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Crucified migrants sculpture highlights the plight of refugees

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 11:27am

[Anglican Communion News Service] St Paul’s Cathedral in Bendigo, in the Australian state of Victoria, is displaying an artwork depicting crucified migrants in the run-up to Easter. The cathedral’s dean, John Roundhill, said that he hoped the exhibition would “challenge people at this Easter time to make a deep connection between events 2,000 years ago and the plight of refugees in our world today.”

Read the full article here.

Inside the exiled South Sudanese diocese of Kajo-Keji

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 11:10am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The third bishop of the Diocese of Kajo-Keji, Emmanuel Murye Modi, was consecrated and installed on Jan. 151. On Jan. 20, the area was hit by the country’s brutal civil war. By the end of January, Kajo-Keji was all-but evacuated, with some 98 percent of the population fleeing to Uganda.

The Diocese of Kajo-Keji also has relocated and has set up new headquarters and moved its ecumenical training program to the Ugandan town of Moyo.

Full article.

Georgia lynching victims remembered as racial reconciliation efforts expand

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 4:10pm

A historical marker remembering lynching victims in Georgia is unveiled on March 18 in LaGrange. Photo courtesy of Wesley Edwards

[Episcopal News Service] In one of the darkest corners of American history – the lynching of black victims by white attackers – details of many of these decades-old killings have long remained a mystery as present-day researchers seek to identify the victims and bring racial healing to their communities.

Those efforts have gained steam in Georgia, where last year the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta launched a three-year series of pilgrimages intended to bring these victims and their stories to light. At the same time, a group of residents in one west-central Georgia community, LaGrange, has been working with police, civic leaders and churches to come to grips with a nearly forgotten lynching in their city.

“The wind of the spirit is blowing … and moving us to the realization that in order [for] racial healing to occur then we have to deal with lynching,” said Catherine Meeks, who heads the Diocese of Atlanta’s Beloved Community: Commission for Dismantling Racism.

Meeks praises the work of the LaGrange group, named Troup Together, after Troup County, where the town is located. The diocese and Troup Together are pursuing separate but parallel efforts with similar goals: to remember lynching victims, reveal their untold stories and encourage racial reconciliation.

Nearly two years of work by Troup Together culminated in January in a public apology issued by Police Chief Lou Dekmar for his department’s role in the lynching of Austin Callaway in 1940. Callaway was found gravely injured on the side of a highway after being taken from a cell at the LaGrange jail by a white mob, an injustice enabled by LaGrange officers.

And in March, white pastors spoke at a church service to confess white congregations’ complicity in Callaway’s death and other acts of racial violence. That service was followed by a dedication of a historical marker at Warren Temple United Methodist Church and a cemetery service for Callaway and more than 500 lynching victims in Troup County and around the state.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church is among several LaGrange congregations working with Troup Together. The church hosted a luncheon for Callaway’s relatives and those of two other lynching victims before they attended the church service in March.

“While we can’t change [the past], we can acknowledge the horror of it and regret it and make our atonement,” said Janet Beall, a retired educator and longtime member of St. Mark’s who attended the ceremonies along with St. Mark’s rector, the Very Rev. R. Allen Pruitt.

Troup Together evolved from a biracial book group in LaGrange that two years ago read and discussed “The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” a 2011 book by James H. Cone. The group’s subsequent research into local history turned up information on the lynching of Callaway. That led to a prayer service in September 2015 marking 75 years since the killing. The reconciliation efforts have grown from there.

“Our goal is to learn to love our neighbors, and I find that we really can’t do that in any meaningful way unless we know each other’s stories,” said Wesley Edwards, one of the leaders of Troup Together. “Even though we live in the same community we don’t share the same histories as racial groups, and there’s a lot that we don’t know or appreciate across the boundaries of race about each other.”

Cone’s book draws a direct parallel between Jesus’ death on the cross and the deep suffering of American blacks that continued after slavery into what he identifies as “the lynching era,” 1880 to 1940.

“In that era, the lynching tree joined the cross as the most emotionally charged symbols in the African American community,” Cone says. “Both the cross and the lynching tree represented the worst in human beings and at the same time ‘an unquenchable ontological thirst’ for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning.”

In segregated communities across the South, the intended message of a lynching was fear, Meeks said.

“The purpose of it was to terrorize black people and any white people who were going to sympathize with black people, so lynching was about terror,” Meeks said. Its roots were in a thread of American society that held a belief in white supremacy, she said, “and that same white supremacy thread continues to haunt us in this country.”

The Commission on Dismantling Racism, whose anti-racism training program has served as a model for other Episcopal dioceses, is working to honor the 600 or so people documented to have died from lynching in Georgia. Its first pilgrimage, in October, brought nearly 200 people to Macon, Georgia, and the site where in 1922 a lynch mob dumped the body of John “Cockey” Glover.

The commission has a busy 2017 planned. A second pilgrimage is set for Athens this October, Meeks said, and her commission is working to open a center for racial healing near Morehouse College in Atlanta by that month. The commission also is encouraging parishes in the diocese to hold screenings of the movie “13th,” about racial injustice in the American prison system.

Meeks and her team also want to establish a permanent memorial to Georgia’s lynching victims that incorporates the list of names, similar to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Meeks is in contact with the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta as one possible location.

“There is great interest in this idea,” Meeks said, estimating a two-year timeframe for the project to come together.

There are plenty of victims to remember, including some whose precise fate remains unknown.

Bobbie Hart, one of the Troup Together leaders, never knew her paternal grandfather. He vanished decades ago while working on the railroad, and the more Hart and her sister learned about him and his mysterious disappearance the more they became convinced that he had been the victim of a lynching.

Hart, who was raised Baptist and now attends a Methodist church, knows relatives of Austin Callaway but was unaware of the lynching until working on Troup Together with Edwards. She was overcome with emotion while attending the group’s prayer service for Callaway in 2015.

“I felt a sadness come over me and I prayed and I felt the need to ask the Lord to forgive the men that did this to them,” Hart, now 64, said. “And I felt that it was important that, me being a black female … I chose to forgive this injustice.”

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

Anglicans join global wave of solidarity after Palm Sunday Coptic bombings

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 12:31pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican leaders around the world have added their voices to the global wave of solidarity that followed the deadly Palm Sunday attacks on Coptic churches in Egypt. The terror group Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks, which left at least 44 people dead and many more injured.

The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said that he was “shocked and greatly saddened” by the attacks, “particularly as they took place on Palm Sunday,” he said.

Full article.

Burundian Anglicans march against gender-based violence

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 12:28pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Martin Blaise Nyaboho led a delegation from the Anglican Church of Burundi in a public march of several hundred people last month, in a public demonstration against gender-based violence. Archbishop Martin was joined on the march by the Bishop of Rumonge Pedaculi Birakengana and members of both provincial and diocesan staff and many school children.

Full article.

Raphaelle Sondak named Episcopal Church director of human resources

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 3:01pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Raphaelle Sondak has been named the Episcopal Church director of human resources, a member of the presiding bishop’s staff.

“I was very impressed with Raphaelle’s background in employee relations and leadership development,” said the Rev. Geoffrey Smith, Episcopal Church chief operating officer. “I’m excited at the prospect of collaborating with her as we develop our strategies for talent development, compensation management, and the important work on culture change we’re all engaged in.”

“I am honored to be joining the staff of the Episcopal Church,” Sondak said. “The staff is known for its dedication and talent, and I look forward to being a member of a competent, energetic team.”

In her new position, Sondak will report to the chief operating officer and will be responsible for providing organizational development strategies and directing the human resources department in partnering and supporting the mission and ministry goals of the Episcopal Church.  She will be responsible for managing and overseeing the talent acquisition process and ensuring compliance with federal, state, and in-house regulatory requirements and procedures; benefits administration, and compliance with internal personnel policies and procedures.

Sondak has extensive experience in human resources. Currently, Sondak is the human resource director at Catholic Guardian Services, a social services agency in the New York region. Previously she served as director of human resources at Visiting Nurses Association of Hudson Valley, the American Institute for Foreign Study and HELP, USA.

In addition, she has been an adjunct professor teaching human resources management at Mercy College and has also served on the Board of Directors at Hudson Valley Hospital Center.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in human development from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and a master’s degree in human resource management from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

She begins her new position on May 1. Sondak’ s office will be located at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City; as of May 1 she can be reached at rsondak@episcopalchurch.org.

Montreal Diocesan Theological College names Jesse Zink principal

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 2:37pm

[Montreal Diocesan Theological College] The Rev.  Jesse Zink has been appointed the next principal of Montreal Diocesan Theological College (MDTC). His appointment was approved by MDTC’s Board of Governors on March 27, 2017.

Zink is currently the director of the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide in Cambridge, England, a member institution of the ecumenical Cambridge Theological Federation. He is also an affiliated lecturer in the Faculty of Divinity of Cambridge University.

A graduate of the Faculty of Divinity of Cambridge University, Zink has extensive experience in theological education and academic administration. The Rt. Rev. Mary Irwin-Gibson, bishop of Montreal and president of MDTC noted how delighted she is to be welcoming  Zink to the diocese. She said, “Dr. Zink brings with him a commitment to the future of the college and its community, showing a readiness to engage with the majority francophone, diverse, and secular environment in which the college and the Anglican Church in Quebec minister.”

“What is most striking about MDTC is its many existing strengths,” Zink said. “Strong ecumenical relations, an innovative and mission-focused M.Div. program, the long-standing relationship with McGill, one of Canada’s leading universities, and the low costs relative to comparable programs in North America. I look forward to working with partners and colleagues in the Montreal School of Theology, the alumni community, the Dioceses of Montreal and Quebec, and churches more broadly to build on these strengths, raise the profile of the college, and chart a sustainable future in coming years.”

The Rev. Robert Camara, chair of the search committee and a member of the College’s Board of Governors, commented: “the committee was particularly impressed by his belief in the value the college holds for its students and the church they will serve.” Camara went on further to say that he was excited for the college because, “Dr. Zink’s sense of potential for the future, his demonstrated ability for collaboration, his openness to an ever-changing environment, and his passion and drive for theological education were qualities that were evident to the search committee. But, what also impressed the Search Committee was his own deep sense of vocation as a priest who also happens to serve as an academic.”

Zink is the author of three books about theology, mission, and the global church, including “A Faith for the Future and Backpacking through the Anglican Communion: A Search for Unity.” His doctoral research at Cambridge University was a study of the growth of the Anglican church during Sudan’s second civil war.

Zink was born in Vancouver and raised in the United States. In addition to his doctorate, he has degrees from Acadia University, the University of Chicago, and Yale Divinity School. He worked as a news reporter at a radio station in Alaska and as a Young Adult Service Corps missionary in South Africa before his ordination in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts in the Episcopal Church.

Zink will assume his new post on Aug. 1, 2017. The MDTC community looks forward to welcoming Zink and his family as they join our diocese.

Decision edges closer on future of Christchurch Cathedral

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 11:40am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The property division of the New Zealand Diocese of Christchurch has defended itself over allegations that it has dragged its feet over the future of the iconic cathedral, which was all but destroyed in the 2011 earthquake.

The Church Property Trustees, which has responsibility for 280 church and commercial properties on behalf of the diocese, hit out after Philip Burdon used an opinion piece in the city’s The Press newspaper to claim that the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust had been “the victims of sham negotiations.”

Full article.

Archbishops launch review of English cathedrals’ governance

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 11:37am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishops of Canterbury and York have set up a working group to examine the governance of the Church of England’s cathedrals. The group has been established at a time when a number of English cathedrals are facing financial and other difficulties.

One of its tasks will be to advise the Archbishops’ Council on whether the Cathedrals Measure – the 1999 legislation that sets out the regulations that cathedrals must follow in their administration – needs to be revised.

Full article.

As violence surrounds, Chicago school’s partnership with suburban church offers students help, hope

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 3:21pm

Community Christian Alternative Academy in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood specializes in helping dropouts earn their high school diplomas. It’s exterior is covered in colorful murals like this one, overlooking a parking lot. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Chicago, Illinois] At Community Christian Alternative Academy, in one of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods, the dead are still remembered a generation later in bold, black paint.

Snake. Pookie. Johnny Rae. Malek. There are others – their names and the years when they died are affixed to two-dimensional tombstones under the letters “RIP” in the outdoor mural that towers over the school’s entrance on South Pulaski Road in North Lawndale on the city’s west side. Because the artwork hasn’t been updated since its creation, these deaths run from 1989 through 1994.

A mural from the late 1980s and early 1990s that overlooks CCA Academy’s entrance remembers students and relatives of students killed by drugs and gunfire a generation ago. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“It was a way that the students were expressing their grief,” school founder Myra Sampson said in an interview with Episcopal News Service. “Some of those ‘resting in peace’ were students, and some were family members of students, but it was a way for remembering people they had lost.”

The mural is a product of a former era whose violence is not easily forgotten. The murder rates in the early ’90s often are cited as a bleak reference point when tallying Chicago’s recent surge in gun violence and homicides. Last year, 34 people were killed just in North Lawndale, according to Chicago Tribune reporting, and Chicago’s citywide toll rose to 786 in 2016, the most of any city in America. The deadly trend has continued in 2017. The year’s homicide total had hit 155 as of April 7, according to records kept by DNA Info.

Chicago, though not alone in facing such grim statistics, is the setting for a conference hosted by a group of Episcopal bishops who see behind the violence an “unholy trinity” of guns, poverty and racism. Bishops United Against Gun Violence’s conference will be held at the Lutheran School of Theology from April 20 to 22 in Hyde Park.

The conference aims to illuminate the problems at the intersection of guns, poverty and racism but also bring a Christian message of hope and reconciliation, the bishops say.

“Chicago has been the focus of much of the country’s attention on issues of urban gun violence, so it’s my hope that this conference makes a contribution to the creation of effective responses to this epidemic,” Diocese of Chicago Bishop Jeffrey Lee said in an email message. “One of the vows a bishop makes at his or her ordination is ‘to defend those who have no helper,’ in the name of Jesus Christ. I can think of few issues more compelling than this one to make good on that vow.”

More than a statistic, shooting deaths deeply affect communities like North Lawndale. Sampson said eight of the city’s homicide victims during the 2015-16 school year were current or past CCA Academy students. She couldn’t recall a year when the school was hit so hard. So far in 2017, nine of the city’s homicides have been in North Lawndale, according to DNA Info.

“Our students see so much death and a lot of time don’t have anyone to help them process that,” Sampson said.

The nondenominational charter school, which specializes in helping dropouts earn their high school diplomas, has had a partner in St. Mary’s Episcopal Church since the school opened in 1978. A former rector was friends with Sampson, and early on, the congregation in suburban Park Ridge helped the school fill out paperwork, gave $1,000 to create the school’s reading lab and secured the down payment for its current building through a $30,000 United Thank Offering grant from the Episcopal Church.

More recently, the church formed a group of a dozen tutors who take turns traveling to the school once a week and providing students one-on-one help with their homework. Such individual attention, Sampson said, may prove critical in helping these 200 or so students, ages 16 to 21, grow into adults who can beat the cycle of violence in their neighborhood.

The gravity of the challenge is written on the wall: The victims memorialized in the school’s mural – the youngest, 15, the oldest, 21 – were the same age as students who now pass by on their way inside each day.

This closeup of the mural memorializing victims of violence shows the years of their deaths date from 1989 to 1994. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service


Tutoring program part of suburban church’s longtime outreach

Park Ridge is in many ways worlds apart from North Lawndale. Residents in this northwest suburb live in modest, well-kept houses with yard signs supporting candidates for alderman, school board and parks board. During the week, they typically commute to work at office jobs in Chicago or run their own businesses in Park Ridge, said the Rev. Patrick Skutch, St. Mary’s rector of two years.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Park Ridge, Illinois, is seen in March. The church has a longtime partnership with CCA Academy about a half hour away in Chicago. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

His congregation is diverse in age, Skutch said, but mostly white. It also is active in the community, for example, organizing a monthly Second Sunday Sack Lunches drive to pack meals for the hungry.

“People here really have a passion for serving others,” Skutch said.

The tutoring program was started by church member Dava Kondiles, a recently retired music teacher.

“The first year it was kind of an experiment. We weren’t even sure what we were going to do,” Kondiles said.

Now in its third year, the program has become a valued part of the CCA Academy routine. Every Tuesday, five of the tutors from St. Mary’s, most of them women, spend four hours at CCA Academy, tutoring one group of students in the morning and a second group in the afternoon.

Sampson, who serves as the school’s chief education officer, said the emphasis typically is on seniors who need the extra push to graduate, and students appreciate the tutors’ help.

“A lot of our students are academically behind, and so sometimes the only way you can grasp a concept and move forward is if someone has some time to spend with you so that you can learn that concept,” she said.

Kondiles, a 64-year-old Skokie resident, said the tutors may get just as much out of the sessions, witnessing the students grow in their education. The tutors see themselves as delivering tools that will help these students rise out of poverty.

“I call it the education brigade,” Kondiles said. “That’s the great leveler.”

Shootings hit close to home for CCA Academy students

In even the best traffic conditions, it takes about a half hour to drive from St. Mary’s in Park Ridge down I-294 and the Eisenhower Expressway to CCA Academy. The streets of North Lawndale pass in front of apartment buildings, auto body shops, liquor stores and retail centers, where the bright lights of stores contrast with the side streets’ duplexes, some of them displaying boarded-up windows.

By most indicators, North Lawndale is a neighborhood besieged by violence and poverty. A Chicago Tribune report in March that focused on the neighborhood’s plight put the indicators in perspective: Last year, out of 77 Chicago neighborhoods, North Lawndale had the fifth-most violent crimes, fifth-most homicides and second-most shootings, at 282.

The neighborhood once was home to the Sears, Roebuck & Co. headquarters, as well as Zenith, Sunbeam and Western Electric. Then in the 1950s, “white flight” was coupled with a surge in black residents, and riots in 1968 over the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were followed by years of decline and industries closing, according to the Steans Family Foundation. Now, 21 percent of North Lawndale’s working-age population is unemployed, 43 percent of households live in poverty and nearly 28 percent of residents do not have a high school diploma, the Tribune reported.

A placard inviting prospective students to “Enroll Now” is positioned outside CCA Academy in March. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

CCA Academy has been a fixture of the neighborhood for all the school’s 39 years. It serves as something of a sanctuary, in a building reclaimed from the neighborhood’s industrial past. The school fills more than 18,000 square feet of a former bottle cap factory, a building that today would be unrecognizable as a school if it weren’t wrapped in telltale murals and signs, including a moveable placard encouraging potential students to “Enroll Now.”

The school grounds have been free of violence, Sampson said, but death surrounds. She estimates three or four of her students each month grapple with the sudden death of a relative or friend, typically a casualty of gunfire. And those who escape danger still may be traumatized by the violence they witness on the streets.

Students don’t readily share such experiences with their tutors from St. Mary’s, and the lesson-minded tutors don’t want to pry. Their presence in these students’ lives often speaks for itself, as in the aftermath of the killing last year of a CCA Academy student by Chicago police, a high-profile incident that shone a dim spotlight on North Lawndale.

The student, 16-year-old Pierre Loury, reportedly was fleeing police at a traffic stop when he was shot by an officer on April 11, 2016, a Monday. Police said Loury had threatened the officer with a gun. The killing sparked criticisms of the force and demonstrations by Loury’s family members and their supporters.

The tutors from St. Mary’s learned of the tension in North Lawndale from a school administrator in a phone call Monday night. Should the tutors still come Tuesday? Yes, certainly, was the response. The school wanted to keep a sense of normalcy, Kondiles said.

When they arrived Tuesday morning, “the atmosphere was pretty electric,” said Paula Risk, 69, a retired nurse and fellow tutor. Some students were working through their feelings by making posters in memory of their slain fellow student, who was to be remembered at a vigil that night.

The drive back to Park Ridge on a day like that can feel like going through decompression, Risk said, but they also see hope to balance the tragedy. The tutors are committed to these students.

“We’re called as Christians to help other people, so you help how you can,” Kondiles said.

Volunteer tutors Dava Kondiles, left, and Paula Risk discuss their work with CCA Academy students in March at a coffee shop near St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Park Ridge, Illinois. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“People want something different, want something better”

The problem of gun violence is bigger than one school or one church, even one city. Chicago has unfortunate company in places like St. Louis, which some have called the country’s real murder capital because it has the highest per capita homicide rate. And a Wall Street Journal analysis in February identified Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Memphis as the four large American cities that have seen homicide totals approach or break records set in the 1990s.

Poverty, racism and violence are “an insidious trinity of evil forces,” Diocese of Maryland Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton said. Taylor is one of the conveners of the upcoming Bishops United conference and coined the phrase “unholy trinity.”

“We see it playing out here in Baltimore almost daily,” Sutton told ENS. “By far, most of the victims of violence are poor and people of color. Also, most of the perpetrators of gun violence are poor and persons of color.”

Chicago has the additional burden of becoming a presidential punching bag. After lamenting generally about crime and poverty as “this American carnage” in his inaugural address, President Donald Trump days later singled out Chicago’s violence for scrutiny, warning he would “send in the Feds” if the city doesn’t solve the problem itself.

Skutch, the rector at St. Mary’s, thinks Trump’s reaction belies the complexity of the issue. “A lot of our cities in America struggle with the same reality,” he said. “It’s one thing to stand outside it and criticize it. It’s another thing to be in it.”

And while gun violence doesn’t plague Park Ridge residents, “our neighbors’ children deal with that on a daily basis,” Skutch said, so his congregation is reaching out any way it can.

Outside support is welcomed in North Lawndale, where children often don’t have the same extended family and institutional support that past generations may have relied on, Sampson said. With help from St. Mary’s, students at CCA Academy typically graduate at a rate of 90 percent or higher.

Sampson sees more in that achievement that a piece of paper to hang on the wall.

“We have young people in Chicago who are 20 and 21 who have not had a job,” she said. “When adults integrate as contributing members of society … we consider that a success.”

North Lawndale is a tough neighborhood, but she also sees hope and perseverance.

“It is a neighborhood with a lot of poverty. It’s a neighborhood with more than its share of crime,” Sampson said. “But in many ways the good, positive thing is that it’s a neighborhood where people want something different, want something better. They have accepted us and appreciate when someone inputs into the community and into the lives of the students.”

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

International gathering of bishops held in northern England

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 12:36pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Leeds Bishop Nick Baines has this week hosted a group of international bishops for a retreat in the north of England.

Those participating were: the archbishop of Khartoum, the bishops of Mara, Colombo, Faisalabad, Southwestern Virginia and Skara and the superintendent of Erfurt. They spent five days with the bishop of Leeds and the suffragan bishops of Bradford, Huddersfield, Richmond, Ripon and Wakefield.

Full article.

World Council of Churches urges end to ‘culture of impunity’ in Syria

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 12:33pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] World Council of Churches General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit has called for a cultural shift as he expressed deep sympathy to the families of the victims of  a suspected nerve gas attack in Idlib province in Syria. Multiple news sources have confirmed that more than 70 people have died, including 20 children, in the village of Khan Sheikhoun.

Full article.

RIP: Former Mississippi Bishop A. C. Marble dies after long declining health

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 5:28pm

[Diocese of Mississippi] The Rt. Rev. Alfred Clark “Chip” Marble Jr. died March 29 at his home in Greensboro, North Carolina, with family members at his bedside.

Marble had been in declining health for some time. He was 81 years old.

Marble was consecrated as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Mississippi in 1993 after serving as bishop coadjutor under Bishop Duncan M. Gray Jr. beginning in 1991.  He served the church as deacon, priest and bishop for almost 50 years.

His ministry began as a curate at St. James’ in Jackson in 1967.  He served at St. Timothy’s in Southaven, Holy Cross in Olive Branch, St. Peter’s in Oxford (where he also served as chaplain at Ole Miss and at Church of the Nativity in Water Valley), Mediator in Meridian, and as a member of the staff in the Diocese of East Carolina.

After retiring as diocesan in Mississippi in 2003, Marble served as an assisting bishop in the Diocese of North Carolina from 2005 to 2013.

While diocesan in Mississippi, Marble gave his support to a build a strong diaconate ministry. “It was the vision of Bishop Marble that brought the vocational diaconate into being in this diocese,” Bishop Duncan Gray III said in 2013 when Gray announced the name change of the diaconal program to The A.C. Marble Center for Theological Formation. The school operates out of The Gray Center and in coordination with the Iona Initiative out of the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.  It continues to train new generations of vocational deacons and, more recently, transitional deacons, for ministry in the Diocese of Mississippi.

“Bishop Marble loved the Lord and joyfully represented Jesus’ love for the world,” Bishop Brian Seage said after learning of Marble’s death.

Marble is survived by his wife, Diene, and two boys, Matt and Jonathan. Your notes of condolence, love and support may be mailed to the family at 1611 Red Forest Road, Greensboro, NC 27410.

A semi-private burial office will be held on August 24, 2017, at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Bovina, Mississippi with the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry officiating. On August 25, 2017, the Episcopal Church of the Mediator, Meridian, Mississippi, will host a churchwide Requiem Eucharist at 10:30 a.m., with  Curry as celebrant and preacher.

Walking to Jerusalem with Christ Church, Covington, Louisiana

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 3:10pm

The Rev. Morgan MacIntire, far right, led a group of parishioners on a three-mile walk after the noon Ash Wednesday service to kick-off the Walk to Jerusalem program. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Morgan MacIntire

[Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana] As the last piece of king cake lingered in the kitchen and brightly colored Mardi Gras beads hung from every tree limb and fence post, the clock struck midnight on February 28 signaling the end of Carnival’s frivolity and overindulgence. The season of Lent had begun. A season to start anew. A season to care for the body, mind, and soul. A season to prepare for the Easter Resurrection.

As the sun rose on this fresh new beginning, parishioners of Christ Episcopal Church in Covington, Louisiana, laced up their walking shoes and set out on a 6,837-mile spiritual journey to Jerusalem.

“I find Lent in South Louisiana to be a very welcomed season,” said the Rev. Morgan MacIntire, associate rector of Christ Church. “People are just ready to get back on track. They have eaten way too much king cake. They have gone to too many parades. They are just exhausted. People are looking for a time to slow down and to reclaim themselves and refocus on their relationship with God.”

Parishioners of Christ Church are participating in the Walk to Jerusalem, a walking program developed by St. John Providence Health System and designed to increase the physical, spiritual and emotional health of participants. The goal is to walk enough miles through the Lenten season to reach Jerusalem by Easter.

MacIntire discovered the program through a seminary classmate whose church was walking to Jerusalem last Lent. “I found it because we are Facebook friends,” MacIntire said. “Sometimes my classmate would take videos while she was walking and post them to Facebook. I began wondering what she was doing and thought it was the coolest thing ever. I called her to ask her about it and she walked me through the nuts and bolts of the program. I brought the idea to Christ Church to implement this Lenten Season. Anne (the Rev. Anne Maxwell, associate rector of Christ Church) and I worked on the program and the meditations together.”

Students from Christ Episcopal School, Covington, log Walk to Jerusalem miles during one of their free periods. Photo: Morgan MacIntire

“Each week the meditations begin with a prayer about walking,” explained MacIntire. “We chose one reading from the Sunday Lectionary to follow the prayer along with a reflection. At the end of each meditation, there is a question to help focus our thoughts. Whenever you go out on your first walk of the week, you are to stop what you are doing and read through the entire piece. While you walk, you meditate on the question. It gives you something to ponder while you are walking all week. I find it very helpful to center my thoughts because they can go all over the place.”

“One reason this program has been effective is that it gives people an opportunity to refocus spiritually but also physically. To have that mind, body, soul connection,” said MacIntire. “When I am walking, I feel like an integrated, whole person. I can feel the ground under my feet. I can feel my muscles ache. I can feel the sun on my skin and the wind on my face. My thoughts are clear and I am in my head because I am thinking.  It is very meditative for me. I believe others have had this experience too.”

William Preau, a parishioner of Christ Church whose family has been participating in the walk, said about his experience: “In all of the walks, runs, swims, and rows that my family and I have dedicated to the Walk to Jerusalem group over the past few weeks, I feel like it has helped me be more Christ-like in all my daily activity. I feel like I am carrying his cross to Jerusalem; suffering on earth, for our just reward in Heaven. All along the way, I am thanking God for all our blessings, and thinking of ways to be more Christ-like and give back to those blessings to the less fortunate among us.”

One key component of the success of the program has been the connection building through a Facebook group where participants can log their miles, post photographs and video, and cheer each other on. People from as far away as Budapest have been participating.

Walking groups have also formed. Parishioners walk throughout the neighborhood surrounding Christ Church and along the shores of nearby Lake Ponchartrain. Even the residents of Christwood Retirement Center in Covington, as well as students from Christ Episcopal School in Covington, have logged miles.

Wili and Sinbad Miller bring on the rear forthe Tuesday morning group, making sure no one gets left behind. Photo: William Miller

One popular group is a Tuesday morning group for dogs and their owners led by the rector of Christ Church, the Rev. William Miller. “Although most of the participation is individual and more about virtual connections,” said Miller, “our dog group has had some quite extraordinary experiences. One morning we honored Ruby, a dog recently lost from her owner. She once was lost, but now is found! On another morning, seven dogs and six humans walked one and a half miles each through our neighborhood. Our ‘Walk to Jerusalem’ was noted curiously by a number of neighbors including one lady who had just arrived back home from the store with nothing more than a case of beer and wondered if she’d missed National Dog Day, and a driver who asked if she could bring her grand-dogs next week. I love this powerful witness to the connections of community and canines.”

Miller also noted that, “There’s an important lesson here for the modern church and how we use technology and social media to connect, support and even inspire each other.”

Relationship building is also taking place among the parishioners of Christ Church, especially those who did not know each other well before the walking program began. “There is a group walk in my neighborhood on Sunday afternoon that is led by a lay person. I have been walking with my neighbors who are also my parishioners,” MacIntire said. “It has been a great opportunity to connect with people that I don’t really get to see. Sunday morning is so busy, so actually having more time to connect with people and talk with people has been great. It has also been good for the parishioners to realize that there are people that live in their neighborhood who go to their church. One couple is already talking about taking our children camping this summer. It has been great building relationships.”

Parishioners from Christ Episcopal Church and Covington Presbyterian Church make a stop during their circuit of the 1.5 mile Stations of the Cross in downtown Covington. Photo: Karen Mackey

The Walk to Jerusalem was the inspiration for another event at Christ Church. There is a one and a half-mile-long walking Stations of the Cross that stops at local businesses and churches in downtown Covington. Maxwell and Youth Director Blake Burns created the station in partnership with Covington Presbyterian Church.

“We decided that if walking was going to be our main focus this Lent then we should do walking stations,” said MacIntire. “I am sure there will be other creative things that happen next year as we reflect on what we did this year.”

What is the progress of the walk so far? “I call them overachievers,” MacIntire said with a laugh. “I tell people, ‘Y’all are just going to have to slow down.’ We have already blown past the 12,000-mile mark. Lent is not over and we have already made it to Jerusalem and are on our way back. Everybody seems to love the fact that last week, the star on the map appeared as if we are stuck in Paris. There has been a lot of talk about what we are doing in France. Who knows where we are going to end up at the end of it all.”

“I can’t wait for Easter and our grand total,” she said. “I am just so excited that this is something people have gotten behind. I think there is a great spirit about it, and it has made the church feel more connected. We are going to do this again next year because it has been so well received. Hopefully, people will be even more excited for it next year because they know it is coming.”

— Karen Mackey is the communication coordinator for the Diocese of Louisiana.

‘Called to the Wall’ to support immigrants

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 2:52pm

Participants from the Episcopal dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego and the Anglican Diocese of Western Mexico march toward the Tijuana border along the California coast. Photo: Greg Tuttle

[Diocese of San Diego] Some traveled from Los Angeles and Orange County. Others from San Diego and Mexico joined in. Everyone who felt “called to the wall” by the Episcopal dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego and the Anglican Diocese of Western Mexico, met in the afternoon of April 1, at the parking lot of Border Field State Park, the most southwest corner of the continental United States where the high border fence between Tijuana, Mexico, and the United States stretches out into the Pacific Ocean.

In this place of horse stables, green beach grass and flowers, and sandy shores for picnics and paths for hiking, people of faith walked a mile-and-a-half south for a shared Eucharist with the Anglican Church of Mexico on two sides of the high border fence at Playas de Tijuana Seccion Terrazas. The mission: to celebrate a Eucharist in support of immigrants, and to raise awareness about their plight and the need for immigration reform.

The crowd of about 75 people walked and sang hymns in Spanish and English on the U.S. side of the border led by guitar and drum accompaniment. Some carried crosses and red banners. They stopped at the water’s edge to complete the last four Stations of the Cross (Via Crucis) which had begun early in the morning in Echo Park, in central Los Angeles, and had continued at the lunch break at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Lemon Grove in the greater San Diego area.

Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardin Bruce led the Eucharist on the U.S. side of the border. The Rev. Guy Leemhuis, a deacon in the Diocese of Los Angeles serving Holy Faith Episcopal Church, led the music and liturgy in Spanish and English. The Rev. Colin Mathewson, co-vicar of St. Luke’s in San Diego, shepherded a group from the Diocese of San Diego to the Mexican side of the border for the binational Eucharist. Western Mexico Bishop Lino Rodriguez Amaro celebrated and presided on the Mexican side where about 60 people gathered, and where a mariachi band provided accompaniment.

“We worshipped together, we prayed, we broke bread and we sang, all through the border fence,” said Bruce. “It was an act of solidarity and an act of healing and proclamation that Jesus Christ is alive and working among us to bring peace and transformation to our families, to our communities, to our nation and to the world.”

The Eucharist alternated in Spanish and English from the Mexican side to the U.S. side, with music, passing of the peace and conversation through the border fence at Friendship Circle, a meeting place between two nations.

“Via Crucis is an important way for people to name the fact that our immigration system is broken,” said the Rev. Colin Mathewson, co-vicar of St. Luke’s in San Diego. “Families are being torn apart. Undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace the full responsibilities of living in America are prevented from doing so while business owners exploit them. We need immigration reform, and this Eucharist is one way we bring attention to the fact that God’s love does not recognize human boundaries. God’s love transcends all boundaries, for we are all one in Christ.”

A boy looks through the border fence from San Diego to the Tijuana side. Photo: Greg Tuttle

In spite of a high border fence at a park where no pedestrian access across the border is allowed, people meet and converse from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, Roman Catholic services are held every Sunday afternoon at Friendship Circle, according to a U.S. border guard.

A nearby mesa affords picnic tables and drinking fountains on the U.S. side. The Mexican side is a busy beach community of homes and businesses. A few miles east of the binational Eucharist is the busiest border crossing in the world.

The San Ysidro border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana is one of three in the county. It is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Annually 13.9 million vehicles and 6.9 million pedestrians cross legally. This largest legal opening in the wall is a smart border with modern SENRTI lanes and pre-approved passes.

Further to the east of the San Ysidro crossing is Otay Mesa where many pedestrians cross from the U.S. on a walkway to Tijuana’s Brown Airport for flights to Mexico City or Guadalajara for business or vacations. Likewise, many Mexican families fly from Brown Field for vacation and family time in Los Angeles and San Diego.

San Diego and Tijuana are often considered a regional community, not a borderline of two countries because the border areas provide access to work and recreation by neighbors who share business, real estate and family interests in two countries.

The first border fence in the 1950s was made of barbed wire. In 1989, construction of a new layer of fencing was made from surplus helicopter landing pads turned on their sides.  It stretched 46 miles, rising to heights of six to 10 feet. In 1996, a second layer of fencing 13 miles long and 15-18 feet high was added. A third layer that stretches into the ocean at Border Field State Park was added later.

A group of over 20 came for the border Eucharist from Iglesia de La Magdalena Episcopal Church of Glendale led by the Rev. Roberto Martinez. Another group came from St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego, and members of Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community of Serra Mesa, shared the border walk with their new pastor, Kori Pacyniak.  Also, Fr. John Goldingay from Fuller Theological Seminary and St. Barnabas, Pasadena, joined the event for the first time.

The Rev. Canon John Taylor, bishop-elect of the Diocese of Los Angeles, brought parishioners from St. John’s Chrysostom in Rancho Marguerita. After the Eucharist, Taylor gave small olivewood crosses from the holy land to the U.S. border guards. The guards were friendly and one of them, a former Marine and father of five children, expressed appreciation for the cross because he is a chaplain for the guards. He is the pastor of a Wesleyan Church who said he enjoys the opportunity to serve at the border wall in a meaningful way.

— Martha King is a parishioner of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Del Mar, California.

From Islam to Roman Catholicism, faith journey leads West African native to Episcopal Church

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 12:34pm

The Rev. Charles Kamano, left, stands next to Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas at Kamano’s service of reception as an Episcopal priest on March 16 at Church of the Holy Spirit in West Haven. Photo: Kamano, via Facebook.

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Charles Kamano may seem like an unlikely Episcopal priest.

When he was received this month by Bishop Ian Douglas as the newest priest in the Diocese of Connecticut, the ceremony was the culmination for Kamano of a long and tumultuous spiritual journey that began thousands of miles away in his native West Africa, where he was raised Muslim and converted to Roman Catholicism as a teenager.

Kamano, despite his father’s harsh disapproval, was so committed to his newfound faith that he was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest. He studied in Rome on a church scholarship but gradually became disenchanted with the church’s hierarchy and left it, immigrating to the United States to start a new life – and a search for a new faith home.

He found the latter in Church of the Holy Spirit, an Episcopal church in West Haven, Connecticut, and after more than six years serving the church and the surrounding community, he was welcomed as an Episcopal priest on March 16 in a service of reception, rather than ordination, since the Episcopal Church accepted his ordination as a Catholic priest.

“It was like the brightest day of my life,” Kamano, 45, told the Episcopal News Service in a phone interview.

Kamano works part time as chaplain at Yale-New Haven Hospital and recently began pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Southern Connecticut State University. He feels fortunate, he said, to find his calling in the Episcopal Church and is looking forward to serving wherever he is needed.

“He’s a very loving, highly intelligent grounded Christian leader,” Douglas said by phone, adding that Kamano is “really inhabiting the Anglican way of being a Christian. … He appreciates a sense of shared authority while being a church that is episcopally led.”

As a boy growing up in Sierra Leone, his religious routine involved going with his family to their mosque, praying in Arabic and fasting regularly. His father practiced the austere Wahhabi form of Islam, which is dominant in Saudi Arabia and influences that country’s laws demanding strict religious adherence. Wahhabism also has been linked to the rise of extremist groups in the Middle East, notably the group known as Islamic State, or ISIS.

At age 6, he begged his father to let him attend a local Catholic school where some of his friends went, and surprisingly, his father agreed, after hearing from other parents that a good education would give his son professional advantages as an adult.

Along with his education, though, he was developing an appreciation for the faith of the nuns and priests who were his teachers.

“The more I grew … I was contrasting the worldview of the Christian way of living to that of the Muslim worldview,” Kamano said. He saw Christian values as universal values, like showing charity, loving your neighbor, doing no harm or violence. While Muslims in more tolerant sects also emphasize love and charity, his father’s worldview, in Kamano’s eyes, was strict and demanding.

When he decided at age 16 to take catechism classes to convert to Catholicism, he had to do so in secret. None of his family members attended his baptism, and he said his father even threatened to kill him when he made known his desire to attend seminary.

Fearing for his safety, he fled to his parents’ native Guinea with help from his mother. After seven years of seminary studies there and in Mali, he was ordained in 2001 and assigned to two Catholic parishes in Guinea. He later studied in Rome on a church scholarship.

As the years passed, Kamano began to question the rigid hierarchy of the Catholic Church and some of its teachings. Some of its top-down mandates, such as priest celibacy, seemed to him out of touch with the daily lives of Christians.

“Why can’t you live up to a vocation as you are, as God wanted you to be?” Kamano asked himself.

In 2009, when Kamano expressed his reservations to his bishop in Rome he lost his scholarship. Later he found himself at a spiritual crossroads and in early 2010 resigned from his service in the Catholic Church.

Unable to return to Sierra Leone for fear of religious persecution, Kamano decided to resettle in Connecticut, where in 2008 he had served an internship in the Archdiocese of Hartford. When he first attended Church of the Holy Spirit in West Haven, he didn’t count on the warm welcome from the Rev. Lisa Hahneman.

“He pretty much hoped to sneak in and sneak out,” Hahneman, Holy Spirit’s rector, told Episcopal News Service. “And as I like to say, I beat him to the back door.”

She greeted him on his way out and learned that he was a Catholic priest looking for an Episcopal congregation.

“I was fascinated,” she said. He told her more of his background when they met later that week, and she began working with him to develop the process by which he eventually was received as a priest in the church.

Kamano became a reader during Sunday services at Church of the Holy Spirit. He ministered to French-speaking West Africans in the area. And he accompanied Hahneman to church services for the Haitian community in nearby Bridgeport, where Hahneman handled liturgical duties and Kamano delivered sermons in French.

“I came to deeply respect his journey and the depth of his spirituality,” Hahneman said.

Now as an Episcopal priest, more doors may be opening for Kamano in the diocese, which always has congregations in need of priests. Kamano said he feels humbly blessed.

“I have always loved the priesthood,” he said. “I know how privileged I am to be called by God – even though I am nothing, I am human.”

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

‘Vitality and growth across the Communion’

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 11:43am

[Anglican Communion News Service] It is almost exactly a year since the Anglican Consultative Council met for ACC-16 in Lusaka, Zambia. So much has been happening across our Communion since then. Let me tell you about just a few things to give you a taste of how active and lively our Communion has been in the last few months.

Full article.

Joann Saylors named canon for mission amplification in Diocese of Texas

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 9:46am

[Diocese of Texas] The Rev. Canon Joann Saylors has accepted a call as canon for mission amplification the Diocese of Texas announced April 4. Bishop Andy Doyle noted that after an extensive search drew applications from across the country and Canada, the successful candidate was “right next door.”

Saylors, who will join the diocesan staff July 1, is currently canon for deployment and congregational development in the Diocese of West Texas. Her pre-seminary background as a CPA working in project management and team leadership, combined with her ministry in a parish and experience in congregational development, “distinguished her in a supremely talented field of candidates,” said Doyle.

“I am excited about Bishop Doyle’s vision for the future of the Church and grateful for the opportunity to help reimagine the place of the Church in the world, facilitating new and creative ways to live into God’s mission with the world,” Saylors said.

“Canon Saylors is the perfect fit for this critical position,” Doyle added, noting, “This was not an easy brief to fill, but I’m delighted that she shares our excitement for the diocesan vision and brings substantive giftedness and specific experience for the ministry that lies ahead.”

The Rev. Kai Ryan, canon to the ordinary and diocesan chief operating officer led the yearlong search. “Joann understands deeply the power of Christ’s love to change lives and communities and will add to Mary MacGregor’s excellent legacy,” Ryan said.

Saylors will lead the Mission Amplification Team’s five missioners to assist leaders and congregations to plant new communities of faith, both church plants and missional communities, and to nurture congregations and their leaders. The team provides coaching and consulting, as well as assessments and programs like cultural competency training and formation events. Additionally, the diocesan team helps congregations strategize and engage in effective action in response to opportunities and challenges. With the arrival of the new canon, the Mission Amplification Team will be able to support more congregations to enhance and expand their ministries to have an impact on their communities.

Saylors has served in her West Texas role since 2012, when she and her husband Rick relocated from Church of the Redeemer, Irving, in the Diocese of Dallas. She received her Master of Divinity from Seminary of the Southwest in Austin in 2010. Prior to ordination, Saylors was a financial systems and project management consultant. Born in Pennsylvania and raised in Dallas, she graduated from the University of Texas as a Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Plan II Honors Program and a bachelor’s degree in business administration in honors finance and accounting. She remains a licensed CPA.  She has served ex officio on a number of diocesan committees and as a member of the Board of Good Samaritan Community Services in San Antonio. She and Rick enjoy books, travel and spoiling their three dogs, as well as their quest to find the perfect breakfast taco.

La politique d’immigration de Donald Trump force l’Église épiscopale à réduire son réseau de réinstallation des réfugiés

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 3:39pm

Bien qu’auparavant scolarisée en sixième année, Ayesh, qui a fui le Gouvernorat d’Idleb en Syrie pour se rendre en Turquie, ne va pas à l’école. Photo : UNICEF/Shehzad Noorani

[Episcopal News Service] En 2018, L’Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) va diviser par six son réseau de trente-et-un membres affiliés en raison de l’évolution de la politique des États-Unis qui va diminuer de plus de la moitié le nombre de réfugiés se réinstallant dans le pays chaque année.

Ces affiliés et les diocèses de l’Église épiscopale dans lesquels ils sont situés, sont les suivants :

  • Refugee One à Chicago dans l’llinois (Diocèse de Chicago).
  • Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida à Jacksonville (Diocèse de Floride).
  • Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota à Fargo et Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota à Grand Forks (Diocèse du Dakota du Nord).
  • Ascentria Care Alliance à Concord dans le New Hampshire (Diocèse du New Hampshire).
  • Ascentria Care Alliance à Westfield dans le Massachusetts (Diocèse de l’Ouest du Massachusetts).

EMM ne réinstallera pas de réfugiés par l’entremise de ces affiliés pendant l’exercice fédéral 2018 (du 1er octobre 2017 au 30 septembre 2018).

Les fermetures prévues sont une disposition douloureuse mais stratégiquement nécessaire, confie le chanoine E. Marquez Stevenson, directeur d’EMM, à Episcopal News Service. Qui plus est, elles arrivent à la suite de deux autres décisions récentes visant à réduire l’empreinte d’EMM, l’une directement liée à l’évolution de la politique gouvernementale concernant les réfugiés et l’autre pas.

« C’est douloureux, c’est horrible mais nous espérons – nous prions – que nous ayons pris les bonnes décisions pour la santé du réseau global et pour le bien-être des réfugiés », poursuit-il. « C’est notre souci numéro un ».

À la suite des décrets du président Donald Trump sur l’immigration qui réduisent de plus de la moitié le nombre de réfugiés pouvant être réinstallés chaque année dans le pays, le département d’État des États-Unis a émis une directive à l’intention des organismes de réinstallation annonçant au maximum 50 000 admissions de réfugiés au cours du prochain exercice. Le plus récent des deux décrets de Donald Trump se trouve ici.

Mark Stevenson explique qu’EMM et les huit autres organismes de réinstallation qui travaillent sous contrat fédéral américain pour réinstaller des réfugiés « étudient la façon de se structurer pour avoir la taille qui convient pour l’exercice 2018 ».

Les autres organismes de réinstallation sont Church World Service, Ethiopian Community Development CouncilHIAS (auparavant connu sous le nom de Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), International Rescue Committee, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services et World Relief (selon le droit fédéral, les réfugiés ne peuvent entrer aux États-Unis que sous les auspices d’un de ces organismes).

« Nous étudions également comment nous structurer pour rester en bonne santé pour le reste de cette année car une grande partie du financement qui provient du gouvernement fédéral est calculé sur le nombre de réfugiés arrivant aux États-Unis », ajoute-t-il.

Ainsi, lorsque les réfugiés ne peuvent pas entrer aux États-Unis, les organismes de réinstallation comme EMM reçoivent beaucoup moins d’argent fédéral que prévu. Cette réduction rend également plus difficile la prestation de services continus aux réfugiés déjà réinstallés aux États-Unis.

Les administrateurs de chacun des neuf organismes sont forcés de faire des choix pour préserver l’intégrité du réseau d’organismes et d’affiliés de la meilleure manière pour les réfugiés.

« Il est important que nous ayons un système permettant de réinstaller les réfugiés là où ils sont en sécurité, où c’est abordable, où l’occasion leur est donnée de prospérer en tant que nouveaux Américains », explique Mark Stevenson.

En gardant ceci à l’esprit, dit-il, chaque organisme fait des choix en fonction de là où il opère à présent, où il opère en partenariat avec d’autres organismes et où, compte tenu des nationalités prévues des réfugiés futurs, d’anciens réfugiés ont formé des communautés qui peuvent aider les nouveaux venus.

« Nous ne voulons pas abandonner une communauté complètement à son sort », poursuit Mark Stevenson.

Le chanoine E. Mark Stevenson et le personnel national d’Episcopal Migration Ministries se sont retrouvés lors d’une retraite à l’Episcopal Church Center de New York alors qu’EMM et les huit autres organismes de réinstallation des États-Unis étaient confrontés à des réductions budgétaires en raison de la politique des États-Unis en matière d’admission de réfugiés. Photo : EMM via Facebook

Période inquiétante pour la réinstallation des réfugiés

Les dernières sept semaines et demie ont été difficiles et imprévisibles pour les neuf organismes de réinstallation.

Le 27 janvier, le décret initial de Donald Trump a suspendu l’entrée des réfugiés aux États-Unis pour au moins 120 jours. Le décret indiquait également que lorsque l’administration lèverait l’interdiction, d’autres restrictions seraient imposées aux réfugiés potentiels de sept pays à majorité musulmane. Donald Trump a en outre déclaré qu’une fois l’interdiction levée, il n’autoriserait que 50 000 réfugiés à entrer aux États-Unis au lieu des 110 000 prévus pour l’exercice. Selon le droit fédéral, le président décide chaque année du nombre maximum de réfugiés qui seront autorisés à se réinstaller aux États-Unis. Les neuf organismes avaient tous adaptés leurs personnel et bureaux pour réinstaller un bien plus grand nombre de réfugiés.

Le 6 février, James Robart, juge de District des États-Unis à Seattle a temporairement bloqué la mesure prise par Donald Trump, laissant le Programme d’admission des réfugiés du Département d’État dans l’incertitude. Donald Trump a émis son deuxième décret présidentiel le 6 mars, retirant l’Irak de la liste des sept pays et reformulant son premier décret pour tenter d’éviter de nouvelles allégations de violation de la garantie de liberté religieuse qui figure dans la Constitution des États-Unis. Le nouveau décret maintient la réduction du nombre de réfugiés qui peuvent entrer aux États-Unis une fois que l’activité reprend.

Le décret du 6 mars est en suspens tandis que les juges de district fédéraux examinent les contestations. Le 29 mars, Derrick Watson, juge de district des États-Unis à Hawaï a bloqué le décret présidentiel pour une période plus longue. Derrick Watson avait auparavant imposé un jugement provisoire. La décision reste en vigueur jusqu’à ce que Derrick Watson en décide autrement, y compris au cours d’une procédure en appel déposée le jour suivant par l’administration Trump.

Le gouvernement a également fait appel de la décision d’un juge fédéral du Maryland qui a bloqué le décret. Et James Robart, le juge de district fédéral de l’État de Washington, n’a pas encore statué sur les contestations du deuxième décret présidentiel.

Le terme « réfugié » a un sens juridique spécifique. Le Haut Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés (UNHCR) désigne une personne en tant que « réfugiée » si elle fuit la persécution, la guerre ou la violence. Ces personnes présentent une demande de désignation et sont considérées de façon distincte des immigrés. Elles obtiennent la désignation de réfugiées une fois que l’UNHCR a vérifié leur demande. Episcopal Migration Ministries réinstalle les réfugiés qui ont reçu la désignation de l’ONU, sont envoyés par l’ONU aux États-Unis et subissent un processus de vérification des États-Unis.

L’impact du décret présidentiel sur les résultats d’EMM est particulièrement lourd car EMM est un ministère unique de l’Église épiscopale, tant sur le plan structurel que fiscal. Tout en n’étant pas constitué en société séparée comme l’est Episcopal Relief & Development, EMM reçoit très peu d’argent du budget général de l’église, recevant au lieu de cela 99,5 % de son financement du gouvernement fédéral. Son bureau principal est sis au sein de l’Episcopal Church Center à New York.

Mark Stevenson indique que 90 % de l’argent du contrat va directement à la réinstallation des réfugiés. EMM retient environ 2 millions de dollars pour ses coûts administratifs, y compris tous les salaires du personnel national. Tout argent inutilisé est reversé au gouvernement.

Les affiliés reçoivent de l’argent des contrats fédéraux par l’intermédiaire d’EMM et sont ainsi confrontés à d’importantes réductions budgétaires lorsqu’aucun réfugié n’entre dans le pays. Le réseau d’EMM est une combinaison de trois types d’affiliés. Deux sont essentiellement des succursales d’EMM. Les autres sont des structures indépendantes qui travaillent uniquement avec EMM ou avec EMM et Church World Service et/ou Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Les affiliés utilisent des réserves de trésorerie, des collectes de fonds et tout appui qu’EMM peut leur donner pour payer leurs salariés et couvrir les loyers et autres charges d’exploitation. Le Conseil exécutif de l’Église est convenu en février de donner à EMM 500 000 dollars pour l’aider pour l’exercice 2017. L’organisme lui-même a récemment annoncé une campagne de collecte de fonds pour combler l’écart de financement.

Au cours de l’exercice 2016, soit du 1er octobre 2015 au 30 septembre 2016, EMM a réinstallé aux États-Unis 5 762 réfugiés provenant de 35 pays, notamment de la République démocratique du Congo, de la Birmanie, de l’Afghanistan et de la Syrie. Pour l’exercice en cours, EMM a déjà accueilli 2 766 réfugiés et avait prévu de réinstaller 6 175 personnes jusqu’à ce que Donald Trump signe son décret le 27 janvier. Au total, chacun des neuf organismes a déjà réinstallé environ 38 000 réfugiés pour l’exercice en cours, explique Mark Stevenson.

Depuis le changement de politique de l’administration Trump, EMM a réduit son personnel national de base de 22 % du fait de la réduction du financement fédéral. EMM a annoncé en février qu’il fermerait le bureau qu’il avait à Miami depuis plus de 30 ans, non pas en raison des décisions de l’administration Trump mais du fait des changements décidés par l’ancien Président Barack Obama en ce qui concerne la politique des États-Unis vis-à-vis des migrants cubains.

La division par six du réseau d’affiliés et la fermeture du bureau de Miami représentent une réduction de 23 % du réseau, poursuit Mark Stevenson. « Nous espérons que ce sera suffisant », ajoute-t-il.

Certains des neuf autres organismes de réinstallation ont déjà annoncé leurs décisions. World Relief a déclaré à la mi-février qu’il  lui faudrait licencier plus de 140 membres de son personnel et fermer ses bureaux de Boise (État de l’Idaho), Columbus (État de l’Ohio), Miami, Nashville (État du Tennessee) et Glen Burnie (État du Maryland).

Church World Service a lancé une campagne de collecte de fonds d’un million de dollars.

L’autre réalité, explique Mark Stevenson, est que le nombre réduit de réfugiés et les décisions que les organismes doivent prendre vont nuire à l’économie des villes des affiliés. Les propriétaires qui louent aux réfugiés, les employeurs qui les embauchent et les professeurs de langue, le personnel médical, les employés des écoles qui les aident à s’intégrer dans la société américaine vont perdre de l’argent ou des emplois, prédit Mark Stevenson.

« Nous prenons les meilleures décisions stratégiques que nous pouvons en fonction des informations dont nous disposons », conclut-il. « Ainsi, compte tenu des informations que nous avons maintenant et en partant de l’hypothèse que les neuf organismes de réinstallation continuent tous de travailler, nous croyons que cet ajustement de la taille de notre réseau nous positionnera correctement et nous permettra d’être un réseau sain de réinstallation des réfugiés lorsque prend fin la suspension et pour l’exercice 2018 ».

Entretemps, Rebecca Linder Blachly, directrice des relations avec le gouvernement de l’Église épiscopale a déclaré à ENS que son bureau continuerait à aider ceux de l’administration qui décideront si l’interdiction peut être levée après 120 jours à « faire confiance au bon processus que nous avons mis en place » pour la réinstallation des réfugiés.

Le  communiqué de presse officiel concernant la réduction se trouve ici.

– La révérende Mary Frances Schjonberg est rédacteur et journaliste pour l’Episcopal News Service.

Trump’s immigration policies force reduction of Episcopal Church’s refugee resettlement network

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 3:23pm

Although she used to be in grade six, Ayesh, who fled to Turkey from the Idlib Governorate of Syria does not attend school. Photo: UNICEF/Shehzad Noorani

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Migration Ministries will reduce the size of its 31-member affiliate network by six in 2018 because of changing U.S. policy that will reduce the number of refugees to be resettled in this country annually by more than half.

The affiliates, and the Episcopal dioceses in which they are located, are:

  • Refugee One in Chicago, Illinois (Diocese of Chicago);
  • Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida in Jacksonville (Diocese of Florida);
  • Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota in Fargo and Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota in Grand Forks (Diocese of North Dakota);
  • Ascentria Care Alliance in Concord, New Hampshire (Diocese of New Hampshire);
  • Ascentria Care Alliance in Westfield, Massachusetts (Diocese of Western Massachusetts).

EMM will not resettle refugees through these affiliates for the federal fiscal year 2018 (Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018).

The planned closings are a painful but strategically necessary move, the Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, EMM’s director, told Episcopal News Service. Moreover, they come after two other recent decisions to shrink EMM’s footprint, one directly related to the government’s changing refugee policy and one not.

“It’s painful; it’s horrible, but we hope – we pray – that we have made the right decisions for the health of the overall network and for the well-being of the refugees,” he said. “That is our number one concern.”

Following President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration that reduce the number of refugees able to be annually resettled in the country by more than half, the U.S. Department of State has issued guidance to the resettlement agencies to plan for no more than 50,000 refugee admissions in the coming fiscal year. The most recent of Trump’s two orders is here.

Stevenson said EMM and the other eight resettlement agencies that work under U.S. federal contracts to resettle refugees “are looking at structuring ourselves to be the right size for fiscal year 2018.”

The other resettlement agencies are Church World Service, Ethiopian Community Development Council, HIAS (formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), International Rescue Committee, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services and World Relief. (By federal law, refugees may only enter the U.S. under the auspices of one of those agencies.)

“We’re also looking at how we structure ourselves to stay healthy during the remainder of this year because much of the funding that comes from the federal government is calculated on the number of refugees coming to the United States,” he said.

Thus, when refugees cannot enter the U.S., resettlement agencies such as EMM receive far less federal money than anticipated. That reduction also makes it harder to provide ongoing services to refugees already resettled in the U.S.

Administrators at all nine agencies have been forced to make choices that will preserve the integrity of the network of agencies and affiliates in a way that is the best for refugees.

“It’s important for us to have a system where refugees are resettled where it is safe, where it’s affordable, where opportunity is given to them to thrive as new Americans,” Stevenson said.

With those concerns in mind, he said, each agency has been making choices based on where it operates now, where it operates in partnership with other agencies and where, given the anticipated nationalities of future refugees, former refugees have formed communities that can support newcomers.

“We don’t want to leave a community completely in the lurch,” Stevenson said.

The Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson and the national staff of Episcopal Migration Ministries met for a retreat at the Episcopal Church Center in New York as EMM and the eight other resettlement agencies in the United States were facing cuts due to changing U.S. policy on refugee admissions. Photo: EMM via Facebook

An unsettling time for refugee resettlement

The past seven and a half weeks have been a difficult and unpredictable for the nine resettlement agencies.

On Jan. 27,  Trump’s initial executive order suspended the entry of refugees into the United States for at least 120 days. The order also said that when the administration lifts the ban, there would be further restrictions on potential refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. Furthermore, Trump said that, after the ban ends, he would allow only 50,000 refugees into the United States instead of the anticipated 110,000 this fiscal year. By federal law, the president makes an annual determination of the maximum number of refugees that will be allowed to resettle in the United States. All nine agencies had geared up with people and offices to resettle the larger number of refugees.

U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle on Feb. 6 temporarily blocked Trump’s action, leaving the State Department’s refugee admissions program in limbo. Trump issued his second executive order March 6, removing Iraq from the list of seven countries and rewording his first order in an attempt to avoid new allegations that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s religious freedom guarantee. The new order maintains the reduction in the number of refugees who can enter the U.S. after that work resumes.

The March 6 order is on hold while federal district court judges consider challenges to it. On March 29, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii issued a longer-lasting hold on the order. Watson had earlier imposed a temporary restraining order. The ruling is in effect until Watson orders otherwise, including during an appeal, which the Trump administration filed the next day.

The government has also appealed the ruling of a federal judge in Maryland that blocked the order. And Robart, the federal district judge in Washington, has not yet ruled on challenges to the second order.

The executive order’s impact on EMM’s bottom line is especially drastic because EMM is a unique ministry of the Episcopal Church, both structurally and fiscally. While not separately incorporated, as is Episcopal Relief & Development, EMM receives very little money from the church-wide budget, instead receiving 99.5 percent of its funding from the federal government. Its main office is housed at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

Stevenson has said that 90 percent of the contract money directly goes to resettling refugees. EMM retains about $2 million for administrative costs, including all national staff salaries. Any unused money goes back to the government.

The affiliates receive money via EMM from the federal contracts and thus face big budget cuts when no refugees enter the country. EMM’s network is a mixture of three types of affiliates. Two are essentially EMM branch offices. The rest are independent operations that work only with EMM or with EMM and Church World Service and/or Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Affiliates are using cash reserves, fundraising and whatever support EMM can give them to pay their employees and cover leases and other operating expenses. The Church’s Executive Council agreed in February to give EMM $500,000 to help it through 2017. The agency itself recently announced a fundraising campaign to bridge the funding gap.

In fiscal year 2016, which ran from Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 30, 2016, EMM resettled 5,762 refugees to the United States from 35 countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Afghanistan and Syria. Already this fiscal year, EMM welcomed 2,766 refugees and anticipated resettling 6,175 people until Trump signed his order Jan. 27. Overall, all nine agencies have already resettled approximately 38,000 refugees this fiscal year, Stevenson said.

Since the Trump administration’s policy shift, EMM has reduced its national core staff by 22 percent due to the reduced federal funding. It announced in late February that it would close its more than 30-year-old Miami office, not because of the Trump administration’s moves but because of changes made by former President Barack Obama to U.S. policy on Cuban migrants.

Reducing the affiliate network by six and closing the Miami office equals a 23 percent reduction in the network, Stevenson said. “We are hopeful that will be sufficient,” he added.

Some of the other nine resettlement agencies have already announced their decisions. World Relief said in mid-February that it would lay off more than 140 staff members and close offices in Boise, Idaho; Columbus, Ohio; Miami; Nashville, Tennessee, and Glen Burnie, Maryland.

Church World Service has begun a $1 million fundraising campaign.

The other reality, Stevenson said, is that the reduced number of refugees and the decisions the agencies have to make will hurt the economies in the affiliates’ cities. Landlords who rent to refugees, employers who hire them and the language teachers, medical personnel, school employees who help them integrate into U.S. society will lose money or jobs, Stevenson predicted.

“We’re making the best strategic decisions that we can every day based on the information we have in front of us,” he said. “So, given the information that we have now and the assumptions that we’re all working across all nine resettlement agencies, we believe that that adjustment in our network size will properly position us to be a healthy network for resettling refugees come the end of a suspension and into fiscal 2018.”

Meanwhile, Episcopal Church Director of Government Relations Rebecca Linder Blachly told ENS that her office would continue to help those in the administration who will decide if the ban can be lifted after 120 days “be confident that we have a good process in place” for resettling refugees.

The official press release concerning the reduction is here.

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