Episcopal News Service
[Episcopal News Service] Texas is a big state with many miles of roads, so it need not be surprising that Episcopal clergy from at least two different Lone Star congregations – could there be others? – have produced separate online video series featuring priests talking in cars while driving places, sometimes to get coffee.
Think Jerry Seinfeld, but with clerical collars and no cursing.
Both video series have been modeled loosely after Seinfeld’s accurately named “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” In the Diocese of Dallas, the Rev. Paul Klitze’s “Clergy in Cars” series features a rotating cast of guest priests and bishops, including one episode featuring Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. In the Diocese of Texas, the Rev. Daryl Hay and the Rev. Matt Stone give their own faith-based takes on popular culture in “Clergy in Cars Getting Coffee,” which also made a special appearance in July at General Convention in Austin.
“For me, what has been important is experiencing and creating these moments when people get to see clergy and priests are real people … the foibles and the humanity,” said Stone, curate at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Bryan, Texas. Hay is the congregation’s rector.
On Klitzke’s series, those “real people” moments have included Curry talking in October about how his iPhone serves as a spiritual aid, for scheduling Bible readings and reminding him of his monthly fasts.
“Anything can be used for good or ill, so our job as the people of God is to take it and let it be used for good,” Curry told Klitzke, rector at Episcopal Church of the Ascension.
The same principle could be applied to social media. Texas Bishop Andrew Doyle “encourages us to go into the spaces where people gather, and Facebook is one of the places where people gather,” Hay said. He and Stone spoke to Episcopal News Service by phone – the same phone Stone uses to film the duo’s videos.
“It’s, like, an iPhone 5,” Stone said of his older-model device. “It’s definitely a priest’s phone.”
The idea for the video series had been bumping around in Hay’s head for a while, but “it was something I would never have done if Matt hadn’t been here. He made me do it.”
“He shared the idea. And I said, great, when do we do it?” Stone recalled.
Stone, ordained as a priest a year ago, was a deacon when he joined St. Andrew’s in summer 2017. That September, he and Hay pushed “record” on their first Facebook Live video on the congregation’s Facebook page. The live viewership of that inaugural “Clergy in Cars” was tiny, but they were amazed when, over time, it amassed more than 4,000 replay views.
The congregation’s Facebook page also has increased its “likes” by about 25 percent over that period, another triumph that Hay attributes to the videos. (Those likes now are nearing 450, though the priests have since spun off the video series into its own Facebook page with nearly 300 likes.)
Though Hay and Stone sometimes invite guests along for the ride, including for special episodes of “Clergy Carpool Karaoke,” most videos are 10 to 15 minutes of the pair’s own priestly banter as they drive to Sweet Eugene’s, a coffee shop in College Station, Texas. Stone generally handles the technical side of things, with his iPhone stuck to the windshield, while Hay drives.
“For us, it’s been a way to engage popular culture and build some bridges,” Stone said. An early episode referenced movies, from “Star Wars” to “Love Actually.” “We want to help people build bridges between their faith and their everyday life.”
Facebook Live offers the added benefit of allowing real-time engagement, Stone said, and they invite viewers to join them at the coffee shop when the camera stops recording, creating an opportunity for real-world connections.
There is no regular schedule for the videos at this point, though at minimum they are seasonal, with an episode last month for Advent and another planned around Ash Wednesday for Lent. One of Stone’s favorite moments, though, wasn’t gabbing in a car but rather interviewing Doyle at General Convention and getting the bishop’s impression of Big Tex, a 50-foot statue and icon of the State Fair of Texas.
“It was just wonderful,” Stone said. “Getting behind the curtain with a bishop, for me that was something really unique and special. We’re letting people see something they might not otherwise.”
Klitzke shares his cross-Texas counterparts’ interest in social media experimentation as a tool for spiritual enrichment and evangelism, though he also sees his video series in Dallas as window into what clergy talk about when they talk with each other.
In cars. And clergy in Texas spend a lot of time in cars.
Klitzke and the Rev. Rebecca Tankersly, associate rector at Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas, were driving back from a preaching conference when their discussion turned to the topic of what makes for a typical clergy-to-clergy discussion.
“We were having these great theological conversations … everything from serious theology down to fun whatever,” Klitzke recalled. That’s when he first hatched the idea for “Clergy in Cars.” “Why not try to capture what this looks like? And my hope was it would make the whole church more accessible to people.”
After launching the series in August with the Rev. Leslie Stewart of Resurrection Episcopal Church in Plano, Texas, as his first guest passenger, Klitzke scheduled about one episode a week, posting every Tuesday to YouTube and Facebook and each about 15 minutes. More recently he has been averaging about one new episode a month.
With a few hundred people viewing most of the videos, sometimes a thousand, the episode featuring the presiding bishop went “viral” and topped 20,000 views. Interviewing Curry was “a joy,” Klitzke said, but he also clearly had fun asking Dallas Bishop George Sumner in the show’s second episode whether the bishop preferred tacos or BBQ after three years in Dallas.
“I really, really like the tacos,” Sumner said. “However, after three years, I’ve liked them too much, and I am on my low-carb phase. … It’s all brisket right now.”
After that light-hearted opening, Klitzke and Sumner shifted away from the culinary and got deeper into to the theological, a format that the show has repeated with fellow Episcopal priests and a diverse lineup of clergy from other faith traditions.
One question Klitzke tries to ask all his guests is what they see as the pre-eminent social issue facing people of faith today.
“It was something I had been wrestling with,” he said. “I have found the variety of answers to be really meaningful.”
Unlike Hay and Stone, Klitzke prerecords his videos rather than stream them live. His gear is just a windshield-mounted GoPro camera. After some complaints about the audio quality, he also invested in a better microphone.
The equipment isn’t as important as the content of the conversation, though Sumner’s answer to Klitzke’s question about social issues took on the spiritual cost of technology.
“I think that one of the great issues of our time is the way in which technology continues to mean that machines intervene between us as we try to relate to one another as humans,” Sumner said. “These machines will actually change our brains, but I think they also affect our souls.”
The fact that such dialogue happened in a car instead of a church may be irrelevant to the clergy on camera, but by sharing with his audience, Klitzke hopes to breathe new life into “the way we do formation.” He and his guest are modeling theological reflection, in a way, for those who may be interested in doing the same.
“To me, it’s an extension of preaching and teaching,” he said.
And if anyone thinks the resemblance to Seinfeld’s much-more-polished Netflix production might be a coincidence, Klitzke has no problem setting the record straight.
“It’s a complete knockoff,” Klitzke said, with at least one obvious exception. “I tell people, I can afford a cup of coffee, but I can’t afford a film crew.”
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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[Episcopal News Service] Western Kansas Bishop Mark Cowell had not yet been ordained a full month when he made his first official visit to a congregation in the diocese that he was newly entrusted to lead. St. Mary & St. Martha of Bethany Episcopal Church in Larned, Kansas, was an easy choice to kick off a rotation of first-Sunday visits to congregations in the rural, sparsely populated western half of the state.
In a unique twist found only in the Diocese of Western Kansas, Cowell “visited” his own congregation. Cowell was vicar of St. Mary & St. Martha when he was elected bishop on May 5, and he remained in both roles for his Christmas Eve visit.
A bishop who also serves as parish priest? That’s just how they do it in Western Kansas, and Cowell’s multitasking doesn’t end there. He also leads a second congregation, Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in Kinsley, and his list of additional part-time jobs includes municipal prosecutor in Dodge City and county attorney for Hodgeman County.
“It works for me. It just fits the way my brain works,” Cowell said in an interview with Episcopal News Service. “Bouncing around from topic to topic and bouncing around from one job to another just seems to suit me.”
Part-time bishops aren’t unusual, but Cowell is thought to be the only dual-role bishop who also serves a congregation. His predecessor, Bishop Mike Milliken, also served a parish for most of his episcopacy. There are no other bishops currently dividing their time in the same way, according to Bishop Todd Ousley, who assists dioceses with bishop searches as head of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Pastoral Development.
Milliken told ENS he often was asked how he divided his time between bishop duties and his rector role at Grace Church in Hutchinson, whether he devoted his mornings to one and his afternoons to the other.
“It really doesn’t work that way. It’s more like having children,” he said. “You deal with the one who needs your attention at that point, realizing that it takes some organizational skills and some planning and keeping a handle on your calendar.”
It helps that everyone in Western Kansas chips in and looks out for each other. Being bishop is “not a Lone Ranger type of show,” Milliken said. “It takes a lot of people working together on this.”
The diocese has fewer than 30 congregations, some of which only worship together once a month, and though Cowell has plenty of work to do, administrative tasks aren’t high on his list of priorities. “This is not a diocese where you need to spend a lot of time in the office,” Cowell said, and he enjoys meeting with local parishioners, whether he’s on an official visit or just stopping by to say hello and to help out.
“Quite frankly, we don’t do anything that formally out here,” Cowell said. “It gives me an opportunity to see my friends who happen to be going to church at all these different churches.”Rethinking the role of bishop
Financial constraints and the limited number of priests in Western Kansas are among the reasons the diocese has opted for a part-time bishop who shares congregational duties. Though it may be the only diocese with that arrangement, it isn’t the only one responding to such challenges by rethinking the role of the bishop.
The Diocese of Vermont is in the middle of its search to replace outgoing Bishop Thomas Ely, and its Bishop Discernment and Nominating Committee chose to seek candidates interested in approaching the role from a “bishop in partnership” perspective. That doesn’t mean the new bishop will be taking on congregational roles, but the diocese emphasizes collaboration.
“We seek a bishop who will partner with Episcopalians in Vermont to recognize, affirm, and raise up mutual ministry models in our congregations and in our larger diocesan life, as all ministry springs from the common call of our baptism,” the candidate profile says.
Diocese of Eastern Oregon Bishop Patrick Bell has maintained a primary residence in Idaho, outside the diocese, since he became bishop in 2016. He commutes to Eastern Oregon, spending most of his time as bishop traveling the diocese to visit congregations. His position is part-time, as it was for his predecessor, Bishop Nedi Rivera.
Bishop Jay Lambert also serves part time in the Diocese of Eau Claire, which covers the less-populated northwest third of Wisconsin. In an email to ENS, Lambert called himself and Bell unique in that they become diocesan bishops after retiring as priests.
In other dioceses, bishops’ decisions to take on additional roles could be described as situational. North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith assumed leadership of Gethsemane Cathedral in Fargo in 2011 when the cathedral’s dean stepped down, but Gethsemane is now led by the Very Rev. Mark Strobel, installed in 2015.
Northern Michigan Bishop Rayford Ray, though not a dual-role bishop, worked with some of the congregations in his diocese as a ministry developer for the first two years of his episcopacy, beginning in 2011. He has since overseen the development of mission support teams in congregations across the diocese, freeing him to focus on his core bishop duties full time.
Ray told ENS that he still works with congregations, as all bishops do. The nature of a bishop’s relationship with congregations, he said, depends to varying degrees on the diocese’s size, context and culture.Life ‘a little closer to the surface’ in Western Kansas
Western Kansas, in addition to resembling some of those other smaller dioceses in membership, is located in a region that has a way of life that sets it apart even from the lifestyle of fellow Kansas on the more-populated eastern half of the state, Cowell said, and that local culture helps makes a dual-role bishop possible.
“You have a great sense of community in the small towns,” Cowell said. “Everyone takes care of each other.”
He clarified that residents in his diocese don’t idly stick their noses in other people’s business, but they share the challenges and potential danger that come from unpredictable weather, manual labor on farms and ranches and the great distances between points of civilization. “There are certain realities of life that are just a little closer to the surface,” Cowell said.
Cowell was born in Washington, D.C., and later lived in Virginia, Pennsylvania and eventually New Jersey, where he graduated from high school and then college. He attended law school in New York City but soon decided the metropolis was “too vertical” for him. He craved a wide-open life out West, inspired partly by pop culture depictions of the region, like “Dances With Wolves.”
He and his first wife decided to move to her native Kansas, gravitating first to the cities and suburbs on the east side of the state. In 1995, he moved farther west to Dodge City, and he’s lived in that area ever since, working alternately as a prosecutor and defense attorney. Along the way, his first marriage ended, and he remarried, settling for good in Larned, about 60 miles east of Dodge City.
Cowell said he first felt called to the priesthood in college, at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. Drew has a seminary and he sought advice from some of the seminary faculty.
“I said, I think I’m called as a priest. But I don’t want to do that,” Cowell recalled. Their advice was to continue on his path toward becoming a lawyer, and he could find other ways to serve God. That’s what he did, “but the call [to the priesthood] never went away.”
In Larned, he began pursuing that call directly and was ordained in 2003. As a parish priest, he served a number of churches in the diocese, including as part of a supply priest rotation at some of the smaller congregations. Only two church in the diocese have full-time priests, Christ Cathedral in Salinas and Grace Church in Hutchinson.
“We don’t have in this area the resources to have full-time clergy, so we’ve bounced around and covered where we can,” Cowell said. He acknowledged full-time clergy in every town would be preferred, “but that’s not the way we’re getting things done at this point.”
The same goes for the bishop role. Cowell was on the diocese’s Standing Committee when the Diocese of Western Kansas was searching for someone to take over when Bishop James Adams stepped down in 2010. Cowell said he raised the idea of a dual-role bishop in conversation with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jeffers Schori, who told him it was a model that, though out of fashion, had precedent in the early church.
The diocese determined it was last tried 150 years earlier, in Philadelphia, so the Western Kansas Standing Committee agreed to give it a try again, ordaining Milliken as bishop while letting him keep his parish at Grace Church. Milliken stepped down as rector two years ago to focus on the transition to a new bishop. He still plans to assist Cowell as needed.
Western Kansas’ model certainly isn’t for every diocese – arguably, not most dioceses – but Cowell said he hopes that this example might offer lessons that other dioceses can apply to their own contexts. One, he suggested, is the importance of inspiring lay people to play a greater role in the life and future of their congregations.
“I don’t think we could do what we’re doing any other way,” he said. “But I also think that’s what we should be doing, continuing to teach and empower the laity to take over our churches.”
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church’s five-week-old plan to give same-sex couples unfettered access to marriage in all of its domestic dioceses is still clouded by requirements not envisioned by the enabling resolution, and it has broken the relationships of some congregations with their bishops.
Yet, in the midst of what more than one person has called “heartbreak,” there soon will be celebrations in some of those places. A parish in the Diocese of Central Florida is planning in February to witness the marriage of two men who have been partners for 30 years.
And two of the three congregations in the Diocese of Dallas whose pastoral relationships with their bishop have changed because of their support of same-sex marriage are planning services the weekend of Jan. 19-20 to bless couples who had to leave the diocese to get married in the last three years.
Eight bishops in the church’s 101 domestic dioceses previously had blocked access to the rites. Then in July, the 79th General Convention passed the often-rewritten and often-amended Resolution B012. Reactions among the eight bishops have run the gamut, from one outright refusing to comply to one making an about-face on the issue. The six other bishops are at various points in between.
Bishop William Love of the Diocese of Albany has said he will not allow same-sex couples to be married by priests in that diocese. He acknowledged that he could face disciplinary proceedings by the church for refusing to obey the resolution’s requirements.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has affirmed General Convention’s authority, saying that “those of us who have taken vows to obey the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church must act in ways that reflect and uphold the discernment and decisions of the General Convention of the church.” He and other church leaders, he said in mid-November, were “assessing the implications of [Love’s] statement and will make determinations about appropriate actions soon.”
Of the eight bishops, only Diocese of the Virgin Islands Bishop Ambrose Gumbs has told his clergy to offer the rites without further obstacles. Gumbs previously had blocked use of the rites, which General Convention approved in 2015 (via Resolution A054).
“The clergy are aware that if a same-sex couple presents themselves for pastoral care leading to marriage they are obligated to accommodate the request,” Gumbs said in an email to Episcopal News Service just after B012 took effect on the first Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2. If a priest refuses to officiate at such a wedding, the priest must “provide another priest to facilitate the process.”
How the church got to this point
The 2015 resolution said that the bishops of the church’s domestic dioceses needed to give their permission for the rites to be used. They were also told to “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have access to these liturgies” even if they opposed same-sex marriage. (The Episcopal Church includes a small number of dioceses outside the United States in civil jurisdictions that do not allow marriage for same-sex couples.)
The eight bishops did not authorize use of the rites in their dioceses and required couples wanting to use them to be married outside their diocese and away from their home churches. Some bishops refused to allow priests in their diocese to use the rites anywhere. This year, Resolution B012 moved the authority for deciding to use the rites from the diocesan bishop to parish priests. It said that diocesan bishops who do not agree with same-sex marriage “shall invite, as necessary,” another Episcopal Church bishop to provide “pastoral support” to the couple, the clergy member involved and the congregation. Some of the bishops have interpreted B012 as requiring – or allowing them to require – the involvement of another bishop.
Christopher Hayes, who as a deputy from California proposed the amended version that convention passed, told ENS the key phrase is “as necessary.” Hayes thinks some bishops are misinterpreting that to mean necessary by mere fact of the bishops’ disagreement, whereas he understands it to mean pastorally necessary. Such pastoral necessity, he said, would be rare.
“Most of the time, the bishop isn’t involved in giving pastoral support to a couple getting married,” Hayes said, adding that pastoral oversight is a different matter not addressed by the resolution.
However, some of the eight bishops have argued that being involved in the use of the rites is part of their role as the diocese’s chief pastor. Tennessee Bishop John Bauerschmidt put it this way an October essay:
“It is because the bishop is concerned with every marriage as chief pastor of the diocese that his or her explicit permission must be sought in the extraordinary instance of the remarriage of a person with a previous spouse still living.
“Additionally, the little-noticed requirement (Canon I.18.2) that clergy who waive the 30-day notification period before officiating at any marriage must report this waiver to the bishop is a similar reminder of the bishop’s role in the everyday pastoral ministries of clergy.”
B012 specifically notes that the canonical provision about remarriage after divorce that Bauerschmidt cites applies to same-sex couples. Canon I.19.3 (page 60 here) requires priests to show their bishops (or the bishop in the diocese in which the service is planned) that they have verified the annulment or dissolution of a divorced person’s previous marriage, and that they discussed with the couple the need to show “continuing concern” for the well-being of the former spouse and of any children. The resolution requires a bishop who opposes same-sex marriage to invite another bishop to provide the needed consent to remarry.
Responses across the spectrum
Bauerschmidt said in a July letter to the diocese that B012 sets up “a particular structure that upholds the bishop’s unique role as chief pastor and teacher and presider at the liturgy,” even when the bishop cannot support same-sex marriage.
Bauerschmidt said in July that he “holds the traditional teaching on marriage” so he intended to ask another bishop to provide the “pastoral care” that he said would be necessary to ensure that the trial liturgies will be available in his diocese. He told ENS in an email this week that he would wait until “sometime in January” to announce a specific implementation plan.
Meanwhile, he has issued two “pastoral teaching” essays, one on the bishop’s role and one on the “church’s traditional teaching on marriage.”
Florida Bishop John Howard, despite objecting to B012 at General Convention, told his diocese in August that he intended to implement the resolution. A subsequent meeting with clergy on the issue left some confusion about what that process would look like.
In a Dec. 4 email to ENS, Emily Stimler, the diocese’s director of communications, said the diocese has established “a process of collaboration and transparency” for implementing the resolution as outlined here. Rectors or priests-in-charge who want to perform same-sex marriages, and their wardens, must first meet with Howard, who will “find a bishop willing to undertake pastoral oversight in accordance with the provisions of B012,” Stimler said. “The oversight would only cover marriage, and the other bishop would not take over all pastoral oversight of the congregation.”
Stimler said one congregation has begun that process, though she didn’t identify the congregation or elaborate on where that process stands.
Hayes told ENS he doesn’t see a need for bishop-to-clergy meetings like the ones Howard is requesting before letting the marriages proceed.
“If the bishop’s theological position is ‘I can’t give support to the couple,’ what’s the purpose of the meeting?” he said.
Breaking relationships over B012
At least three bishops, Greg Brewer in Central Florida, Dan Martins in Springfield and George Sumner in Dallas, appear to be severing their pastoral relationships with clergy and parishes wishing to use the rites by requiring arrangements that resemble Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight, or DEPO, with other Episcopal bishops, even though Resolution B012 specifically eschewed a DEPO mandate in such situations.
The House of Bishops devised DEPO in 2004 for congregations that so severely disagree with their diocesan bishops on human sexuality and other theological matters that their relationships are completely broken. Not all congregations wishing to use the same-sex marriage rites are in that level of conflict with their bishop, some bishops and deputies said during the convention debate.
Sumner announced in November that three congregations in his diocese intended to perform same-sex marriages: Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration and Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle. Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith has agreed to be “the visiting bishop” to those congregations.
Sumner said he and Smith “share the hope that the three parishes will continue to invite me annually to come to preach, teach, and share in worship.”
On Jan. 19, Transfiguration plans a service to renew the marriage vows of 14 same-sex couples who had to leave the diocese to get married. Retired New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, will preach. The next day, St. Thomas plans what it calls a “celebration and blessing” of such marriages.
The Rev. Paul Klitzke, rector at Ascension, told ENS that he was pleased to have a path toward offering the rites, though the change in the relationship with Sumner gave the congregation pause.
“There’s some heartbreak, in that this is not normative,” Klitzke said. “It’s not how the Episcopal Church has operated historically.”
Martins invoked the “heartbreak” of such an arrangement in his own message to the Diocese of Springfield in July. He outlined a process in which a congregation’s priest and other leaders will meet with him to discuss their desire to offer the trial rites, and Martins will find another bishop to assume “all the routine components of spiritual, pastoral, and sacramental oversight” for the congregation.
“Because all liturgical and sacramental ministry is an extension of the ministry of the bishop, and implicates the entire diocese in whatever is done, there must be a robust firewall between a community that receives same-sex marriage into its life, along with its clergy, and the rest of the diocese, including and especially the bishop,” Martins said.
Martins offered an update of sorts in December for Living Church, saying one parish in the diocese had asked to use the same-sex marriage rites, “and we are trying to hammer out the details.” The diocese did not return an ENS email seeking more information, including the name of the parish.
In Central Florida, ENS reported in August there was little expectation that congregations would face a DEPO arrangement or disruption of their pastoral relationships with Brewer, other than inviting another bishop to provide oversight of same-sex marriage.
However, in December, the Rev. Alison Harrity, rector at St. Richard’s Episcopal Church in Winter Park, told ENS that when she informed Brewer that two men of the parish had asked her to perform their marriage, the bishop told her, “St. Richard’s needs a broader oversight.” Brewer delegated episcopal pastoral oversight to Kentucky Bishop Terry Allen White, Harrity said.
Brewer “didn’t even say, ‘Let’s have a conversation’; he just gave us away,” Harrity said. However, she added that the DEPO arrangement feels freeing to her and the congregation.
St. Richard’s first same-sex wedding will take place Feb. 16 between Bob Cochrane and Felix Rodriguez. Cochrane proposed to his partner of 30 years during Eucharist on All Saints’ Sunday, after Harrity had blessed some other couples who were celebrating anniversaries.
North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith said just after convention that DEPO will serve as “a roadmap for these matters” in his diocese and he required any rector or priest-in-charge who wanted to use the rites to first contact him for “supplemental episcopal pastoral care.” St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Fargo has had a DEPO arrangement since December 2015 and has been solemnizing same-sex marriages since then. Smith told ENS this week that the church in the eastern part of the diocese is the only one to request such permission.
Meanwhile, uncertainty remains in Albany
Love has refused to allow such marriages, even in the three Diocese of Albany parishes that have been in DEPO relationships with neighboring dioceses since 2012.
The Rev. Mary White, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Albany, one of the three congregations in a DEPO relationship, told ENS that the members of her parish and others in the diocese who favor B012 are biding their time to see what Episcopal Church leaders can negotiate with Love. “I think people are trying not to get their hopes up” about whether same-sex marriages will take place in the diocese, she said.
Coincidentally, Love visited St. Andrew’s the Sunday that B012 went into effect for his previously planned routine visit. Love and DEPO bishops all provide such pastoral rites as confirmation, according to White.
Love brought the controversy into his Christmas message, likening his journey to the unanswered questions that Mary and Joseph faced when they responded to God’s call. “Are we, like Mary and Joseph, willing to risk our reputations, our relationships, our jobs and livelihood?” he asked in part.
White said St. Andrew’s has always supported the stances of the wider Episcopal Church and “we look forward to the day when we can do that openly.” To have diocesan support in that effort “would be a phenomenal thing, but I don’t know if that would ever happen.” And, she said, it would “be such a gift” if the diocese stood in line with the wider church.
Asked how she would wish the controversy to conclude, White said, “The perfect ending would be if Bishop Love would acquiesce to convention and allow us to marry same-sex couples, but that’s not going to happen, so I don’t know if there’s a perfect ending.
“No matter what happens, it’s going to cause a fair amount turmoil in the diocese.”
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter. David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
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Estimados amigos en Cristo Jesús:
El 3 de enero de 2019 se cumplieron los 120 días canónicamente estipulados para la recolección de las pruebas de consentimiento para la ordenación y consagración del Venerable Joseph Kerwin Delicat como el Obispo Coadjutor de Haití. Les escribo para informarles que una mayoría de los obispos con jurisdicción en La Iglesia Episcopal no dio su consentimiento para la ordenación y consagración, ni el Comité Permanente de la Diócesis de Haití proporcionó pruebas de consentimiento de una mayoría de los comités permanentes de las diócesis de La Iglesia Episcopal.
En los próximos días, estaré en consulta con líderes de la Diócesis de Haití, así como con otros en todo el ámbito de La Iglesia Episcopal, mientras andamos en busca de los más inmediatos y atinados pasos a seguir.
La Diócesis de Haití es una parte importante de La Iglesia Episcopal. Favor de seguir orando por el pueblo, el clero y el Obispo de Haití, en tanto procuramos obedecer al Espíritu del Dios vivo.
Rvdmo. Michael B. Curry
Obispo Presidente y Primado
de La Iglesia Episcopal
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Presiding Bishop appoints new board chair for Episcopal Relief & Development as organization welcomes new board members
[Episcopal News Service] It’s a reliable truth, as familiar to Episcopalians as the words of the Gospels: Church buildings don’t get any younger.
Wear and tear on those buildings combined with the limited financial resources available to many Episcopal congregations often translates to deferred maintenance that can leave church leaders wrestling with how to be better stewards of their properties. And then lightning can strike – literally.
“Like a message from God,” is how the Rev. Luke Fodor describes the lightning strike in 2013 that damaged the bell tower at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown, New York. He joined St. Luke’s as rector the year after the tower was damaged, inheriting a list of repairs that went well beyond what could be blamed on the lightning.
“It was kind of a clarion call: Hey, take care of your buildings,” Fodor told Episcopal News Service.
One silver lining to this maintenance storm is that the very age of some older Episcopal churches can be an asset in planning for repairs, with grant money available to assist in certain projects that can be categorized as historic preservation. St. Luke’s was awarded $500,000 last month through a New York grant program, and another Episcopal congregation, St. Peter’s in Manhattan, was awarded $500,000 from the same grant program.
“It’s going to be an exciting year ahead for us,” Melissa Morgenweck, senior warden at St. Peter’s, said in an interview. The congregation, which also is searching for a new rector, has just begun taking steps toward launching its rectory restoration project with help from the grant money.
The grants were among $19.5 million awarded by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. To receive the money, the congregations must ensure the projects are thoroughly documented to meet the state’s criteria, including the ability to raise matching funds.
Grant money for historic preservation of churches is available from numerous sources, but for a grant program like New York’s that is backed by public resources, the projects must in some way benefit the public, not just the congregations. At St. Peter’s, though the rectory’s top floor is set aside as a rector’s apartment, the rest of the building is regularly used by the community for activities from substance abuse group meetings to photography classes.
“Our rectory is used very much as a community space,” Morgenweck said. “It’s become a real hub for the community, but the building needs significant work.” A leaky roof and walls are just the start, she said.
Preservation of a historic building also qualifies as a benefit to the public. A 125-year-old church like St. Luke’s can offer “history that’s visible, not just history that’s tucked away in museums,” Fodor said. His church is one of 103 buildings in downtown Jamestown that are identified as contributing to the Jamestown Downtown Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fodor acknowledged that not everyone is comfortable with giving public money to faith-based organizations, even with the goal of saving important local structures. Fodor said he initially faced pushback within his own congregation from some parishioners who questioned why state money would be used to help the congregation stabilize its bell tower and front porch.
“It’s a concern both ways,” Fodor said. “How do you use public resources? What’s the best use?”
Such questions became a legal issue in New Jersey that was settled last year by the state’s highest court, which ruled against churches that were benefiting from a preservation grant program. Three Episcopal churches were among the 12 churches in Morrison County listed as defendants in the suit brought by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation and a Morris County resident.
One of the churches, the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Morristown, had received a $294,000 grant in 2013 to restore its 1926 parish house and an additional $272,000 in 2015 to restore the church’s slate roof.
One of the underlying legal precedents was set relatively recently, in 2017, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that churches should be treated like any other community organization eligible for grant programs, as long as the money does not support the congregations’ spiritual missions.
The New Jersey court concluded Morrison County didn’t pass that test. The decision did not require the 12 churches to repay the $4.6 million they received over four years, but the county was barred from awarding money to churches in the future.
New York’s grant guidelines make such criteria clear, Fodor said. Grants cannot be used to pay for basic repairs or routine maintenance, the agency says in an online document. “Work intended for the primary benefit of the worshippers which is not restoring something historic (for example adding a new elevator or ramp for persons with disabilities) is not an eligible expense and cannot be reimbursed with State historic preservation grant monies.”
That’s why the $1.6 million project at St. Luke’s that was awarded a state grant only focuses on shoring up the structural integrity of the bell tower and porch. Separately, the church used about $700,000 that it raised through a capital campaign to pay for interior renovations that would not qualify for public money because they only benefit the congregation, such as replacing a boiler and adding a bathroom.
Fodor thinks it is easy for congregations like his to get overwhelmed by the task of keeping large, old buildings in good shape.
“They don’t teach you classes in seminary on how to do this work. You just have to feel in the dark,” he said.
The most important step, he said, is to face maintenance challenges head on and develop a plan to address them. “Just keep moving. Don’t give up,” he said.
Public grant programs aren’t the only resources available to help congregations maintain their historic buildings. Nonprofit organizations at the local and national level also award money for preservation projects, include church restoration.
In New York, for example, an organization called the New York Landmarks Conservancy offers a Sacred Sites grant program specifically for houses of worship. St. Luke’s received $45,000 in 2017 from that program to pay a consultant to conduct a full property inspection and recommend repairs. St. Peter’s received $25,000 for repairs to the church’s exterior walls.
Another funding source open to churches across the country is the National Fund for Sacred Places, a program of Partners for Sacred Places in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and supported financially by the Lilly Endowment. In addition, Partners for Sacred Places’ offers a “Repair & Maintenance Guide” for congregations on its website.
And within the Episcopal Church, congregations are encouraged to contact the Episcopal Church Building Fund, which offers loans and consulting services to help with building and renovation projects, “so that lives inside church buildings and out in our community are transformed through the ministry of our church, by God,” the agency says on its website.
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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La cuadra delimitada por las calles Séptima, Octava, Trinidad y Neches, y que cuenta con un parqueadero comercial, había sido adquirida por la Iglesia Episcopal en 2009 con el objetivo final de construir un edificio que alojara los archivos nacionales. La buena gestión de este parqueadero generó un ingreso mayor cada año lo cual aumentó el valor de la cuadra 87.
En el 2017, la Iglesia seleccionó a Cielo Property Group como socio en este desarrollo inmobiliario para que incluyera espacio del terreno para los Archivos de la Iglesia Episcopal y un proyecto aledaño de uso mixto. A comienzos de 2018, la Iglesia y la constructora recibieron el visto bueno del municipio a la petición de que la ciudad renunciara a un callejón que entrecruzaba la cuadra realzando así el valor de la propiedad y allanando el camino para que el proyecto de uso mixto sea construido.
En su reunión de abril de 2018, el Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia Episcopal recibió una actualización sobre el Proyecto Archivos. “En ese momento, el liderazgo de la Iglesia acordó que nuestra decisión de proseguir de manera estratégica con el desarrollo de este lote dio como resultado un significativo incremento de su valor” dijo el Rdo. canónigo Lang Lowrey III, consejero de la Iglesia. “Si bien la intención originalmente fue crear un nuevo hogar para los Archivos en este lugar, la valorización de la propiedad y el uso del ingreso del parqueadero para reducir las obligaciones financieras presentaban una inesperada oportunidad. Es decir, vender la propiedad y con el producto de la venta buscar otros lugares y así agilizar la construcción de los Archivos”.
“Esta transacción es un acontecimiento positivo” dijo el obispo presidente de la Iglesia Episcopal, Michael Curry. “Amplía las oportunidades de la Iglesia y crea nuevas posibilidades para abordar las necesidades archivísticas de la iglesia”.
“La venta de este lote a CPG Block 87, LP replantea nuestra estrategia de obtener un nuevo hogar para los Archivos” dijo Mark Duffy, director de los Archivos de la Iglesia Episcopal. “Construir un edificio en la cuadra 87 de Austin requería una donación considerable para financiar los gastos operativos. El tener acceso al aumento del valor de nuestra propiedad a través de esta venta nos ofrece flexibilidad para poder seguir adelante con opciones diferentes para los Archivos en el siglo XXI”.
Los Archivos de la Iglesia Episcopal son el repositorio oficial de la Iglesia Episcopal que incluyen la Convención General, La Sociedad Doméstica y Extranjera, las organizaciones de la Iglesia Episcopal, y los documentos personales de sus líderes.
Los Archivos de la Iglesia Episcopal pueden consultarse en: https://www.episcopalarchives.org/
Christmas is full of sounds. There are the sounds of parties and gatherings, of familiar people arguing, or joking, or sitting quietly enjoying being together – sounds that bring hope, or joy, or sorrow.
God, in the greatest of sounds, the Word of God, the baby at Bethlehem, calls to the world through a baby’s cry: “This is who I am. This is my way of being. This is my language, love.”
That word of God has become flesh – tangible, visible, intimate – flesh that changes the world, changes every person who hears and responds.
People will be rejoicing and celebrating, others will be causing trouble and others bringing joy. The world does not stop because it is Christmas. To think so is a dangerous illusion because God came into the reality of the world, to change it, not to give us an escape from it.
God’s love, expressed in the word of Jesus, is not a language of sentiment and cheap comfort but a language fit for the reality of a harsh world of oppression, of cruelty, of injustice and suffering. It has a vocabulary for passion, for anger, for protest at injustice and lament. It is the language of the whole of scripture. It is the language lived by Jesus, and it starts in the manger.
Language is the tool through which we decipher and describe the world. God’s language of love describes each of us, as we are, not as we pretend, claim, simulate or deceive.
God’s language of love changes us as we use it. When we weep over the suffering of a friend, lament the loss of one whom we loved, celebrate new life, discover how much someone loves us, we do so more deeply when we are filled with the love of God, a love expressed in the Word that comes into our lives through this child in the manger, God’s language of love.
When great events stir us, or gathering shadows in nation or world wake us in the dark hours, we bring light when we turn to God made flesh and speak the language of God’s love.
When suffering overwhelms, and all answers seem vain, God’s word is faithful – faithful to those who do not have the strength to hang on to God. This language is spoken even when we cannot receive it.
In this child Jesus, God comes among usphysically. God’s language of love is a body language: being present as a human amid the joys and terrors of human existence. It is a language that few understood – as we have just heard it read “the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him” (verse 10).
This language of love is why the birth of a baby to poor, unknown parents changes the nature of everything. All babies cause change. Our three-week-old granddaughter changes the lives of her parents, of her brother, of those around, but despite her best efforts she does not change everything that exists.
But this baby, Jesus, unknown, as fragile as little Iris, as needy, as limited by being a human baby – this baby, Jesus, does change everything in creation because He is the Word of God who makes it possible for us to learn the language of God’s love.
God’s language of love is exclusive. It requires us to forget other languages of hatred, tribalism, rivalry, political advantage and of materialism, pride, greed, and so many more.
God’s language of love is not mushy sentiment. In the bible we see the richness of its vocabulary. It encompasses every aspect of living, and every aspect of knowing God. Jesus the adult spoke it perfectly. The baby in the manger lives it flawlessly before He can speak a word, because by His mere existence He is the Word of God to us.
It can be spoken by the generous and wealthy and powerful.
It must be spoken by us on behalf of the persecuted, those farmers in the middle belt of Nigeria who speak God’s language of love in protest and lament as they suffer. One thousand and more killed this year alone. It must be spoken by us on behalf of the Christian communities of the middle east and around the world.
And God speaks its words for the poor and suffering and oppressed in every place at every time.
To speak God’s love fluently, we must share the heart of God, and we begin to do that through our response to the baby in the manger because in him, unlike us, there is no disconnect between his words and his actions. We over-promise and under-deliver. God under promises in the event of Jesus, a small baby born in a stable, but over delivers in giving salvation to the world.
God’s language of love is not just for Christians, or for the comfortable and respectable. Shepherds learned it from angels. Shepherds – awkward, often drunken, frequently violent, seldom religious in the sense the religious leaders wanted. Kings came, foreigners and outsiders, and they learned the language.
I have a friend, also called Justin – Archbishop Vardi of south Sudan, a country where there have been two and a half million refugees since the war started in December 2013. There the Government and opposition groups have been brought together in Christ and a ceasefire is holding.
It is learned by worship, like the Kings and shepherds. It is learned stumblingly, beginning with no more than a doubt filled, questioning opening to God who says to us and to the whole world, through this baby, “here I am”. We reply in the same way, knowing almost nothing except we are not fit or ready for Jesus, and we reply, “and here I am too”.
To follow Jesus is not through compulsion, for he has expressed God’s language of love by being a baby, so vulnerable and weak, so easily overlooked.
To follow Jesus is not to become dull and tedious, for in him is light and life more than anywhere else in all eternity. The very heavens shake with the music of his birth.
In him is love spoken and reliable.
In Him is a new language that transforms us and all around us, God’s language of love.
[Anglican Communion News Service] The governors of the Anglican Centre in Rome have announced the resignation of the centre’s director, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, following an allegation of sexual misconduct. The Anglican Centre in Rome is the permanent Anglican Communion presence in Rome. Its director is also the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Personal Representative to the Holy See.
Read the entire article here.
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[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of South Sudan Justin Badi Arama is calling on Christians in the country to take part in a peace march and prayer service on New Year’s Eve. His vision is for 10,000 Christians to take part in the march, which will set off from Buluk Field in Juba. They will take part in a mile-long march to All Saint’s Cathedral, where a prayer service will be held, “asking God for real peace in our nation in 2019.”
Read the entire article here.
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[Anglican Communion News Service] Police in Nigeria’s Rivers State have expressed their hope that the Bishop of Ahoada, Clement Ekpeye, will be released. He was kidnapped on the evening of Dec. 18. The Tide news website reports that the kidnappers have not made any contact to express ransom demands. The Tide reports a rise in “serious tension and anxiety” in the area following the abduction.
Read the entire article here.
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[Episcopal News Service] Take a centuries-old tradition. Find a church with a big front lawn on a busy street. Get a priest who is also a carpenter. Recruit volunteers – lots of volunteers. Get your friends to donate costumes. Figure out who has farm animals. Get the bishop to deliver some hay.
Put it all together, and it’s the living nativity scene at St. Andrew’s in the Valley Episcopal Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that was staged Dec. 19 from 5 to 7 p.m.
If the estimated 300 people who drove past the scene, and those who took advantage of the chance to get a photo with St. Nicholas, learned something about Jesus and the nativity and realized that “the heart of the season is open to them,” then the effort was a success, Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlan told Episcopal News Service.
If those folks make the connection that what she called this “creative and novel” effort came to them via the Episcopal Church, “that’s bonus to me.”
The living nativity was the December edition of Scanlan’s “Bishop Out of the Box” series, or BOTB, an effort to show Episcopalians how they experiment with new kinds of evangelism by thinking outside the box.
The Rev. Nelson K. Baliira, St. Andrew’s rector, said in an interview the morning after the event that he hoped the living nativity scene showed that “the Episcopal Church is a living church” in which “we are not telling our own story, we are telling the story of Jesus.” It is a story, he said, that must be told to the world over and over again.
The effort was part of Scanlan’s ongoing invitation to local Episcopalians to live out the Gospel in new and creative ways and encourage them to collaborate across parish lines. “This is a project that has taken people from the cathedral. It’s involved farmers from across the diocese,” she said. “It’s involved people from four or five different parishes who have agreed to come together to be shepherds and angels.”
The living nativity scene also attracted the attention and work of some young people “who don’t necessarily go to church all the time,” Scanlan said. Some of them took turns portraying Mary and Joseph so no one has to be outside for a long time in the winter night.
Altogether, about 40 people volunteered to make the event happen, according to the Rev. Dan Morrow, canon for congregational life and mission idea, who had suggested the living nativity. He explained that St. Andrew’s, with that big front lawn and 30,000 cars driving past each day, was a great location for something he’d been wanting to do for years.
To publicize the nativity scene, the diocese rented a large, orange digital highway construction warning sign and parked it on the side of the street by the church’s sign, with the message, “Live nativity here 5-7 December 19.”
Baliira, a bi-vocational priest who grew up in Uganda, put his skills as a carpenter to work to build the creche with the help of Steve Guszick, a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg and the husband of Alexis Guszick, diocesan canon for communications. Morrow gave Baliira a photo of a creche and, the carpenter priest told ENS, “I knew exactly what I needed to do” to get it built.
He joined together wood pallets from a local roofing company for the floor and built the back and sides with plywood and two-by-fours. The roofing material came from Home Depot, Baliira said.
“We put everything together in four hours” on a drizzly Dec. 15, he said. Scanlan delivered the hay in her pickup truck on Dec. 17 while Baliira was building the manger.
The evening of Dec. 19, between 70 and 80 cars, each filled with adults and children, drove up the church’s quarter-mile long driveway to view the tableau. Some got out of their cars to pet the goats and donkeys, and one dog, and to talk to the participants.
Then they drove on to where the driveway forks and saw a sign inviting them to stop at the church for cookies, hot cocoa and a visit with St. Nicholas and Scanlan. Ryan Tobin, a young man who is the junior warden of St. Stephen’s in Harrisburg, played St. Nicholas. “He’s an experienced St. Nicholas,” Scanlan said. “He’s done this before.”
Tobin was vested as the bishop that St. Nicholas was, rather than the Santa Claus that his life inspired. The point was to show that Nicholas and Scanlan are “part of that same big family,” Morrow said. A history of the St. Nicholas-Santa Claus connection, written by the St. Nicholas Center, was available.
Along with his traditional gift of gold (chocolate) coins, St. Nicholas handed out candy canes that young people at the diocesan fall youth retreat had decorated to look like croziers.
The organizers also distributed an invitation “to reflect on the gift of Jesus Christ at Christmas,” Morrow said.
Baliira, who had seen living nativity scenes in his native Uganda, said the one on St. Andrew’s front lawn seemed alive with the presence of God.
“We were away from the malls,” he said with a chuckle. “We were in our little village of St. Andrew’s” with animals and people out in the quiet night air.
“The noise was the noise of the donkeys and the other animals” that reflected “the natural beauty in which the Lord Jesus came to visit us and be part of us.”
Part of a bigger plan
BTOB began in September with an agape love feast in Riverfront Park along the Susquehanna River that runs through Harrisburg. Scanlan said participants asked passersby if they needed prayers and, if so, invited them to pray with them.
“A lot of churches in this day and age have a lot to be anxious about: numbers, dwindling finances, the building, clergy shortages,” Morrow said. “One of the things we found is that, given all those things to worry about, given all the anxiety, sometimes what suffers is creativity and imagination.
“So, the basic idea of Bishop Out of the Box is to go to these different communities and help them do something that’s out of the box, something that’s imaginative, something that gets them out of the church building and into the community. We try to do them in ways that are easy to implement and are easily replicable.”
Scanlan said their travels are part of her vow to live the sermons she’s been preaching around the diocese this year. She speaks about Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s call to the Way of Love. She said she echoes his sense that God calls people “not just to the places where we’re comfortable but to go to places that sometimes make us uncomfortable and that are challenging for us, because God often needs us there even more.
“So, in standing up in the pulpit and telling people to do this, I’m also trying to model it for them; kind of walk the walk and say, ‘well, I’m going to do this, even if it makes me uncomfortable as well. We can walk together in this.’”
Also in September, BOTB did a prayer walk through the Bloomsburg Fair. When diocesan convention convened in Williamsport in October, BOTB staged a walk through the downtown “to warm up the city to us being there,” she said. Participants went to the emergency room and the bus station to pray with people.
The day before Thanksgiving, BOTB was at the Central Market in Lancaster, asking shoppers what they were thankful for and what gives them hope.
In January, BOTB will be in the Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. The area is predominantly African-American, with refugees and immigrants living there as well. People will be invited to help paint and color in an outline of King on a giant canvas and use a big blackboard to answer the question “What is your dream?”
The monthly travels have become popular, Scanlan and Morrow say. “People are kind waiting for us to come to them, and when we get there we’re inviting them to come along and they’re proud and happy to be part of it,” she said.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.
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[Episcopal News Service] Two Episcopalians, a husband and wife from Ohio, are receiving national recognition for their outreach to a Haitian man who recently was released from federal detention after spending more than two years behind bars waiting for a decision on his request for asylum.
Not only was Ansly Damus released while his legal case proceeds, but he has been welcomed into the Cleveland Heights home of the couple who championed his cause, Melody Hart and Gary Benjamin. Living with the couple was one of two court-approved conditions of his release, the other being that he wear a monitoring bracelet on his ankle.
Benjamin’s and Hart’s nearly yearlong support for Damus and for his efforts to win release were detailed by the Washington Post in a 3,000-word feature story that appeared as the centerpiece on the cover of the newspaper’s Dec. 17 print edition. It also can be found online here.
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 17, 2018
“There is no question that Mr. Damus’ access to a just process was entirely the result of Melody and Gary’s relentless advocacy on his behalf,” Ohio Bishop Mark Hollingsworth Jr. said in a written statement to Episcopal News Service. “They are a model of what is means when we vow in our Baptismal Covenant to ‘strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.’
“It is not only Ansly Damus who has benefited from their faithfulness, but each of us. They have held us and our justice system accountable for his treatment.”
Hollingsworth’s office and the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations in Washington, D.C., offered logistical support for Benjamin and Hart, who are members of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland. An Office of Government Relations staff member also helped transmit letters from Damus to his family back in Haiti.
The Episcopal Church’s General Convention has frequently passed resolutions in support of immigrants, including those seeking asylum. A resolution from 2015 specifically called for “an immediate release of detained asylum seekers.”
The Post story notes the Ohio couple first heard about Damus’ case from a friend who is involved in immigrant justice issues. Hart told the Post she remembers saying simply, “We’ll do whatever we can.” That turned out to be quite a lot.
Damus, 42, was an ethics professor in Haiti whose criticism of a local politician with suspected ties to gangs resulted in threats of violence to him and his family. He chose to flee, at first to Brazil, and in 2016 he presented himself to American authorities on the Mexico border and asked for asylum, following procedures outlined by U.S. immigration law.
Federal authorities took him to a detention center in Ohio and continued to hold him, saying they considered him a flight risk. Hart and Benjamin, in addition to visiting Damus and sending Damus dozens of supportive letters, rallied others in their congregation and social circles to show he had a community willing to welcome him with open arms.
They brought 32 of those supporters with them by bus for Damus’ recent hearing in a federal courtroom in Michigan, which prompted the federal judge to remark that it was clear Damus had “a community that cared about him,” according to the Post’s report.
We are here in Ann Arbor at federal court fighting for our Haitian asylum seeker’s immediate release from Geauga County Jail. Ansly has been in a windowless cell for more than 2 years. pic.twitter.com/8IsBHNVGZl
— ACLU of Ohio (@acluohio) November 28, 2018
“I hope this shows that people in this country care about what’s happening to him,” Hart said in the Post story. “He has to believe that he’s come to the right place.”
The judge chose to delay a ruling that day on Damus’ prolonged detention, but federal authorities decided to offer a deal for Damus’ release rather than wait for a ruling, the Post reported.
Now Benjamin and Hart are Damus’ official sponsors, allowing him to live with them as he and his lawyer continue to pursue a victory on his asylum request.
“Today I am so happy,” he said on the day of his release, as Hart and Benjamin prepared to drive him home.
— Global Cleveland (@GlobalCleveland) December 18, 2018
The plight of asylum seekers has become a hot-button political issue in the United States, with the Trump administration seeking to limit the number of such immigrants allowed into the country. On Dec. 20, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would require asylum seekers at the Mexican border to wait in Mexico while their claims are under review. It wasn’t immediately clear if such a policy would apply to a case like Damus’.
“Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a news release that provides no specifics on how widespread such cases are.
The release notes that the U.S. is dealing with a backlog of more than 786,000 pending asylum claims.
President Donald Trump also was criticized last fall for using and amplifying language that demonized a migrant caravan from Central America in the runup to the congressional midterm elections. Trump’s claims that asylum seekers were invading the United States were widely seen as a misleading tactic intended to drive conservative voters to the polls – a tactic he immediately dropped after the election.
The Office of Government Relations has called on Episcopalians to raise their voices on such issues based on General Convention’s resolutions on immigration policy.
“Most of the individuals in the caravan are asylum seekers and are fleeing dangerous and unstable conditions,” the Office of Government Relations said in an October fact sheet on the Central American migrants. “The U.S. has a responsibility to respond to those seeking asylum in a humanitarian way that complies with international law. Deterring asylum seekers or turning them back is unlawful and inhumane.”
The fact sheet also says detention is “not the solution.”
“Compassion – not brutality – will help people fleeing violence now and prevent others from needing to flee,” the office said. “When someone fears for their life or the lives of their family members, cruel tactics like detention or family separation will not work. We should respond in an orderly, sensible and compassionate manner to these families.”
Damus also was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that contested the Trump administration’s detention policies. A judge ruled in July that detainees like Damus could not continue to be held arbitrarily after clearing certain hurdles in the asylum process, and the government must conduct case-by-case reviews to determine if “humanitarian parole” is warranted, according to an NPR report.
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[Anglican Communion News Service] The Diocese of Jerusalem’s rehabilitation center for children with disabilities has secured its second consecutive audit from the Joint Commission International Accreditation. The Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre, on the Mount of Olives, provides a structured program of holistic care for Palestinian children from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. In December 2015 it received its first three-year accreditation, becoming the first – and to date, the only – Palestinian rehabilitation center to receive such international accreditation. It has now completed its second audit, gaining accreditation for the next three years.
Read the full article here.
[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of Ahoada Clement Ekpeye has been abducted from his home in Nigeria’s Rivers State by unknown gunmen. The assailants stormed the Bishop’s Court residence in the Ahoada East local government area around on Dec. 18. Deputy Superintendent Nnamdi Omoni of Rivers State Police said that officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad were leading the investigation and search for Bishop Clement.
Read the full article here.
[Episcopal News Service] La Iglesia Episcopal ha oído al obispo primado Michael Curry anunciar el mensaje del incondicional amor de Dios desde que fuera electo en julio de 2015. En mayo, su mensaje se hizo global y viral cuando predicó en la boda real del príncipe Harry y Meghan Markle, y ahora eso le ha ganado el título de “creador de noticias religiosas del año”.
La Asociación de Noticias de Religión dijo que el sermón de Curry había “realzado su imagen como una voz religiosa progresista”.
Eso podría entenderse. La imagen de Curry, más allá de la Iglesia Episcopal, comenzó a despegar en el momento en que se anunció su participación en la boda del 19 de mayo. Abundaron los artículos que intentaban responder a la pregunta “¿quién es Michael Curry?
Luego, él subió al ambón de la capilla de San Jorge [St. George’s], y comenzó a predicar. Según las estadísticas de los medios de prensa, 29,2 millones de personas en Estados Unidos y 18 millones en el Reino Unido vieron la boda. Y luego estuvo Twitter, donde 3,4 millones de usuarios de esa red social enviaron mensajes acerca de la boda real. Enviaron 40.000 mensajes por minuto durante el sermón de Curry, más que los 27.000 por minuto [que enviaron] durante la declaración de Harry y Meghan como marido y mujer.
Ese día, “el obispo Michael Curry” fue un “tema popular” de primera línea en Google, con una puntuación de 100 en una escala de 0 a 100 para las búsquedas diarias, y “episcopal” estuvo en el tope de las búsquedas en el [diccionario] Merriam-Webster.
Top lookups, in order: episcopal, quire, asunder, prebendary, pomp and circumstance, duchess #RoyalWedding
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) May 19, 2018
Hubo incluso una parodia del Obispo Primado en el programa Saturday Night Live esa noche, una de las pocas veces que el show ha incluido a un líder religioso vivo.
Desde entonces, Curry ha combinado sus viajes regulares a través de la Iglesia Episcopal con una ronda de entrevistas en los medios para continuar predicando el mensaje del amor incondicional. Ha sido un remolino, que va desde múltiples comparecencias en The Today Show a The View hasta NPR y más. Las comprimieron dentro de un programa ya cargado de viajes dentro de la Iglesia Episcopal y sus comparecencias más públicas tales como un oficio de oración y una procesión de testimonio público en Washington, D.C., la participación el 5 de diciembre en los funerales de George H. W. Bush y el 11 de diciembre en la conmemoración de la misión del Apolo 8.
En estos días, le resulta difícil a Curry andar por una calle o por un aeropuerto sin ser reconocido y abordado, pero es un fenómeno que él aprecia.
“Estoy sorprendido por toda la atención [que he suscitado] después de la boda real”, dijo Curry recientemente en la serie “Voices” de The Today Show , al reflexionar sobre lo que el programa llamó “su momento viral y de celebridad recién descubierta”.
“En verdad yo no esperaba eso”, dijo Curry. “Pero lo que más me ha sorprendido ha sido que lo que resonó fue el mensaje del amor. Quiero decir, yo lo pronuncié. Pero fue realmente el mensaje del amor. Es para hablar de eso que la gente me para en la calle o en el aeropuerto —después de que nos tomamos el selfie, desde luego”.
Nancy Davidge, encargada de Asuntos Públicos de la Iglesia Episcopal, le dijo a Episcopal News Service que Curry era “indudablemente una de las voces religiosas más potentes de 2018” que tocaba profundamente a cristianos y no cristianos. “Su mensaje de amor trasciende las divisiones y las controversias políticas y conmueve profundamente a millones”, afirmó ella.
“En un año cuando las principales noticias religiosas fueron sobre profundo sufrimiento y desesperación, el mensaje de amor del obispo primado Curry motivó a millones de personas. Si bien algunos sólo le conocen como ‘el predicador de la boda’, su mensaje tocó profundamente a muchos. Como el obispo Curry nos recuerda, si no parece amor, no se parece a Cristo”.
Durante 2018, dijo Davidge, el Obispo Primado amasó una potencial audiencia global de más de 17.000 millones y generó 9.700 menciones en los medios, incluidos todos los principales medios de prensa en Estados Unidos. Esto generó cerca de 17.000 millones de visitantes por mes online y una audiencia de prensa escrita y de teledifusión de alrededor de 131 millones, añadió.
Esas cifras se mantienen creciendo. El Obispo Primado está programado para comparecer en los noticiarios de la mañana de Navidad de ABC, CBS y NBC. También está programado para estar en el Show del Dr. Oz el 21 de diciembre.
Unos dos meses después de la boda real, Curry anunció que tenía cáncer de próstata y se tomó unas seis semanas de descanso para lo que resultó una cirugía y un tratamiento exitosos.
En octubre, Avery, un sello editorial de Penguin Random House, publicó el poder del amor: sermones, reflexiones y sabiduría para elevar e inspirar [The Power of Love: Sermons, Reflections, and Wisdom to Uplift and Inspire], el cual incluye el sermón de la boda real, tres de los sermones de Curry en eventos de la Convención General el verano pasado, y el sermón que predicó en su instalación el 2 de noviembre de 2015. “El mundo ha conocido al obispo Curry y se ha sentido conmovido por su mensaje fascinante, esperanzador y aparentemente sencillo: el amor y la aceptación es lo que necesitamos en estos tiempos insólitos”, dice el editor en la descripción que hace [del libro] en la red.
Los miembros de Religion News Association han participado durante décadas en la votación anual. La RNA es una asociación internacional de periodistas que escriben sobre religión en los medios de prensa. Ofrece adiestramiento y herramientas para ayudar a reporteros a informar sobre religión con equilibrio, precisión y conocimiento.
Siguiendo a Curry en una reñida carrera por el segundo y tercer lugares de los creadores de noticias del año estaban el famoso evangelista Billy Graham, que murió este año a la edad de 99, y el rabino de Pittsburgh Jeffrey Myers, que surgió como una voz de lamentación y paz luego del atentado a tiros en la [sinagoga] Árbol de la Vida.
Los otros cuatro creadores de noticias fueron Rachael Denhollander, que emergió como abierta defensora de las víctimas de conducta sexual impropia en las iglesias y cuya declaración de impacto de la víctima —en que equilibraba la justicia y el perdón— en la vista de sentencia del pedófilo Dr. Larry Nassar se tornó viral; el arzobispo Carlo Maria Viganò, que sacudió a la Iglesia Católica con las acaloradas y debatidas opiniones de que el papa Francisco había encubierto el abuso sexual y que debía renunciar; el magistrado del Tribunal Supremo Brett Kavanaugh, que suscitó el firme apoyo de religiosos conservadores en una confirmación dominada por una explosiva acusación de intento de violación cuando era adolescente convirtiéndose en un caso emblemático del movimiento #MeToo; y Bill Hybels, pionero de la megaiglesia, que se jubiló temprano de la Iglesia Comunitaria de Willow Creek en medio de acusaciones de conducta sexual impropia.
La encuesta también clasificó las primeras 27 noticias religiosas del año. El informe del gran jurado de Pensilvania en que acusaba a 301 sacerdotes católicos de abusar sexualmente al menos de 1.000 menores encabezaba la lista, y la encuesta advierte que los sondeos del Departamento de Justicia de EE.UU. y otros estados comenzaron a raíz de esa noticia. El cardenal Donald Wuerl, cuestionado por su anterior papel como obispo de Pittsburgh, renunció como arzobispo de Washington debido al informe.
Religion Newsmaker of the Year honors went to Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, whose sermon at this year’s royal wedding "stole the show," according to the British press, and raised his profile as a progressive religious voice. https://t.co/lKvM8FLflB pic.twitter.com/MunLmSo6Rm
— Religion News Association (@ReligionReport) December 14, 2018
– La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es redactora sénior y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.
The post Nombran al Obispo Primado creador de noticias religiosas del año appeared first on Episcopal News Service.
La peregrinación a El Paso arroja una ‘luz de verdad’ sobre la crisis humanitaria de los migrantes en la frontera
[Episcopal News Service – El Paso, Texas] El Servicio de Inmigración y Aduana de EE.UU. entrega semanalmente dos mil personas a la hospitalidad de la Casa de la Anunciación [Annunciation House] aquí en El Paso.
Muchas de ellas son familias que han esperado su turno del otro lado de la frontera y solicitan asilo. Si la Casa de la Anunciación tuviera espacio para 2.500, serían 2.500, dijo su fundador y director, Rubén García.
Los asilados reciben alimento, cama, útiles de aseo, un paquete de atención, acceso a una ducha y ayuda para ponerse en contacto con parientes a fin de preparar su viaje. En el transcurso de 48 horas, los instalan en autobuses o aviones para que se reúnan con miembros de sus familias en otras partes de Estados Unidos.
“La gran mayoría de la gente tiene a alguien”, dijo García.
En su mayoría, vienen de El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras; pero algunos vienen de Nicaragua, Brasil, Cuba, Venezuela, incluso hasta de la India. Algunos huyen de la violencia, algunos vienen en busca de oportunidades económicas, otros escapan de la persecución, religiosa o de otro tipo.
El 13 de diciembre, unas 30 personas en representación de grandes congregaciones episcopales, urbanas y suburbanas, se reunieron en Texas Sudoccidental para lo que llamaron una “Peregrinación a El Paso”. El Rdo. Gary Jones, rector de la iglesia de San Esteban [St. Stephen’s] en Richmond, Virginia, inició la peregrinación motivado por el deseo de contrarrestar una opinión que denigra a los solicitantes de asilo como narcotraficantes y violadores, cuando de hecho huyen para salvar sus vidas y en busca de medios de subsistencia.
La primera escala de la peregrinación fue la Casa de la Anunciación, donde los participantes escucharon un informe de García, que ha trabajado en la frontera durante 40 años presenciando y respondiendo a diferentes oleadas de migrantes y refugiados a lo largo de ese tiempo.
“El fenómeno de los refugiados no es un problema de El Paso, es un problema de EE.UU.”, dijo García.
“Ahora mismo, debido a la aplicación de [la política migratoria de] EE.UU., estamos presenciando cambios que hacen la vida miserable”, afirmó. “La frontera se ha convertido en un lugar muy complicado”.
Cuando Casa de la Anunciación comenzó su ministerio hace 40 años, servía fundamentalmente a hombres que venían a Estados Unidos para el trabajo estacional, regresaban a casa para estar con sus familias y luego volvían a trabajar. En 1996, cuando el último cambio legislativo en la ley de inmigración hizo imposible entrar y salir, los hombres ya no podían regresar a sus hogares y en lugar de eso se quedaron.
“Una vez que toman la decisión de quedarse, pierden a la familia”, explicó García.
Con el cambio de la ley migratoria de mediados de los años 90, la población indocumentada aumentó de 6 millones a 12 millones para 2004, ya que los hombres procuraban la reunificación familiar y las mujeres y los niños empezaron a llegar. En la actualidad, hay 11 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados en Estados Unidos, algunos de los cuales han estado viviendo clandestinamente de 20 a 30 años, dijo él.
A su llegada, los migrantes y solicitantes de asilo deben presentarles sus casos a agentes en los puntos de entrada designados o saltar muros y cruzar ríos para presentarles sus casos una vez arrestados a los agentes del Servicio de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza de EE.UU. o CBP (por su sigla en inglés), explicó García.
Hace un par de semanas, unos solicitantes de asilo estaban durmiendo en el puente para no perder su lugar en la cola, ya que sólo dejan entrar a 20 personas a un tiempo. Luego, en un esfuerzo por despejar el puente, el CBP comenzó a dar números que escribían con marcadores indelebles en los brazos de los solicitantes de asilo para controlar su lugar en la cola, dijo él.
De allí, los envían a los albergues de Ciudad Juárez, justo del otro lado de la frontera, para que esperen su turno.
Los peregrinos episcopales llegaron a El Paso en el preciso momento en que daban la noticia de la muerte de una niña guatemalteca de 7 años en internamiento administrativo de la Patrulla Fronteriza de EE.UU., al día siguiente de que ella, su padre y otros 161 migrantes se entregaran a los agentes luego de ingresar ilegalmente en Nuevo México. Las circunstancias de la muerte de la niña siguen sujetas a investigación.
Para los peregrinos, sin embargo, era un patente recordatorio del peligroso viaje que enfrentan los migrantes y solicitantes de asilo, así como del anticuado sistema de inmigración de EE.UU. y de la respuesta del gobierno de Trump a la actual crisis humanitaria en la frontera sudoccidental. El gobierno ha enviado al menos 8.000 soldados a la frontera en un intento de detener la entrada. No obstante, los migrantes siguen llegando en caravanas.
“Quería ver con mis propios ojos lo que estaba pasando”, dijo el Ven. Juan Sandoval, arcediano de la Diócesis de Atlanta, un mexicoamericano de tercera generación que creció en Phoenix.
“Parecería que en lugar de soldados, deberían enviarse gente de iglesia y cooperantes, personas que pudieran ayudar”, afirmó.
Es ahí donde intervienen las iglesias. En su mayoría, la hospitalidad proviene de las iglesias de El Paso, a la vanguardia de las cuales está la Iglesia Católica Romana y la Casa de la Anunciación. Algunos solicitantes de asilo reciben asistencia jurídica de organizaciones como el Centro de Defensa del Inmigrante “Las América” [Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center] la segunda escala en el trayecto de los peregrinos.
Allí, Cristina García, que ofrece asesoría legal, explicó la complejidad de la reunificación familiar, la cual puede tomar de 20 a 30 años, dependiendo de las cuotas de EE.UU. y del país de origen, y la dificultad en ganar casos de asilo. Su agencia, dijo ella, ganó seis casos de asilo en seis años y, en un triunfo importante, siete en lo que va de año.
La crisis actual, explicó ella “es deshumanizante en todos los aspectos e ignora el derecho humanitario al acceso”. Ella dijo también que El Paso, Atlanta y el estado de Arizona son los lugares más difíciles para obtener asilo, y en el Paso, como en el resto de Estados Unidos, los jueces toman decisiones arbitrarias caso por caso.
De allí [los peregrinos] siguieron a la iglesia de San Cristóbal [St. Christopher’s], una de las cinco iglesias episcopales de El Paso y la más cercana a la frontera, que dirige el Rdo. J. J. Bernal. El Rdo. Paul Moore, que preside el Ministerio Fronterizo de la Diócesis de Río Grande, proporcionó un panorama de la situación actual en lo que se refiere a Centro América, hablando acerca del fracaso de la economía de goteo, la política exterior de EE.UU. como se ha relacionado históricamente con Centroamérica, la deportación de los miembros de las pandillas, los problemas de seguridad a través del Triángulo Norte, [y] los cárteles de las drogas, asociados a la violencia y al apetito de Estados Unidos por las drogas.
A través del Triángulo Norte de América Central, una región que incluye El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras, más de 700.000 personas han sido desplazadas por la violencia. Sin embargo, se trata de un fenómeno global que afecta ahora a una cifra récord de 68,5 millones de personas en todo el mundo.
La peregrinación siguió a una Cumbre de Ministerios de la Frontera organizada por Moore y que se tuvo lugar aquí en noviembre.
El 14 de diciembre, los peregrinos salieron para Ciudad Juárez, algunos en automóviles y otros valiéndose de accesos peatonales a lo largo de los tres puentes que conectan las dos ciudades. En Juárez, el Rdo. Héctor Trejo, que llegó hace seis meses de Chihuahua, la capital del estado de Chihuahua, los llevó en autobús a dos de las tres parroquias anglicanas.
San José, está localizada junto a la frontera en Rancho Anapra, un poblado pobre en el lado noroeste de la ciudad, un área dedicada anteriormente a la cría de ganado donde se establecieron ocupantes ilegales y que los cárteles de la droga han infiltrado.
“Debido a que aquí la gente no tiene derechos de propiedad, se convirtió en un lugar para elementos delincuenciales”, dijo Trejo. “Hay casas de seguridad, y es un centro del movimiento de narcotraficantes y tratantes de personas.
“El reto aquí es grande”, añadió, diciendo que los miembros de la comunidad acuden a él por consejo sobre cómo franquear el muro [fronterizo] porque temen por sus vidas.
Fue algo de lo que Bernal, el rector de San Cristóbal en el Paso, se ha hecho eco. La Iglesia Episcopal, dijo él, necesita articular y establecer una visión para su ministerio en la frontera.
“La Iglesia Episcopal es una voz para los que no tienen voz”, afirmó. “Aquellos de nosotros aquí en la frontera nos sentimos aislados. Necesitamos más voces activas y más recursos humanos”.
A través de su Ministerio Fronterizo, la Diócesis de Río Grande busca expandir su ministerio, dijo Moore.
Y eso, explicó él, debe asumir la forma de un ministerio en la base dirigido por los que están en el terreno mediante asociaciones basadas en el respeto mutuo, no en el patriarcado.
El último día de la peregrinación del 13 al 15 de diciembre, dos autos repletos de peregrinos partieron para Tornillo, Texas, el sitio de un campamento que se abrió para albergar a 360 menores no acompañados y que ahora alberga a 2.700. Ellos no pudieron llegar al campamento pues, tal como los agentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza les dijeron, se trata de una propiedad privada, pero lograron acercarse lo más posible y se reunieron en una cerca para orar por los niños retenidos allí: por su seguridad, por sus afligidos padres y por su futuro.
“Me alegro realmente de que fuéramos al campamento —no lo llamaré albergue, no es un albergue—, es un campo de concentración para niños”, dijo el [Muy] Rdo. Stephen Carlsen, deán y rector de la iglesia catedral de Cristo en Indianápolis. “Sentí que necesitaba presenciar lo que estaban haciendo en nuestro nombre como estadounidenses.
“No puedo imaginar lo que sería si la frontera de EE.UU. es tu última esperanza… la manera en que las personas son [mal]tratadas y deshumanizadas. Si esta es su última esperanza, ¿de qué deben ellos huir?”
– Lynette Wilson es reportera y jefa de redacción de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.