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Episcopalians across the country respond to federal shutdown’s impact

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 6:16pm

[Episcopal News Service] As the effects of the longest federal government shutdown in United States history ripple across the country, many Episcopalians are feeling the economic pinch even as others try to help their neighbors cope.

“I understand what’s at stake. I understand that it is bigger than just my paycheck but, it is my paycheck,” Episcopalian Christopher Dwyer, a veteran who works for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, told NBC News’ Lester Holt on Jan. 10.

Dwyer, who is a member of Christ Church Bloomfield Glen Ridge and a seminarian at Drew Theological School in Madison, New Jersey, told Holt that he soon might have to find other work, saying his unemployment insurance will eventually run out. (While rules vary by state, unemployment benefits generally pay a percentage of the recipient’s salary and federal workers will reportedly have to repay their benefits if they receive back pay.)

From school tuition deferrals to free firewood to anxiety support groups, the responses run the gamut in Washington, D.C., neighborhoods, on Native American reservations and in seaside communities.

The reservations are among the hardest-hit because of their dependence on federal aid of all sorts. That dependence was enshrined centuries ago in treaties between tribes and the U.S. government in which the tribes gave up huge territories for many guarantees, including money for services like health care and education. The Bureau of Indian Affairs provides those services, either directly or through grants to 567 federally recognized tribes. All told, about 1.9 million American Indian and Alaska Natives are impacted.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe Chairman Rodney Bordeaux has said that 74 percent of the tribe’s budget revenue is federal money. Bordeaux and other tribal leaders plan to go to Washington this week to meet with lawmakers.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley, superintending presbyter of the Rosebud Episcopal Mission (West) in South Dakota and the Rev. John Floberg, priest-in-charge on the North Dakota side of the Standing Rock Episcopal Mission, both told Episcopal News Service that the tribal governments are considering shutting down parts of their operations because they lack federal grant money.

Stanley said she is getting calls asking for help with electric bills and for propane. The local electric co-op is working with furloughed federal workers, but other reservation residents are getting desperate, she said. That is where the mission’s Firewood for the Elders program comes in. Stanley said South Dakota temperatures have been “okay”; it was 38 degrees the afternoon of Jan. 14, but snow is forecast for Jan. 18 with an expected high of 17. Stanley said the program is giving out wood not just to older tribal members but to any families affected by the shutdown and to furloughed workers.

People are worried about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP or EBT as it is known on the Rosebud Reservation. Recipients’ January benefits were available on Jan. 10 and it has been announced that February money will be put in people’s accounts on Jan. 20. Stanley said she worries that some people will not budget out that money to last through the end of February.

While the USDA has said its Commodity Supplemental Food Program will make its planned February deliveries, Stanley said a lot of the food isn’t arriving and recipients are getting rainchecks to redeem when it does arrive.

“The Rosebud Episcopal Mission is committed to helping those most in need,” Stanley told ENS.

And, people across the country have been asking her how they can help, offering donations of material goods, money and gifts cards. Stanley is telling people that money and gift cards are best because each family has different needs.

The partial government shutdown entered its 24th day on Jan. 14, making it the longest in U. S. history, as Congress and President Donald Trump remain at a loggerheads over his demands for billions of dollars for a wall on the southern border. On this record-setting day, Trump rejected a suggestion that he allow the government to temporarily reopen while negotiations continued about border security.

About 800,000 federal employees, more than half of whom are still working, did not get paid on Jan. 11. Congress has sent Trump a bill to give those workers back pay once the shutdown ends. The president has said he would sign it.

Such promises, however, do not help furloughed workers’ cash flow now and so Episcopalians are stepping up. For example, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School in Washington, D.C., told parents on Jan. 7, the day that school resumed after the Christmas holidays, that parents who are federal employees or contractors and having difficulty paying tuition and fees can defer those payments without late fees. They will have to set up a repayment plan later.

Head of School Peter A. Barrett told ENS Jan. 14 that many Episcopal schools are no doubt finding themselves in similar situations, especially in the Washington area.

For some federal employees, the needs are more basic. Lord’s Pantry, a ministry of St. James Episcopal Church in New London, Connecticut, Eleanor Godfrey told a local television news station that the pantry was waiting to help.

“This is probably the best place to come to get food. I certainly hope the people who are involved in this shutdown don’t become prideful because St. James we’re here for you and we want you to come down here,” said Godfrey, the pantry’s manager.

Above 7,000 federal employees work in Connecticut and the federal government is a major employer in the southeastern part of the state where New London is located on Long Island Sound. New London is home to the Coast Guard Academy. Coast Guard employees are furloughed because they are part of the Department of Homeland Security, one of the departments effected by the partial shutdown.

The pantry is getting the word out via social media as well.

The Community Soup Kitchen at Christ Church Episcopal in New Haven, Connecticut, is telling furloughed workers they are welcome. “St. Paul tells us in scripture that the laborer deserves to be paid. And we hope that the government will reopen and workers who are working will be paid,” the Rev. Stephen Holton told a local NBC television station. “Everyone deserves a meal, and this is a place where you can receive it. Come and come and be fed. Come and be fed together,” he said.

In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Jackson Cupboard, a food pantry at St. John’s Episcopal Church is partnering with Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies to host a special mobile food pantry on Jan. 15.

When 4Saints Episcopal Food Pantry posted the announcement below, it was shared 25 times, an unusual amount for the pantry, leading Director Judy Cariker to think there’s a need out there.

Meanwhile, down in Georgia, the Very Rev. Alexis Chase, vicar of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Atlanta, took to Facebook Jan. 14 to offer “furloughed friends” the chance for some comfort.

“Furlough Bible Study” is just one of the ways that St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in northwest Washington, D.C., is trying to help. The Bible study for

“those with unexpected time in your day and a desire to gather with fellow sojourners” begins Jan. 16. On that same day, St. Columba’s Mother’s Group will host a professionally led conversation with practical advice about how to manage anxiety and its impact.

“Some of you have told me that, even though you’ve lived through government shutdowns in the past, this time feels particularly scary,” the Rev. Ledlie Laughlin, St. Columba’s rector, told the congregation on Jan. 9. “Others have told me that you’re scrambling to figure out your finances, calculating the toll on your savings in the absence of a paycheck. This is a time to come together, to take care of one another, and to take care of our neighbors.”

Laughlin said prayer ought to be Episcopalians’ first response. St. Columba’s is including all affected by the shutdown in its Sunday and daily prayers.

(Province II of The Episcopal Church has offered “A Litany for those affected by the government shutdown” here. http://www.province2.org/litany—shutdown.html)

St. Columba’s is also “crowdsourcing and identifying resources” for people who may be facing hardship for the first time and do not know where assistance is available for food or other necessities, he said.

And, Laughlin urged parishioners who need financial help to contact him and he also asked those who “have enough to help someone else” to be in touch with him.

The Episcopal Church is also responding with advocacy in Washington. Its Office of Government Relations has called for an end to the shutdown, saying that “shutting down our government is a failure of leadership and recognition of the responsibility that comes with being an elected official.”

“The government shutdown has far-reaching implications for our country as it impacts the livelihoods of federal employees and their families; as well as of those relying on federal support for food, housing, medical services, and more; and, the vital government services such as airport security, mortgage and student loan processing, and a wide suite of services the federal government is responsible for delivering in Native American communities,” the office said in a Jan. 9 statement.

Basing its comments on church policy as set by General Convention, OGR said Congress and the Administration need to work together to address legitimate security needs, to ensure the government’s legal responsibility to process asylum seekers, treat all migrants with humanity and respect, and enact policies to address root causes and help alleviate the conditions that drive forced migration in Central and South America.

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

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Queen Elizabeth honors former Mothers’ Union Worldwide President Lynne Tembey

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 3:03pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The former worldwide president of the Mothers’ Union, Lynne Tembey, is to be awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE). The award is part of Britain’s system of honours and is presented by the Queen or a senior member of the royal family acting in her place. The announcement of the award was one of a number made as part of the annual New Year’s Honous list published by the United Kingdom government. Last year, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby honored Tembey with the Cross of St Augustine, ahead of her retirement at the end of 2018.

Read the entire article here.

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Archbishop of Canterbury cautions against political mood over UK’s Brexit debate

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 3:01pm

[Anglican Communion News Service]  Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has spoken out against an increase in personal attacks and threats in the midst of the United Kingdom’s debate about its withdrawal from the European Union (EU). Speaking in the House of Lords – the upper house of the UK Parliament – this week, Welby said that “the most serious and visible aspect is the personalised nature of the threats outside the House against Members of the [House of Commons] especially, whether personally, online or by other means.”

Read the entire article here.

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Respuesta del Obispo Primado a la Carta Pastoral y Directriz del obispo William Love del 10 de noviembre de 2018

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 11:51am

Después de amplia consulta con el liderazgo de la Iglesia Episcopal y continuas discusiones tanto con el Rvdmo. William Love de la Diócesis Episcopal de Albany como con el Comité Permanente de la Diócesis Episcopal de Albany, el obispo primado Michael Curry ha dictado la siguiente Restricción sobre el Ministerio del obispo Love:

Oficina del Obispo Primado

Restricción parcial sobre el ministerio de un obispo
El Rvdmo. William H. Love, Obispo de Albany

En las últimas semanas, he sabido de —y he analizado— una Carta Pastoral y una Directriz Pastoral a su diócesis emitida por el obispo Love de la Diócesis de Albany el 10 de noviembre de 2018, respecto a la continua aceptación de la Iglesia del uso de un rito experimental para la celebración de matrimonios de parejas del mismo sexo en la Iglesia en conformidad con la Resolución B012 de la Convención General en 2018. Copias de la declaración del obispo Love y de la Resolución B012 pueden encontrarse aquí y aquí. En esa declaración, el obispo Love expresa su creencia de que el matrimonio de parejas del mismo sexo es contrario a la Escritura y a la “enseñanza oficial” de esta Iglesia y en consecuencia instruye que los matrimonios de parejas del mismo sexo no pueden ser celebrados por ningún clérigo que resida canónicamente en su diócesis o que tenga licencia [para ejercer en ella], y exige pleno acatamiento al Canon XVI de la Diócesis de Albany que prohíbe al mismo clero de “oficiar en”, “facilitar” o “participar en” tales matrimonios; prohíbe el reconocimiento de tales matrimonios en esa diócesis y prohíbe el uso de la propiedad de la Iglesia como el sitio de tales matrimonios.

Luego de sostener discusiones con el obispo Love,  emití un comunicado en respuesta parcial el 12 de noviembre de 2018, una copia del cual se encuentra aquí. Representantes de mi oficina se han reunido desde entonces con miembros del Comité Permanente y con el Canciller de la Diócesis de Albany.

Estos documentos y discusiones constituyen la base de la decisión temporal que ahora tomo respecto al ministerio del obispo Love como Obispo de Albany. Si bien estoy persuadido de la sinceridad y buena voluntad del obispo Love en estas difíciles circunstancias, estoy convencido de que la intención de la Convención General fue que la Resolución B012 fuese obligatoria y vinculante para todas nuestras diócesis, particularmente a la luz de su disposición de que un obispo diocesano “que sostenga una posición teológica que no acepte el matrimonio para [tales] parejas” y confrontado por el deseo de una pareja del mismo sexo de casarse en la diócesis de ese obispo, “invitará, según sea necesario, a otro obispo de esta Iglesia a brindarle apoyo pastoral a la pareja, al miembro del clero que participe y a la congregación o comunidad de culto a fin de cumplir con la intención de esta resolución de que todas las parejas tengan un conveniente y razonable acceso congregacional local a estos ritos”. Estoy por tanto persuadido de que, como Obispo Primado estoy llamado a tomar medidas para garantizar que el matrimonio de parejas del mismo sexo en la Iglesia Episcopal está a disposición de todas las personas en la misma capacidad y bajo las mismas condiciones en todas las diócesis de la Iglesia donde el matrimonio de personas del mismo sexo es legal conforme al derecho civil.

Reconozco que la conducta del obispo Love a este respecto puede constituir un delito canónico conforme al Canon IV.4(1)(c) (“cumplir con las promesas y votos hechos durante la ordenación”) y al Canon IV.4(1)(h)(9) (“cualquier conducta impropia de un clérigo”), y que [pruebas de] esa conducta se le ha[n] remitido al Rvdmo. Todd Ousley, Obispo para el Desarrollo Pastoral and Gestor para asuntos disciplinarios concerniente a los obispos. En consecuencia, a fin de proteger la integridad de la norma y el proceso disciplinario de la Iglesia y, por ende, el buen estado y bienestar de la Iglesia, y en conformidad con  los Cánones IV.7(3), (4), y IV.17(2), impongo por la presente la siguiente restricción parcial al ejercicio del ministerio del obispo Love:

Durante el período de esta restricción, al obispo Love, actuando individualmente,
o como obispo diocesano, o en cualquier otra función, le está prohibido
participar en manera alguna en el proceso disciplinario de la Iglesia en la
Diócesis de Albany en cualquier asunto tocante a cualquier miembro del clero
que implique la cuestión del matrimonio de parejas del mismo sexo.

Ni participará en ningún otro asunto que tenga o pueda tener el efecto de penar
de alguna manera a cualquier miembro del clero o del laicado o a una
congregación de culto de su diócesis por su participación en las disposiciones o
participación en un matrimonio de personas del mismo sexo en su diócesis o en
cualquier otra parte.

Esta restricción entra en vigor inmediatamente y se mantendrá hasta que se resuelva cualquier asunto del Título IV pendiente contra el obispo Love. En el ínterin, yo o quien me suceda, de extenderse este asunto después de mi mandato, revisaremos periódicamente la continua necesidad de esta restricción y la enmendaremos o levantaremos según proceda.

Este documento se le presentará al obispo Love en el día de hoy y por la presente se le informa de su derecho a presentar cualesquier objeciones a esta restricción en conformidad con el Canon IV.7.

(Rvdmo.) Michael Bruce Curry
XXVII Obispo Primado de la Iglesia Episcopal

Fechada:  11 de enero de 2019

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Albany bishop is barred from punishing priests for same-sex marriages, faces disciplinary review

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 10:33am

Bishop William Love of the Diocese of Albany tells General Convention on July 11 during the House of Bishops debate on liturgical marriage-equality Resolution B012 that passing the measure would force him to violate his ordination vows. Photo: Episcopal Church video

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has temporarily restricted part of Diocese of Albany Bishop William Love’s ministry because of Love’s refusal to allow same-sex marriages even after General Convention mandated liturgical marriage equality in the church’s U.S. dioceses.

Love is “forbidden from participating in any matter regarding any member of the clergy that involves the issue of same-sex marriage,” Curry said in a document released Jan. 11. The restriction applies both to the Episcopal Church’s formal Title IV disciplinary process and to any action “that has or may have the effect of penalizing in any way any member of the clergy or laity or worshipping congregation of his diocese for their participation in the arrangements for or participation in a same-sex marriage in his diocese or elsewhere.”

The restriction appears to enable Episcopal Church clergy in the upstate New York diocese to solemnize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples, something Love steadfastly refused to allow.

Curry also said Love’s conduct surrounding the issue “may constitute a canonical offense,” namely for violating his ordination vows and for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. The presiding bishop has referred Love’s refusal to obey convention’s Resolution 2018-B012 to the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, the church’s bishop for pastoral development and intake officer for disciplinary matters involving bishops. In the church’s Title IV disciplinary process, an intake officer’s role is to obtain as much information as possible about the alleged misconduct, short of a full investigation. His or her key goal is to decide whether or not the facts presented, if any were true, would constitute an “offense” under the canons.

Bishop William Love has led the Diocese of Albany for 12 years. Photo: Diocese of Albany

The restriction on Love will remain in effect until any Title IV process pending against him is resolved, Curry said. The presiding bishop added that he, or the next presiding bishop if the process extends beyond the November 2024 end of his term, will “review the continued necessity of this restriction from time to time and amend or lift it as appropriate.”

“While I am persuaded of the sincerity and good will of Bishop Love in these difficult circumstances, I am convinced that Resolution B012 was intended by the Convention to be mandatory and binding upon all our dioceses,” Curry wrote.

He said that, as presiding bishop, “I am called upon to take steps to ensure that same-sex marriage in the Episcopal Church is available to all persons to the same extent and under the same conditions in all dioceses of the church where same-sex marriage is civilly legal.”

Love was out of the office conducting a funeral service on Jan. 11 and not immediately available to comment for this story, diocesan communications officer Meaghan Keegan told Episcopal News Service by email. “He will be issuing a statement in the coming days,” she wrote.

The dispute arose when Love said Nov. 10 that he would not allow same-sex couples to be married by priests in the Diocese of Albany. He acknowledged that he could face disciplinary proceedings by the church for refusing to obey convention’s requirement.

Shortly after Love released his pastoral letter, Curry 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.” Curry said in his Jan. 11 statement that he spoke with Love and consulted with a broad range of Episcopal Church leaders before reaching his decision.

How the actions of General Convention led to this decision

General Convention in 2015 authorized two marriage rites for trial use (via Resolution A054) by both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The bishops and deputies also made the canonical definition (via Resolution A036) of marriage gender-neutral.

A054 said that the bishops of the church’s domestic dioceses needed to give their permission for the rites to be used. (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.) A054 says that, even if opposed same-sex marriage, all bishops “will make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have access to these liturgies.”

There was widespread acceptance of the rites across the church. However, eight diocesan bishops in the 101 domestic dioceses did not authorized their use. They were Love, Central Florida Bishop Greg Brewer, Dallas Bishop George Sumner, Florida Bishop John Howard, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, Springfield Bishop Dan Martins, Tennessee Bishop John Bauerschmidt and Virgin Islands Bishop Ambrose Gumbs.

The eight bishops required that couples wanting to use the rites be married outside their dioceses and away from their home churches. Some bishops, including Love, refused to allow priests in their diocese to use the rites anywhere.

Last July, convention attempted to remedy to the situation by passing the often-rewritten and often-amended Resolution B012, which went into effect on the First Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2. Bishops and deputies moved the authority for deciding to use the rites from the diocesan bishop to parish priests. B012 said 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 eight bishops have interpreted B012 as requiring – or allowing them to require – the involvement of another bishop.

Love, who has refused to honor B012 at all, made his opposition to it clear during General Convention. In a House of Bishops debate on July 11, Love spoke for nearly 10 minutes, despite being told that he was exceeding the agreed-to two-minute individual limit. He said the passage of B012 would put him in the awkward position of violating of his ordination vows because its intent goes against the word of God found in Scripture, which ordained Episcopalians vow to uphold. “There has been a lot of discussion as we have struggled with this issue over the past several years on whether or not sexual intimacy within that of a same-sex couple was appropriate,” he said.

“There are many in this church who have proclaimed that it is and that this is a new thing that the Holy Spirit is revealing and that the Episcopal Church is being prophetic in putting this forward, and ultimately the rest of the body of Christ will come to understand that.”

He said he did not believe “that that’s necessarily true.”

Love added that the church has listened to people’s personal experiences and to their “feelings, their emotions, but we have not had an honest look at what God has said about this issue and how best to help people who find themselves in same-sex relationships.”

Love argued in his eight-page pastoral letter from November that obeying B012 would cause him to destroy rather than “guard the faith, unity and discipline of the church,” as he and all bishops vow to do during their ordination and consecration. In addition to that vow, all ordained Episcopalians pledge to “conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.”

Love said that while he respects the authority of General Convention “as an institutional body,” his “ultimate loyalty as a bishop in God’s holy Church is to God.”

He also argued that obeying Resolution B012 would require him to violate his vow to uphold the Albany canons, one of which (Canon XVI here) forbids diocesan clergy from officiating, participating or facilitating same-sex marriages in public or in private. “Unions other than those of one man and one woman in Holy Matrimony, even if they be recognized in other jurisdictions, shall be neither recognized nor blessed in this diocese,” the canon says.

At the end of his letter, Love said that “until further notice” the trial rites authorized by Resolution B012 “shall not be used anywhere in the Diocese of Albany by diocesan clergy (canonically resident or licensed).”

As the diocese awaited the presiding bishop’s decision, 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.

Meanwhile, in the other seven dioceses

Love is the only one of the church’s 101 domestic diocesan bishops who is flatly refusing to conform to B012. Gumbs, the only one of the eight who previously refused to allow use of the rites, has now told his clergy to offer them without further obstacles.

Central Florida and Dallas, like Albany, have canons that restrict marriage to heterosexual couples. Brewer in Central Florida and Sumner in Dallas have turned over to another bishop part of all of their pastoral oversight of any congregation that wishes to provide the rites, as has North Dakota’s Smith. Martins in Springfield has said he plans to do the same.

Florida’s Howard has said he would do the same; however, some in that diocese have told ENS they are confused and worried about his process to accomplish that delegation.

Tennessee Bishop John Bauerschmidt has yet to articulate his policy, although he had pledged to have a process for enacting B012 sometime this month.

Read more about it

  • The presiding bishop said Love’s disciplinary process will center on two sections of Title IV: Canon IV.4(1)(c) (“abide by the promises and vows made when ordained”) and Canon IV.4(1)(h)(9) (“any Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Clergy”). Those part of canons can be found on pages 206 and 207 here. The canons define conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy as “any disorder or neglect that prejudices the reputation, good order and discipline of the church, or any conduct of a nature to bring material discredit upon the church or the holy orders conferred by the church.”
  • The text of Curry’s restriction on Love is here.
  • More information on Title IV proceedings can be found on this interactive website.

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

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Episcopalians in Florida Panhandle prepare to welcome Presiding Bishop on post-hurricane visit

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 5:46pm

Damage from Hurricane Michael is still visible in late October at Holy Nativity Episcopal School in Panama City, Florida, as teachers and staff pack up items to take to temporary classrooms until the school can reopen. Photo: Holy Nativity Episcopal School, via Facebook.

[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast will welcome Presiding Bishop Michael Curry this weekend as he visits some of the Florida Panhandle congregations that still are rebounding from damage sustained by Hurricane Michael in October.

Curry’s pastoral visit to the diocese will focus on congregations in and around Panama City, near where Michael made landfall Oct. 10 as a devastating Category 4 hurricane. At 155 mph, it was said to be one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the mainland United States. The diocese says eight churches were damaged by the storm, as well as one Episcopal school that still has not yet been able to return to its own classrooms.

“The presiding bishop’s visit with us this weekend will be a powerful reminder of the best of bonds between us, and that bond is love,” Bishop Russell Kendrick said in an emailed statement. “Together we are stronger, and we will continue to find new life.”

A man walk past buildings damaged by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida, on Oct. 11. Photo: Reuters

The scene on the ground looked bleak immediately after the storm, but three months later, the diocese expects to present Curry with stories of resilience and mutual support. Diocesan leaders paired unaffected congregations that had extra resources with those struggling the most during the recovery phase.

“The churches themselves, our congregations, are past the initial stages, whether it’s shock or just disbelief that it happened. They are building back their lives together,” Chris Heaney, the diocese’s emergency response coordinator, told Episcopal News Service by phone. “They certainly inspire me because they’re very much relying on each other.”

Hiring Heaney was one of the Kendrick’s first responses to the hurricane, just days after Michael struck, as he coordinated the diocese’s efforts with help from Episcopal Relief & Development and local clergy who had lived through previous hurricanes. Heaney, senior warden at Christ Episcopal Church in Pensacola, to the west of Panama City, is a retired naval officer who was available to work full-time on a six-month assignment for the diocese.

The diocese identified eight churches with properties that were significantly damaged by the storm: St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Holy Nativity Episcopal Church and St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Panama City; Grace Episcopal Church and St. Thomas by the Sea Episcopal Church in Panama City Beach; St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Marianna; St. James Episcopal Church in Port St. Joe, and St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Wewahitchka.

Heaney said the storm’s track spared most of those communities the severe flooding that hurricanes often bring, but the winds were intense, leaving roofs tattered, walls battered and trees down.

Sixteen congregations that weren’t affected by the storm were paired with the eight congregations expressing the greatest need for money, supplies, administrative support or volunteer labor. Heaney’s own Christ Episcopal Church and St. James Episcopal Church in Fairhope, Alabama, were assigned to support Holy Nativity.

“It can’t be easy, and every time I talk to them, they’re in good spirits dealing with hard things,” Heaney said.

The storm initially disrupted worship schedules, but none of the damage to the church buildings was severe enough to prevent any of the congregations from resuming services within two Sundays of Hurricane Michael’s landfall. They now are in the process of following up with insurance claims to complete repairs.

A more disheartening scene was found at Holy Nativity Episcopal School, which Heaney said was the property in the diocese in the worst shape after the hurricane. The wind was particularly destructive to the school’s second floor, severely damaging the walls, roof and a bell tower.

Students aren’t expected to return to the school any sooner than this fall, Heaney said, but their education is proceeding. St. Thomas by the Sea in Panama City offered space at the church to the students for classes until they moved into temporary classrooms set up on the grounds of Holy Nativity Episcopal Church.

The school is one of the first stops on Curry’s two-day visit to the area. He will inspect the damaged school building Jan. 12 before making his way to two listening sessions with hurricane victims, one at the Holy Nativity church at 10 a.m. and the other at St. James in Port St. Joe at 3 p.m. He also is scheduled to preach Jan. 13 at St. Andrew’s in Panama City.

The pastoral visit comes just a month after Curry made a similar trip to the Diocese of East Carolina, which was hit hard by Hurricane Florence in September. He heard stories from Episcopalians of neighbors helping neighbors, and the stories of surviving natural disaster will continue this weekend in Florida.

“One thing that it seems that everyone in the area needs is the ability to just talk about what happened,” Heaney said.

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

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‘Clergy in Cars’ shows feature Episcopal priests taking their faith talk on the road in Texas

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 5:35pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry appears last fall in an episode of “Clergy in Cars” with the Rev. Paul Klitzke in this screengrab. The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg, Episcopal News Service’s senior report, is expected to appear on an upcoming episode.

[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 dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

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Western Kansas bishop embraces rare dual role that includes maintaining parish priest duties

Tue, 01/08/2019 - 10:52am

Western Kansas Bishop Mark Cowell is ordained Dec. 1 at Christ Episcopal Cathedral in Salinas, Kansas. Photo: Diocese of Western Kansas, via Facebook

[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.”

Bishops and clergy gather in Salinas, Kansas, on Dec. 1 for the consecration of Western Kansas Bishop Mark Cowell, center. Photo: Diocese of Western Kansas

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 dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

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Celebrations planned, tension lingers a month after marriage equality resolution takes effect

Mon, 01/07/2019 - 3:44pm

[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 (Canon I.19.3 (page 60 here)) that Bauerschmidt cites applies to same-sex couples. The resolution requires a bishop who opposes same-sex marriage to invite another bishop to consider 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.

A group of lay and ordained Tennessee Episcopalians wrote letters to Bauerschmidt and Curry on Jan. 7 to decry the former’s refusal to institute a policy for implementing B012. They noted that at least one couple and their priest have asked Bauerschmidt for guidance and were told to wait. “Other committed couples anxiously wait to make their vows before God surrounded by the communities who love and support them,” the group told Bauerschmidt.

“We therefore are reluctantly notifying you of this delay in making the trial liturgies available in this diocese,” the signers told Curry.

Both letters were also sent to the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, and the Rev. Susan Russell, who is one of the conveners of General Convention’s Task Force on Communion Across Difference. Bauerschmidt is the other.

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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Comunicado del Obispo Primado sobre el proceso de consentimiento en la Diócesis Episcopal de Haití

Mon, 01/07/2019 - 8:16am
El obispo primado de la Iglesia Episcopal Michael Curry ha emitido el siguiente comunicado:

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.

Su hermano,

Rvdmo. Michael B. Curry
Obispo Presidente y Primado
de La Iglesia Episcopal

The post Comunicado del Obispo Primado sobre el proceso de consentimiento en la Diócesis Episcopal de Haití appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Grant programs offer boost to church renovation projects, within constitutional limits

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 4:59pm

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church was built in 1894 in downtown Jamestown, New York, and features a bell tower with working carillon bells. Photo: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

[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 dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

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La Iglesia Episcopal vende propiedad en Austin

Wed, 01/02/2019 - 8:51am
La Iglesia Episcopal ha anunciado la venta en su totalidad de la cuadra 87 en Austin, Texas a CPG Block 87, LP una Sociedad Comanditaria tejana el 14 de diciembre de 2018.

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/

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Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2018 Christmas Sermon

Tue, 12/25/2018 - 10:52am

Read Archbishop Justin Welby’s sermon preached at Canterbury Cathedral the morning of Dec. 25.

John 1:1-14

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.

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Director of Anglican Centre in Rome steps down after sexual misconduct allegation

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 12:34pm

[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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Primate of South Sudan plans New Year’s Eve peace march and prayer service

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 12:30pm

[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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No word from kidnappers as more details of Nigerian bishop’s abduction emerge

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 12:28pm

[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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