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Courtney Cowart named to head Society for the Increase of the Ministry

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 10:51am

[Society for the Increase of the Ministry press release] The Society for the Increase of the Ministry announces the appointment of Courtney V. Cowart as its incoming executive director effective March 1. SIM’s current executive director, Thomas Moore, will serve with Cowart until his retirement from that position on SIM’s 160th birthday, October 2, 2017.

Cowart brings a wealth of experience in theological education and leadership development along with strong working relationships with Episcopal leaders and major foundations investing in formation. With her close understanding of SIM’s ministry, she expresses her enthusiasm for this new position and challenge.

“In its 160th year, the board’s vision for the Society for the Increase of the Ministry never mattered more: To build a diverse army of outstanding faith leaders with a strong public witness for the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, and to lead a turnaround in funding theological education through significantly expanding scholarships for those consecrating their lives to God’s loving, liberating, life-giving presence in the world,” she said.

Part of Cowart’s work at SIM will be focused on long-range and strategic planning; she envisions developing a funding mechanism that equips all Christians to receive the training and formation to live out a baptismal call to ministry.

Cowart comes to SIM from the School of Theology of the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, where she has served as the director of the Beecken Center and associate deanAt the Beecken Center she developed educational resources and networks for delivering resources for vocational discernment, leadership formation, and church renewal.

Her career in the Episcopal Church has been devoted to a vision of the church passionately engaged in the transformation of lives and society. Her thesis as a doctoral student at General Theological Seminary documented the ways nineteenth-century New Yorkers through voluntary societies sought to heal the spiritual and social wounds of their day. Later as a theological educator at GTS, she helped manage the ministry of St. Paul’s Chapel at Ground Zero. Her impact at Ground Zero led to a five-year deployment in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to steward the largest domestic grant ever made by Episcopal Relief & Development. After the completion of her work in New Orleans, Cowart was hired by the Fund for Theological Education to create new curricula for theological education programs and deliver them to the church on a national scale.

In this opportunity to lead SIM, the only organization raising funds on a national basis for support available to all Episcopal seminarians, Cowart sees potential for developing a funding mechanism that equips the baptized to receive the training and formation that can mobilize large numbers to live out their calls to ministry.

The Society for the Increase of the Ministry invests in theological education of Episcopal seminarians and in their formation as leaders to increase the ministry of the Episcopal Church.  Since its founding in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1857, SIM has supported over 5000 seminarians with over $6 million in scholarships.  In the current academic year, SIM is providing support to 48 students attending nine seminaries.

About his successor, Moore said: “Of SIM’s accomplishments of which I am most proud, attracting Courtney Cowart as my successor is at the top. We will be in the good hands of a proven leader.”

Archbishop of Canterbury issues statement on Synod vote on marriage, sexuality report

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 10:45am

[Episcopal News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issued the following statement Feb. 15 after the General Synod’s vote “not to take note” of a report by the House of Bishops on marriage and same-sex relationships:

No person is a problem, or an issue. People are made in the image of God. All of us, without exception, are loved and called in Christ. There are no ‘problems’, there are simply people.

How we deal with the real and profound disagreement – put so passionately and so clearly by many at the Church of England’s General Synod debate on marriage and same-sex relationships today – is the challenge we face as people who all belong to Christ.

To deal with that disagreement, to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.

We need to work together – not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone – to move forward with confidence.

The vote today is not the end of the story, nor was it intended to be. As bishops we will think again and go on thinking, and we will seek to do better. We could hardly fail to do so in the light of what was said this afternoon.

The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ – all of us, without exception, without exclusion.

Church of England’s report on marriage, sexuality suffers setback at Synod

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 3:37pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A report from the Church of England‘s House of Bishops about marriage and same-sex relationships has received a significant setback in a vote at the General Synod in London. It is an embarrassing symbolic rejection of the bishops’ report which had stated that there should be no change in the church’s teaching while calling for a “fresh tone” on the issues. Speaking before the vote, the Archbishop of Canterbury said he believed passionately that the report that had been worked on and struggled with was a roadmap and he promised the church would find a new “inclusion.”

Full article.

Jerusalem archbishop criticizes U.S. immigration restrictions

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 11:19am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis, primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, has described U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to restrict entry to the United States from seven Muslim-majority nations as a “naive” solution based on “generalization and discrimination.” He also criticized the decision to prioritize the refugee applications of Christians in the Middle East.

Full article.

Archbishop of Canterbury calls on churches to be part of ‘reimagining’ new Britain

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 11:14am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has addressed the rise of far-right politics, the election of President Trump and Britain’s decision to vote to leave the European Union in his presidential address at the start of the Church of England’s General Synod.

Full article.

Northern California Episcopal churches turn out for Oroville Dam evacuees

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 10:05am

Fears that an emergency spillway would fail at the Oroville Dam in Northern California prompted authorities to evacuate the homes of more than 180,000 people down river. Photo: California Department of Water Resources, via Facebook.

[Diocese of Northern California] More than 180,000 Northern California residents were ordered to evacuate on the afternoon of Feb. 12, after officials said the emergency spillway from the Oroville Dam might fail.

The first tweet from the California Department of Water Resources came in at 4:24 p.m. and sketched the situation in the darkest of tones: “EMERGENCY EVACUATION: Auxiliary spillway at Oroville Dam predicted to fail within the next hour. Oroville residents evacuate northward.” The evacuation orders spread to several other townships and counties, snarling traffic on the highways as people fled.

EMERGENCY EVACUATION: Auxiliary spillway at Oroville Dam predicted to fail within the next hour. Oroville residents evacuate northward.

— CA – DWR (@CA_DWR) February 13, 2017

Although officials backed off their most dire predictions later that night, many residents were still stuck in shelters, not sure when they could return home.

Episcopal Church members who didn’t have to heed evacuation notices rallied to be present for those fleeing a potential disaster, with waiting and anxiety being some of the worst aspects of the situation.

And for some, it wasn’t the first time they were fleeing from disaster.

The Rev. Richard Yale, rector of St. John the Evangelist in Chico, which was designated an official evacuation center, posted on Feb. 13 in the morning on his Facebook page: “Putting a crisis in perspective: one of our Iraqi guests mentioned that being evacuated because of the spillway at the dam doesn’t quite compare to having to flee Baghdad because terrorists threaten to kill your family.”

The Oroville Dam, which is the tallest in the United States, is one of the main features of California’s water system. It stores 3.5 million acre-feet of water, which is used for irrigation and drinking water from northern to southern California. Water crested over the emergency spillway on Feb. 11 for the first time since the dam was opened 48 years ago, according to the Sacramento Bee.

For a while, officials thought they had it under control. But then they found that the emergency spillway had eroded, raising concerns that it could fail and trigger an uncontrolled release of water. The dam is about two hours north of Sacramento, though officials said so far there was no “imminent threat” to California’s capital city.

Yale said that though there had been some chaos, there also had been great ecumenical support. “There’s been real sharing and caring and openness,” he said.

St. John’s didn’t lack for food and necessities like baby formula, thanks to the local Presbyterian church, but there was a shortage of cots to accommodate the 40 people or so who slept at the church on Feb. 12.

One St. John’s parishioner, who had been homeless but found permanent housing with the church’s support, spent hours throughout the night locating cots for the evacuees, until Yale finally sent him home to rest.

“It’s those angel moments,” he said, that kept him going through a long night.

Northern California Bishop Barry Beisner, who had been in touch with clergy and lay leaders in the affected region throughout the evacuation, wrote to his diocese asking for prayers: “As I write this Monday morning, at least one of the towns evacuated last night has had the order lifted, and some of the nearly 200,000 displaced last night will soon be home.

“But major disruption is still an issue in many lives right now, and uncertainty still looms, as assessing/repairing damage to the dam continues,” Beisner wrote.

The Rev. Gary Brown, deacon at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Grass Valley, reached by phone, said that he was manning a coffee and tea station at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. About 500 people were at the center, Brown said.

“It’s hard,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of sad faces and apprehension. The thing is, folks don’t know how long it is that they will be out of their homes. They didn’t have time to get the things they would like to have taken.

“It’s the little things,” Brown said, recalling one man who left so fast he didn’t have time to retrieve a leash for his dog. So a parishioner from Emmanuel fetched rope from his car for an improvised leash.

The Rev. Terri Hobart, rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Woodland said she had checked in with the Red Cross shelter at the Yolo County Fairgrounds and they were set with everything they needed, for the time being.

“People at the fairgrounds are tired, they’re shocked,” she said. “If they slept, they slept on cots in a huge room. Everybody is just waiting to see what’s going to happen.”

The disaster coordinator for the diocese, Margaret Dunning, said that now was not the time when people should send in food and other things because the Salvation Army was there to provide food and basic necessities.

“We need to hang on, pray and wait to see what goes on,” Dunning said.

By Feb. 13, water releases from the dam had lowered the level of the lake and the erosion appeared to be contained.

There’s still concern, not only about the erosion, but also about another storm system that’s due to move into the area later in the week.

Hobart said she was hopeful that the evacuees would get to go home soon.

“And if not, we’ll figure out what they need and get it to him,” she said.

-Paula Schaap is the Diocese of Northern California’s communications director.

Video: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaches in Ghana

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 8:30pm

[Episcopal News Service – Accra, Ghana] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached Jan. 22 during a service at Cathedral Church of the Most Holy Trinity in the Anglican Diocese of Accra.

Curry is leading a weeklong Episcopal Relief & Development pilgrimage focused on reconciliation to Ghana Jan. 20-28, visiting cities and sites critical to understanding the trans-Atlantic slave trade and Episcopal Relief & Development partners and programs working to improve Ghanaians’ lives.

 

 

Carl Wright takes up ‘living paradox’ of an episcopate

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 6:08pm

The Rt. Rev. Carl Wright, newly ordained and consecrated as bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries receives the applause of the congregation gathered at Washington National Cathedral. Photo: Donovan Marks/Washington National Cathedral

[Episcopal News Service — Washington, D.C.] Carl Wright, a rector and former Air Force chaplain, became the Episcopal Church’s bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries Feb. 11 during a service filled with bishops, clergy, lay people and military officers.

The Rev. Harold Lewis, rector emeritus of Calvary Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Wright’s longtime mentor, punctuated the service’s pomp and precision with strong words during his sermon from the Canterbury Pulpit of Washington National Cathedral. Lewis told Wright he was “about enter a ministry whose challenges may well be unique among those of your sister and brother bishops.”

“You will be at times finding yourself in one modern-day Babylon or another, singing the Lord’s song in a strange land,” Lewis said. “You will be a living paradox: Having been a commissioned officer who does not bear arms, you are now a lover of peace who ministers to those who prepare for and engage in war.”

“You will be a living paradox, having been a commissioned officer who does not bear arms, you are now a lover of peace who ministers to those who prepare for and engage in war,” the Rev. Harold Lewis tells Carl Wright in his sermon for the latter’s ordination and consecration bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries Feb. 11 at Washington National Cathedral. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Lewis reminded Wright that he and the chaplains under his care minister to “warriors, inmates and veterans” and their families. Many of them suffer from post-traumatic stress as well as from moral injury, a condition “born out of experiences which include the harmful aftermath of exposure to war as well as experiences which deeply transgress long-held moral beliefs and expectations.”

Moreover, he said, he reminded Wright that he must minister to a microcosm of American society with much higher rate of suicide that the rest of the population.

He urged Wright, who wiped his eyes as he sat in the first pew, to “help those to whom you minister to articulate and live out their faith in the one who is called the Prince of Peace.”

Lewis then turned to what would soon happen during the consecration or what he called “arguably the most dramatic act in the church’s liturgical repertoire.” The “gaggle of bishops clad in their voluminous rochets with those impossibly puffy sleeves” would soon surround him and obscure him from view “so that it will not be entirely obvious to the congregation just what they are up to.”

“My prayer for you today is that as you go about this new ministry, you will never, never give the faithful any reason to believe that those bishops were about the business of removing your spine,” he said.

Lewis added that he had faith that Wright would “eschew the effete advice long given to bishops that, to be effective in that office, all you have to do is show up and dress up.”

The Rev. Michael Barlowe, registrar of ordinations and consecrations; Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce; retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Symons; Cmdr. Mark Winward, forces chaplain, U.S. Navy, U.S. Special Operations Command; the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president; and Maryland Assistant Bishop Chilton Knudsen prepare for their roles in service. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Instead, he told Wright, that “in a society with a plethora of religions and theologies and spiritualities from which to choose, fewer and fewer of which bare any resemblance to the faith once delivered to the saints, and in a nation whose leaders more and more exhibit the kind of arrogant, uncharitable and self-serving behavior that plagued the Corinthians and caused Paul to chastise them for thinking of themselves more highly than they ought to think, you will do well, solider of the cross that you are, to stand up, stand up for Jesus.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was the chief consecrator for Wright’s ordination and consecration. The three previous bishops suffragan – James “Jay” Magness, George Packard and Charles Keyser – joined him as consecrating bishops, as did the current bishop of Maryland, Eugene Sutton; the 11th bishop of Maryland, A. Theodore Eastman; and the Rev. Richard Graham, bishop of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

A number of other Episcopal Church bishops participated in the laying on of hands. Chaplains and active and retired military officers had roles in the service.

 

Wright was the rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Maryland, in the Diocese of Maryland, when the House of Bishops elected him on Sept. 20. In his military career, he has served as deputy command chaplain for the Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Commissioned an Air Force chaplain in August 1993, Wright is an associate member of the Anglican religious Order of the Holy Cross. More biographical information about Wright is here.

The Rt. Rev. Carl Wright celebrates Eucharist Feb. 11 at Washington National Cathedral. The Rev. Lauren Welch, president of the Association for Episcopal Deacons, is at his left. Photo: Donovan Marks/Washington National Cathedral

The bishop suffragan oversees Episcopal chaplains in the federal departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and the federal Bureau of Prisons. The bishop, who reports to the presiding bishop, gives the federally required endorsement of people to be military chaplains. Read about the bishop’s duties here.

Wright’s ordination and consecration at Washington National Cathedral came a day after he and others joined Curry to begin a 24-hour peace vigil held at the cathedral and elsewhere.

The Eucharist in the Great Choir that began the vigil was a gathering to pray “for the peace of the world, for peace among nations and peoples,” Curry said in his sermon. It was also, he added, a way to give thanks for the ministry of Magness, Wright’s immediate predecessor, and to pray for the incoming seventh bishop suffragan’s new ministry.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaches Feb. 10 in the Great Choir of Washington National Cathedral at a Eucharist that began a 24-hour prayer vigil for peace. The vigil came before the ordination and consecration of the Ven. Carl Wright as the church’s bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries. Photo: Danielle Thomas/Washington National Cathedral

Curry also gave thanks “for the long-standing witness of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and for its long-standing witness and prophetic advocacy for the breaking forth of the peace of God in the midst of the conflicts of humanity.”

The Eucharist and subsequent vigil in the cathedral’s War Memorial Chapel was a joint effort of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and the Episcopal Church’s Office of Federal Ministries. The vigil was the fourth of its kind. The first took place in 1990 when Keyser asked EPF to join him in sponsoring a vigil of prayer for peace for 24 hours before his consecration. Volunteers signed up hour by hour to pray for peace, either at the chapel or at some other location around the Church.

The Gospel for the service was Matthew’s version of the ending of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus tells his listeners to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them.

“Jesus didn’t say ‘like them,’ he didn’t say ‘agree with them,’ and he didn’t say ‘let them get away with everything,’ but he did say ‘love them,’” Curry said.

Kathy Boylan of the Catholic Workers House in Washington, D.C., came to the vigil Eucharist with two pillowcases draped over her torso to protest the militarization of the armed forces chaplaincy and the amount of tax money that supports war. The sign on her back read “U.S TAXES = War Police Brutality Torture Drones Don’t Pay.” She later gave some literature to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Jesus synthesizes all of his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, Curry said, and part of the lesson is that “blessed are the people who dare to work and labor unceasingly night and day for the peace of the world.”

Curry recalled prophecy in Isaiah 2:1-4 of swords being beaten into plowshares and spears being turned into pruning hooks. The presiding bishop said Isaiah’s vision beheld “the possibility of a new world where the intelligence and the technology that could be used to destroy now become the intelligence and the technology that is used to help God create the new heaven and the new Earth.”

To make that vision a reality, Jesus keeps teaching us his ways, Curry said. “When he teaches us his ways, then nation will not rise up against nation. When he teaches us his ways, we will beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks,” he said. “When he teaches his ways, we will learn the way of peace so that our soldiers don’t have to fight.

Pointing to a child asleep on his mother’s lap, Curry said he was describing a peace that will ensure that the child will grow up in a peaceful world in which every man, woman and child “are treated under law and in every relationship as an equal child of God.”

 

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

New editor named for Anglican Communion News Service

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:59pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A former BBC World Service journalist, Bernadette Kehoe, has taken over as the new editor of the Anglican Communion News Service. Kehoe succeeds Gavin Drake who had been interim editor since late 2015.

Full article.

Damning verdict on response to child abuse in Australia

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:57pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A commission examining allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia has delivered a damning verdict on a system that enabled a culture of abuse to flourish. The report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse comes after public hearings into how the Church of England’s Boys’ Society (CEBS) and the Anglican dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney dealt with claims of abuse.

Full article.

Virginia church condemns white supremacy after ‘alt-right’ figure moves to neighborhood

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:41pm

From left, David Hoover, William Roberts and the Rev. Heather VanDeventer represent Christ Church Alexandria at a protest Jan. 29 outside a townhouse where white nationalist Richard Spencer recently set up shop. Photo: David Hoover.

[Episcopal News Service] An Episcopal church in Virginia is speaking out against white supremacy after a key figure in what is known as the “alt-right” movement took up residence mere blocks from the church in the historic Old Town Alexandria neighborhood.

Members of Christ Church Alexandria joined other local churches last month in a peaceful protest outside the apartment where Richard Spencer is reported to have set up shop, and another protest is planned for later this month.

The suburban Washington, D.C., church, meanwhile, issued a statement last week making clear it stands against white supremacy and in support of inclusiveness, echoing similar statements made by Alexandria city officials.

“We, the Vestry and clergy of Christ Church Alexandria, hereby reaffirm our baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of every human being,” the statement reads. “In alignment with the Episcopal Church of the United States, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, and the community of the City of Alexandria, we reject white supremacy in all forms. White supremacy is a sin and is antithetical to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. We will continue to strive through our ministries and our worship to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

The church’s statement doesn’t specify motivation or name Spencer, but the Rev. Noelle York-Simmons, the church’s rector, confirmed Spencer’s presence in their community was part of the context in which the statement was written.

“We decided we needed to voice what we believe theologically about who we are and who and how we welcome,” she said, adding that white supremacist views “don’t reflect what many of us believe to be American values.”

Spencer has been described by the New York Times as a “white nationalist leader who is a top figure in the alt-right movement, which has attracted white supremacists, racists and anti-immigrant elements.” His profile rose after the presidential election when he led attendees at a Washington conference in a chant of “Hail Trump!” drawing national headlines for its echoes of Nazi salutes.

He also generated headlines for getting punched in the face on Inauguration Day, a moment that was caught on video and then widely discussed and debated.

His move to Alexandria may have drawn less notice nationally, but it has been a hot topic locally. It appears to have been reported first by The Atlantic, which said on Jan. 12 that Spencer was interested in “setting up a headquarters in the Washington area.”

Spencer and cohort Jason Jorjani “imagine the space as a kind of office-salon hybrid for the alt-right, a private space where people in the movement can make videos, throw parties (there’s an outdoor patio) and work on the nascent website.” The article also noted Spencer planned to live in the top level of the townhouse.

Reaction from Spencer’s new neighbors was swift and decidedly negative, according to AlexandriaNews.org. It reported the townhouse is about six blocks from City Hall on King Street, the main commercial strip in Old Town Alexandria.

In response to calls to city offices, Alexandria communications director Craig Fifer released a statement, saying, “There is no place for hate or intolerance in Alexandria. The mayor and City Council have consistently reaffirmed that diversity and inclusiveness are integral to our community.” He cited a November 2016 “statement on inclusiveness” issued by city leaders.

“The city has no authority to regulate residential or commercial property owners or tenants who follow the law while purchasing or leasing space,” Fifer told AlexandriaNews.org. “But while we uphold the First Amendment right to free speech, we will not permit harassment or hate crimes in our city.”

The Washington Post also reported on reaction in the neighborhood to Spencer’s move, in a Jan. 17 column headlined, “For one Alexandria neighborhood, the ‘alt-right’ is all wrong.”

“I think the first step is to bear witness,” Dennis Maloney, a consultant in Alexandria, told The Post. “Maybe it’s a simple matter of getting people to stand outside that building with signs saying: ‘We are not tolerating this. You are not welcomed.’ There is no reason why we can’t exercise our freedom of speech. That might invite them to engage.”

About 100 people were reported to have joined the protest Jan. 29 outside the building on King Street. Another protest is planned for Feb. 19.

Christ Church was one of several congregations to follow through with that plan, holding a peaceful protest outside the building on Jan. 29. David Hoover, one of the protest’s organizers and a member of Christ Church, held a sign saying, “God loves all.” His husband, Bill Roberts, held a sign that read “Racism hurts everyone!”

“When Episcopalians are baptized we promise to renounce the evil power of the earth,” Hoover told AlexandriaNews.org. “And white supremacy corrupts God’s creatures. So that’s why we’re here.”

Nearby merchants also have put signs in their windows with messages opposing intolerance, York-Simmons, Christ Church’s rector, said, and another protest has been scheduled for Feb. 19.

It serves as a reminder to the community, she said: “Our city just doesn’t have room for hate speech.”

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

James Mathes to join Virginia Theological Seminary faculty as associate sean of students

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 9:25am

[Virginia Theological Seminary] The trustees of the Virginia Theological Seminary, at their Feb. 8 board meeting, unanimously approved the appointment of the Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes (’91) as the new associate dean of students. Mathes, who is currently the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, will join the VTS community this summer. He will be responsible for community formation and admissions, and will serve as the chief chaplain to students.

“Virginia Seminary is delighted that Bishop Mathes has accepted this call to serve,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of VTS. “As an alumnus, he is coming home. We are looking forward to having Jim and Terri as a part of the seminary community.”

Before coming to VTS as a student, Mathes worked in educational development where he helped raise money for his high school alma mater, The Webb School, and directed a successful campaign for St. Andrew’s-Sewanee, an Episcopal school in Sewanee, Tennessee.

On March 22, 1992, he was ordained a priest at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Belmont, Massachusetts.

His passion for education and personal growth transferred to a passion for parish life when he became rector of The Episcopal Church of St. James the Less in Northfield, Illinois. During his seven years there, church attendance doubled, school participation tripled, and the congregation founded a community outreach program for the elderly and disabled.

In 2001, Mathes was named canon to the ordinary for the Diocese of Chicago, where he directed the Department of Deployment and Congregational Development. He secured a grant from the Lilly Endowment to establish a clergy mentoring program. He also helped guide 130 congregations through a strategic planning process.

On Nov. 13, 2004, Mathes was elected to serve as the fourth bishop of San Diego and was consecrated in March of 2005. As bishop, Mathes was responsible for raising up future leaders of the Church, walking with them through their discernment process and seminary experience. Under his leadership, the diocese completed a successful capital campaign that established a diocesan school for ministry, created an outreach center serving San Diego’s homeless and working poor, and seeded a clergy mentorship fund. In 2007 he received an honorary doctorate from VTS. In 2014 he received the Mayor George Moscone Humanitarian Award for his support of the LGBTQ community.

Markham continued: “Bishop Mathes is a man of deep wisdom and sensitivity. Seminarians are looking forward to learning from his extensive experience of parish and diocesan service.”

Mathes and his wife, Terri, have two adult children.

Olympia diocese welcomes refugees, sues to keep resettlement efforts alive

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 2:46pm

Syrian refugee Baraa Haj Khalaf, left, kisses her father Khaled as her mother Fattoum, right, cries after arriving at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, on Feb. 7. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski /REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service] The federal appeals court ruling Feb. 9 that blocked reinstatement of the Trump administration’s temporary ban on refugee admissions was welcomed by Episcopal Church leaders in Washington, where the Diocese of Olympia is pursuing a separate lawsuit against the president’s executive order.

The diocese helps coordinate the resettlement of nearly 200 refugees each year. Of the refugees now preparing to arrive in the Seattle area, about 90 percent are expected to come from one of the seven Muslim-majority countries singled out in Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 order, which also banned visitors and visa holders from those nations. His order was temporarily blocked Feb. 6 by a federal court judge in Seattle. On Feb. 7, the Diocese of Olympia and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed a separate lawsuit challenging the executive order.

Refugees who had been held up at airports overseas when Trump first signed the executive order are now making their way to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Still, the legal uncertainty threatens to shutter the diocese’s Refugee Resettlement Office, a scenario Bishop Greg Rickel said would run counter to the Episcopal Church’s mission.

“This executive order is a violation of the foundational principles of our nation,” Rickel said in a Feb. 7 statement announcing the lawsuit. “As a member of the Jesus Movement, I believe the United States has a moral responsibility to receive and help resettle refugees from the more than 65 million people who have been displaced by war, violence, famine, and persecution. To turn these vulnerable people away and limit the flow of refugees into our country is to dishonor the One we serve.”

ACLU Washington agreed to take the case pro bono and filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Diocese of Olympia. Two unnamed University of Washington college students also are listed as plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit.

“A lot of the other lawsuits that have been filed against the (executive) order don’t specifically address the needs of refugees,” said Josh Hornbeck, the diocese communications director. But refugee resettlement is at the core of the Diocese of Olympia’s lawsuit.

Its Refugee Resettlement Office is one of dozens of affiliates nationwide that partner with Episcopal Migration Ministries to find homes in 27 Episcopal dioceses and 23 states for refugees escaping war, violence and persecution in their homelands. This year, 110,000 refugees were expected to arrive in the United States. Episcopal Migration Ministries is one of nine agencies – more than half of them faith-based – that work in partnership with the U.S. Department of State to welcome and resettle refugees.

Those efforts were thrown into chaos late last month when Trump, seeking to fulfill a campaign promise to pursue “extreme vetting” of refugees, signed an executive order halting all refugee resettlement for 120 days while his administration reviews a security process that already can take years. The order also blocked entry for 90 days of visitors and visa holders from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, and from Syria indefinitely.

As reaction to the order played out in the United States through protests, court cases and the White House’s evolving interpretations of its own order, refugees and visa holders initially were stuck in limbo.

The Diocese of Olympia was about to welcome 12 individuals in five refugee families when the Jan. 27 ban first went into effect, but those families were left waiting at an airport in Kuwait, unable to board planes to the United States, Hornbeck said. Another 86 individuals had been vetted and were awaiting medical screenings before buying their plane tickets to Seattle, but they were suddenly prevented by the executive order from moving forward with those plans.

Now that opponents of the Trump order have won an injunction while the legal battle proceeds, the Diocese of Olympia’s immediate efforts at resettlement are back on track. Hornbeck said four of the 12 refugees who had been waiting to board planes in Kuwait are expected to arrive in Seattle on Friday, Feb. 10.

The Refugee Resettlement Office, like other EMM affiliates, works with host congregations to set up apartments for the incoming refugees and then to greet them at the airport and take them to their new homes. In the Seattle area, those homes typically are outside the city, in communities where housing prices are less expensive, Hornbeck said. The refugees also are given help in finding jobs and in adjusting to the new culture.

The Seattle agency receives federal money to assist with the resettlement; even a temporary ban could cause enough financial harm as to cast doubt on the Refugee Resettlement Office’s ability to continue operations, Hornbeck said.

The Episcopal Church is considering similar approaches nationally. Its Executive Council on Feb. 8 pledged solidarity with refugees while pursuing financial and legal responses to the president’s order.

Council granted $500,000 to Episcopal Migration Ministries to bridge it financially during Trump’s suspension of refugee resettlement and as that work presumably resumes on a smaller scale. It also requested that the presiding bishop investigate whether it is “appropriate and advisable” to defend in court EMM’s refugee resettlement ministry and the church’s stance of religious tests.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Archbishop of Canterbury shocked at government’s plan to block child migrants from entry

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 12:07pm

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he is shocked and saddened over a government decision to end a plan to let unaccompanied migrant children into the United Kingdom. Welby said the U.K. had a “great history of welcoming those in need” and hoped the government would reconsider its decision.

Full article.

British Colombia diocese urges Canadian government to let in more refugees

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 12:04pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Diocese of British Columbia has called on the government of Canada to increase its targets for refugee resettlement to allow at least 7,000 more refugees to enter the country this year.  In a statement, the diocese noted that Canada has set a target for 25,000 refugees to be resettled in 2017, compared to the previous year’s target of 44,800.

Full article.

Primus of Scottish Episcopal Church announces his retirement

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 11:44am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Most Rev David Chillingworth, primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, has announced he will retire at the end of July. Bishop David was consecrated as Bishop of St. Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane in 2005 and was elected primus four years later.

Full article.

Archbishop of Canterbury calls on Christians to join global wave of prayer

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 11:41am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishop of Canterbury is encouraging Christians of all denominations to join in with a 10-day global prayer initiative “Thy Kingdom Come” from Ascension Day to Pentecost. What began last year as an invitation from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Church of England has grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer. Last year more than 100,000 people joined in, and in 2017 it’s expected to be on a bigger scale. The initiative runs from 25 May to 4 June.

Full article.

Little church hosts big ministry with free lunches in Minnesota

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 11:15am

Trinity Episcopal Church in Litchfield, Minnesota, hosts a free lunch every last Friday of the month, drawing more than 100 people to this small parish. Photo: Jane Settergren

[Episcopal News Service] As an outpost of the Episcopal Church in a small Midwestern community, Trinity Episcopal would easily be overlooked if not for an unlikely success story that is told once a month through food and fellowship.

Even the most active members of this parish in Litchfield, Minnesota, population 6,726, openly describe the congregation as “pretty small,” “fairly small” and “little.” The church, on its profile page on the Episcopal Church’s website, calls itself as “a small but lively parish.”

Trinity Episcopal Church’s building in Litchfield, Minnesota, was built in 1871.

Its roots date back to 1871, with the construction of the church building that still is used for worship every Sunday morning. In recent years, the congregation’s membership has shifted older while diminishing in size to about 100. Attendance has dwindled even further, typically about 15 members at services that are led by a rotating lineup of supply priests who travel more than an hour west to Litchfield from the Twin Cities.

But visit Trinity Episcopal at lunchtime on the last Friday of any month, and you’ll find the congregation seeming to swell to several times its size, as members of the community pour in for the parish’s monthly free lunch and fellowship time.

“Everybody’s very proud of what we do and very thankful that we’re able to do it,” senior warden Dennis Rutledge said, estimating that the free lunches draw more than 100 people to the church each month. “We’re a fairly small congregation, but this is the best way for us to be effective and do the things we can do.”

The free lunch is the most prominent example of the outreach underway at Trinity, which has money from gifts set aside to support other social ministries, said the Rev. Judy Hoover, one of the supply priests who travel to Litchfield.

“Everyone at that parish has a job, and they work really well together. They’re really kind of unique,” said Hoover, 83, who lives in Plymouth, Minnesota.

Once in a while, Rutledge said, he’ll raise the question of whether the church should keep organizing the monthly free lunches. No one, apparently, takes the question seriously, perhaps including Rutledge himself.

“I’ve been almost shouted down – ‘Of course, we’re going to do this!’” he said.

The mastermind of each month’s meal is a man named Paul Foley, whose wife, JoAnn, is active in the Episcopal Church Women group. He was raised Roman Catholic but no longer considers himself a churchgoer. About 15 years ago, the church needed a cook to keep the lunches going.

“‘Nobody’s willing to take charge,’” Paul remembers his wife telling him. “I said, ‘I will.’”

Foley has been cooking since he was a boy growing up in Litchfield. He first learned how to prepare food by shadowing his mother in their kitchen. As an adult, he said he spent some time living in Chicago with friends who, when they discovered his skills at preparing a meal, told him they’d buy the groceries if he cooked.

Paul Foley is the meal planner and cook behind most of the free lunches held each month at Trinity Episcopal Church in Litchfield, Minnesota. Photo: Jane Settergren

Foley, now 79, briefly worked later in life as a cook for a hotel and then for a caterer, but mostly he cooks for fun, family and fellowship. The free lunches at Trinity provide the perfect canvas for this culinary artist.

“It’s kind of a release,” he said. “I enjoy it so much and then the fact that we’re doing it for these people, and I look out to the opening and I see them out there all happy and visiting. … It makes me feel good.”

A typical Friday meal starts on Tuesday, when Foley drive up to St. Cloud to buy the groceries and brings them back to the church kitchen. Wednesday is devoted to prep work, and by Thursday he tries to have as much of the meal done as he can. He finishes off Friday morning by preparing the items that need to be hot and fresh.

The congregation and community have come to expect certain menu items at certain times of the year: October’s meal follows a German Oktoberfest theme, Foley said, and November is chow mein, just because people seem to like it. Ham is a must for December.

“You get to visit with everybody,” free lunch regular Veronica Caswell told the local Independent Review for a feature story about Trinity’s lunches in January. “Sometimes, you just don’t know what you’re going to cook, so it’s nice to come here,”

Hip surgery sidelined Foley in January, so he had to pass the apron that month to family members, but he plans to be back in the kitchen for February’s meal. His two Lenten meals are the same every year: “a tuna recipe everybody loves” and salmon loaf.

“If I didn’t make salmon loaf, they’d just come after me,” he said.

The menu isn’t the only diversity at the lunches. The meals draw a mix of people from the congregation and the community, including two group homes in the area whose residents suffer from developmental disabilities, church member Jane Settergren said.

“Those folks just enjoy it so much,” Settergren said. “We like to see them.”

And members of the congregation have gotten used to taking on certain roles every month, she said. One of the men is in charge of brewing the coffee. JoAnn Foley makes sure the bathroom supplies are stocked.

“I’m kind of the assistant washer,” Rutledge, the warden, said.

Settergren, 71, and others are stationed in the dining room to welcome diners. And one of the women, if she can break from serving the food, will play her cello while the crowd socializes.

“We haven’t really made a profit for the last couple years, but that doesn’t worry anybody because that’s not the object,” Paul Foley said. “It’s to get them together and have a good meal.”

And they expect to keep serving up the monthly meals at this “super little church,” as Settergren calls it, as long as they are able.

“It’s fun. Everybody seems to enjoy it,” she said. “We would miss it terribly if we didn’t do it anymore.”

-David Paulsen is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service.

Episcopal Church Executive Council reaffirms stand with Standing Rock

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 6:28pm

The Episcopal Church has been advocating with the Sioux Nation against the Dakota Access Pipeline since last summer. Local Episcopalians have also provided a ministry of presence in and around Cannon Ball, North Dakota, including in Oceti Sakowin Camp. The Episcopal flag flew constantly there until the recent effort to close down the camp because of the dangerous winter weather and the fear of disastrous flooding in the spring. Photo: John Floberg via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council during the last day of its Feb. 5-8 meeting here reaffirmed its stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.

Council members said the church pledges to “continue to support the action and leadership of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation as the salt and light of the nation in its unwavering support of the sacredness of water, land, and other resources and reminding us all of the sacred calling to faithfulness.”

They praised the Episcopal Church and its ecumenical partners in the water protection actions led by the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. The Rev. John Floberg, council member and priest-in-charge of Episcopal congregations on the North Dakota side of Standing Rock, drew council’s specific praise, as did “the hundreds of Episcopal lay and clergy who responded to his call for support.”

Council also endorsed the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s call for a March 10 march on Washington, D.C. The resolution said the march was “for the purpose of proclaiming the continuing concern for our sacred waters and lands as well as challenging our government to fulfill all relevant treaty obligations of the United States to all federally recognized tribes.” The tribe had previously started organizing the march, which Floberg had called on Episcopalians to join.

The Episcopal Church has advocated with the Sioux Nation about the Dakota Access Pipeline since summer 2016. Local Episcopalians have also provided a ministry of presence in and around Cannon Ball, North Dakota, the focal point for groups of water protectors that gathered near the proposed crossing.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry tells Executive Council Feb. 8 Episcopalians must engage in the public square but that they should root their engagement in the values of Jesus. “That’s how we avoid becoming labeled as just another interest group because not we’re not looking out for our own self-interest,” he said. Photo: Frank Logue via Twitter

Council’s action came about 24 hours after the U.S. Army said it would cancel the environmental impact study it promised to begin two months ago. Instead, it will allow construction on the final phase of the pipeline. The announcement was the latest is a series of administrative and legal maneuvers over the nearly complete pipeline.

The remaining work on the pipeline would push it under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe just north of the Standing Rock Reservation. The pipeline company set up a drill pad very near the proposed crossing point, which is upstream from the tribe’s reservation boundaries. The tribe has water, treaty fishing and hunting rights in the lake. Workers have drilled entry and exit holes for the crossing, and filled the pipeline with oil leading up to the lake in anticipation of finishing the project, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said last summer that the crossing would not have a significant impact on the environment. That determination prompted months of protest that began with a group of teenagers who live on the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River reservations.

On Dec. 4, then-Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy reversed that determination and said the Corps would conduct a full-blown environmental impact statement. Such a study typically takes up to two years to complete. Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline construction company, accused then-President Barack Obama’s administration of delaying the matter until he left office. The Corps formally launched the study on Jan. 18, two days before Obama left office.

Two weeks ago, in one of the first of an ongoing string of presidential actions, President Donald Trump, called for the rapid approval of the pipeline’s final phase, specifically telling the Corps to quickly reconsider conducting the environmental impact study. The Army’s Feb. 7 announcement fulfilled Trump’s requirement.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, says during Executive Council Feb. 8 that President Donald Trump’s “willingness to pit groups of Americans against one another — to see society as a zero-sum game in which for one party to rise, another must fall” is dangerous because Christians who embrace that tactic “betray the essence of their faith.” Photo: Frank Logue via Twitter

Episcopal Public Policy Network issued an advocacy alert just after the Army’s announcement, calling on Episcopalians to contact Secretary of Defense James Mattis and urge him not to grant the final easement without a full impact study “that properly consults the Standing Rock Sioux and upholds treaty obligations.” The tribe contends that the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1888 obligate the federal government to consider a tribe’s welfare when making decisions that affect the tribe.

After the announcement, Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said the Standing Rock Sioux Nation would challenge the Trump Administration’s move in court. “Our fight is no longer at the North Dakota site itself,” he said. “Our fight is with Congress and the Trump administration. Meet us in Washington on March 10.”

Jan Hasselman, lead attorney for the tribe, said the reversal “continues a historic pattern of broken promises to Indian tribes and unlawful violation of treaty rights. They will be held accountable in court.”

Trump said Feb. 7 that he has not gotten a single call protesting his directive to the Corps. That claim, Archambault replied reflected a distorted sense of reality. Archambault flew to Washington D.C., Feb. 7 to meet with Trump administration officials to discuss the tribe’s concerns about the pipeline. He learned of the Army’s announcement to Congress when he landed and canceled his meeting.

The 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline is poised to carry up to 470,000 barrels of oil a day from the Bakken oil field in northwestern North Dakota – through South Dakota and Iowa – to Illinois where it will be shipped to refineries. The pipeline was to pass within one-half mile of the Standing Rock Reservation and Sioux tribal leaders repeatedly expressed concerns over the potential for an oil spill that would damage the reservation’s water supply, and the threat the pipeline posed to sacred sites and treaty rights. The company developing the pipeline, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, says it will be safe.

The Feb. 5-8 meeting took place at the Maritime Institute Conference Center.

Additional ENS coverage of the meeting is here. Some council members tweeted from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1). The council comprises 38 members – 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons, and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies. In addition, the vice president of the House of Deputies, secretary, chief operating officer, treasurer and chief financial officer have seat and voice but no vote.

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

Executive Council supports Episcopal Migration Ministries in midst of Trump’s order

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 6:05pm

The Episcopal Church first formally became involved in refugee resettlement work in the 1930s, resettling people fleeing Nazi Europe. The Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief, the predecessor of Episcopal Relief & Development, grew out of this movement. A poster, dating from 1938, uses an iconic image referenced in Matthew 2:13-16 of the Holy Family fleeing into Egypt to avoid King Herod. Photo: Episcopal Migration Ministries

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Feb. 8 pledged the Church’s solidarity with refugees in the face of President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending their entry into the United States.

A federal judge on Feb. 6 temporarily blocked Trump’s action, leaving the State Department’s refugee admissions program in limbo.

Council’s approach was two-pronged: financial and legal. It granted $500,000 to Episcopal Migration Ministries to bridge it financially during Trump’s suspension of refugee resettlement and as that work presumably resumes, albeit on a smaller scale. It also requested that presiding bishop investigate whether it is “appropriate and advisable” to defend in court EMM’s refugee resettlement ministry and the church’s stance of religious tests.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who said earlier in the day that Episcopalians must root their public advocacy work in the values of Jesus, told a post-meeting press conference that council’s EMM actions were a perfect example of that rootedness. Christians believe the admonition found in the Letter to the Hebrews that in welcoming strangers, one might be welcoming angels without knowing it.

“We have to stand there and stay in that work,” he said. “The critical part of it is not to just talk the talk; it’s walking the talk.”

Curry said that council “had the courage” to continue to support its nearly 80-year-old ministry to refugees in a new way even though it will cost much more money than expected. When the Episcopal Church advocates for refugees with policymakers, he said, “We can say we’re not asking you to do something we’re not doing ourselves.”

Trump’s executive order, still being litigated, suspends all refugee resettlement for at least 120 days. When the program restarts, it imposes further restrictions on potential refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. Furthermore, after that resumption, Trump said only 50,000 refugees can enter the United States instead of the anticipated 110,000 this fiscal year.

EMM needs the financial support from the church-wide budget because the majority of its income comes from contracts with the federal government to cover the costs of resettling refugees approved for entry to the United States. The federal contract directly ties that money to refugees’ arrival. Thus, if refugees cannot enter the U.S., EMM does not receive money.

In the 2016 fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2016, EMM resettled 5,762 refugees to the United States from 79 countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Afghanistan and Syria. Already this fiscal year, EMM welcomed 2,400 refugees and anticipated resettling 6,175 people until Trump signed his order Jan. 27. On Jan. 26, the Rev. E. Mark Stevenson, EMM director, said, EMM welcomed 42 refugees and has resettled nearly 70 since while the order has been contested in court.

Structurally and fiscally, EMM is a unique ministry of the Episcopal Church. While it is not separately incorporated, as is Episcopal Relief & Development, it receives very little money from the church-wide budget.

EMM anticipated $14.2 million from the U.S. State Department and $6.2 million from the federal Department of Health and Human Services. The State Department money covers the arrival and placement phase for each refugee’s first 90 days, in the country. The HHS money funds a matching grant to provide 180 days of services to certain, but not all, refugees. Those services included extended English as a Second Language classes, job training and cultural orientation.

Some funding for EMM’s national office is guaranteed through March 31, Stevenson said, but the pre-refugee funding halts during the suspension.

Stevenson said 99.5 percent of the contract money directly goes to resettling refugees. EMM retains about $2 million for administrative costs, including all staff salaries. Any unused money goes back to the government.

“This is not a money-making venture,” Stevenson told Episcopal News Service.

The concern extends beyond the Church Center-based work of EMM. It collaborates with its 31-member local affiliate network in 23 states, along with 27 dioceses plus faith communities and volunteers to resettle refugees. Those organizations receive money via EMM from the federal contract and will have no income when no refugees enter the country. Affiliates will have to rely on cash reserves, fundraising and whatever support EMM can give them to pay their employees, pay leases and cover other operating expenses.

Stevenson told the council that EMM must be able to sustain its ministry during the suspension and restart phase of the government’s resettlement program. To do that, the Church needs to support financially the national EMM office and find ways to help sustain their affiliates during the suspension so that they are ready to resume resettling refugees in what he predicted would be a slow restart.

Newly arrived refugees needs include housing, health care and education about life in the United States. If the local affiliates are not prepared to meet those needs, refugees will enter the country but they will be resettled into poverty and vulnerability, albeit different from the ones they have escaped, he said.

“This is gospel work that we are about,” Stevenson said, citing both the Old and New Testaments’ insistence to “treat the alien as our neighbor.”

In addition to the bridge funding of as much as $500,000 this year, council left open the door to giving EMM additional money in 2018, if needed. The ministry must provide a “definitive sustainability plan” for using the money.

In the legal context, council requested that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry investigate whether it is “advisable and appropriate to file, or intervene in, litigation as appropriate in order to defend the refugee resettlement ministry of EMM,” according to the resolution it passed.

Moreover, the presiding bishop was asked to do the same exploration of efforts “to contest the imposition of any religious test upon any refugee, asylum seeker, or other person seeking residence, asylum or lawful entry into the United States.” The resolution says “such tests are contrary to our faith and contrary to a good faith construction of the U.S. Constitution and governing federal law.”

Council told the presiding bishop to consult to with the president of the House of Deputies, the church’s chief legal officer, council’s Executive Committee, EMM’s director and the Office of Government Relations as he considers any such actions. It also asked the chief legal officer to report confidentially to its next regular meeting, on the progression of that investigation, and any actual litigation might result. The members left the door open to convening electronically if needed.

(Council’s Governance and Administration for Ministry committee finished crafting the job description for the chief legal officer position during the meeting and the application process is now open. The last meeting of General Convention created the position, making it a canonically required job.)

The Rev. E. Mark Stevenson, Episcopal Migration Ministries director, holds a sign listing the biblical imperatives for welcoming the stranger. Photo: Episcopal Migration Ministries via Facebook

In one of many closed-door committee and plenary sessions during the meeting, council members met privately to ask questions of the members of council’s Governance and Administration for Ministry’s committee, which proposed the resolution. After that discussion, and following substantial debate and amendments, council passed the resolution 14-9.

Council also said it wanted to convey to the Diocese of Olympia and Bishop Greg Rickel “its strong support” for their refugee ministry. The diocese, which has a resettlement agency, recently joined the American Civil Liberties Union in opposing Trump’s order.

‘Extreme vetting’ already happens
EMM is one of nine U.S. resettlement agencies that do this work under government contract. By federal law, refugees may only enter the U.S. under the auspices of one of those agencies.

The term “refugee” has a specific legal meaning. The United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees designates a person as a “refugee” if they are fleeing persecution, war or violence. Those people apply for that designation and are regarded as distinct from immigrants. They earn refugee designation after UNHCR vets their application.

The U.N. agency then refers the refugee to a specific country. If that country is the United States, a subsequent vetting process begin. That second process is “very rigorous, one might even say extreme,” Stevenson told ENS. Syrian refugees received an added layer of scrutiny, he said.

The U.S. State Department then works with the nine agencies to decide which one of them will resettle that person. It takes a few months for the paperwork to be complete so that the person can enter the country.

The entire vetting process, Stevenson said, takes between 18 and 24 months.

The Feb. 5-8 meeting took place at the Maritime Institute Conference Center.

Additional ENS coverage of the meeting is here. Some council members tweeted from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1). The council comprises 38 members – 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons, and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies. In addition, the vice president of the House of Deputies, secretary, chief operating officer, treasurer and chief financial officer have seat and voice but no vote.

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

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