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Episcopalians join hotel soap campaign to fight sex trafficking as Atlanta hosts Super Bowl

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 4:13pm

About 200 participants at the SOAP UP event Jan. 26 at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta apply labels to bars of soap with messages aiming to fight sex trafficking. Photo: Catherine Renaud

[Episcopal News Service] Advocates for victims of child sex trafficking warn that the problem spikes around big sporting events, like the Super Bowl, which is taking place this weekend in Atlanta. That warning sparked a call to action among Episcopalians in the Diocese of Atlanta, who have turned thousands of bars of soap into weapons in the fight against exploitation and abuse.

The campaign, dubbed SOAP UP Atlanta, was organized by members of the diocese’s Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Commission and builds on the work of a range of organizations in metro Atlanta with the shared goal of ending human trafficking.

“It’s going to take people, parishes, churches, other organizations banding together to get this done, and if we do, massive amounts of people can stop it,” said Catherine Renaud, a commission member who helped organize the SOAP UP events. The bars of soap were wrapped with anti-trafficking hotline numbers and given to hotels around Atlanta, along with informational materials and posters with the pictures of missing children.

Attention to this issue during the lead-up to the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 already appears to be producing results. At least four victims were rescued and 33 people arrested this week through a law enforcement crackdown, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report.

It wasn’t clear if any of those victims were saved because of SOAP UP, but Renaud said she later learned that, at some hotels, employees told campaign volunteers they recognized potential victims from the handout posters and reported that information to authorities.

The diocese’s Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Commission has been around for several years but has never attempted a campaign like this before, said Renaud, who has been on the commission for about two years.

Renaud is 76 and semi-retired after running a computer software business. She is a member of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Dunwoody, an Atlanta suburb, and got involved in the fight against child trafficking after learning about the problem years ago at a conference.

“I heard the statistics. That’s all it took for me,” she said. Among the statistics cited by the diocese’s commission are that, in Georgia each month, an estimated 7,000 or more men who pay for sex end up exploiting an adolescent female.

“I could not sit by and do nothing,” Renaud said. “And I think the more other people hear about it, they won’t be able to either. Once you hear it, you can’t forget it.”

The Episcopal Church, too, has taken up the issue. A 2009 General Convention resolution “calls for the protection of all victims of human trafficking,” and Episcopalians have been involved in past campaigns to fight sex trafficking in Super Bowl cities.

In July, General Convention passed a resolution emphasizing the role businesses can play in identifying and reporting exploitation by adhering to what is known as the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.

Bars of soap like these are labeled with trafficking hotlines and distributed to hotels where victims may see them and get help. Photo: S.O.A.P., via Facebook

Outreach to businesses is a primary goal of the Ohio-based organization S.O.A.P. that was founded by trafficking survivor Theresa Flores. S.O.A.P. mobilizes volunteers to wrap bars of soap and containers of makeup wipes with labels advertising human trafficking hotlines and distributing them to hotels where victims might see them. Super Bowl cities have been a top target of Flores’ team since 2011 when it was held in Dallas.

As the Diocese of Atlanta’s anti-trafficking commission began discussing its own plans for this Super Bowl, it reached out to Flores to partner with the local campaign. On Jan. 26, the diocese held a daylong workshop for a capacity crowd of 200 at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta, where Flores shared her story and alarming statistics about the problem of child sex trafficking. Commission members also worked with Ahavath Achim Synagogue to host a second SOAP UP workshop there the following day.

Each afternoon, workshop participants divided into teams of four and ventured out to hotels around the city, asking hotel managers to stock the bars of soap wrapped with hotline labels. The hotels were “unbelievably receptive,” Renaud said.

The Rev. Monica Mainwaring, vicar of Church of the Common Ground in Atlanta, is a member of the diocesan commission who volunteered at the Jan. 26 event. SOAP UP was “in every way a success,” she said.

“It’s not like you can battle trafficking in an instant,” Mainwaring said. She compared it to the problem of homelessness, which can’t be simply swept under the rug when the Super Bowl comes to town. Her worshipping community celebrates Eucharist every week at a city park, convenient for people experiencing homelessness.

She sees the SOAP UP campaign as one part of a long-term community-wide effort to end human trafficking in the city. “I’m really proud of the city [organizations] working on that and very publicly saying we’re going to fight this.”

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

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Anita Parrott George made honorary canon of Mississippi cathedral

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 3:19pm

Mississippi Bishop Brian Seage presents Anita Parrott George with a certificate designating her as an honorary canon of the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew in Jackson. Photo: Jeanie Munn.

[Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi] In grateful recognition of her decades of service to the Diocese of Mississippi and the Episcopal Church, Anita Parrott George was named an honorary canon to the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew in Jackson, Mississippi, at the 192nd Annual Council, which convened in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, January 25-27.

George is a lifelong Episcopalian and a Mississippi native who co-chairs the Task Force on Racial Reconciliation in the Diocese of Mississippi. She also was an advisory board vice chair for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi.

She was elected to serve as a deputy to General Convention seven times, and was involved in much of the church’s anti-racism work. George also served two terms on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church.

George studied at Alcorn State University, the University of Florida and Mississippi State University, earning a doctorate and undertaking numerous postdoctoral courses. She devoted 41 years of her to life teaching young men and women in the field of education. In 2002, she was conferred the designation of professor emerita of education at Mississippi State University.

All of George’s work is grounded in an effort to live her Christian confession of faith in a culture in which racism’s deep roots affected her life and the lives of all people of color. Halting racism’s societal and individual wounds became a life’s work through education.

In a recent reflection, George wrote that much progress has been made. “Yes, we have been busy with efforts toward racial reconciliation and eliminating racism, and much has changed, many have been transformed. Yet, glaring statistics point to alarming trends, suggestive of the resurgence of our troubled racial past. … We must go beyond the very necessary outer work of training and enactment of laws and programs to the solitude of our inner work of formation, transformation, and re-formation,” she wrote.

The work that George has done in the Episcopal Church and beyond has helped pave the way for the necessary interior work of soul-searching to be accomplished. Her efforts to present racial reconciliation events throughout the nation are all couched in the understanding that the elimination of racism can only be reached when the work begins in a journey within.

Family and friends from throughout the diocese and the nation were present at the council’s closing Eucharist. Tears of joy were shed by many during the presentation, which included a video greeting from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

“We celebrate the life’s work of Dr. Anita George in appreciation of her faith and devotion to help make Christ’s work of reconciliation be felt more deeply in this world. Anita, your ministry is a blessing to us all.” said the Rt. Rev. Brian Seage, bishop of Mississippi.

— The Rev. Scott Lenoir is the editor of the Mississippi Episcopalian.

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Anglican bishop heads UK review of global persecution of Christians

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 10:01am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of England’s Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen is to chair an official British government review into the persecution of Christians around the world. Mounstephen, who was executive leader of the Church Mission Society prior to becoming bishop of Truro at the end of last year, appeared alongside Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Jan. 30 at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London to launch the review.

Read the full article here.

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Colorado priest to walk from South Carolina to California raising money to benefit youth

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 4:14pm

The Rev. Peter Munson stands in Indian Peaks Wilderness in Rock Mountain National Park. Photo: Courtesy of Peter Munson.

[Episcopal News Service – Boulder, Colorado] Has God placed a dream on your heart? For the Rev. Peter Munson, the answer is “yes.” In February, Munson, 61, will resign as rector from St. Ambrose Episcopal Church here in South Boulder – a church he’s served for more than 17 years – to walk 3,600 miles from Charleston, South Carolina, to San Francisco, California.

“I believe if you’re a person of faith, we’re all called,” said Munson, during an interview with Episcopal News Service in a downtown Boulder coffee shop, where he shared his 11-year dream.

His cross-country journey is set to begin on Monday, March 4.

Follow Munson’s journey on Facebook and Instagram

Along the way, Munson hopes to speak to faith and secular organizations about his dream and his journey and find hospitality – lodging and meals – while raising money through his nonprofit 6 Million Steps for Kids to benefit four charitable organizations serving youth and young adults. They are:  REMAR Children’s Home and School in El Salvador; Street Fraternity, a mentoring program for 14- to 25-year-old males from refugee families living in Denver, Colorado; Episcopal Relief & Development; and, The Episcopal Church in Colorado’s various children’s programs.

On Nov. 20, 2008, Munson was hiking alone in Rocky Mountain National Park, a park he’s hiked in for years and where as a student at the University of Colorado he worked as a guide, when descending from Sky Pond in Glacier Gorge, the idea came to him to walk across the country, writing and speaking about his experience and to raise money for disadvantaged children and young adults.

“’The place God calls you to is the place where your deep passion and the world’s deep hunger meet,’” said Munson, paraphrasing Presbyterian theologian and writer Frederick Buechner.

If you or your parish would like to invite the Rev. Peter Munson to speak at your church or offer hospitality. Email peter@brightfutureforchildren.com.

His estimated eight-and-a-half-month, 3,600-mile journey begins in Charleston, where he grew up, and will cross South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and, eventually, California. At least in the Midwest he expects to average 20 miles a day, six days a week. As he gets out West, the mileage will likely decrease, especially in western Utah and Nevada, where he’ll have a support vehicle following him through the high desert.

Accustomed to adventure, Munson served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Dominica, a small Caribbean island nation located between Guadeloupe and Martinique, teaching biology and math from 1982 to 1985. A law school graduate, Munson never practiced law and instead became an Episcopal priest. In August 2001, he became the rector of St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in South Boulder.

After the vision came to him in Rocky Mountain National Park, an excited Munson returned home to tell his wife, Julia, about his idea. She supported him, he said, but cautioned, “’Just be aware it may not work out as planned.’”

Four months later, Munson presented his idea to his parish’s leadership. Although Munson has hiked and climbed most of Colorado’s 14ers  – peaks exceeding 14,000 feet, of which there are more than 50 – he’d never hiked and backpacked, as one woman pointed out. She suggested he backpack the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango, a distance of 500 miles, which he hiked over three summers beginning in 2011. The first year, he hiked 250 miles, in 2012, it was 50 miles because of a bad wildfire season, and in 2013, he hiked the remaining 200 miles in 16 days.

While on the trail, he read “Wild,” Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of hiking 1,000 miles of the 2,653-mile Pacific Crest Trail alone, without any training or preparation. When Munson, then in his 50s, started his hike, his backpack weighed between 45 to 50 pounds. His third day on the Colorado Trail he met a 22-year-old male who’d hiked the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. The young man offered to go through Munson’s pack with him, discarding nonessential items like bear spray and a bear canister (not necessary in high altitudes) for storing food. By the third year, when Munson finished his hike, his pack weighed 28 pounds.

All the while, Munson’s dream of walking across the country kept returning to him and he kept talking about it with his parish and then at a clergy conference, which led to pulpit exchanges with Episcopal priests on Colorado’s Front Range. Munson walked from his home in Arvada, a Denver suburb, to his church in Boulder to Longmont and Frederick, all along state highways to the pulpit exchanges.

Eventually, he and his parish decided together that rather than make the journey as St. Ambrose’s rector, Munson would resign and make the journey on his own.

He thought about delaying his journey until he’s eligible to retire in four years but decided against it.

“There’s a lot to be said about waiting until 65 … it’s just not what I’m hearing,” he said, his dream and aging in mind.

For others, he asks:

“Is there something God has put on your heart? Are you going after it? What are you telling yourself about that thing? Is God calling you to do it? Are you going to get to the end of your life and say I didn’t do that thing I was really supposed to do?”

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

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Saint Augustine’s University president announces retirement

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 11:40am

[Saint Augustine’s University] Saint Augustine’s University President Everett B. Ward announced Jan. 25 that he is retiring from the role he’s held for the past five years. Ward made the announcement during a board of trustees’ executive session, on campus.

Ward, who became the 11th president and third Saint Augustine’s University alumnus to lead the university, said in his remarks to the board that he will be concluding his presidential position effective July 24, 2019, a position he has held since 2014.

“It’s now time for the Saint Augustine’s Renaissance to continue with a new chapter. I’m extremely grateful for the commitment exemplified by our students, staff, faculty and alumni,” he said. “Together, along with friends of the university, we conquered significant challenges with our eyes on the prize.”

Under Ward’s leadership, the university has achieved several goals. Most recently, the university was removed from probationary status by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges Accreditation Agency in December. Along the way, donor supporter increased from $1 million in 2014, to $2.9 million in 2018.

Saint Augustine’s Student Body President Alston DeVega says he’s grateful for Ward’s vision and dedication to the university. “I’m immensely grateful to have had Dr. Ward as we did,” said DeVega. “He brought life back to the university, while getting us off probation. Our institution will never see another leader with the same expertise and poise, as Dr. Ward’s has exemplified.”

The Raleigh native told the members of the board that he was also proud of the university’s efforts in attracting some of the best and brightest young minds to the university.

“Given the accomplishment of these goals, now is the time for me to transition the leadership of Saint Augustine’s to the next President,” said Ward. “We’re at a critical point in the history of our university and I know that now is the time to transition to an even more exciting chapter in the life of our institution.”

Ward said the future is bright for him personally and for the University.

“I look forward to continuing to lead St. Augustine’s through this period of transition. During this time, I will remain the No. 1 champion for our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends throughout this period,” he said. “Once I leave St. Augustine’s, I will remain involved in activities around higher education.”

About Saint Augustine’s University

Founded in 1867 by the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, the mission of Saint Augustine’s University is to sustain a learning community in which students can prepare academically, socially and spiritually for leadership in a complex, diverse and rapidly changing world.

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RIP: Gregory Michael Howe, eighth custodian of the Book of Common Prayer

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 10:03am

The Rev. Gregory Michael Howe, eighth Custodian of the Book of Common Prayer, died on Jan. 12, 2019, nine days after his 80th birthday, in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Howe’s interest in liturgy was honed in childhood, growing up at St. Ignatius of Antioch in New York City, then as a boy chorister at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. After his graduation from Columbia and General Theological Seminary, he was ordained a deacon in 1964, and priest in 1965. He served at Christ Church, Dover, Delaware, first as a curate, then as rector, from 1964 to 1998. During a sabbatical in 1980, he pursued post-graduate work at the Pontifical University of San Anselmo in Rome and then at Saint George’s College in Jerusalem. A longtime deputy to General Convention (1975-1997), he served on the Committee on Prayer Book and Liturgy, and helped craft many new rites and see them through the legislative process, especially “expansive language.” In 2000, then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold appointed him Custodian of the Book of Common Prayer, a position he held until 2015. His encyclopedic knowledge of BCP history proved an invaluable resource for both Church Publishing and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. During his tenure, he oversaw authorized translations of the 1979 BCP in various languages. Together with the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, Phoebe Pettingell, and the Rev. Jennifer Phillips, he contributed to Gleanings: Essays on Expansive Language with Prayers for Various Occasions ) (Church Publishing, 2001).

Howe and his wife of 50 years, Bernice (Bunny), retired to Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1998 where, until his death,Howe remained a vital part of the community, and of the Episcopal Parish of St. Mary of the Harbor.

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La Iglesia y la sociedad en general siguen abordando el acoso y el abuso sexuales en la era del #MeToo

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 8:22am

De izquierda a derecha, los obispos DeDe Duncan-Probe, de Nueva York Central; Audrey Scanlon, de Pensilvania Central; el obispo primado Michael Curry;  Greg Rickel, de  Olympia y Mary Gray-Reeves, de El Camino Real, oran el 4 de Julio durante la “Liturgia de la Escucha” en una sesión de la Cámara de Obispos durante la Convención General en Austin, Texas. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service] La conducta impropia y el acoso sexuales incluyen más que la violación de parte de extraños o conocidos y el abuso físico. En algunos casos, se trata de un contacto inadecuado, de un beso no deseado en la mejilla, de un abrazo embarazoso o de una mano puesta demasiado abajo en la espalda de una mujer —todas son las formas más obvias del acoso sexual.

Otras formas son menos obvias, más insidiosas. Comentar sobre la apariencia de una mujer, invitar a una mujer a la oficina de uno con el pretexto de una reunión, cuando realmente la intención es de naturaleza sexual. Tratar a las mujeres  y muchachas de “bebé” “tesoro” y “mi cielo”.  Hablar Mientras las mujeres hablan y darles la palabra preferiblemente a los hombres en las reuniones. La permanente diferencia salarial de género.

O, formas comunes que las mujeres clérigos confrontan en la Iglesia Episcopal. “Eres demasiado joven para ser sacerdote”. “Eres demasiado bonita para ser sacerdote”.

A raíz del escándalo de acoso sexual de Harvey Weinstein que sacudió a Hollywood y condujo a la caída de hombres poderosos en diferentes industrias y profesiones, la Iglesia Episcopal, en enero de 2018, comenzó su propio examen de conductas y políticas arraigadas que afectan a las mujeres.

Un año y una Convención General más tarde, la Resolución D034, que establece una suspensión de tres años en el plazo de prescripción por conducta sexual impropia cometida  por un clérigo contra un adulto, entró en vigor el 1 de enero.

“Una suspensión de tres años, eso es muchísimo”, dijo la presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, Rda. Gay Clark Jennings, en una entrevista con Episcopal News Service. Estamos suspendiendo el plazo de prescripción porque queremos oír las voces de ustedes”.

La Resolución D034 fue una de las 24 resoluciones que abordaron el acoso y el abuso sexuales, el sexismo, la desigualdad y la discriminación presentadas por el Comité Especial sobre el Acoso y la Explotación Sexuales; un comité de 49-miembros nombrado por Jennings y compuesto sólo de mujeres.

Como resultado de la labor legislativa del comité especial, dijo Jennings, surgieron de la Convención tres equipos de trabajo: sobre Mujeres, Verdad y Reconciliación; para Desarrollar Normas Modélicas sobre Acoso Sexual  y Adiestramiento para una Iglesia Segura; y para Estudiar el Sexismo en la Iglesia Episcopal y Elaborar Adiestramiento Antisexista.

“Sinceramente, no creo que esto habría sucedido si ese comité especial no hubiera ejercido presión. Si uno se fija en el informe… todas las resoluciones que se presentaron fueron  enormemente exitosas.

“Estos problemas sólo han llegado a ser más urgentes desde la Convención”, dijo Jennings. 

Las decisiones de la Convención General se produjeron después de que los líderes de la Iglesia Episcopal tomaran una serie de medidas.

En enero de 2018, el obispo primado Michael Curry y Jennings hicieron  un llamado a la Iglesia para que examinara su histórica incapacidad de proteger a las víctimas de acoso, explotación y abuso sexuales. La carta, que salió cuatro meses después de que estallara el escándalo de Harvey Weinstein, marcó el comienzo del debate de la Iglesia con sus propios problemas de acoso (The Chicago Tribune ofrece un cronograma de los movimientos #MeToo).

En febrero, Jennings nombró al comité especial. Luego, en mayo, los obispos de la Iglesia Episcopal invitaron a las personas que habían sido lastimadas por la Iglesia a que hicieran reflexiones. Doce de las historias que los obispos recibieron formaron la base de una “Liturgia de la Escucha” el 4 de julio durante la 79ª. Convención General.

Durante la Convención, la Cámara de Obispos tomó otra medida y adoptó un pacto en respuesta al abuso y la explotación.

A fines de septiembre, 328 clérigas episcopales firmaron una carta que se publicó en The New York Times y que suscitó preocupaciones acerca de la defensa que hizo el sacerdote episcopal y ex senador federal John Danforth de Brett Kavanaugh, entonces nominado al Tribunal Supremo de EE.UU. Las denuncias de asalto sexual hechas por Christine Blasey Ford, psicóloga y profesora, y otras dos mujeres contra Kavanaugh pusieron en duda la confirmación del magistrado y detonaron recuerdos traumáticos para muchas mujeres.

Ford acusó a Kavanaugh de asaltarla sexualmente cuando ambos eran adolescentes. [En respuesta], atacaron la credibilidad de Ford. Las audiencias también pusieron al descubierto actitudes machistas hacia las mujeres y las acusaciones de asalto sexual.

El 6 de octubre, el Senado de EE.UU. confirmó el nombramiento de Kavanaugh al Tribunal Supremo por una votación de 50 a 48. Dos días después, The Christian Century publicó un artículo de Jennings en el que abordaba la respuesta de la Iglesia a los sobrevivientes de asaltos sexuales.

Durante las audiencias de Kavanaugh, la credibilidad de Ford se puso a prueba, cuando muchos, la mayoría de ellos hombres, se preguntaron por qué ella había guardado silencio durante 30 años. En su artículo, Jennings daba una explicación del silencio de las mujeres.

“Nuestro silencio parte de la Biblia, donde las mujeres son en gran medida anónimas, tratadas como propiedad, usadas como esclavas sexuales y degradadas por hombres tan heroicos como David y tan divinos como Jesús. Las mujeres a las que llaman por su nombre no ascienden a más del 8 por ciento de los personajes de la Biblia, y menos de 50 hablan realmente”, escribió ella.

Intelectuales feministas y mujeristas, como la Rda. Wil Gafney, sacerdote episcopal y profesora de Biblia Hebrea, han señalado que la violación es normativa en la Biblia, escribió Jennings, desde el faraón, Amón, los hombres de Guibeá y hasta Dios.

“Estos relatos —de hombres que violan y abusan y de mujeres que se quedan calladas— son parte de la tradición religiosa que las muchachas y mujeres absorben mientras se sientan en los bancos de nuestras iglesias cada semana. Ellos han permeado nuestra cultura y han configurado nuestras expectativas de cómo los hombres deben comportarse hacia las mujeres y cómo las mujeres deben responder. De manera que cuando una mujer se llena de valor para hablar —para objetar ser tratada como trataban a las mujeres en la Biblia— no debería sorprendernos que los hombres cristianos la minimicen y la ignoren, tal como los héroes de su fe han hecho en historias transmitidas durante milenios”.

El que Ford compartiera públicamente su historia, le dio a otras mujeres el valor para hablar también, incluidas mujeres de la Iglesia que se acercaron a clérigos y laicos en busca de apoyo. Y en el transcurso del trienio, la Iglesia Episcopal abordará el acoso, el abuso, la inequidad y la discriminación, y mujeres y hombres continuarán contando sus historias.

Por ejemplo, las liturgias de escucha, semejantes a la que se celebró en la Convención General, han continuado a través de la Iglesia. Por ejemplo, durante su 242ª. Convención anual en noviembre, la Diócesis de Nueva York celebró una Liturgia para Escucha y Lamentación.

Las seis historias que se leyeron durante el oficio se presentaron de manera anónima y confidencial; y en su mayoría abordaron las formas menos obvias del acoso, las insinuaciones sexuales inadecuadas, la subestimación del liderazgo de una mujer basada en su edad o en su apariencia física,  el embarazoso cortejo de un sacerdote casado en el bar durante una conferencia de clérigos.

“Los historias son más matizadas, a veces es difícil para las mujeres, y en su mayoría son mujeres, en parte estamos tratando con un mundo de microagresiones… una forma más sutil de opresión”, dijo la obispa auxiliar de Nueva York Mary D. Glasspool en una entrevista con ENS luego del oficio. “Al igual que los confetis, cada caso individualmente parece pequeño, incluso inocuo, pero póngalos todos juntos y hay sencillamente un predominio de lo que es realmente tóxico para las personas y desmoralizante y vergonzoso”.

La Diócesis de Nueva York tiene su propio Equipo de Trabajo #MeToo  y después de la convención estableció una línea de ayuda a la que las personas pueden llamar y compartir sus historias y buscar ayuda. Sin embargo, el trayecto apenas comienza y se irá configurando con el transcurso del tiempo, explicó ella.

“No llegamos aquí de la noche a la mañana, y no vamos a cambiarlo de la noche a la mañana, es por eso el trayecto, el movimiento es parte de eso… es algo en lo que tenemos que seguir trabajando”, dijo Glasspool, añadiendo que el acoso y el abuso sexuales no son diferentes del pecado del racismo.

“No es claramente el caso en este país que por haber tenido un presidente negro durante ocho años hemos resuelto el [problema del] racismo, y no es el caso de la Iglesia que por haber tenido una obispo primada durante nueve años hemos resuelto completamente el [problema del] sexismo”, afirmó ella. “Ese no es el caso”.

Las resoluciones presentadas por el Comité Especial sobre Acoso y Explotación Sexuales y adoptadas por la Convención General brindan un marco más allá de la narrativa para que la Iglesia lo utilice a lo largo del trienio a fin de abordar problemas sacados a relucir por el movimiento #MeToo , tanto en la Iglesia como en la sociedad en general.

Las liturgias y las narraciones son una parte importante de la recuperación, pero hay más labor, dijo Jennings.

“La auténtica labor, el trabajo constante, es cambiar la cultura de las estructuras de la Iglesia que permiten el acoso, la explotación y la violencia de género, y comprometernos de nuevo, y yo espero que la Convención General nos ayudó a redoblar nuestros empeños para que la Iglesia abogue por seguridad e igualdad de las mujeres en el mundo porque estamos obligados a hacerlo, todo ello, porque nuestra propia tradición ha ayudado a crear una cultura donde ese es aceptable”, recalcó Jennings.

“Si la Iglesia ha ayudado a crear esta cultura, es también nuestra responsabilidad ayudar a desmantelarla”.

— 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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Sleeping pods to be installed in Welsh churches for SpiritCymru cycle tourism campaign

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 2:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Special sleeping pods will be installed in a number of remote churches and chapels in Wales for use by cycling tourists. The SpiritCymru project is the brainchild of Ceredigion businessman James Lynch, who runs a sustainable holiday company. It is being launched as part of the Welsh Government’s Year of Discovery tourism campaign. The Church in Wales said that the scheme will “bring valuable support to struggling – even closed – rural churches by opening them up as accommodation for touring cyclists.”

Read the entire article here.

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Anglican Church of Chile trains young people to exercise leadership in local churches

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 2:03pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Fifty young people from the Anglican Church of Chile (Iglesia Anglicana de Chile – IACH) have attended a training camp this month to learn how to make disciples in their local churches. This year’s El Campamento de Formación (Formation Camp – CDF) was organised by the province’s Centro de Estudios Pastorales (Centre for Pastoral Studies – CEP) as part of a program that is now in its 14th year. Pastor Cristóbal Cerón, the rector of the CEP, said that the aim of CDF is for each young person to see the camp as part of a process in his life, where they are trained to serve in their local churches and train disciples; and to teach the Word of God in an appropriate way.

Read the entire article here.

 

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Church, wider-culture continue to address sexual harassment, abuse in #MeToo age

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 4:26pm

Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe, left; Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlon, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel and House of Bishops Vice President and El Camino Real Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves pray July 4 during the House of Bishop’s “Liturgy of Listening” session at General Convention in Austin, Texas. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Sexual misconduct and harassment includes more than stranger or acquaintance rape and physical abuse. In some instances, inappropriate touching, an unwanted kiss on the cheek, an awkward embrace or a hand placed too low on a woman’s back—all are more obvious forms of sexual harassment.

Other forms are less obvious, more insidious. Commenting on a woman’s appearance, inviting a woman into one’s office on the pretext of a meeting, when really, the intention is of a sexual nature. Referring to women and girls as “baby,” “honey” and “sweetheart.” Talking over women and deferring to men in meetings. The enduring gender pay gap.

Or, common forms women clergy confront in The Episcopal Church. “You’re too young to be a priest.” “You’re too pretty to be a priest.”

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal that rocked Hollywood and led to the downfall of powerful men across industries and professions, The Episcopal Church began its own examination of ingrained behaviors, practices and policies affecting women in January 2018.

A year and one General Convention later, Resolution D034, establishing a three-year suspension on the statute of limitations for sexual misconduct committed by clergy against an adult, became effective Jan. 1.

“A three-year suspension, that’s huge,” said House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, in an interview with Episcopal News Service. “We are suspending the statute of limitations because we want to hear your voice.”

Resolution D034 was one of 24 resolutions addressing sexual harassment, abuse, sexism, inequality and discrimination submitted by the Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation; a 49-member, female-only committee appointed by Jennings.

As a result of the special committee’s legislative work, Jennings said, three task forces emerged from convention: on Women, Truth and Reconciliation; to Develop Model Sexual Harassment Policies & Safe Church Training; and, to Study Sexism in The Episcopal Church & Develop Anti-Sexism Training.

“I don’t think this would have happened, frankly, if that special committee had not brought pressure to bear. If you look at the report… all of the resolutions that were put in, they were wildly successful.

“These issues have only become more urgent since convention,” said Jennings. 

General Convention’s actions came after a series of steps taken by The Episcopal Church’s leaders.

In January 2018, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Jennings issued a call to the church to examine its historical failures to protect victims of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. The letter, which came four months after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, marked the beginning of the church’s wrangling with its own harassment issues. (The Chicago Tribune offers a timeline of the #MeToo movements.)

In February, Jennings appointed the special committee. Then in May, Episcopal Church bishops invited reflections from those hurt by the church. Twelve of the 40 stories the bishops received formed the basis for a “Liturgy of Listening” on July 4 during the 79th General Convention.

During convention, the House of Bishop’s took another step and adopted a covenant in response to abuse and exploitation.

In late September, 328 Episcopal clergy women signed on to a letter published in The New York Times that raised concerns about Episcopal priest and former U.S. Sen. John Danforth’s defense of then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Sexual assault allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, a psychologist and professor, and two other women against Kavanaugh brought the justice’s confirmation into question and triggered traumatic memories for many women.

Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both teenagers. Ford’s credibility was attacked. The hearings also laid bare male attitudes toward women and sexual assault accusations.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court on Oct. 6, in a 50-48 vote. Two days later, The Christian Century published a piece by Jennings that addressed the church’s response to sexual assault survivors.

During the Kavanaugh hearings Ford’s credibility was tested, as many, mostly men, wondered why she’d kept silent for 30 years. In her piece, Jennings offered an explanation of women’s silence.

“Our silence originates in the Bible, where women are largely anonymous, treated as property, used as sexual slaves, and demeaned by men as heroic as David and as divine as Jesus. Women who are called by name account for no more than 8 percent of the people in the Bible, and fewer than 50 of those actually speak,” she wrote.

Feminist and womanist scholars, including the Rev. Wil Gafney, an Episcopal priest and Hebrew Bible professor, have pointed out that rape is normative in the Bible, wrote Jennings, from Pharaoh, Amnon, the men of Gibeah, and, even God.

“These stories—of men who rape and abuse and of women who stay silent—are part of the faith tradition that girls and women absorb while sitting in the pews of our churches each week. They have permeated our culture and shaped our expectations about how men ought to behave toward women and how women ought to respond. So when a woman gathers her courage to speak—to object to being treated like women in the Bible are treated—we should not be surprised when Christian men belittle and ignore her, just as the heroes of their faith have done in stories passed down for millennia,” she wrote.

Ford sharing publicly her story, gave other women the courage to speak up, as well, including women across the church who reached out to clergy and laity for support. And over the triennium, The Episcopal Church will address harassment, abuse, inequity and discrimination and women, and men, will continue to tell their stories.

For example, liturgies of listening, like the one held at General Convention, have continued across the church. During its 242nd annual convention in November, for instance, the Diocese of New York held a Liturgy for Listening and Lamentation.

The six stories read during the service were submitted through an anonymous, confidential form; and they mostly touched on the less obvious forms of harassment, the inappropriate sexual advance, the belittling of a woman’s leadership position based on her age or physical appearance, a married priest’s awkward come on at the bar during a clergy conference.

“The stories are more nuanced, sometimes it’s difficult for women, and it’s mostly women, in part we’re dealing in a world of microaggression… a subtler form of oppression,” said New York Assistant Bishop Mary D. Glasspool in an interview with ENS following the service. “Like paper cuts, each one individually is seen as small, even innocuous, but you put them all together and there’s just a preponderance of what’s really toxic for people and demoralizing and filled with shame.”

The Diocese of New York has its own #MeToo Task Force and after convention it established a help line where people can call and share their stories and seek help. Still, the journey is just getting started and will take shape overtime, she said.

“We didn’t get here overnight and we’re not going to change it overnight, that’s why the journey, the movement part of it … it’s something that we have to continue to work on,” said Glasspool, adding that sexual harassment and abuse is not unlike the sin of racism.

“It’s clearly not the case in this country because we had a black president for eight years we’ve dealt with racism, it’s not the case in the church that because we had a female presiding bishop for nine years that we’ve completely dealt with sexism,” she said. “It’s just not the case.”

The resolutions put forth by the Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation and adopted by General Convention provide framework beyond storytelling for the church to use over the triennium to address issues brought to light by the #MeToo movement both in the church and the larger society.

Liturgies and storytelling are an important part of healing, but there’s more to the work, said Jennings.

“The real work, the ongoing work, is to change the culture and the structures of the church that allow gender-based harassment, exploitation and violence, and to recommit, and I hope that General Convention helped us redouble our efforts for the church to advocate for women’s safety and equality in the world because we are obligated to do it, all of it, because our own tradition has helped create a culture where that’s acceptable,” said Jennings.

“If the church has helped to create this culture, it’s also our responsibility to help dismantle it.”

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

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Abuse allegations against the late Bishop George Bell are ‘unfounded,’ inquiry finds

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 12:57pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An independent inquiry carried out by a senior ecclesiastical lawyer has ruled that fresh allegations against the late Bishop George Bell are “unfounded.”  Bell, the former bishop of Chichester, was described Jan. 24 by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby as a “highly esteemed bishop who died over 60 years ago.” Welby apologized for the way the church handled allegations against  Bell, which were first made public in October 2015.

Read the entire article here.

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Anglican Communion appoints Jillian Abballe to UN advocacy officer in New York

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 4:19pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The team at the Anglican Communion Office at the U.N. has been strengthened with the appointment of Jillian Abballe as advocacy officer and head of the New York office. Abballe has extensive experience at the United Nations in New York and joins the Anglican Communion from a similar position with the international ecumenical organization the World Council of Churches and before that with the United Methodist Church.

Read the full article here.

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Church of England announces major investment in new churches, outreach

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 3:36pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A new congregation in a nightclub area and the Church of England’s first weekday-only church are two of several new worshipping communities to receive a share of £35 million in funding. The money – the biggest investment so far by the church’s Renewal and Reform initiative – is intended to help it reach tens of thousands of people including in city centers, outer estates and rural areas, the church said.

Read the full article here.

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Episcopal camps, conference centers offer free meals to federal workers struggling during shutdown

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 3:31pm

[Episcopal News Service] The public normally isn’t invited to breakfast, lunch and dinner at Incarnation Center in Ivoryton, Connecticut, its dining hall typically only catering to people attending retreats or conferences. That changed this month when the center launched a kind of pop-up feeding ministry for certain struggling members of the local community: federal employees.

Incarnation isn’t alone. Several Episcopal camps and conference centers across the country have begun offering free meals to some of the 800,000 federal workers who are missing paychecks because of the partial government shutdown, which now is approaching five weeks.

“It fits right into our mission and ministry as an Episcopal organization and simply as an organization that’s involved in our local community,” said the Rev. Dana Stivers, associate executive director and chaplain at Incarnation.

The center’s outreach is part of a broader effort that includes Episcopal congregations and other community organizations, Stivers said, adding that many of the Connecticut residents affected by the federal shutdown are tied to the Coast Guard, which has a station and its academy about a half hour away in New London.

Incarnation’s Facebook post on Jan. 16 advertising free meals over the weekend generated overwhelmingly positive responses on the social network and some inquiries but no reservations from federal employees or their families, Stivers said. The center will extend the offer again this weekend, and other Episcopal conference centers are following suit.

Officials at Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina, saw what Incarnation was doing and decided to open up their dining hall for federal employees all weekend, too. A Jan. 17 Facebook post extending that invitation has been shared nearly a thousand times, and some local media outlets picked up the story, helping to drive turnout.

Kanuga served about 50 meals to federal employees and their families in that first weekend, and interest seemed to pick up as the weekend progressed, said Jimmy Haden, Kanuga’s executive vice president for mission. The news coverage helped, he said.

To get the meals, the visitors were asked to make reservations in advance and then show a federal employee ID upon arriving for the meals. Most of the federal workers in the region around Kanuga work for the Transportation Security Administration, the Forest Service or National Park Service. One woman, whose husband, a TSA employee, had been assigned temporarily to cover shifts in New York, asked if she still could bring her children for a meal. The family was invited to stop by Kanuga for any of the meals, and they came for two over the weekend, Haden said.

The TSA is among the federal agencies that have asked their workers to stay on the job without pay while the shutdown continues, with the promise that they will be paid for their time when government operations return to normal. Other employees have received furloughs, meaning they temporarily are out of work and may never see that lost pay back, unless Congress restores it retroactively.

The latest impasse over government spending has focused on President Donald Trump’s demand that Congress fund his proposed border wall. Trump wants $5.7 billion for that plan, and Democrats, though supportive of spending on border security, have refused to budge in opposition to a new barrier on the border.

Federal employees are caught in the middle as the shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, wears on with no end in sight. Episcopal institutions around the country are working to minimize the shutdown’s sting for some of their neighbors, especially in communities with large numbers of federal workers.

The Claggett Center in Adamstown, Maryland, is one example. The conference center is only about 45 minutes from Washington, D.C., and it began Jan. 22 offering free meals to federal employees who live nearby and normally commute to work in the capital city.

That first free lunch at the Claggett Center went without any visitors taking advantage of it, but Lisa Marie Ryder, co-executive director, said the invitation stands, at least through this weekend. The center will determine week to week whether it can continue offering the free meals, and Ryder expects they will continue, unless the dining hall is filled by guests attending an event.

“Just as Jesus invited others to come and join him at the table, there’s a place set for you,” she said.

Camp Stevens in Julian, California, and Lake Logan Conference Center in Canton, North Carolina, have said they will set a place for their neighbors as well. Such efforts are being touted by Episcopal Camps & Conference Centers, or ECCC, a network of 77 such sites.

“Welcoming furloughed families to meals being served at the retreat centers is a wonderful way to provide a meal that didn’t fit in these tighter-than-usual budgets, and take that one worry off of someone’s mind,” Ashley Graham-Wilcox, ECCC’s communications director, said in an email. “It’s a simple way for these camps and centers to be a part of the Jesus Movement.”

Kanuga has begun setting aside some of its dining room space for free meals for federal employees during the government shutdown. Photo: Kanuga

Regular conference guests at Kanuga, when told that federal employees had been invited to join them, went beyond offering vocal support, Haden said. Some even made unsolicited donations to help Kanuga cover the costs of the meals.

These conference centers, though, would prefer the free meals weren’t made necessary.

“We would hope [the shutdown] would end for their sake, because this is of no fault of their own,” Haden said, but until then, “we’re ready to extend this into the future as long as we can.”

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

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Amid Pittsburgh division, a priest revives the parish that raised him

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 1:11pm

St. David’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh is a growing parish with almost 300 members who have no previous Episcopal ties. It rebuilt after a theological split in the diocese left it with only 20 members. Photo: Courtesy of St. David’s

[Episcopal News Service] When the Rev. Kris Opat returned to St. David’s Episcopal Church in suburban Pittsburgh in 2012, only 20 people were there to start over as a congregation with him. The sanctuary, which seats 300, made the group look even smaller. The building’s previous occupants, part of the Anglican Church in North America, had just decamped.

Ordained for only three years, Opat had never been a priest-in-charge.

Today, St. David’s is a growing parish with almost 300 members, mostly busy young families in a growing suburb who have no previous Episcopal ties. They hear the message of Christ’s unconditional love preached every week from Opat, 38, a trained engineer with dreadlocks who grew up in this congregation.

Opat’s entire career as a priest has unfolded amid the rancor and litigation in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and weathering that conflict has influenced his welcoming, no-nonsense approach to ministry.

“The split in 2008 was terrible, but since then some wonderful things have happened,” said the Rev. Lou Hays, a retired priest who served in the diocese and mentored Opat. “St. David’s is the top of the list.”

‘What is going on over at St. David’s?’

One Sunday a month, the Rev. Kris Opat (right) invites children to say the Eucharist with him. Young families have fueled the growth of St. David’s Episcopal Church in the south hills of Pittsburgh. Photo: Courtesy St. David’s

About six months into the revival of St. David’s, Opat got a phone call from a curious neighbor: “Did something change at that church?” The question was posed so often that St. David’s posted a brief history on its website, acknowledging the off-putting nature of the confusing changes the church had gone through since October 2008 when diocesan convention agreed to follow then-Bishop Robert Duncan in his attempt to take the diocese out of the Episcopal Church but retain all the assets that were held by the diocese.

As the wrangling continued, the sign out front of St. David’s went from saying “Episcopal” to “Anglican,” and even the name of the church had changed at one point from St. David’s to Church of the Redeemer as about 90 percent of the congregation tried to dissolve St. David’s and form a new parish in what became the Anglican Church in North America, or ACNA. On May 27, 2012, Pentecost Sunday, Episcopal worship returned to St. David’s and the parish resumed the use of its legal name, St. David’s Episcopal Church.

Opat was very familiar with how the neighbors thought. His parents still live in his childhood home, seven minutes away. His mother was one of the faithful remnants of St. David’s, along with a half-dozen other relatives.

As a middle schooler, Opat had felt at home at St. David’s, “which was evangelical then, almost Pentecostal,” he said. “Our youth group would play games and go to the pizza shop. In that evangelical model, I gave my life to the Lord then, which I have a broader view of now.”

Opat needed a broad view as a priest facing a broken congregation of St. David’s size that also had a burdensome mortgage.

A turnaround starts with the faithful remnant

“I felt hopeless,” recalled Jen Yoon, perhaps the most invested remaining member at St. David’s. She directed its preschool (St. David’s Christian Early Learning Center) and its children’s ministries. “We had so few people, and it was going to take so much.”

She was apprehensive about Opat and the direction he was heading theologically.

“I had heard a lot of stories about Episcopalians from the Anglican [ACNA] church – one side of the story – and I was praying about my commitment to a church family where people had acted terribly and decided they couldn’t be together,” Yoon said. “What came to me through nights of painful prayer was to let go of any and all labels or thoughts of Anglicans versus Episcopalians and get back to what this is really about: telling people about the love of Christ.

“I spoke with Kris because I wanted to know: Does he believe in one God and Father, salvation in Jesus Christ and the continued work of the Holy Spirit? We had a frank conversation around those three questions, and our beliefs very much aligned with each other. Kris was clear that we would become a place of community.”

Others stayed at St. David’s despite or because of family concerns.

Sam White had been baptized, raised and confirmed at St. David’s. He worshipped in the ACNA congregation and decided “to see if the Episcopal Church seemed a little more aligned with the attitudes I remembered learning at church during my youth.” That choice put him at odds with his parents, with whom he was living at the time; they left with the ACNA parish. White is now senior warden of St. David’s.

Logistics made member Jamie Sticha decide to stay. “I did consider leaving, and it was a difficult time,” she said. “With four young kids, I felt it would be more difficult to make it to church because we’d have to be ready a half hour earlier.”

To fan the small ember that was his parish, Opat worked alongside Hays the first 18 months before being appointed priest-in-charge. With no altar guild and no readers, Opat did whatever was needed Sunday mornings, even playing guitar with the band.

“They were traumatized, shell-shocked, so we didn’t ask the laypeople to do more. They needed to engage in healing,” Hays said. “Kris was extremely active in recruiting a vestry and focusing on Sunday morning. But number one, he loved the people. He was demonstrating to them through faithfulness to the Scripture, and just that sense of warmth and connecting that he has, that they could be comfortable with us. He was what we call the non-anxious presence that reassures people that it’s going to be okay.”

By end of first year, about 75 people were coming to the big church that everyone passes on a main thoroughfare. Some families attend after first experiencing the community through the preschool. About a dozen returned from the ACNA congregation. “We are open about anyone coming back,” Opat said.

Welcoming children to participate in St. David’s services has helped spark the congregation’s rebirth after all but 20 members decamped. The Rev. Kris Opat (center) attended St. David’s as a teenager. Photo: Courtesy of St. David’s

St. David’s discovered what it could – and could not – be about. These lessons brought the parish out of the ashes and bucked the trend of Episcopal churches losing visitors and members. Here are some of those positive steps taken by the congregation:

  • Welcoming children to the table. The last Sunday service each month is a Godly Play sermon, and Opat invites children to the table to help break the bread and learn the responses to the Eucharistic prayer.
  • Emphasizing love in small actions. Instead of “please be,” Opat uses “invite.” This makes the service “feel more like an act of worship rather than an obligation,” said White, the senior warden.
  • Accepting less programming. “Our culture is not about doing a lot of stuff,” said Yoon, who now directs children’s ministries. “Our families are busy, and they don’t have extra time for weekday commitments.”
  • Welcoming community groups (which also helps pay the mortgage on the new building erected in 2001). St David’s is also home to tutoring, music lessons and exercise classes. An evangelical Presbyterian church meets there, too.
  • Using extra land to feed local people. Opat and an Eagle Scout built a community garden that produces peppers, green beans, zucchini and more – all of which goes to a local food bank.
  • Hosting a weekly farmer’s market. With a group of moms from St. David’s and others who live nearby, Opat organized local growers and makers to set up in St. David’s parking lot. Today his mom runs it, and hundreds of shoppers take part weekly.

Engineering a path to ministry

Opat’s resilience was strengthened at Grove City College, where education “is also about learning how to serve others while pursuing your own life’s work,” as the school’s website states. Those paths didn’t converge right away when Opat studied engineering there. He wanted to switch to philosophy, but that idea didn’t fly with his mother. His ministry took root when a summer leadership internship involved planting a successful house church.

From there, Opat became involved with Three Nails, then a part of the emergent church movement in Pittsburgh and accountable to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. In 2005, it was described as a fellowship of believers that cut across denominational lines and incorporated Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Jewish liturgies in its services. The group had no regular meeting place, gathering instead in homes, coffee shops, bars and old church buildings.

That experience led him to seminary, at what was then called Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, and the frontline of a theological battleground over the ordination of the Rev. Gene Robinson, the first priest in an openly gay relationship to be consecrated a bishop in a major Christian denomination. Robinson’s consecration fueled the Pittsburgh split.

“In my ordination class of 12, I was the only one who stayed in the Episcopal Church,” Opat recalled. Today, the seminary has dropped “Episcopal” from its name and uses the tagline “an evangelical seminary in the Anglican tradition.”

“It was about taking a side more than it was theology,” Opat said. “If there is any Christian tradition that splits over anything but the creeds, that splitting makes so little sense in the Episcopal tradition, which is about space and room to disagree. I wanted to be part of what was diverse, open to nuance and the Holy Spirit doing things in our midst and the tradition of scripture and faith – but not in a dogmatic and unquestioned way.”

At St. David’s, Opat routinely states that he doesn’t have all the answers. His interpretation of the Bible, while informed by his professional studies of the text, may not be the only one, he says. He constantly invites the parishioners to discussions outside the service.

When the theological argument over same-sex relationships cropped up at St. David’s, Opat’s response was based in compassion.

“We had a preteen program for kids in our parish and others who don’t go here, and a conservative mom had words with Kris about homosexual marriage,” Yoon said. “Calmly and respectfully, he didn’t back down. He agonized for days about that because he knows that people hurt in a lot of different ways, and he doesn’t like to have anyone walk away, to not come to solution.”

A decade after the split, moving forward

Today, St. David’s is the seventh largest of the 36 participating congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Almost all of the legal disputes with the breakaway Anglican congregations have been settled. “While acknowledging our deep differences, both sides have been concerned with seeking the highest degree of relationship possible, in the hope of reducing the scandal to the Gospel posed by the split,” said Pittsburgh Bishop Dorsey McConnell in early 2018, as the diocese reached an ongoing agreement with nine ACNA congregations concerning their use of church properties.

(On Dec. 4, a judge approved the agreement, clearing the final legal requirement for it to go into effect. Under the agreement, the diocese and the ACNA parishes commit to treat each other’s missions with respect. The parishes will continue to maintain, insure and pay for the operations of property held by the diocese before the division, and pay an annual fee to the diocese. If a dispute arises, the diocese and parishes agree “to resolve the dispute promptly as fellow Christians through direct exchange of information and discourse.”)

St. David’s story, as told on its website, says, “Since the split, St. David’s has experienced a wonderful renaissance. The conflict and uncertainty are over and a stable, warm, and inviting spirit has taken root. In this welcoming environment we are growing and flourishing.”

For Opat, his calling isn’t denominational.

“I’m not super-interested in making them [people at St. David’s] Episcopal,” he said. “I want them to understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus. When I stand in the pulpit, I say, ‘Yeah, this is what we believe, and I have not been sure what to make of it either. But I’ve not found a story more satisfying and real in its experience than this one, with its room for questioning and uncertainty and whatever you bring to it.’”

— Michelle Hiskey is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and member of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church.

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Minnesota extends bishop search timeline

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 12:13pm

[Episcopal Church in Minnesota] Minnesota Bishop Brian N. Prior and Deborah Brown, president of the Standing Committee, issued a joint statement Jan. 23 extending the timeline for the church’s bishop search. 

The election of the 10th bishop for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota will now take place on Jan. 25, 2020; the consecration is scheduled for June 6, 2020. The election was previously scheduled to take place during the church’s Sept. 13-14, 2019, convention.

Prior issued a statement on Sept. 25 announcing his plan to step down after nearly a decade of service leading the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. He will continue to serve as bishop until his successor is consecrated.

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Rhode Island churches offer warmth during gas outage

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 10:01am

[Diocese of Rhode Island] Episcopal churches on Aquidneck Island responded Tuesday to the state of emergency that left more than 7,000 National Grid customers in Newport and Middletown without natural gas for heat.

As one example, St. John’s, Newport, sent a special edition of its e-newsletter to spread the word that its church and Guild Hall would be “open and warm all night.” The church noted that it was not an “official” warming center but would “welcome you to come in if needed.”

National Grid estimated it would take a week or more to restore service to all those affected.

Read news coverage of the outage here.

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Alivio y Desarrollo de la Iglesia Episcopal – celebra 15 años de Meditaciones Cuaresmales

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 4:37pm

Episcopal Relief & Development celebra el 15º aniversario de las Meditaciones Cuaresmales de la organización con selecciones inspiradoras de años anteriores que ponen de relieve los increíbles conocimientos y profundidad proporcionados por líderes de toda la Iglesia Episcopal y la Comunión Anglicana. Los folletos ya están disponibles en español y en inglés en www.episcopalrelief.org/lent.

“Durante los últimos 15 años, hemos trabajado con cientos de autores brillantes”, dijo Sean McConnell, el director de Engagement for Episcopal Relief & Development – Participación en Alivio y Desarrollo de la Iglesia Episcopal. “Cada uno de ellos aportó profundidad espiritual y reflexiones profundamente personales a estas meditaciones, de manera que el proceso de selección no fue fácil. No podemos compartir todas las mejores meditaciones, pero esperamos que las selecciones de 2019 proporcionen al menos una muestra de algunas de las palabras inspiradoras escritas en el pasado”.

La Iglesia Episcopal designó por primera vez la Cuaresma como un momento para recordar el trabajo de Episcopal Relief & Development para responder a los problemas mundiales en la Convención General de 2009. La Iglesia también insta a las feligresías a que observen el Domingo de Episcopal Relief & Development el 10 de marzo, que es el primer domingo de Cuaresma, o en otro momento que les resulte conveniente durante la temporada. Para obtener más guías de planificación y otros recursos, visite www.episcopalrelief.org/Sunday.

“La Cuaresma es una época del año en la que buscamos conexiones más profundas con nuestra fe”, dijo Josephine Hicks, vicepresidenta de Episcopal Church Programs for Episcopal Relief & Development – Programas de la Iglesia Episcopal para Alivio y Desarrollo de la Iglesia Episcopal. “En este folleto hemos regresado a las meditaciones que conmovieron más profundamente a nuestros lectores en años anteriores”.

Para obtener copias impresas de las Meditaciones Cuaresmales el o antes Miércoles de Ceniza, el 6 de marzo, Forward Movement debe recibir los pedidos a más tardar el 19 de febrero de 2019. Los pedidos se pueden hacer visitando www.ForwardMovement.org o llamando al 1.800.543.1813. Están disponibles los folletos cuaresmales y otros recursos, incluyendo cofres de esperanzas, sobres para los bancos de las iglesias, encartes para los boletines y oraciones especiales.

“Episcopal Relief & Development ha tenido la suerte de compartir reflexiones de muchos redactores maestros, teólogos y guías espirituales de gran talento”, dijo Rob Radtke, el presidente y CEO de Episcopal Relief & Development. “Estoy profundamente agradecido por las numerosas personas y feligresías que mantienen a Episcopal Relief & Development y a sus asociados en sus oraciones durante la Cuaresma y todo el año”.

Para obtener más información sobre pedir las Meditaciones Cuaresmales y otros materiales o para la    planificación del Domingo de Episcopal Relief & Development, visite www.episcopalrelief.org/Lent. También invitamos a los que nos apoyan a que se inscriban para recibir las meditaciones diarias por correo electrónico en español y en inglés.

Por más de 75 años, Episcopal Relief and Development ha estado trabajando junto con simpatizantes y asociados para realizar cambios duraderos en el mundo entero. Todos los años la organización facilita que más de 3 millones de personas que luchan con el hambre, la pobreza, los desastres y  las enfermedades vivan vidas más plenas. Inspirado por las palabras de Jesús en Mateo 25, Episcopal Relief and Development apalanca los conocimientos y los recursos de asociados anglicanos y otros para realizar cambios medibles y sustentables en 3 áreas programáticas específicas: Mujeres, Niños y Clima.

The post Alivio y Desarrollo de la Iglesia Episcopal – celebra 15 años de Meditaciones Cuaresmales appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

‘Today feels like a miracle’ for same-sex couples in two Dallas parishes

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 11:50am

Some of the 15 couples renewing their vows and having their marriages blessed Jan. 19 at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in north Dallas sing during the evening service. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Dallas, Texas] The talk over the weekend in two Episcopal Diocese of Dallas parishes was of history being made, dreams coming true and miracles happening as 24 same-sex couples received what they had longed for: their home church’s recognition and blessing.

“For a lot of years, you and I have been told that our relationships are not worthy of celebration, are not worthy of God’s love, not worthy of God’s blessing,” said retired Diocese of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson in his sermon at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in the first of the two services the weekend of Jan. 19-20 to bless couples who had to leave the diocese to get married, or be married in civil ceremonies, because the diocesan bishop opposes same-sex marriage.

“Today we put that aside forever,” Robinson told the 15 Transfiguration couples. “We know it is not true and our lives will show it. This day may feel like a miracle to you and that’s because it is. Thanks be to God.”

A miracle was happening in their midst, retired Diocese of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson told the nine same-sex couples who were renewing their vows and having their marriages blessed Jan. 20 at the Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle in Dallas. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Robinson reiterated that sense of the miraculous at Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle the next day where nine couples participated in a similar service. He called those expressions of unworthiness “a perversion of God’s love.”

Robinson, the Christian church’s first openly gay, partnered bishop, told the St. Thomas congregation that he was elected in 2003 just weeks before the United States Supreme Court struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy law. Lawrence v. Texas effectively meant states could no longer count same-sex sexual activity as a crime. The decision paved the way for the 2015 Supreme Court decision, known as Obergefell v. Hodges and Consolidated Cases, that said same-sex couples have a constitutional right to be married.

Ten of the 24 couples had been married in civil services while 14 had had church weddings, mostly in other Episcopal churches. The liturgies at the two churches recognized that difference. Those with civil marriages asked for the blessing of God and the church on their unions, pledging in the words of the St. Thomas service “to fulfill the obligations which Christian marriage demands.” The other 14 gave thanks for God’s blessing received during their liturgical marriages and renewed the vows that they made.

Then all of them together had their marriages, and their rings, blessed.

Having their wedding rings blessed was part of the services for the 15 same-sex couples at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration and the nine at the Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“Many of you in this congregation have been waiting a very long time for this moment,” Robinson said during his Transfiguration sermon. LGBTQ people “have been waiting since time began.”

“And we get to be the generation where it happens,” he said, fighting back tears.

The weekend services took place after Transfiguration and St. Thomas, along with Episcopal Church of the Ascension, said they wanted to perform same-sex marriages under a 2018 General Convention compromise with Dallas Bishop George Sumner and seven other conservative diocesan bishops. The bishops had refused to authorize two trial-use marriage rites that were approved by General Convention in 2015 and required couples wanting to use them to be married outside their diocese and away from their home church.

In 2018 when convention approved Resolution B012 to give same-sex couples unfettered access to those rites in all of its domestic dioceses, Sumner and some of the conservative bishops interpreted the resolution to mean they had to appoint another bishop to provide some sort of supervision or pastoral support of that access. Such supervision is only required for straight couples in cases of remarriage when the divorced spouse is still living.

Sumner decided that he could not be in a pastoral relationship with parishes that wished to perform same-sex marriages. He negotiated with Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith to provide Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight, or DEPO, to those parishes, relinquishing oversight but not diocesan authority. (More information about the 2018 compromise and its impact is here).

Brooke Robb sorts M&Ms Jan. 19 as she assembles rainbow-themed centerpieces for the reception at the Church of the Transfiguration. Robb, a lifelong member of “the Fig,” as some call it, recalled that the parish raised up the first women priest in the diocese: the Rev. Gwen Buehrens. The parish has always been a leader on issues of inclusion, she said, adding she was glad that same-sex couples could finally be formally recognized by the parish. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“We are aiming to live out ‘communion across difference’ with all charity and respect,” Sumner told Episcopal News Service in an email Jan. 19.

Smith, who met with leaders of the three parishes the previous weekend, wrote to ENS that he believes B012 “provides a provisional and contingent way forward, as our church seeks a balance between theological diversity and the unity which most Episcopalians desire.”

Smith called Sumner “gracious in welcoming me to Dallas and clear about his continuing desire to care for the three parishes entrusted to my pastoral and spiritual oversight.”

“We are both, I have found, committed to showing generosity toward one another, so necessary if DEPO is to work. And I want all that I undertake to be both clear in purpose and transparent in all the particulars, for the sake of the parishes, the Diocese of Dallas, and the whole of our church.”

Fred Ellis, a St. Thomas member and longtime LGBTQ advocate, told ENS just before the Jan. 20 service there that Sumner has “made every effort to make this as seamless as possible.”

“We’ve come a long way in this diocese,” Ellis said. “We’re able to talk to each other now without rancor and without the vitriol that previously occurred.”

Both Transfiguration and St. Thomas decided to live into the access granted by B012 by first recognizing couples whose marriages were caught up in the diocese’s prior refusal to authorize the rites in any way. The Rev. Paul Klitzke, Ascension’s rector, told ENS that members there did not feel the need for such a service. Instead, same-sex couples who until now had been unable to even have their anniversaries blessed were all invited to join in the parish’s tradition of giving those blessings on the first Sunday of each month. Those blessings first happened on the First Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2, the day when B012 became effective.

“The biggest heartbreak for us with this was that we had a really faithful couple who were here every week, sat in the front row, were really excited about the outcome of General Convention, and one of them died this fall,” he said. “We were expectant and hopeful, and I think they would have been our marking the new era because they would likely have been married now. Probably, this month we would have had a wedding service for them; instead last fall we had a funeral.”

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president, acknowledged in letters to both parishes that the historic celebrations “cannot fully compensate for the sadness of being unable to be married in your own church.”

She told the couples that “Episcopalians rejoice with you that justice has finally come” to their parishes. She said faithful LGBTQ Episcopalians “for too long have been asked to bear the burden of the church’s historic struggle to embrace the Gospel’s promise of inclusion.”

In her letter to St. Thomas, Jennings echoed a theme of both services when she remembered “with particular gratitude the saints who labored for decades to bring God’s justice to God’s church, including those who went on before us without seeing their dream come true today.”

Each of the Transfiguration couples could order their favorite cake and frosting for their individual “wedding cake.” Some further customized the cakes with toppers reflecting their interests. The cakes were displayed with each couple’s photos and a place card noting the date and location of their marriage. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Beth Ann Hotchko told ENS she and her wife, Sandra Kay Potter, were married three times in different parts of the country as U.S. laws changed. She said she appreciated the leaders of The Episcopal Church who crafted Resolution B012, which she said brought Transfiguration to “a place where we don’t have to rely on our bishop to say yes or no, we have alternatives.”

The Rev. J.D. Godwin spent decades at Transfiguration, first as an assistant, beginning in 1982, and then as rector from the fall of 2000 until leaving in March 2013. For all of that time, his partner, David Stinson, was with him. “For the first 18 years, we were very quiet,” Godwin told ENS before a rehearsal on Jan. 18. However, Godwin said, during the search that led to him being called as rector that the vestry understood and accepted their relationship.

The two men were married in 2012 in a United Church of Christ congregation in Davenport, Iowa. To be able to come back to Transfiguration and be among the 15 couples and renew their marriage vows “is just awesome; it’s heartwarming; it’s just incredible.

“And, I am so sorry for the years that people didn’t get this opportunity. I look back at the numbers of people who are rejoicing on another shore.”

The Rev. Casey Shobe, Godwin’s successor, told ENS that being able to offer such a service “really does feel like a dream coming true.” Shobe testified at convention and was deeply involved in the work by deputies and others that resulted in the passage of B012. Robinson described him “as astounding in his passion for justice, even when he doesn’t have a pony in this race.”

Shobe in his interview with ENS said he hoped that the publicity the service received tells the rest of Dallas that “there is a Christian church in this community that really does believe in the equality of all and that the inclusion of LGBTQ persons in Christian churches is no longer a fringe issue, something only done by a radical subset.”

Here is how the Dallas Morning News covered the Transfiguration service.

Shobe was involved in the development of a website called “Dear General Convention” that included videos and written stories about people who, prior to Resolution B012, could not be married in that diocese. Their aim was to convince bishops and deputies to ensure full access to the rites. He said the site will eventually become a thank-you to the convention for its passage of B012. The organizers want to show “how grateful we are that the leaders of the Episcopal Church listened to our stories and heard our appeal and understood our hurt and our needs and helped to solve this problem,” he said.

St. Thomas members David Flick and Bob Moos were part of that appeal and were among the couples who renewed their vows on Jan. 20. In a Dear General Convention video, Flick and Moos told the story of Flick receiving a bad report during his struggle with prostate cancer and how glad they were to have the support of St. Thomas’ clergy and members.

“The church was with us in the worst of times and it never seemed right to me that they couldn’t be with us in happy times as well,” Moos said after the service.

Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle members David Flick, left, and Bob Moos take a turn at cutting the cake at a reception following the Jan. 20 service there. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The couple have been together since 1997 and were married in 2015 at the Church of St. Mary of the Harbor in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Some St. Thomas members went with them to Cape Cod for the service “but it’s not the same as being surrounded by your fellow parishioners (in your home church). I felt bad about that. I felt like a second-class Episcopalian,” Moos said through tears.

John Touhey, who renewed his vows with John Lambert during the St. Thomas service, said his sense of not being welcome in The Episcopal Church had driven him to a Universal Unitarian congregation. “If they’re not going to keep up with me, why should I stay in a church where I am not accepted,” Touhey said of his decision.

The Rev. Joy Daley, who served at Transfiguration as a deacon and priest before becoming St. Thomas’ rector in 2014, told ENS that over the years she found herself “sending people off to this church or that justice of the peace” to be married. Often those couples would ask if she could bless their rings before their marriage elsewhere. “It always struck me as strange: I can bless these objects, but not this beautiful relationship that God has brought into being?”

Daley, who testified during the B012 debate at convention, said she wants the rest of The Episcopal Church to know that the weekend of celebrations in Dallas means “love wins. If you don’t give up standing up for what you know that God has called you to, that faithfulness will ultimately be rewarded. You never know when and how.

“I just feel grateful that in my time here, all that pain that I have seen people go through, that I have been able to be here for this day is a true blessing. All those long meetings and frustration that people here have had to live with, that day has finally passed.”

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

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