indocumentados”, explicó Lacy Broemel, analista sobre refugiados y política de inmigración de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Broemel opera desde la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal que tiene su sede en Washington, D.C. y la cual representa las políticas prioritarias de la Iglesia —tal como las determinan principalmente las resoluciones de la Convención General y del Consejo Ejecutivo— ante el gobierno de EE.UU.  Las resoluciones, explicó ella, se centran en varios temas, incluida la unidad de la familia: impugnando la discriminación y el racismo inherentes en muchas políticas restrictivas de inmigración; ofreciendo soluciones normativas y estables a largo plazo para inmigrantes mediante una vía conducente a la ciudadanía; protegiendo los derechos humanos y el debido proceso; ofreciendo protecciones a los refugiados; motivando a los refugiados e inmigrantes LGBTQ y abordando las causas raigales de la migración mediante la promoción de la paz y el desarrollo.

“La Iglesia reconoce que EE.UU. tiene legítimas necesidades de seguridad, pero podemos ser a un tiempo compasivos y sensibles. La Iglesia reconoce que los inmigrantes y los refugiados aportan dones que enriquecen a nuestra Iglesia y a nuestra nación”, dijo Broemel. “Y es importante destacar que la Iglesia Episcopal no sólo camina junto a los refugiados e inmigrantes a través de estas políticas oficiales, sino que somos una Iglesia compuesta de refugiados e inmigrantes. Los “soñadores” [dreamers], refugiados y otros inmigrantes son parte de la labor de la Iglesia en el ministerio, la defensa social y el compromiso con todos los inmigrantes”.

Durante su sermón en la clausura de la cumbre, Hunn señaló que en el principio con Adán y Eva, “prácticamente lo primero que le sucedió a la humanidad es que fuimos desplazados”. Luego señaló los ejemplos de Caín y Abel, Abraham y Sara, Moisés, María, José y Jesús, todos los cuales se vieron forzados a huir, exiliados o convertidos en refugiados. Hunn pareció hacerse eco de las palabras de la ex obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori, que ahora es obispa auxiliar en la Diócesis de San Diego, y quien pronunció el discurso de apertura el 16 de noviembre.

“La narrativa bíblica nos lleva de la creación cósmica, incluida la humanidad, a terrícolas plantados en un huerto por una temporada”, dijo Jefferts Schori. “Su anhelo de conocimiento los induce a una eterna búsqueda de hogar; nosotros, sus herederos, aún estamos buscando. Dios saca a Abram y Sarai de Harán en busca de una patria nueva. Ellos llegan a Canaán y siguen desplazándose, hasta Egipto, para después volver. Siempre hay conflictos respecto a quién posee qué y que tierra pertenece a quién.

“No obstante, nuestros antepasados comenzaron a contar nuestra historia como la búsqueda de un hogar en Dios, a lo largo de una calzada recta a través del desierto, un camino de justicia y de paz. Esto se trata de algo más que una parcela de tierra; se trata de abrirles la mano a tus prójimos, ya sea que los ames, los toleres o les temas. Los profetas comenzaron a desafiarnos acerca de nuestros prójimos en todas partes, no sólo entre nuestros parientes tribales. Aprendimos  que estamos hechos para amar a los extranjeros, a las viudas y a los huérfanos y a los indigentes, y a los problemáticos. Empecemos a soñar con el Reino de Dios, y con el gobierno que traiga justicia y paz en todas partes, y con un hogar donde todos puedan regocijarse, dar gracias y vivir en armonía y en abundancia”.

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

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Una ONG con nexos episcopales aborda los desplazamientos forzosos en Centroamérica

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 6:28am

Una familia de cuatro se incorpora a una caravana que sale de la plaza Salvador del Mundo el 31 de octubre de 2018. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – San Salvador, El Salvador] Familias con niños pequeños, madres solteras y sus bebés, hombres y mujeres jóvenes, adolescentes y ancianos, se reunieron una mañana de fines de octubre en la Plaza Salvador del Mundo, aquí, para formar una caravana y comenzar el largo recorrido hacia el Norte a través de El Salvador, Guatemala y México y, para algunos, finalmente, la frontera de EE.UU.

La Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal con sede en Washington, D.C., compiló Una respuesta fiel a la caravana: cinco cosas a saber

Esa fue la segunda de las tres caravanas que partieron ese día de la plaza, donde una estatua representa a Jesucristo, salvador del mundo, de pie sobre el planeta Tierra. Unas 250 personas —muchas de ellas llevando sólo mochilas y agua embotellada, otros cargando grandes maletas que resultarían difíciles de manejar al cabo de unas pocas cuadras de camino— salieron en la segunda caravana; otros se les unirían a lo largo del trayecto para el viaje de 4.180 kilómetros. Las caravanas que salieron de El Salvador seguían a una que partió de Honduras a principios del mes.

Carla, de 29 años y su hijo de 4, Anderson Roberto, se encontraban en la segunda caravana salvadoreña que salía ese día. Carla dio su apellido, pero lo reservamos en interés de su seguridad. Madre de tres hijos, dejó a sus hijas de 8 y 2 años detrás con el padre de ella; sería demasiado difícil viajar con tres niños, dijo. Quiere darle a su hijo una vida mejor, y conseguir un empleo para sostener a su familia. Fue una decisión que Carla dijo que había contemplado durante cinco años. Mientras habla, Anderson Roberto llora y se aferra a sus piernas.

Carla, de 29 años, y su hijo Anderson Roberto, de 4, estaban entre las 250 personas que salieron de San Salvador en una caravana el 31 de octubre de 2018. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

A través del Triángulo Norte de América Central, una región que incluye El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras, más de 700.000 personas se han visto obligadas a desplazarse por la violencia. El desplazamiento forzoso —sea reconocido o no— se ha convertido en un problema político en la región, y en Estados Unidos, donde el presidente Donald Trump ha definido a los migrantes económicos y solicitantes de asilo como un “asalto a nuestro país”, su gobierno ha desplegado 8.000 soldados en la frontera. El Presidente ha prometido negar solicitudes de asilo a los migrantes que intenten entrar ilegalmente en Estados Unidos, es decir no a través de los puntos de ingreso asignados.

Ya estamos llegando a la frontera

Cientos de migrantes centroamericanos llegaron a Tijuana, México, el 14 de noviembre, y otros más les siguieron el día 15, según funcionarios municipales que se empeñaban en ofrecer albergue en lo que podría ser una extensa estadía.

“Estos no son delincuentes”, dijo Celia Medrano, directora del programa regional de Cristosal, una organización no gubernamental con sede en San Salvador, que tiene nexos episcopales y recibe apoyo de la Iglesia. Medrano monitoreaba el movimiento de la caravana a través de El Salvador mediante un grupo de WhatsApp. “No son malas personas, son personas que buscan trabajo y huyen de la violencia”.

Tal era el caso de José Antonio, de 34 años, que hace dos años perdió su empleo en un supermercado donde había trabajado durante 15 años. José Antonio, que rehusó dar su apellido, su esposa Daisy, de 34 años, y sus dos hijos: María, de 11, que llevaba puesta una gorra de Frozen   —propaganda de Disney de la popular película— y Uriel, de 4, que llevaba una gorra de Cars.

La familia había estado viviendo con los padres de Daisy en Mejicanos, donde una acequia controlada por miembros de una pandilla pasaba por detrás de la casa. La familia, que llevaba comida suficiente para dos días, se proponía pedir ayuda en México y, tal vez, llegar finalmente a reunirse con unos parientes en Los Ángeles.

Los migrantes han estado viajando en caravanas desde los años 90, si bien la que salió de Honduras a principios de octubre es la más grande de la historia. El tamaño y la visibilidad de las caravanas rompen el paradigma del cruce clandestino de la frontera, ayudados a veces por tratantes de personas.

“Las caravanas representan un cambio en ese patrón”, dijo Noah Bullock, director ejecutivo de Cristosal y misionero nombrado por la Iglesia Episcopal.

Datos recientes muestran que muchas personas carecen de las redes familiares y de los recursos para desplazarse internamente y, por tanto, ven las caravanas como una opción viable, dijo Bullock.

“Lo que ha cambiado respecto a la inmigración es que no se trata de un mexicano solo cruzando la frontera para encontrar empleo. Son niños y familias de América Central que se presentan en la frontera y solicitan asilo o intentan encontrar protección, eso es lo que ha cambiado”, afirmó él. “De manera que incluso con estas caravanas no tienes todavía un aumento en la cifras que lleguen a cambiar la inmigración neta. La inmigración no se encuentra en alza, está en baja. Y cuando uno compara eso a movimientos de migrantes en cualquier parte del mundo, sigue siendo realmente pequeño, de manera que tienes un problema en esos tres países que es grave. Necesita solución y es completamente controlable. Si uno decide controlarlo”.

Nexos y apoyo episcopales a Cristosal

Cristosal comenzó en el año 2000 como una asociación entre clérigos episcopales de Estados Unidos y Salvador. Más tarde se convirtió en una organización no gubernamental independiente con un presupuesto de $2 millones que ha crecido de tres empleados en 2010 a más de 60 en tres países gracias a una subvención del Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo, si bien mantiene estrechos lazos con la Iglesia Episcopal. Los episcopales donan $350.000 al presupuesto anual de la organización.

Cristosal tiene oficinas en El Salvador, Honduras y Guatemala. La USAID le otorgó una subvención para aumentar el conocimiento sobre el desplazamiento forzoso causado por la violencia y para apoyar el desarrollo de modelos para abordarlo, así como para establecer un mecanismo regional para rastrear y supervisar el desplazamiento forzoso en el Triángulo Norte, aumentar la capacidad de los tres países del Triángulo Norte para la creación de sistemas específicos de protección nacional para el desplazamiento interno y ensayar soluciones regionales que perfeccionen la protección comunitaria para las personas desplazadas.

Muchos hombres y mujeres jóvenes, familias y personas ancianas se unieron a la caravana que salió de San Salvador, El Salvador, el 31 de octubre de 2018. Fue la segunda de tres caravanas que partió para el norte ese día. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

“Lo que tanto nos incomoda es la idea de que los centroamericanos están tomando decisiones racionales; que las familias podrían estar evaluando su situación doméstica y considerándola tan grave que hacer cosas tan locas como enviar a sus hijos sin acompañamiento o salir caminando hacia Estados Unidos o lo que fuere, podría ser realmente una decisión racional”, afirmó Bullock.

Los líderes y funcionarios del gobierno no quieren reconocer que los migrantes están tomando una decisión racional, porque hacerlo “aumentaría las responsabilidades del Estado de proteger a las personas, de proteger los derechos humanos; ello cuestiona la narrativa de la inmigración tradicional que en gran medida [se presenta] como personas que vienen en busca de empleos y no como personas que huyen de algunos de los países más violentos del mundo”.

Por ejemplo, explicó él, Irak tiene una tasa de homicidios de 15 por cada 100.000 habitantes, y en El Salvador, aun después de una reducción de la tasa de homicidios, es aún de 60 por cada 100.000. Desde 2014, 7.000 niños han muerto en El Salvador.

“Es mucho más probable que uno muera de una muerte violenta siendo un centroamericano y un centroamericano pobre que si viviera en una zona de guerra en otras partes del mundo, no obstante, es más conveniente cuando la inmigración es gota a gota y clandestina. Y ahora es visible y debe verse como protesta”, dijo. “Las personas están protestando, protestando de que sus países no les ofrezcan opciones de protección y de libertad del temor… y protestan que al cruzar una frontera internacional no encuentren ningún lugar en el planeta donde puedan buscar fines legítimos en la vida”.

Un fenómeno global

El desplazamiento forzoso es un fenómeno internacional que alcanza la cifra récord de 68,5 millones de personas en todo el mundo, una población más grande que la del Reino Unido.

Sólo en El Salvador, se calcula en 296.000 el número de personas internamente desplazadas, lo cual significa que se han visto obligadas a huir de sus hogares, pero no han cruzado aún una frontera; mientras en Honduras, un cálculo conservador pone la cifra en 190.000. En Guatemala, el número pasa de 242.000.

De los tres países del Triángulo Norte, sólo Honduras ha reconocido la existencia de desplazamientos forzosos, estableciendo una comisión nacional para el estudio y la documentación de casos. Sin embargo, eso está a punto de cambiar. En julio, como resultado de la labor de Cristosal, el Tribunal Supremo de El Salvador le dio al gobierno seis meses para reconocer oficialmente el desplazamiento forzoso debido a la violencia en el país, designar una legislación y políticas especiales para la protección y asistencia de las víctimas y hacer de las víctimas del desplazamiento una prioridad en el presupuesto nacional.

“Es la responsabilidad del gobierno proteger a sus ciudadanos. Es un problema de seguridad”, dijo Elizabeth Ferris, durante una plática el 29 de octubre en la Universidad de América Central. “Hay una necesidad a corto plazo de abordar las necesidades de los migrantes y, a largo plazo, de reducir la violencia y de recuperar territorio”.

Ferris, profesora de investigación en el Instituto para el Estudio de la Migración Internacional de la Universidad de Georgetown y ex directora del Programa de Inmigración y Refugiados del Servicio Mundial de Iglesias, estaba en El Salvador para brindar experiencia técnica a fin de promover la legislación. Cuarenta países reconocen el desplazamiento forzoso, pero sólo 11 o 12 tienen estrategias para abordarlo, dijo Ferris.

A partir de 2013, individuos y familias empezaron a presentarse en la oficina de Cristosal en busca de ayuda, algunos de ellos remitidos por la embajada de EE.UU. porque en ese momento la Iglesia Anglicana-Episcopal de El Salvador reasentaba refugiados a través de la oficina de Cristosal.

“Incluso nos tomó mucho tiempo aprender el lenguaje en torno al desplazamiento. Primero, se trataba de personas afectadas por la extorsión y la violencia de las pandillas, y hay algunos que son refugiados, y luego aprendimos acerca del desplazamiento interno”, dijo Bullock.

Y entonces, en 2014, 69.000 menores sin acompañamiento, madres e hijos llegaron a la frontera de EE.UU., llamando la atención el elevado número de personas desplazadas forzosamente por la violencia en Guatemala, Honduras y El Salvador. La cifra en la frontera sudoccidental descendió a 59.692 en 2016 y a 41.435 en 2017, según el Servicio de Aduana y Protección Fronteriza de EE.UU.

“Antes de la crisis de la migración infantil en 2014 no había ningún contexto para abogar o incluso para hablar acerca de desplazamiento debido a la violencia en América Central, y así cuando se produjo la crisis de la migración infantil, el gobierno de EE.UU. se vio sometido a una gran presión para venir a la región y encontrar qué podría hacerse”, explicó él. “Esa fue la primera vez que la violencia se vinculaba a la migración de una manera visible para el público de EE.UU.”

Para entonces, Cristosal tenía una experiencia práctica de dos o tres años de tratar con el desplazamiento forzoso debido a la violencia. La USAID reconoció su labor e instó a Cristosal a expandir su presencia y a crear una respuesta que se pudiera adaptar más allá de El Salvador, en Honduras y en Guatemala.

Sin embargo, fue el apoyo de las iglesias episcopales y de los episcopales individualmente lo que le permitió a Cristosal convertirse en una de las primeras organizaciones en abordar el desplazamiento forzoso en el Triángulo Norte.

“Lo importante que los episcopales deben saber es que la capacidad de Cristosal de ocuparse de un problema que nadie quería, antes que alguien más quisiera financiarlo, fue enteramente apoyado por los episcopales que creyeron en nosotros”, expresó Bullock. “Ese apoyo nos permitió convertirnos en un líder regional en la elaboración de una respuesta, y eso es algo que nunca quisiéramos perder: nuestra base de apoyo episcopal nos permite ser independientes y correr riesgos y elaborar una respuesta y luego atraer a donantes a nuestros asuntos mientras ascendemos. Eso es lo que funcionó para nosotros. Y queremos seguir haciéndolo”.

2014 también conmemoró el 30º. Aniversario de la Declaración de Cartagena, que enmendó  la Convención de los Refugiados de 1951 y la definición del protocolo de 1967 de lo que significa ser un refugiado: “personas que han huido de su país porque sus vidas, seguridad o libertad han sido amenazadas por violencia generalizada, agresión extranjera, conflictos internos, violación masiva de derechos humanos u otras circunstancias que hayan perturbado seriamente el orden público”.

El gobierno de Obama respondió a la crisis de los menores sin acompañamiento con un aumento de la seguridad en la frontera, detención e interdicción por parte de México, de menores y familias que buscaban refugio en Estados Unidos. Trump hizo de la reducción de la inmigración una pieza central de su campaña electoral. Luego, en los primeros ocho meses de 2018, los agentes del Servicio de Aduanas y Control de Fronteras detuvieron a más de 252.000 personas —32.371 menores sin acompañamiento y 59.113 familias en la frontera sudoccidental y la Administración comenzó a separar a las familias. La política de la separación de las familias coincidió con la llegada de la primera caravana, cuando, de los varios centenares de miembros que solicitaron protección, encontraron que el 95 por ciento tenía un temor creíble a la persecución y los remitieron a los tribunales de inmigración para una audiencia plena, según el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional de EE.UU.

El 22 de octubre, Trump amenazó con suspender la ayuda a América Central si los países no actuaban para frenar el flujo de migrantes.

En vísperas de las elecciones parciales del 6 de noviembre, Trump utilizó las caravanas como una táctica atemorizante, y su equipo político elaboró un anuncio en que presentaba a los inmigrantes como una amenaza violenta. La TV de EE.UU. y las redes sociales denunciaron el anuncio como racista. Las reducciones de la Casa Blanca de Trump al programa de reasentamiento de refugiados de la nación muestran un interés en limitar no sólo a la inmigración ilegal.

Estados Unidos fue un líder mundial en el reasentamiento de refugiados hace sólo dos años, cuando más de 80.000 refugiados fueron recibidos en el país con la ayuda de nueve agencias con contratos federales para hacer ese trabajo, entre ellas el Ministerio Episcopal de Migración. Ese número ha menguado durante la administración de Trump, la cual anunció el 17 de septiembre que reduciría aún más los reasentamientos, a no más de 30.000 al año.

La Ley de Refugiados de 1980 garantiza el derecho de una persona a solicitar asilo. Y fue una guerra civil y una crisis de refugiados lo que ha contribuido a la actual crisis de violencia en El Salvador.

“Cuando los refugiados salvadoreños se iban en los años ochenta, [sólo] al tres por ciento los reconocían como refugiados, obligando a los salvadoreños que venían a Estados Unidos a hacinarse en barrios marginales de nuestras ciudades, donde se convertían en pandilleros, y luego eran deportados a sus países de origen, lo cual nos da las bases de la violencia actual que está llevando a la gente a irse”, dijo Bullock.

La región tiene un interés estratégico en promover la protección y la seguridad en América Central, “porque un pueblo desestabilizado e desprotegido desestabiliza”, añadió Bullock.

Conflicto civil y justicia transitoria

De 1980 a 1992, El Salvador sufrió una guerra civil brutal entre un gobierno militar respaldado por EE.UU. y una coalición de grupos guerrilleros, organizada como el Frente Farabundo Martí de Liberación Nacional o FMLN. La guerra fue provocada esencialmente por las flagrantes desigualdades que existían entre un pequeño grupo de elites ricas que controlaban el gobierno y la economía y la mayoría de la población que vivía en extrema pobreza.

Las negociaciones de los Acuerdos de Paz de 1992 incluyeron la formación de una comisión de la verdad para investigar las violaciones de los derechos humanos que ocurrieron durante la guerra civil. Sin embargo, una ley de amnistía de 1993 imposibilitó procesar los crímenes de guerra y reformar el sistema judicial, así como la policía y las fuerzas armadas, dando lugar a instituciones democráticas débiles y a persistente impunidad y discriminación de las víctimas. La gente que tenía poder político y económico lo mantuvo después que terminó la guerra.

En 2012, el Tribunal Interamericano de Derechos Humanos declaró que la ley de amnistía no podía proteger a los responsables de la masacre de El Mozote, donde los soldados del gobierno mataron a unas 800 personas, la mitad de ellos niños, en diciembre de 1981.

En El Salvador de la postguerra, las organizaciones populares de derechos humanos y justicia social han desempeñado un papel clave en proteger la memoria histórica y en sacar esos casos de las sombras de la historia. En 2016, Cristosal comenzó a valerse de un litigio estratégico a fin de obtener justicia para las víctimas y al objeto de ponerle fin a la inveterada cultura de la impunidad, y está trabajando tanto en la masacre de El Mozote como en la de El Calabozo de 1982.

El “litigio estratégico”, explicó David Morales, director de litigio estratégico de Cristosal y ex defensor de los derechos humanos de El Salvador, es una manera de brindar una “justicia transitoria”, que consiste en un proceso político y social destinado a aplicar la justicia y a abordar graves abusos de derechos humanos y en hacer responsables a los perpetradores de la violencia.

“Cristosal centra sus acciones legales en casos que tendrán mucho impacto”, dijo Morales. “La impunidad actual está vinculada a la impunidad en el pasado… a décadas de dictaduras, a abusos sistemáticos de derechos humanos. El Estado nunca creó un sistema de apoyo para las víctimas”.

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

 

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Inches from California wildfire, Episcopal church in Malibu faces uncertainty

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 3:59pm

The view from the St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church parking lot shows how close fires came to the 52-year-old Episcopal parish that sits on a rise several hundred yards above Pacific Coast Highway in central Malibu. Photo: Joyce Stickney

[Religion News Service] Two hours before the sun set over the Pacific Ocean on Nov. 8, the Rev. Joyce Stickney, rector of St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Malibu, received word about wildfires that had broken out 30 miles away in the hills above the Simi Valley.

Hot, dry Santa Ana winds were howling that day, which meant that a fire that began an hour away could pose a legitimate threat to seaside Malibu, where wildfires are a perennial concern — the 1993 Old Topanga blaze raged for 10 days, destroying more than 350 homes and leaving three people dead.

So Stickney headed for St. Aidan’s sanctuary where, from its hillside perch a few hundred yards above the Pacific Coast Highway, with the Santa Monica Mountains in the distance to the east, she prayed for her city of about 13,000 souls.

Parish administrator Nathaniel Sherrill, whose home in Newbury Park, California, was close enough to the fire’s origin that it already had been evacuated, joined her to recite an evening meditation from the Book of Common Prayer: “Almighty God, we give you thanks for surrounding us, as daylight fades, with the brightness of the vesper light….”

“That is the one thing that religion definitely does give us, whether you’re spiritual or religious or not — we’ve got prayers for times like these,” Stickney told Religion News Service late last week. “They’re words that are timeless and walk us through the motions: ‘Thank you, God, for the vesper light. The world is still turning and soon it’ll be nighttime; give us peace’ — the ancient wisdom of our tradition, our prayers.”

By daybreak, Stickney opened the front door of St. Aidan’s rectory, where she lives with her husband and their seven children, to see thick plumes of smoke moving in their direction. Overnight the Woolsey Fire had jumped 101 Freeway and barreled west, bearing down on Malibu as it raced toward the ocean.

Stickney, who has been rector of St. Aidan’s for 13 years, rousted children from bed and began packing in a hurry, knowing that a mandatory evacuation of Malibu would mean the main route into and out of town — the famed coast highway — would become gridlocked quickly, trapping motorists, potentially in the path of the fast-moving inferno, for hours.

She grabbed the church registers and a chalice from the altar before setting out with her family for a wholly uncertain future.

They took two cars — Stickney driving one, her 17-year-old daughter Grace driving the other — and headed north toward Oxnard, where the children’s babysitter lives, while thousands of their neighbors fled south toward Santa Monica. Stickney and five of their children (two are away at college) arrived at the babysitter’s mobile home where later that night they were joined by her husband, Paul, who had left for work on a TV show set at 4:30 a.m., before the smoke and chaos had descended.

On Nov. 19, 10 days after the wildfires erupted, the Woolsey Fire had burned nearly 97,000 acres, destroying 1,500 structures — many of them in Malibu — injuring three firefighters and killing three civilians. Reportedly, none of the city’s dozen or so houses of worship was lost in the fire, but three large Jewish camps were destroyed, and Rabbi Michael Schwartz of the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue lost his home.

Southern California Episcopalians respond to wildfires – Episcopal News Service https://t.co/VBUNeUZ5Gk

— Episcopal Diocese LA (@LADiocese) November 13, 2018

Wildfires are creating disaster areas across the state, with the Camp Fire in Northern California proving particularly deadly and destructive. Authorities report 79 fatalities and more than 12,00o homes destroyed in and around Paradise and Chico, as of Nov. 20, and the fire in that region has consumed more than 150,000 acres. Episcopalians there say they are gathering strength and resilience through community connections and an outpouring of love and concern from across the Episcopal Church.

Thursday, Nov. 15 update on the Camp Fire: https://t.co/7W8UEc08kv

Please keep praying & you can donate here: https://t.co/MNINn4QPWV https://t.co/7W8UEc08kv

— Diocese of NorCal (@norcalepiscopal) November 15, 2018

In Malibu, waiting for news was a test of Stickney’s faith and mettle, but when she it came, it was a relief. St. Aidan’s survived the fire unscathed — miraculously so, Stickney said, as flames stopped at the edge of the new driveway that had been completed just days before the wildfires.

As part of a multi-year parish renovation, the driveway was replaced for the express purpose of making it easier for fire trucks to reach the church, which also houses a preschool attended by her two youngest children — twin 2½-year-old boys.

“The fire had come right up to the edge of the driveway, all along the side, and for whatever reason — whether it was the fire marshals, the wind, St. Aidan, God, all of the above — whatever it was, the fire did not cross over,” Stickney said.

The same isn’t true for the church’s parishioners. At least 11 of the 50 or so active families at St. Aidan’s lost their homes in the fires.

About half of the parishioners who lost their homes in the fire are elderly, and Stickney is concerned about their ability to rebuild in Malibu, where strict building codes and other local ordinances make construction a difficult, often maddeningly slow process under the best of circumstances.

“This is catastrophic for those people, and they’re not wealthy people,” said the Rev. Ed Milkovich, St. Aidan’s associate priest, who has lived in Malibu for 20 years. “It may have a catastrophic effect on the church, too, because I think there’s a number of these people that may not be able to rebuild. If they don’t have a mortgage, they’ll take the insurance money and go someplace where they can afford it.”

For most people, the word “Malibu” conjures images of a lavish enclave where mega-mansions line pristine beaches and kids ride to school in Bentleys. But according to the 2010 U.S. Census, Malibu had a median household income of $133,869, with about 10 percent of the population living below the federal poverty line.

Although you’re more likely to run into a celebrity at the Ralph’s here than at most other grocery stores in America, Malibu is home to many more regular folks than not.

St. Aidan’s congregation is emblematic of that diversity. While there are members who work in the entertainment industry — Milkovich was a TV and film producer for decades before he felt a call to the ministry and became ordained last year at age 63 — the parish is also home to several professors from Pepperdine University and retirees who worked for Hughes Aircraft and other local companies.

Founded in 1956 as a mission church of St. Augustine’s in neighboring Santa Monica, St. Aidan’s initially met in local bars and restaurants until it could break ground on the hillside property overlooking the Pacific and Paradise Cove.

The Malibu parish is the namesake of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, a 7th-century Irishman who became a monk on the Scottish Island of Iona before being dispatched to England, where he served as a bishop in Northumbria. The parish chose the name because of the saint’s association with the sea and the island monasteries of Iona and Lindisfarne.

But Aidan is also the patron saint of fire protection.

During the devastating 1993 wildfires, St. Aidan’s became the central gathering point for relief efforts for thousands of residents who were left homeless and displaced.

Debbie Cornett’s parents were founding members of St. Aidan’s. In 1993, the family home in Malibu burned to the ground.

“Mom and Dad were determined to rebuild because they loved Malibu, and we did — we built new memories and we had St. Aidan’s,” said Cornett, who gathered alongside St. Aidan’s priests and a handful of other parish members for a vespers service and meal late last week at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Oak Park, about an hour’s drive from Malibu, but close to where Stickney and several parishioners were staying while evacuated.

They prayed and read Scripture aloud before tucking into a meal of chicken and rice provided by a local Muslim group with whom the parish has struck up a friendship in recent years. The hall at Epiphany smelled of smoke six days after wildfires swept through, singeing the landscaping but sparing parish buildings and its nearby vineyard.

There were hugs, tears and the kind of laughter borne of friendship that comes easily even in the hardest of times, as they compared notes on the well-being of neighbors and friends. One parishioner had spent her time in exile creating an elaborately detailed lot-by-lot map on her computer showing which homes had been destroyed and which were still standing.

“I should have lost my house three times,” said Milkovich, who credited a neighbor with a garden hose who had stubbornly stayed behind despite the mandatory evacuation for saving his home. “This is my neighbor’s house on fire, and that’s my other neighbor’s house on fire … and this is my yard on fire,” he said, scrolling through photos on his smartphone.

The Woolsey fire has been more than 90 percent contained and evacuation orders had been lifted for most of Malibu by Monday, but not in time for their Nov. 18 Sunday service. Instead Stickney and about 10 other St. Aidan’s parishioners joined their mother church, St. Augustine in Santa Monica, for worship. Stickney expects her parish to be back to a regular service schedule in Malibu beginning Nov. 25.

In the wake of the fires, Stickney largely is shepherding the St. Aidan’s diaspora electronically, by phone, text and email, as displaced members have fanned out along the West Coast seeking shelter.

Seated in a booth in the back of a Panera Bread 50 miles from St. Aidan’s and her home by the sea, a weary yet determined Stickney, enlivened by the faith of her own flock, read aloud a short note from a new parishioner whose family had recently relocated to Malibu from Texas, only to have the family’s new home burn to the ground.

“‘I keep reminding my family of Isaiah 61:3 — ‘beauty from ashes.’ We will all together create a more beautiful Malibu and community spirit. God’s blessing on each of you as you move forward one day at a time.'”

The post Inches from California wildfire, Episcopal church in Malibu faces uncertainty appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Christian visitors bring hope to immigrant detainees facing tough odds in New Hampshire jail

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 10:22am

Maggie Fogarty, who helped create the New Hampshire Immigrant Visitation Program six years ago, meets with a detainee on Nov. 5 at the Strafford County jail in Dover, New Hampshire. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Dover, New Hampshire] Few items hitch a ride with the Rev. Mark Pendleton through the entrance of the Strafford County Department of Corrections every Monday morning. More important are the words of hope and the friendly smile he transports to the dozens of immigrants locked away inside the jail.

“My task is to show a human face, that they’re not a number, they’re a person,” said Pendleton, one of about 10 volunteers with the New Hampshire Immigrant Visitation Program. “We try to be the face of Christ to them in a very tough moment.”

After leaving cellphone and wallet in his pickup truck and handing his driver’s license to the desk officer, Pendleton passes through the metal detector. On the other side he collects his keys, a Spanish-language Bible and an accordion folder filled with paperwork detailing past detainee visits and photocopies of legal pamphlets that may help some of the immigrants win release or halt deportation.

At a time of deep divisions in American society, when political battles are waged on battlefields far removed from the people affected by federal immigration policies, Pendleton and the visitation team bring no partisan motive to the Dover jail. Their presence promotes no agenda other than a pragmatic compassion rooted in their Christian faith.

“The Christian message is a rather redundant message of love and forgiveness,” Pendleton said.

The visitors’ assistance is welcomed by supervisors at the Strafford County jail in Dover, one of more than 200 prisons and jails across the country to hold detainees for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, part of the Department of Homeland Security. As the only such facility in New Hampshire, the Dover jail’s immigrant detainee population has increased dramatically in recent years, starting during the Obama administration, when the average daily number of immigrant detainees jumped from 30 in 2015 to 80 in 2016, according to a Concord Monitor report.

Episcopalians interested in joining visitation programs or starting their own can find contacts and resources online from Freedom for Immigrants, a California-based nonprofit that tracks and supports such programs.

This year, under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration, the 495-bed jail has averaged more than 100 people targeted for federal immigration enforcement. Some are awaiting trial or serving sentences in unrelated criminal cases, but many of the immigrants are being held for no other reason than ICE suspects they are not in the country legally. They may only spend a brief time at the jail before ICE determines their next steps and moves them elsewhere, typically without revealing those moves to jail officials or the visitation team.

Episcopal News Service was granted access to the jail’s inmate housing units and meeting rooms to report on the work of the New Hampshire Immigrant Visitation Program, as well as Pendleton’s pastoral care for detainees who request it. ENS, escorted by a jail superintendent, spent much of the morning Nov. 5 shadowing Pendleton and four other volunteers to capture the substance of their interactions with immigrant detainees.

To minimize the risk that these normally one-on-one conversations would be hindered by the additional presence of a reporter and jail supervisor, ENS refrained from asking questions of the detainees themselves. ENS also agreed to requests from the jail and the visitation team not to quote detainees directly or by name. The outlines of their stories, however, offer examples of what the visitation team members say are typical scenarios facing the detainees, some of whom are clinging to hope against long odds.

The volunteers provide the detainees with general information and guidance about aspects of the immigration system, from applying for asylum to voluntarily leaving the country, though the team is necessarily clear about not being able to provide legal advice. They aren’t attorneys.

“A lot of what we’re doing is just listening to people,” said Nancy Pape, one of the lead volunteers. “Just being heard is great for everybody.”

Pape created the visitation program about six years ago with Maggie Fogarty, a New Hampshire official with the Quaker organization American Friends Service Committee. Pendleton, rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Exeter, joined the team two years ago, drawn partly by the prospect of putting his knowledge of Spanish to use. Though not officially a faith-based ministry, volunteers often bring a Christian perspective to the work.

This Monday, they were joined by two other volunteers, Judith Cole and Sally Fleming. The group signed in around 8:20 a.m. and made its way through a pair of secure doors. Each opened and closed with a mechanical “CHACK-buzz-CHACK” facilitated by some invisible Oz on the other end of the intercom buttons.

Down a flight of stairs, through more imposing doors, Jake Collins, the jail’s assistant superintendent for programs, led the way through a maze of halls that he said was designed to maintain an element of mystery. If an inmate somehow were to escape through one of the doors, the next step toward freedom wouldn’t be obvious.

Helpful information and a chance to be heard

The detainees are not required to meet with the visitation team. As the volunteers move among housing pods, jail officers make announcements to the units to invite immigrants to come forward if they’d like the assistance. The number of detainees who accept the invitations varies week to week, sometimes depending on how active ICE has been in making arrests over the weekend.

Immigrant detainees are most likely to be in their late 20s or early 30s, and 70 percent are jailed on immigration violations for a month or less, according to national statistics kept by Freedom for Immigrants, a California-based nonprofit aimed at ending immigrant detention. Mexico is the detainees’ most common home country, followed by El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, three countries facing high rates of forced displacement by violence.

The Dover jail mirrors those trends. Certain Spanish words ring with regularity in the conversations between the detainees and the visitation team.

Asking a detainee’s “país,” or country, is one of Pendleton’s icebreaker questions. He was ordained in Colombia and has been to many of the immigrants’ home countries, allowing him to establish a rudimentary rapport with them in the jail. He and the other volunteers also ask how the detainees entered the United States, and whether they re-entered after a previous deportation, which can complicate the detainees’ efforts to remain in this country.

“Familia” is another important detail. Having family members nearby can make a big difference, Pendleton said, as can an “abogado.”

“Tienes un abogado?” Do you have an attorney?

Without one, a detainee’s long odds become even longer, and there are few lawyers willing to take on immigration cases pro bono unless they see a reasonable chance for success, Pendleton said.

The Rev. Mark Pendleton, rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Exeter, New Hampshire, has visited immigrants at the jail in Dover for the past two years. “We try to the be the face of Christ to them in a very tough moment,” he said. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

After navigating the hallways and ending up deep inside the facility, the visitation team’s first stop was Housing Pod 1, or HP1 in the jail’s shorthand. Inmates here are assigned to one of several units arranged in an octagon around a raised guard station, from which officers can monitor the inmates’ activity.

Units A and B are for female inmates. Unit D is maximum security, for disciplinary cases. Unit E is for inmates with special management needs, such as physical disabilities or court orders that prohibit contact with codefendants. Unit F is intake, for newly arrived inmates as they are evaluated for housing assignments.

Unit C is divided in half, and on one side of a cinderblock dividing wall are the non-criminal ICE detainees, the only inmates who wear jail-issued maroon. Strafford County does little else to differentiate them from the general jail population. Like all inmates housed in Dover, “we try to treat them as fairly and humanely as possible,” Collins said.

Assistant Superintendent Jake Collins

On this day, Collins estimated Unit C held about 50 detainees in maroon clothes. As he spoke, he buzzed one man back into the unit to retrieve paperwork.

The visitation team began setting up in a sparse meeting room, its off-white walls rising from a trapezoidal floor plan. Fluorescent bulbs radiated light down to the tile floor. Reinforced windows afforded views out to an equally sparse hallway and to an adjoining conference room. In the middle of the room, folding tables were arranged into a square.

On one side of the square, Pendleton was speaking in Spanish with an immigrant about his case. Another man was with Fogarty researching an asylum application.

Cole, with Pape translating, worked with a third man, who said he was from Nashua, New Hampshire, and wanted to apply for release on bond. Winning release doesn’t guarantee a win on the underlying immigration matter, but mounting a defense is more productive on the outside, in addition to being more comfortable.

Immigrants in some cases ask to leave the United States immediately and voluntarily rather than sit in jail indefinitely, Pendleton said.

ICE pays $83 a day to Strafford County for each federal detainee held in the Dover jail, and in 2017 those payments totaled nearly $2.8 million, according to the Concord Monitor. The jail, which first began housing ICE detainees in 2009, must pass rigorous federal inspections that check the facility on more than 600 standards, from the temperature of its dishwashers to the labels on its cleaning spray bottles.

ICE also must OK the visitation program and its schedule before the volunteers, who receive agency-approved training, are allowed to meet with the detainees. The jail has worked to accommodate the team’s interest in serving these inmates.

“If somebody can find something and help these guys out with their case, we encourage it,” Collins said.

The Strafford County jail in Dover, New Hampshire, is one of more than 200 prisons and jails in the United States that hold federal immigration detainees and the one such facility in the state. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Behind bars, dozens face uphill immigration battles

As the group wrapped up its visits with Unit C detainees, Pape moved to a different housing pod to offer assistance to immigrants being held in Unit G, where 72 inmates are monitored by a jail officer stationed behind a desk on the unit’s floor. Instead of maroon, these inmates wear brown to indicate they have active criminal cases pending.

The unit is considered high-medium security. Inmates here have a range of amenities, including TVs, laundry facilities, showers and a simple workout area. The jail no longer accepts physical mail addressed to inmates, for security reasons, but each is assigned a durable tablet for receiving email.

Pape set up in a meeting room not much different from the first – this time a rectangular floor plan, but the same off-white walls, overhead fluorescent lights, reinforced windows, tile floor. She put her files on a folding table and began talking with an immigrant in a brown jail shirt. He wanted help with paperwork for a child custody case, and handing Pape his jail-issued tablet, he showed her a picture of his girlfriend and their son, who also live in New Hampshire.

He has another child in the United States, which is why he re-entered after being deported several times to his native Honduras, Pape said. Because of the re-entries, he was charged with an aggravated felony.

“For the general public, you’re thinking something really dangerous, and this is just a case of him wanting to return to his children,” Pape said.

Over in Unit H, a mirror image of Unit G, Pendleton asked the jail officer to let the inmates know he was there. She leaned into the intercom: “Gentlemen, we have representatives from immigration here if you’re interested.”

Not exactly. “We’re not ICE. We’re volunteers,” he clarified. In the meeting room with the inmates he repeated the clarification in Spanish. “Somos voluntarios. Non somos el gobierno.”

Initially he was joined by three men, who said they were from Somalia, Guatemala and El Salvador. A fourth entered behind them.

“De qué país?” The late arrival said he was from Mexico.

Pendleton first met with the man from Somalia, who had injured his legs in the jail and was seated in a wheelchair. He told Pendleton he had hoped to join a group of other Somali detainees who were sent back to their home country earlier in the year, and he wasn’t sure why federal officials left him behind in Dover.

Pendleton said the visitation team would look into it. “You’ll be here next week, chances are, so I’ll update the team,” he said.

Next, the man from El Salvador explained his situation, saying in Spanish that he had entered the United States in 2012 after a previous deportation.

“Abogado?” Pendleton asked. No, the man said, but his wife and daughter live nearby.

After asking the man how he felt about his case, Pendleton acknowledged it was “un poco complicado,” a little complicated, because of the re-entry. Pendleton took notes so the team could follow up next week.

New Hampshire may seem a surprising locale for such conversations, with much of the national focus turned to immigration enforcement along the United States’ southern border. Texas, California and Arizona are the states with the largest numbers of immigrant detainees, each state averaging thousands each day, according to Freedom for Immigrants, which maintains a national network of affiliated visitation programs at 55 prisons and jails like the one in Dover.

An estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the United States as of 2014, but only 10,000 were in New Hampshire, according to Pew Research Center, out of a statewide population of 1.3 million. Yet New England has become a regional flashpoint in the immigration debate. Immigrants here, legally or not, typically have moved north into the region in search of work or to join family, or they have crossed the border south from Canada, Pendleton said.

About 40 people gather Nov. 6 outside the Norris Cotton Federal Building in Manchester, New Hampshire, for one of the ecumenical prayer vigils held in support of immigrants checking in with federal officials. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Several faith-based groups, including the New Hampshire Council of Churches, have held regular vigils outside the federal building in Manchester because immigrants have been told to show up there with increased frequency for ICE check-ins. Some arrive fearing they will be told on the spot to buy an airline ticket to their native country and leave any family members behind, Fogarty said.

The groups also organized a Solidarity Walk for Immigrant Justice in August, walking the 40 miles from Manchester to the jail in Dover over four days to raise awareness of the immigrants’ plight and to show support for them and their families.

Immigrants, including those facing deportation, also have the support of the Episcopal Church, which in July passed multiple resolutions on immigration issues at its 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas.

Messages of hope in times of despair

About 40 people joined the prayer vigil Nov. 6 outside the Norris Cotton Federal Building in Manchester on a drizzly, overcast Election Day morning. Some participants ministered to the immigrants who arrived for their check-ins throughout the morning, while the rest of group joined a Jericho walk, seven times around the building in silence.

“I know that no matter which party is in power, we have lots of creative work to be done,” the Rev. Gayle Murphy, a United Church of Christ pastor, told the participants before the walk.

A day earlier, in the Dover jail, Pendleton explained how “difícil,” or difficult, some cases are that he reviews.

“Some of these folks are just headed for deportation,” he told ENS. Sometimes, all they have left is hope.

Esperanza.

When it was the Mexican man’s turn, Pendleton asked his hometown and learned the man was from Vera Cruz. “Mucho calor” – very hot – Pendleton said, trying to break the ice.

The young man smiled through a light beard, but his smile didn’t last long. He told Pendleton that he had been living in Danbury, Connecticut, with his family when he was arrested on a traffic violation. That traffic stop revealed he had re-entered the U.S. after a previous deportation.

“Es difícil,” Pendleton told the man, whose mouth pinched slightly and face flushed with apparent anguish as the priest identified potential hurdles ahead. “No es imposible.”

Not impossible to fight deportation, no, but Pendleton offered the man a photocopy labeled “Volunteer Deportation Guide” in case he wanted to take that route instead.

“No pierdas esperanza,” he said finally. Don’t lose hope.

Pendleton’s last task of the morning was to meet with immigrants who had requested pastoral visits from him. For this, he slipped his white clergy collar into the neck of his black shirt and gave Collins a sticky note with the names.

Collins said he would bring one of the inmates on Pendleton’s list into Interview Room S-1, but “the other guy went out this morning,” he said, referring to another inmate on the list who had been taken from the jail by ICE.

S-1 was even smaller than the other meeting rooms, about 8-feet squared. Off-white walls. Overhead fluorescents. Reinforced windows. Laminate wood floor.

Pendleton placed his Bible on the room’s folding table and took from his folder sheets of paper containing excerpted Bible passages in English and Spanish. Collins brought in an inmate who said he originally was from Costa Rica, and as the man sat down across from Pendleton the conversation alternated between languages.

“Your English is good,” Pendleton complimented.

The Costa Rican man has lived in the United States for 18 years, and, despite losing his right forefinger in a childhood injury, had been able to find work on a dairy farm in Vermont. He and his wife, who is from Argentina, have three teenage children, all born here. They are churchgoers, he said, and although he wasn’t sure the denomination, Pendleton guessed Episcopal by the man’s description of the church – kind of like a Catholic church, but with a female pastor.

The man had been in the jail for a month and wore a green shirt, which Collins had said earlier indicates an inmate serving a criminal sentence, though the man’s crime wasn’t clear. Pendleton remarked that the man seemed upbeat and cheerful despite his difficult circumstances.

“Tú lees la Biblia?” Do you read the Bible? The man said he did, and the two of them took turns reading out loud the Spanish passages on Pendleton’s sheets: Isaías 41:10, Salmos 145 and 2 Corintios 4.

“Nos derriban, pero no nos destruyen,” St. Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians.

Struck down, not destroyed.

“Es la verdad, no?” Pendleton asked. The man agreed, very true.

They concluded the pastoral visit by reading the Prayer of St. Francis and the Lord’s Prayer together in Spanish. Their words were still ringing in the air as Pendleton shook the man’s hand and returned him to Collins in the hall.

Donde hay ofensa, dar perdón;
Donde hay duda, fe;
Donde hay desesperación, esperanza.

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

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Border Ministries Summit brings together Southwest, California and Mexico dioceses

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 4:35pm

The border between El Paso, Texas, and Cuidad Juárez, Mexico, is the second busiest U.S.-Mexico crossing. A narrow strip of the Rio Grande separates the two cities, whose combined population is more than 2 million people. From the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, the border is invisible. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – El Paso, Texas] While driving along Interstate 25 from Albuquerque on his way to Las Cruces, New Mexico, Rio Grande Bishop Michael Hunn spotted a billboard on the left-hand side of the road just south of Belen that almost made him crash his pickup truck.

“I was so confused by the billboard. It said in broad letters, two sentences … ‘Heaven has a wall and strict immigration policies. Hell has open borders,’” said Hunn, who was then bishop-elect. “I almost wrecked the truck … I had to slow down…  does it really say that? I was so confused, and I’m still confused.”

The billboard reminded Hunn, who before his election as bishop of Rio Grande served as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s canon for ministry within the Episcopal Church, that “for those of us in the church, part of the work of engaging and following Jesus Christ is always theological. And we are living in a society and in a culture where there are Christian people who go to church regularly who are interpreting their faith in such a way that they can buy a billboard that can say, ‘Heaven has a wall and strict immigration policies. Hell has open borders.’

“If that sentiment is out there, if that theology is out there – and I think it’s real in all of our places – then it would make sense for us as Episcopalians, for us as Anglicans, to do some theological work,” said Hunn, on Nov. 18, in his sermon during the closing Eucharist of the first-ever Border Ministries Summit here in El Paso.

The next Border Ministries Summit will be held in Tucson, Arizona, Nov. 14-16, 2019.

About 60 people attended summit held Nov. 16-18 at the El Paso Marriott. Although the summit focused on border ministries carried out by dioceses that share a border with Mexico, attendees came from as far as Massachusetts. Once a migrant or asylum seeker crosses the U.S. border, they often travel to other states to look for work or to reunite with family. The Diocese of Rio Grande, which covers 40 percent of the U.S.-Mexico border, hosted the summit to bring together people engaged in borderland ministry to share experiences and to network.

“About a year ago, I began to look at borderland ministries and asked what was going on in other dioceses,” said the Rev. Paul Moore, who chairs the Rio Grande Diocese’s Borderland Ministries and who organized the summit. The next summit will take place Nov. 14-16, 2019, in Tucson, Arizona.

The summit coincided with migrant caravans continued arrival at the U.S.-Mexico border. Hundreds of Central American migrants began arriving Nov. 14 in Tijuana, Mexico, and other ports of entry. The caravans have been politicized in United States and in the Central American sending countries, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, where one of the main drivers of migration, forced displacement by violence, is often denied. Here in the United States, President Donald Trump has called economic migrants and asylum seekers an “assault on our country,” and his administration has deployed 8,000 troops to the border. The president has vowed to deny asylum claims of migrants who attempt to enter the United States illegally, meaning not through a designated point-of-entry.

Still, as people like Moore know, living along the border, as Moore has for some 25 years, can feel like straddling two cultures, and border crossings, whether to shop or go to school, to seek medical attention or look for work or reunite with family, occur every day. In fact, prior to 1996, people would cross the border easily to work and return home to their families. But when then President Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, crossing became too dangerous, and people began staying in the United States.

The law, said Moore, “created a permanent population,” in some cases, separating families as people stayed in the United States to work and send money home to support them.

For the past two years, Moore, who also serves as rector of Church of the Good Shepherd in Silver City, New Mexico, has celebrated the Eucharist on the Sunday closest to Mexico’s Mother’s Day, May 10, in the middle of the Rio Grande, straddling the U.S. and Mexico, near Lajitas, Texas. The Eucharist is part of an annual event that brings together people and briefly re-unites families on both sides of the border.

The Eucharist is one of the many Episcopal-Anglican ministries happening along the border.

On Nov. 17, representatives from the dioceses of Northern Mexico, West Texas, Arizona, San Diego, Western Mexico and Rio Grande gave presentations. In McCallen, Texas, the Rev. Rod Clark, vicar of St. Peter and St. Paul in nearby Mission, hosts Taco Tuesdays, feeding hungry people; he also organizes immersions for people interested in learning about living on the border; and provides outreach to border patrol agents, who often have a difficult, thankless job that can, at times, be misunderstood.

The Diocese of West Texas has for a decade operated Fronteras Unidas, or “united borders,” providing continuing education to clergy on both sides of the border and providing microenterprise loans to women in southern Mexico.

In Nogales, Mexico, the Rev. Rodger Babnew, Jr., a deacon serving St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Arizona, along with a counterpart from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Grand Canyon Synod, operates a five-facility, 780-person capacity shelter system. Since the caravans began arriving, 18 to 22 families have been leaving the shelter to request asylum at the border every day, whereas a two weeks ago, they would see three to five families leave the shelter per week.

In San Diego, California, which borders Tijuana, Mexico, the busiest port of entry, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been releasing 75-100 asylum seekers from detention daily at the bus station without assistance, Episcopalians have been supplying care packages with toiletries and other essentials, and they have brought in mobile shower station.

In Tucson, Episcopalians have been volunteering at Casa Alitas, a short-term shelter, that offers migrants and asylum seekers a place to stay before they board buses and planes to reunite with family in other parts of the country while the await their immigration hearing.

These are just a sampling of the ongoing ministries Episcopalians for years have been engaging in along the border. Given the media coverage devoted to the caravan, it can be easy for forget that some thousands of people arrive at the U.S. border every day. In 2017, an average 850 people were apprehended trying to cross the border illegally, however, that number is down from an average 1,983 in 2007, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

For example, hundreds of people left El Salvador on Oct. 31 in three separate caravans, but as El Salvador Bishop David Alvarado said during a Nov. 18 presentation about root causes of migration, between 200 and 300 people depart daily from El Salvador, one of the most violent countries in the world.

Across Central America’s Northern Triangle, a region that includes El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, more than 700,000 people have been forcibly displaced by violence. Still, it’s a global phenomenon affecting a record 68.5 million people worldwide.

The Episcopal Church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations compiled “A Faithful Response to the Caravan: Five Things to Know.”

Between diocesan presentations, the summit’s workshops focused on social work, immigration law, combatting racism and the Episcopal Church’s immigration, migration and refugee advocacy and engagement at the federal level.

“The church’s official policy positions on immigration date as far back to resolutions in the 1930s calling for the loosening of restrictive and racially discriminatory immigration policies and then throughout the 20th century urging parishes to participate actively in sponsoring refugees for resettlement and civil rights protections for undocumented immigrants,” explained Lacy Broemel, the Episcopal Church’s refugee and immigration policy analyst.

Broemel works out of the Episcopal Church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations, which represents the church’s policy priorities, as determined mainly by General Convention and Executive Council resolutions, to the U.S government. Resolutions, she said, focus on several themes, including family unity; challenging discrimination and racism inherent in many restrictive immigration policies; offering long-term and stable policy solutions for immigrants through a pathway to citizenship; protecting human rights and due process; offering protections for refugees; uplifting LGBTQ refugees and immigrants, and, addressing root causes of migration by promoting peace and development.

“The church recognizes that the U.S. has legitimate security needs, but we can be both compassionate and sensible. The church recognizes that immigrants and refugees bring gifts that enhance our church and nation,” said Broemel. “And it’s important to note that the Episcopal Church is not only walking alongside refugees and immigrants through these official policies, but we are a church comprised of refugees and immigrants. Dreamers, refugees and other immigrants are a part of the church’s work in ministry, advocacy and engagement with all immigrants.”

During his sermon at the close of the summit, Hunn pointed out that beginning with Adam and Eve, “pretty much the first thing that happens to humanity is that we’re displaced.” He then pointed to the examples of Cain and Able, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, all of whom were forced to flee, exiled or made refugees. Hunn’s words echoed those of former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who now serves as assisting bishop in the Diocese of San Diego, who gave the summit’s keynote address on Nov. 16.

“The biblical narrative takes us from cosmic creation, including humanity, to earthlings planted in a garden for a season,” said Jefferts Schori. “Their yearning for knowledge sets them on an ages-long search for home; we, their heirs, are still looking. God sends Abram and Sarai out of Haran in search of a new home. They get to Canaan and keep moving, to Egypt, and then back again. Always there are struggles over who owns what and which terrain belongs to whom.

“Yet eventually our ancestors began to tell our story as a search for home in God, along the straight road through the wilderness, a way of justice and peace. This is about more than a plot of land; it’s about opening your hand to neighbors, whether you love, tolerate or fear them. The prophets began to challenge us about neighbors everywhere, not just our tribal kin. We learned that we’re meant to love the strangers, widows and orphans and homeless, and the difficult ones. We began to dream of God’s Reign, and government that brings justice and peace everywhere, and a home where all can rejoice, give thanks and live in harmony and abundance.”

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

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Archbishop of Canterbury, German church leader issue statement on Brexit

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 1:27pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the leader of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, have issued an urgent appeal “to all politicians to find fair and sustainable solutions for the future coexistence of the UK and the EU.” The church leaders made their plea in a joint statement at a time when the British government and the European Commission are finalizing a deal to revoke the UK’s membership of the European Union.”

Read the full article here.

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