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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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Court of Review for Bishops upholds retired Los Angeles bishop’s three-year suspension

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 12:38pm

Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno spent nearly seven hours March 29-30, 2017, talking to the hearing panel that was considering disciplinary action against him. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 7:30 p.m. EST Feb. 1 to add a statement from Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop John Taylor.

[Episcopal News Service] An Episcopal Church court has concluded that retired Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno was properly suspended from ordained ministry for three years because of misconduct.

The Court of Review for Bishops said it made the three-year suspension retroactive to Aug. 2, 2017, the day a hearing panel originally recommended the sentence, rather than with the court’s Jan. 31 order.

The case against Bruno involved his unsuccessful 2015 attempt to sell the property of what was then known as St. James the Great’s in Newport Beach, California, to a condominium developer for $15 million in cash. That effort prompted some St. James members to bring misconduct allegations against Bruno, alleging he violated church law.

The hearing panel conducted three days of testimony on those allegations in March 2017. Bruno subsequently attempted to sell the property as the panel considered how to rule on the case. That attempt earned Bruno two ministerial restrictions from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

The court said in its order it found that “the majority of the factual determinations of the hearing panel are supported by substantial evidence when viewed as a whole in light of the record on appeal.” It added that the hearing panel “did not erroneously interpret or apply the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, nor did it commit a procedural error” or engage in a decision-making process that was contrary to the church’s Title IV canons on clergy discipline.

“We believe the decision reached in the Bishop Bruno matter is just, but no cause for celebration in any quarter,” Maine Bishop Stephen Lane, court president, said in a press release. “We hope the decision brings clarity to the canonical requirements by which we govern ourselves, will promote healing and reconciliation, and will be helpful to dioceses and bishops in their ministries.”

In its order the court said that, as bishops, they are “sympathetic to the fact that Bishops Diocesan are on the front line, with many irons in the fire, juggling numerous decisions on a daily basis for the overall benefit of their Diocese. It is not an easy job.” The bishops said they had a “formidable task” in passing judgment on a bishop “who has devoted years of his life to the church.”

However, the bishops said that Bruno did not claim he was wrongly found to have taken certain actions but, instead, focused on technicalities to get his sentence set aside. “This is contrary to the canons, which are supposed to focus on justice and reconciliation,” the order said.

Bruno retired from the Diocese of Los Angeles at the end of November 2017, after serving as bishop diocesan since Feb. 1, 2002. Episcopal Church bishops retain their episcopal order after retirement. He was succeeded by Bishop John Taylor. Meanwhile, the St. James congregation returned to its church on April 8, 2018, after being barred from worshipping there for nearly three years because of the dispute.

Bruno has no further avenue for appeal, Lane told Episcopal News Service.

Taylor issued a statement late on Feb. 1 giving thanks for the court’s decision. He said it “brings to an end the official narrative of these difficult years for the Diocese of Los Angeles, Jon and Mary Bruno and their family and colleagues, and the people of St. James Episcopal Church.

“But our reconciliation narrative is still being written. With the healing phase coming up soon, we will have ample opportunity to share our feelings with one another, acknowledging pain and brokenness and encouraging healing.”

He called for prayers for all who have been hurt in the conflict. “Let us envision together a diocesan community of renewed collaboration and cooperation, of restored relationship and mutual care,” he said. “Let us commit ourselves to the spirit of unity amid difference and to rebuilding sturdy bonds of affection that will again enable our church to show a better way forward to a polarizing world.”

The Court of Review met in Atlanta, in late September to hear oral arguments by the parties. The court’s decision was crafted over the next eight weeks, and the members of the court reviewed the decision and signed off over the weeks since Christmas, according to the release.

The members of the Court of Review for this appeal, in addition to Lane, were Connecticut Bishop Suffragan Laura Ahrens, Nebraska Bishop Scott Barker, Montana Bishop Franklin Brookhart, retired Diocese of East Carolina Bishop Clifton Daniels, retired Western Kansas Bishop Michael Milliken and Kentucky Bishop Terry White. Two other members (Diocese of New York Assisting Bishop Mary Glasspool and Diocese of Florida Bishop John Howard) recused themselves before the appeal was heard, according to Lane.

Previous ENS coverage of the case is here.

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

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Episcopalians join hotel soap campaign to fight sex trafficking as Atlanta hosts Super Bowl

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 4:13pm

About 200 participants at the SOAP UP event Jan. 26 at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta apply labels to bars of soap with messages aiming to fight sex trafficking. Photo: Catherine Renaud

[Episcopal News Service] Advocates for victims of child sex trafficking warn that the problem spikes around big sporting events, like the Super Bowl, which is taking place this weekend in Atlanta. That warning sparked a call to action among Episcopalians in the Diocese of Atlanta, who have turned thousands of bars of soap into weapons in the fight against exploitation and abuse.

The campaign, dubbed SOAP UP Atlanta, was organized by members of the diocese’s Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Commission and builds on the work of a range of organizations in metro Atlanta with the shared goal of ending human trafficking.

“It’s going to take people, parishes, churches, other organizations banding together to get this done, and if we do, massive amounts of people can stop it,” said Catherine Renaud, a commission member who helped organize the SOAP UP events. The bars of soap were wrapped with anti-trafficking hotline numbers and given to hotels around Atlanta, along with informational materials and posters with the pictures of missing children.

Attention to this issue during the lead-up to the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 already appears to be producing results. At least four victims were rescued and 33 people arrested this week through a law enforcement crackdown, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report.

It wasn’t clear if any of those victims were saved because of SOAP UP, but Renaud said she later learned that, at some hotels, employees told campaign volunteers they recognized potential victims from the handout posters and reported that information to authorities.

The diocese’s Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Commission has been around for several years but has never attempted a campaign like this before, said Renaud, who has been on the commission for about two years.

Renaud is 76 and semi-retired after running a computer software business. She is a member of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Dunwoody, an Atlanta suburb, and got involved in the fight against child trafficking after learning about the problem years ago at a conference.

“I heard the statistics. That’s all it took for me,” she said. Among the statistics cited by the diocese’s commission are that, in Georgia each month, an estimated 7,000 or more men who pay for sex end up exploiting an adolescent female.

“I could not sit by and do nothing,” Renaud said. “And I think the more other people hear about it, they won’t be able to either. Once you hear it, you can’t forget it.”

The Episcopal Church, too, has taken up the issue. A 2009 General Convention resolution “calls for the protection of all victims of human trafficking,” and Episcopalians have been involved in past campaigns to fight sex trafficking in Super Bowl cities.

In July, General Convention passed a resolution emphasizing the role businesses can play in identifying and reporting exploitation by adhering to what is known as the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.

Bars of soap like these are labeled with trafficking hotlines and distributed to hotels where victims may see them and get help. Photo: S.O.A.P., via Facebook

Outreach to businesses is a primary goal of the Ohio-based organization S.O.A.P. that was founded by trafficking survivor Theresa Flores. S.O.A.P. mobilizes volunteers to wrap bars of soap and containers of makeup wipes with labels advertising human trafficking hotlines and distributing them to hotels where victims might see them. Super Bowl cities have been a top target of Flores’ team since 2011 when it was held in Dallas.

As the Diocese of Atlanta’s anti-trafficking commission began discussing its own plans for this Super Bowl, it reached out to Flores to partner with the local campaign. On Jan. 26, the diocese held a daylong workshop for a capacity crowd of 200 at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta, where Flores shared her story and alarming statistics about the problem of child sex trafficking. Commission members also worked with Ahavath Achim Synagogue to host a second SOAP UP workshop there the following day.

Each afternoon, workshop participants divided into teams of four and ventured out to hotels around the city, asking hotel managers to stock the bars of soap wrapped with hotline labels. The hotels were “unbelievably receptive,” Renaud said.

The Rev. Monica Mainwaring, vicar of Church of the Common Ground in Atlanta, is a member of the diocesan commission who volunteered at the Jan. 26 event. SOAP UP was “in every way a success,” she said.

“It’s not like you can battle trafficking in an instant,” Mainwaring said. She compared it to the problem of homelessness, which can’t be simply swept under the rug when the Super Bowl comes to town. Her worshipping community celebrates Eucharist every week at a city park, convenient for people experiencing homelessness.

She sees the SOAP UP campaign as one part of a long-term community-wide effort to end human trafficking in the city. “I’m really proud of the city [organizations] working on that and very publicly saying we’re going to fight this.”

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

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Anita Parrott George made honorary canon of Mississippi cathedral

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 3:19pm

Mississippi Bishop Brian Seage presents Anita Parrott George with a certificate designating her as an honorary canon of the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew in Jackson. Photo: Jeanie Munn.

[Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi] In grateful recognition of her decades of service to the Diocese of Mississippi and the Episcopal Church, Anita Parrott George was named an honorary canon to the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew in Jackson, Mississippi, at the 192nd Annual Council, which convened in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, January 25-27.

George is a lifelong Episcopalian and a Mississippi native who co-chairs the Task Force on Racial Reconciliation in the Diocese of Mississippi. She also was an advisory board vice chair for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi.

She was elected to serve as a deputy to General Convention seven times, and was involved in much of the church’s anti-racism work. George also served two terms on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church.

George studied at Alcorn State University, the University of Florida and Mississippi State University, earning a doctorate and undertaking numerous postdoctoral courses. She devoted 41 years of her to life teaching young men and women in the field of education. In 2002, she was conferred the designation of professor emerita of education at Mississippi State University.

All of George’s work is grounded in an effort to live her Christian confession of faith in a culture in which racism’s deep roots affected her life and the lives of all people of color. Halting racism’s societal and individual wounds became a life’s work through education.

In a recent reflection, George wrote that much progress has been made. “Yes, we have been busy with efforts toward racial reconciliation and eliminating racism, and much has changed, many have been transformed. Yet, glaring statistics point to alarming trends, suggestive of the resurgence of our troubled racial past. … We must go beyond the very necessary outer work of training and enactment of laws and programs to the solitude of our inner work of formation, transformation, and re-formation,” she wrote.

The work that George has done in the Episcopal Church and beyond has helped pave the way for the necessary interior work of soul-searching to be accomplished. Her efforts to present racial reconciliation events throughout the nation are all couched in the understanding that the elimination of racism can only be reached when the work begins in a journey within.

Family and friends from throughout the diocese and the nation were present at the council’s closing Eucharist. Tears of joy were shed by many during the presentation, which included a video greeting from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

“We celebrate the life’s work of Dr. Anita George in appreciation of her faith and devotion to help make Christ’s work of reconciliation be felt more deeply in this world. Anita, your ministry is a blessing to us all.” said the Rt. Rev. Brian Seage, bishop of Mississippi.

— The Rev. Scott Lenoir is the editor of the Mississippi Episcopalian.

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Anglican bishop heads UK review of global persecution of Christians

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 10:01am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of England’s Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen is to chair an official British government review into the persecution of Christians around the world. Mounstephen, who was executive leader of the Church Mission Society prior to becoming bishop of Truro at the end of last year, appeared alongside Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Jan. 30 at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London to launch the review.

Read the full article here.

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Colorado priest to walk from South Carolina to California raising money to benefit youth

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 4:14pm

The Rev. Peter Munson stands in Indian Peaks Wilderness in Rock Mountain National Park. Photo: Courtesy of Peter Munson.

[Episcopal News Service – Boulder, Colorado] Has God placed a dream on your heart? For the Rev. Peter Munson, the answer is “yes.” In February, Munson, 61, will resign as rector from St. Ambrose Episcopal Church here in South Boulder – a church he’s served for more than 17 years – to walk 36,000 miles from Charleston, South Carolina, to San Francisco, California.

“I believe if you’re a person of faith, we’re all called,” said Munson, during an interview with Episcopal News Service in a downtown Boulder coffee shop, where he shared his 11-year dream.

His cross-country journey is set to begin on Monday, March 4.

Follow Munson’s journey on Facebook and Instagram

Along the way, Munson hopes to speak to faith and secular organizations about his dream and his journey and find hospitality – lodging and meals – while raising money through his nonprofit 6 Million Steps for Kids to benefit four charitable organizations serving youth and young adults. They are:  REMAR Children’s Home and School in El Salvador; Street Fraternity, a mentoring program for 14- to 25-year-old males from refugee families living in Denver, Colorado; Episcopal Relief & Development; and, The Episcopal Church in Colorado’s various children’s programs.

On Nov. 20, 2008, Munson was hiking alone in Rocky Mountain National Park, a park he’s hiked in for years and where as a student at the University of Colorado he worked as a guide, when descending from Sky Pond in Glacier Gorge, the idea came to him to walk across the country, writing and speaking about his experience and to raise money for disadvantaged children and young adults.

“’The place God calls you to is the place where your deep passion and the world’s deep hunger meet,’” said Munson, paraphrasing Presbyterian theologian and writer Frederick Buechner.

If you or your parish would like to invite the Rev. Peter Munson to speak at your church or offer hospitality. Email peter@brightfutureforchildren.com.

His estimated eight-and-a-half-month journey begins in Charleston, where he grew up, and will cross South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and, eventually, California. At least in the Midwest he expects to average 20 miles a day, six days a week. As he gets out West, the mileage will likely decrease, especially in western Utah and Nevada, where he’ll have a support vehicle following him through the high desert.

Accustomed to adventure, Munson served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Dominica, a small Caribbean island nation located between Guadeloupe and Martinique, teaching biology and math from 1982 to 1985. A law school graduate, Munson never practiced law and instead became an Episcopal priest. In August 2001, he became the rector of St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in South Boulder.

After the vision came to him in Rocky Mountain National Park, an excited Munson returned home to tell his wife, Julia, about his idea. She supported him, he said, but cautioned, “’Just be aware it may not work out as planned.’”

Four months later, Munson presented his idea to his parish’s leadership. Although Munson has hiked and climbed most of Colorado’s 14ers  – peaks exceeding 14,000 feet, of which there are more than 50 – he’d never hiked and backpacked, as one woman pointed out. She suggested he backpack the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango, a distance of 500 miles, which he hiked over three summers beginning in 2011. The first year, he hiked 250 miles, in 2012, it was 50 miles because of a bad wildfire season, and in 2013, he hiked the remaining 200 miles in 16 days.

While on the trail, he read “Wild,” Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of hiking 1,000 miles of the 2,653-mile Pacific Crest Trail alone, without any training or preparation. When Munson, then in his 50s, started his hike, his backpack weighed between 45 to 50 pounds. His third day on the Colorado Trail he met a 22-year-old male who’d hiked the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. The young man offered to go through Munson’s pack with him, discarding nonessential items like bear spray and a bear canister (not necessary in high altitudes) for storing food. By the third year, when Munson finished his hike, his pack weighed 28 pounds.

All the while, Munson’s dream of walking across the country kept returning to him and he kept talking about it with his parish and then at a clergy conference, which led to pulpit exchanges with Episcopal priests on Colorado’s Front Range. Munson walked from his home in Arvada, a Denver suburb, to his church in Boulder to Longmont and Frederick, all along state highways to the pulpit exchanges.

Eventually, he and his parish decided together that rather than make the journey as St. Ambrose’s rector, Munson would resign and make the journey on his own.

He thought about delaying his journey until he’s eligible to retire in four years but decided against it.

“There’s a lot to be said about waiting until 65 … it’s just not what I’m hearing,” he said, his dream and aging in mind.

For others, he asks:

“Is there something God has put on your heart? Are you going after it? What are you telling yourself about that thing? Is God calling you to do it? Are you going to get to the end of your life and say I didn’t do that thing I was really supposed to do?”

-Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.

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Saint Augustine’s University president announces retirement

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 11:40am

[Saint Augustine’s University] Saint Augustine’s University President Everett B. Ward announced Jan. 25 that he is retiring from the role he’s held for the past five years. Ward made the announcement during a board of trustees’ executive session, on campus.

Ward, who became the 11th president and third Saint Augustine’s University alumnus to lead the university, said in his remarks to the board that he will be concluding his presidential position effective July 24, 2019, a position he has held since 2014.

“It’s now time for the Saint Augustine’s Renaissance to continue with a new chapter. I’m extremely grateful for the commitment exemplified by our students, staff, faculty and alumni,” he said. “Together, along with friends of the university, we conquered significant challenges with our eyes on the prize.”

Under Ward’s leadership, the university has achieved several goals. Most recently, the university was removed from probationary status by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges Accreditation Agency in December. Along the way, donor supporter increased from $1 million in 2014, to $2.9 million in 2018.

Saint Augustine’s Student Body President Alston DeVega says he’s grateful for Ward’s vision and dedication to the university. “I’m immensely grateful to have had Dr. Ward as we did,” said DeVega. “He brought life back to the university, while getting us off probation. Our institution will never see another leader with the same expertise and poise, as Dr. Ward’s has exemplified.”

The Raleigh native told the members of the board that he was also proud of the university’s efforts in attracting some of the best and brightest young minds to the university.

“Given the accomplishment of these goals, now is the time for me to transition the leadership of Saint Augustine’s to the next President,” said Ward. “We’re at a critical point in the history of our university and I know that now is the time to transition to an even more exciting chapter in the life of our institution.”

Ward said the future is bright for him personally and for the University.

“I look forward to continuing to lead St. Augustine’s through this period of transition. During this time, I will remain the No. 1 champion for our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends throughout this period,” he said. “Once I leave St. Augustine’s, I will remain involved in activities around higher education.”

About Saint Augustine’s University

Founded in 1867 by the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, the mission of Saint Augustine’s University is to sustain a learning community in which students can prepare academically, socially and spiritually for leadership in a complex, diverse and rapidly changing world.

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RIP: Gregory Michael Howe, eighth custodian of the Book of Common Prayer

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 10:03am

The Rev. Gregory Michael Howe, eighth Custodian of the Book of Common Prayer, died on Jan. 12, 2019, nine days after his 80th birthday, in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Howe’s interest in liturgy was honed in childhood, growing up at St. Ignatius of Antioch in New York City, then as a boy chorister at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. After his graduation from Columbia and General Theological Seminary, he was ordained a deacon in 1964, and priest in 1965. He served at Christ Church, Dover, Delaware, first as a curate, then as rector, from 1964 to 1998. During a sabbatical in 1980, he pursued post-graduate work at the Pontifical University of San Anselmo in Rome and then at Saint George’s College in Jerusalem. A longtime deputy to General Convention (1975-1997), he served on the Committee on Prayer Book and Liturgy, and helped craft many new rites and see them through the legislative process, especially “expansive language.” In 2000, then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold appointed him Custodian of the Book of Common Prayer, a position he held until 2015. His encyclopedic knowledge of BCP history proved an invaluable resource for both Church Publishing and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. During his tenure, he oversaw authorized translations of the 1979 BCP in various languages. Together with the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, Phoebe Pettingell, and the Rev. Jennifer Phillips, he contributed to Gleanings: Essays on Expansive Language with Prayers for Various Occasions ) (Church Publishing, 2001).

Howe and his wife of 50 years, Bernice (Bunny), retired to Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1998 where, until his death,Howe remained a vital part of the community, and of the Episcopal Parish of St. Mary of the Harbor.

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La Iglesia y la sociedad en general siguen abordando el acoso y el abuso sexuales en la era del #MeToo

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 8:22am

De izquierda a derecha, los obispos DeDe Duncan-Probe, de Nueva York Central; Audrey Scanlon, de Pensilvania Central; el obispo primado Michael Curry;  Greg Rickel, de  Olympia y Mary Gray-Reeves, de El Camino Real, oran el 4 de Julio durante la “Liturgia de la Escucha” en una sesión de la Cámara de Obispos durante la Convención General en Austin, Texas. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service] La conducta impropia y el acoso sexuales incluyen más que la violación de parte de extraños o conocidos y el abuso físico. En algunos casos, se trata de un contacto inadecuado, de un beso no deseado en la mejilla, de un abrazo embarazoso o de una mano puesta demasiado abajo en la espalda de una mujer —todas son las formas más obvias del acoso sexual.

Otras formas son menos obvias, más insidiosas. Comentar sobre la apariencia de una mujer, invitar a una mujer a la oficina de uno con el pretexto de una reunión, cuando realmente la intención es de naturaleza sexual. Tratar a las mujeres  y muchachas de “bebé” “tesoro” y “mi cielo”.  Hablar Mientras las mujeres hablan y darles la palabra preferiblemente a los hombres en las reuniones. La permanente diferencia salarial de género.

O, formas comunes que las mujeres clérigos confrontan en la Iglesia Episcopal. “Eres demasiado joven para ser sacerdote”. “Eres demasiado bonita para ser sacerdote”.

A raíz del escándalo de acoso sexual de Harvey Weinstein que sacudió a Hollywood y condujo a la caída de hombres poderosos en diferentes industrias y profesiones, la Iglesia Episcopal, en enero de 2018, comenzó su propio examen de conductas y políticas arraigadas que afectan a las mujeres.

Un año y una Convención General más tarde, la Resolución D034, que establece una suspensión de tres años en el plazo de prescripción por conducta sexual impropia cometida  por un clérigo contra un adulto, entró en vigor el 1 de enero.

“Una suspensión de tres años, eso es muchísimo”, dijo la presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, Rda. Gay Clark Jennings, en una entrevista con Episcopal News Service. Estamos suspendiendo el plazo de prescripción porque queremos oír las voces de ustedes”.

La Resolución D034 fue una de las 24 resoluciones que abordaron el acoso y el abuso sexuales, el sexismo, la desigualdad y la discriminación presentadas por el Comité Especial sobre el Acoso y la Explotación Sexuales; un comité de 49-miembros nombrado por Jennings y compuesto sólo de mujeres.

Como resultado de la labor legislativa del comité especial, dijo Jennings, surgieron de la Convención tres equipos de trabajo: sobre Mujeres, Verdad y Reconciliación; para Desarrollar Normas Modélicas sobre Acoso Sexual  y Adiestramiento para una Iglesia Segura; y para Estudiar el Sexismo en la Iglesia Episcopal y Elaborar Adiestramiento Antisexista.

“Sinceramente, no creo que esto habría sucedido si ese comité especial no hubiera ejercido presión. Si uno se fija en el informe… todas las resoluciones que se presentaron fueron  enormemente exitosas.

“Estos problemas sólo han llegado a ser más urgentes desde la Convención”, dijo Jennings. 

Las decisiones de la Convención General se produjeron después de que los líderes de la Iglesia Episcopal tomaran una serie de medidas.

En enero de 2018, el obispo primado Michael Curry y Jennings hicieron  un llamado a la Iglesia para que examinara su histórica incapacidad de proteger a las víctimas de acoso, explotación y abuso sexuales. La carta, que salió cuatro meses después de que estallara el escándalo de Harvey Weinstein, marcó el comienzo del debate de la Iglesia con sus propios problemas de acoso (The Chicago Tribune ofrece un cronograma de los movimientos #MeToo).

En febrero, Jennings nombró al comité especial. Luego, en mayo, los obispos de la Iglesia Episcopal invitaron a las personas que habían sido lastimadas por la Iglesia a que hicieran reflexiones. Doce de las historias que los obispos recibieron formaron la base de una “Liturgia de la Escucha” el 4 de julio durante la 79ª. Convención General.

Durante la Convención, la Cámara de Obispos tomó otra medida y adoptó un pacto en respuesta al abuso y la explotación.

A fines de septiembre, 328 clérigas episcopales firmaron una carta que se publicó en The New York Times y que suscitó preocupaciones acerca de la defensa que hizo el sacerdote episcopal y ex senador federal John Danforth de Brett Kavanaugh, entonces nominado al Tribunal Supremo de EE.UU. Las denuncias de asalto sexual hechas por Christine Blasey Ford, psicóloga y profesora, y otras dos mujeres contra Kavanaugh pusieron en duda la confirmación del magistrado y detonaron recuerdos traumáticos para muchas mujeres.

Ford acusó a Kavanaugh de asaltarla sexualmente cuando ambos eran adolescentes. [En respuesta], atacaron la credibilidad de Ford. Las audiencias también pusieron al descubierto actitudes machistas hacia las mujeres y las acusaciones de asalto sexual.

El 6 de octubre, el Senado de EE.UU. confirmó el nombramiento de Kavanaugh al Tribunal Supremo por una votación de 50 a 48. Dos días después, The Christian Century publicó un artículo de Jennings en el que abordaba la respuesta de la Iglesia a los sobrevivientes de asaltos sexuales.

Durante las audiencias de Kavanaugh, la credibilidad de Ford se puso a prueba, cuando muchos, la mayoría de ellos hombres, se preguntaron por qué ella había guardado silencio durante 30 años. En su artículo, Jennings daba una explicación del silencio de las mujeres.

“Nuestro silencio parte de la Biblia, donde las mujeres son en gran medida anónimas, tratadas como propiedad, usadas como esclavas sexuales y degradadas por hombres tan heroicos como David y tan divinos como Jesús. Las mujeres a las que llaman por su nombre no ascienden a más del 8 por ciento de los personajes de la Biblia, y menos de 50 hablan realmente”, escribió ella.

Intelectuales feministas y mujeristas, como la Rda. Wil Gafney, sacerdote episcopal y profesora de Biblia Hebrea, han señalado que la violación es normativa en la Biblia, escribió Jennings, desde el faraón, Amón, los hombres de Guibeá y hasta Dios.

“Estos relatos —de hombres que violan y abusan y de mujeres que se quedan calladas— son parte de la tradición religiosa que las muchachas y mujeres absorben mientras se sientan en los bancos de nuestras iglesias cada semana. Ellos han permeado nuestra cultura y han configurado nuestras expectativas de cómo los hombres deben comportarse hacia las mujeres y cómo las mujeres deben responder. De manera que cuando una mujer se llena de valor para hablar —para objetar ser tratada como trataban a las mujeres en la Biblia— no debería sorprendernos que los hombres cristianos la minimicen y la ignoren, tal como los héroes de su fe han hecho en historias transmitidas durante milenios”.

El que Ford compartiera públicamente su historia, le dio a otras mujeres el valor para hablar también, incluidas mujeres de la Iglesia que se acercaron a clérigos y laicos en busca de apoyo. Y en el transcurso del trienio, la Iglesia Episcopal abordará el acoso, el abuso, la inequidad y la discriminación, y mujeres y hombres continuarán contando sus historias.

Por ejemplo, las liturgias de escucha, semejantes a la que se celebró en la Convención General, han continuado a través de la Iglesia. Por ejemplo, durante su 242ª. Convención anual en noviembre, la Diócesis de Nueva York celebró una Liturgia para Escucha y Lamentación.

Las seis historias que se leyeron durante el oficio se presentaron de manera anónima y confidencial; y en su mayoría abordaron las formas menos obvias del acoso, las insinuaciones sexuales inadecuadas, la subestimación del liderazgo de una mujer basada en su edad o en su apariencia física,  el embarazoso cortejo de un sacerdote casado en el bar durante una conferencia de clérigos.

“Los historias son más matizadas, a veces es difícil para las mujeres, y en su mayoría son mujeres, en parte estamos tratando con un mundo de microagresiones… una forma más sutil de opresión”, dijo la obispa auxiliar de Nueva York Mary D. Glasspool en una entrevista con ENS luego del oficio. “Al igual que los confetis, cada caso individualmente parece pequeño, incluso inocuo, pero póngalos todos juntos y hay sencillamente un predominio de lo que es realmente tóxico para las personas y desmoralizante y vergonzoso”.

La Diócesis de Nueva York tiene su propio Equipo de Trabajo #MeToo  y después de la convención estableció una línea de ayuda a la que las personas pueden llamar y compartir sus historias y buscar ayuda. Sin embargo, el trayecto apenas comienza y se irá configurando con el transcurso del tiempo, explicó ella.

“No llegamos aquí de la noche a la mañana, y no vamos a cambiarlo de la noche a la mañana, es por eso el trayecto, el movimiento es parte de eso… es algo en lo que tenemos que seguir trabajando”, dijo Glasspool, añadiendo que el acoso y el abuso sexuales no son diferentes del pecado del racismo.

“No es claramente el caso en este país que por haber tenido un presidente negro durante ocho años hemos resuelto el [problema del] racismo, y no es el caso de la Iglesia que por haber tenido una obispo primada durante nueve años hemos resuelto completamente el [problema del] sexismo”, afirmó ella. “Ese no es el caso”.

Las resoluciones presentadas por el Comité Especial sobre Acoso y Explotación Sexuales y adoptadas por la Convención General brindan un marco más allá de la narrativa para que la Iglesia lo utilice a lo largo del trienio a fin de abordar problemas sacados a relucir por el movimiento #MeToo , tanto en la Iglesia como en la sociedad en general.

Las liturgias y las narraciones son una parte importante de la recuperación, pero hay más labor, dijo Jennings.

“La auténtica labor, el trabajo constante, es cambiar la cultura de las estructuras de la Iglesia que permiten el acoso, la explotación y la violencia de género, y comprometernos de nuevo, y yo espero que la Convención General nos ayudó a redoblar nuestros empeños para que la Iglesia abogue por seguridad e igualdad de las mujeres en el mundo porque estamos obligados a hacerlo, todo ello, porque nuestra propia tradición ha ayudado a crear una cultura donde ese es aceptable”, recalcó Jennings.

“Si la Iglesia ha ayudado a crear esta cultura, es también nuestra responsabilidad ayudar a desmantelarla”.

— Lynette Wilson es reportera y jefa de redacción de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a ella en lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.  Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

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Sleeping pods to be installed in Welsh churches for SpiritCymru cycle tourism campaign

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 2:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Special sleeping pods will be installed in a number of remote churches and chapels in Wales for use by cycling tourists. The SpiritCymru project is the brainchild of Ceredigion businessman James Lynch, who runs a sustainable holiday company. It is being launched as part of the Welsh Government’s Year of Discovery tourism campaign. The Church in Wales said that the scheme will “bring valuable support to struggling – even closed – rural churches by opening them up as accommodation for touring cyclists.”

Read the entire article here.

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Anglican Church of Chile trains young people to exercise leadership in local churches

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 2:03pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Fifty young people from the Anglican Church of Chile (Iglesia Anglicana de Chile – IACH) have attended a training camp this month to learn how to make disciples in their local churches. This year’s El Campamento de Formación (Formation Camp – CDF) was organised by the province’s Centro de Estudios Pastorales (Centre for Pastoral Studies – CEP) as part of a program that is now in its 14th year. Pastor Cristóbal Cerón, the rector of the CEP, said that the aim of CDF is for each young person to see the camp as part of a process in his life, where they are trained to serve in their local churches and train disciples; and to teach the Word of God in an appropriate way.

Read the entire article here.


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Church, wider-culture continue to address sexual harassment, abuse in #MeToo age

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 4:26pm

Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe, left; Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlon, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel and House of Bishops Vice President and El Camino Real Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves pray July 4 during the House of Bishop’s “Liturgy of Listening” session at General Convention in Austin, Texas. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Sexual misconduct and harassment includes more than stranger or acquaintance rape and physical abuse. In some instances, inappropriate touching, an unwanted kiss on the cheek, an awkward embrace or a hand placed too low on a woman’s back—all are more obvious forms of sexual harassment.

Other forms are less obvious, more insidious. Commenting on a woman’s appearance, inviting a woman into one’s office on the pretext of a meeting, when really, the intention is of a sexual nature. Referring to women and girls as “baby,” “honey” and “sweetheart.” Talking over women and deferring to men in meetings. The enduring gender pay gap.

Or, common forms women clergy confront in The Episcopal Church. “You’re too young to be a priest.” “You’re too pretty to be a priest.”

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal that rocked Hollywood and led to the downfall of powerful men across industries and professions, The Episcopal Church began its own examination of ingrained behaviors, practices and policies affecting women in January 2018.

A year and one General Convention later, Resolution D034, establishing a three-year suspension on the statute of limitations for sexual misconduct committed by clergy against an adult, became effective Jan. 1.

“A three-year suspension, that’s huge,” said House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, in an interview with Episcopal News Service. “We are suspending the statute of limitations because we want to hear your voice.”

Resolution D034 was one of 24 resolutions addressing sexual harassment, abuse, sexism, inequality and discrimination submitted by the Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation; a 49-member, female-only committee appointed by Jennings.

As a result of the special committee’s legislative work, Jennings said, three task forces emerged from convention: on Women, Truth and Reconciliation; to Develop Model Sexual Harassment Policies & Safe Church Training; and, to Study Sexism in The Episcopal Church & Develop Anti-Sexism Training.

“I don’t think this would have happened, frankly, if that special committee had not brought pressure to bear. If you look at the report… all of the resolutions that were put in, they were wildly successful.

“These issues have only become more urgent since convention,” said Jennings. 

General Convention’s actions came after a series of steps taken by The Episcopal Church’s leaders.

In January 2018, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Jennings issued a call to the church to examine its historical failures to protect victims of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. The letter, which came four months after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, marked the beginning of the church’s wrangling with its own harassment issues. (The Chicago Tribune offers a timeline of the #MeToo movements.)

In February, Jennings appointed the special committee. Then in May, Episcopal Church bishops invited reflections from those hurt by the church. Twelve of the 40 stories the bishops received formed the basis for a “Liturgy of Listening” on July 4 during the 79th General Convention.

During convention, the House of Bishop’s took another step and adopted a covenant in response to abuse and exploitation.

In late September, 328 Episcopal clergy women signed on to a letter published in The New York Times that raised concerns about Episcopal priest and former U.S. Sen. John Danforth’s defense of then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Sexual assault allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, a psychologist and professor, and two other women against Kavanaugh brought the justice’s confirmation into question and triggered traumatic memories for many women.

Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both teenagers. Ford’s credibility was attacked. The hearings also laid bare male attitudes toward women and sexual assault accusations.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court on Oct. 6, in a 50-48 vote. Two days later, The Christian Century published a piece by Jennings that addressed the church’s response to sexual assault survivors.

During the Kavanaugh hearings Ford’s credibility was tested, as many, mostly men, wondered why she’d kept silent for 30 years. In her piece, Jennings offered an explanation of women’s silence.

“Our silence originates in the Bible, where women are largely anonymous, treated as property, used as sexual slaves, and demeaned by men as heroic as David and as divine as Jesus. Women who are called by name account for no more than 8 percent of the people in the Bible, and fewer than 50 of those actually speak,” she wrote.

Feminist and womanist scholars, including the Rev. Wil Gafney, an Episcopal priest and Hebrew Bible professor, have pointed out that rape is normative in the Bible, wrote Jennings, from Pharaoh, Amnon, the men of Gibeah, and, even God.

“These stories—of men who rape and abuse and of women who stay silent—are part of the faith tradition that girls and women absorb while sitting in the pews of our churches each week. They have permeated our culture and shaped our expectations about how men ought to behave toward women and how women ought to respond. So when a woman gathers her courage to speak—to object to being treated like women in the Bible are treated—we should not be surprised when Christian men belittle and ignore her, just as the heroes of their faith have done in stories passed down for millennia,” she wrote.

Ford sharing publicly her story, gave other women the courage to speak up, as well, including women across the church who reached out to clergy and laity for support. And over the triennium, The Episcopal Church will address harassment, abuse, inequity and discrimination and women, and men, will continue to tell their stories.

For example, liturgies of listening, like the one held at General Convention, have continued across the church. During its 242nd annual convention in November, for instance, the Diocese of New York held a Liturgy for Listening and Lamentation.

The six stories read during the service were submitted through an anonymous, confidential form; and they mostly touched on the less obvious forms of harassment, the inappropriate sexual advance, the belittling of a woman’s leadership position based on her age or physical appearance, a married priest’s awkward come on at the bar during a clergy conference.

“The stories are more nuanced, sometimes it’s difficult for women, and it’s mostly women, in part we’re dealing in a world of microaggression… a subtler form of oppression,” said New York Assistant Bishop Mary D. Glasspool in an interview with ENS following the service. “Like paper cuts, each one individually is seen as small, even innocuous, but you put them all together and there’s just a preponderance of what’s really toxic for people and demoralizing and filled with shame.”

The Diocese of New York has its own #MeToo Task Force and after convention it established a help line where people can call and share their stories and seek help. Still, the journey is just getting started and will take shape overtime, she said.

“We didn’t get here overnight and we’re not going to change it overnight, that’s why the journey, the movement part of it … it’s something that we have to continue to work on,” said Glasspool, adding that sexual harassment and abuse is not unlike the sin of racism.

“It’s clearly not the case in this country because we had a black president for eight years we’ve dealt with racism, it’s not the case in the church that because we had a female presiding bishop for nine years that we’ve completely dealt with sexism,” she said. “It’s just not the case.”

The resolutions put forth by the Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation and adopted by General Convention provide framework beyond storytelling for the church to use over the triennium to address issues brought to light by the #MeToo movement both in the church and the larger society.

Liturgies and storytelling are an important part of healing, but there’s more to the work, said Jennings.

“The real work, the ongoing work, is to change the culture and the structures of the church that allow gender-based harassment, exploitation and violence, and to recommit, and I hope that General Convention helped us redouble our efforts for the church to advocate for women’s safety and equality in the world because we are obligated to do it, all of it, because our own tradition has helped create a culture where that’s acceptable,” said Jennings.

“If the church has helped to create this culture, it’s also our responsibility to help dismantle it.”

-Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.  

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Abuse allegations against the late Bishop George Bell are ‘unfounded,’ inquiry finds

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 12:57pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An independent inquiry carried out by a senior ecclesiastical lawyer has ruled that fresh allegations against the late Bishop George Bell are “unfounded.”  Bell, the former bishop of Chichester, was described Jan. 24 by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby as a “highly esteemed bishop who died over 60 years ago.” Welby apologized for the way the church handled allegations against  Bell, which were first made public in October 2015.

Read the entire article here.

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Anglican Communion appoints Jillian Abballe to UN advocacy officer in New York

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 4:19pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The team at the Anglican Communion Office at the U.N. has been strengthened with the appointment of Jillian Abballe as advocacy officer and head of the New York office. Abballe has extensive experience at the United Nations in New York and joins the Anglican Communion from a similar position with the international ecumenical organization the World Council of Churches and before that with the United Methodist Church.

Read the full article here.

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Church of England announces major investment in new churches, outreach

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 3:36pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A new congregation in a nightclub area and the Church of England’s first weekday-only church are two of several new worshipping communities to receive a share of £35 million in funding. The money – the biggest investment so far by the church’s Renewal and Reform initiative – is intended to help it reach tens of thousands of people including in city centers, outer estates and rural areas, the church said.

Read the full article here.

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Episcopal camps, conference centers offer free meals to federal workers struggling during shutdown

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 3:31pm

[Episcopal News Service] The public normally isn’t invited to breakfast, lunch and dinner at Incarnation Center in Ivoryton, Connecticut, its dining hall typically only catering to people attending retreats or conferences. That changed this month when the center launched a kind of pop-up feeding ministry for certain struggling members of the local community: federal employees.

Incarnation isn’t alone. Several Episcopal camps and conference centers across the country have begun offering free meals to some of the 800,000 federal workers who are missing paychecks because of the partial government shutdown, which now is approaching five weeks.

“It fits right into our mission and ministry as an Episcopal organization and simply as an organization that’s involved in our local community,” said the Rev. Dana Stivers, associate executive director and chaplain at Incarnation.

The center’s outreach is part of a broader effort that includes Episcopal congregations and other community organizations, Stivers said, adding that many of the Connecticut residents affected by the federal shutdown are tied to the Coast Guard, which has a station and its academy about a half hour away in New London.

Incarnation’s Facebook post on Jan. 16 advertising free meals over the weekend generated overwhelmingly positive responses on the social network and some inquiries but no reservations from federal employees or their families, Stivers said. The center will extend the offer again this weekend, and other Episcopal conference centers are following suit.

Officials at Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina, saw what Incarnation was doing and decided to open up their dining hall for federal employees all weekend, too. A Jan. 17 Facebook post extending that invitation has been shared nearly a thousand times, and some local media outlets picked up the story, helping to drive turnout.

Kanuga served about 50 meals to federal employees and their families in that first weekend, and interest seemed to pick up as the weekend progressed, said Jimmy Haden, Kanuga’s executive vice president for mission. The news coverage helped, he said.

To get the meals, the visitors were asked to make reservations in advance and then show a federal employee ID upon arriving for the meals. Most of the federal workers in the region around Kanuga work for the Transportation Security Administration, the Forest Service or National Park Service. One woman, whose husband, a TSA employee, had been assigned temporarily to cover shifts in New York, asked if she still could bring her children for a meal. The family was invited to stop by Kanuga for any of the meals, and they came for two over the weekend, Haden said.

The TSA is among the federal agencies that have asked their workers to stay on the job without pay while the shutdown continues, with the promise that they will be paid for their time when government operations return to normal. Other employees have received furloughs, meaning they temporarily are out of work and may never see that lost pay back, unless Congress restores it retroactively.

The latest impasse over government spending has focused on President Donald Trump’s demand that Congress fund his proposed border wall. Trump wants $5.7 billion for that plan, and Democrats, though supportive of spending on border security, have refused to budge in opposition to a new barrier on the border.

Federal employees are caught in the middle as the shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, wears on with no end in sight. Episcopal institutions around the country are working to minimize the shutdown’s sting for some of their neighbors, especially in communities with large numbers of federal workers.

The Claggett Center in Adamstown, Maryland, is one example. The conference center is only about 45 minutes from Washington, D.C., and it began Jan. 22 offering free meals to federal employees who live nearby and normally commute to work in the capital city.

That first free lunch at the Claggett Center went without any visitors taking advantage of it, but Lisa Marie Ryder, co-executive director, said the invitation stands, at least through this weekend. The center will determine week to week whether it can continue offering the free meals, and Ryder expects they will continue, unless the dining hall is filled by guests attending an event.

“Just as Jesus invited others to come and join him at the table, there’s a place set for you,” she said.

Camp Stevens in Julian, California, and Lake Logan Conference Center in Canton, North Carolina, have said they will set a place for their neighbors as well. Such efforts are being touted by Episcopal Camps & Conference Centers, or ECCC, a network of 77 such sites.

“Welcoming furloughed families to meals being served at the retreat centers is a wonderful way to provide a meal that didn’t fit in these tighter-than-usual budgets, and take that one worry off of someone’s mind,” Ashley Graham-Wilcox, ECCC’s communications director, said in an email. “It’s a simple way for these camps and centers to be a part of the Jesus Movement.”

Kanuga has begun setting aside some of its dining room space for free meals for federal employees during the government shutdown. Photo: Kanuga

Regular conference guests at Kanuga, when told that federal employees had been invited to join them, went beyond offering vocal support, Haden said. Some even made unsolicited donations to help Kanuga cover the costs of the meals.

These conference centers, though, would prefer the free meals weren’t made necessary.

“We would hope [the shutdown] would end for their sake, because this is of no fault of their own,” Haden said, but until then, “we’re ready to extend this into the future as long as we can.”

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

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Amid Pittsburgh division, a priest revives the parish that raised him

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 1:11pm

St. David’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh is a growing parish with almost 300 members who have no previous Episcopal ties. It rebuilt after a theological split in the diocese left it with only 20 members. Photo courtesy of St. David’s

[Episcopal News Service] When the Rev. Kris Opat returned to St. David’s Episcopal Church in suburban Pittsburgh in 2012, only 20 people were there to start over as a congregation with him. The sanctuary, which seats 300, made the group look even smaller. The building’s previous occupants, part of the Anglican Church in North America, had just decamped.

Ordained for only three years, Opat had never been a priest-in-charge.

Today, St. David’s is a growing parish with almost 300 members, mostly busy young families in a growing suburb who have no previous Episcopal ties. They hear the message of Christ’s unconditional love preached every week from Opat, 38, a trained engineer with dreadlocks who grew up in this congregation.

Opat’s entire career as a priest has unfolded amid the rancor and litigation in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and weathering that conflict has influenced his welcoming, no-nonsense approach to ministry.

“The split in 2008 was terrible, but since then some wonderful things have happened,” said the Rev. Lou Hays, a retired priest who served in the diocese and mentored Opat. “St. David’s is the top of the list.”

‘What is going on over at St. David’s?’

One Sunday a month, the Rev. Kris Opat (right) invites children to say the Eucharist with him. Young families have fueled the growth of St. David’s Episcopal Church in the south hills of Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy of St. David’s

About six months into the revival of St. David’s, Opat got a phone call from a curious neighbor: “Did something change at that church?” The question was posed so often that St. David’s posted a brief history on its website, acknowledging the off-putting nature of the confusing changes the church had gone through since October 2008 when diocesan convention agreed to follow then-Bishop Robert Duncan in his attempt to take the diocese out of the Episcopal Church but retain all the assets that were held by the diocese.

As the wrangling continued, the sign out front of St. David’s went from saying “Episcopal” to “Anglican,” and even the name of the church had changed at one point from St. David’s to Church of the Redeemer as about 90 percent of the congregation tried to dissolve St. David’s and form a new parish in what became the Anglican Church in North America, or ACNA. On May 27, 2012, Pentecost Sunday, Episcopal worship returned to St. David’s and the parish resumed the use of its legal name, St. David’s Episcopal Church.

Opat was very familiar with how the neighbors thought. His parents still live in his childhood home, seven minutes away. His mother was one of the faithful remnants of St. David’s, along with a half-dozen other relatives.

As a middle schooler, Opat had felt at home at St. David’s, “which was evangelical then, almost Pentecostal,” he said. “Our youth group would play games and go to the pizza shop. In that evangelical model, I gave my life to the Lord then, which I have a broader view of now.”

Opat needed a broad view as a priest facing a broken congregation of St. David’s size that also had a burdensome mortgage.

A turnaround starts with the faithful remnant

“I felt hopeless,” recalled Jen Yoon, perhaps the most invested remaining member at St. David’s. She directed its preschool (St. David’s Christian Early Learning Center) and its children’s ministries. “We had so few people, and it was going to take so much.”

She was apprehensive about Opat and the direction he was heading theologically.

“I had heard a lot of stories about Episcopalians from the Anglican [ACNA] church – one side of the story – and I was praying about my commitment to a church family where people had acted terribly and decided they couldn’t be together,” Yoon said. “What came to me through nights of painful prayer was to let go of any and all labels or thoughts of Anglicans versus Episcopalians and get back to what this is really about: telling people about the love of Christ.

“I spoke with Kris because I wanted to know: Does he believe in one God and Father, salvation in Jesus Christ and the continued work of the Holy Spirit? We had a frank conversation around those three questions, and our beliefs very much aligned with each other. Kris was clear that we would become a place of community.”

Others stayed at St. David’s despite or because of family concerns.

Sam White had been baptized, raised and confirmed at St. David’s. He worshipped in the ACNA congregation and decided “to see if the Episcopal Church seemed a little more aligned with the attitudes I remembered learning at church during my youth.” That choice put him at odds with his parents, with whom he was living at the time; they left with the ACNA parish. White is now senior warden of St. David’s.

Logistics made member Jamie Sticha decide to stay. “I did consider leaving, and it was a difficult time,” she said. “With four young kids, I felt it would be more difficult to make it to church because we’d have to be ready a half hour earlier.”

To fan the small ember that was his parish, Opat worked alongside Hays the first 18 months before being appointed priest-in-charge. With no altar guild and no readers, Opat did whatever was needed Sunday mornings, even playing guitar with the band.

“They were traumatized, shell-shocked, so we didn’t ask the laypeople to do more. They needed to engage in healing,” Hays said. “Kris was extremely active in recruiting a vestry and focusing on Sunday morning. But number one, he loved the people. He was demonstrating to them through faithfulness to the Scripture, and just that sense of warmth and connecting that he has, that they could be comfortable with us. He was what we call the non-anxious presence that reassures people that it’s going to be okay.”

By end of first year, about 75 people were coming to the big church that everyone passes on a main thoroughfare. Some families attend after first experiencing the community through the preschool. About a dozen returned from the ACNA congregation. “We are open about anyone coming back,” Opat said.

Welcoming children to participate in St. David’s services has helped spark the congregation’s rebirth after all but 20 members decamped. The Rev. Kris Opat (center) attended St. David’s as a teenager. Photo courtesy of St. David’s

St. David’s discovered what it could – and could not – be about. These lessons brought the parish out of the ashes and bucked the trend of Episcopal churches losing visitors and members. Here are some of those positive steps taken by the congregation:

  • Welcoming children to the table. The last Sunday service each month is a Godly Play sermon, and Opat invites children to the table to help break the bread and learn the responses to the Eucharistic prayer.
  • Emphasizing love in small actions. Instead of “please be,” Opat uses “invite.” This makes the service “feel more like an act of worship rather than an obligation,” said White, the senior warden.
  • Accepting less programming. “Our culture is not about doing a lot of stuff,” said Yoon, who now directs children’s ministries. “Our families are busy, and they don’t have extra time for weekday commitments.”
  • Welcoming community groups (which also helps pay the mortgage on the new building erected in 2001). St David’s is also home to tutoring, music lessons and exercise classes. An evangelical Presbyterian church meets there, too.
  • Using extra land to feed local people. Opat and an Eagle Scout built a community garden that produces peppers, green beans, zucchini and more – all of which goes to a local food bank.
  • Hosting a weekly farmer’s market. With a group of moms from St. David’s and others who live nearby, Opat organized local growers and makers to set up in St. David’s parking lot. Today his mom runs it, and hundreds of shoppers take part weekly.

Engineering a path to ministry

Opat’s resilience was strengthened at Grove City College, where education “is also about learning how to serve others while pursuing your own life’s work,” as the school’s website states. Those paths didn’t converge right away when Opat studied engineering there. He wanted to switch to philosophy, but that idea didn’t fly with his mother. His ministry took root when a summer leadership internship involved planting a successful house church.

From there, Opat became involved with Three Nails, then a part of the emergent church movement in Pittsburgh and accountable to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. In 2005, it was described as a fellowship of believers that cut across denominational lines and incorporated Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Jewish liturgies in its services. The group had no regular meeting place, gathering instead in homes, coffee shops, bars and old church buildings.

That experience led him to seminary, at what was then called Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, and the frontline of a theological battleground over the ordination of the Rev. Gene Robinson, the first priest in an openly gay relationship to be consecrated a bishop in a major Christian denomination. Robinson’s consecration fueled the Pittsburgh split.

“In my ordination class of 12, I was the only one who stayed in the Episcopal Church,” Opat recalled. Today, the seminary has dropped “Episcopal” from its name and uses the tagline “an evangelical seminary in the Anglican tradition.”

“It was about taking a side more than it was theology,” Opat said. “If there is any Christian tradition that splits over anything but the creeds, that splitting makes so little sense in the Episcopal tradition, which is about space and room to disagree. I wanted to be part of what was diverse, open to nuance and the Holy Spirit doing things in our midst and the tradition of scripture and faith – but not in a dogmatic and unquestioned way.”

At St. David’s, Opat routinely states that he doesn’t have all the answers. His interpretation of the Bible, while informed by his professional studies of the text, may not be the only one, he says. He constantly invites the parishioners to discussions outside the service.

When the theological argument over same-sex relationships cropped up at St. David’s, Opat’s response was based in compassion.

“We had a preteen program for kids in our parish and others who don’t go here, and a conservative mom had words with Kris about homosexual marriage,” Yoon said. “Calmly and respectfully, he didn’t back down. He agonized for days about that because he knows that people hurt in a lot of different ways, and he doesn’t like to have anyone walk away, to not come to solution.”

A decade after the split, moving forward

Today, St. David’s is the seventh largest of the 36 participating congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Almost all of the legal disputes with the breakaway Anglican congregations have been settled. “While acknowledging our deep differences, both sides have been concerned with seeking the highest degree of relationship possible, in the hope of reducing the scandal to the Gospel posed by the split,” said Pittsburgh Bishop Dorsey McConnell in early 2018, as the diocese reached an ongoing agreement with nine ACNA congregations concerning their use of church properties.

(On Dec. 4, a judge approved the agreement, clearing the final legal requirement for it to go into effect. Under the agreement, the diocese and the ACNA parishes commit to treat each other’s missions with respect. The parishes will continue to maintain, insure and pay for the operations of property held by the diocese before the division, and pay an annual fee to the diocese. If a dispute arises, the diocese and parishes agree “to resolve the dispute promptly as fellow Christians through direct exchange of information and discourse.”)

St. David’s story, as told on its website, says, “Since the split, St. David’s has experienced a wonderful renaissance. The conflict and uncertainty are over and a stable, warm, and inviting spirit has taken root. In this welcoming environment we are growing and flourishing.”

For Opat, his calling isn’t denominational.

“I’m not super-interested in making them [people at St. David’s] Episcopal,” he said. “I want them to understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus. When I stand in the pulpit, I say, ‘Yeah, this is what we believe, and I have not been sure what to make of it either. But I’ve not found a story more satisfying and real in its experience than this one, with its room for questioning and uncertainty and whatever you bring to it.’”

— Michelle Hiskey is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and member of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church.

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