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Mark Edington ordained and consecrated as 26th bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 2:33pm

Newly ordained and consecrated Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe Mark Edington greets the congregation April 6. Photo: American Cathedral in Paris via Facebook

[Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe] The Rt. Rev. Mark D. W. Edington became the 26th bishop in charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe on April 6 at the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity in Paris.

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry led the ordination and consecration and investiture.

Six bishops acted as co-consecrators: retiring Bishop in Charge of the Convocation Pierre Whalon, Massachusetts Bishop Alan Gates, Massachusetts Bishop Gayle Harris, Western Massachusetts Bishop Doug Fisher, Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas and the Archbishop of Utrecht of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands Joris Vercammen.

The Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands is in communion with the member churches of the Anglican Communion. The festival liturgy included 35 additional bishops, 70 priests and 315 lay worshipers.

The preacher was the Very Rev. Andrew B. McGowan, dean, president and McFadden Professor of Pastoral Theology and Anglican Studies at the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale.

Edington is the second elected bishop in charge, succeeding Whalon, who completes 17 ½ years in the post. Edington was elected on the eighth ballot on October 20, 2018. The election took place during the annual convention of the convocation in All Saints Church in Waterloo, Belgium. Edington was rector of Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Newtonville, Massachusetts, and director of the Amherst College Press.

The celebration began on Friday evening, with a farewell and welcome event that can easily be described as a gala. Multiple exchanges of gifts were a feature of the evening, from a Gertrude Stein libretto composed in 1929 (for Whalon) to a black Convocation T-shirt (for Edington). Speeches lauding and ribbing both men competed with a lavish spread of food, much of it carried to Paris from the Convention’s nine churches and 11 missions spread across France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy. The Nelson Three, a band composed of three young parishioners from Wiesbaden, offered musical interludes culminating in sporadic dancing toward the end of the evening, especially during the rendition of the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

The order of service on Saturday morning opened with a musical mini-feast: five preludes—two by Durufle, and one each by de Victoria, Mendelssohn and Dvorak—sung by the American Cathedral choir under the direction of Canon for Music Zachery Ullery. Andrew Dewar, organist of the Cathedral, then performed an organ piece by Bach.

The service differed in one notable respect from what Episcopalians in the U.S. are accustomed to. The Litany for Ordinations was sung by the cantor in English and then in the four other languages of the Convocation—French, German, Italian and Spanish. (A Spanish-language mission operates from the Church of St. Paul-Within-the-Walls in Rome.) A bagpiper had the last notes, providing the musical accompaniment to the recessional. Some of the clerics in the recession were seen skipping to the beat.

Bishop Edington is a trustee of his alma mater, Albion College in Adrian, Michigan, where he received an A.B. in philosophy and political science summa cum laude; he graduated from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts and the Harvard Divinity School. He is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has written frequently on the intersection of diplomacy and religion for such publications as the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Atlantic Monthly and the Huffington Post. His wife Judith is a graduate of Albion College, Boston College and Harvard Law School. She is a tax attorney.

The new bishop’s background in ministry, law and foreign relations seems tailored to the role he is taking on, managing an Episcopal presence in Western Europe, which he calls the most secular place in the world. He has described this mission as “teaching the rest of the church” what it will look like in 40 years. This, in his eyes, makes the Convocation the future of the church.

At a press conference on Friday morning, Edington linked this future challenge to the Jesus Movement, which Presiding Bishop Curry has made a central feature of the Episcopal Church in America. This point came up throughout the weekend. In his sermon on Saturday, Dean McGowan declared that “Christendom is over, and this is not bad news. It’s good news. That’s over but the Jesus Movement isn’t over.” Turning to the new bishop in charge, he said: “So Mark, welcome and go away,” as God calls us to look out and not within, bringing the message of the inclusiveness of love to the unchurched people of Western Europe.

The Presiding Bishop concluded the weekend with a rousing sermon on Sunday morning, challenging the packed cathedral to approach Holy Week as a time to discern love as the secret of life itself. “This love can transform us all,” he said, as if speaking not just to the convocation but to the secular peoples of Europe. It was a dramatic sendoff, a welcome and go away, to the brand new Bishop in Charge.


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Lambeth Awards honor ‘extraordinary contributions to the Church and wider society’

Fri, 04/05/2019 - 3:12pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has honored 27 people, including peacemakers, nuns, academics and gardeners in the 2019 Lambeth Awards. Welby launched the non-academic awards in 2016, and each year presentations have been made to “people who have made an extraordinary contribution to the Church and wider society,” Lambeth Palace said in a statement.

Read the full article here.

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Hundreds of Episcopalians make ‘Pledge to Care for Creation’ in campaign’s first days

Fri, 04/05/2019 - 2:56pm

The crescent Earth rises above the lunar horizon in this photo taken from the Apollo 17 spacecraft in lunar orbit during final lunar landing mission in the Apollo program. Photo: NASA

[Episcopal News Service] Caring for God’s creation may seem like a daunting task, the Earth being so vast and the threats to the natural world so pervasive, but The Episcopal Church is encouraging Episcopalians during Lent to pledge to take even the smallest of steps, because those steps together can make a difference.

That is the idea behind the church’s Pledge to Care for Creation campaign, which launched on March 29 and runs through Easter, with the goal of collecting at least 1,000 pledges by April 22, Earth Day.

Discussion of these pledges figured prominently at the House of Bishops meeting in March, when a number of bishops committed to spreading the word to their dioceses. Such efforts seem to be having their intended effect: As of this week, more than 300 Episcopalians have gone online and completed the form identifying ways they will be better caretakers of creation.

“We can’t see this as a hobby. We have to see it as a vocation, that we actually are called to care for this Earth,” said Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel, one of the bishops who participated last month in creating this brief video invitation to rest of the church.

Rickel told Episcopal News Service in a phone interview this week that he pledged to “eat lower on the chain,” meaning less meat and more food produced closer to home, which reduces the carbon footprint tied to food transportation. He also is considering switching from a hybrid to an electric car, and he pledged to deepen his diocese’s companion relationship with a diocese in the Philippines that involved a tree-planting ministry.

Kansas Bishop Cathleen Bascom, who serves on General Convention’s Task Force on Care of Creation & Environmental Racism, pledged to build on her long-time involvement in the cause of prairie restoration, and she is reducing her carbon footprint by choosing to live within walking distance of her new office after she was consecrated as bishop on March 2.

Her consecration itself was a conduit for creation care advocacy. Though the consecration occurred before The Episcopal Church launched its online pledge form, the Diocese of Kansas, at Bascom’s direction, distributed pledge forms to the hundreds of people who attended the consecration at Grace Cathedral in Topeka.

Some of those attendees filled out the tear-off slip and turned it in on the same day, and others have been sending them in a steady stream to the diocesan office for the past month.

“People do think about this issue, and I think our particular spirituality has so much richness,” Bascom told ENS. “The Episcopal Church is such fertile ground for this movement.”

General Convention in 2015 identified creation care as one of the church’s three top priorities, along with racial reconciliation and evangelism. In 2018, General Convention passed 19 environmental resolutions, including support for a national carbon tax, carbon offsets for church-related travel, ocean health and Episcopalians’ continued participation in the Paris Agreement.

Under Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the church is emphasizing the church’s role in promoting a “loving, liberating, life-giving relationship with God” through creation care as part of the Jesus Movement.

The online Pledge to Care for Creation features three parts. Participants are asked to submit one example under “Loving” for sharing the love of God’s creation, a second example under “Liberating” for standing with people being harmed by environmental injustice and a final example under “Life-Giving” of individual actions they intend to take. Some examples include changing eating habits, increasing use of renewable energy and sharing related information with one’s congregation.

“We hope people understand this is more than adding your signature to a petition,” the Rev. Melanie Mullen, director of reconciliation, justice and creation care, said in a press release announcing the campaign. “Pray with the pledge and the Reflection Guide during Lent. Think about what you love in God’s Creation, where your heart breaks over environmental injustice, and how you’d like to simplify your life.”

Rickel, Bascom and other bishops also are emphasizing the Carbon Tracker that the Diocese of California is launching to give people a tangible way of measuring individual and cumulative progress toward improving the environment.

California Bishop Marc Andrus, in a prior interview with ENS, described the tacker as functioning similar to how a Fitbit or other fitness watch tracks steps or calories. “This is like that, for carbon and for sustainable lifestyle choices,” Andrus said.

The pledge campaign is “a great way to rally the church,” Rickel said. The news these days on climate change and other environmental issues often highlights the doom and gloom, but with so many Episcopalians taking the Pledge to Care for Creation, Rickel still sees reason for hope.

“I just believe as Christians we have to live in hope,” he said. “To not live in hope is to deny our faith and to deny Jesus.”

San Joaquin Bishop David Rice also is hopeful, because he sees this campaign as a beginning, not as an end in itself.

“This is about behavioral modification,” Rice told ENS. “I think people are becoming increasingly aware of what’s at stake here.”

In his diocese, in California’s central valley, what’s at stake has a lot to do with water, or lack of it. The region has been in and out of a drought for several years, which affects the local agricultural economy.

Rice pledged to bolster his diocese’s water conservation efforts and also work toward eradicating single-use water bottles. He also aims to reduce his personal carbon footprint by riding his bike more and driving less.

His diocese is spreading the word about the Pledge to Care of Creation through numerous videos and promotion on social media, and as he schedules one-on-one meetings with each clergy member in the diocese during Lent, he is bringing up the pledge in every meeting.

Across the diocese, “people are so wonderfully receptive in their responses, and there’s significant conversation being generated here.”

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

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Cristóbal León Lozano consecrated as bishop of Litoral Ecuador

Wed, 04/03/2019 - 3:02pm

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians and invited guests from across Ecuador and The Episcopal Church gathered March 30 at the Philanthropic Society in Guayaquil to welcome and celebrate the ordination and consecration of the Rt. Rev. Cristóbal León Lozano as the Diocese of Litoral Ecuador’s third bishop.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, led the ceremony as chief consecrator. Installation followed on March 31 at the Cathedral Church of Christ the King [Cristo Rey] in Guayaquil.

Elected on Aug. 4, León succeeds the Rt. Rev. Alfredo Morante España, who served the diocese for 23 years.

Assisting the presiding bishop as co-consecrators were Morante; the Rt. Rev. Daniel Gutiérrez, bishop of Pennsylvania, the Rt. Rev. Andy Dietsche, bishop of New York, the Rt. Rev. Rafael Morales, bishop of Puerto Rico, the Rt. Rev. Julio Holguin, retired bishop of the Dominican Republic, and the Rt. Rev. Wilfredo Ramos-Orench.

A reception to meet and greet Morante and Curry was held following the ceremony.

León was ordained priest on March 22, 1998 and was the archdeacon of Manabí before becoming bishop. He is married to Chila, and they have three children: Rocío, Jaime and Shirley.

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Illinois congregation’s modest gift helps 3,617 families eliminate $4 million in medical debt

Wed, 04/03/2019 - 2:35pm

The Rev. Beth Maynard, rector of Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church in Champaign, Illinois, holds a sign promoting the congregation’s donation to RIP Medical Debt. She and other church leaders pose with Springfield Bishop Dan Martins, who stands to the right of Maynard. Photo: Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] Last year, parishioners at Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church in Champaign, Illinois, took stock of the results of a centennial capital campaign. They had a good problem on their hands: Building renovations, funded. Local charities, supported. And they still had a $15,000 surplus.

That $15,000 may not seem like a lot, but with the help of a New York-based charity called RIP Medical Debt, Emmanuel Memorial leveraged the surplus to help wipe away unpaid doctors’ bills for 3,617 cash-strapped households across the Diocese of Springfield.

Total debt forgiven: $4 million.

“The forgiveness of debt is a Gospel thing. It’s throughout the Old Testament. It’s throughout the New Testament,” the Rev. Beth Maynard, Emmanuel Memorial’s rector, said in a phone interview with Episcopal News Service. “This is the season of Lent. We are, all of us, people who have been forgiven by God and whose debts have been forgiven by Christ on the cross.”

This Lent, forgiveness – sealed in bright yellow envelopes – also is arriving in thousands of mailboxes across central and southern Illinois. RIP Medical Debt began sending the envelopes last week to notify recipients that their medical bills have been eliminated thanks to Emmanuel Memorial’s intervention.

RIP Medical Debt uses the money it raises from donors like Emmanuel Memorial to purchase bundled financial portfolios of medical debt, which it then eliminates. The organization’s website describes debt forgiveness as “a collective message of care from and for the communities we serve.”

News outlets in central Illinois have asked anyone receiving one of the envelopes to come forward and share their stories, Maynard said. The church doesn’t have any of the recipients’ names because their identities are shielded by medical privacy protections, but Maynard, too, would love to learn more about the lives affected by the debt forgiveness.

Families struggling under the weight of medical debt “might be facing a crippling situation,” she said, even if they aren’t the usual recipients of the congregation’s typical outreach efforts, which include a sack lunch ministry for homeless people.

“It gave us an opportunity to impact a lot of people who might not necessarily come to our door … or might not necessarily be involved with one of the social service organizations that we partner with,” Maynard said.

She wasn’t able to say how the congregation first learned about RIP Medical Debt, but the seeds of this outreach were planted 100 years ago, when the church was built from a design by Ralph Adams Cram, the renowned Episcopal church architect who died in 1942. Cram churches are more common in the Northeast than the Midwest, Maynard said, so the congregation, with about 200 member households, takes special pride in its historic building. Therefore, they had no problem raising $150,000 for a capital campaign in 2017 and 2018 to celebrate the church’s centennial.

Most of that money went toward minor building repairs and new signs, and the congregation set aside some of the proceeds for the local charities C-U at Home, a homelessness ministry, and Empty Tomb, which connects volunteers with families in need.

With the remaining $15,000, RIP Medical Debt initially estimated that the congregation could help forgive about $1 million in debt, Maynard said. The charity, by negotiating down the price of the debt, estimates that it usually can forgive about $100 in debt for every dollar donated. Think of it as the altruistic cousin of a debt collection agency, tearing up IOUs instead of asking for payment.

On a large scale, eliminating medical debt could have a profound effect on the lives of millions of American families. A recent report in the American Journal of Public Health found that medical expenses were a factor in nearly 60 percent of bankruptcy filings, and RIP Medical Debt estimates more than 43 million Americans have a total of about $75 billion in past-due medical debt. Another report, out April 2, indicates Americans borrowed $88 billion last year to pay for health care.

Emmanuel Memorial’s Mission Leadership Team voted in January to work with RIP Medical Debt to spend the money remaining from the congregation’s capital campaign to eliminate medical bills for households in Champaign County.

The charity quickly identified 201 individual debt accounts in the county and still had plenty of money left over, so the congregation expanded its geographic target to include the whole Diocese of Springfield. By the time Emmanuel Memorial’s donation was exhausted, RIP Medical Debt had purchased $4 million worth of medical debt, and it prepared to fill its bright yellow envelopes with the good news.

RIP Medical Debt sends notices to the people it helps in bright yellow envelopes like these. Photo: Beth Maynard

Credit agencies were notified that the 3,617 families’ debt had been cleared, and according to RIP Medical Debt, debt forgiveness does not increase the recipients’ taxes or result in any other adverse consequences. There are no strings attached, nothing expected in return.

“I applaud Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church for their dedication in realizing this important campaign,” RIP Medical Debt co-founder Jerry Ashton said in a church news release. “We feel incredibly privileged to work with any faith-based organization committed to relieving the burden of un-payable medical debt in its community.”

Springfield Bishop Dan Martins was at Emmanuel Memorial on March 31 for a previously scheduled visit, and he, too, praised the congregation’s work for residents across the diocese.

“I am overjoyed with the news of Emmanuel’s exemplary stewardship of the resources entrusted to them,” Martins said in the church’s news release. “The knowledge of the concrete impact this will have on families in central and southern Illinois is a sign of the abundant goodness of the God whom we worship.”

Even small donations go a long way, Maynard told ENS, and she encouraged other congregations to consider partnering with RIP Medical Debt.

“You can make a tremendous impact with a very small donation,” she said. “It’s a terrific way to make a difference.”

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

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Anglican Church in Indian Ocean calls for Chagossians’ right of return to Diego Garcia

Tue, 04/02/2019 - 4:10pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Standing Committee of the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean has expressed its solidarity with the Chagossian people in their fight to return to their island homelands. The UK government retained controls of islands in the Chagos Archipelago when it granted Mauritius independence in 1968.

Read the full article here.

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Seattle cathedral provides sanctuary for Mexican man seeking deportation protection

Tue, 04/02/2019 - 3:59pm

Jaime Rubio Sulficio and Keiko Maruyama speak at a news conference March 29 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington. Rubio is staying at the cathedral to avoid deportation to his native Mexico. Photo: Magaly Smith/One America

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal cathedral in Seattle, Washington, began last week providing sanctuary for a Mexican man who faces deportation and fears he will be separated from his wife and 6-year-old son, both American citizens.

Immigrant advocates introduced Jaime Rubio Sulficio to the public at a March 29 news conference hosted by St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, where he now is living. Two days later, he and his family were welcomed warmly by the congregation at the cathedral’s Sunday services.

“The church gave them a standing ovation of over a minute yesterday as a sign of encouragement and support,” the Very Rev. Steven Thomason, St. Mark’s dean, told Episcopal News Service in an April 1 interview. “It took great courage for them to become public in all of this, but they’re convinced that it’s the right thing to do. And this church is convinced it’s the right thing to do.”

Rubio, 37, supports his family with his construction business and has been active in the Seattle community. At the news conference, he described teaching Latin dance and volunteering with United Way of King County  and Rebuilding Together Seattle. He also alluded to the uncertain future facing an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

“I am so grateful for the support of the community,” he said with his wife, Keiko Maruyama, standing by his side. “This is not just about me and my family. This is about the more than 11 million people facing injustice in the United States trying to find a humane solution for their immigration status.”

St. Mark’s noted in a news release that nearly 50 people are seeking sanctuary with U.S. congregations; it’s unclear how many are Episcopal churches. Churches are considered “sensitive locations” that traditionally are not targeted for immigration enforcement. In one case, at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, the congregation has for nearly two years provided refuge for a Guatemalan woman ordered to return home.

St. Mark’s is part of an interreligious network of Seattle region congregations that have pledged to support immigrants. The cathedral also sees itself as part of the larger sanctuary movement. With roots in the 1980s sanctuary movement that offered refuge to Central Americans fleeing war, the new sanctuary movement has been growing in recent years in response to rising animosity toward immigrants and the anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration.

Most recently, President Donald Trump has threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border to all migration in response to what he says is Mexico’s failure to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants to the U.S. On March 30, the U.S. government cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the three Central American countries most migrants are fleeing.

Episcopal congregations church-wide have voiced support for immigrants facing deportation, in some cases offering them physical sanctuary, and The Episcopal Church’s General Convention has backed those efforts. The latest resolution, from 2018, called on congregations to “become places of welcome, refuge, healing, and other forms of material and pastoral support for those targeted for deportation due to immigration status or some perceived status of difference.” The resolution defined “sanctuary” broadly, not just as physical protection from deportation.

In Seattle, the ecumenical Church Council of Greater Seattle enlisted 150 congregations in a network called For Such a Time as This to be advocates for immigrants. Since 2016, it has trained volunteers to provide pastoral care after immigration raids, and network volunteers accompany immigrants to legal hearings and provide hospitality to those seeking asylum in the U.S.

“Faith communities are called to alleviate suffering and remove fear and confront unjust policies, so we are very straightforward in executing our mission as people of faith,” Michael Ramos, executive director of the Church Council, told ENS. St. Mark’s was one of 11 member congregations that additionally pledged to become places of sanctuary, including by sheltering immigrants if the congregations have the capacity to do so.

Another Seattle church, Gethsemane Lutheran Church, was the first to offer physical sanctuary to an undocumented immigrant facing deportation. Jose Robles, a 43-year-old painter from Mexico, has been living at Gethsemane for nine months while his request for a visa is being reviewed.

“Sanctuary is not an easy thing for families or an individual to go through, because no one wants to be even temporarily out of their home or unable to work or support their families,” Ramos said. Congregations, too, need to spend ample time in discernment before deciding “consciously, fully and actively” whether to open that door, he said.

At St. Mark’s, the congregation’s discernment on sanctuary culminated in 2016 with a unanimous vestry vote in favor of preparing the congregation to it, if and when requested.

In its “Statement of Commitment and Action,” which covers a range of justice and peace issues, the congregation committed to “

…advocate for immigrants and their families, and we will block, interfere, and obstruct the mass deportations of immigrants who are members of our communities.”

The statement was approved before President Donald Trump took office in 2017, though Thomason, the cathedral’s dean, identified a greater sense of urgency now – based not on the number of deportations, which the latest data shows didn’t spike under Trump, but rather on concerns that increasingly toxic rhetoric is being aimed at immigrants and influencing government policies.

“We absolutely are outraged by the current policies and actions of our government, that is separating families,” Thomason said. Such an approach to immigration is “immoral,” he said, “and runs against all of this nation’s values and certainly is counter to our [baptismal] covenantal value of respecting the dignity of every human being.”

He wasn’t sure St. Mark’s ever would need to provide such sanctuary, but then Ramos’ group presented Rubio’s case.

Rubio entered the United States illegally more than a dozen years ago and returned to Mexico in 2010 to visit his sick mother. He was later caught by federal authorities while trying to re-enter, said Ramos. Until recently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, had granted Rubio a stay of deportation, allowing him to remain in the country without legalizing his residency status, but authorities withdrew that protection late last year and gave him 120 days to leave.

“I am not unsympathetic to the emotional and financial hardships associated with this case,” ICE acting Seattle field office director Bryan Wilcox said in a Seattle Times story, but Wilcox saw no “urgent humanitarian” reason to allow Rubio to continue living in the United States.

Details on what motivated ICE to end Rubio’s stay of deportation weren’t readily available. In general, a Trump administration policy change shifted immigration authorities away from prioritizing deportation of certain categories of undocumented immigrants, such as criminals.

“Since President Trump’s 2017 executive order that largely removed prosecutorial discretion, we have seen an increase in deportations of immigrants who are not a threat to their communities and in fact are critical members of their communities and have families and long standing ties to their employers and faith groups,” Lacy Broemel, a policy adviser with The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, said in an email responding generally to the policy that has resulted in cases like Rubio’s.

“This policy has had a real and painful effect on family units and individuals. solution is to advance comprehensive immigration reform so these individuals have a chance to come forward and earn a pathway to citizenship.”

Rubio’s departure deadline expired March 28. Instead of leaving the country, he moved into the cathedral.

“He was not a member of our congregation, but he is now a member of our family,” said the Rev. Nancy Ross, canon for cathedral relations. Ross criticized “arbitrary” immigration enforcement that targets someone like Rubio.

“We’re standing our ground as the church that follows Jesus Christ and that stands with the oppressed and opens our doors for the vulnerable,” she told ENS, “and we feel it a moral obligation for keeping families together.”

Rubio, at the news conference, described the joy he felt seeing his son in a kindergarten performance. Those tender moments will be out of reach for him now at the cathedral, but he will still be able to receive visits from his wife and son.

“My family are hopeful for a positive solution,” he said, “and we are going to continue fighting to get a legal remedy so we can stay together as a family.”

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

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Refusal to invite bishops’ same-sex spouses to Lambeth 2020 draws ire in Britain

Tue, 04/02/2019 - 3:49pm

The congregation, made up mostly of bishops and their spouses, gathered for Eucharist on July 17, 2008, under what was known as “The Big Top” tent at the University of Kent. Photo: Scott Gunn/Anglican Communion News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s decision to exclude the same-sex spouses of bishops invited to the 2020 Lambeth Conference has drawn concern in the British Parliament and from students at the university where the bulk of the events will be held.

Both The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council and House of Bishops, as well as a number of dioceses, have gone on record objecting to the decision announced Feb. 15 in an Anglican Communion News Service blog by Anglican Communion Secretary General Josiah Idowu-Fearon.

Idowu-Fearon wrote that Welby had invited “every active bishop” to the periodic gathering of the Anglican Communion’s bishops set for July 23-Aug. 2, 2020. That decision represents a change from the previous Lambeth Conference. In 2008, then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams refused to invite Bishop Gene Robinson, who in 2003 became the first openly gay and partnered bishop in the Anglican Communion.

However, Idowu-Fearon said in his blog post that “it would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited to the conference.” He said the Anglican Communion defines marriage as “the lifelong union of a man and a woman,” as codified in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

Some spouses enjoy the day on July 22, 2008, during the last Lambeth Conference, with Canterbury Cathedral in the background. Photo: Scott Gunn/Anglican Communion News Service

As noted in the 2004 Windsor Report (page 61 here), the decisions of Lambeth Conferences do not carry the force of canonical law in part because there is no single set of canons applicable across the entire communion. The report, issued in the wake of Robinson’s ordination and consecration, said that Lambeth resolutions “have moral authority across the Communion,” and consequently, provinces “should not proceed with controversial developments in the face of teaching to the contrary from all the bishops gathered together in Lambeth Conferences.”

The Lambeth Conference, which happens roughly every 10 years, has its roots in a controversy over the teachings of John William Colenso, the bishop of Natal in Southern Africa, and those who thought he was advocating polygamy and defying other accepted theological teaching. Then-Archbishop of Canterbury Charles Longley invited all 144 of the communion’s bishops to the first conference in 1867, but only 76 attended, in part because some felt the gathering would only increase confusion about the controversy, according to an 1889 book.

Then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams leads bishops in a retreat July 18, 2008, as the Lambeth Conference began in Canterbury Cathedral. Photo: Chris Tumilty/Anglican Communion News Service

The 2020 conference is due to begin with two days of “spiritual retreat” on July 23 and 24, with bishops and spouses gathering separately. An opening Eucharist is set for July 26 at Canterbury Cathedral. The conference website says that, from July 27 to Aug. 1, participants “will work through a daily program which includes Bible studies based on 1 Peter, special guests and keynote speakers, seminars, plenary sessions and discussions.”

Spouses have typically participated in a parallel program. However, in 2020, there will be a joint program for the first time. Spouses of bishops will attend combined sessions “at key points in the overall program,” according to information here. There will also be separate sessions on the specific responsibilities of the ministry for bishops and spouses, according to the Lambeth website. The conference’s website features a photo of Welby and his wife, Caroline. The page was changed to add a link to Idowu-Fearon’s blog. It read, “The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is sending personal invitations to every eligible bishop and spouse (excluding same-sex spouses) and is looking forward immensely to hosting them.” The landing page now refers to Welby’s invitations to “every eligible bishop and spouse.”

A question in Parliament

Ben Bradshaw, a Labour Party member from Exeter, raised a point of order in Parliament on March 14, asking for a statement from Second Church Estates Commissioner Dame Caroline Spelman “on the outrageous decision by the Church of England to issue the official invitation to next year’s Lambeth Conference and explicitly forbid the same-sex spouses of bishops from attending, when the heterosexual spouses of bishops have been warmly invited.”

Bradshaw said the exclusion of same-sex spouses is “a totally unacceptable position for our established state church to adopt, and this house needs to tell the church we have had enough of it.”

Andrea Leadsom, a Conservative Party member who is lord president of the Privy Council and leader of the House of Commons, replied that she was “not aware of that situation” and was grateful to Bradshaw for raising it. She invited him to write to her so that she could raise the question with Spelman.

The @churchofengland decision to explicitly ban the same sex spouses of Anglican Bishops from next year’s Lambeth Conference, when heterosexual spouses are warmly invited, is totally unacceptable behaviour for an established Church which still enjoys the privileges of such. pic.twitter.com/PnxYyr7zU5

— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) March 14, 2019

Bradshaw was not accurate in his statement that the Church of England issues the invitations for the gathering. The invitations come directly from the archbishop of Canterbury who has a number of communion-wide roles beyond his duties at Canterbury.

Bradshaw had been vocal about Welby’s decision before raising his question in Parliament.

When I first saw this I thought it must be a spoof. The invitation to next year’s @churchofengland #Lambethconference to “address hurts & concerns” specifically stating that the same sex spouses of Bishops are not welcome. Ashamed of my Church. @churchstate pic.twitter.com/W6hj4YlcIZ

— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) February 26, 2019

Conference venue responds to questions, criticism

The University of Kent, a public university, said in mid-March that it had agreed in August 2018 to allow the Lambeth Conference in 2020 to convene on its campus on a hill above the main part of Canterbury. It has done so since 1978. The gathering tends to happen roughly every 10 years. The last meeting took place in 2008.

The university said, in what appears to be a letter written to someone who inquired about the decision, that it had learned of Welby’s decision via Idowu-Fearon’s blog post.

However, the letter goes on to say that the Lambeth Conference is relying on an exemption for religious organizations, which is part of the British Equality Act of 2010. “While we would not apply such a prohibition to any event that we are running directly, we have to respect clients’ rights provided they are lawful and justifiable should they wish to exercise a legal right which is open to them,” the university’s letter said.

“The Big Top” was pitched on the University of Kent campus and was the site of most of the session for the last Lambeth Conference, which ran July 16-Aug. 4, 2008. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

An article in the local newspaper quoted one student calling the university’s response “spineless” and another who accused the school of putting the chance to make money above its values. The conference costs £4,950 (about $6,450) per person, which includes accommodation, meals at the venue and all travel during the conference itself. The price doesn’t include flights to or from the United Kingdom.

The conference is run by an organization related to the Anglican Communion Office known as the Lambeth Conference Co. Phil George, the chief executive officer, told the Anglican Consultative Council’s Standing Committee last September that “progress continues to be positive and financially we are on track.” Soon after the 2008 gathering, it was reported that the event, which cost £5 million (roughly $9.9 million in 2008), was £1.2 million (or about $2.4 million in 2008) in debt. The Telegraph said that organizers had to ask the Board of Governors of the Church Commissioners and the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England to cover the deficit.

The Student Union at the University of Kent said March 21 that it is “deeply disappointed” in the school’s decision to contract with conference organizers. “This is not a value that we expect to see on campus, and we are committed to championing inclusivity in all events,” the group said in a statement. The students said outside events held at the university ought to “respect the diversity of both students and staff, the values of the University, Kent Union and the environment that they want to utilize.” The statement said the group would be in contact with conference organizers, “where our efforts need to be focused, urging them to change their stance.”

Five days later, David Warren, chair of the University Council, said that the school had received “a large number of concerns.” He reported that council members decided that the university “shall ensure that accommodation will be available on campus for those spouses affected by this decision who wish to be in Canterbury with their partners during the conference period.”

Warren said he and Karen Cox, University of Kent vice-chancellor and president, would try to meet with the Lambeth Conference organizers and Welby “to bring council’s concerns to their attention and discuss the issues.”

The British organization OneBodyOneFaith said in mid-February that its members and supporters were hoping to offer accommodation for same-sex spouses. “We will do everything we can to ensure that they are there in Canterbury next year,” said Tracey Byrne, OneBodyOneFaith chief executive.

Byrne and the Rev. Peter Leonard have also written to Welby, Idowu-Fearon and others to express their concern. “We trust that you will continue to reflect on the harm which has been done by this decision and the way in which it has communicated, and like us will be open to the possibilities of transforming that hurt and harm, even at this stage, by courageous words and compassionate action,” they said. “We intend to do just that, starting with our commitment to host those un-invited spouses so they can experience the warm and generous welcome which we believe characterizes the Church of England at its grass roots. This seems to us to be the very least the gospel demands of us.”

The Anglican Consultative Council is due to discuss the conference on May 4, the last formal business day of its April 28-May 5 meeting in Hong Kong.

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

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Merged Episcopal congregations in California are first to take name of church’s only African American deaconess

Mon, 04/01/2019 - 5:02pm

Deaconess Anna E.B. Alexander is shown with a group of her students in front of the Good Shepherd School, which she founded in Pennick, Georgia. Photo: Diocese of Georgia

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church now has its first congregation named after an African American woman.

St. George’s in Antioch, California, and St. Alban’s, Brentwood, both in the Diocese of California, officially merged March 24. The combined congregations are now known as St. Anna Alexander’s Episcopal Church.

The seasonal game known as Lent Madness gets some of the credit for the California Episcopalians’ choice of Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander as their patron. Forward Movement’s version of March Madness features saints “competing” in brackets for the Golden Halo. St. Anna “won” the 2018 halo, six months before General Convention reaffirmed her sainthood last July.

“We were so inspired by Anna’s story of the pouring out of her life for the sake of those formerly enslaved; despite having little resources she managed over time to build a school as well as a church to help people succeed through literacy,” the Rev. Jill Honodel, the congregation’s long-term supply priest, said in a Diocese of California press release.

Educational segregation exists their neighborhood, according to Honodel. For example, she said, the majority of African American boys struggle to pass their math classes through high school. “We are inspired by St. Anna to do our part so that as many people as possible have a chance to succeed and the opportunity for a good future,” Honodel said.

Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander was born in 1865 to recently freed slaves and died in 1947. She ministered in rural Georgia, focusing on the education of poor black children. Photo: Diocese of Georgia

Alexander’s faith and her championing of literacy and education exemplifies “what I feel is true Christianity,” said Michelle Price, the new senior warden of St. Anna’s.

“I took away from Lent Madness her being a saint as something I could emulate in my own life,” Price said in the release. “Some of the saints do things that are so huge and so dynamic and here’s this humble, small woman in Pennick, that just quietly changed people’s lives one student at a time.”

Alexander brought new life to children who otherwise would have been left behind, Price said. “Hopefully our church will model the same through our resource center by hosting literacy programs, after-school programs and math programs,” she added.

Alexander, the first black female deaconess in The Episcopal Church, ministered in Georgia’s Glynn and McIntosh counties, concentrating on the education of poor blacks. She helped establish Good Shepherd Episcopal Church and its parochial school in Pennick, just west of the Atlantic coast. She also established and helped run the St. Cyprian’s School at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in Darien.

In 1907 during the Convention for Colored Episcopalians, Bishop C.K. Nelson set Alexander aside as a deaconess. He wrote in his diary for May 3 of that year, “Admitted as Deaconess Anna E. B. Alexander, a devout, godly and respected colored woman, to serve as teacher and helper in the Mission of the Good Shepherd, Pennick, Ga.”

She would be the only African American to serve as an Episcopal deaconess. The Episcopal Church recognized deaconesses from 1889 until 1970, when General Convention eliminated the order and included women in its canons governing deacons. (An interactive timeline of women’s ordination in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is here.)

Alexander was born in 1865 to recently emancipated slaves on St. Simons Island, Georgia. She died in 1947 and is buried in front of the original two-story Good Shepherd Episcopal Church.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry celebrates the legacy and ministry of Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander during a visit to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Pennick, Georgia. Walter Holmes, left, a former student of St. Anna, and current senior warden of Good Shepard, greets Celestine Alexander Cartwright, right, also a former student of the saint. Photo: Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Walter Holmes, senior warden for Good Shepherd, told Episcopal News Service that as a student of St. Anna’s, he “got to experience firsthand her love, her dedication to people and the impact she had on so many people right here in South Georgia

“So now, it’s a beautiful testimony to see her legacy reach the other side of the country — and even internationally with her as a saint now. She would probably be embarrassed by all the attention, though truthfully, that’s just who she was.”

St. Anna taught Zora Nobles’ father and two of her uncles. “When I was very young, my dad would talk about her and how she in fact was instrumental in guiding he and his siblings to always strive to do the very best of the best—and to also get an education and encourage them to go to college,” she said in an interview last year.

The deaconess was always discussed in their home, she said. “All of the good work that she had performed, how she was just diligent and passionate, and how she was so driven to do what she was doing to help children to read, to understand science, to understand the world outside of Pennick, Georgia,” Nobles said.

Georgia Episcopalians worked for more than 20 years to have Alexander recognized by the church. In 1998, Bishop Henry Louttit Jr. named her a Saint of Georgia with a feast day of Sept. 24. In 2011 and 2014, the diocese passed resolutions calling on the General Convention to include her on the church’s calendar. General Convention began the process of doing so in 2012. The 2018 meeting of General Convention added Alexander to the church’s calendar of saints via Resolution A065 when it approved a revision of “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” for trial use. Her feast day is Sept. 24 (found beginning on page 490 here).

The newly named congregation of St. Anna Alexander’s Episcopal Church gathers March 24 outside the Antioch, California, church in San Francisco’s East Bay area. Photo: Emma Marie Chiang/Diocese of California

The new St. Anna’s has parishioners from Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Korea, Mexico, Canada, Holland, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Bermuda and Ghana, among others. “It was good to come to church this morning and to see a saint of the church that looks like me,” parishioner Betty Smith said when she saw the saint’s photo on the front cover of the March 24 order of service, according to the press release. “I’m really thankful that God has given this to me in my time.”

St. George’s and St. Alban’s were both hard hit by the 2008 real estate crash, according to the release.  In 2018, they decided to not only share space in Antioch but also to share governance. On Sept. 30, the two mission churches voted unanimously to petition the diocese to merge and form a new mission congregation. There is potential for a future church plant in Brentwood on a nine-acre property owned by the Diocese of California, the release said. California Bishop Marc Andrus was at the Antioch church March 24 to make the merger official.

St. Anna Alexander’s Episcopal Church sports a new sign after becoming a new mission congregation of the Diocese of California. Photo: Diocese of California

Honodel said the California Episcopalians hope to honor St. Anna’s name throughout the years through their connection to the people of Pennick, Georgia, who knew her personally; and they hope to strengthen that bond between Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Georgia and the new mission church in San Francisco’s East Bay area.

Few Episcopal Church congregations are named for women

Among The Episcopal Church’s 6,712 congregations, just under 400 are named for women, with just five named for a woman of color, St. Monica. She was born in North Africa to Berber parents in about 331 and was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. The Episcopal Church’s calendar honors St. Monica on May 4 and St. Augustine on August 28.

There are about 42 congregations named for St. Augustine that are not explicitly named for St. Augustine of Canterbury who, in 596, led a group of 40 monks to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Each new archbishop of Canterbury kisses the Gospel book said to have been brought to England by Augustine, swearing to observe the customs of Canterbury Cathedral. Augustine of Canterbury is commemorated on May 28.

Some 200 Episcopal Church congregations are named for Mary, Jesus’ mother, or Mary Magdalene. There are about 50 congregations named for the saint who was Mary’s mother, variously spelled as Ann, Anne or Anna.

At least two congregations are named for women who are not officially considered saints. Caroline Church of Brookhaven in Setauket, New York, was named to honor Queen Wilhelmina Karoline of Brandenburg-Anspach, Queen of George II of England. The church’s website notes that the choice is evidence of “the strong loyalist convictions of the original congregation.” Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, is a memorial to Edward Albert Palmer who heroically lost his life while saving that of his sister, Daphne Palmer Neville.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter. Christopher Sikkema, Episcopal Church coordinator for digital evangelism, contributed to this report.

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