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Tiny house ‘village’ for homeless developing with help of Montana church

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 10:34am

A sketch of the proposed Housing First Village shows tiny houses grouped around a community resource center. Photo: Montana State University School of Architecture

[Episcopal News Service] A coalition of Episcopalians, architecture students and social service providers in Bozeman, Montana, are in the middle of an innovative project that aims to address homelessness in the city – 155 square feet at a time.

The concept is a village of tiny houses for the chronically homeless centered around a community resource center, where residents could receive counseling, medical assistance and employment help until they are able to move into permanent homes. Organizers still are looking for an appropriate site, but most of the other pieces of the project are falling into place as other groups and individuals in the community rally behind the idea.

“Suddenly, this coalition has risen up that is excited about what we wanted to do,” said the Rev. Connie Pearson-Campbell, a deacon at St. James Episcopal Church in Bozeman who is one of the driving forces behind the planned Housing First Village.

Sara Savage, housing director at Human Resource Development Council, or HRDC, called Pearson-Campbell a “PR hurricane” in drumming up support for the project. HRDC, a nonprofit community action agency, brings to the table years of experience proving shelter and services to the local homeless population.

Montana State University is the third key player in the coalition. The School of Architecture created a course last fall in which students designed the tiny houses, and subsequent courses this year will help move the project through the regulatory and construction phases.

“We realize it’s probably a couple of years, or at least a year, before we’d be able to move the first units onto a site,” architecture professor Ralph Johnson said. “These things don’t happen overnight. But we’re moving faster than most of the communities” that have attempted similar projects.

Tiny houses are a big trend in the home-building world and in popular culture. Multiple reality TV shows have popped up to feature these small living spaces, even prompting some in the tiny house industry to debate whether such shows are good or bad for the “movement.”

In that context, tiny houses are seen as a hip way to downsize your living space, but some communities, such as St. George, Utah, and Seattle , have shown that tiny houses can be tools for outreach to homeless or low-income populations.

The Episcopal Church has its own share of examples. St. James Episcopal Church on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota used a United Tank Offering grant to build tiny houses for students. And St. John’s Episcopal Church in St. Cloud, Minnesota, built a single tiny house to accommodate one homeless person on its property.

What makes Pearson-Campbell and St. James Episcopal Church unique is they represent one leg of a three-legged stool supporting a mission that came together almost by accident.

About 150 people are estimated to be homeless on any given night in Bozeman, and 30 percent are considered chronically homeless, a condition often tied to mental illness, substance abuse or other personal challenges, Savage said. Survival on the streets can be precarious, especially in Montana’s harsh winter months, and six homeless people were reported to have died in 2016 in Bozeman.

The HRDC had been housing about 10 people at a time at a transitional living space called Amos House, but it was forced to close last July after losing a federal grant. St. James stepped up and offered an unused home on church property, called Canterbury House, allowing HRDC to convert it to housing for up to four homeless women.

“I have to say, having one of our local faith-based partners look within their own resources … was so powerful and really made a direct impact on homeless women within a month,” Savage said.

Separately, Pearson-Campbell said, she heard last summer from a friend about a tiny houses project in Detroit, and it got her thinking about trying something similar to address Bozeman’s homelessness problem.

“I took one look at that and thought, oh my gosh, I think we can do this in Bozeman,” she said.

She brought the idea up in a meeting with the city planning director in August. On her way out, she just happened to pass Johnson, the Montana State professor, who was on his way in to talk to the planning director on an unrelated matter. After introductions, a tiny house partnership quickly was formed.

Johnson took the idea back to the university and, with two other professors, created the course that fall in which 12 students took on the task of designing the tiny houses.

“I knew that within the School of Architecture there’s a strong moral ethic among students,” he said. “And so based upon Connie’s personality and her aspirations, I offered a class in small shelters for the city of Bozeman.”

The result was two models, each just 155 square feet or a bit larger. One was designed to be accessible to people with disabilities. Each model featured a single bed, storage area, a shower and toilet, a compact refrigerator, a microwave, a sink and space for a chair.

Residents could receive counseling, medical assistance and employment help until they are able to move into permanent homes. Photo: Montana State University School of Architecture

The students then created full-scale mockups from cardboard and tested them, including by inviting members of the homeless community inside. The semester concluded with an open house in December. More than 100 people came to see the models and learn about the project, Johnson said.

Six students will build the first of the tiny houses in a new course this semester that also will address some of the regulatory hurdles. Bozeman’s building code, like building codes in many cities across the country, includes restrictions on lot usage, dwelling size and home layout that don’t easily accommodate tiny houses, Johnson said. His students will research options that can be presented to city officials.

And then there is the challenge of finding an appropriate site for what eventually could be dozens of tiny houses and the community resource center. Savage doesn’t have any definite timeline for securing a site. Factors include cost, zoning and proximity to other residences.

“Should the right parcel become available, we’d be able to move rather quickly,” Savage said. “But it will require some alignment of the stars, as it does with any major project like this.”

As for construction cost, the materials needed to build each tiny house are estimated at $10,000 – or less, if any materials are donated.

St. James has committed enough money to build one of the houses, and one of Pearson-Campbell’s tasks is to enlist more churches and community groups to give money or even assemble one of the houses themselves as a service project. Johnson’s students eventually hope to develop assembly instructions that will make it easy for those groups to build the houses themselves, similar to an IKEA furniture kit, Johnson said.

The moral ethic Johnson sees in many of his students often materializes as a desire to build energy-efficient buildings, he said, but this project is built on a sense of social responsibility.

“If this can give those who are homeless an opportunity to resolve the issues that place them in a homeless circumstance, we owe it to them to give them that opportunity,” he said.

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

Gambia bishop gives thanks for peace after election tension

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 10:18am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop James Odico of The Gambia has expressed thanksgiving for a peaceful outcome after the tensions surrounding a presidential election in December. The election marked the first change of presidency in The Gambia since a military coup in 1994.

Full article.

Bishops blanket diocese in England for 4 days of mission

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 10:16am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Twenty five bishops and their teams from the northern half of The Church of England, led by Archbishop of York John Sentamu, have taken part in four days of mission and celebration called “Talking Jesus.” The bishops and their teams went out into communities in all corners of the diocese, talking about Jesus at more than 450 community events. The mission came to a close at a service of celebration at Durham Cathedral on Sunday.

Full article.

Presiding Bishop’s visit strengthens link between Episcopal, Hong Kong Anglican churches

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 4:56pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry receives communion from Archbishop Paul Kwong during a Feb. 19 Eucharist at St. John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong. Photo: Tsang-Hing Ho/ECHO, HKSKH

[Episcopal News Service – Hong Kong] On Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s first official visit to the Anglican Province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, he discovered that the Christian church in Hong Kong and the rest of Asia is growing, and it reinforced his belief that relationships centered in the gospel are essential to missional partnerships.

“Christianity is growing here, Anglicanism is growing here in Hong Kong. … Hong Kong is a critical relationship in being in real relationship with Asia, and it’s clearly a relationship of equals and that becomes a model or a template for other relationships as well,” said Curry.

The Most Rev. Paul Kwong, archbishop of the Province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, presided and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached, during a Feb. 19 Eucharist at St. John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong. Photo: Tsang-Hing Ho/ECHO, HKSKH

“The archbishop [Paul Kwong] is a leader in the Anglican Communion … a real statesmen, both in Asia and around the Communion,” said Curry. “Hong Kong represents, in many respects, the Anglican way of being in relationship and partnership having agreement on essentials, but creating space for disagreement on matters that are nonessential to the gospel itself.”

Curry spent two days in Hong Kong; the second stop on his first official visit as presiding bishop and primate to Asia and Southeast Asia that also included the Philippines, China and Taiwan.

Peter Ng, the Episcopal Church’s officer for Asia and the Pacific, now retired; the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; the Rev. David Copley, director of global partnerships and mission personnel; Neva Rae Fox, the church’s public affairs officer; and Sharon Jones, executive assistant to the presiding bishop, accompanied Curry.

It was Hong Kong, said Robertson, that set the example for becoming an independent province outside colonial rule. “And they quickly became a leader,” he said.

Lord Mayor of London Andrew Parmley gave the second reading during the Feb. 19 Eucharist at St. John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong. Photo: Tsang-Hing Ho ECHO, HKSKH

Hong Kong, which became a special administrative region governed by China in 1997, was a longtime British colony. The first colonial chaplain was appointed in 1843. The Diocese of Victoria was created in 1849 and later became part of the first national church organization in China. In 1951, following the formation of the People’s Republic of China, the then-Diocese of Hong Kong and Macau became a detached diocese. It became an independent Anglican province in 1998.

Its partnership with the Episcopal Church dates to the 1940s and ’50s, said the Most Rev. Paul Kwong, archbishop of the Province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, in a Feb. 20 interview with Episcopal News Service.

The partnership has included companion diocese relationships, and the Episcopal Church helped to build churches in Hong Kong and Macau in the early years, he said.

“So, we’ve had that link for a long time,” he said.

The presiding bishop’s visit, Kwong said, was significant in that it served to strengthen the link between the Hong Kong Anglican Church and the Episcopal Church.

But the presiding bishop’s visit also was significant in that Curry is new to his primacy and it brought together two primates, said Kwong, who in was elected chair of the Anglican Consultative Council in April 2016.

“Over the years, the Communion has been deeply divided and impaired by some contentious issues, and the Episcopal Church has been at the center these arguments and division,” said Kwong, referring to the 2003 ordination and consecration of now retired New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church and 78th General Convention’s canonical and liturgical changes in 2015 to provide marriage equality for Episcopalians.

“His visit has allowed us to share and learn from each other and also understand our own situation because we are in different contexts. [The Communion] has spent too much time trying to resolve these problems.”

It’s time, said the archbishop, to shift focus to mission and to ask, “What is the Communion for? How can we make our communion relevant in our own contexts and to the world at large?

“After all, we are brothers in Christ, and we are called to serve the people.”

Curry’s message, rooted in what he calls the “Jesus Movement,” underscores the Episcopal Church’s focus on mission partnerships, Kwong added.

The Most Rev. Paul Kwong, archbishop of the Province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, and the Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, process into St. John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong on Feb. 19. Photo: Tsang-Hing Ho/ ECHO, HKSKH

“His message has demonstrated very clearly that the Episcopal Church has a very strong sense of mission and evangelism, and homosexuality isn’t the only issue the church has to address, even though it’s a very serious issue that no one should ignore. … The message about the Jesus Movement and reconciliation is very significant to the communion.

“In his sermon yesterday in the cathedral he passionately indicated that God has a dream for every one of us, every church and particularly for the communion. I’m sure that God’s dream is for us to reconcile to each other and that we should work together in unity for the common good.

“Because over the years we have spent too much time and energy and effort trying to resolve our differences, and I think it’s time that we sit together and talk about our common good.”

It was clear, said Curry, in a later interview with Episcopal News Service, that Kwong is a “bridge builder,” and Robertson added that “Hong Kong, in many ways, represents the Anglican Way of being in partnership.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached to a full house at St. John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong on Feb. 19. Photo: Tsang-Hing Ho/ECHO, HKSKH

Curry brought his fiery Jesus Movement message to a standing-room-only crowd that overflowed into the courtyard of St. John’s Cathedral in the heart of Hong Kong’s central business district.

“Hold fast to dreams because life without a dream is like a bird that cannot fly,” said Curry during his Feb. 19 sermon, invoking a poem by Langston Hughes. “God has a dream, and our lives are meant to be lived in harmony with God’s dream.”

It was a message that David Xia, who studied Anglicanism in England, traveled more than three hours from Shenzhen, across the border with mainland China, to hear. A message that he said impressed him because of the presiding bishop’s passion and his humility.

“It was quite a great honor to have the presiding bishop with us this morning,” said the Very Rev. Matthias C. Der, the dean of St. John’s Cathedral. “It has strengthened the relationship between Hong Kong and the Episcopal Church. And the presiding bishop gave a very inspiriting sermon this morning followed by spontaneous applause; I’m sure his preaching will continue to nurture us into the future.”

Following the Feb. 19 Eucharist, Der gave a presentation about the Province of Hong Kong’s history and ministry to the presiding bishop and his staff.

The Province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui includes the dioceses of Hong Kong Island, Eastern Kowloon, Western Kowloon and the Missionary Area of Macau. Some 30,000 people worship in about 40 congregations and mission points, served by more than 70 clergy members. The province operates social service ministries, including its prison ministry, mental health and elder care ministries, its mission for migrant workers and its program to assist domestic workers.

Many migrant workers from Indonesia and the Philippines work as domestics in Hong Kong.  Many Filipinas, from the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, the Philippine Independent Church and the Roman Catholic Church, worship at St. John’s Cathedral, which holds eight weekend services in four languages – English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Tagalog — for more than 2,000 people, 65 percent of them from the Philippines.

The Province of Hong Kong has grown 40 percent over the last decade and has 50 parishes, 140 schools and 400 social service units across Hong Kong and Macau, said Der.

Click here to watch a video of the presiding bishop preaching at St. John’s Cathedral on Feb. 19.

-Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service.

San Joaquin poised to take unusual step in bishop election

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 3:30pm

[Episcopal News Service] When the Diocese of San Joaquin meets in convention March 4 to elect a bishop, the path Episcopalians took to get to that moment – and the choice they will make – will be symbolic of the way they are rebuilding their diocese.

In addition to the ecclesial challenges Bishop David Rice has faced with the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin, he also faced a medical challenge. Rice spent more than a month recovering from valley fever, a rare fungal infection endemic to the San Joaquin Valley. Photo: Diocese of San Joaquin via Facebook

It has been nearly 10 years since an earlier San Joaquin convention voted to disaffiliate with the Episcopal Church. Then-Bishop John-David Schofield, at odds with the Church over the ordination of women and gay clergy and issues of biblical authority, led the Dec. 8, 2007, action by the Central California Valley diocese.

The intervening years have been marked by what Cindy Smith, the current chair of the diocesan standing committee, described as, first, scrambling to recover and trying to heal and then, in the last three years, a change of focus toward moving forward.

The March 4 convention will elect the diocese’s bishop provisional, the Rt. Rev. David Rice, as its diocesan bishop, marking the first time in recent memory that a bishop will make that transition. The election will come without the typical bishop search involving multiple nominees and what diocesan officials estimate would have cost upwards of $50,000.

The diocese paved the canonical way for Rice’s election in October when the annual convention amended its rules (Title I, Section 1.05 here) to allow such an election by a supermajority and only after a bishop provisional has been serving the diocese for at least 18 months.

While such an election may seem unusual, Smith said it feels like the logical next step for the diocese. Diocesan leaders spent 18 months exploring with the presiding bishop and other church authorities the option of making Rice the diocesan bishop, explaining the possibility to Episcopalians in San Joaquin and listening to their reaction.

“We made every effort and we took the temperature of the diocese as we did this,” Smith told Episcopal News Service. “We wanted it not to seem to be something being pushed through by the standing committee but the standing committee responding to the will of the diocese.”

Smith said the only questions she and others encountered in deanery meetings held to broach the issue were procedural. “The other question was why we waited so long,” she said.

A majority of both the Church’s diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction will have to agree to Rice’s election as diocesan, as is required in all bishop elections. The San Joaquin standing committee will include a letter about the election process in the documentation sent with the consent request, Smith said.

Most of the other bishops provisional who have helped the Church’s five reorganizing dioceses have been retired bishops not interested in a long-term job. Rice, on the other hand, “has years ahead of him in the bishop business,” Smith said.

When the diocese elected him in March 2014 as the diocese’s third bishop provisional, Rice had since 2008 been the bishop of the Diocese of Waiapu in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Born and raised in North Carolina, Rice was a Methodist pastor for eight years prior to his ordination in the Anglican Church in New Zealand.

Rice brought “enthusiasm and motivation and commitment to the diocese,” according to Smith, who added that the diocese wants to reciprocate Rice’s commitment and solidify the relationship that has been growing for the last three years.

“This road map for election may seem slightly odd for some people in the church,” Rice told ENS. “All I would say about that is we’re different. We’re simply doing what we think is consistent with our narrative, how we’re emerging.”

Rice and Smith say the diocese leadership believes that, instead of the normal bishop election process, in which candidates travel the diocese together to introduce themselves, San Joaquin has had a three-year “walkabout,” and the bishop and the diocese have really gotten to know each other.

Retired Diocese of Northern California Bishop Jerry Lamb and retired Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Chet Talton, Rice’s predecessors, worked with Episcopalians to reconstitute the diocese. That work included both litigation over church property and pastoral work over pain the split caused.

“We acknowledge full well that there have been monumental attitudinal, behavioral, cultural shifts in this place over a very short period of time, given the past,” Rice said. Before the 2007 vote to leave, Episcopalians experienced tactics that kept them divided. Now, he said, they are “working together, being in this together, and far more consultative, collaborative and collegial than, certainly, this place ever imagined.”

Those changes came as the diocese reconfigured where and how it operates, and began discerning to what mission God is calling local Episcopalians. Rice said he had been talking since before he became a bishop about the church needing to “travel far lighter, to de-accumulate to minimize, to purge” itself.

“What I discovered upon arrival was, all those things I’d been talking about, they’d actually been living here for some time,” he said. Thus, Rice added, he thinks that San Joaquin’s experience can be a template for the rest of the church.

“We’re here through particular circumstances. I believe that most if not all this Church will be in a similar place, albeit through different circumstances, before we know it.”

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

Curry, Jennings take lead in Supreme Court brief on transgender-bathroom policy

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 3:08pm

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings are the lead signers on an amicus brief filed March 2 by 1,800 clergy and religious leaders in a U.S. Supreme Court case involving transgender-bathroom use policies.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, shown here at the Executive Council’s October 2016 meeting, say they anchored their decision to be the lead signers on a U.S. Supreme Court amicus brief in the theological understanding that all people are created in the image of God and thus entitled to equal protection under the law. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The “friend of the court” brief comes in the case of G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, which the American Civil Liberties Union and its Virginia chapter filed on behalf of Gavin Grimm and his mother, Deirdre Grimm, in June 2015.

The signers urge the high court to see that the ability to live in a country that guarantees transgender equality is a religious freedom issue. They said their faith communities have approached issues related to gender identity in different ways, but are “united in believing that the fundamental human dignity shared by all persons requires treating transgender students like Respondent Gavin Grimm in a manner consistent with their gender identity.”

The signers urged the court to address the civil rights of transgender persons according to religiously neutral constitutional principles of equal protection under the law. Doing so, they said, “will not impinge upon religious belief, doctrine, or practice” and instead will adhere to the Constitution’s prohibition against favoring one religious viewpoint over any others.

Curry anchored his support of the brief in Genesis 1:26-27, which declares that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God.

“This divine decree proclaims the inherent sacredness, dignity, worth, and equality of every human person, by virtue of their creation imago Dei,” he said. “The way of love for God and our neighbor that Jesus taught is the way to honor the sacredness, dignity and worth and equality of each person. For this reason, we work for the equality and dignity of transgendered people, who, like the rest of us, are created in God’s image and likeness.”

Jennings said Jesus tells his followers to love God and love their neighbor as themselves. “And, he tells us not to be afraid. The Episcopal Church affirms the victory of love over fear by supporting local, state and federal laws that prevent discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression,” she said.

That support dates at least to General Convention’s 2009 meeting, when bishops and deputies passed Resolution D012 opposing laws that discriminate against people based on their gender identity. It was in that vein that the Church’s Executive Council said in June 2016 that it opposed North Carolina’s “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act,” as well as “all legislation, rhetoric and policy rooted in the fear-based argument that protecting transgender people’s civil rights in the form of equal access to public accommodation puts other groups at risk.”

Jennings noted that the last resolve of council’s resolution (AN014 on page 8 here) encourages Episcopalians to work against legislation that discriminates against transgender people and for legislation that prevents such discrimination, and to communicate the church’s position to courts, policymakers and others across the United States.

“For the two of us to sign this amicus brief, that’s not a leap at all,” Jennings said. “We’ve already said as a church that’s what you do.”

The outline of the case

The case took shape in 2014 after Grimm and his mother told school administrators of his male gender identity at the beginning of his sophomore year. With their permission, he used the boys’ restroom for almost two months without any incident, according to the original complaint. However, some parents and other Gloucester County residents objected, prompting the school board to adopt a policy that limited students’ bathroom use to the one of “the corresponding biological genders” or “an alternative appropriate private facility.”

Gavin Grimm speaks Feb. 22 during a Washington, D.C., rally to protest President Donald Trump’s decision that day to revoke the Obama administration’s interpretation that Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 required schools to “treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.” Photo: Geoff Livingston via Gavin Grimm’s Facebook page

The complaint said the policy stigmatizes Grimm, who is now 18 and will graduate this year. He is the only student in the high school using the private bathroom and this practice marks him as different, isolates him and exposes him to “serious psychological harm,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit argues the bathroom policy is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law, and violates Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination by schools.

ACLU attorneys asked the district state court for preliminary injunction in time for Gavin to be able to use the same restroom as other boys when classes resumed for the 2015-16 school year. The district court denied the request and dismissed the Title IX claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned the lower court in August.

The Gloucester County School Board successfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appeals court decision. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is on hold, pending the higher court’s ruling.

The case was complicated on Feb. 22 when President Donald Trump revoked the Obama administration’s interpretation that Title IX required schools to “treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.” The next day the Supreme Court asked the main parties for their views on how the case should proceed. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals relied heavily on that guidance in its ruling.

Attorneys for Grimm on March 1 urged the justices to proceed with the current schedule for March 28 oral argument. The school board suggested putting off the case at least until April to allow the federal government to weigh in, SCOTUSblog reported.

Religious freedom for all

Religious freedom is a main concern in the amicus brief. Permitting religiously based anti-transgender types of laws would enshrine religious beliefs in the country’s law and implicitly favor religious viewpoints that reject the existence of transgender persons over those who embrace such persons’ existence and dignity, the signers said.

“The First Amendment forbids both forms of religious favoritism,” they said.

“Here, a public school student who happens to be a transgender boy seeks no more than to use the same toilet facilities as every other boy in his school,” they said at the conclusion of the brief. “Forcing him instead to use stigmatizing separate facilities humiliates him for no apparent reason other than to appease religious views denying the existence of his gender identity.”

The signers said that causing Grimm such harm is inconsistent with their belief “as a matter of law, religious faith, and fundamental decency – that transgender students should be treated with equal dignity and respect.”

Jennings said the opposing claims of religious freedom were at the heart of hers and the presiding bishop’s interest in joining the brief. “We oppose all legislation that seeks to deny the God-given dignity, legal equality, and civil rights of transgender people,” she said. “We support transgender equality not in spite of our Christian faith, but because of it.”

Jennings said the brief very clearly says that religious freedom belongs to all Americans, not just one group’s theology.

Curry and Jennings have acted on Executive Council’s admonition to confront discriminatory laws before. Shortly after council acted in June, Curry and Jennings wrote to the Episcopal Church explaining their opposition to the North Carolina bill and saying that they had written to the state’s governor and members of the state’s General Assembly, calling on them to repeal the bill.

Last month, they wrote to the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives to praise his opposition to a “bathroom bill” in that state.

This is the second time in two years that Jennings has taken the lead in filing amici briefs with the Supreme Court. In April 2015, she was a lead signer on an amicus brief filed by nearly 2,000 individual lay and ordained religious leaders in the Supreme Court case on same-sex marriage known as Obergefell v. Hodges and Consolidated Cases.

More information about the Gloucester County School Board suit, including legal filings, is here.

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

Anglican Board of Mission makes emergency appeal for East Africa

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 12:57pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Board of Mission – the national mission agency of the Anglican Church of Australia – has launched an emergency appeal as the crisis worsens in parts of East Africa due to extreme drought. It hopes to raise 50,000 Australian dollars.

Full article.

U.S.-based, Philippine Episcopal churches enter concordat agreement

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 6:07pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaks to a packed audience at Trinity University of Asia during a keynote address focused on the Jesus Movement. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Manila, Philippines] When Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Prime Bishop Renato Abibico recently signed a concordat agreement, they did so as equals.

Longtime covenant companions, the Episcopal Church and Episcopal Church in the Philippines entered a new commitment to remain in partnership and to learn from one another in the areas of program, mission and ministry.

“The [concordat] is intentionally designed as a partnership between two equal partners in the gospel,” said Curry, in an interview with Episcopal News Service, following the document’s signing.

Episcopal Church of the Philippines Prime Bishop Renato Abibico and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry signed the concordat agreement on Feb. 18 during a Eucharist at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John in Quezon City. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The bishops signed the concordat, based in friendship, cooperation and mutual respect, during a Feb. 18 Eucharist at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John in Quezon City, a part of metro Manila. Clergy traveled in some cases more than 12 hours to witness the historic document’s signing. Curry made the Philippines his first of four stops on a tour of Asia and Southeast Asia that included Hong Kong, China and Taiwan.

“The [concordat] fully commits us,” said Renato, following the concordat’s signing. “It’s not just a document.”

The companion agreement, as it’s defined in the concordat, was six years in the making, said Peter Ng, the Episcopal Church’s officer for Asia and the Pacific, now retired, who accompanied Curry on his visit, along with the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; the Rev. David Copley, director of global partnerships and mission personnel; Neva Rae Fox, the church’s public affairs officer; and Sharon Jones, executive assistant to the presiding bishop.

The Episcopal Church established a missionary district in the Philippines in 1901, when the United States controlled the archipelago. In 1965, the church became a missionary diocese; and in 1990 the Episcopal Church of the Philippines became an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. At the time of autonomy, the two churches established a covenant relationship, whereby the U.S.-based church continued to provide the Philippine church with 60 percent of its operating budget.

During a visit to the Philippine church’s national headquarters in a brand-new building on its 37-acre compound in Quezon City, which also includes Trinity University of Asia and St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary, the presiding bishop and his staff heard a presentation by Floyd Lalwet, the Philippine church’s provincial secretary, about its story from financial dependence to self-sufficiency.

Two years after becoming an independent province the Joint Committee on the Philippine Covenant in 1992 proposed a 15-year plan to gradually reduce the support from the Episcopal Church from $800,000 to $533,333 to $267,667 over five-year intervals.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached and concelebrated alongside Prime Bishop Renato Abibico during a Feb. 18 Eucharist at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John. Curry made the Philippines his first of four stops on a tour of Asia and Southeast Asia. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

In 2004, a year after the Philippine church ran its highest-ever budget deficit, its leadership, by then worried for the church’s survival, contemplated asking the Episcopal Church for a three-year extension. After heated debate, however, the church reversed course and decided rather than prolong its dependence, it would become independent on Jan. 1, 2005, two years before the agreement expired, explained Lalwet.

“It took the leadership to change its thinking,” he said, adding that in 2005, after implementing the church ended the year with a $60,000 surplus.

The covenant relationship between the U.S.-based Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in the Philippines remained intact in 2005, but rather than use the subsidy for operating expenses the money was added to the church’s Centennial Endowment Fund, established in 2001.

Today, the church is renovating its headquarters’ campus, with plans to build a new, state-of-the-art hospital to replace nearby St. Luke’s Hospital and to build a new seminary to replace St. Andrew’s. The church has also implemented a Receivers to Givers policy, changing the church’s mindset from one of dependence to independence. The shift in mindset and financial independence, Lalwet said, has changed the culture of the church and has instilled a sense of pride in its members.

There was a time, he said, when friendly visits were a setup, “at the end of the day we were just there to ask for something. Today, when we sit at the table, we sit as partners, and that has strengthened the relationship and made it more exciting. People here are happy they can share something.”

(In September of 2014, bishops from the Episcopal Church’s Province IX dioceses spent a week in the Philippines studying the church’s self-sustainability model.)

Organic vegetables were carried from as far as six hours to be set on the altar as part of the offertory. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The Episcopal Church in the Philippines’ autonomy journey is a story of miracles; a model that the rest of the Anglican Communion, including the Episcopal Church, can learn from, said Curry, in an interview with ENS.

“By miracle, I mean, a miracle that resulted from people being in partnership with God and doing the hard work, and it actually worked,” said Curry. “The Episcopal Church in the Philippines has learned how to maximize its assets, and as a result, it is experiencing new life.”

For the Rev. Thomas Maddela, St. Andrew’s registrar and a liturgics professor, the presiding bishop’s visit marked an occasion “to look back at our mother church and to share our stories and our continuing struggles” and to assure the church’s commitment to cooperation.

In the past, he said, the Philippine church reflected the American church’s influence. Autonomy, however, changed that and in 2001, during the church’s centennial celebration, it introduced its version of the Book of Common Prayer, which was revised in 2014 and is now in the process of being translated into four languages.

Increasingly the church reflects the “culture of the people,” said Maddela, in an interview with ENS outside the cathedral.

Curry spent two nights in the Philippines; it was the first time a presiding bishop preached at the cathedral since the late 1980s when Edmond Lee Browning visited. Frank Griswold didn’t visit the Philippines during his term as presiding bishop; Katharine Jefferts Schori visited twice but didn’t preach at the cathedral.

The Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; Floyd Lalwet, provincial secretary of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines; and Peter Ng, the Episcopal Church’s now-retired officer for Asia and the Pacific, pose for a photo. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“Visits from presiding bishops are very symbolic,” said Lalwet. “Whenever a presiding bishop comes here he or she is considered family, one of us. And the people are so excited.”

Curry’s visit, said Lalwet, also came at a time when Filipinos, some of them frustrated by the actions of the country’s controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte, and his war on drugs, needed to hear a positive message.

On Feb. 17, the day before he preached at the cathedral, Curry gave a keynote address focused on the Jesus Movement to a packed audience of students and seminarians at Trinity University of Asia on the 20th anniversary of the covenant agreement.

“God likes to work through movements of people to change the face of the earth,” he told the students and seminarians, referencing Abraham and Sarah, and Moses.

“Love of God and love of neighbor … that’s a formula for transforming the world,” said Curry, as he walked across the stage. “And you’ve got to love God because that’s the source from whom you are made.”

“Following the way of Jesus sets folk free, and it brings folk together … The truth is we are one in Jesus Christ, and that’s a message not just for the church but the world.”

Curry’s address stirred applause from the crowd. The students and seminarians were “very excited,” said the Rev. Gloria Mapangdol, dean of St. Andrew’s Seminary. “It was the first time they’d heard ‘an evangelist’ talk like that.”

His message resonated with seminarians – 48 total, 19 females — who are required to apply what they learn in the classroom to their field work, said Mapangdol.

In Manila, Curry also visited the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, or the Philippine Independent Church, a full-communion partner with the Episcopal Church since 1961.

It was a blessing, said Curry, for him to visit the IFI, a church rooted in revolution.

“God came among us as the person of Jesus to start a revolution,” said Curry. “The IFI is a church crusading for justice.”

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

Immigration forum at Houston cathedral addresses immigrant concerns

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 3:34pm

Lawyers, community and religious leaders participate in immigration forum at Christ Church Cathedral in Houston. Photo: Diocese of Texas

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] In an effort to educate and assist the immigrant community of Houston, Christ Church Cathedral held an immigration forum with attorneys and community leaders to inform immigrants of their rights and to discuss the Trump administration’s new focus on deportations.

The forum was hosted by the Rev. Simón Bautista, canon missioner for latino ministries and outreach at the cathedral.

Recent executive orders, as well as Texas State Senate Bill 4, will require all Texas law enforcement agencies to comply with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) agents. The move is provoking anxiety among a vulnerable population of immigrants in the U.S. without documentation who fear being profiled under what is effectively a sanctuary city ban.

“Bishop Andy Doyle, the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and Christ Church Cathedral welcome everyone. This is a place blessed by your presence,” said the Rev. Barkley S. Thompson, dean of Christ Church Cathedral.

Getting advice from lawyers instead of notaries, carrying up-to-date identification and calling state legislators to ask them to vote against SB 4 were the key pieces of advice given by the panel.

“Have doubts of the news you see and read on social media. It is better to get your information from your consulate,” said Ignacio Pinto-León, a Houston attorney.

During a Q&A, participants asked the experts about their particular cases. Many wondered how long it would take for their petitions for permanent residency to be approved because they wanted a way to work towards American citizenship. Others attended the forum to be informed and to help family members and friends.

“The recent political (actions) have put everyone on edge because it puts people that are undocumented in a fearful state,” said Fabian Berrios, a member of San Mateo, Bellaire. “It’s important to stay informed and help those who are seeking assistance.

The Rev. Willie Bennett, an organizer with The Metropolitan Organization, encourages immigrants to talk to their clergy and express their worry.

“It is going to take a diverse community such as the one here at Christ Church Cathedral to teach and share the reality of what we are going through. I challenge you to share your story—it’s the only way we can make a change long term,” Bennett said.

“The value of these informational forums is that they offer a unique opportunity (for) people to hear credible information about their concerns, their issues, their personal cases or of their acquaintances,” Bautista said. “These forums unite religious and community organizations, consulates and lawyers in one place for one common interest. We, at the cathedral, are proud to be able to collaborate in these offerings.”

Read article in Spanish here.

Episcopal, Lutheran leaders in the U.S. and Canada issue Ash Wednesday message on refugees

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 2:15pm

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined March 1 with Anglican and Lutheran leaders in North America in issuing an Ash Wednesday message titled “Remember the Refugees and Migrants.”

Curry joined Anglican Church of Canada Primate Fred Hiltz, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada National Bishop Susan C. Johnson, in sending the message. 

The following is the full text of the message:

“On this day many people will participate in a liturgy including the Imposition of Ashes.  Some presiders blot these ashes upon our foreheads and we are reminded that we are but dust and to dust shall we return.  Others trace them upon our forehead in the sign of the cross, a reminder of the place to where the Lenten journey takes us.  Even at the outset of this holy season we are reminded that while for some the cross is a stumbling block and for others mere foolishness, it is for those who are being called, the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23).  Remembering Christ crucified we are mindful not only of our personal need for repentance and renewal in doing the work of God, but indeed of the need of all humanity to repent of our indifference to the brokenness of our relationships, to the suffering of millions of people worldwide who are starving, oppressed, enslaved, or seeking sanctuary even if it be in a place far from their homeland.

“This Lent we call our Churches to be continually mindful of the global refugee and migration crises, and the injustices and conflicts that have swelled the statistics to a number greater than ever in the history of the world.  We acknowledge the good work done by so many of our synods and dioceses and parishes in sponsoring refugees, welcoming them, accompanying them and advocating for them as they settle in our countries.  Similarly, we commend the compassionate work of our partner churches in other lands and intergovernmental bodies caring for migrants and refugees. We call on our Churches not to weary of this good work in the name of God.

“Given the current political climate in the United States, it is important to say that while both our countries recognize the need for measures ensuring homeland security, we also stand up for the long-established policies that welcome migrants and refugees.  That is not to say any of them are not beyond reform.  But it is to say that fair and generous policies strengthen the economy of our nations and enriches the social and cultural fabric of our countries – a fabric woven by both the First Peoples of these lands and all those who have settled here through numerous waves of migration throughout our histories. 

“Fair and generous action and deliberations are from our perspective, deeply grounded in the Law of Moses, in the teaching of the Prophets and in the Gospel of Jesus.  For some two millennia millions of people have found consolation in the suffering of Jesus upon the cross and in his holy name they have prayed for the compassion and justice of God in the midst of the terrible circumstances of their lives – circumstances that compel them to flee their homelands, making their way over dangerous treks of land. Sometimes they find refuge in new nations and frequently they make their way to ports where they can board vessels and make what are often treacherous voyages in the hope of reaching a land free of the oppression they have known.  Some make it.  Many don’t.

“May this Season of Lent be especially marked by our prayers and advocacy for refugees and migrants – on the run, in United Nations camps, in waiting, in our communities… And let it be marked by a continuing resolve in welcoming the strange in our midst, for such hospitality is in keeping with the faith we proclaim. (Matthew 25:31-40)”

Le Magazine Anglican : merci Luther !

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 11:36am

Les anglicans ont-ils des raisons de dire : merci Luther ? À l’occasion des 500 ans de la Réforme, le Magazine Anglican consacre deux émissions à cette question.

Le premier volet, diffusé le 28  janvier 2017, aborde l’aspect historique : la Réforme anglaise s’est elle inspirée de Luther ?

34 ans après les 95 thèses de Luther, Henry VIII a rompu avec Rome. Mais son souci principal était avant tout d’ordre dynastique.

Rémy Bethmont, professeur d’histoire et civilisation britanniques à l’université de Paris VIII, analyse les différents courants protestants qui ont – ou non – inspiré la Réforme anglaise.

Dès le XVIe siècle, des communautés britanniques ont implanté sur le « continent  » leur façon « d’être église ». Le vénérable Meurig Williams, retrace l’historique de ces relations entre (ce qui est devenu aujourd’hui) le Diocèse en Europe de l’église d’Angleterre  et les églises luthériennes scandinaves et allemandes.

De l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, l’Église Épiscopale / anglicane, est « en pleine communion » avec l’église évangélique luthérienne d’Amérique (ELCA).

Mgr. Pierre Whalon, évêque pour l’Europe de l’Église Épiscopale, explique ce que signifie cette pleine communion et attire notre attention sur deux prières du Livre de prières de l’Église Épiscopale, inspirées de Luther.

Dans le deuxième volet de l’émission, diffusé le 25 février 2017, il est question des similitudes et différences au plan de la doctrine et de la théologie. L’occasion de redécouvrir les deux plus célèbres théologiens anglicans du XVIe siècle : Thomas Cranmer et Richard Hooker.

Les deux volets sont émaillés des témoignages de sept paroissiens de la Cathédrale épiscopale de Paris ravis de pouvoir dire : merci Luther !
Y compris à travers le chant et notamment le plus connu des cantiques composés par Luther (c’est un rempart que notre Dieu) qui figure parmi les hymnes des églises luthérienne et anglicane.

Pour écouter l’émission cliquer sur : http://frequenceprotestante.com/emission/magazine-anglican

Le Magazine Anglican est diffusé, le 4e samedi du mois, à l’antenne parisienne de Fréquence Protestante. Via la radio numérique, chaque émission est accessible pendant six mois, aux auditeurs francophones d’Europe, d’Amérique, d’Afrique et d’Océanie.

Animé depuis 2012, par Laurence Moachon, paroissienne de la Cathédrale de la Sainte Trinité à Paris, le Magazine Anglican a pour objectif de mieux faire connaître la tradition anglicane / épiscopale.

Dominican Republic bishop announces retirement

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 9:01am

[Diocese of the Dominican Republic] The Rt. Rev. Julio C. Holguín, bishop of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic since 1991, announced during the February diocesan convention that he plans to retire on Nov. 1, 2017. Subject to approval by the Episcopal House of Bishops, the Rt. Rev. Moisés Quezada, currently serving as bishop coadjutor, will replace  Holguín on that date. Quezada’s seating as bishop diocesan is tentatively scheduled to be held at Epiphany Cathedral in Santo Domingo on Nov. 4, 2017.

Quezada was elected on July 25, 2015, and ordained and consecrated bishop coadjutor on Feb. 13, 2016. 

Glitter Ash Wednesday takes ritual, adds glitter, mixes in meaning, sparks debate

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 5:37pm

Glitter ashes for Glitter+Ash Wednesday have a distinctly different look than traditional ashes used to remind people about their mortality on the first day of Lent. Photo: Glitter+Ash Wednesday via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] Ashes on the forehead are arguably the most conspicuous mark of a Christian during the year. Signifying mortality and repentance, they are a visible sign to the world on Ash Wednesday that a believer is preparing for the season of Lent.

It is the conspicuousness of the ashes that the Rev. Elizabeth Edman, an Episcopal priest in the New York City area, saw as an opportunity to convey additional meaning. This Ash Wednesday, with the help of an ecumenical faith-based LGBT advocacy group called Parity, she is starting what she hopes will become an annual tradition for Christians who support gay, lesbian and transgender rights.

Introducing Glitter Ash Wednesday.

The concept behind Glitter Ash Wednesday is exactly as it sounds. Parity has been distributing ashes mixed with purple glitter for free to any clergy member or lay person who requests them for use this Ash Wednesday, March 1. As of last weekend, at least 139 orders had been shipped, Edman said, including to several Episcopal priests around the country.

“I didn’t want to do something that could be interpreted as frivolous and disrespectful,” Edman said, though she understands not everyone will embrace the idea.

Wearing glitter is about more than celebration for the gay community, Edman said. Like ashes for Christians, it is a conspicuous symbol of one’s identity, and she sees that as an appropriate parallel to draw on Ash Wednesday.

“It’s not just about inclusion and tolerance. It’s about more than that,” Edman said. “It’s about upending power structures that do violence to people, and particularly that do spiritual violence to people.”

The Rev. Joseph Wood, assistant rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, is among the clergy participating in Glitter Ash Wednesday, which has its own Facebook page and is generating headlines around the country.

“I’ll be very curious what the response will be tomorrow when people are faced with the reality of glitter ashes,” Wood said in an interview Feb. 28.

He ordered glitter ashes from Parity because he thought it was “a clever idea” that built upon the “ashes to go” ministries that are common on Ash Wednesday. By imposing ashes on street corners, congregations can connect with people where they are, including people who never set foot in a church, he said, and he is bringing the same spirit to glitter ashes.

And although the Episcopal Church has made strides toward welcoming people regardless of sexual orientation, Wood said, “I think it can be easy to kid of rest on our laurels” in the push for “queer equality.”

Wood will offer regular ashes or glitter ashes at the noon and 5:30 p.m. Ash Wednesday services at Emmanuel. The Rev. Karen Coleman plans to do the same at St. James Episcopal Church in Sommerville, Massachusetts, where the congregation holds “ash and dash” hours from 3 to 6:30 p.m.

“We’ve always been a parish that that’s been open and affirming” of gay and lesbian Christians, Coleman said.

Whether worshipers choose traditional ashes or glitter ashes, they won’t have to dash afterward. The church offers a meditation station and encourages people to stay, pray and reflect on the beginning of Lent.

Parity’s website further highlights some of the symbolism that organizers have in mind. Glitter “is like love” as well as “a sign of hope” and a “promise to repent, to show up, to witness, to work. Glitter never gives up – and neither do we.”

The website also notes how glitter has been “an inextricable element of queer history,” particularly because it makes the wearer conspicuous.

Parity offered the ash-glitter mix for free, or for a suggested donation of $10, and the website notes that the glitter ashes have sold out. People looking to receive glitter ashes can check the site’s map of locations. They’re then encouraged to post to social media using the hashtag #GlitterAshWednesday.

The site also emphasizes the religious significance of participation: “Glitter+Ash is an inherently queer sign of Christian belief, blending symbols of mortality and hope, of penance and celebration.”

But that blending of symbols may become spiritually “problematic” and “confusing,” said the Rev. Ruth Meyers, dean of academic affaris and professor of liturgics at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California. She would advise clergy against incorporating glitter into their Ash Wednesday rituals.

“It’s an ancient symbol of repentance, of regret … our mortality,” Meyers said. “To try to combine that symbol with glitter, which seems to be about a celebration and an affirmation of a particular group of people, seems to confuse the symbols in a way that doesn’t allow either symbol to work.”

The Book of Common Prayer only specifies that ashes should be imposed, without elaborating on the method or mixture, Meyers said. Traditionally the ashes come from the burnt palm fronds from the previous Easter, but even that aspect of Ash Wednesday is merely a custom for Episcopalians.

“People have to make their own well-informed decisions how to do that,” Meyers said. “There isn’t a rule that says, ‘Thou shall use only this for the ashes.’”

Even so, she suggested that people interested in showing solidarity with LGBT causes can take that on as a Lenten discipline without changing the traditional symbolism of the ashes.

For most people, this Ash Wednesday will go on like any other. There does not seem to be widespread adoption of glitter ash in its first year, and participating Episcopal clergy members appear to be offering it in addition to traditional ashes, leaving it up to worshipers whether to add glitter to their observance.

The Rev. Amy Chambers Cortright learned about Glitter Ash Wednesday from posts on Facebook.

“It really caught my attention, and I wanted to learn more, said Cortright, the priest-in-charge at St. John’s Episcopal Church-Tower Grove in St. Louis, Missouri. “I wish I’d thought of it before.”

Glitter is a substance that clings to you no matter what you do, Cortright said, like “hope that will not fade.”

She ordered the glitter ash and will impose it, as well as traditional ashes, at the church and at an “ashes to go” site on a street corner nearby.

Although most people she has talked to have been supportive, Cortright said she has heard some snarky comments questioning the use of glitter ash.

“I would really ask colleagues to pause and think about what a profound statement it is to our LGBTQ family and reconsider,” she said.

Wood sees in Glitter Ash Wednesday a symbol of solidarity in both the ashes and the glitter.

“We’re all being united in recognition of the bounds of our faith,” he said.

Edman, who also is author of the book “Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity,” said she too has heard people express concern that Glitter Ash Wednesday sets the wrong tone. The use of glitter in this context doesn’t convey joy, she said, “it is serious business for us.”

It shows courage in maintaining a deep sense of identity in an often hostile world, she said, and “in the same way, I’m hoping glitter can be a public witness to a very deep faith.”

On Ash Wednesday, she plans to join with the Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen, Parity’s executive director, and distribute glitter ashes in Manhattan at Stonewall National Monument, site of the 1969 Stonewall riots, which galvanized the early gay rights movement.

Meyers, despite her reservations about glitter ash, supports the Episcopal Church’s efforts to open its doors fully to gays and lesbians. She serves on the steering committee of the Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal clergy, bishops and lay people who support those efforts toward inclusion.

And as chair of the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music from 2009 to 2015, she oversaw the commission’s drafting of rites for same-sex marriages. Based on the commission’s work, General Convention in 2015  made canonical and liturgical changes to provide marriage equality for Episcopalians.

“I see people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer as part of God’s wonderfully diverse humanity,” Meyers said. “I am delighted that the Episcopal Church has moved more and more into a welcoming stance.”

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


English diocese assisting with urgent relief funding in Kenya

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 2:54pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Diocese of Chichester in southern England is assisting with urgent relief efforts in the drought-hit Kenyan Diocese of Nakura. An emergency grant of 5000 pounds is being sent directly to the diocese, which, in partnership with the Anglican Church of Kenya’s Development Services, will buy and distribute food and other essential supplies in the most affected areas.

Full article.

Episcopal Church weighs renewed aid efforts in South Sudan after famine declared

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 1:13pm

Six thousand people at Kuda, South Sudan, were among those displaced by violence last year in the region of the country where famine has since been declared. A U.N. team visited the area in September to assess the humanitarian and security situation. Photo: United Nations

[Episcopal News Service] The relief agencies of the Episcopal Church and its Anglican partners are considering a possible expansion of their support of relief efforts in South Sudan after the United Nation’s recent famine declaration, which has drawn increased international attention to the growing crisis in the country.

The famine declaration on Feb. 20 was the first by the United Nations since 2011 in Somalia. It blamed war and a collapsing economy for leaving 100,000 people at risk of starvation in the north-central part of South Sudan, and 1 million more people were said to be on the brink of famine.

The U.N. uses a technical classification to determine whether a food security crisis has escalated into a famine. A declaration is issued when at least 20 percent of the population faces a food shortage, at least 30 percent is suffering from malnourishment and at least 2 people out of 10,000 are dying from starvation each day.

In the affected parts of South Sudan, as in all famine-stricken sites, the declaration indicates that people already have begun to die from lack of food. The situation in South Sudan is further complicated by the fact the crisis is largely man-made, and years of violence have challenged relief efforts.

“There is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security, both for relief workers and the crisis-affected people they serve,” Joyce Luma, the director in South Sudan for the U.N.’s World Food Program, said in the U.N. news release.

Episcopal Relief & Development has been active for more than two years supporting local efforts to provide food aid in South Sudan, through its partners in the Anglican Alliance and by working with relief agencies and diocesan leaders in the country. The organization has a continuing presence in areas that, while not meeting the definition of famine until now, have long been dealing with extreme food shortages, said Nagulan Nesiah, senior program officer for disaster response and risk reduction.

The famine declaration “has sort of caught up to what has been a reality for the (local) church for the past few years,” Nesiah said. He welcomed the move by the U.N., which will draw needed attention to the crisis.

The Episcopal Church is one of several partners within the Anglican Communion that coordinate relief efforts under the umbrella of the Anglican Alliance, which recently held a conference call with Episcopal Relief & Development and other agencies to discuss the worsening situation in South Sudan.

Episcopal Relief & Development plays a leading role in the Anglican Alliance’s work with the Sudanese Development and Relief Agency, or SUDRA, and through those efforts, food packets have been provided to 58,400 people in a dozen dioceses in the country since December 2014, Nesiah said. Episcopalians can still support these efforts by donating online, and a new fundraising appeal is being discussed.

Top religious leaders, too, have begun speaking out about the conflict and the resulting famine.

“We stand prayerfully alongside the South Sudanese people and their leaders – particularly those in the Church who are providing emotional, physical and spiritual support,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said Feb. 20 in a statement released while he was on a tour of four African countries near South Sudan. “We pray for those on the ground who are delivering humanitarian assistance, that there will be an opening up of humanitarian corridors for the aid that is so desperately needed.”

Province of Central Africa Archbishop Albert Chama, who chairs the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, or CAPA, issued a statement Feb. 22 condemning the violence in South Sudan.

“CAPA will work with willing leaders from the region and further afield, to try to urge the warring parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire,” Chama said. “They must realize that Almighty God will require everyone to account for their actions here on earth.”

Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, which handles humanitarian outreach for the Anglican Church of Canada, announced on Feb. 24 a $25,000 grant to provide relief in South Sudan, as well as another $25,000 grant for Kenya. That money was given to Act Alliance, a relief partner that is separate from the Anglican Alliance.

The United Nations, in announcing its famine declaration, called it the “worst hunger catastrophe” in the three years of fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which supports President Salva Kiir, and a rival group that backs Riek Machar, a former vice president.

South Sudan isn’t the only country facing a food crisis. The World Food Program said three more are at risk of famine this year: Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen.

“The specter of simultaneous famines in four countries poses an unprecedented challenge to the humanitarian community as well as a personal tragedy for hundreds of thousands of people,” the WFP said Feb. 23 in a blog post.

Burundi is another country where the threat of famine has mobilized the Anglican Church and its relief partners. Distribution of food and other items has begun in part of the country, Anglican Communion News Service reported Feb. 27.

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


Anglican Church in Burundi takes action to help families threatened by famine

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 1:18pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church of Burundi, in conjunction with Christian Aid and its partners, has initiated an emergency effort to support some of the many vulnerable people facing severe famine across the country. Local emergency committees have now been set up in the regions of Makamba and Rumonge to identify the most vulnerable people and distribute food and other items.

Full article.

Jennifer Brooke-Davidson elected bishop suffragan of Diocese of West Texas

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 11:06am

The Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson was elected Feb. 25 as the sixth bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. Photo: Diocese of West Texas

[Episcopal Diocese of West Texas press release] The Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson was chosen bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas during the 113 annual Diocesan Council on Feb. 25.

She is the first woman to be elected bishop in the Diocese of West Texas. Brooke-Davidson, 56, is currently the vicar of St. Elizabeth Episcopal Church in Buda, Texas, and was one of seven nominees. Now as the sixth bishop suffragan of the diocese, she will serve alongside diocesan Bishop David M. Reed.

In order to be elected, a candidate needed to receive a simple majority of votes from both the clergy and the lay delegates, voting separately as orders on the same balloting round. Brooke-Davidson secured election on the sixth ballot, receiving 55 number of clergy votes and 153 number of lay votes, with 49 and 151 needed, respectively, for election.

After thanking the other six nominees and saying what a privilege it was to walk with them on this journey, Brooke-Davidson said, “We will be good friends forever.”

She then quoted a passage from the second chapter of 1 Corinthians, saying, “Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Brooke-Davidson said, “With God, anything is possible, and I suppose it is possible that God can make me a bishop.”

Pending consent of a majority of the bishops with jurisdiction and the diocesan standing committees, Brooke-Davidson will be ordained and consecrated as bishop suffragan during a worship service held on July 29, at The Episcopal School of Texas in San Antonio. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will preside.

Brooke-Davidson was ordained a priest in 2009 after graduating from Fuller Theological Seminary and has served as vicar of St. Elizabeth since 2011. She served as the assistant rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wimberley, Texas, from 2009-2011. Prior to ordination, Brooke-Davidson practiced commercial financial law for 12 years. She is married to Carrick Brooke-Davidson, and they have two grown daughters, Emma and Kate.

The other nominees in the election that took place at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas were:

  • The Rev. Christopher Caddell, rector, Holy Spirit Episcopal Church, Dripping Springs, Texas;
  • The Rev. Chris Cole, rector, Church of the Resurrection, Windcrest, Texas;
  • The Rev. John Hill, rector, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, San Antonio, Texas;
  • The Rev. Lisa Mason, rector, St. David’s Episcopal Church, San Antonio, Texas;
  • The Rev. Jonathan Wickham, rector, All Saints Episcopal Church, Corpus Christi, Texas; and
  • The Rev. Robert Woody, rector, Church of Reconciliation, San Antonio, Texas.

Diocese of Maryland’s Trail of Souls uncovers hidden history of churches’ ties to slavery

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 1:59pm

A balcony once used as the “slave gallery” is still a feature of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kingsville, Maryland, as detailed on the Trail of Souls website.

[Episcopal News Service] Slavery is a thread stitched indelibly throughout the early history of the Episcopal Church in Maryland, where congregations to varying degrees enabled, benefited from or fought against the enslavement of Africans until slavery was outlawed by the state in 1864.

In the capital, Annapolis, St. Margaret’s owned a plantation in the mid-18th century where up to 100 enslaved laborers worked, and slaves likely built most of the congregation’s early structures.

Over on the west end of the state, Emmanuel Church in Cumberland is well known today for once being a stop on the Underground Railroad, helping slaves escape north to freedom.

Nearly two dozen congregations across Maryland have researched and recorded a multitude of stories like these as part of a racial reconciliation project called Trail of Souls that is now in its third year. In addition to an annual pilgrimage to some of the sites, the Diocese of Maryland project’s focal point is a website offering a digital tour through the history of the 23 churches and their relationships to the institution of slavery.

It isn’t always a comfortable topic for Episcopalians.

“Not everyone likes to deal with the history of slavery,” said Reba Bullock, who leads the diocese’s Research and Pilgrimage Working Group. The group works with congregations to uncover such historical details, and it now is recruiting more churches to join the effort.

“Sometimes there is a little reluctance, but once they get on board they get excited because they find out things about the history of the church that they didn’t know,” Bullock said.

In one congregation, Bullock said, a local professor volunteered to do the research and discovered that slaves once attended Sunday worship services in a balcony apart from the white members of the congregation, and some slaves had been buried in the church’s graveyard.

This tunnel under Emmanuel Church in Cumberland was said to have been used to hide slaves escaping north to freedom as part of the Underground Railroad. Photo: Emmanuel Church.

The Trail of Souls website also includes information on Emmanuel Church, which likely became a stop on the Underground Railroad after the arrival of the Rev. David Hillhouse Buel, who was active in the effort to free slaves. The congregation may not even have been aware at the time that the church was being used by the Underground Railroad, according to its Trail of Souls page.

Middleham and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lusby on Chesapeake Bay notes in its Trail of Souls history that many priests owned slaves before the Civil War. And at St. Margaret’s in Annapolis, the congregation took the additional step of dedicating five historical markers at the church, acknowledging the range of ways the church took advantage of slaves but also ministered to them.

Michael Winn was part of a team that already had been researching the history of St. Margaret’s when the diocese called on congregations to join the Trail of Souls. Some of what the St. Margaret’s team found was shocking, such as records showing the vestry in the early 1800s considered buying and selling slaves to support the church financially. (The church never acted on the proposal.)

“What we’ve kind of done is open the door to understanding that what happened in the past is not the past that we want,” Winn said, but it serves as a challenge, to re-examine and reaffirm our beliefs in the context of that history.

The Diocese of Maryland has been on the leading edge of the Episcopal Church’s dialogue on racial reconciliation. It formed an anti-racism committee and reparation task force in the early 2000s, and in 2010, Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton dissolved those bodies to refocus the diocese’s efforts by forming a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said the Rev. Angela Shepherd, who initially chaired that commission.

Race has become a regular topic in recent decades at the Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention. Shepherd, the Diocese of Maryland’s canon for mission, said the diocese has been active in those efforts because of Sutton’s leadership and that of his predecessors.

More than 600 people have completed the diocese’s anti-racism workshop, Shepherd said, and the discussion on issues of race has continued through film screenings, interactive theater and adult forums.

The launch in 2014 of the Trail of Souls website and its inaugural pilgrimage was timed for the 150th anniversary of Maryland outlawing slavery, and the project took its cue from a 2006 resolution from General Convention that called on all dioceses to research and document the church’s complicity with slavery and history of segregation and discrimination.

“The research has led to local interest. It has gone beyond a historian creating a document that’s posted,” Shepherd said. She described a conversation she had with a white parishioner who said he knew his church had been built by slaves but didn’t fully appreciate the significance until the congregation identified those slaves by name and read them out loud during a service.

It is such moments of awakening that the diocese hopes to foster through the Trail of Souls, a project that Shepherd said could be replicated in dioceses around the country.

“I would advise people not be afraid,” she said. “I think people are afraid of discovering the truth of the past, but I think the call to reconciliation is a call to be reconciled to our past.”

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

Anglican Communion Office appoints its first chief operating officer

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 11:55am

[Anglican Communion News Service] In a newly-created role, the Anglican Communion Office in London has appointed a chief operating officer, David White –  a senior manager with a wealth of experience leading U.K. and international charities.

The new role includes executive support to Secretary General Josiah Idowu-Fearon, primary responsibility for the management and administration of the Anglican Communion Office — the permanent secretariat serving the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates Meeting and the Lambeth Conference. It also includes support for the work of the Anglican Communion across the world and liaison with the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Full article.

Ann Hallisey to retire, Andrew Hybl to become new CDSP dean of students

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 10:56am

[Church Divinity School of the Pacific] The Rev. Andrew Hybl (CAS ’1) will become Church Divinity School of the Pacific’s dean of students in May when the Rev. L. Ann Hallisey (DMin ’05) retires from that position, the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, president and dean, announced Feb. 24.

Hybl has served as director of admissions and recruitment at CDSP since 2014. In his new role, he will serve as pastor to CDSP’s students, foster student community on campus and among low residence students, and oversee initiatives to connect CDSP students with students across the Graduate Theological Union. He will also oversee admissions and recruitment strategy.

Hallisey, who has been CDSP’s dean of students since 2011, is an executive coach, a spiritual director and retreat leader, and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She plans to focus on her coaching practice and organizational consulting work. Hallisey lives in Davis, California, with her husband, the Rt. Rev. Barry Beisner, who is the bishop of Northern California.

“I’m extraordinarily grateful to Ann for her dedicated years of service to CDSP and for the care she has shown our students, especially in their transitions from seminary to ministry around the wider church,” Richardson said.

“We will miss her faithful presence, but we are delighted that Andrew Hybl, whom Ann has mentored for nearly a decade, will step into her role. He has been an excellent director of admissions, and his lively ministry has already made CDSP a better place. I look forward to seeing his sense of fun and passion for faithful leadership at work in this new role.”

Before joining CDSP, Hybl was curate and associate at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Conway, Arkansas. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, Pacific School of Religion, and CDSP, and is a Navy veteran who served in the Iraq War. He lives in Oakland, California, with his wife, Julie, and their children, Oliver and Alice.

When Hybl takes on his new role, Jamie Nelson (MTS ’15), who has been CDSP’s admissions and hospitality coordinator since 2015, will become manager of admissions. He will oversee the administrative and organizational aspects of the admissions process, working closely with Hybl.

Nelson, a native of Washington and graduate of the University of Idaho and CDSP, is CDSP’s first out transgender employee. Prior to enrolling at CDSP, he was a newspaper reporter for the Wahkiakum County Eagle in his hometown.

“Jamie’s thoughtful diligence and attention to each applicant’s strengths are a great boon for our admissions effort,” Richardson said. “I am very glad to have this opportunity for him to assume more responsibility for our recruitment and build even stronger relationships with our prospective students.”