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Oklahoma Bishop Konieczny to retire in 2021

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 3:25pm

[Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma] The Rt. Rev. Dr. Edward J. Konieczny, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, has announced his intention to retire on January 1, 2021. Bishop Konieczny was elected and consecrated as the fifth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma in 2007, and at the time of his retirement will be in his 15th year as Bishop.

Bishop Konieczny intends to call for the election of a Bishop Coadjutor to be consecrated on April 18, 2020. A Bishop Coadjutor is elected to succeed a Diocesan Bishop. By electing a Bishop Coadjutor, there will be a time of overlap for the new Bishop and Bishop Konieczny to work together to ensure a smooth transition.

The responsibility for discerning Bishop candidates and conducting an election rests with the Standing Committee of the Diocese. More information about the process and timeline for the election of the new Bishop will be published soon.

In his letter to the diocese, Bishop Konieczny stated, “We have accomplished much during my tenure: we are healthy spiritually, financially, and prepared to grow and develop in new and emerging ways. It is time to discern the next Bishop who will lead the Diocese of Oklahoma into this new season of ministry.”

During his tenure, Bishop Konieczny has served in numerous leadership roles throughout The Episcopal Church, including as member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence who participated in the Claiming Common Ground Against Gun Violence March at 2015 General Convention, member of Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, member of Executive Committee of Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, member of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice, member of the Presiding Bishop Transition and Installation Committee, Co-Chair of the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop, and Key Note Speaker at the Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace Conference, and is a participating member in the Consultation of Anglican Bishops. In 2018, Bishop Ed was elected and appointed as the Bishop Representative to the Anglican Consultative Council for The Episcopal Church, a role in which he will continue to serve.

Additionally, Bishop Konieczny has served on numerous community, civic, and faith-based committees and commissions, as well as a consultant to corporations and municipalities on corporate leadership.

The Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma includes all Episcopal congregations in the state of Oklahoma, spanning nearly 70,000 square miles and including numerous geographic landscapes. Our diocese includes approximately 25,000 Episcopalians; 70 congregations; and 150 resident clergy. We support 5 Episcopal schools, 2 residential communities for mature adults, and St. Crispin’s, a thriving Camp and Conference Center. The Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma is a member of The Episcopal Church’s Province VII, which consists of 12 other dioceses in close proximity. Our Diocesan Offices are located in downtown Oklahoma City, and our Cathedral, St. Paul’s, is located just one block away.

The post Oklahoma Bishop Konieczny to retire in 2021 appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

La cumbre de los ministerios de la frontera reúne a diócesis del suroeste, de California y de México

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 6:31am

La frontera entre El Paso, Texas, y Ciudad Juárez, México, es el segundo cruce fronterizo más concurrido entre EE.UU. y México. Una estrecha franja del Río Grande separa las dos ciudades, cuya población conjunta asciende a más de 2 millones de personas. Desde las montañas Franklin en El Paso la frontera es invisible. Foto de Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – El Paso, Texas] Mientras conducía a lo largo de la autopista Interestatal 25 de Albuquerque en dirección a Las Cruces, Nuevo México, Michael Hunn, el obispo de Río Grande, divisó una valla al lado izquierdo de la carretera , justo al sur de Belén, que casi le hizo chocar su camioneta.

“Me quedé tan confundido por el cartel. Decía en grandes letras, dos oraciones: ‘El cielo tiene un muro y estrictas normas migratorias. El infierno tiene fronteras abiertas’”, dijo Hunn, que entonces era obispo electo. “Casi arruino la camioneta… Tuve que desacelerar… ¿Realmente dice eso? Me sentí tan confundido, y aún sigo confundido”.

La valla le recordaba a Hunn —que antes de su elección como obispo de Río Grande fue el canónigo del obispo primado Michael Curry para el ministerio dentro de la Iglesia Episcopal— que “para aquellos de nosotros en la Iglesia, parte del quehacer de vincularse a Jesucristo y seguirle siempre es teológica. Y estamos viviendo en una sociedad y en una cultura donde hay cristianos que van regularmente a la iglesia e interpretan su fe de tal manera que pueden comprar una valla anunciadora que diga: ‘El cielo tiene un muro y estrictas normas de inmigración. El infierno tiene fronteras abiertas’.

“Si ese sentimiento está ahí, si esa teología está ahí —y yo creo que es real en todos nuestros lugares— luego tendría sentido para nosotros como episcopales, para nosotros como anglicanos, hacer alguna labor teológica”, dijo Hunn, el 18 de noviembre en su sermón durante la eucaristía de clausura de la primera Cumbre de Ministerios de la Frontera que [tuvo lugar] aquí en El Paso.

La próxima Cumbre de Ministerios de la Frontera tendrá lugar en Tucson, Arizona, del 14 al 16 de noviembre de 2019.

Alrededor de 60 personas asistieron a la cumbre que se celebró del 16 al 18 de noviembre en el [hotel] Marriott de El Paso. Aunque la cumbre se centró en los ministerios de la frontera llevados a cabo por las diócesis que comparten una frontera con México, los asistentes vinieron de tan lejos como Massachusetts. Una vez que un migrante o un solicitante de asilo cruza la frontera de EE.UU., con frecuencia viaja a otros estados en busca de trabajo o para reunirse con su familia. La Diócesis de Río Grande, que abarca el 40 por ciento de la frontera entre EE.UU. y México, auspició la cumbre para reunir a personas dedicadas a un ministerio fronterizo a fin de compartir experiencias y para relacionarse.

“Aproximadamente hace un año, comencé a fijarme en los ministerios fronterizos y pregunté que estaba pasando en otras diócesis”, dijo el Rdo. Paul Moore, que preside el Ministerio Fronterizo de la Diócesis de Río Grande y quien organizó la cumbre. La próxima cumbre tendrá lugar del 14 al 16 de noviembre de 2019 en Tucson, Arizona.

La cumbre coincidió con caravanas de migrantes que seguían llegando a la frontera de EE.UU. y México. Cientos de migrantes centroamericanos comenzaron a llegar el 14 de noviembre a Tijuana, México, y a otros puertos de entrada. Las caravanas han sido politizadas en Estados Unidos y en sus países de origen en Centro América, Guatemala, El Salvador y Honduras, donde uno de los principales móviles de la migración y de los desplazamientos forzosos por causa de la violencia, con frecuencia se niega. Aquí en Estados Unidos, el presidente Donald Trump ha definido a los migrantes económicos y solicitantes de asilo como un “asalto a nuestro país” y su administración ha desplegado 8.000 soldados en la frontera. El Presidente ha prometido negar peticiones de asilo a los migrantes que intenten entrar ilegalmente en Estados Unidos, es decir no a través de uno de los puntos de entrada designados como tales.

Sin embargo, como bien lo saben las personas como Moore, al vivir junto a la frontera, como él lo ha hecho durante más de 25 años, uno puede sentirse a horcajadas sobre dos culturas, y los cruces fronterizos, ya para ir de compras o a la escuela, en busca de atención médica o de trabajo, o para reunirse con la familia, tienen lugar a diario. De hecho, antes de 1996, la gente cruzaba la frontera fácilmente para trabajar y regresaba a su hogar con su familia. Pero cuando el entonces presidente Bill Clinton firmó la Reforma de la Inmigración Ilegal y la Ley de Responsabilidad del Inmigrante, los cruces se hicieron demasiado peligrosos y la gente comenzó a quedarse en Estados Unidos.

La ley, dijo Moore, “creó una población permanente”, en algunos casos, separando a las familias, mientras la gente se quedaba en Estados Unidos a fin de trabajar y enviarles dinero para sostenerlos.

Durante los últimos dos años, Moore, que también presta servicio como rector de la iglesia del Buen Pastor [Church of the Good Shepherd] en Silver City, Nuevo México, ha celebrado la eucaristía el domingo más cercano al Día de la Madre en México, el 10 de mayo, en medio del Río Grande, que separa a EE.UU. y México, cerca de Lajitas, Texas. La eucaristía es parte de un evento anual que congrega a personas y reúne brevemente a familias de ambos lados de la frontera.

La eucaristía es uno de los muchos ministerios episcopales-anglicanos que tienen lugar a lo largo de la frontera.

El 17 de noviembre, representantes de las diócesis del Norte de México, de Texas Occidental, de Arizona,  de San Diego, de México Occidental y de Río Grande hicieron presentaciones. En McCallen, Texas, el Rdo. Rod Clark, vicario de San Pedro y San Pablo [St. Peter and St. Paul] en la vecina Mission, ofreció un ‘martes de tacos’para alimentar a los hambrientos; él también organiza inmersiones para personas interesadas en aprender a vivir en la frontera; y proporciona acercamientos con los agentes de la patrulla fronteriza, que con frecuencia tienen un trabajo difícil e ingrato y que, a veces, puede ser malinterpretado.

La Diócesis de Texas Occidental ha dirigido durante décadas Fronteras Unidas, un [programa] que ofrece educción continua a clérigos de ambos lados de la frontera y proporciona préstamos para microempresas a mujeres en el sur de México.

En Nogales, México, el Rdo. Rodger Babnew, Jr., diácono que presta servicio en la iglesia episcopal de San Andrés [St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church] en la Diócesis de Arizona, junto con un colega del Sínodo del Gran Cañón de la Iglesia Evangélica Luterana en América, dirige un sistema de albergues de cinco instalaciones y capacidad para 780 personas. Desde que las caravanas empezaron a llegar, de 18 a 22 familias han estado saliendo diariamente del albergue para solicitar asilo en la frontera, mientras hace dos semanas, veían salir del albergue de tres a cinco por semana.

En San Diego, California, fronteriza con Tijuana, México, el puerto de entrada más concurrido, donde los agentes de Inmigración y Aduanas han estado liberando diariamente de 75 a 100 solicitantes de asilo a quienes dejan sin ayuda en la estación de autobuses, los episcopales han estado supliendo paquetes con útiles de aseo y otros artículos esenciales, y han llevado una ducha de emergencia portátil.

En Tucson, han estado sirviendo voluntariamente en Casa Alitas, un albergue de corto plazo, que ofrece a migrantes y solicitantes de asilo un lugar para estar antes de abordar autobuses y aviones para reunirse con familiares en otras partes del país mientras esperan su juicio de inmigración.

Estas son sólo una muestra de los permanentes ministerios episcopales que han estado ocupados a lo largo de la frontera durante años. Dada la cobertura que los medios de prensa le han dedicado a la caravana, puede resultar fácil olvidar que varios miles de personas llegan dodos los días a la frontera de EE.UU. En 2017, un promedio de 850 personas eran arrestadas intentando cruzar ilegalmente la frontera, sin embargo, esa cifra es bastante menor que los 1.983 de 2007, según el Servicio de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza de EE.UU.

Por ejemplo, cientos de personas salieron de El Salvador el 31 de octubre en tres diferentes caravanas, pero como el obispo David Alvarado de El Salvador dijo durante una presentación el 18 de noviembre sobre las causas fundamentales de la migración, entre 200 y 300 personas se van diariamente de El Salvador, uno de los países más violentos del mundo.

A través del Triángulo Norte de América Central, una región que incluye El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras, más de 700.000 personas han sido desplazadas forzosamente por la violencia. No obstante, este es un fenómeno global que afecta a 68,5 millones de personas, una cifra récord, en todo el mundo.

La Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal con sede en Washington, D.C., compiló Una respuesta fiel a la caravana: cinco cosas a saber

Entre presentaciones diocesanas, los talleres de la cumbre se centraron en la labor social, las leyes de inmigración, la lucha contra el racismo así como la defensa social y la participación de la Iglesia Episcopal respecto a la inmigración, la migración y los refugiados en el ámbito federal.

“La política oficial de la iglesia sobre la inmigración se remonta a las resoluciones de la década del 30 [del pasado siglo] que piden la atenuación de las políticas migratorias restrictivas y racialmente discriminatorias, y luego, a través del siglo XX, instando a las parroquias a participar activamente en el auspicio de reasentamiento de refugiados y en las protecciones de los derechos civiles para inmigrantes indocumentados”, explicó Lacy Broemel, analista sobre refugiados y política de inmigración de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Broemel opera desde la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal que tiene su sede en Washington, D.C. y la cual representa las políticas prioritarias de la Iglesia —tal como las determinan principalmente las resoluciones de la Convención General y del Consejo Ejecutivo— ante el gobierno de EE.UU.  Las resoluciones, explicó ella, se centran en varios temas, incluida la unidad de la familia: impugnando la discriminación y el racismo inherentes en muchas políticas restrictivas de inmigración; ofreciendo soluciones normativas y estables a largo plazo para inmigrantes mediante una vía conducente a la ciudadanía; protegiendo los derechos humanos y el debido proceso; ofreciendo protecciones a los refugiados; motivando a los refugiados e inmigrantes LGBTQ y abordando las causas raigales de la migración mediante la promoción de la paz y el desarrollo.

“La Iglesia reconoce que EE.UU. tiene legítimas necesidades de seguridad, pero podemos ser a un tiempo compasivos y sensibles. La Iglesia reconoce que los inmigrantes y los refugiados aportan dones que enriquecen a nuestra Iglesia y a nuestra nación”, dijo Broemel. “Y es importante destacar que la Iglesia Episcopal no sólo camina junto a los refugiados e inmigrantes a través de estas políticas oficiales, sino que somos una Iglesia compuesta de refugiados e inmigrantes. Los “soñadores” [dreamers], refugiados y otros inmigrantes son parte de la labor de la Iglesia en el ministerio, la defensa social y el compromiso con todos los inmigrantes”.

Durante su sermón en la clausura de la cumbre, Hunn señaló que en el principio con Adán y Eva, “prácticamente lo primero que le sucedió a la humanidad es que fuimos desplazados”. Luego señaló los ejemplos de Caín y Abel, Abraham y Sara, Moisés, María, José y Jesús, todos los cuales se vieron forzados a huir, exiliados o convertidos en refugiados. Hunn pareció hacerse eco de las palabras de la ex obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori, que ahora es obispa auxiliar en la Diócesis de San Diego, y quien pronunció el discurso de apertura el 16 de noviembre.

“La narrativa bíblica nos lleva de la creación cósmica, incluida la humanidad, a terrícolas plantados en un huerto por una temporada”, dijo Jefferts Schori. “Su anhelo de conocimiento los induce a una eterna búsqueda de hogar; nosotros, sus herederos, aún estamos buscando. Dios saca a Abram y Sarai de Harán en busca de una patria nueva. Ellos llegan a Canaán y siguen desplazándose, hasta Egipto, para después volver. Siempre hay conflictos respecto a quién posee qué y que tierra pertenece a quién.

“No obstante, nuestros antepasados comenzaron a contar nuestra historia como la búsqueda de un hogar en Dios, a lo largo de una calzada recta a través del desierto, un camino de justicia y de paz. Esto se trata de algo más que una parcela de tierra; se trata de abrirles la mano a tus prójimos, ya sea que los ames, los toleres o les temas. Los profetas comenzaron a desafiarnos acerca de nuestros prójimos en todas partes, no sólo entre nuestros parientes tribales. Aprendimos  que estamos hechos para amar a los extranjeros, a las viudas y a los huérfanos y a los indigentes, y a los problemáticos. Empecemos a soñar con el Reino de Dios, y con el gobierno que traiga justicia y paz en todas partes, y con un hogar donde todos puedan regocijarse, dar gracias y vivir en armonía y en abundancia”.

-Lynette Wilson es reportera y jefa de redacción de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a ella en lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.  Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

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Una ONG con nexos episcopales aborda los desplazamientos forzosos en Centroamérica

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 6:28am

Una familia de cuatro se incorpora a una caravana que sale de la plaza Salvador del Mundo el 31 de octubre de 2018. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – San Salvador, El Salvador] Familias con niños pequeños, madres solteras y sus bebés, hombres y mujeres jóvenes, adolescentes y ancianos, se reunieron una mañana de fines de octubre en la Plaza Salvador del Mundo, aquí, para formar una caravana y comenzar el largo recorrido hacia el Norte a través de El Salvador, Guatemala y México y, para algunos, finalmente, la frontera de EE.UU.

La Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal con sede en Washington, D.C., compiló Una respuesta fiel a la caravana: cinco cosas a saber

Esa fue la segunda de las tres caravanas que partieron ese día de la plaza, donde una estatua representa a Jesucristo, salvador del mundo, de pie sobre el planeta Tierra. Unas 250 personas —muchas de ellas llevando sólo mochilas y agua embotellada, otros cargando grandes maletas que resultarían difíciles de manejar al cabo de unas pocas cuadras de camino— salieron en la segunda caravana; otros se les unirían a lo largo del trayecto para el viaje de 4.180 kilómetros. Las caravanas que salieron de El Salvador seguían a una que partió de Honduras a principios del mes.

Carla, de 29 años y su hijo de 4, Anderson Roberto, se encontraban en la segunda caravana salvadoreña que salía ese día. Carla dio su apellido, pero lo reservamos en interés de su seguridad. Madre de tres hijos, dejó a sus hijas de 8 y 2 años detrás con el padre de ella; sería demasiado difícil viajar con tres niños, dijo. Quiere darle a su hijo una vida mejor, y conseguir un empleo para sostener a su familia. Fue una decisión que Carla dijo que había contemplado durante cinco años. Mientras habla, Anderson Roberto llora y se aferra a sus piernas.

Carla, de 29 años, y su hijo Anderson Roberto, de 4, estaban entre las 250 personas que salieron de San Salvador en una caravana el 31 de octubre de 2018. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

A través del Triángulo Norte de América Central, una región que incluye El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras, más de 700.000 personas se han visto obligadas a desplazarse por la violencia. El desplazamiento forzoso —sea reconocido o no— se ha convertido en un problema político en la región, y en Estados Unidos, donde el presidente Donald Trump ha definido a los migrantes económicos y solicitantes de asilo como un “asalto a nuestro país”, su gobierno ha desplegado 8.000 soldados en la frontera. El Presidente ha prometido negar solicitudes de asilo a los migrantes que intenten entrar ilegalmente en Estados Unidos, es decir no a través de los puntos de ingreso asignados.

Ya estamos llegando a la frontera

Cientos de migrantes centroamericanos llegaron a Tijuana, México, el 14 de noviembre, y otros más les siguieron el día 15, según funcionarios municipales que se empeñaban en ofrecer albergue en lo que podría ser una extensa estadía.

“Estos no son delincuentes”, dijo Celia Medrano, directora del programa regional de Cristosal, una organización no gubernamental con sede en San Salvador, que tiene nexos episcopales y recibe apoyo de la Iglesia. Medrano monitoreaba el movimiento de la caravana a través de El Salvador mediante un grupo de WhatsApp. “No son malas personas, son personas que buscan trabajo y huyen de la violencia”.

Tal era el caso de José Antonio, de 34 años, que hace dos años perdió su empleo en un supermercado donde había trabajado durante 15 años. José Antonio, que rehusó dar su apellido, su esposa Daisy, de 34 años, y sus dos hijos: María, de 11, que llevaba puesta una gorra de Frozen   —propaganda de Disney de la popular película— y Uriel, de 4, que llevaba una gorra de Cars.

La familia había estado viviendo con los padres de Daisy en Mejicanos, donde una acequia controlada por miembros de una pandilla pasaba por detrás de la casa. La familia, que llevaba comida suficiente para dos días, se proponía pedir ayuda en México y, tal vez, llegar finalmente a reunirse con unos parientes en Los Ángeles.

Los migrantes han estado viajando en caravanas desde los años 90, si bien la que salió de Honduras a principios de octubre es la más grande de la historia. El tamaño y la visibilidad de las caravanas rompen el paradigma del cruce clandestino de la frontera, ayudados a veces por tratantes de personas.

“Las caravanas representan un cambio en ese patrón”, dijo Noah Bullock, director ejecutivo de Cristosal y misionero nombrado por la Iglesia Episcopal.

Datos recientes muestran que muchas personas carecen de las redes familiares y de los recursos para desplazarse internamente y, por tanto, ven las caravanas como una opción viable, dijo Bullock.

“Lo que ha cambiado respecto a la inmigración es que no se trata de un mexicano solo cruzando la frontera para encontrar empleo. Son niños y familias de América Central que se presentan en la frontera y solicitan asilo o intentan encontrar protección, eso es lo que ha cambiado”, afirmó él. “De manera que incluso con estas caravanas no tienes todavía un aumento en la cifras que lleguen a cambiar la inmigración neta. La inmigración no se encuentra en alza, está en baja. Y cuando uno compara eso a movimientos de migrantes en cualquier parte del mundo, sigue siendo realmente pequeño, de manera que tienes un problema en esos tres países que es grave. Necesita solución y es completamente controlable. Si uno decide controlarlo”.

Nexos y apoyo episcopales a Cristosal

Cristosal comenzó en el año 2000 como una asociación entre clérigos episcopales de Estados Unidos y Salvador. Más tarde se convirtió en una organización no gubernamental independiente con un presupuesto de $2 millones que ha crecido de tres empleados en 2010 a más de 60 en tres países gracias a una subvención del Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo, si bien mantiene estrechos lazos con la Iglesia Episcopal. Los episcopales donan $350.000 al presupuesto anual de la organización.

Cristosal tiene oficinas en El Salvador, Honduras y Guatemala. La USAID le otorgó una subvención para aumentar el conocimiento sobre el desplazamiento forzoso causado por la violencia y para apoyar el desarrollo de modelos para abordarlo, así como para establecer un mecanismo regional para rastrear y supervisar el desplazamiento forzoso en el Triángulo Norte, aumentar la capacidad de los tres países del Triángulo Norte para la creación de sistemas específicos de protección nacional para el desplazamiento interno y ensayar soluciones regionales que perfeccionen la protección comunitaria para las personas desplazadas.

Muchos hombres y mujeres jóvenes, familias y personas ancianas se unieron a la caravana que salió de San Salvador, El Salvador, el 31 de octubre de 2018. Fue la segunda de tres caravanas que partió para el norte ese día. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

“Lo que tanto nos incomoda es la idea de que los centroamericanos están tomando decisiones racionales; que las familias podrían estar evaluando su situación doméstica y considerándola tan grave que hacer cosas tan locas como enviar a sus hijos sin acompañamiento o salir caminando hacia Estados Unidos o lo que fuere, podría ser realmente una decisión racional”, afirmó Bullock.

Los líderes y funcionarios del gobierno no quieren reconocer que los migrantes están tomando una decisión racional, porque hacerlo “aumentaría las responsabilidades del Estado de proteger a las personas, de proteger los derechos humanos; ello cuestiona la narrativa de la inmigración tradicional que en gran medida [se presenta] como personas que vienen en busca de empleos y no como personas que huyen de algunos de los países más violentos del mundo”.

Por ejemplo, explicó él, Irak tiene una tasa de homicidios de 15 por cada 100.000 habitantes, y en El Salvador, aun después de una reducción de la tasa de homicidios, es aún de 60 por cada 100.000. Desde 2014, 7.000 niños han muerto en El Salvador.

“Es mucho más probable que uno muera de una muerte violenta siendo un centroamericano y un centroamericano pobre que si viviera en una zona de guerra en otras partes del mundo, no obstante, es más conveniente cuando la inmigración es gota a gota y clandestina. Y ahora es visible y debe verse como protesta”, dijo. “Las personas están protestando, protestando de que sus países no les ofrezcan opciones de protección y de libertad del temor… y protestan que al cruzar una frontera internacional no encuentren ningún lugar en el planeta donde puedan buscar fines legítimos en la vida”.

Un fenómeno global

El desplazamiento forzoso es un fenómeno internacional que alcanza la cifra récord de 68,5 millones de personas en todo el mundo, una población más grande que la del Reino Unido.

Sólo en El Salvador, se calcula en 296.000 el número de personas internamente desplazadas, lo cual significa que se han visto obligadas a huir de sus hogares, pero no han cruzado aún una frontera; mientras en Honduras, un cálculo conservador pone la cifra en 190.000. En Guatemala, el número pasa de 242.000.

De los tres países del Triángulo Norte, sólo Honduras ha reconocido la existencia de desplazamientos forzosos, estableciendo una comisión nacional para el estudio y la documentación de casos. Sin embargo, eso está a punto de cambiar. En julio, como resultado de la labor de Cristosal, el Tribunal Supremo de El Salvador le dio al gobierno seis meses para reconocer oficialmente el desplazamiento forzoso debido a la violencia en el país, designar una legislación y políticas especiales para la protección y asistencia de las víctimas y hacer de las víctimas del desplazamiento una prioridad en el presupuesto nacional.

“Es la responsabilidad del gobierno proteger a sus ciudadanos. Es un problema de seguridad”, dijo Elizabeth Ferris, durante una plática el 29 de octubre en la Universidad de América Central. “Hay una necesidad a corto plazo de abordar las necesidades de los migrantes y, a largo plazo, de reducir la violencia y de recuperar territorio”.

Ferris, profesora de investigación en el Instituto para el Estudio de la Migración Internacional de la Universidad de Georgetown y ex directora del Programa de Inmigración y Refugiados del Servicio Mundial de Iglesias, estaba en El Salvador para brindar experiencia técnica a fin de promover la legislación. Cuarenta países reconocen el desplazamiento forzoso, pero sólo 11 o 12 tienen estrategias para abordarlo, dijo Ferris.

A partir de 2013, individuos y familias empezaron a presentarse en la oficina de Cristosal en busca de ayuda, algunos de ellos remitidos por la embajada de EE.UU. porque en ese momento la Iglesia Anglicana-Episcopal de El Salvador reasentaba refugiados a través de la oficina de Cristosal.

“Incluso nos tomó mucho tiempo aprender el lenguaje en torno al desplazamiento. Primero, se trataba de personas afectadas por la extorsión y la violencia de las pandillas, y hay algunos que son refugiados, y luego aprendimos acerca del desplazamiento interno”, dijo Bullock.

Y entonces, en 2014, 69.000 menores sin acompañamiento, madres e hijos llegaron a la frontera de EE.UU., llamando la atención el elevado número de personas desplazadas forzosamente por la violencia en Guatemala, Honduras y El Salvador. La cifra en la frontera sudoccidental descendió a 59.692 en 2016 y a 41.435 en 2017, según el Servicio de Aduana y Protección Fronteriza de EE.UU.

“Antes de la crisis de la migración infantil en 2014 no había ningún contexto para abogar o incluso para hablar acerca de desplazamiento debido a la violencia en América Central, y así cuando se produjo la crisis de la migración infantil, el gobierno de EE.UU. se vio sometido a una gran presión para venir a la región y encontrar qué podría hacerse”, explicó él. “Esa fue la primera vez que la violencia se vinculaba a la migración de una manera visible para el público de EE.UU.”

Para entonces, Cristosal tenía una experiencia práctica de dos o tres años de tratar con el desplazamiento forzoso debido a la violencia. La USAID reconoció su labor e instó a Cristosal a expandir su presencia y a crear una respuesta que se pudiera adaptar más allá de El Salvador, en Honduras y en Guatemala.

Sin embargo, fue el apoyo de las iglesias episcopales y de los episcopales individualmente lo que le permitió a Cristosal convertirse en una de las primeras organizaciones en abordar el desplazamiento forzoso en el Triángulo Norte.

“Lo importante que los episcopales deben saber es que la capacidad de Cristosal de ocuparse de un problema que nadie quería, antes que alguien más quisiera financiarlo, fue enteramente apoyado por los episcopales que creyeron en nosotros”, expresó Bullock. “Ese apoyo nos permitió convertirnos en un líder regional en la elaboración de una respuesta, y eso es algo que nunca quisiéramos perder: nuestra base de apoyo episcopal nos permite ser independientes y correr riesgos y elaborar una respuesta y luego atraer a donantes a nuestros asuntos mientras ascendemos. Eso es lo que funcionó para nosotros. Y queremos seguir haciéndolo”.

2014 también conmemoró el 30º. Aniversario de la Declaración de Cartagena, que enmendó  la Convención de los Refugiados de 1951 y la definición del protocolo de 1967 de lo que significa ser un refugiado: “personas que han huido de su país porque sus vidas, seguridad o libertad han sido amenazadas por violencia generalizada, agresión extranjera, conflictos internos, violación masiva de derechos humanos u otras circunstancias que hayan perturbado seriamente el orden público”.

El gobierno de Obama respondió a la crisis de los menores sin acompañamiento con un aumento de la seguridad en la frontera, detención e interdicción por parte de México, de menores y familias que buscaban refugio en Estados Unidos. Trump hizo de la reducción de la inmigración una pieza central de su campaña electoral. Luego, en los primeros ocho meses de 2018, los agentes del Servicio de Aduanas y Control de Fronteras detuvieron a más de 252.000 personas —32.371 menores sin acompañamiento y 59.113 familias en la frontera sudoccidental y la Administración comenzó a separar a las familias. La política de la separación de las familias coincidió con la llegada de la primera caravana, cuando, de los varios centenares de miembros que solicitaron protección, encontraron que el 95 por ciento tenía un temor creíble a la persecución y los remitieron a los tribunales de inmigración para una audiencia plena, según el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional de EE.UU.

El 22 de octubre, Trump amenazó con suspender la ayuda a América Central si los países no actuaban para frenar el flujo de migrantes.

En vísperas de las elecciones parciales del 6 de noviembre, Trump utilizó las caravanas como una táctica atemorizante, y su equipo político elaboró un anuncio en que presentaba a los inmigrantes como una amenaza violenta. La TV de EE.UU. y las redes sociales denunciaron el anuncio como racista. Las reducciones de la Casa Blanca de Trump al programa de reasentamiento de refugiados de la nación muestran un interés en limitar no sólo a la inmigración ilegal.

Estados Unidos fue un líder mundial en el reasentamiento de refugiados hace sólo dos años, cuando más de 80.000 refugiados fueron recibidos en el país con la ayuda de nueve agencias con contratos federales para hacer ese trabajo, entre ellas el Ministerio Episcopal de Migración. Ese número ha menguado durante la administración de Trump, la cual anunció el 17 de septiembre que reduciría aún más los reasentamientos, a no más de 30.000 al año.

La Ley de Refugiados de 1980 garantiza el derecho de una persona a solicitar asilo. Y fue una guerra civil y una crisis de refugiados lo que ha contribuido a la actual crisis de violencia en El Salvador.

“Cuando los refugiados salvadoreños se iban en los años ochenta, [sólo] al tres por ciento los reconocían como refugiados, obligando a los salvadoreños que venían a Estados Unidos a hacinarse en barrios marginales de nuestras ciudades, donde se convertían en pandilleros, y luego eran deportados a sus países de origen, lo cual nos da las bases de la violencia actual que está llevando a la gente a irse”, dijo Bullock.

La región tiene un interés estratégico en promover la protección y la seguridad en América Central, “porque un pueblo desestabilizado e desprotegido desestabiliza”, añadió Bullock.

Conflicto civil y justicia transitoria

De 1980 a 1992, El Salvador sufrió una guerra civil brutal entre un gobierno militar respaldado por EE.UU. y una coalición de grupos guerrilleros, organizada como el Frente Farabundo Martí de Liberación Nacional o FMLN. La guerra fue provocada esencialmente por las flagrantes desigualdades que existían entre un pequeño grupo de elites ricas que controlaban el gobierno y la economía y la mayoría de la población que vivía en extrema pobreza.

Las negociaciones de los Acuerdos de Paz de 1992 incluyeron la formación de una comisión de la verdad para investigar las violaciones de los derechos humanos que ocurrieron durante la guerra civil. Sin embargo, una ley de amnistía de 1993 imposibilitó procesar los crímenes de guerra y reformar el sistema judicial, así como la policía y las fuerzas armadas, dando lugar a instituciones democráticas débiles y a persistente impunidad y discriminación de las víctimas. La gente que tenía poder político y económico lo mantuvo después que terminó la guerra.

En 2012, el Tribunal Interamericano de Derechos Humanos declaró que la ley de amnistía no podía proteger a los responsables de la masacre de El Mozote, donde los soldados del gobierno mataron a unas 800 personas, la mitad de ellos niños, en diciembre de 1981.

En El Salvador de la postguerra, las organizaciones populares de derechos humanos y justicia social han desempeñado un papel clave en proteger la memoria histórica y en sacar esos casos de las sombras de la historia. En 2016, Cristosal comenzó a valerse de un litigio estratégico a fin de obtener justicia para las víctimas y al objeto de ponerle fin a la inveterada cultura de la impunidad, y está trabajando tanto en la masacre de El Mozote como en la de El Calabozo de 1982.

El “litigio estratégico”, explicó David Morales, director de litigio estratégico de Cristosal y ex defensor de los derechos humanos de El Salvador, es una manera de brindar una “justicia transitoria”, que consiste en un proceso político y social destinado a aplicar la justicia y a abordar graves abusos de derechos humanos y en hacer responsables a los perpetradores de la violencia.

“Cristosal centra sus acciones legales en casos que tendrán mucho impacto”, dijo Morales. “La impunidad actual está vinculada a la impunidad en el pasado… a décadas de dictaduras, a abusos sistemáticos de derechos humanos. El Estado nunca creó un sistema de apoyo para las víctimas”.

–Lynette Wilson es reportera y jefa de redacción de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a ella en lwilson@episcopalchurch.org. Traducción de Vicente Echerri

 

The post Una ONG con nexos episcopales aborda los desplazamientos forzosos en Centroamérica appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Inches from California wildfire, Episcopal church in Malibu faces uncertainty

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 3:59pm

The view from the St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church parking lot shows how close fires came to the 52-year-old Episcopal parish that sits on a rise several hundred yards above Pacific Coast Highway in central Malibu. Photo: Joyce Stickney

[Religion News Service] Two hours before the sun set over the Pacific Ocean on Nov. 8, the Rev. Joyce Stickney, rector of St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Malibu, received word about wildfires that had broken out 30 miles away in the hills above the Simi Valley.

Hot, dry Santa Ana winds were howling that day, which meant that a fire that began an hour away could pose a legitimate threat to seaside Malibu, where wildfires are a perennial concern — the 1993 Old Topanga blaze raged for 10 days, destroying more than 350 homes and leaving three people dead.

So Stickney headed for St. Aidan’s sanctuary where, from its hillside perch a few hundred yards above the Pacific Coast Highway, with the Santa Monica Mountains in the distance to the east, she prayed for her city of about 13,000 souls.

Parish administrator Nathaniel Sherrill, whose home in Newbury Park, California, was close enough to the fire’s origin that it already had been evacuated, joined her to recite an evening meditation from the Book of Common Prayer: “Almighty God, we give you thanks for surrounding us, as daylight fades, with the brightness of the vesper light….”

“That is the one thing that religion definitely does give us, whether you’re spiritual or religious or not — we’ve got prayers for times like these,” Stickney told Religion News Service late last week. “They’re words that are timeless and walk us through the motions: ‘Thank you, God, for the vesper light. The world is still turning and soon it’ll be nighttime; give us peace’ — the ancient wisdom of our tradition, our prayers.”

By daybreak, Stickney opened the front door of St. Aidan’s rectory, where she lives with her husband and their seven children, to see thick plumes of smoke moving in their direction. Overnight the Woolsey Fire had jumped 101 Freeway and barreled west, bearing down on Malibu as it raced toward the ocean.

Stickney, who has been rector of St. Aidan’s for 13 years, rousted children from bed and began packing in a hurry, knowing that a mandatory evacuation of Malibu would mean the main route into and out of town — the famed coast highway — would become gridlocked quickly, trapping motorists, potentially in the path of the fast-moving inferno, for hours.

She grabbed the church registers and a chalice from the altar before setting out with her family for a wholly uncertain future.

They took two cars — Stickney driving one, her 17-year-old daughter Grace driving the other — and headed north toward Oxnard, where the children’s babysitter lives, while thousands of their neighbors fled south toward Santa Monica. Stickney and five of their children (two are away at college) arrived at the babysitter’s mobile home where later that night they were joined by her husband, Paul, who had left for work on a TV show set at 4:30 a.m., before the smoke and chaos had descended.

On Nov. 19, 10 days after the wildfires erupted, the Woolsey Fire had burned nearly 97,000 acres, destroying 1,500 structures — many of them in Malibu — injuring three firefighters and killing three civilians. Reportedly, none of the city’s dozen or so houses of worship was lost in the fire, but three large Jewish camps were destroyed, and Rabbi Michael Schwartz of the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue lost his home.

Southern California Episcopalians respond to wildfires – Episcopal News Service https://t.co/VBUNeUZ5Gk

— Episcopal Diocese LA (@LADiocese) November 13, 2018

Wildfires are creating disaster areas across the state, with the Camp Fire in Northern California proving particularly deadly and destructive. Authorities report 79 fatalities and more than 12,00o homes destroyed in and around Paradise and Chico, as of Nov. 20, and the fire in that region has consumed more than 150,000 acres. Episcopalians there say they are gathering strength and resilience through community connections and an outpouring of love and concern from across the Episcopal Church.

Thursday, Nov. 15 update on the Camp Fire: https://t.co/7W8UEc08kv

Please keep praying & you can donate here: https://t.co/MNINn4QPWV https://t.co/7W8UEc08kv

— Diocese of NorCal (@norcalepiscopal) November 15, 2018

In Malibu, waiting for news was a test of Stickney’s faith and mettle, but when she it came, it was a relief. St. Aidan’s survived the fire unscathed — miraculously so, Stickney said, as flames stopped at the edge of the new driveway that had been completed just days before the wildfires.

As part of a multi-year parish renovation, the driveway was replaced for the express purpose of making it easier for fire trucks to reach the church, which also houses a preschool attended by her two youngest children — twin 2½-year-old boys.

“The fire had come right up to the edge of the driveway, all along the side, and for whatever reason — whether it was the fire marshals, the wind, St. Aidan, God, all of the above — whatever it was, the fire did not cross over,” Stickney said.

The same isn’t true for the church’s parishioners. At least 11 of the 50 or so active families at St. Aidan’s lost their homes in the fires.

About half of the parishioners who lost their homes in the fire are elderly, and Stickney is concerned about their ability to rebuild in Malibu, where strict building codes and other local ordinances make construction a difficult, often maddeningly slow process under the best of circumstances.

“This is catastrophic for those people, and they’re not wealthy people,” said the Rev. Ed Milkovich, St. Aidan’s associate priest, who has lived in Malibu for 20 years. “It may have a catastrophic effect on the church, too, because I think there’s a number of these people that may not be able to rebuild. If they don’t have a mortgage, they’ll take the insurance money and go someplace where they can afford it.”

For most people, the word “Malibu” conjures images of a lavish enclave where mega-mansions line pristine beaches and kids ride to school in Bentleys. But according to the 2010 U.S. Census, Malibu had a median household income of $133,869, with about 10 percent of the population living below the federal poverty line.

Although you’re more likely to run into a celebrity at the Ralph’s here than at most other grocery stores in America, Malibu is home to many more regular folks than not.

St. Aidan’s congregation is emblematic of that diversity. While there are members who work in the entertainment industry — Milkovich was a TV and film producer for decades before he felt a call to the ministry and became ordained last year at age 63 — the parish is also home to several professors from Pepperdine University and retirees who worked for Hughes Aircraft and other local companies.

Founded in 1956 as a mission church of St. Augustine’s in neighboring Santa Monica, St. Aidan’s initially met in local bars and restaurants until it could break ground on the hillside property overlooking the Pacific and Paradise Cove.

The Malibu parish is the namesake of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, a 7th-century Irishman who became a monk on the Scottish Island of Iona before being dispatched to England, where he served as a bishop in Northumbria. The parish chose the name because of the saint’s association with the sea and the island monasteries of Iona and Lindisfarne.

But Aidan is also the patron saint of fire protection.

During the devastating 1993 wildfires, St. Aidan’s became the central gathering point for relief efforts for thousands of residents who were left homeless and displaced.

Debbie Cornett’s parents were founding members of St. Aidan’s. In 1993, the family home in Malibu burned to the ground.

“Mom and Dad were determined to rebuild because they loved Malibu, and we did — we built new memories and we had St. Aidan’s,” said Cornett, who gathered alongside St. Aidan’s priests and a handful of other parish members for a vespers service and meal late last week at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Oak Park, about an hour’s drive from Malibu, but close to where Stickney and several parishioners were staying while evacuated.

They prayed and read Scripture aloud before tucking into a meal of chicken and rice provided by a local Muslim group with whom the parish has struck up a friendship in recent years. The hall at Epiphany smelled of smoke six days after wildfires swept through, singeing the landscaping but sparing parish buildings and its nearby vineyard.

There were hugs, tears and the kind of laughter borne of friendship that comes easily even in the hardest of times, as they compared notes on the well-being of neighbors and friends. One parishioner had spent her time in exile creating an elaborately detailed lot-by-lot map on her computer showing which homes had been destroyed and which were still standing.

“I should have lost my house three times,” said Milkovich, who credited a neighbor with a garden hose who had stubbornly stayed behind despite the mandatory evacuation for saving his home. “This is my neighbor’s house on fire, and that’s my other neighbor’s house on fire … and this is my yard on fire,” he said, scrolling through photos on his smartphone.

The Woolsey fire has been more than 90 percent contained and evacuation orders had been lifted for most of Malibu by Monday, but not in time for their Nov. 18 Sunday service. Instead Stickney and about 10 other St. Aidan’s parishioners joined their mother church, St. Augustine in Santa Monica, for worship. Stickney expects her parish to be back to a regular service schedule in Malibu beginning Nov. 25.

In the wake of the fires, Stickney largely is shepherding the St. Aidan’s diaspora electronically, by phone, text and email, as displaced members have fanned out along the West Coast seeking shelter.

Seated in a booth in the back of a Panera Bread 50 miles from St. Aidan’s and her home by the sea, a weary yet determined Stickney, enlivened by the faith of her own flock, read aloud a short note from a new parishioner whose family had recently relocated to Malibu from Texas, only to have the family’s new home burn to the ground.

“‘I keep reminding my family of Isaiah 61:3 — ‘beauty from ashes.’ We will all together create a more beautiful Malibu and community spirit. God’s blessing on each of you as you move forward one day at a time.'”

The post Inches from California wildfire, Episcopal church in Malibu faces uncertainty appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Christian visitors bring hope to immigrant detainees facing tough odds in New Hampshire jail

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 10:22am

Maggie Fogarty, who helped create the New Hampshire Immigrant Visitation Program six years ago, meets with a detainee on Nov. 5 at the Strafford County jail in Dover, New Hampshire. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Dover, New Hampshire] Few items hitch a ride with the Rev. Mark Pendleton through the entrance of the Strafford County Department of Corrections every Monday morning. More important are the words of hope and the friendly smile he transports to the dozens of immigrants locked away inside the jail.

“My task is to show a human face, that they’re not a number, they’re a person,” said Pendleton, one of about 10 volunteers with the New Hampshire Immigrant Visitation Program. “We try to be the face of Christ to them in a very tough moment.”

After leaving cellphone and wallet in his pickup truck and handing his driver’s license to the desk officer, Pendleton passes through the metal detector. On the other side he collects his keys, a Spanish-language Bible and an accordion folder filled with paperwork detailing past detainee visits and photocopies of legal pamphlets that may help some of the immigrants win release or halt deportation.

At a time of deep divisions in American society, when political battles are waged on battlefields far removed from the people affected by federal immigration policies, Pendleton and the visitation team bring no partisan motive to the Dover jail. Their presence promotes no agenda other than a pragmatic compassion rooted in their Christian faith.

“The Christian message is a rather redundant message of love and forgiveness,” Pendleton said.

The visitors’ assistance is welcomed by supervisors at the Strafford County jail in Dover, one of more than 200 prisons and jails across the country to hold detainees for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, part of the Department of Homeland Security. As the only such facility in New Hampshire, the Dover jail’s immigrant detainee population has increased dramatically in recent years, starting during the Obama administration, when the average daily number of immigrant detainees jumped from 30 in 2015 to 80 in 2016, according to a Concord Monitor report.

Episcopalians interested in joining visitation programs or starting their own can find contacts and resources online from Freedom for Immigrants, a California-based nonprofit that tracks and supports such programs.

This year, under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration, the 495-bed jail has averaged more than 100 people targeted for federal immigration enforcement. Some are awaiting trial or serving sentences in unrelated criminal cases, but many of the immigrants are being held for no other reason than ICE suspects they are not in the country legally. They may only spend a brief time at the jail before ICE determines their next steps and moves them elsewhere, typically without revealing those moves to jail officials or the visitation team.

Episcopal News Service was granted access to the jail’s inmate housing units and meeting rooms to report on the work of the New Hampshire Immigrant Visitation Program, as well as Pendleton’s pastoral care for detainees who request it. ENS, escorted by a jail superintendent, spent much of the morning Nov. 5 shadowing Pendleton and four other volunteers to capture the substance of their interactions with immigrant detainees.

To minimize the risk that these normally one-on-one conversations would be hindered by the additional presence of a reporter and jail supervisor, ENS refrained from asking questions of the detainees themselves. ENS also agreed to requests from the jail and the visitation team not to quote detainees directly or by name. The outlines of their stories, however, offer examples of what the visitation team members say are typical scenarios facing the detainees, some of whom are clinging to hope against long odds.

The volunteers provide the detainees with general information and guidance about aspects of the immigration system, from applying for asylum to voluntarily leaving the country, though the team is necessarily clear about not being able to provide legal advice. They aren’t attorneys.

“A lot of what we’re doing is just listening to people,” said Nancy Pape, one of the lead volunteers. “Just being heard is great for everybody.”

Pape created the visitation program about six years ago with Maggie Fogarty, a New Hampshire official with the Quaker organization American Friends Service Committee. Pendleton, rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Exeter, joined the team two years ago, drawn partly by the prospect of putting his knowledge of Spanish to use. Though not officially a faith-based ministry, volunteers often bring a Christian perspective to the work.

This Monday, they were joined by two other volunteers, Judith Cole and Sally Fleming. The group signed in around 8:20 a.m. and made its way through a pair of secure doors. Each opened and closed with a mechanical “CHACK-buzz-CHACK” facilitated by some invisible Oz on the other end of the intercom buttons.

Down a flight of stairs, through more imposing doors, Jake Collins, the jail’s assistant superintendent for programs, led the way through a maze of halls that he said was designed to maintain an element of mystery. If an inmate somehow were to escape through one of the doors, the next step toward freedom wouldn’t be obvious.

Helpful information and a chance to be heard

The detainees are not required to meet with the visitation team. As the volunteers move among housing pods, jail officers make announcements to the units to invite immigrants to come forward if they’d like the assistance. The number of detainees who accept the invitations varies week to week, sometimes depending on how active ICE has been in making arrests over the weekend.

Immigrant detainees are most likely to be in their late 20s or early 30s, and 70 percent are jailed on immigration violations for a month or less, according to national statistics kept by Freedom for Immigrants, a California-based nonprofit aimed at ending immigrant detention. Mexico is the detainees’ most common home country, followed by El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, three countries facing high rates of forced displacement by violence.

The Dover jail mirrors those trends. Certain Spanish words ring with regularity in the conversations between the detainees and the visitation team.

Asking a detainee’s “país,” or country, is one of Pendleton’s icebreaker questions. He was ordained in Colombia and has been to many of the immigrants’ home countries, allowing him to establish a rudimentary rapport with them in the jail. He and the other volunteers also ask how the detainees entered the United States, and whether they re-entered after a previous deportation, which can complicate the detainees’ efforts to remain in this country.

“Familia” is another important detail. Having family members nearby can make a big difference, Pendleton said, as can an “abogado.”

“Tienes un abogado?” Do you have an attorney?

Without one, a detainee’s long odds become even longer, and there are few lawyers willing to take on immigration cases pro bono unless they see a reasonable chance for success, Pendleton said.

The Rev. Mark Pendleton, rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Exeter, New Hampshire, has visited immigrants at the jail in Dover for the past two years. “We try to the be the face of Christ to them in a very tough moment,” he said. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

After navigating the hallways and ending up deep inside the facility, the visitation team’s first stop was Housing Pod 1, or HP1 in the jail’s shorthand. Inmates here are assigned to one of several units arranged in an octagon around a raised guard station, from which officers can monitor the inmates’ activity.

Units A and B are for female inmates. Unit D is maximum security, for disciplinary cases. Unit E is for inmates with special management needs, such as physical disabilities or court orders that prohibit contact with codefendants. Unit F is intake, for newly arrived inmates as they are evaluated for housing assignments.

Unit C is divided in half, and on one side of a cinderblock dividing wall are the non-criminal ICE detainees, the only inmates who wear jail-issued maroon. Strafford County does little else to differentiate them from the general jail population. Like all inmates housed in Dover, “we try to treat them as fairly and humanely as possible,” Collins said.

Assistant Superintendent Jake Collins

On this day, Collins estimated Unit C held about 50 detainees in maroon clothes. As he spoke, he buzzed one man back into the unit to retrieve paperwork.

The visitation team began setting up in a sparse meeting room, its off-white walls rising from a trapezoidal floor plan. Fluorescent bulbs radiated light down to the tile floor. Reinforced windows afforded views out to an equally sparse hallway and to an adjoining conference room. In the middle of the room, folding tables were arranged into a square.

On one side of the square, Pendleton was speaking in Spanish with an immigrant about his case. Another man was with Fogarty researching an asylum application.

Cole, with Pape translating, worked with a third man, who said he was from Nashua, New Hampshire, and wanted to apply for release on bond. Winning release doesn’t guarantee a win on the underlying immigration matter, but mounting a defense is more productive on the outside, in addition to being more comfortable.

Immigrants in some cases ask to leave the United States immediately and voluntarily rather than sit in jail indefinitely, Pendleton said.

ICE pays $83 a day to Strafford County for each federal detainee held in the Dover jail, and in 2017 those payments totaled nearly $2.8 million, according to the Concord Monitor. The jail, which first began housing ICE detainees in 2009, must pass rigorous federal inspections that check the facility on more than 600 standards, from the temperature of its dishwashers to the labels on its cleaning spray bottles.

ICE also must OK the visitation program and its schedule before the volunteers, who receive agency-approved training, are allowed to meet with the detainees. The jail has worked to accommodate the team’s interest in serving these inmates.

“If somebody can find something and help these guys out with their case, we encourage it,” Collins said.

The Strafford County jail in Dover, New Hampshire, is one of more than 200 prisons and jails in the United States that hold federal immigration detainees and the one such facility in the state. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Behind bars, dozens face uphill immigration battles

As the group wrapped up its visits with Unit C detainees, Pape moved to a different housing pod to offer assistance to immigrants being held in Unit G, where 72 inmates are monitored by a jail officer stationed behind a desk on the unit’s floor. Instead of maroon, these inmates wear brown to indicate they have active criminal cases pending.

The unit is considered high-medium security. Inmates here have a range of amenities, including TVs, laundry facilities, showers and a simple workout area. The jail no longer accepts physical mail addressed to inmates, for security reasons, but each is assigned a durable tablet for receiving email.

Pape set up in a meeting room not much different from the first – this time a rectangular floor plan, but the same off-white walls, overhead fluorescent lights, reinforced windows, tile floor. She put her files on a folding table and began talking with an immigrant in a brown jail shirt. He wanted help with paperwork for a child custody case, and handing Pape his jail-issued tablet, he showed her a picture of his girlfriend and their son, who also live in New Hampshire.

He has another child in the United States, which is why he re-entered after being deported several times to his native Honduras, Pape said. Because of the re-entries, he was charged with an aggravated felony.

“For the general public, you’re thinking something really dangerous, and this is just a case of him wanting to return to his children,” Pape said.

Over in Unit H, a mirror image of Unit G, Pendleton asked the jail officer to let the inmates know he was there. She leaned into the intercom: “Gentlemen, we have representatives from immigration here if you’re interested.”

Not exactly. “We’re not ICE. We’re volunteers,” he clarified. In the meeting room with the inmates he repeated the clarification in Spanish. “Somos voluntarios. Non somos el gobierno.”

Initially he was joined by three men, who said they were from Somalia, Guatemala and El Salvador. A fourth entered behind them.

“De qué país?” The late arrival said he was from Mexico.

Pendleton first met with the man from Somalia, who had injured his legs in the jail and was seated in a wheelchair. He told Pendleton he had hoped to join a group of other Somali detainees who were sent back to their home country earlier in the year, and he wasn’t sure why federal officials left him behind in Dover.

Pendleton said the visitation team would look into it. “You’ll be here next week, chances are, so I’ll update the team,” he said.

Next, the man from El Salvador explained his situation, saying in Spanish that he had entered the United States in 2012 after a previous deportation.

“Abogado?” Pendleton asked. No, the man said, but his wife and daughter live nearby.

After asking the man how he felt about his case, Pendleton acknowledged it was “un poco complicado,” a little complicated, because of the re-entry. Pendleton took notes so the team could follow up next week.

New Hampshire may seem a surprising locale for such conversations, with much of the national focus turned to immigration enforcement along the United States’ southern border. Texas, California and Arizona are the states with the largest numbers of immigrant detainees, each state averaging thousands each day, according to Freedom for Immigrants, which maintains a national network of affiliated visitation programs at 55 prisons and jails like the one in Dover.

An estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the United States as of 2014, but only 10,000 were in New Hampshire, according to Pew Research Center, out of a statewide population of 1.3 million. Yet New England has become a regional flashpoint in the immigration debate. Immigrants here, legally or not, typically have moved north into the region in search of work or to join family, or they have crossed the border south from Canada, Pendleton said.

About 40 people gather Nov. 6 outside the Norris Cotton Federal Building in Manchester, New Hampshire, for one of the ecumenical prayer vigils held in support of immigrants checking in with federal officials. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Several faith-based groups, including the New Hampshire Council of Churches, have held regular vigils outside the federal building in Manchester because immigrants have been told to show up there with increased frequency for ICE check-ins. Some arrive fearing they will be told on the spot to buy an airline ticket to their native country and leave any family members behind, Fogarty said.

The groups also organized a Solidarity Walk for Immigrant Justice in August, walking the 40 miles from Manchester to the jail in Dover over four days to raise awareness of the immigrants’ plight and to show support for them and their families.

Immigrants, including those facing deportation, also have the support of the Episcopal Church, which in July passed multiple resolutions on immigration issues at its 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas.

Messages of hope in times of despair

About 40 people joined the prayer vigil Nov. 6 outside the Norris Cotton Federal Building in Manchester on a drizzly, overcast Election Day morning. Some participants ministered to the immigrants who arrived for their check-ins throughout the morning, while the rest of group joined a Jericho walk, seven times around the building in silence.

“I know that no matter which party is in power, we have lots of creative work to be done,” the Rev. Gayle Murphy, a United Church of Christ pastor, told the participants before the walk.

A day earlier, in the Dover jail, Pendleton explained how “difícil,” or difficult, some cases are that he reviews.

“Some of these folks are just headed for deportation,” he told ENS. Sometimes, all they have left is hope.

Esperanza.

When it was the Mexican man’s turn, Pendleton asked his hometown and learned the man was from Vera Cruz. “Mucho calor” – very hot – Pendleton said, trying to break the ice.

The young man smiled through a light beard, but his smile didn’t last long. He told Pendleton that he had been living in Danbury, Connecticut, with his family when he was arrested on a traffic violation. That traffic stop revealed he had re-entered the U.S. after a previous deportation.

“Es difícil,” Pendleton told the man, whose mouth pinched slightly and face flushed with apparent anguish as the priest identified potential hurdles ahead. “No es imposible.”

Not impossible to fight deportation, no, but Pendleton offered the man a photocopy labeled “Volunteer Deportation Guide” in case he wanted to take that route instead.

“No pierdas esperanza,” he said finally. Don’t lose hope.

Pendleton’s last task of the morning was to meet with immigrants who had requested pastoral visits from him. For this, he slipped his white clergy collar into the neck of his black shirt and gave Collins a sticky note with the names.

Collins said he would bring one of the inmates on Pendleton’s list into Interview Room S-1, but “the other guy went out this morning,” he said, referring to another inmate on the list who had been taken from the jail by ICE.

S-1 was even smaller than the other meeting rooms, about 8-feet squared. Off-white walls. Overhead fluorescents. Reinforced windows. Laminate wood floor.

Pendleton placed his Bible on the room’s folding table and took from his folder sheets of paper containing excerpted Bible passages in English and Spanish. Collins brought in an inmate who said he originally was from Costa Rica, and as the man sat down across from Pendleton the conversation alternated between languages.

“Your English is good,” Pendleton complimented.

The Costa Rican man has lived in the United States for 18 years, and, despite losing his right forefinger in a childhood injury, had been able to find work on a dairy farm in Vermont. He and his wife, who is from Argentina, have three teenage children, all born here. They are churchgoers, he said, and although he wasn’t sure the denomination, Pendleton guessed Episcopal by the man’s description of the church – kind of like a Catholic church, but with a female pastor.

The man had been in the jail for a month and wore a green shirt, which Collins had said earlier indicates an inmate serving a criminal sentence, though the man’s crime wasn’t clear. Pendleton remarked that the man seemed upbeat and cheerful despite his difficult circumstances.

“Tú lees la Biblia?” Do you read the Bible? The man said he did, and the two of them took turns reading out loud the Spanish passages on Pendleton’s sheets: Isaías 41:10, Salmos 145 and 2 Corintios 4.

“Nos derriban, pero no nos destruyen,” St. Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians.

Struck down, not destroyed.

“Es la verdad, no?” Pendleton asked. The man agreed, very true.

They concluded the pastoral visit by reading the Prayer of St. Francis and the Lord’s Prayer together in Spanish. Their words were still ringing in the air as Pendleton shook the man’s hand and returned him to Collins in the hall.

Donde hay ofensa, dar perdón;
Donde hay duda, fe;
Donde hay desesperación, esperanza.

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

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Border Ministries Summit brings together Southwest, California and Mexico dioceses

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 4:35pm

The border between El Paso, Texas, and Cuidad Juárez, Mexico, is the second busiest U.S.-Mexico crossing. A narrow strip of the Rio Grande separates the two cities, whose combined population is more than 2 million people. From the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, the border is invisible. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – El Paso, Texas] While driving along Interstate 25 from Albuquerque on his way to Las Cruces, New Mexico, Rio Grande Bishop Michael Hunn spotted a billboard on the left-hand side of the road just south of Belen that almost made him crash his pickup truck.

“I was so confused by the billboard. It said in broad letters, two sentences … ‘Heaven has a wall and strict immigration policies. Hell has open borders,’” said Hunn, who was then bishop-elect. “I almost wrecked the truck … I had to slow down…  does it really say that? I was so confused, and I’m still confused.”

The billboard reminded Hunn, who before his election as bishop of Rio Grande served as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s canon for ministry within the Episcopal Church, that “for those of us in the church, part of the work of engaging and following Jesus Christ is always theological. And we are living in a society and in a culture where there are Christian people who go to church regularly who are interpreting their faith in such a way that they can buy a billboard that can say, ‘Heaven has a wall and strict immigration policies. Hell has open borders.’

“If that sentiment is out there, if that theology is out there – and I think it’s real in all of our places – then it would make sense for us as Episcopalians, for us as Anglicans, to do some theological work,” said Hunn, on Nov. 18, in his sermon during the closing Eucharist of the first-ever Border Ministries Summit here in El Paso.

The next Border Ministries Summit will be held in Tucson, Arizona, Nov. 14-16, 2019.

About 60 people attended summit held Nov. 16-18 at the El Paso Marriott. Although the summit focused on border ministries carried out by dioceses that share a border with Mexico, attendees came from as far as Massachusetts. Once a migrant or asylum seeker crosses the U.S. border, they often travel to other states to look for work or to reunite with family. The Diocese of Rio Grande, which covers 40 percent of the U.S.-Mexico border, hosted the summit to bring together people engaged in borderland ministry to share experiences and to network.

“About a year ago, I began to look at borderland ministries and asked what was going on in other dioceses,” said the Rev. Paul Moore, who chairs the Rio Grande Diocese’s Borderland Ministries and who organized the summit. The next summit will take place Nov. 14-16, 2019, in Tucson, Arizona.

The summit coincided with migrant caravans continued arrival at the U.S.-Mexico border. Hundreds of Central American migrants began arriving Nov. 14 in Tijuana, Mexico, and other ports of entry. The caravans have been politicized in United States and in the Central American sending countries, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, where one of the main drivers of migration, forced displacement by violence, is often denied. Here in the United States, President Donald Trump has called economic migrants and asylum seekers an “assault on our country,” and his administration has deployed 8,000 troops to the border. The president has vowed to deny asylum claims of migrants who attempt to enter the United States illegally, meaning not through a designated point-of-entry.

Still, as people like Moore know, living along the border, as Moore has for some 25 years, can feel like straddling two cultures, and border crossings, whether to shop or go to school, to seek medical attention or look for work or reunite with family, occur every day. In fact, prior to 1996, people would cross the border easily to work and return home to their families. But when then President Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, crossing became too dangerous, and people began staying in the United States.

The law, said Moore, “created a permanent population,” in some cases, separating families as people stayed in the United States to work and send money home to support them.

For the past two years, Moore, who also serves as rector of Church of the Good Shepherd in Silver City, New Mexico, has celebrated the Eucharist on the Sunday closest to Mexico’s Mother’s Day, May 10, in the middle of the Rio Grande, straddling the U.S. and Mexico, near Lajitas, Texas. The Eucharist is part of an annual event that brings together people and briefly re-unites families on both sides of the border.

The Eucharist is one of the many Episcopal-Anglican ministries happening along the border.

On Nov. 17, representatives from the dioceses of Northern Mexico, West Texas, Arizona, San Diego, Western Mexico and Rio Grande gave presentations. In McCallen, Texas, the Rev. Rod Clark, vicar of St. Peter and St. Paul in nearby Mission, hosts Taco Tuesdays, feeding hungry people; he also organizes immersions for people interested in learning about living on the border; and provides outreach to border patrol agents, who often have a difficult, thankless job that can, at times, be misunderstood.

The Diocese of West Texas has for a decade operated Fronteras Unidas, or “united borders,” providing continuing education to clergy on both sides of the border and providing microenterprise loans to women in southern Mexico.

In Nogales, Mexico, the Rev. Rodger Babnew, Jr., a deacon serving St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Arizona, along with a counterpart from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Grand Canyon Synod, operates a five-facility, 780-person capacity shelter system. Since the caravans began arriving, 18 to 22 families have been leaving the shelter to request asylum at the border every day, whereas a two weeks ago, they would see three to five families leave the shelter per week.

In San Diego, California, which borders Tijuana, Mexico, the busiest port of entry, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been releasing 75-100 asylum seekers from detention daily at the bus station without assistance, Episcopalians have been supplying care packages with toiletries and other essentials, and they have brought in mobile shower station.

In Tucson, Episcopalians have been volunteering at Casa Alitas, a short-term shelter, that offers migrants and asylum seekers a place to stay before they board buses and planes to reunite with family in other parts of the country while the await their immigration hearing.

These are just a sampling of the ongoing ministries Episcopalians for years have been engaging in along the border. Given the media coverage devoted to the caravan, it can be easy for forget that some thousands of people arrive at the U.S. border every day. In 2017, an average 850 people were apprehended trying to cross the border illegally, however, that number is down from an average 1,983 in 2007, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

For example, hundreds of people left El Salvador on Oct. 31 in three separate caravans, but as El Salvador Bishop David Alvarado said during a Nov. 18 presentation about root causes of migration, between 200 and 300 people depart daily from El Salvador, one of the most violent countries in the world.

Across Central America’s Northern Triangle, a region that includes El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, more than 700,000 people have been forcibly displaced by violence. Still, it’s a global phenomenon affecting a record 68.5 million people worldwide.

The Episcopal Church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations compiled “A Faithful Response to the Caravan: Five Things to Know.”

Between diocesan presentations, the summit’s workshops focused on social work, immigration law, combatting racism and the Episcopal Church’s immigration, migration and refugee advocacy and engagement at the federal level.

“The church’s official policy positions on immigration date as far back to resolutions in the 1930s calling for the loosening of restrictive and racially discriminatory immigration policies and then throughout the 20th century urging parishes to participate actively in sponsoring refugees for resettlement and civil rights protections for undocumented immigrants,” explained Lacy Broemel, the Episcopal Church’s refugee and immigration policy analyst.

Broemel works out of the Episcopal Church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations, which represents the church’s policy priorities, as determined mainly by General Convention and Executive Council resolutions, to the U.S government. Resolutions, she said, focus on several themes, including family unity; challenging discrimination and racism inherent in many restrictive immigration policies; offering long-term and stable policy solutions for immigrants through a pathway to citizenship; protecting human rights and due process; offering protections for refugees; uplifting LGBTQ refugees and immigrants, and, addressing root causes of migration by promoting peace and development.

“The church recognizes that the U.S. has legitimate security needs, but we can be both compassionate and sensible. The church recognizes that immigrants and refugees bring gifts that enhance our church and nation,” said Broemel. “And it’s important to note that the Episcopal Church is not only walking alongside refugees and immigrants through these official policies, but we are a church comprised of refugees and immigrants. Dreamers, refugees and other immigrants are a part of the church’s work in ministry, advocacy and engagement with all immigrants.”

During his sermon at the close of the summit, Hunn pointed out that beginning with Adam and Eve, “pretty much the first thing that happens to humanity is that we’re displaced.” He then pointed to the examples of Cain and Able, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, all of whom were forced to flee, exiled or made refugees. Hunn’s words echoed those of former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who now serves as assisting bishop in the Diocese of San Diego, who gave the summit’s keynote address on Nov. 16.

“The biblical narrative takes us from cosmic creation, including humanity, to earthlings planted in a garden for a season,” said Jefferts Schori. “Their yearning for knowledge sets them on an ages-long search for home; we, their heirs, are still looking. God sends Abram and Sarai out of Haran in search of a new home. They get to Canaan and keep moving, to Egypt, and then back again. Always there are struggles over who owns what and which terrain belongs to whom.

“Yet eventually our ancestors began to tell our story as a search for home in God, along the straight road through the wilderness, a way of justice and peace. This is about more than a plot of land; it’s about opening your hand to neighbors, whether you love, tolerate or fear them. The prophets began to challenge us about neighbors everywhere, not just our tribal kin. We learned that we’re meant to love the strangers, widows and orphans and homeless, and the difficult ones. We began to dream of God’s Reign, and government that brings justice and peace everywhere, and a home where all can rejoice, give thanks and live in harmony and abundance.”

-Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.

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Archbishop of Canterbury, German church leader issue statement on Brexit

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 1:27pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the leader of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, have issued an urgent appeal “to all politicians to find fair and sustainable solutions for the future coexistence of the UK and the EU.” The church leaders made their plea in a joint statement at a time when the British government and the European Commission are finalizing a deal to revoke the UK’s membership of the European Union.”

Read the full article here.

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Bishop expresses shock, dismay at upheaval in Sri Lankan government

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 1:24pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Colombo Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey has responded “with shock and great dismay” to the “arbitrary” removal of Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister and the dissolution of the country’s Parliament. President Maithripala Sirisena ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe three weeks ago, replacing him with Mahinda Rajapaksa. He then suspended Parliament for two weeks and also announced that it would be dissolved, but that decision was suspended by the country’s Supreme Court after supporters of the deposed Prime Minister sought a judicial review.

Read the full article here.

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Ecumenical gathering in Atlanta issues statement calling for peace on Korean Peninsula

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 12:40pm

[Episcopal News Service] Ecumenical leaders, led by the United Methodist Church and joined by the World Council of Churches, met in Atlanta, Georgia, this month to discuss ways of bearing Christian witness to Korean peace efforts.

The Roundtable for Peace on the Korean Peninsula, from Nov. 9 to 11, was the third such annual gathering, which included renewed calls for denuclearization of the region. Participants concluded the roundtable by releasing a statement declaring its aims and issuing six calls to action.

“This urgent and critical moment is an opportunity for God’s transformative redemption,” the statement says. “Fostering replacement of the old system of division and power will enable the peace of Christ to flower on the Korean Peninsula.”

Read the full statement here.

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NGO with Episcopal ties addresses forced displacement in Central America

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 4:45pm

A family of four joins a caravan as it leaves Plaza Salvador del Mundo on Oct. 31, 2018. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – San Salvador, El Salvador] Families with small children, single mothers and their babies, young men and women, adolescents, the elderly, they all gathered on a late October morning at the Plaza Salvador del Mundo here to form a caravan and begin the long walk north through El Salvador, across Guatemala and Mexico, and, for some, eventually, to the U.S. border.

The Episcopal Church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations compiled “A Faithful Response to the Caravan: Five Things to Know.” 

It was the second of three caravans to depart that day from the plaza, where a statue features Jesus Christ, savior of the world, standing atop planet Earth. Some 250 people – many carrying just backpacks and bottled water, some lugging large suitcases that would prove hard to maneuver within blocks of the journey – left in the second caravan; others would join them along the way for the 2,600-plus-mile journey. The caravans leaving El Salvador followed one that departed Honduras earlier in the month.

Carla, 29, and her 4-year-old son, Anderson Roberto, were among the second Salvadoran caravan to leave that day. Carla volunteered her last name, but in interest of safety it’s withheld. A mother of three, she left her 8- and-2-year-old daughters behind with her father; it would be too difficult to travel with three children, she said. She wants to give her son a better life, and to get a job to provide for her family. It was a decision Carla said she has contemplated for five years. As she spoke, Anderson Roberto cried and held tight to her leg.

Carla, 29, and her son Anderson Roberto, 4, were among the 250-some people leaving San Salvador in a caravan on Oct. 31, 2018. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Across Central America’s Northern Triangle, a region that includes El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, more than 700,000 people have been forcibly displaced by violence. Forced displacement – whether or not it is recognized – has become a political issue regionally, and in the United States, where President Donald Trump has called economic migrants and asylum seekers an “assault on our country,” and his administration has deployed 8,000 troops to the border. The president has vowed to deny asylum claims of migrants who attempt to enter the United States illegally, meaning not through a designated point-of-entry.

Already, they’re arriving at the border

Hundreds of Central American migrants arrived in Tijuana, Mexico, on Nov. 14, and more followed on Nov. 15, as city officials scrambled to offer shelter in what could be an extended stay.

The Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande is sponsoring a Border Ministries Summit in El Paso, Texas, Nov. 16-18. Episcopal News Service will provide coverage.

“These are not delinquents,” said Celia Medrano, regional program director for Cristosal, a San Salvador-based nongovernment organization with Episcopal ties that receives support from the church. Medrano monitored the caravans’ movement through El Salvador via a WhatsApp group. “They are not bad people, they are people looking for work and fleeing violence.”

As was the case with Jose Antonio, 34, who two years ago lost his job at a supermarket where he’d worked for 15 years. Jose Antonio, who declined to give his last name, his wife, Daisy, 34, and their two children, Maria, 11, who wore a “Frozen” cap – Disney merchandising from the popular film – and Uriel, 4, who wore a “Cars” cap.

The family had been living with Daisy’s parents in Mejicanos, where a ditch controlled by gang members ran behind the house. The family carried enough food for two days, planned to ask for help in Mexico and, perhaps, eventually would join relatives in Los Angeles.

Migrants have been traveling in caravans since the 1990s; the one that left Honduras in early October is one of the biggest in history. The caravans’ size and visibility break with the paradigm of clandestine border crossings sometimes aided by human smugglers.

“The caravans represent a change in that pattern,” said Noah Bullock, executive director of Cristosal and an Episcopal Church-appointed missionary.

Recent data shows that many people lack the social and familial networks and the resources to displace internally, and therefore, see caravans as a viable option, Bullock said.

“What’s changed about immigration is it’s no longer a lone Mexican crossing the border to find a job. It’s Central American children and families showing up at the border applying for asylum or trying to find protection, that’s what’s changed about it,” he said. “So even with these caravans you still don’t have an increase in numbers that even moves the net immigration. Immigration isn’t at 10-year high, it’s at a low. And when you compare that to movements of migrants elsewhere in the world, it’s still really small, so you have a problem in these three countries that’s grave. It needs a solution and it’s totally manageable. If you decide to manage it.”

Cristosal’s Episcopal ties, support

Cristosal began in 2000 as a partnership between Episcopal clergy in the United States and El Salvador. It later became an independent non-governmental organization with a $2 million budget that has grown from three employees in 2010 to more than 60 in three countries thanks to a U.S. International Aid and Development grant, though it still maintains close ties to the Episcopal Church. Episcopalians donate $350,000 to the organization’s annual budget.

Cristosal has offices in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The USAID grant was awarded to increase knowledge about forced displacement caused by violence and to support the development of models to address it, as well as to establish a regional mechanism for tracking and monitoring forced displacement in the Northern Triangle; building capacity in the three Northern Triangle countries for the creation of national protection systems specific to internal displacement, and piloting regional solutions that will improve community-based protection for displaced people.

Many young men and women, families and elderly persons joined the caravan that departed San Salvador, El Salvador, on Oct. 31, 2018. It was the second of three caravans to leave for the north that day. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“What we are so uncomfortable with is the idea that Central Americans are making rational decisions; that families might be assessing their situation at home as so grave that doing crazy things like sending their children unaccompanied or walking to the United States or whatever it would be, is actually a really rational decision.”

Government leaders and officials don’t want to acknowledge that migrants are making a rational because to do so “would raise responsibilities of the state to protect people, to protect human rights; it challenges the traditional immigration narrative that is largely [portrayed as] people coming for jobs and not people fleeing some of the most violent countries in the world.”

For instance, he said, Iraq has a homicide rate of 15 per 100,000 and in El Salvador, even after a reduction in the homicide rate, is still at 60 per 100,000. Since 2014, 7,0000 children have died in El Salvador, said Bullock.

“You are much more likely as a Central American and as a poor Central American to die a violent death than you are living in war zones in other parts of the world, yet so it’s more convenient when immigration is drop-by-drop and clandestine. And now that it’s visible it should be seen as protest,” he said. “The people are protesting, protesting that their national countries don’t provide options for protection and freedom from fear… and protest that when they cross an international border, they find no place on planet Earth where they can pursue legitimate ends in life.”

A global phenomenon

Forced displacement is an international phenomenon affecting a record 68.5 million people worldwide, a population larger than that of the United Kingdom.

In El Salvador alone, an estimated 296,000 people are internally displaced, meaning they’ve been forced to flee their homes, but have not yet crossed a border, whereas in Honduras, a conservative estimate puts the number at 190,000. In Guatemala, the number exceeds 242,000.

Of the three Northern Triangle countries, only Honduras has recognized the existence of forced displacement, establishing a national commission to study and document cases. That’s about to change, however. In July, as a result of Cristosal’s work, El Salvador’s Supreme Court gave the government six months to officially recognize forced displacement by violence in the country, design special legislation and policies for the protection and assistance of victims and make victims of displacement a priority in the national budget.

“It’s the governments’ responsibility to protect its citizens. It’s a security issue,” said Elizabeth Ferris, during an Oct. 29 talk at the University of Central America. “There’s a short-term need to address migrants’ needs, and in the long-term a reduction in violence and to recover territory.”

Ferris, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of International Migration and a former director of the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program, was in El Salvador to provide technical expertise to advance the legislation. Forty countries recognize forced displacement, but only 11 or 12 have strategies to address it, said Ferris.

As early as 2013, individuals and families began showing up at Cristosal’s office seeking assistance, some of them referred by the U.S. Embassy because at the time the Anglican-Episcopal Church of El Salvador resettled refugees through Cristosal’s office.   

“It even took a long time for us to learn the language around displacement. First it was people affected by extortion and gang violence, and there are some who are refugees, and then we learned about internal displacement,” said Bullock.

And then, in 2014, 69,000 unaccompanied minors, mothers and children arrived at the U.S. border, bringing attention to the high number of people forcibly displaced by violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The number on the Southwest border dropped to 59,692 in 2016 and to 41,435 in 2017, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“Before the child migrant crisis in 2014 there was no context to advocate or even talk about displacement by violence in Central America, and so when the child migrant crisis happened there was a lot of pressure on the U.S. government to come to the region and find out what could be done,” he said. “That was the first time that violence was linked to migration in a really visible way for the U.S. public.”

By then, Cristosal had two to three years’ practical experience dealing with forced displacement by violence. USAID recognized its work and encouraged Cristosal to expand its presence and develop an adaptive response beyond El Salvador and into Honduras and Guatemala.

Still, it was the support of Episcopal churches and individual Episcopalians that allowed Cristosal to become one of the foremost organizations addressing forced displacement in the Northern Triangle. 

“The important things for Episcopalians to know is that Cristosal’s ability to work on an issue that nobody wanted, before anybody else was willing to fund it, was wholly supported by Episcopalians who believed in us,” said Bullock. “That support allowed us to become a regional leader in developing a response, and that’s something we never want to lose: our Episcopal support base allows us to be independent and take risks and develop response and then move donors to our issues as we scale. That’s what worked for us. And, so we want to keep doing that.”

2014 also marked the 30th anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration, which amended the 1951 refugee convention and the 1967 protocol definition of what it means to be a refugee: “persons who have fled their country because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order.”

The Obama administration responded to the unaccompanied minor crisis by increasing security at the border, detention and interdiction by Mexico, of minors and families seeking refuge in the United States. Trump made curbing immigration a centerpiece of his election campaign. Then in the first eight months of 2018, Customs and Border Control agents detained more than 252,000 people – 32,371 unaccompanied minors and 59,113 families at the Southwest border and the administration began separating families. The family separation policy coincided with the first caravan’s arrival, when, of the several hundred members who requested protection, 95 percent were found to have a credible fear of persecution and were referred for a full hearing in the immigration courts, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

On Oct. 22, Trump threatened to cut aid to Central America if countries did not act to stop the flow of migrants.

In advance of the Nov. 6 midterm elections, Trump used the caravans as a scare tactic, and his political team produced an ad portraying immigrants as a violent threat. U.S. TV and social networks pulled the ad and denounced it as racist.  Trump’s White House’s reductions to the nation’s refugee resettlement program show an interest in limiting more than just illegal immigration.

The United States was a worldwide leader in refugee resettlement just two years ago, when more than 80,000 refugees were welcomed into the country with help from the nine agencies with federal contracts to do that work, including Episcopal Migration Ministries. That number has dwindled under the Trump administration, which announced Sept. 17 it would reduce resettlement further, to no more than 30,000 a year.

The 1980 Refugee Act guarantees a person’s right to ask for asylum. And it was a civil war and a refugee crisis that has contributed to the current violence in El Salvador.

“When Salvadoran refugees left in the 1980s, three percent were recognized as refugees, forcing Salvadorans who came to the United States to marginal parts of our cities where they became gang members, and then were deported back to their countries of origin, which gives us the basis of the current violence that is driving people out,” said Bullock.

The region has a strategic interest in promoting safety and security in Central America, “because un-stabilized, unprotected people destabilize,” said Bullock.

Civil conflict and ‘transitional justice’

From 1980 to1992, El Salvador suffered a brutal civil war fought between its U.S.-backed, military led-government and a coalition of guerilla groups, organized as the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, or FMLN. The war was fueled mostly by the gross inequalities that existed between a small group of wealthy elites who controlled the government and the economy and the majority of the population, which lived in extreme poverty.

The 1992 Peace Accords’ negotiations included the formation of a truth commission to investigate human rights violations that occurred during the civil war. However, a 1993 amnesty law made it impossible to prosecute war crimes and reform the justice system, and police and military forces, leading to weak democratic institutions and persistent impunity and discrimination against victims. People who had political and economic power maintained it after the war ended.

In 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared that the amnesty law could not protect those responsible for the massacre at El Mozote, where government soldiers killed some 800 people, half of them children, in December 1981.

In post-war El Salvador, grassroots human rights and social justice organizations have played a key role in protecting the historical memory and bringing these cases out of the shadows of history. In 2016, Cristosal began using strategic litigation to get justice for victims and aimed at ending the long-standing culture of impunity and is working on both the El Mozote and the 1982 El Calabozo massacres.

“Strategic litigation,” explained David Morales, Cristosal’s director of strategic litigation and El Salvador’s former human rights ombudsman, is a way of providing “transitional justice,” which is a political and social process aimed at applying justice and addressing grave human rights abuses and holding perpetrators of violence accountable.

“Cristosal focuses its legal actions on cases that will have a lot of impact,” said Morales. “Impunity today is linked to impunity in the past … decades of dictatorships, systematic human rights abuses. The state never created a support system for victims.”

–Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.

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Dallas bishop’s plan for allowing same-sex marriage involves Missouri bishop’s oversight

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 1:37pm

Dallas Bishop George Sumner, shown here in an image from an online video released after the 79th General Convention, has announced his plans for allowing parishes to use same-sex marriage rites in their churches.

[Episcopal News Service] Three parishes in the Diocese of Dallas have asked to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies under a General Convention compromise with Bishop George Sumner and other conservative diocesan bishops, and Sumner announced this week that Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith will provide pastoral oversight of those three parishes.

The move, as outlined in Resolution B012 approved in July, will allow the parishes to begin offering the church-approved trial-use rites. The resolution requires bishops who disapprove of same-sex marriage because of their theological beliefs to ask fellow bishops to assist.

The rites were first approved for use in 2015, but eight bishops still refused to allow them in their churches leading up to the 79th General Convention. Since passage of B012, the response from those eight has varied dramatically. Virgin Island Bishop Ambrose Gumbs, for example, reversed himself and now will allow the rites, while Albany Bishop William Love announced last weekend he intends to defy General Convention and prohibit the rites.

Sumner, after initially blocking same-sex marriages in his diocese, backed the compromise in July and began working on a plan for implementation with congregations interested in marrying same-sex couples. The three congregations so far, all in the city of Dallas, Texas, are Episcopal Church of the AscensionEpiscopal Church of the Transfiguration and Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle.

“Bishop Smith is a person of humor, intelligence, wisdom, and faith, and I am grateful for his heart to help us in this way. He is also a Texan happy to minister in the Lone Star State,” Sumner said in an online statement posted Nov. 14. “Both he and I share the hope that the three parishes will continue to invite me annually to come to preach, teach, and share in worship.”

The arrangement for another bishop to accept pastoral oversight is similar to the Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight, or DEPO, that parishes churchwide may request if they feel at odds theologically with their diocesan bishop. In such cases, the parishes that receive pastoral oversight from an outside bishop remain part of their home diocese.

“All the costs associated with this arrangement will be borne by the [Dallas] diocese,” Sumner said. “The parishes’ obligations and privileges within the Diocese of Dallas continue unchanged.”

The Diocese of Missouri also announced the arrangement on its website.

“I’m very pleased that we’ll be able to offer the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples,” the Rev. Paul Klitzke, rector at Ascension, told Episcopal News Service. “I’m also happy that pastorally we’ll be able to refer to those who’ve been married already as married, which given the current canons of the Diocese of Dallas has been in question.”

Klitzke, however, also hinted at mixed feelings about the plan, which will mark a break with the pastoral oversight previously provided by Sumner. The bishop intends to delegate all sacramental and liturgical oversight of the three parishes to Smith, not just their use of the same-sex marriage rites. Springfield Bishop Dan Martens has taken a similar position on implementation of B012 in his Illinois diocese.

“We wish [Sumner] could still be our bishop,” Klitzke said. He thinks more congregations in the diocese would have asked to use the same-sex marriage rites “if it didn’t mean a change in the relationship with bishop diocesan.”

The Rev. Casey Shobe, rector at Transfiguration, told ENS in August he hoped to have a “significant celebration and renewal of vows” next year for couples who married elsewhere rather than waiting for that opportunity in their Dallas church, and he expects a number of same-same sex couples to get married at the church in the coming year or two.

Shobe wasn’t immediately available by phone Nov. 15 but said in August that a plan for outside pastoral oversight “would result in Transfiguration experiencing a big leap forward on a set of matters that are deeply important to us, which have consistently kept us at odds with our bishop in the past.”

A gay couple at Ascension had been interested in marrying, but tragically, one of the two partners died suddenly this year before their ceremony could occur at the church. Resolution B012 takes effect on Dec. 2, the first Sunday of Advent. “There was definitely heartbreak over that here,” Klitzke said.

No other gay or lesbian couple has yet requested to be married at Ascension, but that door is now open.

“We felt it was important to take this step without someone in waiting, because intention matters,” Klitzke said. “In order for us to be welcoming to those who might want to be married, we need to be ready.”

Until this year, the eight dioceses blocking same-sex marriage were Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, North Dakota, Springfield, Tennessee and the Virgin Islands. Seven of the eight bishops have indicated they intend to implement B012, however reluctantly, though the specific plans differ from diocese to diocese.

Only Love has said explicitly that he will not accept or implement the resolution, potentially setting up a legal showdown with the church and diocesan clergy who are interested in moving forward with same-sex ceremonies in their congregations.

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

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California Episcopalians connect, deepen community amid devasting wildfires

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 11:49am

A man walks through a neighborhood threatened by flames as the Woolsey Fire burns in Malibu, California, U.S. November 9, 2018. Eric Thayer/REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service – Los Angeles, California] California Episcopalians –still reeling from the deadliest wildfires in the state’s history—say they are gathering strength and resilience through community connections and an outpouring of love and concern from across the Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Ann Sullivan’s northern California home was destroyed in the Camp Fire but on Nov. 14, she was making plans to retrieve computers and sacred items from the relatively untouched St. Nicholas Church in Paradise.

“The parish administrator and I will have office space at St. John’s Church in Chico” as recovery efforts continue, Sullivan told Episcopal News Service in a telephone interview.

She was also trying to connect displaced parishioners with St. John’s members who had opened their homes to fire victims. “Everyone I know who lived in Paradise lost their home,” Sullivan said. The Camp Fire, which began Nov. 8, is considered the deadliest blaze in California history, killing 56 people, destroying more than 130,000 acres of land and 7,600 dwellings. At least 130 people are missing and the death toll is expected to rise.

Meanwhile, St. John’s, some 14 miles away in Chico, has become a hub for recovery activity and is ready to shelter the displaced, if necessary, according to the Rev. Richard Yale, rector.

Yale said he was amazed that St. Nicholas’ Church in Paradise sustained only superficial damage. “It was right there, in the heart of what was burning, and it’s still here.” As for the rest of the city of 26,000: “Paradise is gone. There’s no infrastructure left.

“Most lost their homes. Those who didn’t lose their homes now have homes in an uninhabitable city, so there are all levels of needs here, pastoral needs, financial needs, ongoing needs,” he said.

Similarly, in Southern California, more than a dozen church members and preschool families lost their Malibu area homes in the Woolsey and Hill fires, but St. Aidan’s Church was untouched, according to the Rev. Joyce Stickney, rector.

“I went back on Saturday and there was ash everywhere and smoke but the flames somehow came right up to the edge of our brand-new driveway, but they didn’t jump over.”

She added: “It’s such a state of shock driving on Pacific Coast Highway and everywhere, it’s black and burnt to a crisp. The electrical poles are split in half and falling down.”

While checking on parishioner’s homes, “that’s when you started weeping,” she said. “You’d see a neighborhood and one home is standing and looked like there wasn’t even a fire. The next home is completely burned to the ground.”

The fires broke out Nov. 7 and have consumed an estimated 97,620 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, roughly the size of the city of Denver. More than 435 structures have been destroyed and a third body was discovered Wednesday, Nov. 14, as gusting Santa Ana winds continued to hamper firefighters’ efforts to fight the blaze.

Yet Stickney planned a Nov. 14 community meal and evening prayer service at the Church of the Epiphany in Oak Park “for anyone who wants to come, and to begin assessing what are their needs and what kind of services people can start providing right away,” she said.

“We’re going to find out. Some people have called me directly; others are still scrambling.”

In Oak Park, flames charred landscaping and vegetation around Epiphany Church, located on Churchwood Drive where several homes did not survive the blaze. Neither church buildings nor the congregation’s vineyard suffered damage, according to the Rev. Greg Brown, vicar.

The Very Rev. Canon Michael Bamberger, rector of Ascension Church in Sierra Madre and chair of the Los Angeles diocesan disaster relief task force, said he was making a presentation in the Diocese of Northern California when the Camp Fire erupted.

Bamberger, a member of the Episcopal Relief & Development Partners in Response and Resilience team, said the agency is partnering with both dioceses to coordinate with local congregations to provide emergency support.

In Northern California, a disaster relief team at St. John’s, Chico, is already distributing emergency supplies such as gas, clothing, food and other basic needs.

In Los Angeles, daily coordination calls with bishops, local clergy and key diocesan disaster leaders is underway, he said. The diocese is also paying close attention to pastoral needs and the impact to vulnerable communities.

“Assessment is ongoing as the fires are not full contained yet,” said Lura Steele, program officer for the U.S. Disaster Programs at Episcopal Relief & Development, in a statement on the agency’s website.

“We will continue to work with our local partners to respond to the needs of those affected,” she said.

Local clergy said the support and outpouring of love has been overwhelming and heartwarming.

In addition to ongoing diocesan support, Yale said they had heard from congregations around “our diocese, neighboring dioceses, from across the country. Even St. Paul’s Church in Poughkeepsie, New York, reached out to them.

“A member there had received wonderful pastoral care in a family crisis here 25 years ago … she mobilized her church to raise funds,” he said.

Stickney also felt overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support. People are “still in a state of shock. The outpouring of services, support, resources has been so moving, and that in itself is healing,” she said.

The grim reality of the fires has underscored the importance of family and community, added Sullivan and Stickney.

“At least we got out safely,” said Sullivan who evacuated early with her three children.

“There is an increased sense of community which is really, really good. I think the message here is that material things really are not what’s important. What’s important is community and caring about each other, being in relationship with each other.  It’s the only thing that makes sense.”

A St. Aidan’s preschool family lost everything but is amazingly resilient, Stickney recalled. “The mom told me she went back and looked at her home. She wept. She took pictures. And then she said, ‘I’m ready to build again.’”

And another parishioner, wrote to her via email: “We were escorted by police into Malibu yesterday. We saw our home and community, and put some closure on the losses and began the healing process. We remembered Isaiah 61:3 … about beauty from the ashes. We will all together create a more beautiful Malibu and community spirit.”

To donate to for Northern California disaster relief, please click here.

Or make checks out to EDNC with “Disaster Relief” in the memo line. Mail to:

The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California
350 University Avenue, Suite 280
Sacramento, CA 95825

In Los Angeles, donations may be made to the diocesan Fire and Mudslide Relief Fund may be made online at here. Priority is placed on disbursement of aid to the region’s low-income and otherwise most vulnerable who might not otherwise receive relief amid the disaster.

 

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

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Tensions rise in Diocese of Albany over bishop’s rejection of same-sex marriage compromise

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 5:45pm

[Episcopal News Service] Albany Bishop William Love’s refusal to accept a General Convention compromise on same-sex marriage has sent shockwaves through his New York diocese, with his supporters and those who oppose his decision both expressing uncertainty about what will happen next.

“We were not prepared for the level of condemnation and venom in his letter,” said Nadya Lawson, a vestry member at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. The Albany congregation is known for supporting the LGBTQ community and has advocated for use of same-sex marriage rites.

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

Love called homosexuality “sinful and forbidden” in a pastoral letter that outlined his decision to block the use of those rites in the diocese. The decision makes him the only Episcopal bishop to reject the compromise that is scheduled to take effect Dec. 2, the first Sunday of Advent, under General Convention’s Resolution B012.

After meeting with diocesan clergy on Nov. 10, Love asked them to read the letter to their congregations the next day, after Sunday worship services. At St. Andrew’s, that task fell to the Rev. Mary White, rector, and afterward, “there were people in tears,” Lawson said.

White did not respond to a request for an interview but said in an email that her congregation “felt anger and frustration” at the letter. “The contents of Bishop Love’s pastoral directive were not unexpected, although we had been hopeful he would find a way, as did the other conservative bishops, to implement B012 in the Diocese of Albany,” White said.

Other congregations were pleased by Love’s decision. Church of the Good Shepherd in Canajoharie was one.

“I thought the letter was bathed in love and God’s holy word,” said the Rev. Virginia Ogden, who has been rector at Good Shepherd for seven years. “It was very compassionate, and it was very factual as to what almighty God says in his Bible.”

Even so, Ogden said, the diocese faces “a thousand scenarios” for what will happen now that its bishop is openly defying a General Convention mandate. She chose not to speculate on the future.

“It’s in God’s hands,” she said. “Sometimes the lord gives us just enough light on the path to see the back of his sandals.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry didn’t speculate either in a statement released Nov. 12, though he affirmed General Convention’s authority and said he and other church leaders are “assessing the implications of the statement and will make determinations about appropriate actions soon.”

A challenge to Love’s directive could lead to disciplinary action under Title IV of the church’s canons, and at least one priest, the Rev. Glen Michaels, has suggested he would fight Love on the issue.

“For better or worse, I see myself as a good person to challenge this,” Michaels told the Living Church. He serves as priest-in-charge at a summer chapel in the Adirondacks but works as a New York assistant attorney general, so challenging Love would not threaten his livelihood. He described Love’s directive as “not enforceable.”

If Love is forced to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies, the bishop warned in his letter that many Episcopalians in his diocese will leave the church, mirroring the “blood bath and opening of the flood gates that have ravaged other dioceses.”

Love, 61 gave no indication that he would try to split the diocese from the Episcopal Church, as some bishops have in past theological disputes over issues of sexuality, but he clearly is aligning himself with the more conservative provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion, said Louis Bannister, a lay leader at Cathedral of All Saints in Albany.

“I’m surprised that he’s the one holdout of the dissenting bishops,” Bannister, 42, told ENS. “It does surprise me, except that I also know him well enough that he wants to be a martyr for his cause.”

Bannister, who is gay and a lifelong Episcopalian, said he is proud of the Episcopal Church’s efforts in recent years to include LGBTQ members more fully in the life of the church. The church has “come out on the correct side,” he said, and he sees Love as a troubling exception.

“His assertion that God has removed his blessing from the Episcopal Church because of the church’s stance on this issue, I find that assertion to be repugnant and honestly not at all of God,” Bannister said.

A decade of rapid progress toward marriage equality

The church’s rapid progress in embracing marriage equality in recent years was far from guaranteed when Love took the reins of the Diocese of Albany in February 2007. Less than four years earlier, the 2003 ordination of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson as the church’s first openly gay bishop sparked upheaval in some diocese and congregations.

But the march toward equality accelerated. In 2009, General Convention passed several resolutions seeking to make the church more welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, including by affirming that those Episcopalians may serve as ordained ministers of the church. A separate resolution was approved to begin developing liturgies for blessing same-sex unions.

Those liturgies were approved for use by General Convention in 2012, and a follow-up resolution was passed that year to create a Task Force on the Study of Marriage, which studied the pastoral needs of priests interested in officiating at weddings of same-sex couples in states where such unions were authorized.

Then in June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex civil marriage was legal in all 50 states. General Convention had just begun in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the bishops and deputies proceeded to approve the trial use of rites for same-sex marriage ceremonies that had been drafted by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage.

Those rites, however, were not universally welcomed. Three years later, as Episcopalians prepared to gather in Austin, Texas, for the 79th General Convention, the conservative bishops of eight domestic dioceses – Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, North Dakota, Springfield, Tennessee and the Virgin Islands – continued to block same-sex couples from marrying in their churches.

Deputies, bishops and visitors packed a meeting room in the Austin Hilton Hotel the afternoon of July 5 to testify on three marriage-related resolutions at the 79th General Convention. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Resolution B012 was a compromise intended to settle the matter for good by allowing those bishops to delegate pastoral oversight for same-sex marriages to fellow bishops, an arrangement similar to the model in the church known as Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight, or DEPO.

Seven of the eight holdout bishops said they would accept and implement the compromise. Love, on the other hand, said little initially.

In September, Love held a meeting with diocesan clergy members to discuss B012. The Diocese of Albany is based in New York’s capital city and includes more than 100 congregations, but most of them are based in less-populated communities from the Canadian border to the northern Catskill Mountains. It is known as a more conservative diocese than the Episcopal Church as a whole, and many of its priests and deacons are supportive of Love’s stance on same-sex marriage.

“I’m sympathetic to the bishop,” the Rev. Matthew Stromberg told ENS, but at the meeting with clergy, he advised Love to accept B012 and move on. “My own feeling was that he should follow the example of the other conservative bishops who’ve decided to try to live with this, if only because I think so many of us are just tired of thinking about it. And I’m afraid of what the consequences are going to be for our diocese.”

Stromberg, 36, serves as rector at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Schenectady, with an average Sunday attendance of about 65. He believes Love is doing what he thinks is right, not out of hatred for the gay community, but “I know it’s hurtful to a lot of folks within our parish and around the diocese.”

Diocese of Albany Bishop William Love celebrates Eucharist at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Schenectady, New York, in November 2015. Photo: St. George’s

Tensions between Love and some of the diocese’s more progressive parishes date back years. At least three parishes requested and received DEPO relationships with neighboring dioceses, all in 2012: St. Andrew’s continues to receive pastoral oversight from the Diocese of Central New York, and the Diocese of Vermont provides pastoral oversight for St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex and Church of St. Luke, the Beloved Physician, in Saranac Lake. Although granted DEPO, those three churches remain part of the Diocese of Albany under Love’s authority.

Lawson, 51, joined St. Andrew’s shortly after the parish requested DEPO. As a lesbian who is raising her son, Jason, as a single mother, she appreciates her congregation’s advocacy for LGBTQ inclusion and marriage equality.

“I was looking for a place where our family in its uniqueness would feel affirmed, and it was,” Lawson told ENS.

She was serving as senior warden in 2015 when the congregation approved and sent a letter to Love asking him to allow same-sex couples to marry at St. Andrew’s using General Convention’s newly approved trial-use rites. The parish’s letter, foreshadowing General Convention’s B012 compromise three years later, argued that DEPO would allow Bishop Skip Adams, who was head of the Diocese of Central New York at the time, to handle pastoral oversight of those marriages instead of Love.

Love refused, Lawson said.

“St. Andrews has been trying to find ways to be in unity with the diocese for a long time,” Lawson said. Love’s obstruction has dismayed several same-sex couples who would have gotten married at St. Andrew’s. Some have gotten civil marriages outside the church. Others have left the church in frustration. She knows at least one gay couple at St. Andrew’s who still want to get married in the church.

“Being able to have their marriage blessed by a priest is important to them, and it can’t happen here,” she said.

Members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Albany, New York, pose for a Facebook photo promoting it as a congregation that “welcomes ALL for worship, fellowship and service.”

‘Deck is stacked’ against same-sex marriage in Albany

Bannister moved to Albany about 10 years ago from Vermont and was shocked by how conservative his new diocese was by comparison.

When he was searching for a congregation, a helpful woman at one church warned him that his homosexuality might not be fully welcomed at some congregations, so she guided him to others that would be a better fit. He ended up at Cathedral of All Saints.

“The cathedral congregation is absolutely wonderful,” he said. “It would not have it become my spiritual home were it not a wonderful congregation.”

After General Convention passed the trial-use liturgies in 2015, Bannister formed a closed Facebook group called Voices in the Diocese of Albany to “harness the energy” on the issue. The group organized a strategy session, which the bishop caught wind of and attended, unannounced, with members of his staff.

The bishop spoke with the group for three hours, Bannister said, and both sides expressed their feeling it had been a positive and honest conversation. Then a week later, Love issued a letter saying he would not allow the trial-use rites for same-sex marriages in the Diocese of Albany.

“We were all sort of blindsided,” Bannister said, “because we thought we were all just paid lip service.”

This year, after Love met in September with diocesan clergy to get their views on B012, the topic came up at a meeting of the cathedral chapter, of which Bannister is a member. Bannister recalls the Very Rev. Leander Harding, the cathedral’s dean, telling the chapter that Love’s position on same-sex marriage was backed by a majority of priests and deacons.

“That may be true,” Bannister told Harding. “The clergy deck is stacked in this diocese, and [Love] has never asked the laity how they feel.”

Love first revealed his final decision on B012 at another meeting of diocesan clergy, a retreat last week at the Christ the King Spiritual Life Center in Greenwich, New York.  The retreat ran from Nov. 7 to 10, and on the final morning, Saturday, he gathered everyone together for his announcement.

“I got to tell you, he got a standing ovation from his clergy, probably over 100 people in the room,” Ogden, 69, told ENS. Some of the more progressive clergy members simply didn’t come to hear Love speak, she said, and others walked out in protest when he announced his decision.

At her church, services are typically small, about 20 people. Good Shepherd is an aging congregation – “I tease that my youth group starts at age 45” – and same-sex marriage isn’t a big issue for parishioners there. Love’s decision, though, was received warmly when she read his letter to them.

“I don’t think they were surprised at all. We know him, and we stand with him,” she said. “We stand with Jesus.”

Stromberg was ordained by Love and personally thinks highly of the bishop and of his faith. He described his congregation at St. George’s as traditional and Anglo-Catholic. Services almost exclusively follow Rite I. A Rite II service was offered once, and few people attended.

Though liturgically traditional, Stromberg’s parishioners are more socially progressive.

“I’d say nearly everyone here at St. George’s was pretty disappointed by the bishop’s decision to not comply with the resolution,” he said. “I was hoping there would be some way of moving on, but I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.”

– 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 of Australia to research domestic violence in Anglican-affiliated families

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 3:55pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church of Australia “has role to play in promoting healthy, respectful relationships,” it said as it announced a research project on domestic violence. The research will examine “the nature and prevalence of family violence in Anglican-affiliated families” in a project designed to help the church to tackle domestic violence. Beginning next year, the three-stage project will include surveys and interviews with Anglicans within and outside the church, with clergy and church leaders, and a sample of the broader population.

Read the full article here.

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Georgia bishop announces retirement plans, calls for a successor

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 1:33pm

[Diocese of Georgia] Bishop Scott Benhase announced plans to call for the election of his successor during the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. He told the convention of ongoing, significant health setbacks that leave him unable to keep up with the demanding schedule needed to oversee the 70 Episcopal congregations in central and south Georgia.

The election for the next bishop of the Diocese of Georgia will take place in Statesboro, on Nov. 15-16, 2019. The consecration of the 11th bishop of Georgia will be on May 30, 2020. The diocese’ Standing Committee will oversee the discernment and election process.

Benhase came to the Diocese of Georgia in 2009 after serving parishes in East Cleveland, Ohio; Charlottesville, Virginia; Durham, North Carolina; and, Washington, D.C.

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Anglican mission agency Mothers’ Union admitted to Community of the Cross of Nails

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 4:09pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The work of the Mothers’ Union in reconciliation and peace-building has been recognized by the Community of the Cross of Nails. The group is part of the work of Coventry Cathedral’s international reconciliation ministry team. Membership of the community is given to churches, peace-building centers and educational and training organizations in recognition of their reconciliation work. The Community of the Cross of Nails, which has more than 200 members, is inspired by Coventry’s story of destruction, rebuilding and renewal.

Read the full article here.

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New Zealand church leaders reject Sydney proposal catering to opponents of same-sex marriage

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 4:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A proposal by the archbishop of Sydney for an overlapping Anglican diocese or province to cater for Anglicans in New Zealand opposed to the blessing of same-sex marriage has been rejected by the leaders of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. In May, the General Synod in New Zealand passed a “compromise” resolution on the blessing of same-sex civil marriages in a move that was designed to allow both theological conservatives and those campaigning for change to stay in the same church. But a number of Anglicans have responded to the vote by saying that they were seeking to leave the Church as a result of the decision.

Read the full article here.

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Maryland diocese brings recovery into the open

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 11:28am

Bishop Chilton Knudsen came to Maryland in 2015 to lead the Diocese of Maryland in its ministry of recovery and support for those in addiction. Photo: Diocese of Maryland

[Episcopal News Service] For the Diocese of Maryland, the road toward recovery has been marked by deep, soul-searching conversations and policy changes as well as a willingness to name and confront the challenges of addiction.

A fatal accident in late 2014 caused by a bishop triggered intense scrutiny from the public and from within the diocese. It also initiated a churchwide re-evaluation of alcohol and addiction policies.

The Diocese of Maryland has spent the past four years in recovery, asking difficult questions: What is our relationship with alcohol? How can we have honest and open conversations about addiction? How do we identify those struggling with addiction and support them in seeking help? What systemic changes need to be made within the system?

And most of all, they asked the question over and over: What can we do to seek healing for all involved?

Two days after Christmas in 2014, Heather Cook, then Maryland’s suffragan bishop, struck and killed cyclist Tom Palermo, a 41-year-old father of two. Cook’s blood alcohol level was .22 percent, nearly three times the legal limit for driving in Maryland. Both the justice and ecclesiastical systems responded: Cook is currently in prison, serving a sentence for vehicular manslaughter. She resigned her position with the diocese and was deposed, so she can no longer function as an ordained person within the Episcopal Church.

While the action has been adjudicated, the work of recovery is ongoing.

“We’re still in the healing process,” says the Rev. Cristina Paglinauan, associate rector for community engagement at Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore. “The conversations are still needed. It’s the type of thing that’s going to take a long time. We are healing, but there is still work to be done.”

A month after the accident, Church of the Redeemer held its first Recovery Eucharist, a service built around the program promoted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step-recovery groups. That service is now an annual offering.

The congregation hosts 14 different recovery groups, and a dedicated Recovery Eucharist felt like a next step to invite the “‘basement groups’ into the main sanctuary in the context of worship and prayer,” says Paglinauan. “We felt it was really needed for us to gather and pray.”

The Rev. Anjel Scarborough was serving at Grace Episcopal Church in Brunswick when the accident occurred. Like Church of the Redeemer, the congregation offered a Recovery Eucharist shortly after the accident and has continued its role as a leader within the rural community about ways to support recovery. In 2014, St. Peter’s offered the only AA meeting in town; Scarborough says that three years later, other churches had joined the efforts, and a 12-step meeting is now offered every day of the week within a five-mile radius.

This past Labor Day, the town held a community-wide event to pray for victims of addiction.

The congregation made other changes too. They decided that all church functions held on church grounds would be alcohol-free. The Recovery Eucharist became a monthly offering on Sunday evenings, and over the years, some members of the recovering community became involved in other activities at Grace.

“We have shifted into the long-term cultural work,” says Scarborough. “What does it mean to be in long-term recovery? How do we make space for people who are dealing with addiction? …What obligation as a worshiping community do we have to make sure all are welcome? And if we say all are welcome, what changes are we willing to make so that is a reality?”

Shortly after the accident, the Episcopal Church convened a task force to examine the issues of alcohol and drug abuse, and the 2015 General Convention passed three resolutions, including policies about serving alcohol in church functions. The Diocese of Maryland further strengthened those policies and has been proactive about implementation.

“I am a much stronger advocate for the implementation of our policies,” says the Rev. Scott Slater, canon to the ordinary for the Diocese of Maryland. “It’s like how an ex-smoker can become obnoxious about smoking policies. I make sure that if a group is not adhering to our alcohol policy, I speak up. That’s happened even at events sponsored by the wider church.”

Slater offers some simple, no-cost ways to adhere to both the letter and spirit of the policy, from providing alcohol-free zones at the diocese’s conference center to placing alcoholic beverages at the far end of a room and soda, water and fruit juices in more accessible locations. The diocese also has collected resources and developed a page on its website.

For Slater, the issue is personal on many levels. A recovering alcoholic himself, he knows intimately the struggle with addiction. Cook called him from the scene of the accident, and he took her to the police station. And he lives two blocks from the family of the victim and regularly sees Palermo’s widow walking her children to school.

“We are healing,” Slater says. “The wound is covered up by a scar, but the scar will always be there. It will never go away. And it’s important that it doesn’t. This is a scar that will remind us to never do that again, to never fail Heather or the Palermos by not seeing the signs or intervening earlier.”

While Slater and others were in the diocese when the accident occurred, Bishop Chilton Knudsen, resigned eighth bishop of Maine, came to Maryland several months later, in part to help lead the healing process. Knudsen has been a public voice for the ministry of recovery and support for those in addiction. She recently celebrated 30 years of sobriety. Knudsen regularly visits Cook in prison: “Heather is my sister in Christ and my sister in recovery.”

Knudsen gauges the diocese’s recovery on a number of factors, including how and when people talk about Cook. For a while, the discussion focused on blame, with anger directed at Cook as well as the diocese and the larger church.

“When I first came to Maryland, people were so obsessed with Heather that they could hardly talk about anything else. Now the conversation is broader, part of a bigger look at the system,” says Knudsen. “People have come to say, ‘Yeah, there was a mix-up at every level. Fingers could be pointed in lots of directions. It’s not fair to make Heather the sole scapegoat in this.’ There is responsibility to be shared—and action to be taken—throughout our systems.”

In tangible ways, that has meant a number of changes to build and encourage an atmosphere of health. The diocese has held a series of clergy gatherings, with a particular focus on how to tell the truth to one another, how to ask for and extend forgiveness, and how to monitor the quality of discourse.

Knudsen says there’s intentional work in living into the vision of the diocese set by Bishop Eugene Sutton: “The Diocese of Maryland is a community of love.”

“That means asking the question in clergy gatherings, staff meetings and visitations: What is a community of love? What does it look like? How do we know it when we see it?” she says. “At the last clergy day, we had a couple of painful episodes where people were deeply disrespectful to each other, and this galvanized several groups to say, we have to do better.

We need to focus on the quality of our public discourse. We want to make a witness of careful and deep listening.”

The entire diocesan staff underwent training for Narcan, a medication used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose. Now, many parishes are also taking the training and learning how to be first responders, says Knudsen.

Another indication of this healing work: Knudsen says she knows of seven clergy who have entered into recovery.

“Our trust with each other has grown,” Knudsen says. “We’re able to admit that this impacted us. We were a mess, and we needed to take a deep look, not just put up a smokescreen. We have come to realize that this wasn’t about one suffragan bishop and the worst thing she has ever done in her life, but a whole climate that fosters denial and blaming rather than compassion and proactive outreach.”

For Scarborough, this period of recovery has helped shed light on addiction.

“Having come out of a family with a number of extended family who have addictions to drugs and alcohol, I know that any of us can fall down that rabbit hole, given the right set of circumstances,” says Scarborough, who now serves as priest-in-charge at St. Peter’s in Ellicott City. “Addiction is part of the human condition, and we must be aware that we all have the capacity for addiction. We must ask ourselves, ‘Where have we substituted something for God?’”

While she believes the diocese and many individuals have come a long way in the healing process, Scarborough acknowledges that challenges continue.

“I keep praying that some time we won’t hear jokes about Whiskey-palians or the one about where two or three Episcopalians are gathered, there’s a fifth,” she says. “If those jokes could die in my lifetime, then we’ve done good work. I’d like to be known for the love of Jesus, you know? For people to say: Episcopalians, they show the love of Jesus.”

-Richelle Thompson is deputy director and managing editor of Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church committed to inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists.

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Southern California Episcopalians respond to wildfires

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 10:21am

Fire damage to grounds of Epiphany Church, Oak Park, California. Photo: Courtesy Susan Anderson.

[Diocese of Los Angeles] At least 11 homes of Southern California Episcopalians have been lost in the raging Woolsey and Hill brush fires that displaced some 200,000 residents and burned more than 83,000 acres with flames racing to the driveways and parking lots of parish properties in Malibu, Oak Park and Thousand Oaks but sparing church buildings.

Ten homes of parishioners of St. Aidan’s Church in Malibu, and one home of members of Epiphany Church, Oak Park, were destroyed, according to reports from leaders of the local congregations.

Pastoral and practical response continues in a united effort of clergy and laity in the region, joined by Bishop John Harvey Taylor, Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce and Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy, together with the diocesan disaster relief task force, chaired by the Very Rev. Michael Bamberger, rector of Ascension Church, Sierra Madre, and dean of diocesan Deanery 5.

Contributions to the diocesan Fire and Mudslide Relief Fund may be made online here. Priority is placed on disbursement of aid to the region’s low-income and otherwise most vulnerable who might not otherwise receive relief amid the disaster.

As prayers encouraged by the bishops and clergy ascended across the diocese, firefighters doused the property Thousand Oaks’ St. Patrick’s Church on Friday, Nov. 9, protecting it from devastation, reported the Rev. George Daisa, rector, who had the evening before been a leader in the city hall prayer vigil responding to the Nov. 8 shooting deaths of 13 at the nearby Borderline Bar and Grill. Sunday services were conducted in the church.

In Oak Park, flames charred landscaping and vegetation around Epiphany Church, located on Churchwood Drive where several homes did not survive the blaze. Neither church buildings nor the congregation’s vineyard suffered damage, said the Rev. Greg Brown, vicar. Parishioners were able to visit the church and gather for services.

In Malibu, the Rev. Joyce Stickney, vicar of St. Aidan’s Church there, is mobilizing support for profoundly affected parishioners, and also called the sparing of the church buildings and adjacent clergy residence a true miracle. She expressed gratitude for the members of the Malibu Muslim community who have called hourly with offers of food, housing and other support for St. Aidan’s parishioners.

Stickney added that that Aidan, a seventh-century bishop on this island of Lindesfarne in the North Sea, has been considered a protector against wildfires, his name meaning “fire” in Gaelic.

Due to mandatory evacuation orders still in effect, services were not held at the newly remodeled Malibu church on Nov. 11 but are expected to resume on Nov. 18, Stickney said, with a dedication of the renovated sanctuary set for Nov. 25.

In neighboring communities including Pacific Palisades, parishioners and clergy had “go bags” packed and ready for evacuation on a moment’s notice.

The Woolsey fire follows nearly one year after other devastating firestorms in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and the disastrous Montecito mudslide last January. The recent blaze burned concurrently with the Camp Fire in the northern California town of Paradise, where at least 29 persons died, 200 went missing, and 6,700 structures were destroyed.

The diocese will continue to monitor and report on congregational and diocesan responses to the fire disaster.

– Bob Williams is canon for common life in the Diocese of Los Angeles and a former director of Episcopal News Service.

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Albany bishop rejects General Convention compromise on gay marriage, refuses to allow rites

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 5:13pm

Members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Albany, New York, pose in October for a Facebook photo promoting it as a congregation that “welcomes ALL for worship, fellowship and service.” The parish, however, and any others in the Diocese of Albany interested in offering same-sex marriage ceremonies will not be allowed under the directive issued by Bishop William Love.

[Episcopal News Service] Albany Bishop William Love, in a Nov. 10 pastoral letter to his diocese, forcefully condemned the Episcopal Church’s adoption of same-sex marriage rites, vowed to reject a General Convention resolution intended to offer the rites in all dioceses and suggested Episcopalians in his diocese would leave the church if his directive were overturned.

Using Biblical citations from Leviticus to Romans to support his belief that sexual intimacy between two men or two women was never God’s plan, Love’s eight-page letter labeled homosexuality “sinful and forbidden,” and cast the long-simmering Episcopal debate over same-sex marriage as a kind of existential crisis for the church, which he argues has been “hijacked” by a powerful, secular “Gay Rights Agenda.”

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

“There is no doubt the Episcopal Church and now the Diocese of Albany are in the midst of a huge storm that can rip us apart if we are not careful. That is exactly what Satan wants. We don’t have to play his game,” Love said. “If we focus on what divides us, we will be destroyed. If we focus on what unites us – our Lord Jesus Christ – He will get us through to the other side.”

Resolution B012, when it was approved by the 79th General Convention in July, was seen as a compromise between conservative bishops like Love and advocates for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the church. It passed with broad support in both the House of Bishops and House of Deputies.

It wasn’t immediately clear what steps church leaders might take in response to Love’s directive, which specifically forbids diocesan clergy from using the trial rites supported by B012. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a statement Nov. 12 saying all clergy are required to “act in ways that reflect and uphold the discernment and decisions of the General Convention of the church.”

“I have read the recent statement from Bishop Bill Love of the Diocese of Albany and am aware of the deep hurt on all sides of the issues it addresses,” Curry said. “I have been, and will continue to be, in conversation with Bishop Love about this matter. Along with other leaders in the Episcopal Church, I am assessing the implications of the statement and will make determinations about appropriate actions soon.’

Episcopal News Service was unable Nov. 12 to reach clergy in the diocese to speak about Love’s letter on the record, and a diocesan representative said the bishop wasn’t immediately available to answer a reporter’s questions by phone.

Despite the impasse in Albany, the Episcopal Church has made steady progress toward marriage equality in recent years, said the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies.

“We recognize the Holy Spirit at work in the marriages of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” Jennings said in a written statement. “And we know that there are Christians who have been drawn further into fidelity and service to the world by living in committed same-sex partnerships and marriages based on holy love and the gift of seeing Christ in one another. When we celebrate these marriages, the entire church is blessed by the love and fidelity of these faithful couples.”

Love’s decision already has generated backlash in Albany and churchwide among supporters of same-sex marriage.

“Parishioners at St. Andrews, Albany, burned the bishop’s letter while it was being read at church,” parishioner John White said in a Facebook post. “How did your congregation ‘celebrate’?”

The Rev. Susan Russell, a priest from the Diocese of Los Angeles who has advocated for years in favor of greater LGBTQ inclusion in the Episcopal Church, said Love exceeded his canonical authority, and she expects the church to hold him accountable.

“In a moment when we’re being led by a presiding bishop who prophetically proclaims on a worldwide stage that if it’s not about love it’s not about God, we have a bishop named Love who is drawing lines in the sand, who is explicitly excluding people from God’s blessing,” Russell, senior associate rector at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, told ENS by phone.

Leading up to General Convention this year, Albany was one of eight dioceses that refused to offer trial rites to same-sex couples wishing to marry in their own churches, because the bishops held to theologically conservative interpretations of scripture, church canons and the Book of Common Prayer. With B012, General Convention intended to let those bishops opt out personally, without blocking the rites. The solution was to ask another bishop to provide pastoral oversight for the marrying couples.

B012 takes effect Dec. 2, the first Sunday of Advent, and in most of the eight dioceses, the bishops, though reluctantly, and have made plans for implementing it. Love, however, objected to B012 when it was approved and repeated his objections in his Nov. 10 letter. He said he raised those concerns in a recent meeting with Curry, warning the resolution’s mandate would do “tremendous damage” to the church and his diocese.

Love’s letter begins by citing his authority as bishop, which the Book of Common Prayer says includes a call “to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church” and to “boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel of Christ.” It concludes by affirming his “respect for the authority of General Convention as an institutional body” but pledging his “ultimate loyalty” to God.

His letter enumerates seven reasons for his rejection of B012, starting with biblical teachings that marriage is between a man and a woman.

“The fact that some in today’s sexually confused society (to include 5 of the 9 U.S. Supreme Court Justices in 2015) may have broadened their understanding of marriage to be more inclusive, allowing for same-sex marriages, doesn’t mean that God … has changed His mind or His purpose or intent for marriage.”

Albany remains the exception to church’s support for marriage equality

The reference to the Supreme Court invokes the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex civil marriage in all 50 states. It already had been legal by law in New York since 2011.

However, tensions in the Episcopal Church over homosexuality stem back even further. Those tensions flared up in 2003 with the ordination of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson as the church’s first openly gay bishop, and after several years of theological disagreements, some bishops, priests and lay Episcopalians left the church, causing protracted legal battles in some places over diocesan property.

Separate efforts to welcome same-sex couples more fully into the life of the church took a major step forward in 2015 when General Convention created and authorized two trial marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

“For more than 40 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed, studied and discerned and, in doing so, we have seen the evidence of God’s blessing in the lives of LGBTQ people,” Jennings said in her written statement, calling General Convention “our highest temporal authority.”

Despite their earlier objections, the bishops of the dioceses of Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, North Dakota, Springfield, Tennessee and the Virgin Islands have signaled they are satisfied by the compromise reached in B012. Implementation may vary from diocese to diocese.

“I think we’ve come out of this with something that lets everyone stay true to their conscience,” Dallas Bishop George Sumner told the Dallas Morning News in July.

Like Love, Florida Bishop Samuel Howard opposed the comprise resolution, but he sent a message to his diocese on Aug. 3 saying he would implement it. If a parish wishes to conduct a same-sex wedding, Howard said he will ask a fellow bishop to step in.

“Please know that I am committed to honoring Resolution B012, as passed by the General Convention, even though my own theological position and pastoral teaching continues to be rooted in traditional Gospel understandings as set forth in our Book of Common Prayer,” Howard said. “My prayer is that both ‘sides’ of this issue will come to see the other not as a ‘side’ at all, but rather as fellow members of the Body of Christ, seeking in good faith to follow the Gospel.”

Love, however, has offered no such conciliation. “We’re in the midst of a major schism,” Love told the Albany Times-Union in a Sept. 1 story, and in a Sept. 7 letter to the diocese he said he was still considering the resolution’s meaning and collecting input from diocesan clergy before deciding how to respond and “how it will be dealt with in the Diocese of Albany.”

The diocese is based in New York’s capital city, though most of its 130 congregations are in less-populated communities between the Canadian border and Catskill Mountains. By Nov. 11, Love had made his decision, and it echoed off the walls of those churches. Parish clergy were instructed by Love to read the letter to their congregations after Sunday worship.

“B012 turns upside down over 2000 years of church teaching regarding the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and is in direct contradiction of the Episcopal Church’s ‘official teaching’ on marriage,” Love said.

Love’s letter also frames his objection to same-sex marriage by arguing at length that it is rooted in a faith-based opposition to homosexuality, and to premarital sex of any kind.

Allowing gay couples to marry does “a great disservice and injustice to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ, by leading them to believe that God gives his blessing to the sharing of sexual intimacy within a same-sex relationship, when in fact He has reserved the gift of sexual intimacy for men and women within the confines of marriage between a man and woman.” He continues by accusing the church of encouraging Episcopalians with “same-sex attractions” to sin by acting on those impulses.

Love implicates the Episcopal Church in that sin and suggests it will hasten the church’s demise.

“Not only does the same-sex couple come under God’s judgement and condemnation, but it also brings God’s judgement and condemnation against The Episcopal Church,” he said. “Recent statistics show that The Episcopal Church is spiraling downward. I can’t help but believe that God has removed His blessing from this Church. Unless something changes, The Episcopal Church is going to die.”

Bishop raises alarm over widening church schism

Implementing B012 also would require Love to violate his vows of ordination, he said, adding that others in his diocese are just as adamant in opposing same-sex marriage.

“There are many in the Diocese of Albany who have made it clear that they will not stand for such false teaching or actions and will leave – thus the blood bath and opening of the flood gates that have ravaged other dioceses will come to Albany if B012 is enacted in this diocese,” he said in his letter.

Love’s final justification for rejecting B012 expands the decision’s scope by invoking the diocese’s positive relations with the Anglican Communion, which also has grappled in recent years with divisions between its provinces, one of which is the Episcopal Church, over homosexuality.

Some in the Episcopal Church are willing to take what they see as a “prophetic” stance, Love said, even if others in the Anglican Communion don’t “embrace this ‘new thing’ that they believe God is doing.” Love calls this the devil’s deception.

“Satan is having a heyday … by deceiving the leadership of the church into creating ways for our gay and lesbian brothers and sister to embrace their sexual desires rather than to repent and seek God’s love and healing grace,” he said.

Love concluded his letter with a lengthy passage that mines a range of viewpoints on Christian outreach to people “who are struggling with same-sex attractions” while making clear he views homosexuality as a sin that requires repentance.

Curry, in his statement Nov. 12, was clear about the Episcopal Church’s official understanding of the issue.

“We are committed to the principle of full and equal access to, and inclusion in, the sacraments for all of the baptized children of God, including our LGBTQ siblings,” Curry said. “We also are committed to respecting the conscience of those who hold opinions that differ from the official policy of the Episcopal Church regarding the sacrament of marriage.

“It should be noted that the canons of the Episcopal Church give authority to all members of the clergy to decline to officiate a marriage for reasons of conscience, and Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention does not change this fact.”

Russell, the California priest, said several fellow advocates for marriage equality and priests in the Diocese of Albany contacted her to inform her of Love’s decision. It greatly saddened her, she said.

Russell called Love “a complete outlier” among bishops on this issue, but that doesn’t take away the sting felt by gay and lesbian couples in his diocese.

“My heart goes out to the LGBTQ people in the Diocese of Albany specifically, but also to those in the wider church and community who will hear this again as another indication of how deeply homophobia runs in the veins, in the world and the church, and how much we have to do to eradicate it,” she said. “And I do think it’s up to the whole church to stand together in love and compassion.”

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

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