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Church disciplinary hearing due to begin for Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 9:49am

The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno became the sixth bishop of Los Angeles on Feb. 1, 2002. Photo: Diocese of Los Angeles

[Episcopal News Service – Pasadena, California] Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno faces a rare disciplinary hearing here March 28-30 on accusations that he violated church canons, including engaging in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.

The allegations, initially brought by the members of St. James the Great Episcopal Church, stem from Bruno’s 2015 attempt to sell the church in Newport Beach to a condominium developer for $15 million.

Bruno is accused of violating Title IV Canon IV.4.1(g) failing to exercise his ministry in accordance with applicable church canons (specifically Title II Canon II.6.3 requiring prior standing committee consent to any plan for a church or chapel to be “removed, taken down, or otherwise disposed of for worldly or common use”), Title IV Canon IV.4.1(h)(6) (“conduct involving dishonesty, deceit or misrepresentation”) and Title IV Canon IV.4.1(h)(8) (“conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy”). The applicable subsections of Title IV Canon IV.4.1 begin on page 135 here.

Diocese of Southern Virginia Bishop Herman Hollerith IV is president of the Hearing Panel that will consider the case against Bruno. The panel, appointed by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops from among its members,  includes Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, the Rev. Erik Larsen of Rhode Island and Deborah Stokes of Southern Ohio.

  1. The St. James the Great complainants allege that Bruno violated church canons because he
  • failed to get the consent of the diocesan standing committee before entering into a contract to sell the property;
  • misrepresented his intention for the property to the members, the clergy and the local community at large;
  • misrepresented that St. James the Great was not a sustainable congregation;
  • misrepresented that the Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, St. James’ vicar, had resigned;
  • misrepresented to some St. James members that he would lease the property back to them for a number of months and that the diocese would financially aid the church; and
  • engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy by “misleading and deceiving” the clergy and people of St. James, as well as the local community, about his plans for the property and for taking possession of the property and locking out the congregation.

Bruno says in his defense brief to the hearing panel that he will establish during the hearing that the issue of the standing committee’s approval does not apply because the property never sold. He admits that he did not have the standing committee’s approval when he entered into a contract to sell the property but he obtained it two months later before the then-still expected closing.

He says that the alleged misrepresentations were either not made or that he based his statements on what he believed were “true facts.” Bruno also says that Voorhees determined the date of St. James’ last service and that “prudent business practices” required him to “secure the property” after that date.

Bruno says that five of the allegations must be decided in his favor because “undisputed evidence establishes no canonical violation.” He says the sixth allegation concerning alleged misrepresentations to Voorhees presents conflicting evidence for the panel to weigh. However, he calls it a “she said (he told me he wouldn’t sell the property), he said (I never said I wouldn’t sell the property) dichotomy.”

Members of St. James the Great Episcopal Church have not worshiped in the Newport Beach, California, building since mid-summer 2015. Photo: St. James the Great Episcopal Church

Church Attorney Jerry Coughlin, appointed by the Episcopal Church to prosecute the case against Bruno, says in the prosecution’s brief that Bruno was “seduced” by a $15 million business opportunity and then “tried to cover up the real reasons for the sale.”

“In doing so, he gave no real heed to the feelings of the many people who had relied on his positive statements” about St. James’ future, Coughlin, a former federal prosecutor, claimed.

Bruno, he said, has ignored Title IV’s goal of resolving conflicts by “promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among all involved or affected.” In fact, the attorney said. Bruno has acted “in exactly the opposite fashion, by his continued attacks on everyone involved in this case.”

Bruno is at least the tenth bishop in Episcopal Church history to have a disciplinary accusation against him reach the level of a formal hearing under the Church’s process for handling complaints applicable at the time. Those processes have changed many times during the life of the Church.

A decision will follow at some point after the end of the hearing. The Hearing Panel has a range of actions it can take, ranging from dismissal of the allegations to removing Bruno from his ordained ministry. Bruno or Coughlin would have 40 days to appeal the Hearing Panel’s decision to the Court of Review for Bishops.

Bruno turns 72, the Church’s mandatory retirement age, in late 2018. His successor, Bishop Coadjutor-Elect John Taylor, is due to be ordained and consecrated on July 7 of this year.

A timeline of the events leading up to the hearing

The Griffith Co. donated the land on what is known as the Balboa Peninsula on which St. James sits to the Episcopal Church in 1945 with a deed restriction requiring that the land be used “for church purposes exclusively.” The small congregation that existed at the time of the donation grew to the point where, with help from the diocese, it built a small church on the land in the late 1940s. The congregation outgrew that building and, 50 years later, started building a large complex, which Bruno consecrated in 2001.

Three years later a majority of the congregation’s members voted to disaffiliate with the Episcopal Church but vowed to keep the church property. Bruno sued in California civil court and, after costly litigation, recovered the property in 2013. He re-consecrated the building as St. James the Great in October of that year. He asked the Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, whom he appointed as vicar, and the remaining Episcopalians to form a new congregation.

Those congregants say that by the following spring, as many as 100 people attended Sunday worship and the church’s mission activities attracted and served many others. The 2015 budget envisioned $500,000 in income, according to documents St. James says it filed with the hearing panel.

Five days after Easter 2015, Bruno signed an agreement with Legacy Residential Partners to sell the property. St. James congregants say he told them of the plan on May 17, 2015.

Griffith Co., the donor of the land, reminded Bruno in a letter in early June of that year about the deed restriction and, that same month, members of the Newport Beach City Council voiced skepticism about the deal.

St. James members formed Save St. James the Great and sued Bruno in local civil court in his capacity as the California “corporation sole” for the diocese on June 23, 2015, based on the deed restriction. The court ruled that the members could not sue because neither they nor their group is listed on the deed. Save St. James is appealing. (The purpose of the “corp sole” is to hold real property and other assets for the use and benefit of the diocese and the church.)

Bruno as “corporation sole” sued the Griffith Co. in Orange County, California Superior Court on June 26, 2015, arguing that a 1984 quitclaim deed eliminated the restriction. Bruno sought not only to end any challenges or claims to the title; he also said the company had slandered the title and sought punitive damages from it. The court ruled in favor of the bishop and the diocese. Griffith Co. appealed, and Third District of the California Court of Appeal agreed on Feb. 24 with the company.

Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno consecrated a new St. James the Great Episcopal Church building in 2001. The congregation formed in the 1940s. Photo: St. James the Great Episcopal Church

The bishop changed the locks on St. James’ buildings on June 29, 2015, according to the members who have not been able to worship in the church since.

The sale fell through in the midst of these disputes and St. James members claim that Bruno has no prospect of selling the property, in part because of Newport Beach community opposition to such a development.

Those members filed a canonical complaint, signed by 117 people, against Bruno on July 6, 2015, initiating a Title IV process that has led to the March 28-30 hearing. The prior steps outlined in Title IV to reconcile the parties failed, and a July 1, 2016, notice announced that Bruno would face a Hearing Panel on the accusations. Last October, the panel refused Bruno’s request to dismiss the case and said it would not order him to let St. James members back into the building until it had considered the complaint during the scheduled hearing.

Save St. James has published a timeline of the dispute here that includes many documents.

The Title IV disciplinary process

Bruno’s trial is the first of a bishop since the Episcopal Church’s extensively revised Title IV disciplinary canons went into effect July 1, 2011. The revision was intended to move clergy disciplinary actions from a legalistic process to a professional-conduct model, such as those used in the medical, legal and social work profession, balanced with a sense of pastoral care and theology, according to those who worked on the revision.

Title IV’s introduction (page 131 here) says that “the Church and each Diocese shall support their members in their life in Christ and seek to resolve conflicts by promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among all involved or affected.”

In general, concerns about clergy behavior are reported to an intake officer who creates a written report. Following that, the matter could be resolved by pastoral care, conciliation, an agreement with the bishop (or presiding bishop in this case), an investigation, or any combination of these.

If the complaint moves to an investigation, some of the allegations could go to a more formal mediation and, finally if necessary, a hearing panel. The complaint against Bruno has reached the latter stage.

The hearing is taking place at the Courtyard by Marriott in Pasadena.

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

Lent Madness duo shines competitive spotlight on saints’ inspiring stories

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 5:12pm

The Rev. Scott Gunn, left, and the Rev. Tim Schenck pose with a cutout of 2015 Golden Halo winner St. Francis of Assisi. Photo: Lent Madness

[Episcopal News Service] The bracket is packed with big names. The matchups can be intense. Individual results may hinge on last-minute momentum shifts. And in the end, only one competitor claims the title of champion.

March Madness? No, this is Lent Madness, and the saint who outlasts them all will be crowned with the Golden Halo.

Q&A: Lent Madness

Name: The Rev. Tim Schenck
Age: 48
Where: Hingham, Massachusetts
Who: Rector of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church

Name: The Rev. Scott Gunn
Age: 49
Where: Cincinnati, Ohio
Who: Executive director of Forward Movement

The Rev. Tim Schenck, an Episcopal rector in Massachusetts, created Lent Madness in 2010 as a feature of his blog. Two years later, he partnered with Forward Movement and added a “co-conspirator,” the Rev. Scott Gunn, Forward Movement’s executive director.  Since then, Lent Madness has grown so popular among Christians of all denominations that the tournament’s website typically draws about 100,000 during the 32-saint competition.

Each day, fans are asked to vote on one of two saints after learning about the saints by reading their carefully crafted Lent Madness biographies. Up to 10,000 votes are cast each day, Gunn said, and players can mark the results on an official Saintly Scorecard.

Schenck and Gunn don’t condone gambling, but churches and other organizations are invited to use bracket pools as fundraising tools for charity.

“Who wouldn’t want to tell everybody in their parish that they’ve won Lent?” Schenck said.

Schenck and Gunn spoke to Episcopal News Service by phone March 22 with Lent Madness fast approaching this year’s Golden Halo matchup on April 12, the Wednesday before Easter.

It appears that Lent Madness has absolutely nothing to do with sports. That said, are the two of you basketball fans, and do you follow the actual March Madness?

Schenck: The reason that I started Lent Madness in the first place was I got tired of basketball fans having all the fun this time of year, while Christians would give things up and eat twigs and that kind of thing. I’m a huge sports fan, and I thought, wait a minute, let’s combine these two things: saints and brackets. Of course, they would go together brilliantly. And so, I started this project on a whim, and it’s now evolved into what it is today, partly because of our partnership with Forward Movement. Sometimes, Scott will talk about being the Don King to my Muhammad Ali, which in other words, would make me the greatest and it would give Scott bad hair. But seriously though, Forward Movement has done a tremendous amount to promote Lent Madness over the years, and Scott and I have worked together to get the word out. That’s what’s been the leaven in the Lent Madness bread to make it grow.

Scott, are you a basketball fan?

Gunn: No. I’d be lying if I said I was. But I’m very competitive.

Lent Madness has developed quite a following. Do you or your followers ever engage in a kind of divine trash talk about who should win?

Schenck: We, as the Supreme Executive Committee, are of course impartial. But we do encourage trash talk on social media, and that absolutely does happen.

Gunn: When Tim started Lent Madness the first year, when he was doing it on his blog by himself, I was a participant and I wanted George Herbert to win. And so, before I was supreme and had to be neutral, I ran a vicious smear campaign against Julian of Norwich and Teresa of Avila. Which succeeded, I might add. So that’s why George Herbert won the first year, because I was like the Karl Rove of Lent Madness.

But now you can’t do that, right?

Gunn: Exactly, it’s like when you watch the State of the Union Address and the Supreme Court justices sit in their black robes, and they can’t smile or stand up or clap or anything. Tim and I are just exactly like that, except if we were wearing robes they’d be purple, of course.

Schenck: But we also do have the same amount of job security as a Supreme Court justice has, because we’ve appointed ourselves for life.

This is the eighth year. How much time and effort do you put into planning the bracket and then overseeing the matchups?

Schenck: A tremendous amount. When I did all the writing by myself the first two years of Lent Madness, I don’t remember Lent 2010 and 2011, safe to say. But we have a tremendous amount of support and help, not just through Forward Movement, but we have 11 celebrity bloggers. And our celebrity bloggers are the ones that do the bulk of the writing for the matchups, and they do a tremendous job in bringing these saintly souls to light.

Gunn: And then in terms of getting the bracket organized, we have a period of open nominations where anybody can suggest eligible saints. That will happen during Eastertide. And we collect all the nominations and then Tim and I have a spring retreat. We meet somewhere –

Schenck: A secure undisclosed location.

Gunn: Yes, we meet in a secure undisclosed location that’s usually a coffee shop, and it usually takes a couple days to organize the bracket and decide how to get the matchups organized and who to put in there. And then over the summer, the celebrity bloggers under a great veil of secrecy write the first entries and we work on the saintly scorecard. And it’s now a tradition that the bracket is unveiled on Nov. 3, which is All Brackets Day. You have All Saints, Day Nov. 1, All Souls Day, Nov. 2 and All Brackets Day, Nov. 3.

So, this is a year-round process.

Schenck: Oh yes, we’re in the business of perpetual Lent.

Do you go into each tournament with a sense at the start of who will win the Golden Halo? And how on Earth did St. Francis of Assisi lose in 2010?

Schenck: I never fill out a bracket, because I am always wrong. Anyone that I think is going to win does not. So, I’ve stopped even trying. Scott, do you fill out a bracket?

Gunn: We have a bracket pool here at Forward Movement to raise money for charity, so I fill one out for that purpose. But I don’t usually do that well. I’ve never won.

Schenck: So, insider information doesn’t help.

Gunn: St. Francis is actually a great example. He didn’t do very well in 2010 and then he cruised all the way to victory in 2015, so you just never know. I think a lot people were stunned and considered it to be an upset that Joan of Arc lost this year in the first round. So, you just never know.

Schenck: Just as with March Madness, there are Cinderellas and there are upsets and lots of drama.

Gunn: My hope for Lent Madness is always that it’s inspiring for people, that people learn something from this and that people have a good time playing it. I don’t really care so much who wins or who loses as [much as] is there an interesting figure that people are learning about? I guarantee you a lot more people know about Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky because of Lent Madness than otherwise would know about him, and his story is really inspiring. I’m proud of Lent Madness for making his story more well know.

Schenck: The whole notion of saints competing against one another is patently absurd. They have all won their Golden Halos in Heaven. They have nothing to worry about on that score. It’s all about putting out some inspiring stories and getting people to know some well-known saints in deeper ways and also being introduced to some more obscure figures who did some saintly things in their own time.

Is there any way that the works of a saint could be compared to a Michael Jordan dunk or block by Shaq?

Schenck: I don’t know, I think all these saints would be members of the Dream Team, so there’s that analogy.

The two of you clearly seem to be students of the saints, it sounds like your followers are too.

Gunn: Lent Madness seems at first like it’s about the competition, and then when you look at it a little more you see that it’s really about learning about saints. And then when you look at it more closely again, you see that it’s about how God works in ordinary, messed-up people to do extraordinary things. And that’s what we hope one of the points of Lent Madness is, that all of us might be inspired to see God at work in our own lives, even maybe occasionally inspired by a little bit of silliness.

When you say ordinary, messed-up people, what do you mean by that?

Gunn: Well, we’re all sinners and nobody’s perfect.

Schenck: We literally put saints up on a pedestal, whether it’s on statuary or stained glass or oil painting, and people forget these were ordinary people with blood coursing through their veins who did some heroic things or lived in particularly intense times, and God called them to service in Jesus’ name in particular ways. Saints were sinners as well. They were imperfect, they were flawed, and yet God used them to do heroic things. I think that we can all find some inspiration in that.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. This interview was lightly edited for clarity and condensed.

Canadian church partners with Habitat for Humanity to bring drinking water to First Nations households

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 11:34am

[Anglican Journal] Ten more homes in the First Nations community of Pikangikum in Northern Ontario will have clean drinking water by the end of 2017 as a result of a joint effort by the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, Habitat for Humanity Manitoba and grassroots Anglican group Pimatsiwin Nipi.

Full article.


Spanish, Portuguese clergy come together for Lenten retreat in Spain

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 11:28am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A group of Anglican clergy working in the Lusitanian Church of Portugal and the Episcopal Church of Spain held a Lenten retreat in the Spanish city of Salamanca.

Full article.

Le Magazine Anglican : questions politiques et de société

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 7:52am

[Episcopal News Service] Pour écouter l’émission cliquer sur : http://frequenceprotestante.com/emission/magazine-anglican

Depuis neuf mois, deux leaders religieux anglicans – à savoir l’archevêque de Cantorbéry et le primat de l’Église épiscopale – se sont invités dans le débat public.

Ils ont appelés les anglicans à la mobilisation : lors du synode général de l’église d’Angleterre pour l’archevêque de Cantorbéry ; à travers le « mouvement de Jésus » pour le Primat de l’église épiscopale.

Leurs  prises de position suscitent un débat de fond, sur la place et le rôle de l’église aujourd’hui : l’église peut-elle s’inviter dans le débat public, lorsqu’il est politique ? L’église doit-elle prendre la parole, voire manifester sur des questions de société ?

En Angleterre, il semble que l’archevêque de Cantorbéry, Justin Welby, ait trouvé de bonnes raisons de le faire. Il légitime le rôle public de l’église, face à la montée des politiques d’extrême droite en Europe, l’élection de Donald Trump et le vote en faveur du Brexit (vote auquel il n’était pas personnellement favorable).

Quelle est la position des anglicans en France et en Europe continentale où l’église d’Angleterre est présente, à travers son diocèse en Europe, le seul hors des îles britanniques. Le Magazine Anglican a posé la question à Meurig Williams, archidiacre chargé de superviser les églises de France et de Monaco.

Depuis l’été 2016, l’église épiscopale défend la cause de la tribu Sioux de Standing Rock pour faire modifier le tracé de l’oléoduc qui mettrait en danger son approvisionnement en eau.

Le 10 mars 2017, à Washington, prêtres et laïcs épiscopaliens ont pris part à la manifestation pacifique après avoir suivi, la veille, un service de prières de près de deux heures à la Cathédrale de Washington. Prière et action sont aujourd’hui la marque du « mouvement de Jésus », l’appellation lancée par l’évêque Primat Michael Curry qui laisse à penser que l’église épiscopale se veut une église militante.

Mais le militantisme n’est pas nouveau dans l’histoire des églises de la Communion anglicane. Le plus connu des militants anglicans du XXe siècle est l’archevêque Desmond Tutu. Artisan de la lutte contre le système de l’Apartheid, il a présidé la commission Vérité et Réconciliation d’Afrique du Sud de 1996 à 1998.

La Magazine Anglican s’intéresse à une autre commission Vérité et Réconciliation : celle du Canada. Elle a rendu ses conclusions en 2015, sur l’un des chapitres les moins connus mais des plus sombres de l’histoire du Canada. Mgr. Bruce Myers, évêque coadjuteur du diocèse anglican du Québec explique le rôle de cette Commission.

Les faits remontent au 19e siècle et à la première moitié du 20e siècle. Ils apportent un éclairage sur les deux questions abordées dans le Magazine Anglican de mars :

– l’immixtion des églises dans des décisions politiques : l’histoire des pensionnats autochtones du Canada, en montre les dangers ;

– le rôle de l’église dans la société : à la suite de ces événements tragiques, l’église Anglicane du Canada s’est fixé un rôle de réconciliation au sein d’une société multiculturelle.

Un exemple à méditer pour nos sociétés multiculturelles.

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

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

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

Theologian defends universities against charges they are seedbeds of “political correctness”

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 1:21pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Higton, a professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, has presented the fourth Dr. Rowan Williams Annual CUAC Lecture, sponsored by Colleges & Universities of the Anglican Communion. It was given at Trinity College, Toronto, earlier in March.

In a lecture exploring how universities can be “good” – in the Christian sense – while also being good at the many other things expected of them, Higton defended universities against charges they are seedbeds of “political correctness.”

Full article.

Archbishop of Canterbury speaks in House of Lords about London attack

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 1:18pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Speaking in Britain’s upper chamber of Parliament, the House of Lords, about the attack in Westminster on Wednesday, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby paid tribute to victims and first responders, speaking of the “deep values” in British society. An attacker drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then stabbed to death a police officer before being shot and killed by police.

Full article.

Water: Common good or commodity?

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 12:19pm

[Episcopal News Service] The demand for water is expected to increase 55 percent by 2030 and at the same time global water resources may only meet 60 percent of the world’s needs.

“Africa, India, the Middle East and Australia already are in crisis,” said Maude Barlow, a former United Nations senior advisor on water, and an author, political activist and policy critic. Some say “the solution to the water crisis is to commodify water,” she added, during a March 23 session on “Waters: Commons or Commodity” during Water Justice,  a global conference taking place at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City and webcast worldwide March 22-24.

The Rev. Brandon Mauai, a deacon in the Diocese of North Dakota and member of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, talked about the Episcopal Church’s support for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation as it and its allies fought against the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Photo: is Leo Sorel/Trinity Wall Street

The conference aims to offer actionable guidance for individuals, congregations and the larger faith community surrounding the need for water justice initiatives in areas of access, droughts, pollution, rising tides and flooding. Water Justice is the 46th annual conference organized by the Trinity Institute, past conferences have addressed racial justice and economic inequality.

If the Great Lakes, the largest surface freshwater system on Earth, “were pumped as mercilessly as ground water, they would be dry in 80 years,” Barlow warned. Russia’s Aral Sea, once the fourth-largest freshwater lake in the world, is now 10 percent its former size.  Half the waters in China, a water-rich country, have disappeared. Sao Paulo, the second largest city in the world, is drought-stricken because rapid destruction of the Amazon rainforest has decreased vapor clouds that used to carry water to central and south Brazil.

All of this, Barlow said, is happening as corporations, governments and the World Bank, contemplate a global waters market, where water futures can be sold like oil and gas.

“Is it [water] a human right, a public trust or a private asset?” asked Barlow.

“We have to fiercely protect it everywhere as a commons,” she said. “Water shouldn’t be put into the market. That doesn’t mean the private sector doesn’t have a role. But the central question is who owns water itself, and who has access to it and who does not, and in places around the world now this is a life or death situation.”

The United Nations says water is a human right, and Barlow was instrumental in moving the intergovernmental organization to make that determination. On July 28, 2010, the U.N. General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that access to both are “essential to the realization of all human rights.” The resolution passed with 122 nations in favor, zero against and 41 abstentions, including the United States and Canada. (Both the U.S. and Canada have since adopted the resolution.)

Still, saying water is a human right doesn’t mean it’s protected or that everyone has access to it. As examples, Barlow mentioned Detroit and Baltimore, two cities that have turned off residents’ taps.

In Detroit, a financially strapped, hollowed-out inner city, residents’ water rates tripled and many poor people couldn’t afford to pay their water bills; in Baltimore, city officials maintained it was necessary to have a system in which everyone paid pays “their fair share.”

As Christiana Zenner Peppard, a professor at Fordham University a theologian and freshwater expert, pointed out in her response to Barlow’s talk, a human being can survive less than 7 days without water.

“Water is not replaceable by any other thing; it is the baseline for human, ecological and the planetary system,” she said. “You cannot talk about water and justice as two separate things.”

In terms of religious values and water ethics, “it’s foundational to life and understood as finite,” and at least from the Christian point of view, access to water is caring for “the least of these.”

The Roman Catholic Church, she said, has been an advocate for water as a human right since the early aughts; in his encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis said that water shouldn’t be commodified.

The world’s water crisis manifests in many ways, from rising waters, to drought, to waters polluted by toxins, to the proximity of a drinking water source. Following, Barlow’s talk and Peppard’s response, Trinity’s audience heard from three storytellers living on the frontlines of three different water crises.

Three years after the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, residents continue to rely on bottled water for their drinking and hygienic needs, said Nakiya Wakes, an activist and spokesperson for Flint Rising, a coalition of community organizations preparing Flint residents for the long-haul.

In April 2014, under the leadership of an emergency manager and to save $5 million, the city’s water supply was switched from Lake Huron via Detroit’s municipal water system to the Flint River, a more corrosive source. At the same time, the emergency manager, seeking to save $100 a day, ordered that the water not be treated with a chemical to prevent lead from leaching out of the city’s aging pipes into the water running through them and destined for residents. The state had, mistakenly, told Flint officials that federal guidelines did not require the chemical treatment, according to the New York Times.

Almost immediately following the switch, residents began to complain about the water’s color, taste and smell, and the skin irritation caused by bathing in it, yet government officials maintained the water’s safety. It wasn’t until January 2016 that a federal state of emergency was declared and residents were told to use only bottled or filtered water for drinking or bathing.

While still drinking tap water, Wakes miscarried twins, she said, and both her son and her daughter have elevated lead levels in their bodies; her daughter’s hair began falling out, her son has had behavioral problems, and both children had rashes on their bodies.

“We have been lied to for too long and we don’t trust our government,” she said. “Three years later we are drinking bottled water … we don’t have access to clean water in the United States of America. They call Michigan “Pure Michigan” and we are being pure poisoned.”

The Rev. Brandon Mauai, a deacon in the Diocese of North Dakota and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation talked about the Episcopal Church’s support for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation as it and its allies fought against the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The 1,134-mile pipeline was originally routed near Bismarck, North Dakota, but changed after residents expressed concern an accident would contaminate the city’s drinking water. Instead, the pipeline crosses under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, a reservoir that provides water for the Standing Rock reservation and others downstream.

In September 2016 federal officials stopped construction of the pipeline on lands bordering or under Lake Oahe belonging to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency responsible for permitting on public lands and waterways. In December, President Barack Obama blocked construction on the disputed segment of the pipeline.

In one of his first actions following his inauguration, President Donald Trump instructed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with the pipeline’s environmental review to speed up the process. On Feb. 8, the Corps gave permission to the company developing the pipeline to continue construction.

Oil is expected to flow through the North Dakota Access Pipeline by this weekend, said Mauai, following the morning session in a conversation with Episcopal News Service.

“That really deflated us on Standing Rock,” said Mauai “But I’m hoping this [conference] will raise awareness across the world because it’s not only happening at Standing Rock, there are other places where this is happening, in Navajoland and other reservations in the United States. And I’m hoping that Standing Rock made an impression, that people are going to say ‘Okay, this is huge because it’s a threat to the tribe’s water source and those around it.’”

Even if the oil is flowing through the pipeline, though, the story isn’t over, said Mauai.

“We will continue to speak to whomever will hear us. The church will continue to take an active role, we were active in the cleanup … we’ll go forward whatever the tribe needs from us as a church we’ll be there to assist however we can,” he said.

Thousands of Episcopalians joined others in support of the Sioux Nation, most recently during March 10 Native Nations Rise demonstration and rally in Washington, D.C.

Archbishop Winston Halapua, one of three primates of the Anglican Church in Polynesia and Aotearoa New Zealand, responsible for New Zealand-based Samoan, Tongan, Indo-Fijian, and Fijian congregations, talked about his childhood and growing up in Tonga, where his life was in sync with the tide cycle.

Sea-level rise continues to claim whole islands in the Pacific, where the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is establishing a “clear resilience strategy” to strengthen its response to future natural disasters in the Pacific islands.

“Water is a reflection of God; you and I don’t live without water,” said Halapua.

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

Episcopal Church Memes uses Facebook popularity to mix laughs, evangelism

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 4:05pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Art Bass is a trial lawyer and Episcopal deacon in Cleveland, Tennessee. He also happens to be the mastermind behind one of the most popular Episcopal-themed pages on Facebook – a page he maintained mostly in anonymity until he was confronted with his growing online popularity at a diocesan workshop.

One of the speakers at the workshop was advising congregations to use social media to reach parishioners and the community. One of the examples cited as effective outreach on Facebook was the widely popular humor page Episcopal Church Memes.

Bass listened quietly. After the presentation, he went up and introduced himself to the speakers.

That’s me, he told them. I post those funny photos and captions.

The Rev. Art Bass is a deacon at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Tennessee. Photo: Art Bass, via Facebook

“That was the first time I ever told anyone in my diocese that I was doing this,” Bass, 66, said in a phone interview with Episcopal News Service. “I don’t hide the fact that I do this page, but I don’t make a big deal about it either, because it’s not about me.”

Instead, Bass sees Episcopal Church Memes as his humble Christian ministry, spreading the good news and promoting the Episcopal Church, one impact-typeface headline at a time. At nearly 70,000 followers, the message and the humor is clearly connecting with his page’s audience.

Bass, a lifelong Episcopalian, takes his faith seriously but also thinks a bit of humor goes a long way when evangelizing. He’s been known to sprinkle one-liners into his sermons – “Every good homilist does” – because, he said, often that is what worshipers will remember days later. And he’s convinced Jesus had a sense of humor.

Take Matthew 19:24, the Gospel passage about how a camel trying to get through the eye of a needle would find that squeeze easy, compared to a rich man’s efforts to get into heaven.

“That’s humor, that’s hyperbole,” Bass said. “I’m sure some of the people who heard Jesus tell that parable probably chuckled.”

Jump ahead a couple millennia, and Jesus’ biblical one-liner might be told (or retold) as a meme. For those unfamiliar with this social media phenomenon, a meme is incredibly easy to produce: Take a popular stock image, like Grumpy Cat or The Most Interesting Man in the World, and use an online meme generator to add a snarky caption or witty joke. Then post away.

But it’s much harder to make a meme funny, harder still to make a funny meme go viral. Bass’ successful formula on Episcopal Church Memes could be seen at work in his March 21 post featuring Grumpy Cat. In this image, the perpetually downcast Siamese has found his way into a church or cathedral. Bass’ caption in big bold letters reads: “Holy Eucharist to be followed by a special meeting of the vestry? Heaven and hell on the same day.”

As of March 23, that image had been shared from the Episcopal Church Memes page nearly 350 times and generated plenty of approving comments, like St. George Pinckney’s quip, “For God so loved the world, that he didn’t send a committee.”

Original meme: The Most Interesting Cat in the World

The best memes can feel both timeless and ephemeral, like a high-protein snack for the funny bone, but the first one Bass ever created served a very specific ecclesiastical purpose in his role as deacon at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Tennessee.

It was early fall 2012, and St. Luke’s was preparing for its annual Blessing of the Animals. Bass was thinking of ways to get more people to come to the church with their pets. He also had been following a popular Facebook page that offered a steady stream of funny Catholic memes.

Combining the two, a social media marketing plan was born.

Bass started with the iconic image of the gray-bearded Dos Equis pitchman known as the Most Interesting Man in the World, who says in ads, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do I prefer Dos Equis.”

In Bass’ variation, a cat took the place of the Most Interesting Man. His caption put these words in the Most Interesting Cat’s mouth: “I don’t always allow priests to bless me. But when I do, it’s Father Joel Huffstetler at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.”

It was a big hit when he shared it on his personal Facebook page. “I got a lot of comments from people,” Bass said. “They came back and said, ‘Do you have more of these?’”

He didn’t yet, but if Catholic memes could promote the Catholic faith, Bass thought, why not Episcopal memes to promote the Episcopal faith?

Since then, he has produced or shared thousands of memes and cartoons for his Facebook audience, averaging 20 to 25 images a week. He typically updates the feed just on weekdays, with a couple memes to start the day, another couple in the afternoon or evening and a cartoon in the middle.

Some are meant to educate people about theological concepts, like transubstantiation, which got the “Princess Bride” treatment in a Feb. 11 meme.

Others aim to leave them laughing in the pews, like this Jeff Foxworthy meme that has been shared nearly 1,400 times since March 12: “If you think Nicodemus is a patch to quit smoking, you might need to stop sleeping through the sermon.”

Bass couldn’t identify a favorite, though one that sticks out in his mind featured Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Watson.

Watson: “I say, Holmes, as an Anglican, how do you explain Eucharistic real presence?”

Holmes: “That, my dear Watson, must always remain a divine mystery.”

That generated a lively theological discussion in the responses. “I would answer with Summa Theologica Tertia Pars 73-77,” commenter Thomas Knight offered.

Bass usually takes weekends off from posting – but not from thinking up funny captions. That’s the tough part, given how many images he’s already created.

“That’s a lot to do, without repeating,” Bass said. “To come up with something that’s new and novel gets harder all the time.”

A meme from April 13 features Rod Serling and a reworking of Serling’s “Twilight Zone” opening.

“Imagine a church that seeks to serve Christ in all persons and respects the dignity of every human being. You have just entered the Episcopal Zone.”

Bass was happy with that one, which has been shared 2,300 times, though he said some people commented that the clever reference to the old TV show might be lost on anyone under age 50.

Sometimes he also shares images submitted by his followers, giving them credit. Generally, political memes are off limits. And he’s dabbled in other social media, but Facebook is where he spends most of his time and has found his biggest audience. Bass encourages followers to share his images wherever they wish.

Popularity rises, even after a hijacking

If you’re working in the digital sphere, part of your success is defined by what the industry calls metrics, so take a quick look at the numbers.

At the time of this story, Episcopal Church Memes stood at 68,843 likes. To put that in perspective, the Episcopal Church’s Facebook page is approaching 162,000 likes, while Episcopal News Service clocks in at a modest 11,500.

There are dozens of Facebook pages devoted to Catholic memes but only one tops Bass’ Episcopal meme page in popularity. It’s this one, with a staggering 300,000 likes. If you giggle at jokes about meatless Fridays in Lent, you may already be a Catholic Memes follower.

Bass said he keeps in touch with the administrators of that and other Christian meme pages, such as United Methodist Memes (43,000 likes), many of which started after his page.

“Some of what I put out there really could apply to any Christian meme page,” he said, particularly posts about the Gospel, though other posts appeal directly to Episcopalians.

One other number of note is 2,000 – the number of photos his timeline is quickly approaching. But that isn’t the whole story. In 2015, he had to start from scratch after his page got hijacked by a Facebook phishing scam.

“The next thing I knew someone had added themselves as administrator, closed me out as an administrator and took over the page,” he said. “I couldn’t get back into it.”

He contacted Facebook, which helped him shut down the page. All the images were gone, as were the page’s 35,000 followers.

“After having put all that work into it for several years and then just to have it all vanish overnight, it was depressing,” Bass said.

Bass still had a personal Facebook page and an “Arthur Bass, Attorney at Law” page. A third, “Deacon Art Bass,” is devoted to more straightforward Episcopal matters, but he took about a month and a half off from Episcopal memes. When he bowed to meme fans’ requests and started a new Episcopal Church Memes, it quickly gained back and even doubled his old audience.

That audience is so large now that he sometimes gets inquiries from companies interested in buying his page, because the tens of thousands of followers would make it a valuable marketing outlet, but he always turns down the offers.

He has never spent money on the page and never makes any money from it. The only marketing that interests him here is of a higher order.

“We’re trying to promote the church and the Gospel,” Bass said. “We’re doing it through humor.”

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


International Anglican students gather in Philippines

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 12:22pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] More than forty students from Japan, Korea and the Philippines have taken part in an international learning program at Trinity University of Asia in Quezon City in the Philippines organized by CUAC – the Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion, a world-wide network of Anglican colleges and universities.

Full article.

Primate of Anglican Church of Canada leads tributes to former archbishop of Toronto

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 12:18pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, has described the former Archbishop of Toronto,Terence Edward Finlay, who has died at the age of 79, as “one of the Canadian Church’s most widely and highly respected leaders.”

Full article.

WCC offers condolences in wake of Great Britain attack

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 12:16pm

[World Council of Churches] As Great Britain continued to cope with grief and trauma in the wake of the country’s deadliest terror attack in 12 years, World Council of Churches’ general secretary, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, offered sympathy for those who lost loved ones from Great Britain and other countries.

“I speak for the whole fellowship of Christian churches around the world when I say that we unconditionally condemn this criminal act of terror, whatever the motivation behind it have been, and we stand in solidarity with you in these difficult and trying circumstances,” he wrote.

Tveit urged WCC member churches and all people in Great Britain and elsewhere to stay strong in their faith in God and also in their commitment to God’s love, which embraces all, and God’s reign, which holds out hope for a just and inclusive society, one of compassion and reconciliation. “It is sorely needed now,” Tveit wrote.

The aspiration of an inclusive society is tested by such events as this attack, he continued. “Yet it was St. Bede who summoned a vision not only of individual Christians healing the wounds of their neighbors but also of a whole compassionate community—a cradle of redemptive love—leading the way to reconciliation through practicing the values of the reign of God.”


Church leaders offer prayers after deadly attack in Westminster

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 12:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishop of Canterbury and leaders of the Church of England have offered prayers for those affected by the attack in Westminster on March 22 that left four people dead and many injured. The attacker mowed down pedestrians with his car on Westminster Bridge then rushed at the gates in front of the Houses of Parliament, stabbing a plain-clothes policeman before he was shot and killed by armed officers.

Full article.

Anglican, Episcopal women gather at UNCSW’s annual look at women’s status

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 3:43pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings listen as Lynnaia Main, Episcopal Church representative to the United Nations, poses a question submitted by a participant during a March 21 session in the Episcopal Church Center’s Chapel of Christ the Lord. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings told women from across the Episcopal Church and throughout the Anglican Communion gathered for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women that their advocacy is God’s work.

The women are in New York for the 61st session of the UNCSW March 13-­­­­­­­24.

The UNCSW promotes women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields, and makes recommendations on urgent problems regarding women’s rights. The conference has convened annually or biannually since 1946; it reached a turning point in Beijing in 1995 when it adopted a global policy framework for gender equality and the empowerment of women that identified 12 areas of critical concern.

Curry in his sermon during a March 21 Eucharist at the Episcopal Church Center said the UNCSW does more than “raise consciousness and awareness” about the issues facing women.

Participants also aim, he said, “to encourage the powers that be in the world to enact legislation, to engage policy, to change in ways that promote true human equality as God intended from the beginning, to promote ways to emancipate women that they might in turn emancipate their children and not only their children but their communities and their nations.”

“When they [women] get free the whole world gets free,” he said.

“This is about the survival of the human race. Your work of advocacy, of encouragement, of gentle nudging, or a little arm twisting, this work is nothing less than the work of God,” Curry said during his sermon.

Curry encouraged the UNCSW participants not to lose heart when the work is hard but to, instead, remember Esther, the biblical hero who saved her people. “Even when you don’t know it, there is a God and there is a Spirit moving through the corridors of power wherever Esther rises up,” he said.

Lupe Ayllon Ruiz, Diocese of Central Florida, holding microphone, talks about her experience at the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings listen. Angela Smith, Diocese of Western Kansas, left is translating. Both women are part of the Episcopal Church’s delegation at the session. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

Curry and Jennings, who presided at the Eucharist, held an hour-long session with the delegates later the same day.

The issue of refugees and immigrants came up more than once during the afternoon session with Curry and Jennings. One question specifically dealt with the Episcopal Church’s response to people, especially children, fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle formed by El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala in Central America. Some of them have wound up in U.S. detention facilities.

“These are our neighbors. Their human rights are being violated at home, in migration and then in our communities,” Jennings replied.

“We worship a child who fled violence in his own country,” she said. “And so, that is at the heart of our story of Christian faith and discipleship, and at the heart of our discipleship is the call to welcome our neighbor.”

Warning that her answer might sound political, she said, “Building a wall will not make us great again.” Welcoming “everyone who comes to us fleeing violence and degradation; that’s what makes us great, not only as Christians but as citizens,” Jennings said.

Many Episcopal congregations and dioceses are trying to “protect members of the congregations and of their communities to ensure that inappropriate deportation doesn’t take place.” The issues are “heavy on everyone’s hearts and minds, and people are looking for creative ways” to respond, she said, urging the women to bring home to their leadership colleagues their insights and ideas from conversations at the UNCSW meetings.

One woman said she had just learned about gender-sensitive or gender-responsive budgeting, a tool for evaluating how budgeting choices contribute to the achievement of gender equality goals. She asked Curry and Jennings whether the Episcopal Church was looking at its financial commitments through that lens.

“The first thing I am going to do is go to Program, Budget and Finance and ask ‘Have you heard phrase gender-sensitive budgeting?’” Jennings said to applause. “And if not, would you please put a few people on to finding out what this is and how it impacts our budget development?”

She noted that Barbara Miles, a laywoman, chairs Program, Budget and Finance, the committee responsible for proposing a triennial budget to each meeting of General Convention.

The theme for the 61st annual UNCSW is women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. The “review theme” for the conference is “challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, which was the title of the “agreed conclusions” of the UNCSW 58th session. Those goals are now known as the Sustainable Development Goals. A major focus will continue to be the implementation of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Each session issues an “agreed conclusions” document. Delegates lobby for changes to the draft version for this session issued last month. The negotiators have been urging delegates to come up with practical suggestions of ideas that will work on the ground. The final agreement goes to the United Nations. If approved, the General Assembly expects member states to implement it.

Representatives of member states, U.N. entities, and U.N. Economic and Social Council accredited non-governmental organizations were invited to attend the session. The Episcopal Church is one of a number of those accredited non-governmental organizations, or so-called “civil society” organizations, engaged in advocacy and activist work, represented at the United Nations.

Curry submitted an official statement to the session on behalf of the Episcopal Church. It highlights three priority areas to improve women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work: promote women’s and girls’ access to education and gender equality education for all; expand socio-economic benefits that support women’s contributions at work; and, prioritize resources and programs for marginalized groups of women and girls.

The statement and its priorities are the foundation by which delegates advocate, and share their own stories, reflections and concerns.

UNCSW participants listen March 21 in the Episcopal Church Center’s Chapel of Christ the Lord as Anglican Women’s Empowerment Chair Christina Hing from the Diocese of New York asks about responding to the “politics of the moment.” The session featured Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

Twenty Episcopal delegates and one Episcopal provincial representative to the Anglican Communion delegation represented the Episcopal Church’s positions.

The Episcopal UNCSW delegation consists of: Jennifer Allen, Diocese of Kansas; Delores Alleyne, Diocese of Connecticut; Dr. Damaris De Jesús Carrasquillo, Diocese of Puerto Rico; Dr. Elayne Gallagher, Diocese of Colorado; Katherine Gould, Diocese of Southeast Florida; Pragedes Coromoto Jimenez de Salazar, Diocese of Venezuela; the Rev. Yein Esther Kim, Diocese of Los Angeles; Kirsten Lee, Diocese of Kansas; the Rev. Irene E. Maliaman, Diocese of Hawaii; Emma Palmer, Diocese of Oklahoma; Karma Quick-Panwala, Diocese of California; Thomasina Rogers, Diocese of Washington; Rebecca Rosen, Diocese of Michigan; Dr. Lupe Ayllon Ruiz, Diocese of Central Florida; Charlene Rusnak, Diocese of Virginia; Angela Smith, Diocese of Western Kansas; and Sandra Squires, Diocese of Nebraska.

The Episcopal Church staff members in the delegation are Lynnaia Main, Episcopal Church representative to the United Nations; Rachel McDaniel, Julia Chester Emery United Thank Offering intern; and the Rev. Glenda McQueen, staff officer for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Erin Morey of the Diocese of Pittsburgh is the Episcopal Church’s provincial representative on the Anglican Communion delegation. There are 23 women from 17 countries in the latter group.

The Episcopal Church Center, located just a block from the United Nations building, is serving as a home base for Episcopal and Anglican women. Among the events was an opening Eucharist March 13 and a March 15 speech by Fereshteh Forough, founder and chief executive officer of Code to Inspire. There will be a closing Eucharist on March 24. In addition to these events at the Episcopal Church Center, Episcopalians have organized many UNCSW parallel events and worship opportunities throughout New York City, at the Church Center for the United Nations, and at churches in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

The United Nations Press Centre’s coverage of the 61st session is here.

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

Appeal launched for restoration of Malta landmark

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 2:38pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An appeal has been launched for the restoration of St. Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral in Malta. Towering 200 feet over the seaward approach to Valletta, St. Paul’s is a vital part of Malta’s rich cultural heritage. It pays homage to St. Paul, who was shipwrecked there in about AD 60 and brought Christianity to Malta.

Full article.

Anglican secretary general briefs Bishops of Pakistan during retreat in England

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 2:35pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has told the Church of Pakistan it has something to offer to the Communion because of its experience of being a minority church in a Muslim Country. The eight Bishops of Pakistan, during a three-day retreat in England, were questioning how their Church and the Anglican Communion could cooperate.

Full article.

Saint Augustine’s president, with deep ties to university’s past, looks to future

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 12:53pm

Everett Ward became the 11th president of Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina, in April 2015. Photo: Saint Augustine’s University

[Episcopal News Service] Generations of Everett Ward’s family preceded him in graduating from Saint Augustine’s University, a historically black college in Raleigh, North Carolina, so he was no stranger to the campus in 2014 when he took over as interim president.

He was named to that role permanently in April 2015, becoming the school’s 11th president.

Q&A: Everett Ward

Age: 58

Home: Raleigh, North Carolina

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Saint Augustine’s; master’s degree, North Carolina State University; doctorate, North Carolina A&T State University

Job: President of Saint Augustine’s University

Family: He married his college sweetheart after graduating from Saint Augustine’s in 1982. Cassandra Lloyd Ward, a longtime educator and civic leader, died in 2011 of breast cancer. “When I walk this campus every day, her spirit walks with me, because we held hands and walked this campus together for four years,” Ward said.

Before that, his professional experience included serving as executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party and as the director of a state Department of Transportation program focused on transportation curriculum, research and student development at historically black colleges and universities.

Saint Augustine’s was created in 1867 by the Episcopal Church and opened its doors the following January; one of many schools that formed in the wake of the Civil War to educate black students barred by segregation from attending white institutions.

About 100 such schools are still open today, accepting students of all races and interests. Dozens of presidents of historically black colleges and universities, including Ward, traveled to Washington, D.C., at the end of February to meet with elected officials and make their case for increased federal funding to support the schools’ mission. During their visit, President Donald Trump signed an executive order moving an executive branch initiative on historically black colleges from the Department of Education into the White House, signaling the removal of a bureaucratic barrier.

Your ties to Saint Augustine’s university go far back, even back to your birth.

That is correct. My father attended Saint Augustine’s and all my relatives for several generations. And I was born here on the campus at St. Agnes Hospital, which was operated by the university as the only African-American teaching hospital between here and Atlanta, Georgia. On Nov. 6, 1958, I was honored to be born in a building that a great uncle of mine helped construct when he was a student here.

Were you raised as an Episcopalian?

No, I was raised as a Presbyterian and I am still a Presbyterian, but was educated both in Catholic schools and public schools, as well as the Episcopal school here at St. Augustine’s. So, church-affiliated education was not new to me or my sister.

Was your family particularly religious growing up?

My family’s faith was very strong, and faith was a central part of our upbringing as a family. My parents were very active at Davie Street Presbyterian Church, which is our home church and has been the church of our ancestors for several generations.

Has Saint Augustine’s connection with the Episcopal Church set it apart in any ways from other historically black colleges or other American colleges in general?

For many years, even from our founding, Saint Augustine’s was focused primarily on male students going into the priesthood. Therefore Saint Augustine’s had earned a reputation as the preeminent institution that produced African-American male graduates who would leave Saint Augustine’s and move on to seminary and become Episcopal priests. And women students were dedicated to becoming educators and teachers. So, we have long had a strong reputation of producing men and women who, at that period of time, were focused in education and service to the church. But that has evolved over the year as more opportunities have become available to young people, so now we have graduates in a host of professions throughout the world.

In Saint Augustine’s mission statement, it says the school prepares students “academically, socially and spiritually.” Do you see those three goals as equal priorities, and how does Saint Augustine provide spiritual preparation?

We have a strong religious studies program and we continue to have spirituality as a focus in our activities on the campus. Our freshmen, for example, attend chapel. We open all our events with prayer and close with prayer. Our university chaplain, who’s also chair of our religious studies program, is very active with student life on the campus. We as an institution take great pride in our affiliation with the church and the importance of spirituality for our students as well.

Pew Research Center reported last month less than 9 percent of black students attended a historically black college in 2015, down from 17 percent in 1980.  Over the same period, historically black colleges and universities have become more racially diverse, enrolling more students who aren’t black, from 13 to 17 percent. Do you see that the role of institutions like your own and other historically black colleges has changed for this generation?

We certainly have a much more diverse society in America now. We have students of Latino descent, Asian descent – we have a very diverse student body. But I do think that the relevancy of any intellectual community has got to be that you grow and advance with the changing society, because we’re producing the leaders of society here at St. Augustine’s and subsequently you have to embrace diversity.

You were part of a group of presidents of historically black colleges and universities to visit the White House recently and even meet with President Trump.

At his request, we were invited for a brief meeting over in the Oval Office, but the primary meeting took place under the leadership of U.S. Senator Tim Scott (South Carolina) and North Carolina Congressman Mark Walker.

What are your thoughts on those meetings and experience?

I thought clearly that there was strong articulation with regard to support of historically black colleges and universities and the enormous contributions that our institutions contribute to American society. It was, in all of those settings, a central theme. There was an appreciation from this administration that historically black colleges would be a part of the continuous growth of American society and beyond. I think now, with the signing of the executive order by the president, we now have to wait and see how those priorities that were articulated with regard to historically black colleges are represented in the budget that will be presented, and passed by both the House and the Senate.

(Editor’s note: After this interview was conducted, President Trump on March 16 released a budget proposal that, Inside Higher Ed reports, maintains funding for historically black colleges and universities but reduces spending on programs that support many students of those schools, such as work-study programs and a grant program for low-income students.)

There also was some backlash to the meeting. Students at Howard University protested their president’s participation, and Morehouse College President John Wilson Jr. put out a statement calling the meetings “troubling.” Do you share some of the concerns?

Well, I think anytime you can assemble together and have dialog about the future of the institutions that you manage on a day-to-day basis, it’s always productive. I think at this point, as I said earlier, we’re waiting to see what the budgetary priorities will reflect. So, we’re looking forward to that.

There also was criticism of comments Education Secretary Betty DeVos made that historically black colleges were “real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” rather than formed out of necessity because of segregation. Did you have any reaction to those comments?

No. I think sometimes not understanding history and not understanding the context for which these universities were founded, people can make sometimes misleading statements. So, I didn’t have any comment on that at all.

Racial reconciliation has been a prominent issue in the Episcopal Church in recent years as it faces its own historical complicity with slavery and racism. Do you see Saint Augustine’s playing a role in the church’s reconciliation efforts?

Oh, yes, we are as a university in full support of the presiding bishop’s priority around racial reconciliation and the Jesus Movement. And we are amenable in a way that Saint Augustine’s University can be a part of serving as a catalyst or platform where dialog can take place and intellectual exchange can happen to advance stronger race relations in the nation. We are in full support of that, and I commend the church for its efforts to have an open dialog about the future.

Saint Augustine’s is turning 150 years old. Any thoughts on what the university will look like in another 150 years?

Another 150 years, we see a very active academic and intellectual community with innovative programs. You know, everything is moving to distance learning now. We see expanding, of course, distance learning and adding graduate programs. We certainly see an expansion on our original founding with regard to religious studies, making sure that we continue to introduce young scholars who are interested in the Episcopal Church to prepare themselves here and then move on to seminary. And Saint Augustine’s is currently in a food desert, so building on the legacy of St. Agnes Hospital we see ourselves as a health catalyst to provide training and opportunities around health disparities and issues regarding health as well.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. This interview was lightly edited for clarity and condensed.

Chaplaincy in UAE marks Christ Church’s 15th anniversary with road trip

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 1:54pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] To celebrate 15 years since the consecration of Christ Church in Jebel Ali, to the southwest of Dubai, the Rev. Tim Heaney and chaplaincy staff made a 150-mile round trip, visiting several other Anglican churches.

Heaney is responsible for a chaplaincy that covers six of the seven Emirates in the United Arab Emirates. (Abu Dhabi in the south is a separate Chaplaincy).

Full article.

Anglican leaders in Ireland react to death of Irish politician Martin McGuinness

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 1:51pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican leaders of the Church in Ireland have issued statements on the death of Martin McGuinness, the ex-IRA leader-turned-politician who has died aged 66. McGuinness worked at the heart of the power-sharing government following the 1998 peace settlement.

Full article.

Anglican Church in Canada challenges senator’s comments on residential schools

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 1:48pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church in Canada has sent a strongly worded open letter, expressing dismay over a Conservative senator’s recent defense of the Indian Residential Schools system. Earlier this month, Sen. Lynn Beyak criticized the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for letting the negative aspects of the schools system overshadow the “good deeds” of “well-intentioned” teachers.

Full article.