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Anglican shelter for child victims of human trafficking to open in 2018 in Ghana

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 1:11pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A new Anglican-run community shelter to provide a home for trafficked children is on course to open next year in Accra, Ghana. Bishop of Accra Daniel Mensah Torto told journalists this week that the Hope Community would resettle and educate trafficked children who had been rescued. The refuge, funded by the Diocese of Accra in partnership with the U.S. embassy to Ghana, is part of a five-year anti-trafficking program.

Full article.

Horn of Africa Bishop Grant LeMarquand to step down

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 1:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Horn of Africa Bishop Grant LeMarquand is to step down at the end of October because of the ill health of his wife and ministry-partner, Wendy LeMarquand. Bishop Grant made the announcement at the conclusion of the graduation ceremony of the Alexandria School of Theology, which was held in All Saints’ Cathedral in Cairo, on 29 July.

Full article.

Sexuality working group of Anglicans in New Zealand publishes interim report

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 1:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A working group set up explore how different strands of thinking on sexuality could be kept together in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has published its interim report. The group was established after the May 2016 meeting of the province’s General Synod agreed to “let lie on the table” a motion on the blessings of same-sex relationships. The Synod instead called for a working group to look at structural arrangements to keep the different sides of the debate together.

Full article.

‘Sanctuary’ defines San Francisco congregation’s sense of mission on more than immigration

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 12:27pm

“Sacred sleep” mats are arranged on the floor at the Episcopal Church St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco, California. Homeless visitors can rest weekday mornings on the mats in the church. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Richard Smith.

[Episcopal News Service] The small Episcopal congregation of St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco, California, has embraced its role as a “sanctuary” church in ways that go well beyond the current political debate over federal immigration policy.

St. John is engaged in the immigration debate, to be sure, with its vestry voting this year to offer sanctuary to those facing deportation by the Trump administration. The congregation had offered immigrants similar protection during the first sanctuary church movement in the 1980s.

But for the congregation’s few dozen active members, sanctuary also means providing a place every weekday morning for the city’s homeless population to rest. It means reaching out to members of the LGBTQ community and making them feel welcome. And it means mourning victims of police brutality and supporting victims’ families.

“I’m always sort of worried we’re going to stretch ourselves too thin,” said the Rev. Richard Smith, St. John’s vicar. But as the congregation updates its list of commitments, it has been able and willing to take on more than its modest size would suggest.

“We have to be able to tell our kids and our grandkids that at the end of the day we did everything we could, whatever that may be,” he told Episcopal News Service.

At St. John, this sense of mission – Smith calls it “radical hospitality” – extends to Episcopal rituals as commonplace as the post-worship coffee hour. But it doesn’t end on Sunday. On Monday morning, the doors of the church open at 6 a.m. to invite 70 to 75 homeless city residents each weekday to take shelter.

St. John is open to homeless visitors every weekday morning, with breakfast served once a week. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Richard Smith.

This homeless outreach program started about a year and a half ago through a partnership with the local Gubbio Project. Known as “sacred sleep,” the program offers homeless visitors comfortable orange mats, similar to what a hiker might take for sleeping on a backpacking trip. The congregation also serves coffee and, once a week, breakfast before sending the visitors on their way by noon.

“It came as a big relief because homelessness has been a big problem in our neighborhood for many years,” Smith said. “We just didn’t know what to do about it, so this gave us a chance to do something.”

Sometimes, the homeless visitors return to attend Sunday service, though filling the pews isn’t the priority. It has been worthwhile, Smith said, just for St. John to connect with members of its community who otherwise might not set foot in the church.

The congregation has been small for much of its history, starting with its founding 160 years ago in San Francisco’s Mission District, said senior warden Diana McDonnell. Today, average attendance at Sunday worship service is about 65 to 70.

Such numbers tell only part of the story, McDonnell said. The congregation is small, but many of its members are passionate about supporting social justice ministries.

“We’re all there because we want to be there,” McDonnell told ENS. “We are doing this specifically because we are Christians. This is what Christians are about.”

It’s what drew McDonnell, 47, and her wife to St. John about 10 years ago, after they moved to San Francisco from New Jersey. She saw it as a “Goldilocks” congregation – not too big, not too small – and one that worked to bring the word of God into the world.

St. John’s commitment to social justice isn’t a new development. The 1980s were a particularly active decade, when the congregation joined with churches across the country, and across denominations, in offering sanctuary to people fleeing wars in Central America. Children arriving in San Francisco from El Salvador also benefited from a tutoring program launched around that time at St. John.

Separately, St. John was becoming another kind of sanctuary to gay men facing discrimination and the rising AIDS epidemic.\

“It was a community that was really under siege, even here in progressive San Francisco,” Smith said.

The congregation welcomed them then and continues to do so now, at a time when the Episcopal Church has pursued full inclusion of the LGBTQ community, such as through the ordination of gay clergy and creation of same-sex marriage rites. And partners and friends still visit St. John to remember some of those who died of AIDS years ago, their ashes scattered on church grounds.

Smith, 67, was ordained as a priest in 2001 after leaving a career in the corporate world of Silicon Valley. He became vicar at St. John about five years ago and embraced the congregation’s social ethic.

The church houses a food pantry, open every Saturday morning. It has participated in regular antiwar vigils, raises money to provide clean water in a Nicaraguan village and joined marches in the city after a 21-year-old immigrant from Guatemala was shot and killed by San Francisco police in February 2015.

The Guatemalan man, Amilcar Perez Lopez, had been involved in a violent argument with another man when he was killed, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Smith officiated at a memorial service for Perez Lopez held at St. John.

During his tenure, the congregation also has assisted three immigrants from Central America, a Guatemalan woman and two Honduran men, who are seeking asylum because of threats of violence in their home countries. Each is staying with parishioners in the community, not at the church, but the congregation is prepared to shelter them in the church if that becomes necessary to protect them from deportation orders, Smith said.

The decision this year to become a sanctuary church wasn’t a difficult one, McDonnell said, given the congregation’s 1980s history and its continuing social justice work. Several other Christian churches in San Francisco did the same.

“We’re Christian, and this is what I believe Christians are supposed to do,” she said.

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

Hearing panel calls for J. Jon Bruno’s suspension, return of Newport Beach congregation to its building

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 7:55pm

[Episcopal News Service] The hearing panel that considered disciplinary action against Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno issued a final order Aug. 2 reaffirming its draft recommendation that he be suspended from ordained ministry for three years because of misconduct.

The hearing panel also strongly recommends to the Diocese of Los Angeles that “as a matter of justice” it immediately suspend its efforts to sell St. James the Great’s property in Newport Beach, California, that it restore the congregation and vicar to the church building, and that it reassign St. James the Great appropriate mission status.

The five-person panel said that it is convinced the Diocese of Los Angeles, particularly its Standing Committee with the supportive leadership of its recently ordained and consecrated bishop coadjutor, must consciously choose to take part in a process of self-examination and truth-telling around these unfortunate and tragic events.

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

The most recent came just a day before the final order when Curry removed St. James from Bruno’s authority and put the congregation under Los Angeles Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor’s control. The previous restriction was designed to prevent Bruno from trying again to sell the property.

Diocese of Southern Virginia Bishop Herman Hollerith IV is president of the hearing panel that considered the case against Bruno. The panel, appointed by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops from among its members, includes Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, the Rev. Erik Larsen of Rhode Island and Deborah Stokes of Southern Ohio.

The original case against Bruno involved his unsuccessful 2015 attempt to sell the church property to a condominium developer for $15 million in cash. That effort prompted the members of St. James to bring misconduct allegations against Bruno, alleging he violated church law.

Forty days after the final order is issued, the Rt. Rev. Catherine Waynick, president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, has 20 days to sentence Bruno as provided in the order. He can appeal that sentence and, if he does, the sentence is not imposed while the appeal proceeds. Meanwhile, however, the order is clear that Curry’s partial restrictions on Bruno remain in force, the order said.

The hearing panel found Bruno guilty of the St. James complainants’ allegations that Bruno violated church canons because he:

  • failed to get the consent of the diocesan standing committee before entering into a contract to sell the property;
  • misrepresented his intention for the property to the members, the clergy and the local community at large;
  • misrepresented that St. James the Great was not a sustainable congregation;
  • misrepresented that the Rev. Cindy Evans Voorhees, St. James’ vicar, had resigned;
  • misrepresented to some St. James members that he would lease the property back to them for a number of months and that the diocese would financially aid the church; and
  • engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy by “misleading and deceiving” the clergy and people of St. James, as well as the local community, about his plans for the property and for taking possession of the property and locking out the congregation.

Taylor issued a statement saying that “Bishop Bruno’s 40 years of ordained ministry and 15 years as sixth bishop of Los Angeles are not summed up by this order or the events that precipitated it.”

The bishop coadjutor called him “a courageous, visionary leader.”

“Like every successful executive inside and outside the church, he would be the first to acknowledge that there are things he would have done differently,” Taylor said. “I look forward to continuing to learn from him and consult with him about the life of the diocesan community he has served and loves so well.”

Taylor said he and the Standing Committee “will do everything we can to promote a just solution that takes into account the interests of all in our community (including the faithful members of the Newport Beach church) and gives us the opportunity to move forward together. In a dispute such as this one, truth-telling, open communication, and reconciliation can be difficult for everyone involved.”

The St. James congregants said they “deeply thank the hearing panel for its diligent hard work to get to the truth, administer fair justice and foster reconciliation.” They said the “hearing panel’s final recommendation points the way forward for the Diocese of Los Angeles and its leadership.”

“We believe the reconciliation process begins now, and we look forward to a time – in the near future, we hope and believe – when we are back in our holy church and the Diocese of Los Angeles is once again a strong, united and joyful community in Christ, dedicated to spreading God’s word and doing His work on earth,” the St. James statement said.

The congregation has been worshipping in a meeting room at the Newport Beach City Hall. Its canonical status with the diocese is in limbo.

The first attempted sale of St. James occurred less than 18 months after Bruno reopened St. James in late 2013, after recovering the property via a lawsuit prompted by a split in the congregation. Three other congregations in the diocese also split in disputes about the Episcopal Church’s full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life of the church.

Bruno’s effort to sell the property even after the March hearing, which the bishop tried to conceal, earned him a rebuke from the hearing panel in June. The panel said Bruno had to stop trying to sell the property during the disciplinary process. If he did try, or succeeded, before the panel decided the original case against him, that behavior would be “disruptive, dilatory and otherwise contrary to the integrity of this proceeding,” the panel said at the time. The same was true of his failure to give the panel the information it asked for about the accusations, the notice said. Such behavior violates the portion of canon law that governs the behavior of clerics who face disciplinary actions (Canon IV.13.9(a) page 151 here).

A few days later, on June 29, Curry placed his initial restriction on Bruno’s ministry.

Bruno’s July 10 appeal of the panel’s sanctions failed.

Curry’s Aug. 1 restriction came about 10 days after a draft of the hearing panel’s order became public in late July.

South Carolina Supreme Court issues ruling in church property case

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 4:58pm

[Episcopal News Service] In a complex ruling Aug. 2 the South Carolina Supreme Court said that most but not all the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina congregations whose leaders left the Episcopal Church could not continue to hold on to the church property.

The justices said 29 of the congregations specifically agreed to abide by the “Dennis Canon” (Canon 1.7.4), which states that a parish holds its property in trust for the diocese and the Episcopal Church. That agreement means they cannot retain church property. However, they said that eight congregations had not agreed to the canon and thus could keep those properties.

The diocesan St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center on Seabrook Island must also be returned to the Episcopal Church.

Episcopalians in South Carolina have been reorganizing their common life since late in 2012 after then-Bishop Mark Lawrence and a majority of clergy and lay leadership said that the diocese had left the Episcopal Church. They disagreed with the wider Episcopal Church about biblical authority and theology, primarily centered on the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church.

“We are grateful for this decision and for the hard work of the court in rendering it. We also give thanks to God for the faithfulness, support, and sacrifices of countless Episcopalians within our diocese and throughout the church,” South Carolina Bishop Provisional Gladstone B. “Skip” Adams III said in a letter to clergy and lay leaders after the ruling was issued.

“This is a lengthy and detailed ruling, and our legal team and leadership will be studying it closely in the days ahead. It is important to note that the legal system allows for periods of judicial review and possible appeal, so it will be some time before we can say with certainty what the journey ahead will look like.”

The Lawrence-led group said after the ruling came down that its legal counsel is “reviewing the ruling, its implications and deliberating the appropriate response.”

The parties have 15 days to decide whether to ask for a rehearing.

The breakaway group filed suit in January 2013 against the Episcopal Church. The diocese came into the lawsuit later. After a three-week trial in July 2014, Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein ruled in February 2015 that the breakaway group had the right to hold onto the diocesan name and property, including individual church buildings.

The state Supreme Court agreed in April 2015 to consider the case. The court took more than two years to issue its ruling.

The remaining Episcopalians offered in June 2015 to let 35 parishes keep their church properties, whether or not they choose to remain part of the Episcopal Church.

In exchange, the proposal required the breakaway group to return the diocesan property, assets and identity of “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina” to the diocese that is still affiliated with the Episcopal Church. The breakaway group rejected the offer the day it was made public.

The 77-page state Supreme Court ruling, which includes opinions from each of the justices, is here.

The two groups are also involved in a separate federal case filed under the Lanham Act, claiming that Lawrence is committing false advertising by continuing to represent himself as bishop of the diocese. The Lanham Act governs trademarks, service marks and unfair competition. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in February 2017 sent the case back to U.S. District Court in Charleston for another hearing.

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

EPPN: Protect immigrant youth today

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 4:53pm

[Episcopal Public Policy Network policy alert] Since the end of June, there have been two major developments concerning protections for young people brought to the U.S. as children, known as DREAMers. We need you to speak out today for protections for these young adults today by taking TWO actions.

Update on Protections for DREAMers

In late June, 10 attorneys general wrote a letter to the Trump administration demanding it terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before September 5. Then in late July, Senator Graham (SC-R), with Senators Flake (AZ-R), Durbin (IL-D) and Schumer (NY-D) and Representative Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18) and Roybal-Allard (CA-40) introduced the Dream Act, a bill that would offer a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers who qualify; to do so, they would need to pay a fee and pass criminal and national-security background checks.

Episcopal Policy

The Episcopal Church calls for a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth. As such, we applaud the introduction of a bipartisan legislative solution to protect DREAMers.

We also urge the administration to protect DACA. Since 2012, nearly 800,000 DREAMers have come forward, passed background checks, and have been granted permission to live and work legally in the U.S. through DACA program.

Administrative DACA protections and work authorization must not be repealed before Congress passes the Dream Act and the bill is signed by the President.

Take Action

Speak out for protections for these young adults today.

1. Write your Governor and urge him or her to urge the administration to keep DACA protections

2. Write your members of Congress and urge them to co-sponsor the Dream Act

Rafael L. Morales Maldonado consecrated bishop of Puerto Rico

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 1:07pm

The Rt. Rev. Rafael L. Morales Maldonado was consecrated bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Rico on July 22. Photo: Diocese of Puerto Rico

[Diocese of Puerto Rico] The Rt. Rev. Rafael L. Morales Maldonado was ordained and consecrated the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Rico on July 22 during a Eucharist celebrated at the Pedro Rosselló Convention Center in San Juan. 

A native of Puerto Rico, Morales lives in Toa Alta and is the second Puerto Rican to be elected bishop of the diocese.

Twelve hundred people attended the event, including ecumenical guests, government representatives and Episcopalians representing parishes throughout the island. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached and served as chief consecrator, co-consecrating bishops included, Bishop David A. Alvarez, retired bishop of Puerto Rico, Bishop Wilfrido Ramos Orench, who served as bishop provisional of Puerto Rico since 2014, Bishop Julio Holguin of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, and Bishop Peter Eaton, of the Diocese of Southeast Florida. President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings also attended. Parishioners from across the island sang in the choir, played music and served as liturgical dancers. Morales was formally seated at the Cathedral of San Juan the Baptist in Santurce on July 23. 

Archbishop Welby calls Mothers’ Union ‘the heart and love of the church’

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 12:56pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby paid tribute to the Anglican mission agency Mothers’ Union on July 30, describing the agency as “the heart and love of the church.” Speaking at the inauguration of the new Anglican Province of Sudan in Khartoum, the archbishop said he recognized “the importance of Mothers’ Union in Sudan.”

Full article.

Anglican Communion Secretary General Idowu-Fearon reflects on second year

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 12:53pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] “It is a particular joy for me to travel to many parts of the communion. Indeed my role is becoming more ambassadorial,” Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Josiah Idowu-Fearon writes.

Read his full article here.

Presiding Bishop removes disputed Newport Beach congregation from Bruno’s authority

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 2:38pm

Church Attorney Raymond “Jerry” Coughlan, left, shows Diocese of Los Angeles J. Jon Bruno documents during the bishop’s testimony March 29. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on Aug. 1 removed Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno’s authority over St. James the Great in Newport Beach, California.

The presiding bishop’s action, which includes placing St. James in the jurisdiction of Los Angeles Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor, came as the Episcopal Church awaits the final order from the hearing panel considering disciplinary action against Bruno.

The Further Partial Restriction is intended to chart a way forward that clarifies and respects the appropriate role and authority of Taylor and the Standing Committee as well as the Title IV disciplinary process and the hearing panel, according to an Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release.

“It is my hope that this action will help to facilitate positive steps toward resolution and reconciliation,” Curry said in the release.

Curry’s order adds to one he issued in late June, partially restricting Bruno’s ministry, specifically his ability to sell the St. James property.

The five-member hearing panel drafted an order in mid-July, calling for Bruno’s suspension from ordained ministry for three years because of misconduct.

They concluded in a 4-1 decision that “the scope and severity of Bishop Bruno’s misconduct … have unjustly and unnecessarily disturbed the ministry of a mission of the Church.”

Curry cited that draft order in his Aug. 1 action.

“My review of the order and the factual findings that undergird it, as well as my independent understanding of the deeply impaired relationships among the respective parties, have led me to have additional concerns about Bishop Bruno’s exercising any aspect of his episcopal authority over the St. James congregation, its ‘Vicar,’ or St. James’ real and personal property, during the pendency of this matter in the Title IV process,” the presiding bishop wrote.

“In my opinion, any exercise of more general authority by Bishop Bruno over the St. James congregation while the Title IV matter is pending, including through a likely prolonged appeal process when any suspension or other disciplinary order would not be in effect, may threaten the good order and welfare of the Church.”

He said he wanted to “create space” for Taylor and the Standing Committee to exercise their ministries of healing and reconciliation within the diocese, and try to resolve the issues surrounding the St. James congregation and its building.

“With this restriction in place, I urge the diocesan leadership to press forward vigorously toward reconciliation for the sake of the ministry of the Gospel,” Curry wrote.

Taylor later issued a statement “pledg[ing] to do all we can to use this opportunity to achieve a just outcome for the sake of our entire diocesan community.”

“The Presiding Bishop’s action enables the Rev. Dr. Rachel Anne Nyback, president of the Standing Committee, her fellow committee members, and me to move ahead prayerfully to promote truth, open dialogue, and reconciliation in matters that have distracted our diocese for many months and to do so without awaiting a final resolution of the charges against our Bishop, J. Jon Bruno,” Taylor said.

Bruno locked out the congregation nearly two years ago after the members objected to his unsuccessful 2015 attempt to sell the St. James property to a condominium developer for $15 million in cash. The congregation has been worshipping in a meeting room at the Newport Beach City Hall. Its canonical status with the diocese is in limbo.

The attempted sale occurred less than 18 months after Bruno reopened St. James in late 2013, after recovering the property via a lawsuit prompted by a split in the congregation. Three other congregations in the diocese also split in disputes about the Episcopal Church’s full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life of the church.

The subsequent effort to sell St. James to a developer prompted congregation members to bring misconduct allegations against Bruno, claiming he violated Episcopal Church law. A hearing on those allegations was held in March.

Bruno continued to try to sell the property even after that hearing. Those efforts, which the bishop tried to conceal, earned him a rebuke from the hearing panel in June. The panel said Bruno had to stop trying to sell the property during the disciplinary process. If he did try, or succeeded, before the panel decided the original case against him, that behavior would be “disruptive, dilatory and otherwise contrary to the integrity of this proceeding,” the panel said at the time. The same is true of his failure to give the panel the information it asked for about the accusations, the notice said. Such behavior violates the portion of canon law that governs the behavior of clerics who face disciplinary actions (Canon IV.13.9(a) page 151 here).

A few days later, Curry place his initial restriction on Bruno’s ministry.

Bruno’s appeal of the panel’s sanctions failed.

The 91-page draft order specifically rejects calls for Bruno to be deposed, or removed, from ordained ministry. It says that during the three-year suspension Bruno could not exercise any authority over “the real or personal property or temporal affairs of the Church.” A three-year suspension would take Bruno beyond his mandatory retirement date in November 2018, when he turns 72.

The draft order, which is not final, also urges the diocese to let the members of St. James the Great return to their building.

The draft order meticulously recounts the testimony and evidence the panel reviewed. It essentially upholds the St. James complainants’ allegations that Bruno violated church canons because he:

  • failed to get the consent of the diocesan standing committee before entering into a contract to sell the property;
  • misrepresented his intention for the property to the members, the clergy and the local community at large;
  • misrepresented that St. James the Great was not a sustainable congregation;
  • misrepresented that the Rev. Cindy Evans Voorhees, St. James’ vicar, had resigned;
  • misrepresented to some St. James members that he would lease the property back to them for a number of months and that the diocese would financially aid the church; and
  • engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy by “misleading and deceiving” the clergy and people of St. James, as well as the local community, about his plans for the property and for taking possession of the property and locking out the congregation.

Diocese of Southern Virginia Bishop Herman Hollerith IV is president of the hearing panel considering the case against Bruno. The panel, appointed by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops from among its members, includes Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, the Rev. Erik Larsen of Rhode Island and Deborah Stokes of Southern Ohio.

The hearing panel did not publically release its draft order. It apparently gave the draft to the complainants and the presiding bishop for comment. Title IV.14.7 (page 153 here) calls for those parties “to be heard on the proposed terms of the order.” Comments to the hearing panel were due by July 26.

Bruno was not allowed to comment on the draft to the hearing panel. The St. James complainants suggested that the hearing panel have its recommendation take effect immediately and not be stayed or affected by an appeal of its order.

“There is a human cost to the continued exile of the congregation,” they wrote. “We have toddlers in the St. James congregation who have not been baptized because they were born while the congregation was in exile. Indeed, these toddlers have never seen the inside of the church.”

The complainants said they have no room for a Sunday school and their Sunday school teacher quit because “she was tired of holding school in the open air, tired of being hurt by having herself and her children locked out by her bishop.” Diocesan staff recently refused to allow a funeral to be held in the building for a matriarch of the congregation, the complainants said.

“We have received, but not included, many anguished emails from individual complainants, who cannot understand how the Episcopal Church allows the lockout to continue,” they wrote.

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Editor’s note: This story was updated Aug. 1 at 3:20 EDT to add the statement of Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor.

Kayak trip draws attention to polluted waterways in Cape Town, South Africa

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 11:25am

[Anglican Communion News Service] An Anglican in Cape Town, South Africa, has devised an innovative way of drawing attention to the industrial and domestic pollution that poisons his city’s waterways: a 15 kilometer kayak ride. Kevin Winter, a member of Christ Church, Kenilworth in Cape Town, is an international expert on water justice; but while the challenges are global, he understands that the solution is local.

Full article.

Canadian Anglicans step up fight against human trafficking

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 11:23am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church of Canada is taking another step forward in its fight against human trafficking and modern slavery with the formation of a new discernment group led by General Synod Global Relations and Public Witness teams and the creation of an online human trafficking hub with information and resources. The moves are part of the province’s response to Resolution 15.10 of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2012.

Full article.

Houston soccer team brings identity and community to young refugees

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 10:38am

The reVision FC soccer team is made up of mostly African high school students and is coached by Charles Rotramel, a member of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. Photo: Diocese of Texas

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] Brazilian playwright and journalist Nelson Falcão Rodrigues once said, “In football (soccer), the worst blindness is only seeing the ball,” a sentiment with which Houston: reVision CEO Charles Rotramel would probably agree.

On a mildly hot Saturday in Spring, Texas, Rotramel stands next to the soccer field watching the reVision FC soccer team warm up with a ground passing game. He sees a team that has faced more adversity in their young lives than most of us will in a lifetime. The ball glides across the ground as the team of mostly African high school students comes to life.

The match kicks off and reVision FC’s use of Swahili for on-field communication immediately stands out from other teams in the South Texas Youth Soccer Association. All students at Wisdom High School, most of the team came to Houston as refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country rife with political instability.

“We started with pickup games on Sunday afternoons and kids just kept coming” Rotramel said. “Many of them had never played on a team before.” After months of watching them play on the field at the Gethsemane campus of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Rotramel, a member of St. Martin’s, Houston, decided to dip into his past and put a soccer team together.

The story of reVision dates to Rotramel’s time at Rice University more than 30 years ago. After he wrote a paper on the impact a community of positivity can have on at risk youth, Rotramel’s professor challenged him to dream big. Ultimately, he helped found Youth Advocates, a Houston non-profit doing primarily gang intervention work.

“As kids moved away from their gang affiliations, (Youth Advocates) filled that space with what emerged as a youth group centered on positivity and hip hop culture,” said Eric Moen, reVision board member. “That main identity still stands today, more than 20 years later. A solid [peer] community is the rock steady place of welcome and positivity for the reVision kids.”

Moen described Rotramel as a connector and a man who has such a heart for the kids he serves that they accept him as part of their family. “He is the one who has shown them unconditional love unlike anything they have ever experienced before,” Moen said.

Rotramel and his assistants sit calmly on the sidelines and the unique nature of the team’s situation becomes readily apparent. “These kids have a lot of trauma in their background so we have to approach coaching in a very positive way,” he said, explaining their low key approach.

When a ball flies down the left wing, a particularly hard tackle in the midfield doesn’t even bring the coaching staff to their feet. Calmly seated, Rotramel said the team taught him to “make everything positive” even when it feels like that’s not working. “We affirm the good things they’re doing and teach them to improve on the things they need to,” Rotramel said.

For Houston reVision FC, building a sense of community and purpose for the players is what keeps them coming back. Rotramel said most of his team deals with “first generation issues.” Players listen to American music and have cellphones, but the majority of their parents are still adjusting to their new surroundings. “The kids get stuck in the middle and they’re very vulnerable,” Rotramel said. “They’re being influenced by all kinds of negative culture and they don’t have the necessary social support to help them.”

Beyond being a safe environment, a goal of the reVision team is to give the players a chance to play college soccer, a goal that Rotramel believes they can achieve. With a greater sense of purpose, camaraderie and belonging, players have even seen an uptick in grades, a fact the coaching staff puts down to the extra English practice and focus.

“No one thought that it would be like this when we started,” Arsel Kisanga said. “We were just a bunch of kids playing street soccer at least hoping to make it to the school varsity team.”

Rotramel likes to refer to the team as a community of kinship, a place for people to belong. “The cool thing is they want to be up here at the church all the time,” he said. “It’s their identity.”

ReVision player Joseph Kapyamba appreciates the family atmosphere that the team has created. “It’s a second home,” he said. “It helps us grow to become better people in life and prepare for the real world. It keeps us out of trouble. A lot of us wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for this team.”

While Rotramel readies a substitute on the sidelines, you can sense the passion the coach has for changing lives. “I think of soccer as some of the most important work of my career. You’re teaching honor, respect and teamwork inside a team framework and I think more churches should be doing this,” Rotramel said.

With the growth of soccer in the United States, finding a way to leverage that popularity for social good is at the forefront of reVision’s goals. “We’re actively thinking about other teams that we could start, because we keep attracting more and more kids,” Rotramel explained.

After more than 20 years of working with youth from all types of backgrounds, as part of reVision, Youth Advocates and coaching soccer, Rotramel still sees the small details. “They’re good at dribbling and striking, but no ones ever coached them on tactics,” he said. “That’s what we’re focusing on right now.”

As the referee blows for full-time and everyone sits on the grass around the coaching staff, Rotramel stands with a smile on his face. He may be going over details that need to be improved before the next match but in reality, he’s helping young men navigate a new culture and open up a world of opportunities. You can’t help but wonder how much these same young men have taught him.

“This team is the best team I’ve ever been in because it’s a team that unites people from different countries and nationalities,” Francois Elize said. “It makes us feel safe from the outside world. For me this is like the second family that I’ve been praying for my whole life.”

— Kevin Thompson is a communication specialist with the Diocese of Texas.

Celebrations as Sudan becomes Anglican Communion’s 39th province

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 12:22pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Hundreds of worshippers joined distinguished guests from around the world in All Saints Cathedral in Khartoum on July 30 as Sudan was inaugurated as the latest province of the Anglican Communion.

Full article.

Inquiries continue after Church of England vicar found dead in rectory

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 12:09pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A vicar in the Church of England’s diocese of Guildford is believed to have killed himself after being suspended pending a police investigation. The diocese gave no details of the allegations against the Rev. Martyn Neale, rector of Hawley and Vicar of Minley, but confirmed that he “had been suspended last week as a consequence of an ongoing police investigation.”

Full article.

Historical Society announces its 2017 grant awards

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 10:52am

The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church is pleased to announce its 2017 grant awards. Applications received were reviewed by a committee, with recipients determined by the Board of Directors at their meeting in June in Sewanee, Tennessee. Over $12,000 in grants were awarded. The Rev. Robert Tobin, chair of the Grants Committee, announced recipients from the 10 applications received. Grants support scholars in significant research and publications related to the history of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Recipients are encouraged to publish, when appropriate, in “Anglican and Episcopal History,” the quarterly academic journal of the society.

• Ryan Butler, a Ph.D. candidate in history at Baylor University, towards a monthlong trip to visit archives in London, Birmingham and Canterbury as part of his dissertation on the trans-Atlantic connections and influence of the Clapham Sect.
• Thomas Ferguson, rector of St John’s Episcopal Church, Sandwich, Massachusetts, to undertake a 10-day research trip to the Russian Federation as part of a book project on the past 25 years of Anglican ecumenical relationships with churches in the former Soviet bloc.
• Karl Hele, associate professor and director of First Peoples studies, School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University, Montreal, to do archival research at the Library and Archives of Canada in Ottawa, as part of a book project on Hannah Foulkes Chance, mid-C19 Anglican missionary among the First Nations communities in Canada.
• Simon Lewis, a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Oxford, towards travel to archives across the United Kingdom to pursue his post-doctoral research on lay participation in theological controversies in England and colonial America during the first half of C18.
• Ross Newton, a recent recipient of a Ph.D. in history from Northeastern University, to undertake a weeklong archival trip to Boston as part of his post-doctoral research into the experience and condition of African-Americans in the Anglican churches of Boston during the revolution and early years of the republic.
• Zachary Stone, a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Virginia, to consult archives in Oxford and Cambridge as part of completing his inter-disciplinary dissertation on medieval depictions of the English Church in late C14/early C15.
• Gregory Wiker, a Ph.D. candidate in History at the University of Rochester, for a three-week research trip to Bermuda, where he will consult parish vestry records as part of his investigation into the shifting political and religious sensibilities of this colony, that after the American Revolution became pivotal to British imperial policy.

Thomas Ferguson was awarded the inaugural Robert W. Prichard Prize for the best application received. The award comes with a cash prize and was established in 2016 to honor Prichard’s decades of service and commitment to the Society.

Additional granting details may be found at hsec.us/grants.

Daniel Handschy awarded Historical Society of the Episcopal Church prize

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 10:18am

[Historical Society of the Episcopal Church] The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church is pleased to announce its recipient of the 2017 Nelson R. Burr Prize, the Rev. Daniel Handschy. Handschy is rector of Church of the Advent, an Episcopal church in Crestwood, Missouri. He earned a B.A. in Physics from the University of Colorado, Boulder and worked for several years for International Business Machines in Essex Junction, Vermont, before entering the M.Div. program at Harvard Divinity School. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1987. In 2004, he erned a Ph.D. in historical theology from Saint Louis University.

He is honored for his article “Samuel Seabury’s Eucharistic Ecclesiology: Ecclesial Implications of a Sacrificial Eucharist” published in the March 2016 issue of Anglican and Episcopal History.

The Burr prize honors the renowned scholar Nelson R. Burr, whose two-volume A Critical Bibliography of Religion in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961) and other works constitute landmarks in the field of religious historiography. Each year a committee of the society selects the author of the most outstanding article in the Society’s journal, Anglican and Episcopal History, as recipient. The award also honors that which best exemplifies excellence and innovative scholarship in the field of Anglican and Episcopal history.

Those interested in obtaining a copy of the article may contact Matthew. P. Payne, director of operations of the society at administration@hsec.us or (920) 383-1910.

Jail chaplains share presence of God with Virginia inmates through Bible studies, prayer

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 9:45am

From left, Robert Dilday, John Gayle, Cheryl Blackwell and Sal Anselmo are among the volunteer chaplains from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church that minister at the city jail in Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Sarah Bartenstein

[Episcopal News Service] Robert Dilday has served for about a year and a half as a volunteer chaplain at the city jail in Richmond, Virginia, leading Bible studies with inmates and, more recently, visiting with those being held in solitary confinement. As part of a growing team from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church engaged in this ministry, he is careful not to overstate the mission.

“We’re not taking God to the jail,” he told Episcopal News Service. “We’re collaborating with what God is already doing there.”

What Dilday, 62, and his fellow chaplains bring to the jail every Thursday afternoon is the sacrament of Communion and a personal connection through conversation. They are part of a much larger interfaith ministry at the jail that offers a chance for chaplains and inmates both to feel the presence of God in a place they might not expect it.

“It’s meant to be somewhat reciprocal,” said Sarah Bartenstein, St. Stephen’s communications director. “We’re praying for them on Sundays, and they’re praying for us.”

The Eucharist served every Thursday at the Richmond jail by the volunteer chaplains from St. Stephen’s is blessed every Sunday at the church’s worship services. Photo: Sarah Bartenstein

The inmates and chaplains discuss Bible passages taken from the readings that will be part of the three worship services at St. Stephen’s on Sunday. And during one of those services, the congregation blesses the wafers and juice that will be the Eucharist served to inmates who choose to receive it the following Thursday.

This ministry at St. Stephen’s is barely two years old, and now about 15 to 20 men and women from the congregation serve as chaplains on a rotating schedule, typically with two men and two women visiting the jail each week to minister separately to male and female inmates.

Episcopal jail and prison ministries can be found across the country as chaplains seek to live out their baptismal vows to respect human dignity. In Richmond, Virginia’s capital, St. Stephen’s is not the only church to send volunteer chaplains to the jail, but it is one of the few to serve the Eucharist. And Deb Lawrence, the church’s outreach director, said the St. Stephen’s team doesn’t want the inmates to feel during these visits that they are being judged for what they’ve done.

“We’re just there with them. We’re not there to preach or convert, nothing like that,” Lawrence said. “It’s about relationships and people praying for each other on a weekly basis.”

St. Stephen’s first got involved with the jail ministry because of John Gayle, a congregation member who was interested in new outreach opportunities.

Gayle, a lawyer who at age 64 specializes in consumer law, had some past experience with criminal law and representing inmates. He already was involved in a church ministry of bringing the Eucharist to people in retirement homes and nursing homes who couldn’t attend church services, and he was drawn to the idea of pursuing a similar ministry at the jail.

Gayle said he wasn’t sure what to expect on his first jail visits. He began simply by reading from the Bible and talking to the men.

“It was such a transforming experience for me in terms of seeing people who are murders and rapists and all kinds of people, who are no different inside than me in their fears and concerns,” he told ENS. “And I found such a humanity in them that was very inspiring to me.”

Sharing the word of God, ending in silence

The Bible studies typically are held in a jail classroom. They start with the Bible passage, sometimes read by one inmate and other times read by several inmates in turn. Then they have a free discussion of what they’ve read.

Dilday said he encourages the inmates to share ways the Bible passages resonate with their experiences. They may choose to read some or all of the passage a second time.

One Bible study session sticks out in Dilday’s mind. The Gospel passage related to the idea of one’s neighbor, he said, and that prompted a discussion about the different ways “neighbor” is understood in American society. A young white man, a middle-aged Latino man and an older black man took particular interest in the subject, and the three inmates engaged in a lively but respectful conversation, with little additional encouragement from Dilday.

The sessions may last an hour or more. To conclude, the group spends a few moments in silent contemplation.

“Silence, I suspect, is rare,” Dilday said. “When those moments of intentional silence are offered, I think they’re appreciated.”

The St. Stephen’s growing team of volunteers has mirrored an overall growth trend in the Richmond jail’s chaplaincy program.  It is overseen by the jail’s sole paid chaplain, the Rev. Louis Williams, who estimates about 150 volunteers participate in the program, an increase of about 60 to 70 since he became chief of chaplains in January 2016.

The Richmond City Justice Center’s inmate population tops 1,000 on an average day, making it the second largest jail in the state behind the jail in Norfolk, Williams said.

The chaplains, primarily lay people, come from dozens of congregations in the Richmond area. One of the chaplains is a Muslim, though most are from various Christian denominations. Some conduct worship services. Others have led groups of inmates in singing hymns.

The volunteers must be recommended by a congregation, fill out an application, undergo a background check and attend an orientation, but one of the most important criteria is that they “have a gift and skill and passion in terms to ministering to the least of these,” Williams said, invoking Matthew 25:40.

Williams, a Presbyterian minister known at the jail as “Pastor Louis,” advises new chaplains during orientation they should be true to their beliefs, but also respectful of other faiths. The jail calls its inmates “residents,” in recognition that most of them are preparing to someday re-enter society. For spiritually receptive jail residents, Williams said, simply sharing faith through scripture can help them succeed on that path.

“Scripture is used to build up people’s identity and give them different perspective, God’s perspective, on who they are,” he said.

Prayer through a cell door

The chaplains take a different approach to ministering to inmates held in isolation, also known as solitary confinement. There is no Bible study here. A deputy is always present. Conversation occurs only while kneeling at the cell door and looking at each other through the door’s narrow slot.

Williams provides additional orientation for these visits, advising the chaplains to emphasize their prayer ministry, not just conversation with the inmates.

Dilday and Gayle are the two chaplains from St. Stephen’s who presently participate in this ministry, typically about once a month. Each time, they visit about 20 to 25 men, never for more than 10 minutes at a time.

The inmates seem to value the human interaction and often have serious concerns they want to share, Dilday said. One man said he was having a hard time dealing with the news that his child had died while he was locked up.

In isolation, “the stories that are shared are a little rawer,” Dilday said. “It can sometimes be hard to leave the jail after hearing those stories.” Such stories can haunt chaplains well after the cell door slot closes shut.

The chaplains don’t serve the Eucharist here, but they are able to hold the inmates’ hands through the slot and pray with them.

Dilday said he wasn’t fearful of visiting the jail’s isolation cells, but initially he felt he was venturing into the unknown. Would it be more difficult to talk with the inmates held here, isolated for a range of infractions?

He and Gayle found that wasn’t the case at all. They and the other jail chaplains have found these visits inspiring, and not just for the inmates.

“This has been transformative to people at St. Stephen’s just as much as it has been transformative for people at the jail,” Dilday said.

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

Jennifer Brooke-Davidson consecrated bishop suffragan of the Diocese of West Texas

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 8:57am

Newly ordained an consecrated at the sixth bishop suffragan of the Diocese of West Texas, Jennifer Brooke-Davidson stands with Presiding Bishop Curry who served as chief consecrator and preacher during the festive service. Photo: Diocese of West Texas

[Episcopal Diocese of West Texas] The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson was ordained and consecrated the sixth bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas on July 29 in a festive service at Christ Episcopal Church in San Antonio, Texas. She is the first woman to be ordained a bishop in the diocese.

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry led the service as chief consecrator and preacher. More than 750 people attended the two-hour festive service.

Reflecting on the Gospel message found in Luke chapter 10 about Mary and Martha welcoming Jesus into their home, Curry reminded the entire congregation that it was time to, “Wake up! Stop worrying about everything and being distracted by so many things. Only one thing is needed, and that is Jesus.”

Curry told the congregation that Brooke-Davidson has said that the key to lighting the fire within yourself is a relationship with Jesus, and that people will see that fire and they will want to imitate it.

“She’s right,” Curry said, “there is just something about this Jesus.”

During the celebratory service, 25 visiting bishops laid their hands on Brooke-Davidson as Curry ordained her a bishop and consecrated her for her role as Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of West Texas.  Visiting bishops included five women bishops from other dioceses across the Episcopal Church.

Co-consecrators included the Rt. Rev. David M. Reed, bishop of West Texas; the Rt. Rev. Gary R. Lillibridge, retired bishop of West Texas; the Rt. Rev. Laura Ahrens, bishop suffragan of Connecticut; the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, bishop of Indianapolis; the Rt. Rev. Daniel Gutierrez, bishop of Pennsylvania; and the Rev. Dr. Ray Tiemann, Bishop of the Southwestern Texas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Nancy Hibbs, widow of the Rt. Rev. Robert B. Hibbs, who served as the fourth bishop suffragan of the diocese, gave Brooke-Davidson the gift of Bishop Hibbs’ crozier, which he carried for 21 years. Photo: Diocese of West Texas

Following the consecration, a number of gifts were presented to Brooke-Davidson, including a Bible from Curry, vestments, a stole, a pectoral cross, and a crozier, a gift from Nancy Hibbs, widow of the Rt. Rev. Bob Hibbs, the fourth bishop suffragan of the Diocese of West Texas. Bishop Hibbs had carried the crozier for 21 years during his ministry.

Josh Benninger, director of music and organist for Christ Episcopal Church, lead the choirs of Christ Church, St. David’s Episcopal Church, and St. Thomas Episcopal Church, all of San Antonio, and Saint Elizabeth Episcopal Church in Buda. An orchestra accompanied the choirs comprising musicians from the San Antonio Chamber Orchestra.

Following the service a picnic lunch of fried chicken and all the sides was served on the Christ Church lawns. Brooke-Davidson requested the “best church picnic ever” as her reception, and homemade pies made by attendees at the service were served for dessert.

To complete his visit to the Diocese of West Texas, Curry led worship at St. Luke’s, San Antonio, on Sunday, July 30, where he spoke in a forum setting that morning and then preached and presided over the Eucharist.

Brooke-Davidson will serve alongside Diocesan Bishop Reed. Reed was invested as the tenth bishop of the diocese in June, and he served previously as the fifth bishop suffragan of the diocese.

Brooke-Davidson was chosen bishop suffragan at Diocesan Council held in February. She was ordained a priest in 2009 after graduating from Fuller Theological Seminary. She served as vicar of Saint Elizabeth in Buda from 2011 until June of this year. She also served as the assistant rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wimberley, Texas, from 2009-2011. Prior to ordination, Brooke-Davidson practiced commercial financial law for 12 years. She is married to Carrick Brooke-Davidson, and they have two grown daughters, Emma and Kate.

The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas comprises 26,000 members in 87 congregations spread across 60 counties in Central and South Texas and covers 69,000 square miles. The diocesan headquarters are at the Bishop Jones Center in San Antonio.

— Laura Shaver is communications officer for the Diocese of West Texas.

 

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