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Bishop of Gloucester raises issue of gender equality at House of Lords

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 4:29pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of England’s first female diocesan bishop, Bishop of Gloucester Rachel Treweek, has marked International Women’s Day on March 8 with an event to promote gender equality. The gathering, at Britain’s upper chamber of parliament, the House of Lords, was hosted by Bishop Treweek in partnership with Christian Aid and Restored – an international Christian alliance working to transform relationships and end violence against women.

Full article.

RIP: Melinda Whalon

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 8:31am

From the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe website

[The Living Church] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will preside at the funeral March 11 for Melinda Whalon, who died Feb. 26.

“My beloved wife Melinda Whalon entered Larger Life … after another long battle in her decades-long war against cancer,” wrote the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, bishop in charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, on his Facebook page. “It did not conquer her in the end; it was an infection that she could no longer fight off.”

The burial office is scheduled for 3 p.m. March 11 in the colonial churchyard of St. George’s, Indian River Hundred, Harbeson, Delaware. The Whalons have visited Delaware each summer since 1991.

A post on Bishop Whalon’s Facebook page added: “Bishop Pierre and daughter Marie-Noêlle are holding up. They are overwhelmed with thankfulness for the many of you who have reached out to them since the news went out yesterday. There has been an outpouring of sympathy from people from throughout the world. As you know +Pierre and Melinda are loved by so many people everywhere. And Melinda touched so many in a special way. Do continue to keep +Pierre and Marie-Noêlle in your prayers. They have very much appreciated your reaching out to them in various ways, although they are not always able to get back to everyone right away.”

A memorial celebration is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. March 29 at the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Paris.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for gifts to the AROSAT Association, which supports Dr. Thierry André’s research on digestive cancers, including those associated with Lynch Syndrome. For a tax receipt in France, visit the association’s donation webpage and add the memo Ce don en mémoire de Melinda Whalon est fléché pour le service d’oncologie du Pr André–Hôpital Saint-Antoine, Paris.

In the United States, send donations to ARCAD US, c/o Gilda Herndon, 1613 30th St. N.W., Apt 3N, Washington DC 20007, and add the memo To the memory of Melinda Whalon.

Presiding Bishop visits the Diocese of Taiwan

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 2:48pm

[Episcopal News Service – Taipei, Taiwan] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry brought the message of the Jesus Movement to the Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan during its recent Diocesan Synod, Feb. 24-26, telling Taiwanese Episcopalians to “follow Jesus in the Episcopal way.”

“If you follow in the way of Jesus and your life begins to reflect his life and if he is the perfect image of God, the more your life reflects his life, the more you actually reflect the image of God in you and you become who God created you to be. And when you do that you are free,” said Curry during a Feb. 25 address to synod attendees gathered at St. John’s Cathedral in Taipei.

“To follow Jesus is not to become someone else; it’s to become who God intended you to be in the beginning,” he said

Prayer, fasting, self-denial, reading and studying scripture, special acts of devotion and piety that serve others in the world have, for thousands of years, drawn people to God and to each, Curry said, inviting those present to adopt those practices this Lent.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Taiwan Bishop David Jung-Hsin Lai concelebrate the Eucharist during a service at St. John’s Cathedral in Taipei. Photo: Catherine Lee

Over a three-day visit, Curry preached and concelebrated at Eucharist during the synod’s opening and closing sessions at St. John’s Cathedral; gave a keynote address focused on “The Meaning and Significance of a Christian University in the 21st Century” to students at St. John University; addressed the diocese’s clergy, lay leaders and standing committee members attending the synod and held a Q&A session. (The video of the presiding bishop preaching at the synod’s opening leads the post, the closing sermon follows at the end. Both sermons were interpreted by Tim Pan into Mandarin.  A blog post by Catherine Lee, an Anglican missionary serving in Taiwan, including photo gallery is here.)

When Taiwan Bishop David Jung-Hsin Lai heard the presiding bishop would be visiting Asia, he worked with Peter Ng, the church’s officer for Asia and the Pacific, now retired, to schedule a diocesan visit onto the end of the trip. It’s important for Episcopalians and Christians in Taiwan, to hear the Curry’s message about the Jesus Movement, said Lai, following the presiding bishop’s sermon at the close of the synod.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry signed the guestbook at St. John’s Cathedral in Taipei during at Feb. 24-26 visit to the Diocese of Taiwan. Photo: Catherine Lee

Lai, the Rev. Lily Chang, of St. James’ in Taichung West District said, encourages Episcopalians to be Christians in the world, not just in the church.

“The bishop tells us, ‘we are a minority, don’t just hide in church. Lift up your head and bring love to the people,’’’ said Chang, who was excited to hear the presiding bishop preach about the Jesus Movement.

An estimated 4.5 percent of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people identify as Christians, roughly half Protestant and half Roman Catholic. The Anglican Church reached Taiwan in the late 1890s; Episcopal chaplains brought the Episcopal Church to Taiwan when they ministered to American soldiers after World War II. The Diocese of Taiwan achieved full-diocesan status in 1988 and is part of Province VIII; the House of Bishops held its fall 2014 meeting in Taipei.

Taiwan was the presiding bishop’s last stop on a Feb. 15-27 tour of Asia and Southeast Asia that included visits to the Anglican Provinces of the Philippines and Hong Kong, and the Protestant Christian Church in China.

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

Mark Dazzo to succeed Davis Perkins as Church Publishing’s publisher

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 11:49am

[Church Pension Group press release] The Church Pension Group (CPG), a financial services organization that serves the Episcopal Church, announced March 8 that Mark Dazzo, vice president, global marketing and sales of Church Publishing Inc. will succeed Davis Perkins as senior vice president and publisher of CPI effective April 1.

Perkins, who will retire on March 31, has been instrumental in guiding CPI through numerous organizational transitions over the past 10 years. CPI serves as the publisher of official worship materials, books, music, and digital ministry resources for the Episcopal Church. Dazzo will report directly to Daniel Kasle, chief financial officer and treasurer of CPG.

“We are fortunate that Mark, a member of the CPI leadership team, will be stepping in to fill this role,” said Kasle. “He is extremely talented, and his appointment will ensure a seamless transition as we continue to focus on growing the business, improving operational efficiencies, and meeting the publishing needs of the Episcopal Church. I also want to thank Davis for his dedication and important contributions to CPI over the past 10 years. We wish him the very best in his retirement.”

In his current role, Dazzo is responsible for developing and implementing a marketing and sales strategy for CPI’s product lines, including advertising, promotion, sales, and global distribution. Prior to this, he was vice president of marketing at Pearson@School/Pearson Education and served as director of marketing and market development at Random House, Inc. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the State University of New York, Albany, and an MBA in Marketing from Baruch College.

About Church Publishing Inc.
Founded in 1918, Church Publishing Inc. is the publisher of official worship materials, books, music, and digital ministry resources for the Episcopal Church and is also a multi-faceted publisher and supplier to the broader ecumenical marketplace.

About The Church Pension Fund
The Church Pension Fund is an independent financial services organization that
serves the Episcopal Church. With approximately $12 billion in assets, CPF and
its affiliated companies, collectively the Church Pension Group (CPG),
provide retirement, health, and life insurance benefits to clergy and lay employees
of the Episcopal Church. CPG also offers property and casualty insurance as well
as book and music publishing, including the official worship materials of the
Episcopal Church.

Renew Our World campaign focuses Lenten prayer, action on climate change

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 11:41am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The start of Lent saw the beginning of a new international campaign – Renew Our World – in which tens of thousands of Christians from six countries will join together in prayer and action to try to tackle climate change.

Renew Our World is campaigning for clean renewable energy and sustainable agriculture for the world’s poorest communities. The campaign is taking place in Britain, the United States, Australia, Zambia, Peru and Nigeria and is being launched by The Anglican Alliance, Tearfund, Micah Global, TEAR Australia, Micah Zambia, EU-CORD, Peace and Hope International (Paz y Esperanza) & CAFOD.

Anglican primates of Oceania speak out on climate change

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 11:36am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican primates of Oceania, who have been meeting in Australia, have warned of the threat to their region from climate change. In a joint statement, the five primates said: “We agreed that as whole nations of ocean people lose their island homes, climate justice advocacy and action must become the most urgent priority for Oceanic Anglicans.”

Full article.

Episcopal, Chinese church relationship strengthened through visit

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 6:15pm

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Minister Wang Zuo’an of the State Administration for Religious Affairs and their staffs posed for a photograph on at SARA’s headquarters following a Feb. 21 meeting in Beijing. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Beijing and Shanghai] It was building friendships and strengthening relationships that characterized the Most Rev. Michael Curry’s first official visit as presiding bishop and primate to Asia and Southeast Asia last month, including in China where he and his staff met with government officials and leaders of the Protestant Christian Church.

“At its root, the Christian way is a way of relationship in Christ. Jesus said wherever two or three gather together in my name, there I am,” said Curry, in an interview with Episcopal News Service in Shanghai, when asked why it’s important for the Episcopal Church to maintain close ties with China.

“The New Testament talks about the body of Christ, not the individuals of Christ. When we talk about being one holy catholic and apostolic church [we talk about] a worldwide network of people who are committed to and in relationship with Jesus Christ and therefore, through him, with each other.”

During a February visit to Asia and Southeast Asia to visit Anglican Communion provincial churches and Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan, Curry visited China at the invitation of the China Christian Council (CCC) and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). He attended meetings in Beijing and Shanghai, where he met with the minister of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), the Chinese government agency that oversees religious practice, and CCC/TSPM leaders, including Elder Fu Xianwei.

Peter Ng, the Episcopal Church’s officer for Asia and the Pacific, now retired; the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church; the Rev. David Copley, director of global partnerships and mission personnel; Neva Rae Fox, the church’s public affairs officer; and Sharon Jones, executive assistant to the presiding bishop, accompanied Curry on the Feb. 15-27 trip that also included stops in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The CCC and TSPM form the official, government-sanctioned Protestant church in China. “Three-Self” stands for self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating; TSPM serves as a liaison between churches and government, while CCC focuses on church affairs.

SARA serves as a bridge between religion and the central government and coordinates relationships among religions to make them all equal. Besides overseeing the TSPM, SARA also oversees an additional four sanctioned religious groups: Muslims, Roman Catholics, Buddhists and Taoists.

During a Feb. 21 meeting at SARA’s headquarters in Beijing, Minister Wang Zuo’an said maintaining “religious harmony” as religion grows is one his department’s priorities.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Elder Fu Xianwei and their staffs posed for a photograph Feb. 22 in the former Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral on the campus of the National Office of China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Shanghai, China. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

China has no history of religious conflict; politics and religion have been kept separate, and no one religion has been “more powerful” than another, explained Wang. In today’s world, with its increased focused on nationalism, increasing competition for resources, religious conflict and extremism, “how they can stay in harmony and work together is a big challenge,” he said, speaking in Mandarin through an interpreter.

Another challenge, said Wang, is the U.S. government’s inclusion of China as a “special attention” country in an annual report on International Religious Freedom.

“I sincerely hope the presiding bishop could use his influence to make a positive push for constructive dialogue between the two governments,” he said.

Wang also cited concern over an executive order on “religious freedom” expected from President Donald Trump’s administration.

“China and U.S. relations are going from good to bad, and this matters to the whole world,” said Wang, adding that while it’s expected that countries the size of the United States and China will have differences, they should also engage on issues of common interest. He cited religion as a potential issue of common interest, not a divisive issue.

“We should take religion as a good thing for our two countries, not a problem,” he said, adding differences concerning religion preceded the Trump administration. It’s also his sincere hope, he added, that the churches “can have a normal, healthy relationship.”

Curry responded with a promise that the Episcopal Church and the CCC/TSPM would remain strong and that the two churches would continue to work together.

“My conviction for us to continue to live together when Clinton, Bush and Obama were president, and it is still true with President Trump,” said Curry, during the Feb. 21 meeting. “We’re going to work so that we can live and work together.

“Your words,” he said to Wang, “speak to my heart and what I believe. I thank you for sharing honestly.” To which Wang replied, “it’s only through conversation that we can understand each other better. I appreciate that you said no matter who the president is, our relationship will not change.”

Elder Fu Xianwei, chair of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, addressed Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and his staff during a Feb. 22 meeting at the National Office of China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Shanghai, China. To Fu’s left are Gu Mengfei, TSPM’s associate secretary general and director of the CCC’s research department, and Elder Ou Enlin, director of overseas relations for the CCC/TSPM. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Christianity is growing faster than seminaries can train theologians, said Wang, and it’s in that respect that the Protestant Christian Church in China needs continued support from the Episcopal Church.

In a country of 1.4 billion people, the number of Protestant Christians has grown an average 10 percent annually in China since 1979.  Though Chinese Christians are “post-denomination,” they still identify as Protestants and Roman Catholics, the latter of which the government’s Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, not the pope, is the supreme authority.

Christianity first reached mainland China in the seventh century during the Tang dynasty but didn’t begin to flourish until the 19th century. In 1949, Mao Zedong banned the religion. It didn’t resurge until after his death in 1976 and the end of the Cultural Revolution. Now, with the communist central government’s sanction and oversight, Protestant Christianity is on the rise.

For example, explained Fu of the CCC, the Protestant Christian church baptizes between 400,000 and 500,000 new believers annually; there are approximately 60,000 congregations served by 57,000 pastors (an average of one pastor per 700 members) and 200,000 lay leaders. And in recent years, the church has attracted professionals, doctors and lawyers, which has led to a demand for higher quality pastoral care.

Even though the church is nondenominational, the liturgy reflects influences from Anglican to Seventh-day Adventist, said Fu.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry addressed Elder Fu Xianwei, chair of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, and his staff during a Feb. 22 meeting at the National Office of China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Shanghai, China. To Curry’s left is Peter Ng, The Episcopal Church’s officer for Asia and the Pacific, now retired, and to his right is the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church; and Neva Rae Fox, the church’s public affairs officer. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The Episcopal Church’s and the Chinese church’s relationship started with Bishop K.H. Ting, who trained in the Anglican tradition at Union Theological Seminary in New York, served as long-time principal of the board of directors of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, and in 1955 became the bishop of Zhejiang until the Cultural Revolution. In 1980, he became the president of the CCC; in 1985, he helped found the Amity Foundation, one of the first nongovernmental organizations and the first faith-based one established to address society’s social needs. The foundation also includes Amity Printing Co., which prints 4 million copies of the Bible and various spiritual and devotional books annually.

Despite changes in religious practice since the opening of China, some people still default to the Cold-War narrative.

“Americans remember Christians smuggling Bibles into China and behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe … all of that was a story at one time. Now they’re printing more Bibles in China than probably anywhere else in the world,” said Curry. “At Amity, they are printing Bibles and religious literature to teach and educate and form their folk; it’s extraordinary.”

Christians in the United States could learn a lot about evangelism from Christians in China, he added.

“Bishop Ting helped Christians learn to be faithful to the gospel and authentically indigenous to China, and China as it was emerging. Now what that meant was that he helped the Chinese Church become authentically Christian and authentically Chinese. Bishop Ting is revered and respected as one of the leaders in Chinese Christianity. He clearly believed in evangelism, and he believed in Chinese evangelism, in their way, not a Western cultural way.

“Part of what we sometimes struggle within the United States, from my perspective, is a kind of evangelism that is less about a relationship with Jesus of Nazareth that you find in the New Testament, and more about being part of American culture or a set of preconceived ideas that are imposed upon Christianity that aren’t necessarily what Jesus of Nazareth was talking about,” Curry continued. “He (Ting) has shown us a way to get people into an authentic relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. That is a way of evangelism; it seems to me, and (an) Anglican way of evangelism.”

Since the United Kingdom’s 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, the Anglican Province of Hong Kong, Sheng Kung Hui, has worked to strengthen relationships with Protestant Christians on the mainland and has worked with the Episcopal Church to strengthen its relationship with Protestant Christians in China, said Robertson, the presiding bishop’s canon for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church.

The Chinese church receives support from the Anglican Province of Hong Kong, which has helped to train the faculty at the seminary in Nanjing, whose students have studied in Hong Kong.

That relationship continues, said the Rev. Peter Koon, provincial secretary of the Anglican Province of Hong Kong.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Elder Fu Xianwei, chair of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, embraced following a gift exchange during a meeting Feb. 22 at the National Office of China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Shanghai, China. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“The church in Hong Kong is providing anything they need: resources and training and relationship,” said Koon, in an interview with ENS in Shanghai. “The Episcopal Church can provide theological training and support for social welfare projects … they need friends to understand what they are doing and support them.”

In his meetings and a dinner with the leadership of the CCC and the TSPM, Curry assured Fu and others that he would continue to work with them, just as his predecessor the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori did when she visited China in 2012. As for Curry and Fu, who attended Curry’s installation as presiding bishop in November 2015, the two related as old friends.

“Christianity here is vibrant, it is alive, it is really alive, and these are our brothers and sisters,” said Curry. “And we use the language of partnership, but more than partnership, a genuine friendship. And we sing that hymn, ‘In Christ, there is no East or West,’ and in Christ, there really isn’t.”

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

San Joaquin overwhelmingly elects David Cappel Rice diocesan bishop

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 4:16pm

Provisional Bishop David Rice celebrates the Eucharist during a March 4 special convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin during which he was elected diocesan bishop. Photo: Robert Woods/Diocese of San Joaquin

[Episcopal News Service] Delegates to a special convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin overwhelmingly voted March 4 to elect Provisional Bishop David Cappel Rice as their diocesan bishop.

Rice was the only nominee.  He was elected on the first ballot by a vote of 21 to 1 in the clergy order and 41 to 2 in the lay order. The election required a two-thirds majority in both orders. The somewhat unusual election was both joyous and powerful, he said.

“I believe the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin know ever increasingly that they are on a hikoi (intentional movement with a purpose [a word from Maori, the indigenous language of New Zealand]) and they have come to realize and celebrate my willingness, better said, call to walk, run, cycle, move with them,” Rice said in an email to the Episcopal News Service following the election.

“As for my own feeling and response, I couldn’t imagine a group of people with whom I’d rather share this hikoi of faith.”

Cindy Smith, president of the standing committee, said the move, made possible through adoption of a new canon at the diocese’s October convention, represented not only a commitment to each other, but also a commitment to continued ministry to the people of California’s Central Valley.

“We’re going forward and not to just survive but to thrive,” Smith said in a telephone interview March 6. “There is so much to be done now in the Central Valley of California with issues of trafficking, immigration, and a very high percentage of the population incarcerated.”

The Rev. Canon Anna Carmichael said the gathering, the first major event since 2007  held at St. James Episcopal Cathedral, also represented, for many, a homecoming. About 200 people attended the event.

“It was wonderful, a great homecoming for many folks because it was their first time at the cathedral since the schism happened ten years ago,” said Carmichael, diocesan canon to the ordinary.

“We were able to do a blessing of the space as our coming home experience. We had a wonderful Eucharist, and a presentation on stewardship and then we took the vote and did all the necessary procedural things. It was a lovely gathering.”

Smith said consent packages soon will be mailed to dioceses throughout the Episcopal Church, A majority of both the Episcopal Church’s diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction will have to consent to Rice’s election as diocesan, as is required in all bishop elections.

Rice was elected the diocese’s third provisional bishop in March 2014. Prior to that he had served as the bishop of the Diocese of Waiapu in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. A North Carolina native, Rice had also been a Methodist pastor for eight years prior to his ordination in the Anglican Church in New Zealand.

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

Within that context, “to elect a bishop that we can call our own and who calls us his, is really powerful and meaningful for this diocese,” Carmichael said. “It was historic.”

She added that San Joaquin Episcopalians are hoping for a speedy and smooth consent process.

“We are hosting one of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s revivals in November, and it is our hope that, provided the larger church affirms this call and affirms the vote that we took, that Bishop David will be seated as our bishop while the presiding bishop is here.”

The revival is planned for Nov. 17-19, she said.

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

Leslie Nunez Steffensen named canon to the bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 2:54pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Rev. Leslie Nunez Steffensen has been named the canon to the Episcopal Church bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries, a member of the presiding bishop’s staff.

In this full-time position, Steffensen works with Bishop Carl Wright, bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries and among her duties are the direct administrative support of Episcopal priests who serve as federal chaplains in the armed forces, veterans affairs hospital centers and federal bureau of prisons.  She assists the bishop suffragan in the recruitment, support and care of these chaplains.

“This ministry to our federal chaplains draws upon my experience in the U.S. Navy, upon hard-won knowledge as a military spouse, upon my international experience, and upon my priesthood,” said Steffensen. “The Episcopal Church currently has 110 federal chaplains stationed all around the world. I am honored to serve and support my fellow priests in their call to ministry in difficult settings, whether at sea on a battleship, on a battlefield, at a remote duty station, in a prison, or in a hospital.”

After graduating from officer candidate school and completing studies at the Navy and Marine Intelligence Training Center in 1989, she was on active duty for four years as a naval aviation intelligence officer, “chasing Soviet submarines at the end of the Cold War,” she adds. Steffensen later served as a volunteer for mission, the Episcopal Church’s program for adult volunteers. She was the academic dean and instructor of theology and biblical studies at Msalato Theological College in Dodoma, Tanzania.

Most recently, she was assistant to the rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Prior to that, she was administrative coordinator for the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary.

For the Episcopal Church, she served on the Bishop for Armed Forces and Federal Ministries Interviewing Committee; the Disciplinary Committee, Diocese of Virginia; and co-editor for The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the Anglican Communion.

She is a graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary, with a master’s in divinity and a master’s in theological studies; and The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, with a bachelor’s in international studies.

Steffensen is based in Washington, D.C. She can be contacted at lsteffensen@episcopalchurch.org.

Samuel Rodman elected bishop of Diocese of North Carolina, succeeding Michael Curry

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 2:12pm

[Diocese of North Carolina] The Rev. Samuel Rodman was elected XII bishop diocesan of the Diocese of North Carolina on March 4.

He was elected on the third ballot by the delegates gathered for a Special Electing Convention in Phillips Chapel at Canterbury School in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Samuel Rodman is scheduled to be ordained and consecrated as the bishop diocesan of the Diocese of North Carolina on July 15. Photo: Diocese of North Carolina

“I am deeply honored and grateful and, with God’s help, I accept this call to be your next bishop diocesan,” Rodman said. “The prospect of following and building upon the leadership and legacy of Bishop Michael Curry is both humbling and inspiring. I trust that the Holy Spirit, moving through the Diocese of North Carolina, will continue to light the way and guide our path together.”

Rodman currently serves as the special projects officer for the Diocese of Massachusetts, a role he took on after spending five years as the diocesan project manager for campaign initiatives, where he engaged congregations, clergy and laity, in collaborative local and global mission through the Together Now campaign, helping to raise $20 million to fund these initiatives. Prior to that, Rodman spent 16 years as the rector of St. Michael’s in Milton, Massachusetts, during which the parish established a seven-year plan that included a capital campaign for a major renovation of the church building.

The election is the culmination of a process that began when the Diocese of North Carolina’s former bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, was elected presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church at the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, in June 2015. Since his installation in November 2015, the diocese has been led by the Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple; elected bishop suffragan in the Diocese of North Carolina in 2013, she has served as bishop diocesan pro tempore during the extensive search.

Four nominees were a part of the search process. In addition to Rodman, the other three candidates were:

  • The Rev. George Adamik – St. Paul’s, Cary, North Carolina
  • The Rev. Charles T. Dupree – Trinity Episcopal Church, Bloomington, Indiana
  • The Rev. Canon Michael Buerkel Hunn – The Episcopal Church, New York, New York

Following the announcement of the final slate, Rodman and his fellow candidates spent a great deal of time sharing information with the people of North Carolina, including personal statements, biographies, theological reflections and a Q&A. The candidates each created an introductory video to share, and then took part in a series of virtual town halls, whereby each candidate was live online for an hour, answering questions submitted by people from around the diocese. The finale came when the candidates arrived in North Carolina to do a 12-stop tour around the state, taking part in panel discussions or town halls at each one.

Ordained in 1988, Rodman is a graduate of Bates College and Virginia Theological Seminary. He is married to Deborah Rodman, and they are the parents of two adult daughters. In his free time, Rodman enjoys basketball, golf, kayaking, walking his dog, crosswords and creative writing.

The Diocese of North Carolina is comprised of 48,000 people gathered into 112 congregations and nine campus ministries throughout 38 counties in the central part of North Carolina. The diocesan vision is to be a community of disciples committed to following Jesus Christ into the dream of God.

Pending the canonically required consent of a majority of the Episcopal Church’s diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction, Rodman will be ordained and consecrated as the XII Bishop Diocesan of the Diocese of North Carolina on July 15 at the Duke University Chapel in Durham, North Carolina.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gambia bishop gives thanks for peace after election tension

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

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

Full article.

Bishops blanket diocese in England for 4 days of mission

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

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

Full article.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Joaquin poised to take unusual step in bishop election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The outline of the case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Religious freedom for all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anglican Board of Mission makes emergency appeal for East Africa

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

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

Full article.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immigration forum at Houston cathedral addresses immigrant concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read article in Spanish here.

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

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

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

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

The following is the full text of the message:

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

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

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

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

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