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Updated: 3 hours 7 min ago

Papal embrace for new director of the Anglican Centre in Rome during Mauritius visit

5 hours 54 min ago

Pope Francis delivers a speech in Port Louis, Mauritius, on Sept. 9, 2019. Photo: Vatican Media via Reuters/ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] The visit of Pope Francis to Mauritius on Sept. 9 brought fresh energy and confidence to Christians in the country, according to the Bishop of Mauritius, Ian Earnest, who leaves this month to take up his new role as director of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

Former Primate of the Anglican Church of the Indian Ocean, Archbishop Ian Ernest attended the Mass at the Mary, Queen of Peace Monument at which the Pope presided during his day-long visit to the island. The archbishop said the timing of the Pope’s visit, just weeks before he begins his new role in Rome, made him think about how God works. “It was a great opportunity to meet with him, to be part of this eucharistic celebration at which he presided in front of 100,000 people with the authorities of the country.”

Read the full article here.

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Faith like a child: An interview with a ‘childist’ biblical scholar

7 hours 45 min ago

Julie Faith Parker. Courtesy photo via RNS

[Religion News Service] That’s “childist” biblical scholar — not “childish.”

But childist biblical scholar Julie Faith Parker does think adult readers have a lot to learn from the children in the Bible as well as the children around them.

Parker, associate professor of biblical studies at The General Theological Seminary of The Episcopal Church in New York City, is one of the pioneering scholars in the field of childist biblical interpretation — a term she helped introduce in biblical studies in the last decade. She defines it as “interpretation that places a child, children, youth or concerns related to young people at the center” — more analogous to “feminist” or “womanist” than to “racist” or “sexist.”

“It’s a new field, and it’s really gaining steam quickly,” she said.

Parker talked to Religion News Service about what childist biblical interpretation is, where it came from and why it can change not only the way people read the Bible, but also how they engage issues impacting children.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is childist biblical interpretation?

It’s pretty new. The term “childist” itself really was introduced to the field in 2013, and work has been pouring off the presses since then.

Scholars are starting to look at children of the Bible the way feminist scholars have been looking at the women of the Bible. Before the 1970s, there were really almost no academic books on women in the Bible, and now there are hundreds, if not thousands.

People used to not see the women in the texts, and when scholars started lifting up these stories in new ways, people started noticing them a lot more. We’re doing the same thing with children, and people are discovering them throughout the text because they’re there.

How did you become interested in the stories of children in the Bible?

I’m ordained in the United Methodist Church. I worked full time in ministry until I had a dream on June 2, 1996, in which I believe God called me to teach the Bible.

Long story short, I got my Ph.D. in 2009 from Yale. The entire time I was doing my Ph.D. research, I knew that I wanted to look at children in the Bible. It really came from an academic interest, realizing that there was a huge lacuna in the field. I love kids, but it wasn’t like I was always a camp counselor or I was a youth pastor. It was very exciting because, throughout my coursework, children cut across the entire Hebrew Bible, which is my field.

Another great hope with this work is that I will call attention to struggles that children face within the Bible that are really struggles that children face around the world. For example, this past July I gave a paper in Rome at the international Society of Biblical Literature meeting, and that paper was called “Hardly Happily Ever After: Trafficking of Girls in the Hebrew Bible.” Though those stories are short, they are all there. And my hope is that it will call attention to some of these struggles that millions of girls are dealing with today. A lot of people care about the Bible, and to use the text as a way to show them how we need to care about children in the world, too — I’m hoping (it) can be a powerful vehicle.

What are some stories about children in the Bible that people are most familiar with?

I think some of the familiar stories are what I would call your “Bible child stars” — you know, Moses in the bulrushes in Exodus Chapter 2. I’m looking at the rest of that chapter: His sister Miriam is also young, and Pharaoh’s daughter is young. There’s a lot of girls that work in the story. We tend not to see them that way because that’s not how they’re often portrayed in various presentations — movies and things — but they really would be girls, teenagers, youth certainly by our standards.

So we’re suggesting this really helps to undergird the message of that story because the whole point is the underdogs win. If your main actors are girls, they’re real underdogs in that society. Kids are the ones who are changing everything here.

The 1602 painting “Joseph Sold into Slavery by his Brothers” by Damiano Mascagni. Image: Creative Commons

Some of the other more famous stories would be that of Joseph in Genesis Chapter 37. He is sold by his brothers into slavery. The text tells us he’s 17 years old, so he’s young. I also think of the story of young Samuel in the temple where he was called by God and he hears God repeatedly when he is there as a child. He becomes one of the great leaders of Israel, but he’s introduced as a child. I think of young Rebekah in Genesis Chapter 24. She is not yet married, so she’s a girl living in her father’s home, and she is instrumental in inviting Abraham’s servants into the home. And then when she leaves to go marry Isaac, she is asked first if she wants to go. She says yes, and then she receives this blessing: “May you be the mother of myriads. May you possess the gates of your foes.” And that is the same blessing that Abraham receives in Genesis Chapter 22. Esther would be very young. The prophet Jeremiah gets a calling as a child. David is also a child when he defeats Goliath.

Those are some stories that people might know, but there are a lot of stories that people don’t know. The children are minor characters, not named. What I suggest in my book “Valuable and Vulnerable” is that these minor characters are really key to understanding children’s lives in the biblical world because the minor characters need to function in ways that are consonant with the culture or else they divert your attention, and so we learn what’s consonant with culture.

How have Christians traditionally read these stories of children in the Bible or seen children in the Bible?

I think they’re really overlooked, for the most part. The first time Jesus speaks in the Bible is as a child. I don’t hear anybody talking about it. I’ve been a churchgoer my whole life. I’m an ordained minister.

I think that people are not used to noticing children in the text, and once you start to notice them, you realize they’re all over the Bible, and it’s very exciting.

Part of it is how we understand children. Every idea of who is a child is a construct of a particular culture and economic and cultural realities of a certain time and place. Our ideas of who a child is — our Western ideas from the post-Enlightenment Age — are really very romantic. Children are sweet, they’re innocent, they’re carefree. That is not necessarily true. So let’s strip away these ideas, and let’s take a look and see what the text brings forward. Let’s recognize our own biases and clear them out as much as we can to see what the text shows us about children.

How does a childist perspective change how one reads those stories?

Well, the first thing is I think you notice them and you see the roles they play, and it helps you to appreciate children. It helps me to appreciate children around me — what children do, how children strategize.

I also teach a class called Moses, Miriam and More Children of the Bible, and the class is one-third theory, and then the bulk of the class we look at different texts that have to do with the stories of children, and then the final section of the class we bring it to the life of the church — what can we do to recognize children’s contributions and to support them in their own spirituality, in their own learning?

We live in a very age-segregated culture. If you’re an academic, for example, and you don’t have children within your family or friend circles, it would be very easy to go through decades of your life without a significant conversation with a child. Not so in the ancient world. In the ancient world, it is age-integrated. There’s no word for privacy in the Hebrew Bible. Everybody is together.

How can that deepen or challenge one’s understanding of God?

I think it broadens our understanding of God. I think it helps us to seek God in places that we’re not necessarily used to looking.

We see that when God chooses a vessel to use in the Bible to liberate people, it’s children. Moses is the savior who brings the people to the Promised Land. Moses comes to us first as a child. Jesus is the savior for Christians. He comes to us first as a child. But we’re not used to looking to children’s contributions even though they’re right there for us in the text.

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Massachusetts priest arrested, charged with possession of child pornography

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 3:50pm

[Episcopal News Service] A priest in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts was arrested on Sept. 12 and charged with possession of child pornography after FBI agents raided the rectory where he lives with his husband, the church’s rector.

The Rev. Gregory Lisby. Photo: Diocese of Western Massachusetts

The Rev. Gregory Lisby had been suspended last year from his position as rector of All Saints Church in Worcester.“for an inappropriate relationship with an adult that did not involve sexual contact,” the Rt. Rev. Douglas Fisher wrote in a letter to the diocese, adding that that disciplinary process did not yield any indication that Lisby was a danger to children. At the time of the Sept. 11 raid, Lisby had just begun teaching kindergarten in a public school in Holyoke. He had worked in other teaching positions in the area since his suspension, MassLive reported. He had previously served at Christ Church in Ridgewood, New Jersey, from 2010 to 2015, the Rt. Rev. Carlye Hughes, bishop of Newark, wrote in a letter to her diocese. He served at two churches in the Diocese of Rhode Island from 2005 to 2010, the Providence Journal reported.

Lisby’s husband, the Rev. Timothy Burger, is the rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Worcester, and they have been living in that church’s rectory with their two daughters, Fisher wrote in his letter. Court records say that a tip from Microsoft led FBI agents to that address, and that the investigation found nearly 200 images and videos of child pornography in a Microsoft account associated with Lisby, MassLive reported. At 2:30 a.m. after the raid, Lisby emailed a brief resignation letter to the principal of the elementary school he worked at, saying, “Last night, I was accused of an awful crime that could put our Holyoke children in harm’s way.” He was arrested later that day.

If convicted, Lisby could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A judge determined Lisby is a flight risk and a danger to the public, so he is being held in federal custody until his next court date, scheduled for Sept. 23.

Fisher wrote in his letter that he is placing Lisby “under a pastoral directive that forbids contact with any Episcopal church” and has begun a Title IV investigation.

“I have no reason to believe that children in our diocese have been victimized in this situation,” Fisher wrote. “Yet, I know that children whose images appear in pornography are heinously abused and violated by the adults who produce and consume it. This reality breaks my heart. Please join me in praying first for the children who are victims of child pornographers and for an end to the horrific abuse perpetrated by this industry.”

Bishop Hughes of Newark wrote in her letter that “at this time, there is no indication of this behavior during the Rev. Lisby’s tenure in this diocese. Still, we will monitor this investigation carefully and are ready to launch a diocesan investigation if deemed necessary.”

Both bishops encouraged anyone with information or concerns about the situation to contact their diocesan offices. According to the Providence Journal, the rectors of the two Rhode Island churches Lisby served at have also written to their congregations, inviting anyone with concerns to reach out to them.

According to a 2015 Diocese of Western Massachusetts newsletter, Lisby holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in clinical social work and a Master of Divinity degree from The General Theological Seminary. He was pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree in preaching from Sewanee: The University of the South.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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Minnesota Episcopalians’ love for Bishop Whipple is lost on federal building that bears his name

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 3:26pm

A prayer vigil is held outside the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Interfaith Coalition on Immigration organizes the monthly vigils to show solidarity with immigrant detainees and their families who come to the building for immigration hearings. Photo: Interfaith Coalition on Immigration, via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] Bishop Henry Whipple is kind of a big deal in Minnesota.

Consecrated as the Diocese of Minnesota’s first bishop in 1859, Whipple spent more than four decades establishing The Episcopal Church’s roots in the newly founded state while leading missionary work among the American Indian tribes of Minnesota, and in 1862, he successfully lobbied President Abraham Lincoln to spare most of the 303 Dakota warriors who had been sentenced to death for an uprising that year.

Bishop Henry Whipple led The Episcopal Church in Minnesota from 1859 until his death in 1901. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society

Today, his name graces the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building just east of the airport in Minneapolis – a rare honor for an Episcopal bishop, but one that local Episcopal leaders now say runs counter to Whipple’s legacy. They want his name removed.

“All of us drive by this building all the time, but very few people actually know what’s going on in there,” said the Rev. Devon Anderson, one of the Episcopal priests organizing a campaign to rename the building.

What’s going on in the Whipple building, they say, is a microcosm of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration violations, which The Episcopal Church has criticized for upending lives, separating families and disrupting communities. Minnesota’s Twin Cities are known as a hub for federal immigration enforcement across five states – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota – and at the center of that hub is the Whipple building, which houses an immigration court. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, is a constant presence.

“Any immigrant who is arrested in that region, for the most part, has court in that building,” said the Rev. Daniel Romero, a United Church of Christ minister and volunteer with the Minneapolis-based Interfaith Coalition on Immigration. “The Whipple building is both their first stop and their last stop on their deportation journey.”

The Interfaith Coalition on Immigration holds monthly prayer vigils outside the building to show solidarity with immigrant detainees and their families. On Oct. 29, the coalition will be joined by The Episcopal Church in Minnesota and the Minnesota Council of Churches in an expanded vigil and rally to kick off the “What Would Whipple Do?” campaign, calling for the removal of Whipple’s name or the eviction of ICE from the building.

Compassionless enforcement is “not our theology. That’s not who we are as a church,” Anderson said in an interview with Episcopal News Service. She serves as rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, Minnesota.

The Rev. Robert Two Bulls Jr. is another Episcopal priest on the team organizing the campaign. In additional to serving as missioner for the diocese’s Department of Indian Work and Multicultural Ministries, Two Bulls is vicar at All Saints Episcopal Indian Mission in Minneapolis. About a year ago, his congregation rallied to support a parishioner whose partner was picked up by ICE and eventually deported to Mexico.

Two Bulls told ENS it always seemed odd that a federal building would be named after an Episcopal bishop, and with ICE conducting enforcement from the building, the association with Whipple troubles him.

“Given who he was, I think he would be very much against something like that,” Two Bulls said.

Whipple’s reputation isn’t immaculate. His approach to the Dakota and Ojibwe in Minnesota was that of a colonizer, seeking to assimilate Native people into white culture while spreading Christianity, Romero told ENS. But Whipple also was “a man who was trying to do the right thing by the people he encountered.”

Two Bulls, who is Lakota, called Whipple “a man of his time and, in some respects, ahead of his time.” And the Rev. Letha Wilson-Barnard, rector at Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in St. Paul, noted how Whipple in 1863 ministered to the hundreds of Dakota who were held in an internment camp at Fort Snelling before the federal government forcibly relocated them to South Dakota.

Minnesota Bishop Henry Whipple preaches at a Dakota internment camp at Fort Snelling in 1863. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society

More than a hundred years later, part of Fort Snelling would become the site for the Whipple Federal Building, built in 1969.

“It’s tied to this really shameful event in Minnesota history, where he was on the side of advocacy and treating people humanely,” Wilson-Barnard said.

Before joining the campaign to rename the building, Wilson-Barnard had been attending the prayer vigils at the Whipple building for about a year. Immigrants, especially Hmong, make up a large part of her congregation, and she has accompanied some of them to immigration court in the Whipple building.

“Whenever I’ve gone to that Whipple building, it just slays me that his name is on that building,” she said.

Whipple, who died in 1901, was not mentioned by name in the program for the June 9, 1969, dedication of the building, but Congress soon gave the building its present name based on a proposal by then-Sen. Walter Mondale, an Episcopalian, Romero said.

Today, while the building houses offices of a number of federal agencies, including Veterans Affairs, it has become “the center of oppression” for immigrants in the region because of ICE’s activities, Romero said. He thanked The Episcopal Church in Minnesota for supporting efforts to raise awareness.

The Episcopal Church has been outspoken on immigration issues in recent years, and in July 2018, during General Convention in Austin, Texas, more than a thousand Episcopalians gathered at a prayer service outside an immigrant detention center in rural Texas. General Convention later passed three resolutions related to immigration. One of the resolutions took a forceful stand against family separation and inhumane treatment of immigrant parents and children. Another resolution emphasized respecting the dignity of immigrants, while the third encouraged Episcopalians to seek ways to offer sanctuary or support to immigrants.

One of the ultimate goals of the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration in Minnesota is to win passage of legislation making Minnesota a sanctuary state, meaning state agencies would be barred from devoting resources to federal immigration enforcement activities. That effort could be bolstered by attention generated by the “What Would Whipple Do?” campaign.

The campaign’s Episcopal team expects to hold a strategy session when The Episcopal Church in Minnesota holds its diocesan convention, Sept. 13-14. The ongoing planning also coincides with a separately scheduled meeting of the House of Bishops next week in Minneapolis, though it wasn’t immediately clear whether the gathering of bishops would take up the issue while they are in town.

It’s also not entirely clear what it would take to rename the Whipple Federal Building.

“In each Congress, many bills are introduced to name a post office or other federal building in honor or in memory of locally esteemed individuals, deceased elected officials, fallen military personnel, and celebrities,” the Congressional Research Service says in a report on commemorations. “To name a post office or other federal building after an individual an act of Congress is required.”

Presumably, Congress would need to act on renaming a building as well, though Romero said it’s possible the head of the U.S. General Services Administration can take that action without seeking approval from Congress.

In the meantime, Whipple will be honored in another way this weekend at Minnesota’s diocesan convention. Each year, one Episcopalian is presented with the Whipple Cross, the diocese’s highest award.

“For his time, he is seen as a real advocate” for indigenous people, Anderson said, “and someone that the church feels proud of.”

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

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Los Angeles Episcopal hospital affiliates with regional health care network

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 5:36pm

Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. Photo: Diocese of Los Angeles

[Diocese of Los Angeles] PIH Health, a Whittier, California-based nonprofit health care network, and Good Samaritan Hospital, Los Angeles, announced Sept. 5 that they have signed an affiliation agreement that will align the two mission-driven health care organizations.

According to the announcement from PIH Health, “Good Samaritan will be fully integrated into the PIH Health system in a manner that will permanently maintain and enhance Good Samaritan’s ability to provide outstanding patient care to the thousands of patients it serves each week.”

Good Samaritan Hospital was founded in 1885 by an Episcopal nun. It has throughout its history been an institution of The Episcopal Church; first in the San Francisco-based Diocese of California, and in the Diocese of Los Angeles since 1896.

“Proud as the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is and always will be of the Episcopal roots of Good Samaritan Hospital, I fully support the step the board of trustees took today to secure its future by affiliating with PIH Health,” said the Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and a member of the hospital’s board. “Our conversations with the PIH Spiritual Care Services and Clinical Pastoral Education departments revealed a consonance of values when it comes to the spiritual care of all patients, their families, and staff without regard to religious affiliation. We look forward to continuing conversations in the weeks and months ahead about ensuring the continued recognition of Good Sam’s Episcopal heritage.”

“Good Samaritan has been a cornerstone of excellent health care in Los Angeles for more than 130 years,” said James R. West, president and chief executive officer of PIH Health. “We are thrilled to welcome their physicians, staff and patients to the PIH Health family as we work together to provide outstanding care to patients right in their own communities.”

PIH Health stated that it will “invest resources and capital to provide Good Samaritan Hospital with the ability to remain dedicated to the highest quality health care in its current location in downtown Los Angeles.”

“Adding the Good Samaritan community to PIH Health’s network complements the expanded community we embraced in 2013 when we acquired the former Downey Regional Medical Center,” adds J. Richard Atwood, chair of PIH Health’s board of directors, “This affiliation enables us to provide care for more than three million residents living or working in the areas surrounding our three hospitals.”

“PIH Health and Good Samaritan share a common commitment to the health and wellness of the residents of Southern California. We plan to expand services that will benefit even more members of our community,” said Andrew B. Leeka, Good Samaritan Hospital’s president and chief executive officer. “We believe that combining the resources and expertise of two of Southern California’s outstanding health systems will result in enhanced care and services.”

“Good Samaritan Hospital has ably served its community for 134 years with skilled and caring doctors, nurses, and staff, providing sophisticated medical care using advanced techniques in a wonderful campus that now includes a new state of the art medical office pavilion with an exceptional ambulatory surgery center. The affiliation with PIH Health will allow us to continue our tradition of service and innovation with a new and sustainable model well suited for our current health care environment,” added Charles T. Munger, chair of Good Samaritan’s board of trustees.

PIH Health and Good Samaritan will work together over the next few months to prepare for closing the transaction, followed by a transition period for the operations to be coordinated in a way that will be as seamless as possible for patients. A name change to PIH Health Good Samaritan Hospital will follow.

About PIH Health

PIH Health is a nonprofit, regional health care network that serves approximately 2.5 million residents in the Los Angeles County, Orange County and San Gabriel Valley region. The fully integrated network is comprised of PIH Health Hospital in Whittier and PIH Health Hospital in Downey, and features 26 outpatient medical locations, a multispecialty medical (physician) group, home health care services and hospice care, as well as heart, cancer, women’s health, urgent care and emergency services. The organization is recognized by Watson Health as one of the nation’s top hospitals, and by the College of Health care Information Management Executives (CHIME) as one of the nation’s top hospital systems for best practices, cutting-edge advancements, quality of care and health care. For more information, visit PIHHealth.org.

About Good Samaritan Hospital

Sister Mary Wood, an Episcopal nun from the San Francisco area, first established the Los Angeles Hospital and Home for Invalids in 1885. First located in a cottage, the hospital expanded two years later on land donated by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (later cathedral) and was renamed St. Paul’s Hospital and Home for Invalids. In 1896 the hospital again moved to larger quarters on West Seventh Street and reopened as the Hospital of the Good Samaritan. In that same year, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles was established, having been divided from the San Francisco-based Diocese of California. The first Bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. Joseph Horsfall Johnson, became one of the hospital’s earliest champions, raising more than $1 million for its support and the construction of a new building facing Wilshire Boulevard. The Bishop Johnson School of Nursing became a vibrant institution associated with the hospital. In 1899, also under Bishop Johnson’s leadership, the annual convention of the Diocese of Los Angeles established the Thanksgiving Day offering through which congregations forwarded to the hospital funds received during services on that holiday. Bishop Johnson’s six successors continued sequentially as trustees of the hospital, which is home to the historic All Souls Chapel (a scale-model of the old St. Paul’s Cathedral) and the more contemporary Chapel of St. Raphael, named for an archangel traditionally known for healing gifts and skills.

Today Good Samaritan is a 408-bed acute care center that serves the needs of a growing and diverse community. Known for its outstanding tertiary services, Good Samaritan has seven Centers of Excellence that focus on advancing the science of medicine while providing outstanding patient care with national and internationally renowned physicians. The centers include the Heart & Vascular Center, Comprehensive Orthopaedic Center, Comprehensive Stroke Center, Tertiary Retinal Surgery, Pancreatico-Biliary Program, Transfusion-Free Medicine & Surgery Center, and the Davajan-Cabal Center for Perinatal Medicine. Good Samaritan Hospital completed its new 193,000-square foot Medical Pavilion in 2018, featuring the Frank R. Seaver Ambulatory Surgery Center and radiation oncology. For more information visit goodsam.org.

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‘We must learn from the past,’ says archbishop of Canterbury at site of Indian massacre

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 4:54pm

Archbishop Justin Welby at the memorial for the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in India. Photo: Lambeth Palace

[Anglican Communion News Service] Learning from the past is essential to prevent further atrocities like the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, the archbishop of Canterbury said after his visit to the memorial site in India this week.

Archbishop Justin Welby has been traveling around key sites in India for the past 10 days at the invitation of the Churches of North and South India.

He was pictured lying prostrate in front of the memorial commemorating 100 years since the tragedy, when thousands of unarmed Indians of many different faiths were shot by British troops in 1919.

Read the entire article here.

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San Joaquin plan would equip all churches with solar power to transition diocese off fossil fuels

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 4:05pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of San Joaquin has a goal: To become The Episcopal Church’s first solar-powered diocese.

San Joaquin, located in California’s Central Valley and Sierra Nevada, has 22 faith communities and an abundance of sun. This year, it put in motion plans to bring solar panels to all or nearly all of those communities. By the end of 2020, Bishop David Rice hopes those solar panels will be installed and generating enough power to offset the energy usage of all Episcopal properties in the diocese.

“There’s a real yearning in the Central Valley and the High Sierras to ensure that our part of The Episcopal Church is giving real care to creation, and we see this solar project as an extension of that,” Rice said in an interview with Episcopal News Service.

San Joaquin Bishop David Rice. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

By providing space on their roofs or lots for solar power generation, the churches also may save a bit on their energy costs, but more importantly, the project is structured so that third-party developers will cover the expense of transitioning the diocese off fossil fuels. Rice also hopes that San Joaquin’s example will lead other dioceses to pursue similar projects tailored to their local environments.

Few environments in the United States are as full of sunshine as the Diocese of San Joaquin. Cloudy days are the exception in the region. Fresno, the largest city in the diocese, boasts an average of 267 days a year with clear or partly cloudy skies, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, which ranks Fresno as the country’s seventh sunniest major city. Sunshine is particularly abundant in the summer months.

Given those conditions, solar power already is a significant part of the region’s landscape, with buildings from churches to schools to warehouses topped with panels. Cal Harling, a renewable energy consultant hired by the diocese, said San Joaquin’s plans are more ambitious than most.

Other churches have invested in solar, Harling said, “but I’m not sure they’ve done it on the level that San Joaquin is thinking about. It’s an approach that, quite frankly, large commercial companies use.”

Think of a retail chain like Walmart or Home Depot deciding to outfit all its warehouses with solar panels, he said. Harling is approaching the diocese’s needs in a similar way, negotiating financing with the diocese’s solar power partners for a regional project, as opposed to having individual congregations make their own panel purchases.

Harling explained to ENS that it is based on the general principle that all partners in the development bring something to the table: The diocese provides a location for the solar panels. A developer and financer commit to funding and installing the panels. A utility agrees to acquire the energy generated by the project for a certain rate over a period of time, usually 20 to 30 years, since solar panels begin degrading as they age beyond that, Harling said.

“Everybody gains value out of it,” he said.

One of the catalysts for San Joaquin’s project was The Episcopal Church’s Creation Care Pledge, in which more than 1,000 people during Advent and Easter committed to taking actions to improve or preserve the environment. While that call to action was “stirring the hearts” in Rice’s diocese, he and others there saw solar power as one way to do more.

“This seemed to be a faithful, natural next step for us,” Rice said. “There’s a lot of sun here.”

Harling, who knew the diocese’s chancellor, began discussing solar options with diocesan leaders early this year and was asked to draft a proposal outlining his approach to financing a diocese-wide solar project. He presented his proposal to the Diocesan Council in June and received approval to conduct a feasibility study at each of the dioceses’ location.

Each location is unique. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bakersfield – only 93 cloudy days a year – already has solar panels on site. The panels were installed on a shade structure built last year over part of the congregation’s parking lot.

“It’s a great use of the space,” said the Rev. Luis Rodriguez, priest-in-charge at St. Paul’s. “People are excited about it. I think there’s a sense of responsibility, global responsibility, and I think that feels good to people.”

Other congregations may only have limited space in which to install new panels, but even smaller components will generate renewable power. Taken as a whole, Harling determined that installing solar panels across diocesan properties could generate close to a million kilowatt hours of power in a year, the equivalent of a 600-kilowatt power system, Harling said.

With that much power, it’s possible that the diocese will reduce its reliance on fossil fuels to zero, he said.

Rice is pushing the diocese to move fast in implementing the project. The diocese’s Episcopal Conference Center near Yosemite National Park in Oakhurst is a large property with significant room for solar panel coverage. St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Fresno is another prime site for solar installation.

“There’s a sense of urgency for us to get on this,” Rice said, adding that clean energy is not just a political issue for the church. “This is about faith for us.”

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

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Anglicans respond to Hurricane Dorian devastation

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 4:03pm

[Anglican Journal] When Archdeacon Keith Cartwright, archdeacon of the southern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, visited Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, he thought he would never see anything close to that level of devastation again. But now, surveying the damage in his own diocese in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, he sees that catastrophe mirrored. “Everything has been decimated,” he says.

Cartwright likens the destruction to “if you were chewing something and then you just spit it out. That’s how it looked. It was a horrific scene.”

Read the full article here.

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What the Anglican Church of Canada’s same-sex marriage vote means for its future

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 4:37pm

Sydney Brouillard-Coyle (left), a youth delegate from the Diocese of Huron who identifies as gender non-conforming, queer and asexual, receives a blessing from Primate Linda Nicholls at the closing Eucharist of General Synod 2019. Photo: Geoff Howe/Anglican Journal

[Anglican Journal] The Anglican Church of Canada General Synod’s failure to pass a resolution to amend the marriage canon to expressly allow solemnization of same-sex marriage, followed by a communiqué from the House of Bishops effectively commending diocese-based decisions on the matter, has triggered a wave of responses across the church. Bishops, priests, laity, officers and deacons alike have weighed in with concerns about the decision. Some bishops, including then-Primate-elect Linda Nicholls in her capacity as bishop of Huron, have outlined plans to exercise a local option for same-sex marriage in their dioceses. 

Resolution A052-R2, for the second reading of an amendment to Canon XXI on marriage in the church, failed to achieve a required two-thirds majority vote in all three orders of General Synod. While two-thirds of the Order of Laity (80.9%) and Order of Clergy (73.2%) voted in favor of the resolution, less than two-thirds (62.2%) voted in favor in the Order of Bishops. 

The final breakdown of the vote, which took place on July 12 at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre, was as follows: The Order of Laity saw 89 members (80.9%) vote “Yes” and 21 members (19.1%) vote “No,” with one abstention. The Order of Clergy had 60 members (73.2%) voting “Yes,” 22 members (26.8%) voting “No,” and two abstentions. In the Order of Bishops, 23 members (62.2%) voted “Yes” and 14 members (37.8%) voted “No,” with two abstentions. 

In statements released after the vote, multiple dioceses declared their intention to perform same-sex marriages regardless of the marriage canon vote—basing their decisions on General Synod’s approval of the document “A Word to the Church,” which affirms “diverse understandings of the existing marriage canon” and that “the existing canon does not prohibit same-sex marriage.” 

The initial announcement of the vote results left many synod members visibly in shock, with some crying. Almost immediately, delegates approached the microphones and asked about the process by which General Synod could reconsider a vote. But Primate Fred Hiltz, acknowledging the “pain in this place,” soon moved to dismiss synod for the night. 

The emotional upheaval caused by the results led to official statements from all levels of the church. First to respond on July 15 was the House of Bishops, whose members had played the decisive role in voting against the motion. 

“We, members of the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, see the pain and anguish inflicted on LGBTQ2S+ people, on members of the General Synod, across the church, and in the world, as a result of the work and the vote on the matter of Canon XXI, concerning marriage,” the bishops’ statement read. “We see your tears, we hear your cries, and we weep with you. We have caused deep hurt. We are profoundly sorry.” 

The bishops noted that General Synod had “overwhelmingly approved” the “A Word to the Church” document and that the bishops affirmed the right of Indigenous peoples and communities to “spiritual self-determination in their discernment and decisions in all matters.” But perhaps most consequential was their declaration that different levels of the church may make their own decisions on the matter of same-sex marriage. 

“We are walking together,” the bishops wrote, “in a way which leaves room for individual dioceses and jurisdictions of our church to proceed with same-sex marriage according to their contexts and convictions, sometimes described as ‘local option.’” 

Prolocutor Cynthia Haines-Turner and deputy prolocutor Peter Wall next released a statement which acknowledged the “pain, hurt and anguish of many people in this General Synod and beyond, particularly in the LGBTQ2S+ community, their families and friends,” and noted the support of synod for the affirmations in “A Word to the Church.”

Their statement also alluded to a proposed constitutional review before the next General Synod in 2022, later adopted by General Synod as Resolution C005. The prolocutor and deputy prolocutor, it said, “strongly endorse the proposed actions of this Synod calling for work, in the next triennium, on our governance structures, size and composition of synod, and planning for the future.” 

A third statement came from clergy and lay delegates at General Synod, who noted that their respective orders had voted “by overwhelming majorities” in favor of the marriage canon amendment, and that they were “saddened and dismayed” that the change had been blocked by the vote in the Order of Bishops. 

The lay and clergy delegates who signed the statement affirmed “the full inclusion of LGBTQ2S+ people in the life, leadership, liturgies and sacraments, including marriage, of the Anglican Church of Canada.” Basing their statement on “A Word to the Church,” they affirmed that “same-sex marriage can and will proceed by local option.” They apologized for the “hurt and harm that has been caused by the actions of this synod and by our church to LGBTQ2S+ people” and called for the church to “end this harm.” 

As the vote revealed, the Anglican Church of Canada is not of universal opinion on same-sex marriage. On July 18, the Arctic House of Bishops — which includes some of the most outspoken opponents of the failed marriage canon amendment — released a statement declaring that General Synod “has given us permission to decide for ourselves what direction we should take. We choose now to walk as the self-determining Anglican Church of Canada in the Arctic.” 

Concerns that this statement meant the diocese might be leaving the church prompted a clarifying statement from the Arctic bishops: “The Diocese of the Arctic remains a diocese within the Anglican Church of Canada, but must distance itself from those who violate the marriage canon. The implication of this is a state of ‘impaired communion.’ By using the phrase ‘self-determining,’ we are reserving the right not to affirm or submit to decisions that violate the doctrine of the church on marriage.” 

Speaking to the Anglican Journal, Bishop David Parsons highlighted the mission statement of the Arctic diocese and its right to self-determination in line with biblical teachings. 

“We have not left,” Parsons reiterated. “We are following the teachings that have gone down through the centuries…ever since the missionaries first came to the Arctic and brought the gospel which we as Arctic people embrace. We’re continuing that, and as weak as we are, we will continue to seek God.” 

“The Anglican General Synod has given us permission as an Indigenous church to determine what we’ll do, and we are exercising that right,” he added. “I would be very sad to hear if the Anglican Church of Canada, because we are now exercising that right, did anything to try to kick us out. The problem is, we’re not leaving. But we’re not following false teachings.” 

The Association of Anglican Deacons in Canada board released its own statement on July 20, noting that the process and decision on the marriage canon vote had been “shocking, hurtful, frustrating and deeply disappointing” for many deacons. 

The statement expressed confusion over the failure to change the canon by a “small minority of our church,” whom they described as “holding the church back from joyfully offering everyone, without restriction, the sacrament of marriage. This ‘no’ to same-sex marriage seems devastating to our work as deacons.” It pointed again to the affirmations in A Word to the Church, the continued blessing of same-sex marriages using the “local option,” and forthcoming efforts to review the governance structures of General Synod. 

In the wake of the vote, bishops and archbishops in numerous dioceses expressed their plans to offer marriage rites to same-sex couples through the local option, all citing the affirmations in A Word to the Church. 

Among these diocesan leaders was Archbishop Ron Cutler, who said in a Facebook post that he would use his episcopal authority to do so in the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Archbishop Melissa Skelton released a pastoral letter saying that she would authorize the marriage of same-sex couples within the Diocese of New Westminster beginning Aug. 1, subject to certain conditions such as the approval of parish councils. Bishop John Chapman declared in a statement that the Diocese of Ottawa would continue the practice of allowing same-sex marriage with the bishop’s permission. 

Of these diocesan statements, perhaps the most significant was that of then-Primate-elect Linda Nicholls. In a statement to the Diocese of Huron, Nicholls authorized marriage to same-sex couples as a pastoral local option starting Aug. 1 in her capacity as diocesan bishop, under certain guidelines. These include stipulations that no parish be required to perform same-sex marriages if it does not wish to do so, and that clergy have the provision by canon to refuse to perform a marriage due to reason of conscience. 

“Our church has a wonderful diversity in so many areas of its life,” Nicholls wrote. “That diversity also leads to tensions but I can promise you that the bishops, clergy and laity of our church are committed to living together with love and grace as we continue to learn from one another and seek a path that honors God.” 

The first reading of the marriage canon amendment passed at General Synod in 2016 — but only just. The misclassification of a single vote initially led to the body to believe the resolution had failed when, in fact, it had passed.

This story was originally published by the Anglican Journal.

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Chaplaincy innovations at Canadian university bring students together

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 3:41pm

On Tuesdays, about 150 University of Victoria students gather for the Pet Cafe and Laughter Meditation. Photo: University of Victoria via Anglican Journal

[Anglican Journal] The University of Victoria’s interfaith chapel has been called the “happiest place on campus,” Anglican chaplain Ruth Dantzer says.

That’s because every Tuesday, close to 150 students gather to snack on treats, pet cuddly animals and laugh together during the weekly Pet Café and Laughter Meditation.

“It’s been the most popular program, attracting more students than any other program in the history of the interfaith chapel,” says Dantzer. Once a year, in the spring, when Dantzer brings baby goats to campus, almost 1,000 students show up. “It’s like this huge campus event…. It’s getting quite a reputation through the city, actually.”

Read the entire article here.

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Racial audit of church leadership seen as step toward ensuring Episcopal culture of welcome

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 12:37pm

The Episcopal Church’s membership is mostly white, but it is taking steps to diversify its leadership to better reflect the communities it serves. A racial diversity survey of church leadership is underway. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church is one of the whitest Christian denominations in America. White Episcopalians make up 90 percent of church membership, according to the Pew Research Center, compared to a U.S. population that is 62 percent white.

Those are sobering numbers for a church committed to dismantling racism and segregation, said the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, the presiding bishop’s canon for evangelism, reconciliation and creation care. “What that shows is, we as a church are grossly out of sync with the communities where God has placed us.”

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers is canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

If the church is out of sync, it isn’t out of hope. Spellers’ staff distributed a survey to members of Executive Council and the House of Bishops last month, a first step toward painting a clearer picture of the racial makeup and culture of The Episcopal Church’s leadership. The pool of respondents will broaden in the coming months to include churchwide staff members, the House of Deputies and a sampling of leaders from three dioceses in each of the church’s nine provinces.

Executive Council members’ version of the survey starts by collecting basic demographic info before shifting to subjective questions about church processes, discrimination, racism and whether respondents have felt welcomed, supported and respected in their roles. A preface to the survey states the results will provide insight into “experienced or observed inequities that might be connected to racism.”

The Boston-based Mission Institute, which works in the Episcopal tradition to help churches and communities confront racism, will compile the survey data, along with interviews with selected respondents, for a final report that will be presented to General Convention in 2021. Spellers and other church leaders are counting on this audit to guide The Episcopal Church as it seeks to become more inclusive and bridge racial divides in an increasingly diverse America. And

“We have a history as a segregated church,” Spellers said in interview with Episcopal News Service. “That story has not changed nearly as much as we wish.”

The audit is the latest component of the church’s ongoing work toward racial reconciliation, which General Convention in 2015 identified as one of the church’s top priorities. In 2017, the church launched the Becoming Beloved Community framework as a resource for deepening conversations about the church’s historic complicity with slavery, segregation and racism, and it aimed to enlist all Episcopalians in the work of racial healing.

The labyrinth diagram showing the four parts of the Episcopal Church’s Becoming Beloved Community is colored for an Advent mailing.

The framework is broken into four parts that are illustrated as a labyrinth: telling the truth about our churches and race, proclaiming the dream of Beloved Community, practicing the way of love in the pattern of Jesus and repairing the breach in society. A report introducing the framework identified a need for “a census of The Episcopal Church” under “Telling the Truth.”

“If we seek reconciliation, healing, and new life, it begins with telling the truth about The Episcopal Church’s racial composition, especially given the Church’s relationship to the complex history of race in the 17 nations our Church calls home,” the Becoming Beloved Community framework says.

A comprehensive census of the church, however, was too expensive to be feasible, Spellers said. Pursuing a more modest audit based on existing data also proved problematic because neither the Church Pension Group nor congregational parochial reports collect racial data. One of the few recent attempts at quantifying diversity involved manually checking diocesan websites for staff photos and counting the number of people of color.

Despite those limitations, Spellers expects the Mission Institute’s audit will produce a foundation of insight, identify recurring themes and assist with making recommendations for change.

“We have anecdotes, but you cannot engage deep transformation work based on anecdotes,” she said. “Even as we tell our stories, even as we learn to listen to the other, we need to bring more data into the conversation so that we can dream and strategize more concretely about a future as Beloved Community.”

For the churchwide audit, the Mission Institute will draw on its experience helping the Diocese of Massachusetts develop a more inclusive clergy formation process, and its subsequent interviews with bishops and clergy of color last year at General Convention.

Its Diocese of Massachusetts work stemmed from a particular case, in which an African American woman who was on the path to ordination into the priesthood withdrew from the process, saying she did not feel welcomed. The diocese’s Commission on Ministry asked Mission Institute to study the process and make recommendations.

Diocesan leaders “were generally unaware how much things like racial bias, and also issues of class and continuing issues around gender, impact and really shift people’s experience in the ordination process,” the Rev. Edwin Johnson told ENS. He is rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, a largely Afro-Caribbean congregation in Dorchester, and serves as chair of the Presiding Officers’ Advisory Group on Beloved Community Implementation.

The Mission Institute interviewed Episcopalians going through the discernment process in the Diocese of Massachusetts and produced a report the that identified six themes that suggested ways the diocese could become more welcoming, such as encouraging people of color to be themselves and understanding how a dominant white culture can blind leaders to the importance of race.

“White people … tend to be unaware that they too are racialized. There is little attention given to helping white people move past this dis-consciousness, and to seeing that the ordination process forms people in and for anti-racist, multicultural ministry,” the Ministry Institute said in one of its highlights.

That work in Massachusetts caught the attention of members of the presiding bishop’s racial reconciliation team, and they invited the Mission Institute to ask similar questions in a churchwide context when General Convention convened in July 2018 in Austin, Texas. There, the Mission Institute spoke with 18 ordained people of color, and their stories, experiences and perspectives were compiled anonymously in a report submitted to the racial reconciliation team last fall.

The report puts the words of its interview subjects front and center and encourages church leaders to learn from the observations and then act in ways that go further than adding more diverse members to committees or updating websites to show more people of color.

“These changes can be important, but they tend to operate at a surface level. They rarely catalyze a deep, institutional shift because they do not engage the larger norms and practices of the institution,” the report said. “It is our searching and honest reflection on core values and norms, and how they are embodied in formal routines and procedures, that strengthens our quest for enduring change.”

The racial audit of church leadership, then, is the church’s next step toward that enduring change, and for change to take hold, the Rev. Katie Ernst, interim director of the Mission Institute, suggested the church will need to approach the audit as a starting point.

“The big question for me is, what’s next? So what?” she said. How the church responds will determine whether it makes progress in dismantling racism.

“I’m excited about keeping that question in our pocket as we’re doing this work,” Ernst said, because the “insidious effects of white supremacy” continue to deny many people a full place in the Beloved Community.

“That is not of God, and that is happening all the time for folks of color,” she said. “And unfortunately, it continues to happen in the church.”

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

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Episcopal leaders discuss religious groups’ role in ending AIDS at Georgetown forum

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 8:12pm

Rebecca Linder Blachly, director of The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, speaks at the “Two Possible Futures: Faith Action to End AIDS” forum at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs in Washington on Sept. 4, 2019. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Washington] At a forum on the involvement of faith communities in the fight against HIV/AIDS, two leaders from The Episcopal Church spoke out about the significant obstacles that remain, despite decades of dramatic progress.

Rebecca Linder Blachly, director of The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, and Jesse Milan Jr., president and CEO of AIDS United and a former president of the board of the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition, participated in a forum called “Two Possible Futures: Faith Action to End AIDS” at Georgetown University in Washington on Sept. 5.

The two-part panel discussion, hosted by Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, focused on the role of religious groups at a critical time in the effort to end HIV/AIDS. The global fight against the disease that has killed about 32 million people has made enormous progress since the 1990s, with AIDS-related deaths down more than 50 percent since the peak in 2004, and experts say ending the pandemic is now within reach. However, progress has slowed and infections are increasing in some regions, raising the possibility of a major resurgence in the 2020s.

Religious groups, the panel members said, can make the difference between the two possible futures in the event’s title. By 2030, religious groups could come together and use their moral conviction and deeply engaged networks to end AIDS – or they could fail to do so, and the disease will continue to kill millions of people per year.

In the first panel, titled “Looking Back,” participants discussed how religion helped and hurt the response to AIDS. Milan, who has been living with HIV since the 1980s, said that many churches have historically focused more on ministering to the dead and dying than on prevention.

“The church has stepped up at times when someone was dead, but not when someone was at risk,” Milan said.

Because of churches’ past work with AIDS as a terminal illness, Milan said, many religious leaders are not up to speed on recent innovations that address HIV as a sexual health issue.

Milan identified several HIV-related factors which he believes churches failed to address: the agency of women around their sexual health, human rights issues for LGBTQ+ people and health disparities based solely on race.

Milan also pointed out that, because there are “only so many seats at the table” in policy discussions about HIV, someone selected to represent “the faith community” may not be able to speak for the complex array of religious people. And there’s also the problem of decisions being made without the input of people living with HIV, he said.

In the second half of the discussion, “Looking Ahead,” Blachly spoke about some of the most successful aspects of The Episcopal Church’s work to end AIDS. Partnerships with the World Council of Churches, the Anglican Communion, the United Nations and other groups have been very productive, she said. In the future, Blachly hopes to “overcome resistance to partnerships. We know partnerships work,” she told the panel.

Blachly pointed to a generational gap as one of the new challenges in the continuing fight against the disease.

“Young people don’t remember the AIDS crisis,” she said, a point echoed by Milan and others. And there’s a widespread sense that the problem of HIV has essentially been solved, which means it tends to be a lower priority than problems thought to be more pressing, like climate change and human trafficking.

Another panelist, David Barstow, who wrote a book that imagines two possible trajectories in detail – ending AIDS or letting it come roaring back – said that his vision for the winning future includes a coalition of major religious leaders making a public appeal at the 23rd International AIDS Conference in San Francisco in July 2020.

Who would he like to see there?

“The pope, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Michael Curry,” Barstow said. “The big ones, down the list.”

Panelists were divided on which future they think is more likely, but Blachly was firmly in the optimistic camp, pointing to “historic bipartisan support” in Congress recently.

“We have the tools to do it if we have the political will and support,” she said.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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Priest in Bahamas asks for prayers after Hurricane Dorian devastates islands

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 6:02pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] After Hurricane Dorian left a trail of devastation in the Bahamas, the priest at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Grand Bahama has asked for prayer for all those affected.

Giving an update on a local TV station, the Rev. Kirkland Russel said his community had no electricity, and the water has been turned off. He asked for prayers and support for all those suffering and the families of those who have already been killed.

“We are getting a lot of rain and driving wind, but the main problem we are having right now is the storm surge coming from the north, and a lot of people’s homes are getting flooded out,” he said. “They are trapped on their roofs or scrambling out of their homes trying to find shelter.”

Read the full article here.

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$1.7 million for slavery reparations fund puts Virginia Theological Seminary at forefront of debate

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 5:47pm

A Civil War-era image of Virginia Theological Seminary shows Union soldiers and black civilians, with Virginia Theological Seminary’s Aspinwall Hall in the background. Photo: Virginia Theological Seminary

[Episcopal News Service] Virginia Theological Seminary took what appears to be an unprecedented step this week by announcing that it had set aside $1.7 million for a slavery reparations fund – something considered but not yet enacted by other institutions of higher education that historically benefited from slave labor.

Enslaved African Americans worked on the Alexandria campus of Virginia Theological Seminary, which was founded in 1823, and at least one building, Aspinwall Hall in 1841, was built with slave labor. Black students were excluded from attending the Episcopal seminary until the 1950s.

“As we seek to mark [the] seminary’s milestone of 200 years, we do so conscious that our past is a mixture of sin as well as grace,” VTS Dean Ian Markham said in a press release. “This is the seminary recognizing that along with repentance for past sins, there is also a need for action.”

Income from the endowment fund for reparations will be put to use in a variety of ways, from encouraging more African American clergy in The Episcopal Church to directly serving the needs of any descendants of the enslaved Africans who worked at the seminary.

Aspinwall Hall, now used as an administrative building at Virginia Theological Seminary, was at least partly built with slave labor. Photo: Mathew Brady, via Library of Congress

The seminary’s announcement comes amid a growing national conversation over reparations as one way to atone for the American systems of slavery and segregation, rooted in the Colonial era and still showing lingering effects on society today. While Democratic presidential candidates have been asked for their views on the subject this year, Episcopal Church leaders have taken a lead in speaking in favor of reparations, most recently Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton.

“Everyone living in our great nation has inherited a mess created by the institution of slavery,” Sutton testified in June at a congressional hearing on reparations. “None of us caused this brokenness, but all of us have a moral responsibility to fix it.”

Speaking a month after his diocesan convention approved a racial reconciliation resolution that raised the prospect of reparations, Sutton noted in his testimony that reparations are not simply about monetary compensation, but rather repairing what is broken. “An act of reparation is an attempt to make whole again, to restore, to offer atonement, to make amends, to reconcile for a wrong or injury.”

The issue has been particularly active in the academic world, with numerous colleges and universities founded before the Civil War grappling with their own histories of racial injustice. More than 50 of them, including Sewanee: University of the South in Tennessee, have joined a coalition called Universities Studying Slavery to research that history.

Sewanee has not yet taken up the topic of reparations directly, though its Robertson Project on Slavery, Race and Reconciliation includes among its goals “to consider the obligations that Sewanee’s history places on us in deciding how we can become a more equitable, inclusive, and cohesive university community.”

Students at Georgetown University have pushed a measure that would raise a reparations fund at the Jesuit university in Washington by adding a fee to students’ tuition bills. Georgetown is a prominent case because of its own research into the 272 campus-owned slaves who were sold in 1838 to save the school from closure.

The proposal to raise money for reparations through student fees has been called unprecedented. A headline in The Atlantic from April described the student proposal as “The First Reparations Attempt at an American College,” and a Politico article from the same month carried the headline “This Could Be the First Slavery Reparations Policy in America.”

If that was hypothetically true for Georgetown in April, VTS actually might be the first now.

The seminary’s Office of Multicultural Ministries will administer the fund “as part of our commitment to recognizing the racism in our past and working toward healing and reconciliation in the future,” the seminary said in its press release.

It specified five ways the income from the fund might be spent:

  • On needs identified by local congregations with ties to VTS.
  • On the needs of descendants of enslaved people who worked at VTS.
  • To support the work of black alumni, especially at historically black congregations.
  • To raise up African American clergy.
  • Other activities that promote justice and inclusion.

“Though no amount of money could ever truly compensate for slavery, the commitment of these financial resources means that the institution’s attitude of repentance is being supported by actions of repentance that can have a significant impact both on the recipients of the funds, as well as on those at VTS,” the Rev. Joseph Thompson, director of VTS’ Office of Multicultural Ministries, said in the seminary’s release.

Thompson, in an interview with Episcopal News Service, said the seminary expected to be able to spend about $70,000 a year from endowment income. The seminary has engaged in racial reconciliation efforts for a while, he said, but those efforts took a big step forward about 10 years ago when Markham, the dean, issued a public apology for the seminary’s complicity in slavery.

Conversations at VTS about reparations grew in urgency in recent years as the national debate over racial relations intensified.

“With everything that’s been going on in society around us and more attention being paid to the idea of reparations, people began to think about the material consequences of slavery and of racism and wanting to do something to repair that,” Thompson said.

The seminary’s first steps will be to try to identify descendants of slaves who were forced to work at VTS and to reach out to the local community.

For decades, The Episcopal Church, too, has emphasized fighting racism and fostering racial reconciliation while shining a light on the church’s own past involvement with slavery and segregation. A 2000 resolution passed by General Convention called on the church to “overcome its historic silence and complicity … in the sin of racism.”

In 2006, General Convention passed another resolution supporting federal legislation that would confront the country’s legacy of slavery and take a step toward “monetary and non-monetary reparations to the descendants of the victims of slavery.”

The Diocese of Maryland, under Sutton, has been a churchwide leader in identifying its congregations’ ties to slavery, through its Trail of Souls research project and pilgrimages. And in 2016, a reparations resolution at its diocesan convention, though not approved, advanced that conversation in the diocese.

Three years later at Maryland’s 2019 convention, Sutton read a pastoral letter that called on his diocese to again consider what reparations might look like.

“The subject of reparations is mired in emotion,” he said. “It is often mischaracterized and certainly largely misunderstood. It is a complex issue that involves economic, political and sociological dimensions that are difficult to grasp without a willingness to engage more deeply than having a quick emotional response to the word.”

Sutton also cautioned that the church sees this issue from the perspective of faith, not politics. His subsequent congressional testimony, however, and his follow-up interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson sparked a conservative backlash that Sutton acknowledged in a message to his diocese.

Critics sent him “hate-filled messages” that questioned his integrity, sanity and faith, Sutton said. That response was expected, he said, but it shouldn’t deter him, the diocese or the country from facing the truth of its past.

“We came to the decision to affirm the principle of moving forward with some form of accounting for how we gained materially and financially from an evil institution,” Sutton said. “If our diverse diocese can come together on this issue in such a respectful way, then let’s not give up on the notion that our nation can do the same.”

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

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Brazilian bishops blame Amazon fires on ‘greed and hatred’

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 3:57pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A group of 15 Brazilian bishops representing the Anglican church in Brazil have called on their government to take action to stop the spread of fires in the Amazon rainforest.

A pastoral letter from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil stated they were facing the worst wave of fires in Brazil for seven years.

“For more than two weeks the Amazon Forest has been on fire, burnt by greed and hatred,” the bishops wrote. “Those fires in the Amazon are not the result of drought, nor the result of natural hazards. Those are actions orchestrated by people representing agribusiness, land grabbers and prospectors encouraged by the president’s irresponsible speeches and statements.”

Read the full article here.

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Westminster Abbey to host seminars in run up to Lambeth Conference

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 3:56pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] International Anglican speakers will gather in Westminster Abbey in London over the coming months to help lead a series of seminars discussing key issues for the Anglican Communion in the run up to the Lambeth Conference next year.

In partnership with the Anglican Communion Office, the Abbey is hosting a series of day events between November 2019 and April 2020. The international panels will examine a range of themes from the fundamentals of Anglicanism to conflict and reconciliation.

Read the full article here.

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Director of unity, faith and order appointed for Anglican Communion

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 1:58am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The ecumenical adviser to the archbishop of Canterbury, William Adam, is to be the new director of unity, faith and order for the Anglican Communion. His new role, which is effective immediately, will be held alongside his role at Lambeth Palace, which he has held since 2017.

He succeeds the Rev. John Gibaut, who was appointed to the post in 2014 and held it until earlier this year, when he became president, provost and vice-chancellor of Canada’s Thorneloe University.

Read the full article here.

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Diocese of Los Angeles heralds rebirth of closed church as new ‘exploratory community’

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 12:53pm

Volunteers pitch in to clear the dying lawn at St. Barnabas’ Church in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, preparing to plant a garden with herbs, vegetables and flowers. Photo: Jubilee Consortium

[Diocese of Los Angeles] Call it revival or resurrection, the Diocese of Los Angeles’ St. Barnabas Episcopal Church — which closed to official worship a year ago — is back as “St. Be” and is inviting the entire diocesan community to a Sept. 28 party to celebrate the launch of a reimagined, exploratory community in Los Angeles’ Eagle Rock neighborhood.

For the Rev. Jaime Edwards-Acton, jump-starting the new ministry was part of being a good neighbor.

“I’ve lived in Eagle Rock for 20 years and I wanted to explore something new, to re-energize the community, just because it’s my neighborhood, and because I’d love to have a vibrant community here,” said Edwards-Acton, who is rector of St. Stephen’s Church in Hollywood and executive director of the Jubilee Consortium.

His work with the consortium, a collaborative of Episcopal churches formed in 2001 to provide leadership and enrichment programs to local communities, helped fuel the revitalization.

It also sparked the imaginations and captured the hearts of folks like Junmey Wang, 25, a 2018 Jubilee Intern who asked to be involved when she heard about the St. Be’s initiative.

“Just the vision that we had for St. Barnabas was really attractive to me,” Wang told the diocese’s Episcopal News recently. “The idea of remaking a space for the Eagle Rock community, the idea of it being a diocesan-wide effort instead of just a St. Stephen’s effort — I wanted to help build something creative like that. A place to explore our faith and to journey together was something very beautiful and an effort in which I wanted to be involved.”

For Wang, St. Be’s represents personal transformation: “This is the first time I’ve been in a church community where the voices of young people are valued,” she said. “And not just valued, but we have the opportunity to impact the long-term vision of the church.

“The community that I know of in St. Be has been welcoming to me, in allowing me to exist in a gray space, where I am able to ask questions and to be creative. I am glad to have found a community that is seeking to create meaning but is also open to the mysteries of life, to not knowing together.”

It has involved a great deal of challenging work.

Rodell Jefferson, a former Jubilee Intern, is one of the leaders of the new community being built at the Eagle Rock church. Photo: Jubilee Consortium

Wang and Rodell Jefferson, 22, also a former Jubilee intern, are the church’s organizers — responsibilities that involve fluid job descriptions, patience, flexibility and a willingness to take on just about any task.

Like pulling out all the dead grass at the front of the 104-year-old church, tilling and composting to prepare for a big planting Sept. 28. At the evening launch party, guests will be invited to plant the first herb, vegetable and flower seeds for a Seeds of Hope garden.

“It’s a lot of logistical work,” according to Jefferson, whose responsibilities have ranged from securing parking lots and utilities to crafting online Facebook and Instagram communities.

The logistics include getting to know the community in Eagle Rock, just north of downtown Los Angeles. That is a core of the ongoing work, according to Payton Høegh, a communications specialist for Seeds of Hope and the Jubilee Consortium.

“Jaime is passionate about not coming into the Eagle Rock community or St. Barnabas with a clear vision of what he wants it to be,” he said. “He wants this to be a process more about listening to what people need and want from an Episcopal presence in Eagle Rock.

“It’s an exciting adventure to see how community is being built from the ground up; it’s reinvigorating,” he added. “We’ve gone over demographics to the Mission InSite information that gets into what Eagle Rock is looking for in a church community.”

Getting to know the community has meant, for Jefferson, pounding the pavement. “I’ve been doing a lot to try and create community physically, going to different businesses and neighbors, saying hello to people walking by.

“Everywhere I turn, [I’m] trying to interact and let them know what we are doing in Eagle Rock,” he said. “I am most excited about what Eagle Rock needs and trying to fill that and be that for the community.”

A marketing major, Jefferson said he turned down the possibility of another internship to join the St. Be’s team. “I did not grow up explicitly religious, although I had a grandmother who went to church every Sunday,” he told Episcopal News. “I weaseled my way out of it, played video games, watched TV. Religion and church were always around, but I was never immersed in them.

“Then I went off to school and very much went through my atheist ‘I hate religion, it’s ruining the world’” phase, he said, before a search for personal meaning replaced academic interests. With the Jubilee year, he realized, “I am in it now. I want to start a life of service, and my biggest question is, how can I love people for a living? It’s crazy, how I’ve gone from atheist to church administrator so quickly.”

Talia Guppy, 40, is a St. Stephen’s parishioner who has been attending Thursday evening gatherings at St Be’s for the past few months. The evenings consist of food, music and Bible study. Guppy, a L.A. Unified School District psychiatric social worker, says, “I am so invested in my heart and my soul in the mission of St Stephen’s that I would love for the Eagle Rock community to be able to have that same sense of being connected spiritually, with social justice and advocacy and all of it being part of our spiritual walk with God.”

Guppy, who helped deep-clean the St. Be campus, laughingly said it was “like moving into a fixer-upper house where people hadn’t taken all of their stuff. It took four or five of us about three weeks to get it all cleaned up and cleared out. It has been a great experience.”

She added: “I have never been a part of something like this, that’s starting from the foundations. The foundation is there and we are filling it. It feels really neat to be part of it and bring it and be part of this new life. I look forward to it every week.”

Los Angeles Bishop John Taylor shares that enthusiasm.

“Eagle Rock is one of the most dynamic, diverse communities in our diocese – a perfect setting for The Episcopal Church, which at its best combines liturgical and musical richness and multicultural and -generational competence with opportunities to serve our neighbors and the whole creation,” he said. “Canon Edwards-Acton is deeply devoted to his neighborhood and his church. He and his fellow saints in action are fully equipped by the Holy Spirit to organize and pilot this vital relaunch.”

Rabbi Susan Goldberg’s Nefesh Los Angeles, an independent spiritual community focused on Jewish values of kindness, compassion, love and justice, recently joined the St. Be’s campus as a tenant.

She said the partnership grew out of a prior relationship with Edwards-Acton. “Jaime and I have participated in many faith-based social justice actions,” she said. “Doing justice work has enriched our lives both personally but also has helped to enrich our community.”

Nefesh members have participated in the campus cleanups, and Goldberg plans to attend the Sept. 28 launch party.

“We want to be a part of the energy that’s happening at St. Be’s,” she said. “It is really inspiring, just seeing how they’re doing something as simple as transforming a lawn into a garden holds such possibility for the space, and for Nefesh and for those who live in the neighborhood.

“I’m excited for the community, and for all that’s going to start unfolding at St Be’s.”

A new tree at St. Be’s gets a thorough watering from a volunteer. Photo: Jubilee Consortium

Bilingual Spanish and English services are planned, with regular worship at 4 p.m. on Sundays, beginning Sept. 29, according to Edwards-Acton. Painting and other campus improvements are underway. He has hired maintenance staff, a music director and worship band, and he plans to launch a preschool.

“This has re-energized me, too, which has been awesome,” Edwards-Acton said. Although there is no congregation yet, and no income, the goal is to work toward building community.

“Our income consists of what we bring in from rental agreements, and we hope to generate income through church hall rentals and fundraisers. Right now, St. Stephen’s is helping financially. We’re willing to make the investment.”

He hopes the diocesan community—laity and clergy—will help support the efforts financially, and through prayers and their presence.

“I am hoping that folks will considering pledging one Sunday a month or a quarter to come and be the presence of Christ to those in St. Barnabas,” he said.

– The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a Los Angeles-based correspondent.

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Monthly gun violence requiem unites congregations in prayer for victims

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 4:52pm

The list of victims’ names on the altar at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lenox, Massachusetts. Photo: Michael Tuck

[Diocese of Western Massachusetts] Gun violence, mass shootings and gun control are back in the news in the aftermath of the shootings in El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy. But for two parishes in the Berkshires, the response to gun violence has taken a slightly different turn. Since January, a group of parishioners from Trinity Church and St. Helena’s Chapel has been meeting on the first Saturday of every month to pray for each of the victims of gun violence as part of a monthly requiem Eucharist. Instead of responding only to the horrific moments of mass shooting, they are focusing more broadly on the epidemic of gun violence in America.

“This started as a personal ministry for me,” says the Rev. Michael Tuck, the rector of the churches in Lenox, Massachusetts. “One of my parishioners had a relative who was killed in a home invasion. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I had never really internalized how this violence causes so many ripples. Every death affects so many people.”

At the center of the Eucharist is the list of names. Every month, those who died in the previous month are remembered by name. For Tuck, this service is rooted in his own spiritual history. “I come out of the Anglo-Catholic tradition, and I was always moved by the ministry of the Guild of All Souls. There is something incredibly powerful about saying that, no matter what, we pray for the dead. And not just as a group. There’s something powerful about praying for people by name.”

Each month, the list of names takes about 40 minutes to read, and the members of the congregation take turns. Ruth Arisman, one of the regular parishioners, highlights the impact of this part of the service. “Every month, I just worry that I will see a name I recognize,” she says.

Reading the names is sometimes a challenge. “Many of the names are unfamiliar to most of us, with different spellings and coming from different cultural backgrounds. Sometimes we stumble a little,” Tuck notes. George Bergen, another regular parishioner, also expressed this challenge: “In our difficulty to read the names, we become aware of the remarkable diversity of the communities in our country.”

Compiling the list of names isn’t as simple as it sounds. Right now, there is no easily accessible list of the names of all victims of gun violence in the United States. Individual news organizations may compile local or regional lists, but there is no national list. The Gun Violence Archive tracks a list of all incidents, but doesn’t include a list of names. In order to compile the list, Tuck checks each incident in the archive and copies each name. The list, as long as it is, is woefully incomplete. Some large jurisdictions and cities, such as Philadelphia and Houston, do not regularly publish names. Some towns and cities will publish suspects’ names, but not victims’. Even with these limitations, the list includes about 1,000 names each month.

The list includes perpetrators as well as victims. “We are making no statements about the moral status or condition of anyone who has died,” Tuck explains. “This list includes people who died during the commission of a crime. It includes victims of domestic violence. There are people who killed others during a home invasion, and it includes people who were killed by a person defending their home. It includes children who were killed accidentally, people killed by police officers during the course of their duty, and officers who were killed on the job. This list includes people who took another’s life in anger, and it includes people who took their own lives. The purpose of this service is to remember that every one of these names is a person, a beloved child of God.”

Looking at each incident in the Gun Violence Archive has brought out the complexity of gun violence in America. “I was surprised at how many police officers are injured and killed in the line of duty. It makes the arguments from law enforcement about gun safety make a lot more sense to me,” says Tuck. Incidents of domestic violence can also be inferred from the list. “It’s hard to read when you see a last name repeated. It really brings domestic violence out into the open,” says Bergen. “And sometimes it’s three or four of the same name,” adds Richard Burke, senior warden at Trinity.

The next requiem Eucharist for victims of gun violence will be at Trinity Church’s chapel at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7. The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher will be the celebrant. Resources – including the service sheet – may be found through the rector’s personal blog. If you would like more information or additional resources, please contact Tuck at fr.michael.tuck@gmail.com.

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RIP: Richard Parkins, former EMM director who championed outreach to Sudan, dies at 83

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 4:07pm

[Episcopal News Service] Richard Parkins, a former Episcopal Migration Ministries director who became a leading advocate for Episcopal outreach to Sudan and South Sudan as head of the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, has died. He was 83.

Parkins died Sept. 1 at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., after suffering from cancer and related problems, according to Russell Randle, a member of The Episcopal Church’s Task Force on Dialogue with South Sudanese Anglican Diaspora. Randle, in a message to the task force, said Parkins died in his sleep, possibly from atrial fibrillation.

Richard Parkins, executive director of the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, served 14 years as director of Episcopal Migration Ministries.

“Richard was all that is best about our church,” Randle said. “He was articulate, joyful, persistent and wise, a gracious colleague, a steadfast friend and an example to me and many others of what it means to grow into the full stature of Christ.”

Parkins also was remembered fondly by Episcopal Church Center staff who worked with him during his 14 years leading Episcopal Migration Ministries, or EMM.

“The number of lives that have been enriched because of the life and ministry of Richard Parkins is too great to be counted,” the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church, said in a statement to Episcopal News Service. “As director of Episcopal Migration Ministries for many years, and more recently with the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, Richard made a remarkable difference and leaves behind a rich legacy. He will be greatly missed.”

Parkins’ work serving refugees dates back decades, beginning with his time at the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. He became director of that agency in 1980, and other experience included various work with nonprofit resettlement agencies, such as Lutheran Refugee and Immigration Service and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, according to an online bio.

EMM is one of the agencies with contracts to provide resettlement services to refugees on behalf of the U.S. State Department. In 1995, Parkins became director of EMM and remained in that role until 2009. Parkins also served from 2006 to 2008 as chair of the Refugee Council USA, the coalition of refugee assistance and refugee rights organizations.

The problem of people displaced from their homes by war and persecution is a “global humanitarian crisis of almost unimaginable dimensions,” Parkins said in an Episcopal Church video released in June 2007 highlighting World Refugee Day. “I think it’s also a day when you reflect on the courage and the achievements of refugees, because that’s the other side of the story that has to be told.”

Parkins had long worked to strengthen ties between The Episcopal Church and Anglicans in Sudan. As EMM director, he was part of a 1998 church visit to Sudan that included extensive travel in the Diocese of Bor and interaction with Sudanese refugees in a camp in northern Kenya, according to the bio on the website of American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, or AFRECS. That year he also served as an Episcopal Church representative at a roundtable convened by Sudan Council of Churches.

And in 2008, Parkins joined an Episcopal-Lutheran delegation that attended the enthronement of Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul as head of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, now known as the Episcopal Church of South Sudan.

AFRECS was founded in 2005 as a network of Episcopal dioceses and Episcopalians interested in supporting Anglicans in Sudan and now South Sudan. After leaving his position at EMM in 2009, Parkins joined AFRECS as executive director.

“We realized what a wonderful asset he would be,” the Rev. Richard Jones, a founding AFRECS board member, told ENS in an interview. Parkins brought a knowledge of the Sudanese crisis and deep connections within The Episcopal Church to AFRECS, Jones said, but Parkins also endeared himself to those around him with his personality. “Always courteous, always respectful of people’s positions and dignity and opinion. He had a good mind for asking big questions.”

Sudan split into two countries after a 2011 referendum, forming the new nation of South Sudan. In a 2012 article, Parkins warned that Christians to the north in Sudan feared persecution from those who believed in a strict form of Islam. Famine in South Sudan was an ever-present threat.

“Even when results are slow in coming or may seem to produce modest results, advocacy must be viewed as a means of extending ourselves as faithful Christians to those who need to know that they are not alone and not abandoned in their quest for justice and peace,” Parkins wrote. “Advocacy is a way of expressing solidarity and accompaniment with those who desperately need it.”

South Sudan devolved into a brutal civil conflict in 2013. Today, an estimated 4.3 million people have been displaced from their homes in South Sudan amid violence and deteriorating living conditions, according to the United Nations. Seven million people in South Sudan face acute food shortages and “conditions that are equivalent to a famine.”

#BREAKING : As hunger peaks in #SouthSudan, record number of people facing critical lack of food