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Archbishop of Canterbury meets Jordan’s King Abdullah during regional Primates’ Meeting in Amman

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 2:23pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who was in the Jordanian capital Amman for a regional Anglican Primates’ Meeting, has met King Abdullah II of Jordan. A statement issued by the Royal Court said that the meeting covered Jordan’s efforts in safeguarding Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem and preserving its identity as a unifying city of peace; as well as Jordan’s efforts to promote interfaith dialogue and harmony.

Read the entire article here.

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Presiding Bishop speaks at National Prayer Breakfast, emphasizes love over divisions

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 2:19pm

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, with President Donald Trump seated at a table to his right, read a passage from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in brief remarks Feb. 7 at the 66th annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

Curry was one of several faith and government leaders asked to offer prayers, scripture readings and blessings at the beginning of the morning program. The presiding bishop, who spoke for about three minutes, noted that the passage from 1 Corinthians 13 often is read at weddings – “Love is patient; love is kind” – but he also explained that Paul was writing about more than a sentimental kind of love.

“He wasn’t thinking about a wedding. He was worried about a community that had divisions in itself. And he wrote to show them the way,” Curry said.

Video of Curry’s remarks can be found here or on the clip below.

This year’s keynote speaker was Gary Haugen, chief executive officer of International Justice Mission. Haugen described working as an intern with South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu when Tutu was a leader in the movement to end apartheid. He spoke of faith’s ability to triumph over forces of division. And, citing the cause championed by his organization, he called for action against human trafficking, force labor and other forms of modern slavery.

“Even in this divided era, there’s good that we all agree should be done,” Haugen said.

He was followed by Trump, who spoke for about 20 minutes. Among the highlights was the president’s praise for faith leaders who backed one of the few bipartisan achievements during the first half of his term, a criminal justice reform bill aimed at reducing the nation’s prison population and correcting racial disparities in sentencing. The bill, which passed in December, was supported by The Episcopal Church’s nonpartisan Office of Government Relations, based in Washington.

“American is a nation that believes in redemption,” Trump said. “Every day, the people in this room demonstrate the power of faith to transform lives, heal communities and lift up the forgotten.”

The high-profile annual event comes just two days after the president’s state of the union speech, in which Trump issued a call for unity while tensions are running high. He, Democrats and even some members of his own Republican Party are at odds on a range of issues, particularly immigration.

Curry received a burst of international attention and acclaim last year when he preached at the royal wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry and Meagan Markle, a sermon that focused on the power of love. His appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast provided him an opportunity to apply that message of love to a different context.

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. … Faith, hope and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love.” Curry said, reading from 1 Corinthians.

“Paul saw what Jesus meant,” Curry said. “That way of love can set us all free. He closed his remarks by quoting the traditional black spiritual “There Is a Balm in Gilead,” a common refrain in Curry’s sermons, including in his royal wedding sermon.

The National Prayer Breakfast has been held every year in Washington since 1953. It is hosted by members of Congress and organized by the Fellowship Foundation, a Christian nonprofit organization.

Before this year’s program began, Trump greeted Curry and the other speakers with handshakes as the president made his way to his seat. The president shook Curry’s hand again afterward on his way out. It wasn’t immediately clear if this was Curry’s first time meeting Trump face to face.

Episcopal News Service has requested a comment from the presiding bishop about his experience attending the breakfast, which was held at the Washington Hilton near Dupont Circle. This story will be updated when Curry responds.

Curry often includes themes of faith-based unity over partisan division in his speeches and sermons while emphasizing that the Christian church courts trouble when it strays from the teachings of Jesus.

Last month, during his pastoral visit to the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, he preached at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Panama City, Florida, and recounted a recent visit to Washington. While on Capitol Hill, he participated in a prayer service that is attended regularly by Episcopalians in Congress.

“And some of them were Democrats, and some of them were Republicans,” Curry said. “And I realized baptism is the great equalizer.”

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

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Church once named after Confederate general dedicates new ‘home base’ for racial healing

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 3:25pm

Parishioners at Grace Episcopal Church in Lexington, Virginia, attend a dedication Feb. 3 of the church’s Jonathan M. Daniels Community Room. Photo: Martha Ann Burford

[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of Southwestern Virginia gathered in Roanoke at the end of January for its 100th anniversary convention, which was capped by a lively Eucharist on Jan. 27 with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who heralded the moment as a time “to anticipate the future with revival.”

About an hour northeast of the 10,000-seat Berglund Center, where Curry preached, the diocese’s congregation in Lexington, Virginia, is hoping for a revival of its own – on a smaller scale, perhaps, but with the parish’s existence and identity at stake.

For more than 100 years, the congregation had been known as the R.E. Lee Memorial Church, a tribute to the Confederate general who served as a senior warden there after the Civil War. Facing pressure from Southwestern Virginia Bishop Mark Bourlakas and from like-minded parishioners, the congregation’s vestry narrowly voted in September 2017 to change the name back to its original Grace Episcopal Church, though that resolution left a wound that is still healing.

“We lost a lot of people,” the Rev. James Hubbard, interim rector, said in a phone interview. “A good number of the folks who left have come back slowly. Some have not. I’m sure some will never come back, but it was for all sorts of reasons.”

A year and a half later, the congregation is charting a way forward by emphasizing racial reconciliation. On Feb. 3, parishioners were in in a festive mood for the dedication of three newly renovated gathering spaces in the church’s undercroft, including a community room created as a “home base” for the congregation’s racial healing efforts through the Episcopal Church’s Becoming Beloved Community framework.

The Jonathan M. Daniels Community Room is part of the renovated undercroft area at Grace Episcopal Church in Lexington, Virginia. Photo: Grace Episcopal, via Facebook

The dedication ceremony, held between the congregation’s two Sunday morning services, featured a Psalm reading and a blessing: “Lord God almighty … look with favor on your servants who will gather in this clean and simple space. Enable them to communicate truth, to foster love, to uphold justice and right, and to provide enjoyment. Let them promote and support that peace between peoples.”

Grace Episcopal Church’s community room, backed by a $47,000 grant from the United Thank Offering, or UTO, is named after Jonathan Myrick Daniels, a white Episcopal seminarian who was killed in 1965 while shielding a black girl in Alabama from a shotgun blast. Daniels attended the church in Lexington while he was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute, and the Episcopal Church honors him as a martyr on his feast day, Aug. 14.

The UTO grant application noted that the congregation in Lexington “nearly came apart” in 2017 after two years of tense debate over its name. The process of congregational soul-searching began in the wake of the 2015 massacre at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a racist gunman with a fondness for Confederate symbols.

“I think the general feeling in the parish is that we have come through a very bad time but are now on the other side of it – wiser and more sober-minded, I think, for having gone through it,” Anne Hansen, a former vestry member, told Episcopal News Service by email.

The congregation in Lexington, Virginia, changed its name from R.E. Lee Memorial Church to Grace Episcopal Church in September 2017.

Hubbard expressed hope that the congregation has begun moving past the bitter conflict over its identity and history. “I don’t think conflicts get wholly smoothed over,” he said, but “it’s a much happier place.”

The congregation took a big step forward in May when it invited monks from Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York, to lead parishioners in a healing and reconciliation workshop, Hubbard said. Church members who had taken opposing positions during the debate over the old name faced each other across the aisle of the church and asked for forgiveness.

“There were people with tears running right down their faces,” Hubbard said.

The congregation is working to add Beloved Community events to its schedule of activities in the community room. Even before the room’s dedication, the church had begun hosting events aimed at racial healing, such as a hymn sing that was joined by a half-dozen churches, black and white, in Lexington.

Grace Episcopal “is really solidly behind” the work of racial reconciliation, Hubbard said, adding that everyone also is still riding high after Curry’s rousing sermon at the diocesan convention.

“The parish is really pumped up, like the entire diocese is,” Hubbard said.

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

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Anglican leaders in Arabian Gulf welcome Pope Francis’ visit to United Arab Emirates

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 2:28pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] This week’s historic visit to the United Arab Emirates by Pope Francis resulted in “extraordinary scenes,” said the Rev. Andrew Thompson, the senior Anglican chaplain in Abu Dhabi.

During his visit, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. News reports cite a variety of numbers of those attending, varying from 130,000 to 180,000.

Thompson was one of those present. He told Anglican Communion News Service that Anglicans and Roman Catholics have, for decades, “literally been neighbors” in the UAE. “In every one of the emirates of the UAE, the Anglican churches lie literally in the shadow of the gigantic compounds which are the spiritual homes to thousands of Roman Catholics,” he said.

Read the full article here.

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Coffee on the Corner helps Fort Worth Episcopalians get to know, serve their neighbors

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 12:42pm

Donnelle Guynn, a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in the Meadow in Fort Worth, offers hot sausage biscuits to a mother and her children during a recent Coffee on the Corner morning outside the church. Meadowbrook Elementary School in the distance is across the street from the church. Looking on are Adriana Cline, left, St Luke’s bookkeeper and assistant diocesan treasurer, and the Rev. Karen Calafat, rector of St. Luke’s. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Fort Worth, Texas] When you look out the window of your church and see kids and their parents walking past every morning on their way to neighborhood schools and a school bus stop, what comes to mind?

“We figured that there might be needs that we might be able to plug into,” the Rev. Karen Calafat said she and some parishioners at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in the Meadow thought. They had some ideas, but they didn’t know whether those ideas would be helpful. “We were just looking for a way to connect, find out what their needs are and see if there was any way we could partner with them.”

The Rev. Karen Calafat, rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in the Meadow in Fort Worth, Texas, chats with a mother during the parish’s weekly Coffee on the Corner. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

That’s when their discovery that middle school students needed college logo t-shirts led to the every Friday morning Coffee on the Corner, a six-week experiment when it began in September and has gone on ever since then.

Calafat and St. Luke’s member Donnell Guynn recently explained that trajectory one chilly Friday morning between serving coffee, cocoa, sausage biscuits and other treats. At a meeting with counselors at the nearby Middlebrook Middle School, parishioners learned that the students needed the shirts for those days when they came to school out of uniform or on special when they can wear such logo shirts.

The dress code conversation coincided with the church’s yard sale, so volunteers culled out all the college logo T-shirts from the donations and gave them to the middle school. “It just started the conversation,” Calafat said.

At the same time, the parish was hosting another kind of conversation, sponsored by Living Room Conversations, which helps people who disagree find ways to work together and respect each other. This past July the monthly gathering at St. Luke’s discussed refugee families and the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy. Eight “brave women” were present, Calafat said, and they decided that while they knew little about refugees, they knew there were immigrants in their neighborhood. The women wanted to find a way to tell them that St. Luke’s “was not on the bandwagon” of the administration’s policies.

Three of the women got together to talk more, but “we realized we didn’t even know what the neighborhood needs,” Calafat said. “We can’t plan some big program because what if it’s not needed? So, we just honed it down to let’s stand on the corner and get to know the neighbors, give them a cup of coffee and just visit.”

St. Luke’s has a strategic corner in the neighborhood. The area elementary school is across from the front of the church and the middle school is just down the side street. That side street is also where high school students wait, sometimes in their parents’ vehicles, sometimes on the sidewalk, for buses to take them to various buildings elsewhere in Fort Worth, including the district World Language Institute. The vestry is considering building a bus shelter for those high school students.

As the Fridays went by, the volunteers learned a lot. For instance, an early thought about offering English-as-a-second-language classes became a reality, but in reverse. The St. Luke’s women began asking the Spanish-speaking parents the English names of some of the food they were handing out, such as bananas and oranges. The parents would quiz the women in subsequent weeks to see if they remembered their translations.

One mother later suggested that the parents and parishioners continue trying to learn each other’s languages, and now the morning chats are becoming more and more bilingual.

One recent day some Spanish-speaking students brought a newly arrived Asian friend with them. Then there are the two Rwandan sisters who walk their younger sister to the elementary school and then hang out around Coffee on the Corner before they go to school. The Rwandan sisters speak five languages, according to Calafat and Guynn.

A subtle invitation to leave prayer requests stands on the treat cart. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

It’s not all about coffee and goodies. Prominent on the rolling treat cart on the corner is a brightly colored mug with squares of paper asking, “How can we pray for you?/Como podermus orar por usted?” The mug is the invitation; the volunteers never push anyone.

Calafat said she takes any cards that are left on the cart to her desk. “I just kind of keep them in front of me and lift them up in prayer, and when they come back the next week we ask them how things are going,” she said.

One morning a woman visited, saying she had seen Coffee on the Corner but had never stopped.  That day, she said, she needed prayers for her marriage. Three or four weeks later she returned to say she and her husband had a good week.  “It’s just about keeping track of people,” Calafat said.

Melissa Subjeck, the college and career readiness coach at Meadowbrook Middle School, stops by nearly every Friday when she drops off her daughter for pre-K classes. She likes to greet some of her middle school students as they take their younger siblings to the elementary school.

Subjeck praised both the parish’s initial effort to give college T-shirts to the middle school and the coffee stand. “I think this church is pretty remarkable,” she said. “This is one of the highlights of my Fridays. It starts you off in a good mood.”

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

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Anglican church in Bermuda closes after heavy rains cause roof to collapse

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 4:27pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An Anglican church on the north Atlantic island of Bermuda has been forced to close its doors after heavy rains caused the roof to collapse. But regular ministry at St. Mary’s Church in Warwick, Bermuda, is continuing, with services being held in the Church Hall. No one was inside the church when the roof collapsed.

Read the full article here.

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Iraq’s prime minister visits St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 4:25pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Iraq Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has paid a visit St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad. The prime minister was greeted by the parish priest, the Rev. Faiz Jerjes, who gave a tour of the church complex, including its clinic and school, and briefed him on the Anglican presence in the country. St. George’s has a long history of peace-building and reconciliation in the region.

Read the full article here.

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Presiding Bishop urges clergy to talk with Florida bishop about same-sex marriage disagreements

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 4:18pm

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry told clergy in the Diocese of Florida Feb. 4 to work hard to stay in relationship with Bishop John Howard, even if they disagree with his opposition to same-sex marriage.

During a public conversation between Curry and Howard, the Florida bishop acknowledged that the presiding bishop had heard from people who were concerned about Howard’s plan to allow same-sex marriage in the diocese despite that objection. “I wonder if there is anything that you would like to say to us” about the ongoing conversation in the diocese, Howard asked of Curry.

“The inclusion that is at the heart of gospel that welcomes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is the same inclusive outstretched arms of Jesus that welcomes those who disagree with us,” Curry said.

“I believe that that conversation, that open availability to each other, face to face, it’s the way forward,” he said. “I would encourage anyone here [to] come and talk to him. Let him talk with you. Treat each as brothers and sisters and siblings in Christ, and you’ll find a way. I know that.”

“I know this guy,” Curry said, gesturing toward Howard. “We’ve been bishops together a long time. He has firmly held convictions. He’s a strong guy; he’s an old lawyer, but he’s a lawyer with a Jesus heart. I just would encourage you to sit down and talk with your brother, and I know he will talk with you.”

Some Florida Episcopalians have said that Howard is not living up to the General Convention’s desire to give same-sex couples unfettered access to same-sex marriage in all of the church’s domestic dioceses by putting what they perceive as threatening roadblocks in the way. Howard, who objects to such marriages, has said that’s not true, calling his process one of “collaboration and transparency” that simply requires conversation among him, the rector who wants to offer same-sex marriage, and the congregation’s wardens.

Howard formulated his policy in response to General Convention Resolution B012, passed in July to end the church’s requirement that bishops give their permission for clergy to use two marriage rites that the previous meeting of convention had authorized (via Resolution A054) for trial use by both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Curry described how B012 emerged from an attempt to find a way for Episcopalians with “diametrically opposed principles” to remain in relationship without asking one side to renounce its strongly held theological beliefs or the other to give up its access to the sacramental rite of marriage. B012, Curry said, “was the result of people who differ staying in conversation and relationship with each other long enough for the Holy Spirit to show them a better way.”

“I am naïve enough to believe that if Elizabeth I could find a way [to do that] in the 16th century, we can find it in the 21st,” he said. “We are a tradition that has found a way to reconcile diametrically opposed positions without compromising either one. It’s called Anglicanism.”

Curry was referring to the Elizabethan Settlement, which sought an inclusive middle way for English Christianity between traditional Roman Catholic traditions and the then-emerging Protestant expression.

The presiding bishop also told the clergy gathering that General Convention last summer understood B012 “was not the permanent solution,” and it called for the formation of the Task Force on Communion Across Difference to continue to grapple with those differences. That task force is holding its first meeting in mid-March.

Curry is spending Feb. 4-5 in the diocese for a previously scheduled visit. As part of his time in the diocese, Curry met with clergy and their spouses at St. John’s Cathedral in Jacksonville. He and Howard spent an hour and 15 minutes conversing in the nave, seated in armchairs in front of the altar, as clergy in the pews listened. Howard asked questions of Curry. Some of those questions were synthesized from those submitted by the clergy ahead of time, according to what the Very Rev. Kate Moorehead, cathedral dean, said in her introduction.

Presiding bishops often include clergy-only gatherings during their diocesan visits. However, commenters on the unofficial Diocese of Florida public group Facebook page had criticized what they see as the closed nature of the planned meeting. As is typical, Curry has a number of other public events scheduled in the Diocese of Florida during his visit, at which Episcopalians will have opportunities to interact with him.

He will participate in evensong later on Feb. 4 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tallahassee. The next day Curry will visit with second- to eighth-graders at Holy Comforter Episcopal School in Tallahassee and have lunch at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, a historically African-American congregation. That afternoon, the presiding bishop is due to confirm a small number of prisoners at Wakulla Correctional Institution outside Tallahassee.

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

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As Episcopal Church pushes to end mass incarceration, New York church takes up bail reform

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 4:18pm

The Rikers Island prison complex (foreground) is seen from an airplane in the Queens borough of New York. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church’s General Convention, in addition to placing racial reconciliation among the church’s top priorities, has voted since 2015 to emphasize criminal justice reform as an essential step toward ending the American system of mass incarceration that disproportionately punishes people of color.

An example of that system – and, for reformers, an opportunity – can be found on an island in the middle of New York’s East River.

Rikers Island is the city’s primary incarceration site, home to eight inmate facilities that hold most of the more than 8,000 people in New York City who in an average day are held behind bars while they wait for a court hearing or trial, or as they serve their jail sentences. More than half of the city’s inmates and detainees are black, and a third are Hispanic.

Last fall, members of Trinity Church Wall Street, an affluent parish in Lower Manhattan, joined a “mass bail out” of certain detainees being held at city jails. The congregation is on the front lines of a movement to close Rikers Island as a costly, unjust, ineffective and deteriorating relic of an outdated system. Advocates argue for replacing Rikers with jails in each of the city’s five boroughs, where they would be more convenient for court hearings and family visits, though such a transformation depends first on an overall reduction in the number of people the city incarcerates.

“The larger piece is we need to make Rikers no longer necessary,” the Rev. Winnie Varghese, the church’s director of justice and reconciliation, told Episcopal News Service in an interview.

That was an underlying recommendation of a 2017 report issued by the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, whose work received financial support from a dozen philanthropic organizations, including Trinity Wall Street.

“Research shows that incarceration begets incarceration,” the commission’s report said. “Spending time behind bars also begets other problems, including eviction, unemployment, and family dysfunction. These burdens fall disproportionately on communities of color.”

The commission set a target of reducing the city’s jail population to 5,000 in a decade, which would mark a dramatic turnaround from a peak of more than 20,000 people behind bars in New York in the early 1980s.

Most of that reduction would be achieved by bail reforms, by changing the way the city holds suspects who are accused of crimes but not yet convicted. Pretrial detainees make up three of every four people incarcerated in the city.

Advocates for bail reform argue that many of those pretrial detainees remain at Rikers Island simply because they are too poor to pay their bail, not because they have been accused of a serious crime or are a significant danger to the public. Bail’s purpose, they point out, is merely to ensure that a defendant will appear in court for a hearing, or else the defendant risks forfeiting that money.

“What this system has turned into is a way to keep poor people in jail because they cannot afford bail,” Jonathan Lippman, a former state chief judge who chairs the reform commission, told Varghese in a video interview produced by Trinity Wall Street.

Lippman advocates eliminating cash bail altogether as one safeguard against unnecessary detentions, which often do more damage than good, he said. Simply spending a day or two at Rikers can have a profound effect on a detainee, and taken to extremes, it can ruin lives, as Lippman noted with the example of Kalief Browder.

Browder, accused of stealing a backpack in 2010 at age 16, was arrested and held at Rikers for three years, much of that time spent in solitary confinement, because his family was unable to afford his bail. He was never tried or convicted, and after he finally was released, he hanged himself at age 22. Last month, New York agreed to pay Browder’s family $3.3 million in a settlement over the young man’s detention.

“What a waste of a human being,” Lippman said. “This was a trifecta of everything that’s wrong with the criminal justice system.” Browder, Lippman explained, was a child charged as an adult, suffered through extended delays in his case and was not able to immediately return to his family because of a flawed bail system.

The Rev. Winnie Varghese of Trinity Church Wall Street interviews Jonathan Lippman, former New York State chief judge, about bail reform. Photo: Trinity Wall Street, from video

Mass incarceration has been called “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander in her book of that name, which likens it to slavery and segregation as another race-based caste system. In 2015, General Convention passed a resolution that encouraged Episcopalians to read Alexander’s book.

Also in 2015, General Convention took a detailed position against mass incarceration in another resolution that acknowledged “implicit racial bias and racial profiling result in a criminal justice system that disproportionately incarcerates people of color” and challenged the church “at every level to commit mindfully and intentionally to dismantling our current mass incarceration system.”

The resolution also urges reform of bail bond systems, “which rely upon often-unlicensed and unregulated bail bond agents and on conditioning release from pretrial incarceration solely on the ability to pay.”

New York isn’t the only state facing pressure to reform its bail laws. Last year, California became the first state to eliminate cash bail for suspects awaiting trial, though critics of that reform legislation argued the new law “actually undermines genuine criminal justice reform” because of its use of an algorithm to determine when suspects should be detained or released.

New Jersey, though not eliminating all cash bail, greatly limited its application through a law that took effect in January 2017. Crime rates appear to have plummeted in the two years since then, WNYC reported, though it wasn’t clear if the bail reform was the reason. The law’s lasting effects are still up for debate.

Those states’ laws and other examples around the country are helping to guide the work of reform in New York, Varghese said. “Frankly, we’re learning from other places,” she said, and she expressed optimism about the bail reforms offered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his state budget proposal last month.

Cuomo’s legislation calls for an end to cash bail and a significant reduction in the number of suspects held in jail awaiting trial. The legislation also would require police to rely on tickets rather than arrests for low-level crimes, though prosecutors could request a hearing to determine whether a suspect is too much of a threat to be released while a case is pending.

The Episcopal Church and other Christian denominations can add a powerful voice to such debates, Varghese said.

“I think churches have language around the morality of holding a person, taking the freedom of a person who has not been convicted of anything,” Varghese said. The Episcopal Church, especially given its vocal support of anti-poverty initiatives, “can bring some real moral weight.”

Varghese personally participated in the Mass Bail Out. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights launched the campaign in early October to pay bail for female and teenage suspects held in Rikers, both as a direct action that would reduce the jail population there and as way to drawn attention to the cause of bail reform and closing the facility.

Organizers raised money from different donors to pay the bails. The role of volunteers like Varghese was to go to corrections offices, fill out paperwork and turn over a check to release the suspects. Varghese declined to provide to ENS any identifying information about the person she helped bail out other than to say it was a woman being held at Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers for a small-time charge, equivalent to shoplifting.

“We want to show them that the faith community supports them,” Varghese said. “One night at Rikers Island can change your life for the worse.”

About $1.2 million in bail was posted during the campaign, freeing 105 people with bails ranging from $700 to $100,000, according to a New York Times report on the results. City officials initially raised safety concerns when the Mass Bail Out was announced, though only two of the suspects released through the campaign had failed to appear at their subsequent court hearings as of mid-November.

Varghese and Lippman spoke Jan. 31 at a breakfast forum on bail reform hosted by Trinity Wall Street. The event also featured several local and state lawmakers, though the human face of the problem was embodied early in the session by Marvin Mayfield, a reform advocate who spoke of his own experiences with the criminal justice system.

“I’ve been a victim of far more serious crimes in police custody than anything I’ve ever been arrested for,” Mayfield told the audience at the forum, video of which was posted online by Trinity Wall Street.

Marvin Mayfield, a bail reform advocate, speaks Jan. 31 at a breakfast forum hosted by Trinity Church Wall Street. Photo: Trinity Wall Street, via video

Mayfield spoke of being arrested a few years ago on suspicion of burglary and spending four months at Rikers Island because he didn’t have $10,000 to pay his bail. While there, he said, he was repeatedly assaulted by other detainees, who at one point broken his leg. He finally took a plea deal to end his ordeal.

“The system of money bail has not changed and is still disproportionately affecting the black and brown men and women of this state,” Mayfield said.

About 25,000 people are being held in jails across New York State each day, and Mayfield argued bail laws are a large factor in the injustices many of those people suffer while they are locked up.

“We must tell how [the laws are] hurting us,” Mayfield said. “We’ve all heard about the viciousness, the inhumanity, the brutality, the apathy, that exists in our county jails, but until you’ve lived it, you can’t appreciate the true impact of having your freedom taken away and being tossed into a violent and hostile environment.

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

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Susan Brown Snook elected fifth bishop of San Diego

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 10:47am

The Rev. Canon Susan Brown Snook

[Diocese of San Diego] The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego elected the Rev. Canon Susan Brown Snook as its fifth diocesan bishop today at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Poway. She was elected on the first ballot during an election that involved 212 voting delegates. She received 71 votes from lay delegates and 45 votes from clergy.

Voting delegates, and 39 non-voting visitors gathered in Poway to worship, sing, and participate in the half-day affair. Voting delegates included both clergy members and laity. All votes were weighted equally. Each of the 43 congregations in the diocese sent delegates to the electing convention.

Brown Snook is the first woman to be elected bishop since the diocese was formed in 1973. Others on the ballot were the Rev. Roy Hoffman, doctor of ministry, and the Rev. Michael Tinnon, doctor of ministry, both priests serving in this diocese.

“The process included much prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit,” said the Rev. Gwynn Lynch, president of the standing committee, the body that operates as the ecclesiastical authority during the interim between bishops. “We were able to discern God’s working in our own hearts and reflect that in our vote.”

“I am delighted at Susan’s election, and believe that the delegates to this convention have discerned her particular gifts to be best aligned with the direction in which the Diocese of San Diego is already moving,” said the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, assisting bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego. “I give thanks for the election of Susan and pray that she will faithfully lead this diocese toward the fullness of God’s dream for many years to come.”

Brown Snook currently serves as the canon for church growth and development in the Diocese of Oklahoma. She guides churches in areas of evangelism, church growth, church planting, new mission development and planning. She previously served as a church planter in Scottsdale, Arizona. She authored God Gave the Growth: Church Planting in the Episcopal Church and co-founded the Acts 8 Movement, a group dedicated to proclaiming resurrection in the Episcopal Church. In a previous career, she was a certified public accountant. She has been married to Mr. Tom Snook for over 30 years. They have two adult daughters, Sarah and Julia.

Today’s historic election will be submitted to bishops and diocesan standing committees for their ratification. Once those consents are received, the service of ordination and consecration by which Brown Snook becomes a bishop and assumes responsibility for the pastoral and administrative work of the diocese, will take place on Saturday, June 15 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Banker’s Hill.  Jefferts Schori will be the chief consecrator at the 10 a.m. service. A festive reception will follow at The Abbey on Fifth Avenue. Media are welcome.

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Presiding Bishop brings the power of love to Central Florida prep school

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 5:47pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry poses with Trinity Preparatory School students after their special assembly with him. Photo: Jon-Paul Wimer/Trinity Preparatory School

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry told students at Trinity Preparatory School on Feb. 1 that love can change the world, and them.

“God made us to be love and to love,” he said during a special assembly at the school in Winter Park, Florida, north of Orlando.

Curry is on the first day of a three-day visit to the Diocese of Central Florida, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Trinity is also celebrating its 50th anniversary. Classes at Trinity Prep began in 1968 for 173 students in grades seven through 12. The school now offers grades six through 12 with 862 students this year.

“If you think of love only as a sentiment, it is hard to see how it can have a great impact, but if you understand that that sentiment leads to commitment, a commitment to seek the good, the welfare, the well-being of the other” ahead of one’s own self-interest, Curry said, then “it’s a commitment that actually looks something like God, who the Bible says is love.”

Curry told the students what it was like to preach in May at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Any wedding, he said, is “basically two people telling the rest of us that they love each enough to be committed together for the rest of their lives.”

“So, two billion people got up to watch two people tell the rest of us that they love each other,” he said. “CBS showed up. The BBC showed up. NBC showed up; Fox, CNN, the world got up to watch two people tell the rest of us that they love each other.

“My brothers and sisters, that’s the power of love,” he said, to applause. “And that love had a power because the source of the love is actually God.”

The presiding bishop said, “Love has the power – I’m telling you it really does – have the power to lift you up when reality, life, will sometimes pull you down.”

Curry told the students the story of Muffin the Ugly Cat who came to live with him and his wife early in their ministry in a mouse-overrun rectory. Muffin was getting beaten up by the other pets in her previous home, but the Curry family, including a German Shepherd dog named Bishop, took her in and loved her, the presiding bishop said.

Muffin soon began to hunt mice with a vengeance, sometimes leaving what the presiding bishop called her “tithe” in his slipper. One winter of Muffin on the prowl eliminated the mouse problem, he said.

Crouching like a hunting cat, Curry said, “This cat, as long as she was being mistreated and not allowed to be who the Lord put her on this earth to be, she was dysfunctional and dribbling and drooling and all that.

“But when that cat was loved – you hear me now? – when that cat was loved and allowed to be who God put her on this earth to be, which is a catcher of mice, she was not just an ordinary cat. She was Super Cat.”

Curry said his grandmother used to remind him, “It is no secret what God can do. What he did for St. Paul, he can do for you.”

“My friends, I am here to tell you, it is no secret what God can do. What he did for Muffin, he can do for you.”

Continuing his visit to the diocese, in the evening Feb. 1 the presiding bishop will lead the diocese’s “Keep Saying Yes to Jesus Revival.” The event will be held at First Baptist Orlando. The diocese has said more than 4,100 people have registered to attend, and plans are being made to seat others in an overflow room at the church.

The presiding bishop also will attend the diocese’s 50th anniversary luncheon celebration on Feb. 2 at Trinity Prep.

And he will preach during the 10:15 a.m. Eucharist Feb. 3 at the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando.

From Central Florida, Curry is scheduled to head to the Diocese of Florida, headquartered in Jacksonville, Feb. 4-5.

On Feb. 6, Curry is speaking to the DART Clergy Conference. The Direct Action and Research Training Center, or DART, is a national network of 21 affiliated grassroots, nonprofit congregation-based community organizations. The center says its organizations, including faith communities, “bring people together across racial, religious and socioeconomic lines to pursue justice in their communities.” The network addresses problems “that affect large numbers of people and violate a basic sense of fairness, such as the lack of quality education or access to essential quality healthcare, criminalization of children and predatory lending.”

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

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Florida Episcopalians tell Presiding Bishop that diocese is not honoring same-sex marriage resolution

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 5:44pm

Florida Bishop John Howard says General Convention’s effort to ensure same-sex marriages can happen in all of the church’s domestic dioceses is “the standard in this diocese.” Photo: Diocese of Florida

[Episcopal News Service] Some Episcopalians in the Diocese of Florida say Bishop John Howard is not living up to the General Convention’s desire to give same-sex couples unfettered access to same-sex marriage in all of the church’s domestic dioceses, but Howard says that’s not true, calling his process one of “collaboration and transparency.”

Howard, however, Feb. 1 declined Episcopal News Service’s request to clarify how that process works. In a brief telephone conversation, the bishop said that his convention address and ENS’ previous conversations with the diocese’s communications director “should take care of what you need from me.” The telephone conversation came the day after ENS emailed the bishop, at his request, a description of what it wished to ask him.

“You’ve heard everything I have to say, and I’ll have no further comment,” he said.

The Episcopalians outlined their concerns in a letter to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry that was posted Jan. 22 on the online petition-hosting website change.org here. Organizers say Curry was officially notified of the letter on Jan. 25 and was later sent a hard copy, according to the small group that drafted it.

The letter says Howard told the diocese’s active clergy in September that a rector wishing to officiate at same-sex marriages must meet with him and bring the parish’s wardens to the meeting. Howard “further requires the rector to look into the bishop’s eyes and tell him he/she is defying his pastoral directive,” the letter says. Many, but not all, of the organizers were at the meeting in question.

Then, according to the letter, another bishop will be made available to provide pastoral support to the couple, clergy and congregation. The petition says the congregation must pay the alternate bishop’s stipend for expenses incurred in giving that support.

Howard’s plan is an “intimidating, unduly cumbersome process and unfair to our brothers and sisters in Christ who seek to be married in this church,” the letter says.

“Clergy seeking to live out their baptismal covenant and ordination vows must put their ministries, as well as the ministries of their parish, at risk by stating they are defying their bishop,” the petition says.

“The resolution answered the prayers of many in this diocese and gave our GLBTQ community hope that they could finally experience justice, peace and dignity,” the petition concludes. “Once again they wait and suffer due to the parameters imposed upon us in the Diocese of Florida. We suffer with them.”

The letter had 975 signatures when it was closed on Jan. 31.

Howard formulated his policy in response to General Convention Resolution B012, passed in July to end the church’s requirement that bishops give their permission for clergy to use two marriage rites that the previous meeting of convention had authorized for trial use (via Resolution A054) by both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Howard told diocesan convention about the process of implementing B012 in Florida

On Jan. 26 during his address to his diocese’s 176th annual convention, Howard said that “a lot of murmuring and non-truths” have been circulating in the diocese but that Resolution B012 is “the standard in this diocese.” He said he has established a process of “collaboration and transparency.” Howard said that process requires a rector or priest in charge and the parish’s wardens to meet with him to discuss their desire to offer same-sex marriages.

“After meeting with the rector or priest and wardens, Resolution B012 puts another burden on me, another job on me,” Howard said. “I need to find another bishop willing to undertake pastoral oversight for them in accordance with the provisions of B012.”

No such process is mandated by B012; however, the resolution says that if the diocesan bishop “does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples,” he or she “shall invite, as necessary, another bishop of this church to provide pastoral support to the couple, the member of the clergy involved and the congregation or worshipping community in order to fulfill the intention of this resolution that all couples have convenient and reasonable local congregational access to these rites.”

Howard reported to diocesan convention that he has had one such meeting with a rector and wardens, calling it “cordial, friendly, prayerful and productive” and adding that it “did not seem burdensome, onerous or punitive.”

It is unusual for a parish’s wardens to be involved in marriage decisions; moreover, such involvement and implied agreement are not required by the church’s canons. In fact, the canons explicitly give the authority for marriage and liturgical decisions to the rector or priest in charge of a congregation. However, many parishes across the Episcopal Church that offer same-sex marriage do so after a process of conversation among the clergy and lay leaders and congregants.

Howard said during his address that he opposes same-sex marriage. “Don’t talk about it a lot, talk about it very seldom, wish I could talk about it even less but that’s a fact,” he said. “This morning, I hope that one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit moving in us and through us in our churches is that we won’t, one more time, permit this issue to divide us.”

The bishop had said during the House of Bishops’ debate on B012 at General Convention that, after the 2003 meeting of General Convention consented to the election of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, “My diocese became the epicenter of warfare within the church over those issues of a partnered gay man becoming a bishop of the church, and became a place where open warfare, even in the floor of convention and in parish halls, occurred.”

A video recording of Howard’s convention address is below and here. His B012 remarks begin at the 38 minute 20 second mark.

Emily Stimler, director of communications for the Diocese of Florida, told Episcopal News Service on Jan. 24 that people were confused about Howard’s process and intent.

“People that maybe were at the meeting misunderstood, and from there it’s just kind of been snowballing. We intend to fully comply and be supportive of it,” Stimler said.

However, the Rev. Robert Griffiths, who facilitated posting the letter on change.org said on an unofficial Diocese of Florida Facebook public group page the day after Howard’s remarks to the diocesan convention that the letter “was fact checked before it was posted with a number of clergy who were at the September meeting.” That post has since been removed from the page.

The Rev. Penny Pfab, retired rector of St. Paul’s by-the-Sea in Jacksonville Beach, told ENS late last week that she drafted the letter after a small group of Episcopalians began discussing what they understood to be the bishop’s policy. Pfab, who did not attend the September meeting because retired clergy were not invited, said she verified the facts in the letter and Howard’s words with priests in the group who did attend the meeting. She also consulted a rector who was at the meeting but was not part of the letter-writing group.

“He told them that this is the process in the Diocese of Florida,” she said. “And those who were there said that, by defying the pastoral directive, they’re putting their ministries at risk and their parishes at risk as well.”

The church’s canons say a pastoral directive must be in writing. Pfab said she has not received such a pastoral directive in writing, adding she has not heard from any active clergy who received such a document.

It’s possible that some people who were at the meeting misunderstood what the bishop said, Pfab allowed, but added, “I haven’t talked to anyone who is confused. There may be some who are wondering. It would be helpful if [Howard] would put it in writing and then there would be no confusion.”

The signers of the letter do not ask Curry for any specific action on his part. “We’ll leave that to him,” Pfab told ENS. “We wanted him to know how the resolution is being implemented in the Diocese of Florida and our belief that this is not in keeping with spirit of the resolution.”

When contacted by ENS, Griffiths would not comment on the record. In the past, Griffiths served as Howard’s canon to the ordinary for 10 years.

Not all clergy in the diocese will speak publicly about the process

Many other priests in the diocese are reportedly reluctant to talk publicly about the process Howard has outlined. “They are afraid. I have had one or two say, ‘I can’t go public on this. I can’t do that.’ It would put their congregation at risk,” the Rev. Christopher S. Martin, who retired in 2007 after serving for 23 years as rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Green Cove Springs, recently told ENS.

Martin said he is part of the letter-writing group. Although retired clergy were not invited to the September meeting, Martin said he attended anyway. He said Howard began with a long “teaching” on marriage to show that same-sex marriage is wrong. Martin said Howard told clergy not to solemnize same-sex marriages “in any church in his diocese.”

“People did ask him, ‘Is there any way you can change your mind of this?’” Martin said, and Howard said no.

“This was not an open discussion,” Martin said, despite efforts on the part of some clergy members. “He was not interested in dialogue.”

Martin said that “there’s a lot of fear and a lot of intimidation” among the active clergy, adding that one person told him that, after the meeting, he realized he had no future in the diocese.

One congregation that may discuss offering the same-sex rites is St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tallahassee, though the Rev. David Killeen said he didn’t expect any decision to be made on “how we’re going to proceed as a parish” until the parish’s new vestry gets to work this month.

Any decision by the congregation will follow a “major discernment process,” Killeen said. He added that his parish wants to be proactive in determining how it will respond if it receives a pastoral inquiry regarding same-sex marriage.

“We want to be able to respond thoughtfully and faithfully,” he said. “The reality is there is a new normal with [B012].”

Killeen said he personally wouldn’t feel intimidated by anything Howard has said about B012 or same-sex marriage in the past. He didn’t elaborate on the content of Howard’s September meeting with clergy.

“I take the diocese at their word right now, which is that they’re going to be in accordance with B012,” he told ENS earlier this month. “At this point, it appears that any parish just needs to go with the rector and the wardens [and meet] with the bishop to advise.”

Meanwhile, the Rev. Louanne Loch, the current rector of St. Paul’s by-the-Sea in Jacksonville Beach, told ENS that Howard has agreed to meet with her and the church wardens for further discussions and clarification of B012.

Curry is due to spend Feb. 4-5 in the diocese for a previously scheduled visit. As part of his time in the diocese, Curry will meet with clergy and their spouses over lunch at St. John’s Cathedral in Jacksonville hosted by Howard and the cathedral’s dean, the Very Rev. Kate Moorehead. When contacted by ENS last week, Moorehead declined to comment on the implementation of B012 in the diocese.

Presiding bishops often include clergy-only gatherings during their diocesan visits. However, commenters on the unofficial Diocese of Florida public group Facebook page recently criticized what they see as the closed nature of the planned meeting. As is typical, Curry has a number of other public events scheduled in the Diocese of Florida during his visit, at which Episcopalians will have opportunities to interact with him.

Stimler told ENS that there will be a question-and-answer session before the luncheon “where B012 will come up again and where I hope this will further clarify for clergy who are present – and not present, because it will be livestreamed publicly.”

What has happened in other dioceses in which the bishop opposes same-sex marriage

The two marriage rites received widespread acceptance across the church. However, eight diocesan bishops in the 101 domestic dioceses did not authorize their use after their introduction in 2015. In addition to Howard, they include Diocese of Albany Bishop William Love, Central Florida Bishop Greg Brewer, Dallas Bishop George Sumner, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, Springfield Bishop Dan Martins, Tennessee Bishop John Bauerschmidt and Virgin Islands Bishop Ambrose Gumbs.

Gumbs has told his clergy to offer the rites without further obstacles.

Love is the only one of the eight who initially refused to permit use of the rites and who has flatly refused to conform to B012. On Jan. 11, Curry prevented Love from punishing clergy, laity and congregations who wish to use the rite, and Curry has referred the matter for investigation through the church’s clergy discipline process. Love said he would appeal the restriction.

Brewer, Martins, Smith and Sumner have said they could not be in a pastoral relationship with parishes that wished to perform same-sex marriages. They have negotiated with other bishops to provide Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight, or DEPO.

Bauerschmidt said clergy must tell him of their plans and “assure him that the cleric’s congregation agrees to use of the trial rites for marriage.”

In his convention address, Howard specifically rejected the notion of DEPO for Florida parishes that wish to solemnize same-sex marriages. “I could never do that. I won’t do that,” he said. “I love my relationship with you, with the churches you represent and with your clergy, too much to ever do that.

“I assure you that I will cling to you and love you and serve you in every way I can, which principle will permit.”

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

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Office of Government Relations issues statement on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 4:05pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations] On Feb. 1, the U.S. government announced it will suspend its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The INF Treaty was signed more than 30 years ago, and it is the only remaining arms control agreement from the Cold War. The administration’s decision begins the process of withdrawing from the treaty, to take effect in six months, unless the U.S. believes that Russia returns to compliance during this time.

The Episcopal Church opposes this development and is concerned that withdrawing from this treaty, which resulted in a reduction in nuclear stockpiles in the U.S. and Russian Federation, will erode a commitment to nuclear disarmament. While the U.S. government has raised serious concerns about Russian violations of the Treaty, we believe the cause of peace is not furthered by abandoning the agreement all together. We must continue to build upon past efforts to ensure reduction of all nuclear arms and renegotiate the agreement if needed.

Longstanding Episcopal Church policy recognizes the danger nuclear weapons pose and acknowledges their devastating consequences. We call for nuclear disarmament, a ban on testing, and express our hope that nuclear power will be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. We urge the administration to work diplomatically with Russia and partners around the world to reduce proliferation of nuclear arms and not only promote, but actively engage in, multilateral disarmament.

One of the Cold War nuclear arms control treaties, the INF treaty was signed by President Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. The agreement prohibited the United States and the Soviet Union from fielding ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles that could fly between 500 and 5500 kilometers (approximately 310 and 3,420 miles). More background about the INF Treaty from the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Trinidadian priest in serious condition after being shot by gunman

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 2:48pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A priest in the Diocese of Trinidad & Tobago is in a serious condition in hospital after being shot as he left a cafe. CCTV footage shows the gunman running after another man, shooting at him as he ran into a store. He continued firing indiscriminately, hitting the Rev. Gerald Hendrickson twice in the stomach. Police say Hendrickson, a 54-year-old priest based at St. Margaret’s Church in Port of Spain, was “an innocent victim just going about his daily affairs” when he was shot.

Read the full article here.

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