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Anglican Communion to play active role in next week’s Commonwealth leaders’ meeting

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 11:48am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Preparations are almost complete for the biennial meeting of leaders from 53 countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, which will take place next week in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Lancaster House, the Commonwealth’s international headquarters. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is one of the world’s largest international summits, bringing together representatives from small and large nations across the globe. Representatives from a number of Anglican provinces within the Commonwealth will be taking part; and in a parallel event, the archbishop of Canterbury will host a high-level roundtable on freedom of religion or belief at Lambeth Palace, his official London residence.

Read the entire article here.

Bishop’s fear of ‘a government that has become a nightmare to the poor and the minorities

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 11:46am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The moderator of the united Church of South India, Bishop Thomas K Oommen, has accused the Indian government of being “a danger to the very fabric” of the country. In an open letter, he accuses the government of adopting “Hindutva supremacist ideology” – an extreme form of Hindu nationalism; in a country whose constitution “declares liberty, equality, and fraternity as its ideals; assures social, economic and political justice to the citizens of India; offers liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship; provides equality of status and opportunity to all the people; and strives to promote fraternity among all the citizens.”

Read the entire article here.

Archbishop of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island gives support to anti-fracking movement

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 11:43am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Ron Cutler has given his support to a campaign against the lifting of a moratorium on fracking in Nova Scotia. Bishop Ron added his weight to a letter signed by representatives of 40 different community groups who oppose any lifting on the ban. Fracking is the extraction of oil or gas from subterranean rocks, through the use of high pressure liquid to force open fissures. It is opposed by environmentalists because of the damage it can cause to the environment.

Read the entire article here.

Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders in Ireland herald 20th anniversary of Belfast Agreement

Mon, 04/09/2018 - 1:33pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The leaders of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches in Ireland have issued a joint statement celebrating “all that has been achieved in building peace” since the historic Belfast Agreement was signed 20 years ago. In a joint statement on eve of the 20th anniversary of the agreement, which is also known as the Good Friday Agreement, as it was agreed by political parties on April 10, 1998 – Good Friday – Archbishops Richard Clarke and Eamon Martin, say that the agreement “has continuing potential to transform society and life for all of us. Nothing remotely its equal has been outlined then or since.”

Read the entire article here.

 

South Africa will ‘stop and reflect’ for funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Mon, 04/09/2018 - 1:04pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, which will be held at Soweto’s Orlando Stadium April 14, will cause South Africa to “stop and reflect,” the archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, said. Speaking to the Anglican Communion News Service, Thabo said: “the nation – like we did with Albertina Sisulu – will stop and reflect on the democratic values that Winnie Mandela and the people she worked with stood for. The nation will cry, the nation will reflect deeply, and the nation will say ‘how do we move forward?’ in terms of who we are, particularly around the issues of the value of one-another, the respect for one-another, and inter-racial harmony and equality.”

Read the entire article here.

RIP: First Bishop of El Camino Real Shannon Mallory

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 3:17pm

[Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real] The Rt. Rev. Charles Shannon Mallory, 81, first bishop of the San Jose, California-based Diocese of El Camino Real, died peacefully in Monterey, California, on April 4. Mallory, who led El Camino Real from its founding in 1980 through his retirement in 1990, had recently returned to Monterey County and was preceded in death last November by his wife Marti.

Born Sept. 9, 1936 in Dallas, Texas, Mallory grew up in Van Nuys, California, completing his education at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the General Theological Seminary in New York. He entered the mission field after his ordination to the diaconate in the Diocese of Los Angeles. In 1961, he was ordained priest in Africa where he exercised his ministry first as a missionary in Namibia, South Africa, and Uganda, and then as the first bishop of Botswana. In 1978, after 18 years in Africa, he and his family returned to the United States where Mallory served as assistant bishop in the Diocese of Long Island.

He was elected the first bishop of El Camino Real in 1980 and his installation took place that October in San Juan Bautista. The Rt. Rev. John Allin, then-presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, presided over the service in the plaza of the historic California mission.

“We are a pilgrim Church on the King’s Highway,” Mallory noted at the time. “This new diocese is an optimum size for rediscovering and experiencing some of the dynamic qualities of the early Church.” His vision for the diocese included “a more effective and supportive quality of fellowship among clergy and laity,” less hierarchy, and “more of a collegial relationship among bishop, clergy and laity.”

Following his retirement, Mallory served in the Diocese of Oklahoma and then lived and served in Indian Wells, California, as a member of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church. He authored two books: “Blacklisted!,” his memoirs of 18 years of traveling throughout Africa, and “Other Roads Less Traveled,” a collection of sermons and meditations that ask and answer a range of provocative questions about God, death, the value of prayer, the common thread of religions and more. He continued to write and inspire until his death.

“Bishop Shannon was able to support the Diocese of El Camino Real in its call to be a missional diocese with a collaborative mode of ministry among lay and clergy leaders,” said the Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, current bishop of El Camino Real. “His interest in people, their spiritual journeys, and his sense of adventure were gifts to our diocese in its earliest days, nurturing it as a place where the Gospel could always flourish amidst a very diverse and rapidly changing context. He will always be a critical part of the story of El Camino Real and will be missed.”

Mallory was predeceased by Martha (“Marti”), his most recent wife, and before that Antonia (“Toni”). He is survived by his brother William Lee Mallory and his first wife Mondi, mother of his five children, plus nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His memorial will be at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, California, to be announced at a later date.

Texas Court of Appeals judgment favors Episcopal Church parties

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 3:08pm

[Episcoapl Diocese of Fort Worth] The Fort Worth Court of Appeals issued a 178-page opinion April 5 in favor of the loyal Episcopalians of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. In a decision authored by the Chief Justice, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s 2015 judgment for the breakaway parties and held that Episcopalians are entitled to control both the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and its corporation.

Noting that the parties agreed that the corporation held legal title to all of the property in dispute, the Court of Appeals also analyzed two examples of the many deeds at issue. The Court of Appeals rendered judgment in favor of the Episcopalians on those two deeds, both of which relate to property occupied by All Saints Episcopal Church (Fort Worth). The Court of Appeals then remanded the many other, similar deeds to the trial court so it could rule on those deeds using the same analysis.

“We are very grateful for the care taken by the Fort Worth Court of Appeals in reaching its decision,” said Bishop Scott Mayer of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth said. “As this unfolds, the people and clergy of our diocese will, as always, carry on our work as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. We continue to hold all involved in our prayers.”

The Episcopal parties and congregations look forward to the resolution of this matter and the trial court’s enforcement of the Court of Appeals’ opinion.

The opinion is available here.

Anglican bishops join other faith leaders to criticize British ‘two-child’ welfare cap

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 3:01pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A group of 60 Anglican bishops have been joined by other faith and charity leaders to criticize a British government cap on the number of children in a family who count for welfare purposes. Tax credits and universal credits are two welfare benefits paid to unemployed people and those on low-incomes. Since last year, calculations of the amount families receive have been restricted to count no more than two children. In a letter published in The Times newspaper April 6, faith leaders say it risks tipping “an estimated extra 200,000 children into poverty.”

Rained out at anti-racism rally, Presiding Bishop vows ‘we will act now for our future’

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 4:09pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, both of whom were bumped from the A.C.T. to End Racism Rally line-up due to weather delays, prepare to record a video message from the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Photo: Neva Rae Fox

[Episcopal News Service] Looking back on the horrific assassination 50 years ago of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and looking forward to the end of racism, Episcopalians came with thousands of others to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. April 4 for the A.C.T. to End Racism Rally.

The day began cold and windy, and just before noon organizers delayed the rally for nearly 45 minutes out of concern for what one unidentified woman at the microphone called “a rapidly moving weather front” approaching the capital. She asked rally marshals to help attendees find cover in nearby museums, including the Smithsonian Institute.

That weather delay caused the organizers to reshuffle the line-up of more than 60 speakers. Both Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton were bumped from the list. Curry was scheduled to lead off the rally’s last section, which formed a call to action and next steps.

Instead, as the rally went on, he recorded a video message for the National Council of Churches, organizers of the event, to use.

“We will act now, and we will act for our future, joining our brothers and sisters so that the future for our children will be a future worthy of them,” Curry said as he stood on the mall with the U.S. Capitol in the background.

Curry said people gathered for the rally to “act now to engage in the work of seeking to eradicate racism and its vestiges in our country, and in our world.

“We do so not simply to remember the past, but we do so to learn from the past in order that we might live and enter a transformed future.”

Pointing over his shoulder to the Capitol, the presiding bishop said the building symbolizes “hope for our children – for generations of children yet to be born.” It is a hope, he said, “that there is equal opportunity for education no matter who they are, that there are voting rights for all citizens of this great country because all of us have been created in the image and likeness of God, as it says in the first chapter of Genesis, so that America will truly be America: a land of liberty, a land of justice, a land of equality.”

Curry pledged the Episcopal Church’s commitment to making that hope a reality. “On this day and the days going forward, we as Episcopalians join with our fellow Christians and other people of goodwill and of all faiths and types who seek to make this world something that more closely resembles God’s dream and not a human nightmare,” he said.

The rally’s speakers, each of whom were given a short amount of time at the microphone and many of whom ran over their time, included Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic and Zoroastrian leaders. Secular activists spoke as well, including actors, singers, doctors and Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s.

Cohen told the crowd that if he and Greenfield had been black, the ice cream company would not exist. “The deck would’ve been just too stacked against us,” he said.

We’re proud to have our cofounders Ben and Jerry speaking about systemic racism in America at #Act2EndRacism in DC. https://t.co/WNjrBZnv3Y

— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) April 4, 2018

The NCC said earlier that the rally “is part of a movement to change the horror of the assassination into a strong witness for ending racism.”

The NCC, to which the Episcopal Church and nearly 40 other Christian traditions belong, vowed to “pick up the torch and carrying on with a multi-year effort to finish the work Dr. King began.” The effort is also endorsed by an ecumenical group of religious organizations.

A.C.T. stands for awaken, confront and transform, and the NCC says its goal is to remove racism from the nation’s social fabric and bring the country together. The night before the rally, many participants met at Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, D.C., to pray for an end to racism. The service took place on the Greek Orthodox Church’s Holy Tuesday, a day with a liturgy that is noted for its theme of repentance, according to the cathedral’s website.

The rally and surrounding events will be followed April 5 by a National Day of Advocacy & Action. The day will include training in how to organize effective legislative visits and other aspects of such advocacy work, as well as actual visits to congressional offices.

Curry’s planned participation in the rally was part of the Episcopal Church’s larger pledge “to act faithfully on its long history of honorable General Convention and Executive Council intentions but imperfect and fragmentary practical actions in matters of poverty, racism, sexism, and economic justice,” as the church’s Executive Council said in a resolution it passed at its January meeting. That resolution called for the church to develop an official relationship with the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

Diocese of Milwaukee Bishop Steven Miller, right, and the Rev. Chuck Wynder, the Episcopal Church’s officer for social justice and advocacy engagement, listen to speakers April 4 at the A.C.T. to End Racism Rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Photo: Neva Rae Fox

The Episcopal Church is in the midst of a season of justice engagement, the Rev. Chuck Wynder, the church’s officer for social justice and advocacy engagement, told Episcopal News Service. That season has already included Episcopalians’ participation in the March 24 March for Our Lives.

“One of our goals is to be in the public square on this 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr.  King,” Wynder said. “And, as a member church of the NCC, to participate actively in this long-term initiative to end racism by engaging in work and ministries of racial justice, racial equity and racial reconciliation both inside the church and in our communities.”

By being involved in the A.C.T. rally, the Episcopal Church can “be in the public square and to state publically on this very important day where we’re going and where we hope to go.”

Wynder said the church’s involvement is also a way for Episcopalians to live into the Becoming Beloved Community effort that offers the Episcopal Church ways to organize its many efforts to respond to racial injustice and grow a community of reconcilers, justice-makers and healers. Getting involved in the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign is a significant step in that direction, he said.

The 2018 campaign echoes King’s plan in 1968 for a Poor People’s campaign, a plan he announced in a sermon on March 31, 1968, from the pulpit of Washington National Cathedral.

Four days before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached his last Sunday sermon at Washington National Cathedral. “There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right,” King said. Photo: The Archives of the Episcopal Church

“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will,” King said in what would be his last Sunday sermon before his death.

“In a few weeks some of us are coming to Washington to see if the will is still alive or if it is alive in this nation. We are coming to Washington in a Poor People’s Campaign.”

King assured the congregation that this would not be a “histrionic gesture” or one meant to cause violence. “We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty. We read one day, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’ But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists,” he said.

“We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago. And we are coming to engage in dramatic nonviolent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment; to make the invisible visible.”

Those demonstrations had been tentatively set for June 15, 1968. King was gunned down on April 4 by an assassin in Memphis, Tennessee, four days after his sermon at Washington National Cathedral. Thousands of people spilled out of the cathedral on April 5 to mourn his assassination.

The cathedral will commemorate King’s sermon on April 4 with a choral evensong that will include scripture and music associated with the recognition of King. Following the service, the cathedral will play the sermon, titled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” A non-downloadable audio recording is here.

The cathedral will participate in a worldwide tolling of church bells the evening of April 4. The toll will begin with the bells at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis at 6:01 p.m. CDT, followed by bells throughout that city, and then across the country and the world. The cathedral’s bells will sound at 7:05 p.m. EDT. Many Episcopal churches plan to join the tolling.

The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of the cathedral, recently noted that King was invited to preach in the cathedral to “explain ‘to the white clergy and the people of Greater Washington’ that his planned Poor People’s Campaign was intended to be ‘non-violent’ and not ‘disruptive of life in Washington.’” However, some Episcopalians protested the invitation. “It appears obvious that King’s purposes are definitely racist (one group only) and whose goal is to stir up more racial tension and anxiety, which can only lead to disaster,” one woman wrote.

The cathedral will also commemorate King’s last sermon during its 11:15 a.m. Eucharist on April 8. The service will include recorded excerpts of King’s sermon along with music and prayers from the March 31, 1968, service.

The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, the presiding bishop’s canon for evangelism, reconciliation and creation care, is interviewed in the media tent April 4 during the A.C.T. to End Racism Rally. Photo: Neva Rae Fox

And, in Memphis on April 7, St. Mary’s Cathedral in the Diocese of West Tennessee will host a commemoration of the April 5, 1968, Ministers March, during which about 300 clergy gathered at the cathedral the day after King was killed about two miles away.

“After prayer and soul-searching discussion,” the Very Rev. Andy Andrews, cathedral dean, said in a recent letter, they adopted a statement favoring the striking city sanitation workers whom King had come to the city to support. Approximately 150 ministers then marched from St. Mary’s to the mayor’s office to present their demands. Then-Dean Bill Dimmick led the march with the cathedral cross.

“The cathedral congregation has never been the same,” Andrews said in his letter.

St. Mary’s is hosting an all-day interfaith event that will include a block party and a worship service featuring some of the clergy who were at the original march. The march will also be re-enacted, and marchers are scheduled to meet with current Mayor Jim Strickland, whom Andrews said will “welcome us in a different fashion that Mayor [Henry] Loeb 50 years ago.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

General Convention will again grapple with same-sex marriage questions

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 12:57pm

“Liturgical Resources 1: I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing” was one of the rites General Convention authorized in 2015 for trial use. Photo: Church Publishing Inc.

[Episcopal News Service] On June 26, 2015, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, the 78th General Convention was in its second day.

A few days later, convention authorized two new marriage rites for trial use (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.

Indie Pereia asked her priest, who was at convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, if this meant she and her then-fiancée could finally get married at their parish in Tennessee.

It wasn’t until November 2015 that the answer to Pereia’s question became clear. Diocese of Tennessee Bishop John Bauerschmidt told the diocese that he would not allow the use of the rites and that only marriages between men and women could be performed in the diocese. He said that same-sex couples could work with Diocese of Kentucky clergy, whose bishops said they could use the rites.

“From my perspective, I don’t really want to have a destination wedding in Kentucky, not to insult Kentucky,” Pereia told Episcopal News Service.

Thus, “almost three years later we still haven’t had access to a church wedding, which we had been hoping for,” said Pereia, who attends St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Nashville. She and her partner had a civil marriage but, she added, “I still hope that I can have my marriage blessed in my parish.” And blessed by the priest who, she said, “has walked with me through some of the most difficult moments of my life.”

When convention authorized the liturgies in 2015, bishops and deputies said individual diocesan bishops had to approve their use.  And convention directed diocesan bishops to “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have access to these liturgies.”

General Convention’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage has since monitored the use of the trial liturgies and is aware of concern about unequal access to the trial use liturgies. Its Blue Book Report, released April 3, says it found that eight diocesan bishops in the church’s 101 domestic dioceses have not authorized the trial liturgies.

The Episcopal Church includes 10 dioceses in civil legal jurisdictions that do not allow marriage for same-sex couples. Since church canons require compliance with both civil and canonical requirements for marriage, convention did not authorize the trial liturgies for use in those dioceses. The task force received a statement that was signed by five Province IX diocesan bishops and one retired bishop representing the dioceses of Ecuador Littoral, Ecuador Central, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Honduras. Their statement criticized the task force’s recommendations and threatened that approval would “greatly deepen the breach, the division and the Ninth Province will have to learn to walk alone.” The bishops of Colombia and Puerto Rico did not sign the statement.

The task force is proposing that convention require bishops in authority to “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have reasonable and convenient access to these trial rites. It also would have convention say that bishops will “continue the work of leading the church in comprehensive engagement with these materials and continue to provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.” The reference to “generous pastoral response” echoes Resolution 2009-C056, which forms part of the history of the church’s move towards marriage equality.

In the General Convention worship hall before the daily Eucharist on June 26, 2017, the Rev. Susan Russell, a longtime advocate for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church, past president of Integrity and senior associate at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, celebrates that day’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. With her is the Rev. Michael Sniffen, now the dean of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York, and a self-described “straight ally.” Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Essentially, the task force is saying that, in the words of the Rev. Susan Russell, a task force member who helped research the acceptance and use of the trial liturgies, “it shouldn’t depend on your ZIP code to have access to the rites.”

The eight bishops who have prohibited same-gender marriage in their dioceses are Albany Bishop William Love, Central Florida Bishop Greg Brewer, Dallas Bishop George Sumner, Florida Bishop John Howard, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, Springfield Bishop Dan Martins, Tennessee’s Bauerschmidt and Virgin Islands Bishop Ambrose Gumbs, according to the task force.

Love, Brewer, Sumner, Martins and Bauerschmidt prohibit clergy canonically resident in those dioceses to use the liturgies inside or outside of the diocese, the report said.

“At this point it’s very unclear whether canonically resident clergy could actually use the liturgies [anywhere] without the permission of their own bishop,” Bauerschmidt told ENS before the report was released “So, that’s not so much my idea, but I think it’s implied by the 2015 resolution.”

The bishops in Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida and Tennessee have told same-sex couples who wish to be married to go to a neighboring diocese, according to the report. Smith has provided Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) for a parish that asked to use the liturgies. The task force said it could not determine whether Gumbs has made provisions for Virgin Islands couples to access the liturgies.

“I was honestly quite surprised to find that the liturgies were being so overwhelming received and overwhelming authorized with so few restrictions,” Russell, a longtime advocate for the full inclusion of LBGTQI people in the life of the church, told Episcopal News Service.

“I couldn’t have imagined those numbers 10 years ago,” she added.

Task Force Chair Joan Geiszler-Ludlum agreed. She told ENS that the group found that the restrictions some bishops have placed on their use are “fairly innocuous” and include such things as approval of both the rector and the vestry or use after a congregational discernment process.

The overwhelming majority of task force members agreed to call for the whole church to have equal access to the rites, Geiszler-Ludlum and Russell said.

The proposed new requirement of “reasonable and convenient access” is not the only recommendation on marriage that the task force is making to General Convention. The group is calling for continued trial use of the liturgies as additions to the Book of Common Prayer, as well as amendments to the prayer book’s other marriage rites, prefaces and sections of the Catechism to make language gender-neutral.

The task force would also have convention authorize two liturgies for blessing the relationships of couples who choose not to marry for legal or financial reasons. It also recommends that the church ponder new ways to minister to the growing number of people who cohabitate in committed and monogamous relationships rather than marry. ENS coverage of those recommendations can be found here.

Meanwhile back in Tennessee

Episcopalians who live in the eight dioceses and want access to same-sex marriage worry that the rest of the church does not grasp their situation. Connally Davies Penley, who helped form the advocacy group All Sacraments for All People, or ASAP, in the Diocese of Tennessee, says that when she travels to other dioceses and tells her diocese’s story “people are just astonished. They have no idea that this is happening. I think if people know, we can get somewhere, but they just don’t know.”

ASAP and five congregations submitted a diocesan convention resolution to have the diocese ask General Convention to allow clergy and churches to decide on access to the same-sex marriage rites, instead of bishops.

“I think the work before us is to learn how to speak to each other in a gracious way, not to engage in legislation. The trouble with legislative fixes is that in making them we create winners and losers,” Bauerschmidt said in his address to diocese convention.

In the end, the convention passed a substitute resolution to send a so-called “memorial” to General Convention asking that its 2018 deliberations “take into account the exclusions, competing convictions, and loss of community experienced by the members of this diocese under the current terms of authorization for these texts.”

ASAP supported the substitute resolution “because we thought it could pass and it did almost unanimously, and so to have something from the whole diocese with an almost unanimous vote seemed powerful,” said Davies Penley.

Pereia agreed. “It said that the way things are currently are not working well for our diocese, so we thought that was a good start,” she said.

We supported this substitute resolution which just PASSED! Only one vote against. It’s not everything, but it’s so much more than we have ever gotten before. Alleluia. pic.twitter.com/MVOd8WveDt

— All Sacraments for All People (@asaptn) January 20, 2018

“It was wonderful occasion of a diocese coming together in the face of the prospect of challenges to our unity,” Bauerschmidt told ENS.

Davies Penley and Pereia said theirs and ASAP’s goal is “to draw the circle bigger,” in Davies Penley’s words. “This has been drawn here as this black-and-white, either-or issue,” she said. “I’m not going to change Bishop Bauerschmidt’s mind and that’s not my job. I just want room for all of us.”

“And while I disagree with priests in this diocese who say it’s wrong, I’m not trying to change their minds and I trust their hearts. They’re trying to do their best but leave space for us, too.”

Geiszler-Ludlum and Russell said the resolution was a compromise that “was still a win for them.” Russell added that the history of the effort to allow all Episcopalians access to the sacrament of marriage has included other compromises along the way.

A push for equal access in Central Florida

The Rev. Alison Harrity, rector of St. Richard’s Episcopal Church in Winter Park, said some priests in the Diocese of Central Florida have considered what one called “a public act of canonical disobedience” after which they would face the consequences in order to draw attention to the disparity.

Harrity and others from St. Richard’s and elsewhere in the diocese attempted in late January to have their diocesan convention change a canon that restricts marriage to heterosexual couples and denies clergy the ability to solemnize same-sex marriages. They also asked the diocese to commit to “ending institutional and other forms of discrimination for LGBTQ+ people” and form a task force to study the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the sacramental life of the church.

Both resolutions were ruled out of order weeks before the Jan. 26-27 convention because, Brewer said in his convention address, they failed to measure up in what he called his grid for decision-making. The grid is based on the text of the examination (page 517 of the Book of Common Prayer) of a bishop-elect during his or her ordination and consecration. Brewer said it helps him balance coherence with the faith of the apostles with the impact of any action on the faith, unity and discipline of the church, and what he called “my global responsibility as a leader who shares that leadership with other bishops throughout the world.”

He called, instead, for a task force to reflect on the 2015 actions of General Convention on marriage, and their canonical and pastoral implications for diocesan congregations. The task force will also consider the biblical, theological, and pastoral implications of convention’s actions.

Brewer’s remarks on the resolutions begin at the 27:03 mark in this video.

Geiszler-Ludlum called the proposed task force “a big step” because it means that there will be “some discussion within that diocese.”

However, Jim Christoph, St. Richard’s senior warden, told ENS that the goal of the proposed task force “is not to research how this diocese is treating gay people. It’s to react to the national church and their error.” Christoph also objected to what he called Brewer’s “denunciation” by name of the St. Richard’s vestry during his address.

“I felt very belittled,” said Stephen O’Connell, who is the secretary of St. Richard’s vestry. “I felt like I was a child being reprimanded in front of a whole group of people and shamed for something we felt was important.”

Brewer has not been available for comment.

Harrity said she “naively believed” that advocates of marriage equality would not have to resort to performing that act of canonical disobedience because they had a process available to them at diocesan convention to attempt to try to change the restrictive canon.

“But, the truth of the matter is this church allows bishops to make up rules along the margins of canon law, both national canon law and local canon law, that circumvent any process,” she said. “The only way that we are going to get anything done in regard to canonical rights for gay people in the church is to be disobedient to our bishops? I am not interested in getting spit on or having anybody that we’re connected to getting spit on when we have a process that would work for us if it was allowed to work.”

Touching on larger issues of authority

The question of access to marriage is part of a larger one about where a diocesan bishop’s authority ends.

“There is the question of whether or not the bishop actually has the authority, canonically, to prohibit clergy under their licensure from functioning outside the diocese with liturgies approved by the General Convention,” Russell said. “There are those who argue it is not within their authority to do that. That is, for many in the church, not a settled point.”

“There’s a wide divergence of opinion about how much control bishops have, and the bishops themselves have different views of that, too,” Geiszler-Ludlum said.

There are other questions about authority. Can a bishop deny a sacrament to a group of people based on their sexual orientation? And can dioceses enact canons that restrict access to sacraments in ways that conflict with the canons of the wider church? Albany, Central Florida and Dallas have canons that restrict marriage to heterosexual couples.

Hopeful that we can find a middle way where all may, but none must. Radical hospitality means access for ALL to fullness of Christian life. Marriage included. #gc79 https://t.co/QCb0uxZ9KJ

— All Sacraments for All People (@asaptn) February 1, 2018

Bauerschmidt hopes that the Episcopal Church will “find a way to make room for those who hold the traditional teaching of the church on marriage,” and to acknowledge that those people are “loyal members of the Episcopal Church.” He hopes for a “robust” solution that lasts over time and doesn’t need to be renewed every three years.

“I think it’s going to require the creativity of a lot of people,” he said.

Bauerschmidt added that he hopes convention will also “preserve the traditional and canonical responsibilities of bishops,” adding, “I really don’t know what that looks like, but I think that’s important, too.”

The task force’s suggested solution to the access question is part of a proposed resolution outlining how convention might make “permanent additions and revisions to the Book of Common Prayer” of four marriage liturgies and specific gender-neutralizing word changes about marriage.

Those proposals could run in tandem with convention’s consideration whether and how to begin a process for revising the prayer book. Convention’s legislative committee that will review all prayer book revision resolutions will handle the task force’s proposals. The task force is not proposing that the prayer book would need to be reprinted but that the additional rites be published separately at first.

The task force also is proposing to change Book of Common Prayer’s “An Outline of the Faith,” also known as the Catechism, to state that Christian marriage involves “two people,” not “the woman and the man,” as it now says on page 861. It would also add a question about marriage to explain the canonical requirements for marriage, including instruction in the purposes of Christian marriage.

The task force’s report was summarized during a side gathering at the March 6-9 House of Bishops retreat. Bauerschmidt said any proposal to change the Catechism’s definition of marriage “would be of great concern to those who hold to the traditional teaching” about marriage both inside and outside of the Episcopal Church.

Although the March HOB meeting is traditionally largely private, Springfield Bishop Dan Martins blogged about each day’s sessions. On March 8 he wrote that he attended the gathering and rejected the proposal to consider the trial use liturgies to be part of the prayer book.

Martins noted that while a diocesan bishop can refuse to permit use of a trial liturgy, he or she cannot prevent clergy from using material deemed to be part of the Book of Common Prayer. He said the proposal “deserved a lot more consideration than it is getting at this meeting of the house.”

He added that it was “borderline dereliction of duty” not to have the entire house discuss the proposal. If the convention’s decision in 2003 to allow the Diocese of New Hampshire to have Gene Robinson, an openly gay partnered man, as its bishop was “an earthquake,” Martins wrote, “approval of anything like the Task Force on Marriage’s proposal would be a catastrophic aftershock.”

Gieszler-Ludlum and Russell said the task force members reached their conclusions by consensus. However, the Rev. Jordan Hylden, canon theologian of the Diocese of Dallas, filed a minority report, which begins on page 116 of the report, objecting to the make-up of the task force and its process, conclusions and their implications.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

Convention’s marriage task force proposes non-marriage rites, ways to minister to cohabitants

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 12:56pm

General Convention’s Task Force of the Study of Marriage is proposing a number of changes and additions to the Book of Common Prayer’s marriage rites and definitions, as well as finding ways to minister to those who live in monogamous relationships outside of marriage. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] General Convention’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage has made significant recommendations that would expand the Episcopal Church’s decision to allow same-sex couples access to sacramental marriage, and it is also asking convention to look beyond marriage.

In its Blue Book Report, released April 3, the task force proposes to add to the “Enriching Our Worship” series two rites for blessing relationships. They are intended for couples that want to formalize their monogamous, unconditional and lifelong relationship but not get married.

“The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” would be for use in jurisdictions of the Episcopal Church in which the couple desiring marriage is of the same sex and when the civil jurisdiction in which the marriage would occur does not allow marriage of same-sex people, the task force said.

A second new rite, “The Blessing of a Lifelong Relationship,” is intended for couples who desire to formalize their monogamous, unconditional and lifelong relationships that are “something different than a marriage in that [they do] not include the merging of property, finances or other legal encumbrances.” It could also be used by couples for whom the requirement to furnish identification to obtain a marriage license could result in legal penalties including deportation, because of immigration status, the task force said.

The rite “shall not be used for mere convenience,” according to the proposed resolution.

Diocesan bishops would have to approve use of the rites and no member of the clergy would be required to officiate at such blessings.

A couple’s desire to use the second rite might be prompted, the task force said, by the needs and rights of children of a former marriage; a need to maintain individuals’ ability to uphold the financial obligations and commitments of their household; and a desire to maintain their ability to support themselves with shelter, food and health care, recognizing that a new marriage would cut off the benefits they receive from their former spouse, and if their subsequent marriage should end in death or divorce, they would be left without any pension or health care.

Younger members of the task force asked the group to consider how the church could develop pastoral resources that recognize the rising rate of U.S. adults who live in sexually intimate relationships other than marriage. The resources could include “spiritual practices, to aid individuals and couples in discerning their vocation to relationship, be it to singleness, celibacy, marriage and/or parenting,” according to the resolution.

The resolution’s explanation says that in 2016 approximately 18 million U.S. adults were in cohabiting relationships, a 29 percent increase over a nine-year period. About 4.1 million of those people were age 50 and older.

When it comes to nuanced and sensitive guidance and teaching regarding sexual intimacy, many people feel largely alone, the task force said it its report, “having found the church’s counsel to remain sexually abstinent outside of marriage insufficient and unreflective of their experience of the holy in relationship.”

The resolution says that development of the resources would be guided by this statement: “Qualities of relationship that ground in faithfulness the expression of sexual intimacy include:  fidelity, monogamy, commitment, mutual affection, mutual respect, careful and honest communication, physical maturity, emotional maturity, mutual consent, and the holy love which enables those in intimate relationships to see in each other the image of God.”

The Rev. Susan Russell, a task force member, told Episcopal News Service that passage of the resolution would be “a pretty radical step forward” but one that would acknowledge the couples who are involved in these sorts of relationships. “If the church has nothing to say to them, we’re increasingly irrelevant,” she added.

The presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies would appoint a new task force to develop the resources.

Task Force Chair Joan Geiszler-Ludlum said both the new rites and this latter proposal would be the church’s way to help couples “elevate” their relationships “from just being casual or temporary.”

“It’s not marriage and it’s not going to be marriage, but we want to recognize it for what it is, and then say that the couples need to be discerning about what they’re doing with their relationship. We want to help them do that discernment.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

South Sudan archbishop urges government and opposition to end violence before peace talks

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 11:24am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Paul Yugusuk, leader of the Church of South Sudan’s internal Central Province, has called on the government and opposition groups to declare an end to violence before the next round of peace talks. The continuation of phase two of the talks is expected to take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from the April 26-30. During the last negotiations, the parties discussed the formation of a transitional government and permanent ceasefire and security arrangements; but the delegates did not reach a consensus.

Read the entire article here.

British government unveils $1.7 million pilot program to support listed places of worship

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 11:21am

[Anglican Communion News Service]  Expert advisors are being recruited to help religious communities in two areas of England use their historic buildings more efficiently. The advisors are part of a pilot scheme being run by the government’s culture ministry DDCMS and the dioceses of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and Manchester. The experts will work to increase community engagement and vital heritage management skills and will work with listed buildings used by all faiths and denominations.

Read the entire article here.

Mothers’ Union steps in to help snow-trapped medics’ unplanned hospital stay

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 11:16am

[Anglican Communion News Service] When the “Beast from the East” blanketed much of the United Kingdom with large amounts of snow at the beginning of March, many roads were impassable, leaving many essential services short of staff. In hospitals around the country, nurses and doctors opted remain at their hospitals in their non-working hours, to ensure they were there for the start of their next shifts. In Newcastle, in the north-east of England, the chaplaincy department at the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust teamed up with the diocesan branch of the Mothers’ Union to provide essential toiletry kits to staff.

Read the entire article here.

Anglican leaders pay tribute following the death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 11:47am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Tributes have been paid to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of the late South African anti-apartheid leader and President Nelson Mandela, who died April 2 at the age of 81. The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, is currently in London for a meeting of the Lambeth Conference 2020 Design Group. He told ACNS: “I send my condolences to the family. I am humbled to have known her. I admired and respected her. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Read the entire article here.

‘Domestic violence is always wrong’ – strong message from the Archbishop of Uganda

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 11:45am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, the Primate of the Church of the Province of Uganda, has used his Easter message to stress that domestic violence is “always wrong.” His message was a response to comments by Member of Parliament Onesmus Twinamasiko, who said in a TV interview: “As a man, you need to discipline your wife. You need to touch her a bit, and you tackle her and you beat her somehow to streamline her.” Ntagali said: “I want to state categorically and very clearly that the Church of Uganda does not support his views. Even though he is an Anglican, he and his views do not represent the Church of Uganda. We condemn all domestic violence. No exceptions.”

Read the entire article here.

Archbishop of Wales condemns ‘Punish a Muslim’ social media campaign

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 11:42am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Primate of the Church in Wales, Archbishop John Davies, has spoken out to condemn a social media campaign set up to encourage attacks on Muslims. The #PunishAMuslim day is being promoted on Twitter and other social media platforms. And it is being spread by an anonymous letter-writing campaign. At the time of writing, the hashtag is a top-trending topic on Twitter, with more than 28,000 separate tweets containing the search string – mostly condemning the campaign. It has prompted security forces and police services to step up security around mosques in New York and other parts of the world.

Read the entire article here.

Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit urges political leaders to build a united Kenya

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 11:39am

[Anglican Communion Nerws Service]  The Archbishop of Kenya, Jackson Ole Sapit, has urged political leaders in the country to build a united Kenya. Speaking to reporters after an Easter Sunday service, he urged politicians to follow the rule of law and shun tribal politics.

Read the entire article here.

Presiding Bishop’s pilgrimage ends with Good Friday in Jerusalem

Fri, 03/30/2018 - 11:30am

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry carries the cross while he and other pilgrims walk the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem on Good Friday. Photo: Ben Gray/ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

[Episcopal News Service – Jerusalem] The cold early-morning rain that fell here on Good Friday seemed to blur the lines between Christian denominations and make clearer the united Christian witness in the Holy Land as pilgrims huddled together in the wind to retrace Jesus’ road to Calvary along the Via Dolorosa.

Among them were Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and those traveling with him on a Holy Week pilgrimage. With the skies alternating between threatening and bright, the pilgrims walked gingerly along the rain-slicked limestone pavement that has been worn smooth by centuries of Christian devotion. Cassock hems sometimes dipped into the many puddles along the way, making for a cold and wet experience as the rainwater soaked in.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry walks the Via Dolorosa with Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani through the Old City in Jerusalem. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Every year the Good Friday ritual is re-enacted in the midst of everyday life in the old city. Shopkeepers were slowly opening their sweet shops, bakeries and souvenir stores. Religious icons and jewelry and vestments were for sale next to butcher shops and hair salons. Feral cats scrounged for food. Trash collectors carefully drove their motorized carts down the narrow pilgrim-lined streets. A police officer joined the procession as a guide.

Members of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land join each year to walk the way of the cross.

At each stop a pilgrim read from the Bible and others led prayers for themselves and others. The pilgrims sang hymns as they walked between each station. Curry and the Most Rev. Suheil Dawani, the Anglican archbishop in Jerusalem, were among those carrying the cross during the walk.

Among the many prayers for others were:

  • For those who have power of life and death over others;
  • For every occasion when human beings use their skill to hurt and kill;
  • For those who live under military rule or occupation;
  • For those facing failure;
  • For those living on this side of the narrow curtain of death, and those who have died and are living beyond it;
  • For those who mourn loved ones killed or wounded in violence not of their own making;
  • For every time the powerful are given undue respect while the weak and the powerless, the poor and the dispossessed, are ignored and repressed;
  • For those who experience moral weakness and failure; and
  • For those who know what it is to lose their faith.

Among the prayers the pilgrims prayed for themselves were:

  • When we judge others, and for those we condemn;
  • When we mock, insult, or hurt others;
  • When we face sickness, physical weakness, tiredness, and exhaustion;
  • When we know moral failure;
  • When everything and everyone seems to be against us and hope flees;
  • When we are ashamed or abused; and
  • Whenever we are called to account for our faith.

The Anglican and Lutheran pilgrims, along with representatives of other Christian faiths, then ate a simple breakfast at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer near the end of the Via Dolorosa.

Newly installed Lutheran Bishop Ibrahim Azar had joined the walk and then welcomed the pilgrims to the church. “It is a delight to be together as the family of Christ,” he said. “We hope and we pray that our Lutheran and Anglican relationship will deepen through our love, our worship and our actions.”

Azar later preached at the traditional Good Friday liturgy at the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr.

His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine, presents a pectoral icon to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during a visit to his offices in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Good Friday morning. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Also on Good Friday, His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine, welcomed Dawani, whom he called “our brother;” Curry and the group traveling with him to his offices in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

“Your visit is encouraging us to maintain the Christian character of Jerusalem,” Theophilos told Curry, describing the city as “multinational, multicultural and multireligious.”

The pectoral icon Presiding Bishop Michael Curry received from His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The patriarch said he believes that those Christians who minister in Jerusalem “do not represent ourselves – we represent the whole world, and especially our Christian brothers and sisters. When you come here, you come home.”

Theophilos spoke of the difficulty in that representation. “Everybody loves Jerusalem, and everybody wants Jerusalem for his own,” he said. “It is very difficult to draw the lines here, so we have to be acrobats.”

However, he said, “Jerusalem has enough room to accommodate everybody.”

The patriarch said with a smile that he has a tradition of offering “spirituality” to his visitors. An assistant then offered small glasses of brandy to the guests.

Curry assured Theophilos that Episcopalians would continue to pray for him, for Dawani and the ministry of the diocese and “praying always for the peace of Jerusalem.”

“You are not alone. We are the body of Christ, and we will always do that” he said. “We will continue to carry the cross with you.”

Parts of the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City were in shadows early on Good Friday morning. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani sing in the sixth station, known as Veronica’s house. She is said to have seen Jesus coming up the hill past her house and went outside to wipe the sweat from his face. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The pilgrims stop for stations nine and 10 along the Via Dolorosa. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

From left, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry; Lutheran Bishop Ibrahim Azar; the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; the Rev. David Longe, Archbishop Suheil Dawani’s chaplain; Dawani; the Rev. Wadi Far, a transitional deacon in the Diocese of Jerusalem; and others listen as the Rev. Mary June Nestler of the Diocese of Utah reads at the final station outside the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. The Rev. Susan Ackley Lukens, associate dean of St. George’s College in Jerusalem, holds the microphone. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Sun begins to break through the crowds and illuminates a religious souvenir opposite the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and near the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Dawani invited Curry to make this Holy Week pilgrimage. Complete ENS coverage can be found here.

The presiding bishop was accompanied by the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; the Rev. Margaret Rose, Episcopal Church deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations; the Rev. Robert Edmunds, Episcopal Church Middle East partnership officer; and Sharon Jones, Curry’s executive coordinator.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

 

Maundy Thursday commandment reveals new depth, challenges in Holy Land today

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 2:26pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry washes congregants’ feet March 29 at the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr in Jerusalem during the cathedral’s Maundy Thursday service. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Jerusalem] Jesus’ commandment to his disciples on the night before he was killed, that they should love one another as he loved them, took on deeper meanings tinged with political challenges March 29 for those on a Holy Week pilgrimage with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

The group spent part of the day discussing the struggle for peace in the Holy Land, and part of the day participating in traditional Holy Week liturgies. Even then, they heard the call for justice and harmony among followers of the Abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which each consider Jerusalem to be a holy city.

“As we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as the Bible teaches us, we must find ways to work for the peace of Jerusalem, which will be found where there is true equality for all, true justice for all and true freedom for everyone,” Curry told Episcopal News Service, as he reflected shortly before the traditional Maundy Thursday Eucharist and foot-washing service. “Here it is clear that this is not simply an idealistic dream. It is the only hope, and we must not rest until it is realized.”

Curry’s complete reflection on his pilgrimage experience so far can be found here.

The group began the day with an early-morning visit to the site known to Muslims as Haram Al Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Mohammed Azam, director general of the Department of Awqaf Jerusalem and of the affairs of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, gave Curry and the group a tour of both the mosque and the Dome of the Rock. They also visited a museum in the complex.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry walks March 29 with Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani and Mohammed Azam, director general of the Department of Awqaf Jerusalem and of the affairs of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, from the Dome of the Rock (in the background) to the mosque. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad ascended from the site. They call it the Miraculous Night Journey, and it is commemorated in the architectural wonder known as the Dome of the Rock shrine. The 35-acre compound, which is administered by Jordan, also includes the remains of the Western Wall of the Second Temple, the most important religious site for Jews. Over the centuries, various groups of people have been banned from the site, depending on who controlled it.

Azam gave Curry and his group a summary of the recent conflict between Muslims, Christians and Jews over the site.

In the end, “as Muslims we have full respect for the Jews, because of their religion. We respect it,” Azam insisted, with the Most Rev. Suheil Dawani, the Anglican archbishop in Jerusalem, acting as translator. The problem, he said, is not the Jewish people, but is instead with “the politicians who are trying to impose their ideas on this place.”

Azam said Muslim and Christian holy sites are under attack, both through violence and via laws such as the recent struggle over an onerous Jerusalem Municipality taxation plan. For centuries, religious bodies in the city have been exempt from such taxes, but the municipality is now demanding millions from religious groups as part of an ongoing dispute with Israel’s finance ministry. He called this an “extremist and radical position.”

The Times of Israel recently reported that the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem has been hit with a bill of the equivalent of nearly $2 million. Azam said Muslim religious groups would owe $120 million. Even though the controversial plan was put on hold earlier this month, the diocese’s accounts are still frozen.

Saying that “we’ve been attacked by this government,” Azam said. “It seems there are no wise people in Israel.”

Azam contended that for 1,500 years there was “much tolerance and mutual understanding” between Christian and Muslims. “We lived together as one family,” he said, adding later that “it seems Israel does not like to see this kind of relationship between Muslims and Christians.”

He asked Curry to do what he could to work for peace in Jerusalem.

“This is what Jerusalem needs: a just peace for everybody and to stop any religious wars here,” he said. “We don’t want any religious wars here. We don’t need war. We want to live in peace and harmony with everybody.”

Shoes belonging to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and those traveling with him wait outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Curry greeted Azam in the name of “your brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church.”

“Following the lead of our brother and archbishop,” he said, gesturing to Dawani, who sat between them, “our church stands with you and with him for what is just and right.”

The presiding bishop said the Episcopal Church knows that Jordanian King Abdullah II “is a man of peace.”

“We will share your message and the story you have told with our people back home,” Curry said. “I was raised to believe that God made all people to be equal and all people to be free. Growing up as an African-American in America, the work for freedom and justice is deep in my bones.”

Later at the traditional Holy Week Chrism Mass, Dawani said in his sermon that Curry’s visit had “empowered us here in this land, especially in the difficult and challenging time we face.”

Clergy must preach God’s word to all, as well as to heal and teach, trying to transform the world the way Christ did, Dawani said.

“Being one of God’s ministers, we are used to the having the eyes of our parishes, and our parishes, our communities and also our traditions fixed on us, especially here in this land where we deal with so many governments,” the archbishop told the clergy. The diocese is spread over five countries — Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. The challenge, he said, is to know how to deal with each of those governments “to keep the balance among all the governments of this region.”

Clergy in the Holy Land have “a public role to proclaim Christ’s love to all humankind,” Dawani said. “This can lead us into difficult situations. Situations when we feel we have to speak when everyone else is silent. Situations when we have to be silent when everyone else is speaking. Situations when we have to stand up for justice, when everyone else seems to go along with the crowd.”

Dawani said Anglicans must discern “how we carry Christ’s message at this difficult time in the midst of all the hardships and all the difficulties and how we stand up for our rights in order that the witness will continue, and our presence will be empowerment.”

Deacons and clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem gather March 29 with Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry after the traditional Holy Week Chrism Mass. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Clergy typically renew their ordination vows during the Chrism Mass, and Dawani said the question his clergy ought to consider while doing so is whether “we are able to have the courage to speak such words of truth, to speak up when all around us are silent. Are we prepared to take the risk for Christ by standing up for those around us who are downtrodden?”

The archbishop noted that the Anglican Jewish Commission recently met in Jerusalem to discuss migration and immigration, what he called “the most challenging issue at this time.” Dawani criticized, most especially, “politicians who cause all these troubles and cause innocent people to suffer because of their agendas, because they’re asking for more richness, they’re asking for more oil.”

“We discussed how we should deal with the stranger in our midst; how we are to welcome those who are different to us,” he said. He said the Christians at the meeting “became passionate about this,” recalling the parable of the Good Samaritan. “In our ministry, in our offering services to the people who are in need, we don’t differentiate. Black, white, Jewish, Christian, Muslims, we help those who are in need in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Living in a land with three religions, Dawani said he knows “sometimes the political situation affects our relationships, but we should put politics aside” and remember that all people are made in the image of God, “whether he be a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew.”

Later in the afternoon, the presiding bishop and his group also had a strategic conversation about peace-building with Yusef Daher, executive secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Center and Zoughbi Zoughbi, local program coordinator for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel.

Curry was in the sixth day of a Holy Week pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Previous ENS coverage of his travels can be found here. Dawani invited Curry to make this Holy Week pilgrimage.

The presiding bishop is accompanied by the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; the Rev. Margaret Rose, Episcopal Church deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations; the Rev. Robert Edmunds, Episcopal Church Middle East partnership officer; and Sharon Jones, Curry’s executive coordinator.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

 

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