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Guatemalan woman nears two years living at church that offered sanctuary from deportation

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 2:38pm

Juana Luz Tobar Ortega with some of her sewing machines at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. Photo: Yonat Shimron/Religion News Service

[Religion News Service — Greensboro, North Carolina] Juana Luz Tobar Ortega spends her days at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church sewing pillow covers, sculpting clay cups and bowls and cooking papusas and tamales.

But Ortega’s many homemaking skills belie the harsh reality of her life: She cannot go home.

Later this month, Ortega will mark her two-year anniversary in sanctuary. The 47-year-old Guatemalan native took refuge at St. Barnabas on May 31, 2017, after receiving an ankle bracelet and an order of deportation.

On May 9, some PBS stations across the country will air a 25-minute documentary titled “Santuario” that tells Ortega’s story. The film looks at the plight of the Ortega family after Juana left her husband, Carlos, four children and two grandchildren for sanctuary. The directors hope the film shines a light on noncriminal deportation cases like Ortega’s, which have multiplied in the wake of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.

Ortega, who has no criminal record, has lived in the United States for 26 years, most of them in the North Carolina town of Asheboro, about 30 miles from Greensboro.

Before taking sanctuary, she worked as a seamstress for a furniture company in nearby High Point. Six years ago during a raid on her employer, she was arrested for entering the country illegally and released. It was then she first realized her asylum claim was denied. Each year since, she checked in with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and received a one-year stay of deportation – until in 2017, when for no stated reason she was given 30 days to leave the country.

Faced with the choice of leaving her family and going back to Guatemala, or awaiting a knock at the door from an ICE officer, she sought church sanctuary.

Ortega’s family visits her at the church every weekend. Her two granddaughters often stay with her during school vacations. But for all practical purposes, her life is on hold.

“I came into the project excited about the idea of sanctuary as a form of protection for people facing deportation,” said Christine Delp, who co-directed the film with Pilar Timpane. “And I came through not really sure whether sanctuary is a good or bad thing. It’s like being in limbo. There’s an extreme emotional, financial, physical toll on families.”

Hundreds of congregations across the country have pledged to support undocumented people at imminent risk of deportation. A far smaller number have actually housed them.

There are now 48 people taking sanctuary in houses of worship across the U.S., according to Church World Service, which maintains a database. Three have been in sanctuary since 2016, when the most recent sanctuary movement began, and 21 are coming up on their second anniversary.

Houses of worship are considered “sensitive locations,” meaning that federal immigration enforcement officers will avoid arresting, searching or interviewing people there under most circumstances.

The congregations that have people living in sanctuary have worked hard to advocate on their behalf.

So far, they’ve had limited success.

Some people in sanctuary have successfully won a stay of removal and have been reunited with their families. (One woman formerly in sanctuary at another Greensboro church was granted a green card last week, entitling her to permanent residency.)

But the majority are still waiting.

Timpane, co-director of the documentary about Ortega, which has shown at 11 film festivals and won the grand jury prize for short documentary at the New Orleans Film Festival, said she still struggles with people’s misunderstandings about the immigration system.

“It continues to surprise that we get questions like ‘What did she do? Why is (she) getting a deportation sentence?’ — rather than ‘What can be done to change the system?’” Timpane said.

St. Barnabas, North Carolina’s first congregation in recent history to offer sanctuary to an undocumented immigrant, took in Ortega knowing her stay would be indefinite, but feeling called nonetheless to help her.

Juana Luz Tobar Ortega, center front, poses with her family for a photo released in 2017 by American Friends Service Committee, which was helping her resist a deportation order.

To keep her safe, it instituted new rules: The church doors remain locked. A volunteer is on duty 24 hours a day. And no immigration enforcement officers are allowed on the premises without an arrest warrant signed by a judge.

The church turned a vesting room and storage area into a bedroom and sitting area for Ortega. Her son-in-law, a plumber, installed a shower in one of the church bathrooms.

Besides sheltering her, church members revved up their advocacy on Ortega’s behalf. They’ve written letters, made phone calls, visited Congress to push for an immigration policy that keeps undocumented families together and allows a path to citizenship. Failing that, they have raised the possibility of a private bill that might allow Ortega a stay of deportation.

The church was buoyed by last year’s midterm elections when Democrats took control of the House of Representatives — including the House Judiciary Committee, and Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. A church group drove to Washington to visit with Rep. Jerry Nadler, the committee chair, taking some of Ortega’s pottery as a gift. The group also visited with Sen. Thom Tillis, one of North Carolina’s two Republican senators.

But so far, there’s been little movement on immigration.

The Rev. Randall Keeney, the church vicar, said he’s become disillusioned by the nation’s politics that have failed so many undocumented people.

“I used to think our representatives acted out of conscience,” he said. “I don’t believe that anymore. I think they only act out of expediency and for political reasons.”

Last year, the ankle bracelet that ICE strapped around Ortega’s leg broke. The church, which has been upfront with ICE about her whereabouts, called the agency to inform officials about it. ICE offered to fit her with a new bracelet.

The church said no.

This weekend, Ortega’s third child, Jackeline, will graduate from a community college with a degree in animal science. Ortega won’t be there to cheer her on when she accepts her diploma.

Her youngest, Carlos Jr., whom she lovingly calls Carlito, is a high school junior. Ortega tears up at the thought that she might miss his high school graduation next year.

Then she wipes away the tears and reminds herself why she chose sanctuary.

“It’s better for me to stay here,” she said. “Here I have my family. If I went back (to Guatemala) we’d be separated.”

Jackeline, Carlos and Carlos Jr. are U.S. citizens, while Ortega’s two older daughters, born in Guatemala, have qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“It’s hard for us,” said her eldest daughter, Lesvi Molina, who stays with her one night a week. “But it’s nothing compared to what she’s dealing with. It’s very overwhelming to feel like there’s no way out.”

The post Guatemalan woman nears two years living at church that offered sanctuary from deportation appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Arkansas Episcopalians rally support for Syrian school while raising awareness of refugee crisis

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 2:48pm

The Wisdom House Project is a partnership between the Syrian Emergency Task Force and an ecumenical group that originated at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Conway, Arkansas, to support a makeshift school for kindergarteners in Idlib province, Syria. The school teaches about 130 students a year. Photo: Wisdom House Project, via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] If you haven’t thought much about the Syrian refugee crisis lately and want an update, consider asking an Episcopalian from Arkansas.

You might learn that the Syrian province of Idlib is the last stronghold of rebels fighting the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad, and humanitarian activists warn a final showdown in Idlib could create an “apocalyptic scenario” for civilians, many of them refugees displaced from their homes by Syria’s eight-year civil war.

Idlib also is home to the Wisdom House Project, a school for kindergarteners that recently graduated its third class. Those students are the ones with a connection to Arkansas, through an ecumenical partnership with roots at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Conway, Arkansas.

With the ministry’s help, life in Idlib carries on in the face of ever-present danger.

“Right now, our biggest concern is the well-being of our students, teachers and their families and figuring out, first of all, how to keep the school going,” the Rev. Teri Daily said in an interview with Episcopal News Service. “And if there comes a time when that isn’t possible, how do we help our families that are on the ground there?”

The Syrian boys and girls who attend Wisdom House Project have become “our students” and “our families” for many Arkansas Episcopalians because of the Wisdom House Working Group, which Daily helped launch in Conway in 2016, while she was rector at St. Peter’s. Since then, the group has raised about $100,000 for Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit that has used the money to renovate classrooms in Idlib, outfit them with desks and teaching materials, pay teacher salaries and even buy a school bus.

The school now has five teachers and four staff members, who take the photos and videos that fill the Wisdom House Project’s website and social media feeds with the faces of smiling young children.

Money raised since 2016 through the Wisdom House Working Group in Arkansas has helped Syrian Emergency Task Force renovate classroom space for five teachers and their students in Idlib, Syria. Photo: Wisdom House Project

In the photos, the children raise their hands in celebration. They show off their latest craft projects. They stand proudly in front of classroom artworks. They wear hand-sewn uniforms, which were funded by American donations, as were the backpacks draped over their little shoulders. And they hold up colorful letters of hope and encouragement created for them in Arkansas by children they’ve never met.

But this ministry isn’t limited to a narrow focus on the education of 130 or so students in one Syrian community. It also hopes to raise awareness in the United States about the bigger picture in Syria, about a country where hundreds of thousands have been killed in a seemingly intractable internal conflict. That conflict in recent years has been overshadowed globally by the parallel, but separate, fight in Syria against the terrorist group ISIS.

“The word needs to get out about what is happening and how this country is being devastated,” said Jerry Adams, a St. Peter’s parishioner who serves as chair of the Wisdom House Working Group. “The bigger picture is there’s no easy way out for this country.”

Assad began his brutal crackdown against a pro-democracy rebellion in 2011, sparking what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, calls “the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time.” An estimated 5.6 million people have fled Syria since the civil war began, most of them to Turkey.

In September 2015, global attention to the plight of Syrian refugees intensified in response to photos of a dead 2-year-old Syrian boy lying face-down on a beach after a boat capsized while his family was trying to flee the war-torn country.

“The international news was plastered with the refugee crisis, of refugees coming out of Syria,” Daily said. “The situation was really dire, and violence was escalating.”

At the same time, some Republican politicians, citing potential terrorist threats, were voicing opposition to resettling Syrian refugees in the United States. President Donald Trump, then a presidential candidate, vowed in December 2015 to implement “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

The Episcopal Church also took a public stance that year, when its General Convention voted in July 2015 on a resolution denouncing “the slaughter and displacement of Syrians” and urging congregations to pray “for an end to the humanitarian and refugee crisis in Syria.”

One Sunday that fall, Daily raised the issue in an announcement to her congregation. “I put out a call and said, the refugee crisis that’s taking place in Syria is weighing heavy on my heart, and if it’s weighing heavy on your heart, meet me in the library at 3 o’clock.”

Somewhat to her surprise, more than a dozen parishioners joined her that afternoon, and they began their first conversation about what one Episcopal congregation in Arkansas could do.

They started by learning more about the Syrian conflict and listening to the stories of Muslims originally from the Middle East who had moved to Arkansas. They looked into sponsoring a Syrian refugee family but found that few were being resettled locally. And they initially struggled to find ways of supporting humanitarian outreach in Syria.

Then in March 2016, Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of Syria Emergency Task Force, came to Conway to speak at a TEDx conference hosted by his alma mater, the University of Central Arkansas. The group from St. Peter’s reached out to him by phone, and the morning after his speech, he met over coffee with Daily, her husband and Adams to talk about Moustafa’s native Syria.

“We said, we don’t know how to help,” Daily recalled. “And Mouaz said, ‘You know, there are so many more displaced people living within Syria than there are refugees who have left Syria.” The UNHCR estimates about 6.6 million Syrians are considered internally displaced, or refugees in their own country.

Syria Emergency Task Force had not yet gotten involved in humanitarian work, focusing instead on advocacy in Washington, but Moustafa knew of some Syrian women in Idlib who had begun teaching refugee children and orphans at a makeshift school. After several months of planning and conversation, the nonprofit and the Episcopal congregation agreed to work together in support of the Idlib teachers. St. Peter’s made its first donation to the cause in August 2016, and the next month it officially kicked off the Wisdom House Working Group, committing to at least five years.

Our third class of Kindergarteners has graduated! We received our certificates but our celebration was cancelled due to bombing nearby. #Idlib #Syria #SaveSyria #EyesOnIdlib @syrianetf pic.twitter.com/z7K4ccre6T

— The Wisdom House (@WisdomHseSyria) May 6, 2019

“Since then, Episcopal churches have been really amazing,” said Natalie Larrison, Syria Emergency Task Force’s director of outreach. Larrison, who is based in Arkansas, joined the nonprofit the same year that it formed its partnership with St. Peter’s, and she is its primarily liaison with the Wisdom House school.

One of the first improvements the project made was to find an underground location for the school, essentially the basement of an existing building, which provided increased security for students. The children are all 6 or younger, so they were born after the start of the Syrian conflict.

“They’ve only known war,” Larrison said.

Students at Wisdom House in Idlib, Syria, hold up some of the “Letters of Hope” they received from children in Arkansas. Photo: Wisdom House Project

The Wisdom House Working Group has grown to include representatives from other churches in and around Conway. About 10 or more of them meet regularly in person or by conference call to get updates on the needs at the school in Idlib and to plan fundraisers.

Today, despite a truce last September, violence is on the rise again in Idlib, putting the nearly 3 million people living in the province under constant threat of attack. Adams expressed frustration that the urgency of the crisis doesn’t resonate for most Americans.

“It’s easy to block it out. It’s not next door. It’s Muslims, not Christians,” Adams said. “If your children hear a plane, they think it’s a passenger plane. If you’re in Syria, the kids think they’re being bombed.”

Daily left St. Peter’s in 2017 to serve as rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Russellville, about 75 miles away from Conway, but she remains involved in the Wisdom House Project. Like Adams, she hopes their work will encourage Americans to pay more attention to Syria.

The project also conveys to Syrians the message that they haven’t been forgotten. That is the purpose of “Letters of Hope,” the letter-writing campaign involving Arkansas children. In photos from Idlib, Daily said she is heartened “to see the faces of the children at the school when they get letters from other children, and to see the faces of the teachers when they feel like they’re not totally alone there.”

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

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Welby: la legislación inglesa le impide al CCA debatir su decisión de excluir de Lambeth a cónyuges del mismo sexo

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 11:16am

El arzobispo de Cantórbery, Justin Welby, a la izquierda, dijo en una conferencia de prensa el 27 de abril que su decisión de no invitar a la Conferencia de Lambeth 2020 a cónyuges del mismo sexo de los obispos era dolorosa para todos los implicados. El arzobispo de Hong Kong y presidente del CCA, Paul Kwong, también participó en la conferencia de prensa. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Hong Kong] Los miembros del Consejo Consultivo Anglicano, reunidos aquí del 28 de abril al 5 de mayo, no pueden formalmente debatir la decisión del arzobispo de Cantórbery Justin Welby de excluir a los cónyuges del mismo sexo de los obispos invitados a la Conferencia de Lambeth 2020 .

Welby dijo en una conferencia de prensa el 27 de abril,  en respuesta a una pregunta de Episcopal News Service, que el CCA es el único de los Instrumentos of la Comunión Anglicana que está gobernado por la legislación inglesa.  Está incorporado como “una compañía inglesa con fines benéficos”.  Por vía de la Constitución,  los síndicos “especifican muy claramente lo que puede y no puede hacer” dijo el.

“La doctrina no es uno de los asuntos qué le compete”, dijo Welby  refiriéndose al Consejo.

El “objetivo”del CCA,  según su constitución, es  “promover la religión cristiana y, en particular, promover la unidad y propósitos de las iglesias de la Comunión Anglicana,  en la misión, la evangelización, las relaciones ecuménicas, la comunicación, la administración y las finanzas”. La constitución incluye 30 facultades específicas del CCA después de señalar en su declaración general que “el Consejo tiene la facultad de hacer cualquier cosa que estime que fomenta su(s) objetivo(s) o sea conducente o contingente a hacerlo”.

La cobertura completa de ENS de la 17ª. reunión del Consejo Consultivo Anglicano puede encontrarse aquí.

Welby dijo que  “habrá una oportunidad fuera de la conferencia para que los miembros de la misma me hagan preguntas”  acerca de cualquier tema que quisieran,  y afirmó que no tiene dudas de que el tema de Lambeth saldrá a colación. “Y eso será en una sesión privada, de manera que las personas puedan expresarse libre y claramente, y expresar su desacuerdo, lo cual es perfectamente apropiado”.

Él  hizo notar que la decisión acerca de a quiénes invitar a la Conferencia ha sido la exclusiva prerrogativa del arzobispo de Cantórbery desde la primera conferencia en 1867.

El debate formal de la Conferencia de Lambeth está actualmente en la agenda para el final de la mañana del 4 de mayo como uno de los tres asuntos de la 19ª. sesión de trabajo de las 21 que habrá.  También en la agenda de esa sesión están incluidos un debate sobre las finanzas y asuntos institucionales del CCA (que se transfirió de la sesión anterior)  y la primera de las dos veces en que los miembros considerarán las resoluciones.  La sesión está programada para que dure 75 minutos. En la última reunión del CCA se aprobaron 45 resoluciones, todas ellas en votaciones  de aprobación o rechazo conforme al calendario acordado.

Tanto el Consejo Ejecutivo como la Cámara de Obispos de la Iglesia Episcopal,  así como cierto número de diócesis,  han objetado la decisión anunciada el 15 de febrero, en un blog del Servicio de Noticias de la Comunión Anglicana, por el Secretario General de la Comunión Josiah Idowu-Fearon.

El Secretario General de la Comunión Anglicana, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, dijo el 27 de abril que muchas iglesias fuera de la comunión anglicana están debatiéndose con lo que él llamó “este problema” de las relaciones del mismo sexo. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

Idowu-Fearon escribió que Welby había invitado “a todos los obispos activos”a la reunión periódica de los obispos de la Comunión Anglicana que sesionará del 23 de julio al 2 de agosto de 2020.  Esa decisión representa un cambio de la anterior Conferencia de Lambeth.  En 2008,  el entonces arzobispo de Cantórbery Rowan Williams rehusó invitar al obispo Gene Robinson, que en el año 2003 se convirtió en el primer obispo abiertamente homosexual y con pareja de la Comunión Anglicana.

Sin embargo, Idowu-Fearon dijo en el texto de su blog que “sería inapropiado que cónyuges del mismo sexo fuesen invitados a la Conferencia”.  Agregó que la Comunión Anglicana define el matrimonio como “la unión de por vida de un hombre y una mujer”,  tal como quedó codificado en la Resolución 1.10  de la Conferencia de Lambeth de 1998.

La decisión de Welby provocó también un rechazo en Gran Bretaña, incluida la Universidad de Kent, en Cantórbery,  donde tiene lugar la mayor parte de la conferencia,  y entre algunos miembros de las cámaras del Parlamento.

“Es digno de notar que la controversia no es en un solo sentido”, dijo Welby,  añadiendo qué ha recibido “un número significativo de cartas” que objetan su decisión de invitar a obispos que están en relaciones matrimoniales con personas del mismo sexo cuando ninguno fue invitado en 2008. “Este es un punto que a veces se olvida”, afirmó él.

Mary Glasspool , obispa auxiliar de la diócesis de Nueva York, es el único obispo en servicio activo de la Iglesia episcopal que tiene un cónyuge del mismo sexo, Becki Sander. El Rdo. Thomas Brown debe ser ordenado y consagrado el 22 de junio como el próximo obispo de la diócesis de Maine.  Él está casado con el Rdo. Thomas Mousin.

El único otro obispo activo de la Comunión Anglicana a quien se sabe que afecta la decisión de Welby es el obispo sufragáneo  de la diócesis de Toronto, Kevin Robertson, que se casó con Mohan Sharma, su pareja de casi 10 años,  el 28 de diciembre de 2018.

Cuando K.C. Wong, del Hong Kong Catholic Newspaper  le preguntó a Welby si el problema de las relaciones de personas del mismo sexo era tan apremiante ahora como lo fue cuando Robinson se convirtió en obispo en 2003, Welby respondió  “depende a quién uno le pregunte”.  Es un asunto apremiante en Norteamérica y en partes de Australia, agregó.

“Para ser sincero,  en muchas partes de la Comunión,  no es un asunto que tenga mucha relevancia”, respondió Welby.  En esas zonas  la gente se enfrenta con “problemas de vida o muerte”, dijo,  tales como el aumento de los niveles del agua del Océano Pacífico,  la expansión de los desiertos en África, la violencia sangrienta y la violación como un arma de guerra en Sudán del Sur y en la República Democrática del Congo y la persecución de los cristianos.

“Es un problema apremiante para la unidad de la Comunión o, para ser absolutamente específico, porque no nos pondremos de acuerdo en ese punto, es un problema muy apremiante por la manera en que discreparemos bien y si somos capaces de discrepar bien”, recalcó.

Cuando Idowu-Fearon replicó que muchas iglesias fuera de la Comunión Anglicana están debatiéndose con lo que llamó “este problema”  de las relaciones del mismo sexo, Welby advirtió en contra de esa caracterización.

“No es un problema. Se trata de personas. Cuando tratamos con personas, las tratamos como personas hechas a la imagen de Dios y con la dignidad de ser a la imagen de Dios”, apuntó. “La primera regla es que éstas son personas, y yo creo que la parte más dolorosa para mí de las decisiones que he tenido que tomar es que, en el mismo momento que escribo una carta o tomo una decisión, estoy tomando una decisión sobre personas, y que no hay decisión que dé lugar a que nadie resulte lastimado”.

Su decisión “lastimó a muchas personas”, admitió Welby, “pero habría lastimado a un inmenso número de personas en otras partes de la Comunión”, si hubiera decidido de manera diferente.

“No había una solución amable”, que él rechazó a favor de “la solución desagradable”, afirmó. “No es tan simple como eso”.

Welby señaló que, el 1 de mayo, el CCA suspenderá sus tareas y a los miembros se les ofrecerá la opción de asistir a una “consulta” de 90 minutos sobre Viviendo en amor y fe, el nuevo empeño de la Iglesia de Inglaterra de reflexionar teológicamente acerca de las diversas opiniones sobre identidad y sexualidad humanas.

“Conducirá, espero yo, de manera significativa, a escucharnos más atentamente los unos a los otros en todo el mundo”, subrayó.

Welby dijo que la asistencia opcional a la sesión exige la suspensión de las labores del Consejo porque “eso no cae dentro de lo que el CCA puede hacer”.

Lea más al respecto

La historia del CCA se encuentra aquí.

La cobertura permanente de ENS al CCA se encuentra aquí.

La cobertura del Servicio de Noticias de la Comunión Anglicana [Anglican Communion News Service] se encuentra aquí.

Se envían mensajes de Twitter a través del hashtag  #ACC17HK.

– La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es redactora sénior y reportera Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri

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El ACC-17 se abre con llamamientos al testimonio cristiano y al discipulado intencional para un mundo mejor y más pacífico

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 11:08am

[Episcopal News Service – Hong Kong] La 17ª. reunión del Consejo Consultivo Anglicano comenzó oficialmente el 28 de abril con una combinación de discursos y la tradicional liturgia anglicana sazonada al final con costumbres chinas.

Cerca del final de la eucaristía, que tuvo lugar en la catedral de San Juan  [St. John’s Cathedral] en el corazón del distrito financiero de esta ciudad, el arzobispo de Hong Kong y presidente del CCA, Paul Kwong le dijo a la congregación que Hong Kong significa “Puerto Fragante”, un nombre que recibió debido al comercio de especias de sus primeros tiempos.

“Creo que de un discípulo emana ‘la fragancia de Cristo’en la vida diaria”, dijo él. “Mi oración es que el CCA-17 pueda ayudar a nuestra Comunión Anglicana a convertirse en dadora de la ‘fragancia de Cristo’ al mundo”.

El arzobispo de Cantórbery Justin Welby le dio gracias a Dios de “que tú has reunido a tu Iglesia de norte y sur, de este y oeste”. Él luego golpeó enérgicamente tres veces un gong ceremonial y declaró abierta la 17ª. reunión del CCA en el nombre de la Trinidad.

San Juan, que está celebrando su 170º. aniversario este año, es la sede de la Diócesis Anglicana de la Isla de Hong Kong, una de las tres diócesis que, junto con la Diócesis de Kowloon Oriental y Occidental y la Zona Misionera de Macao, forma la Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, la Provincia Anglicana en Hong Kong. San Juan es el edificio eclesiástico occidental más antiguo que sobrevive en Hong Kong. Durante la ocupación japonesa de Hong Kong, de 1941 a 1945, la catedral fue convertida en un club para los japoneses y despojada de gran parte de su mobiliario original.

Los anglicanos deben llevarles a otros la paz que Cristo les ha traído, dijo el arzobispo de Cantórbery Justin Welby en su sermón del 28 de abril durante la eucaristía de apertura de la 17ª. reunión del Consejo Consultivo Anglicano en la catedral de San Juan en Hong Kong. Foto de Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

Durante su sermón, Welby le agradeció a las víctimas actuales de la persecución de cristianos de toda la Comunión Anglicana por “mantenerse firmes en su fe” y compartirla con otros.

Refiriéndose a los atentados terroristas del Día de Pascua en Sri Lanka, el Arzobispo dijo,  “esa paradoja de la muerte circundante, de las manos de la violencia al parecer triunfantes, es tan antigua como la promesa de Jesús cuando le dijo a sus discípulos, ‘la paz sea con ustedes’”.

El secretario general de la Comunión Anglicana, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, dirigiendo más tarde la Oración de los Fieles, comenzó pidiéndole a la congregación que se pusiera de pie para guardar un momento de silencio por las víctimas de esos ataques.

Welby dijo que los anglicanos y los demás son “llamados a apoyar a esos destrozados por la persecución, por los disturbios civiles y por la guerra”. El apoyo comienza, dijo él, orando por la paz y recibiendo de Dios “mucho más de lo que podemos consumir nosotros de manera que debemos aliviar al mundo que nos rodea” convirtiendo a las personas en pacificadores y reconciliadores.

Welby llamó a los miembros del CCA a orar “para que seamos llenos  de admiración y de paz”, en lugar de escondernos detrás de las barreras del prejuicio. “Porque al hacerlo, perdemos la paz, abandonamos a nuestras hermanas y hermanos, y no tenemos nada de lo cual dar testimonio”, afirmó.

Ese testimonio, sobre el cual el CCA-17 está reflexionando mediante un enfoque llamado “discipulado consciente”, se produce fácil y frecuentemente en algunas partes de la Comunión, si bien en otros lugares, dijo Welby, es “raro, excepcional, e incluso está olvidado”. Por ejemplo, señaló, una encuesta de la Iglesia de Inglaterra encontró que sólo un tercio de los padres que asisten a la iglesia creía que era importante transmitirles la fe cristiana a sus hijos.

“Nuestras familias son nuestro más cercano campo de misión”, subrayó.

Temprano en el día, alocución presidencial

Mientras las primeras sesiones de trabajo del Consejo se iniciaban, en la mañana del 28 de abril, Welby dijo en su alocución presidencial que el CCA se reúne “no para nosotros, sino en el servicio de Dios”.

El CCA es “el grupo más notablemente diverso de la Comunión, representando 2.000 lenguas diferentes y un número semejante de culturas, según Welby. “El milagro de la Comunión es que, a través de la obra de Jesucristo, somos hechos uno por la sola gracia de Dios, no por nuestra elección o por nuestra selección”, dijo.

Welby le recordó al CCA que cada una de las 40 provincias de la Comunión y seis organismos extraprovinciales son tan autónomos como independientes.

“Sabemos que lo que uno de nosotros hace nos afecta a todos. Tenemos el derecho autonómico a tomar decisiones, provincia por provincia, de estar presente o estar ausente”dijo. “Ser interdependiente significa que debemos limitar ese derecho por amor los unos de los otros”.

Welby dejó claro en su alocución que la unidad de la Comunión Anglicana le mostrará al mundo cómo viven los seguidores de Cristo, aunque discrepen.

“No podemos condenar a naciones completas a la ausencia de ayuda, al abandono del apoyo, al solitario sufrimiento por consentirnos el lujo de la desunión”, enfatizó él. Los anglicanos no podemos descuidar a los damnificados por la guerra, abandonar a los pobres y los perseguidos, ignorar el cambio climático o dejar de predicar el Evangelio con la intención de hacer discípulos, “porque creamos que nuestros problemas son más importantes”, dijo el Arzobispo en la parte más animada de su discurso.

Haciendo notar que si bien algunos países saben lo que es vivir en peligro, Welby describió un peligro que dijo se estaba extendiendo por el mundo “en el cual amaga la posibilidad de la ruptura del orden basado en la ley que ha gobernado al mundo desde 1945, y el populismo se levanta  a través del Hemisferio Norte, con el aislamiento como secuela.

“El cambio climático se torna cada vez más peligroso para todo el planeta —un verdadero jinete del Apocalipsis. Es en estos tiempos que la Comunión Anglicana tiene la posibilidad no sólo de ser un lugar de refugio y estabilidad en el mundo, sino un lugar de transformación, un lugar donde el interés propio se torne en servicio, donde el temor se transforme en fe y donde la enemistad y la injusticia se conviertan en el amor y la misericordia del Señor”, dijo Welby.

El Consejo Consultivo Anglicano, personal y clero, fueron recibidos por bailarines de león de varias escuelas de Hong Kong y otras organizaciones de la Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, la Provincia Anglicana de Hong Kong, durante una cena el 28 de abril. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

Algunas estadísticas del CCA

El Consejo consultivo Anglicano es uno de los tres Instrumentos de la Comunión, siendo los otros la Conferencia de Obispos Anglicanos de Lambeth y la Reunión de los Primados. El arzobispo de Cantórbery (que es presidente del CCA) es visto como el “Foco de la Unidad” de los tres instrumentos. Debido a que el CCA está compuesto de obispos, clérigos y laicos, es el organismo más representativo de la Comunión.

De los 99 miembros presentes en el CCA-17, 69 son hombres y 30, mujeres. Más de la mitad son miembros nuevos. Cincuenta y seis son ordenados y 43 son laicos. De los 56 miembros ordenados, nueve son mujeres.

Compárese eso con la Reunión de los Primados, que no ha contado con ninguna mujer entre sus miembros desde que período de Katharine Jeffers Schori como 26ª. obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal terminó en noviembre de 2015. De los 670 obispos que asistieron a la última conferencia de Lambeth en 2008, 18 eran mujeres, en comparación con 11 en 1998. En la Conferencia de Lambeth 2020 se espera un significativo incremento de esa cifra , pero el total será menos de 60.

Sólo Nigeria y Uganda no enviaron representantes a la reunión del CCA-17. La lista de asistentes aparece aquí.

Lea más al respecto

La historia del CCA se encuentra aquí.

La cobertura permanente de ENS al CCA se encuentra aquí.

La cobertura del Servicio de Noticias de la Comunión Anglicana [Anglican Communion News Service] se encuentra aquí.

Se envían mensajes de Twitter a través del hashtag  #ACC17HK.

El grueso de la reunión está teniendo lugar en el Hotel Costa de Oro [Gold Coast Hotel], a unos 45 minutos del centro de Hong Kong. Se dice que el lugar es más económico que un hotel en la parte principal de la ciudad.

– La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es redactora sénior y reportera Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri

The post El ACC-17 se abre con llamamientos al testimonio cristiano y al discipulado intencional para un mundo mejor y más pacífico appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

La Comunión debe enfrentarse a la ‘ignorancia’ y posiblemente al cisma, dice el secretario general del CCA

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 10:55am

[Episcopal News Service — Hong Kong] El 29 de abril, el secretario de la Comunión Anglicana, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, presentó ante la 17ª. reunión del Consejo Consultivo Anglicano un cuadro eclesiástico y económico bastante grave de la Comunión.

Él equilibró una advertencia de “cisma” con relatos que dijo mostraban que “el crecimiento dentro de la Comunión era muy estimulante”. Esto último incluía “centenares” de conversos en Etiopía y Argelia, un programa de evangelización y renovación espiritual en Melanesia y un aumento en el número de jóvenes que se unían a la Iglesia de Inglaterra.

“No dejen que nadie les engañe que, debido a nuestra crisis, el espíritu del Señor no se mueve”, dijo. El Espíritu del Señor se mueve aun más debido a la crisis. Creo que se moverá aún más si somos capaces de concentrarnos en el discipulado”.

Sus comentarios se produjeron durante la hora que dedicó a la amplificación de su informe escrito sobre su labor desde la reunión del CCA-16 en Lusaka en 2014, y sus reflexiones sobre el estado de la Comunión.

Idowu-Fearon les dijo a los miembros del CCA que los últimos tres años “me han abierto los ojos a un grave problema dentro de nuestra Comunión: la ignorancia”.

Afirmó que el problema es doble, comenzando con la “ignorancia deliberada”, la cual dijo que ocurre cuando un obispo o un primado (el líder episcopal de una de las 40 provincias de la Comunión) “pretende que no sabe” lo que significa ser una iglesia anglicana.

“Y luego hay ignorancia como resultado de la falta de conocimiento”, dijo Idowu-Fearon, añadiendo que “dentro de un buen número de nuestros colegios y seminarios teológicos, ni siquiera se enseña anglicanismo; donde se enseña, no es anglicanismo, es anglicanismo hecho a la medida”. Los diferentes contextos provinciales significan que “el anglicanismo tiene muchos rostros, pero hay cosas básicas”, afirmó él, particularmente la eclesiología anglicana, es decir, la comprensión anglicana de la Iglesia.

La cobertura completa de ENS de la 17ª. reunión del Consejo Consultivo Anglicano puede encontrarse aquí.

“Esta es una de la razones principales de la crisis a que nos enfrentamos hoy dentro de esta Comunión”, dijo el Secretario General.

Idowu-Fearon retó al CCA a que ayudara respondiendo la pregunta “¿cómo combatimos la ignorancia que está devorándonos y creando mayores divisiones dentro de la Comunión?”

Algunas provincias siguen la política anglicana en que obispos, clérigos y laicos debaten, “pero en buen número de nuestras provincias y diócesis, particularmente en el sur global, no hay debates” o cuando hay debates, no están bien informados, apuntó.

Pidiendo perdón de cualquiera que pudiera ofenderse, el Secretario General dijo “ustedes creerían que somos una Iglesia [Católica] Romana, donde las decisiones se toman y se transmiten hacia abajo”.

“¿De qué manera”, les preguntó Idowu-Fearon a los miembros del CCA, “ustedes quieren que combatamos esta ignorancia?”

A principios de su informe, el Secretario General había pedido consejo respecto a cómo el arzobispo de Cantórbery puede “extender su ministerio sin convertirse en un papa”.

Cuando empezó la sesión de la tarde, Idowu-Fearon subió al podio para decirle al Consejo que le había garantizado al Padre Anthony Currer, el observador catolicorromano en la reunión que “algo que dije de manera informal, pero seriamente” no “significaba menoscabar a la Iglesia Católica Romana, particularmente la posición del Papa”. El Secretario General dijo que Currer aceptó sus excusas, e Idowu-Fearon pidió lo mismo del CCA.

“Lo que dije era serio. No somos una Iglesia. Somos una Comunión de 40 iglesias —hasta ahora. “Por tanto, no tenemos una curia y no tenemos algo semejante a un papa. Eso es lo que dije. Eso no quiere decir que nuestra política sea mejor que la política catolicorromana”.

Una advertencia de cisma

El secretario de la Comunión Anglicana Josiah Idowu-Fearon presentó un apasionado informe ante el Consejo Consultivo Anglicano el 29 de abril sobre su labor desde la reunión del CCA-16 en Lusaka en 2014 y sus reflexiones sobre el estado de la Comunión. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

La advertencia de Idowu-Fearon acerca de un posible cisma en la Comunión Anglicana se produjo mientras él discutía acerca de la Conferencia Global del Futuro Anglicano (GAFCON por su sigla en inglés), la organización de 11 años de existencia que dice se formó en 2008 cuando “la transigencia moral, el error doctrinal y el colapso del testimonio bíblico en partes de la Comunión Anglicana” habían alcanzado un nivel crítico.

El secretario general dijo al CCA que “la pregunta es ¿cómo debemos responder a GAFCON?”.

Afirmó que “el Señor me ha dado este puesto para plantarme y hablarle la verdad al poder” y en consecuencia él intentaría esa respuesta.

Idowu-Fearon dijo que él y el arzobispo de Cantórbery Justin Welby acogen el compromiso de GAFCON con la renovación de la Iglesia  y orarán por esa labor.

“La dificultad surge cuando GAFCON se involucra con las estructuras de la Comunión de una manera que causa confusión y una posible división”, expresó él, partiendo de la decisión del grupo de formar redes ministeriales. La Comunión tiene 10 redes temáticas que abordan y perfilan varios asuntos y áreas de interés de la Comunión Anglicana. Las acciones de GAFCON no tienen por objeto llenar un vacío en la obra de la Comunión, Idowu-Fearon.

El Secretario General dijo que la “Carta a las iglesias” que el grupo envió en 2018, contiene algunos comentarios “lamentables” acerca de Welby y la Conferencia de Lambeth 2020.

Idowu-Fearon dijo que él tenía una dificultad con el llamado que aparece en la carta “para que algunos  sean invitados a la Conferencia de Lambeth como plenos participantes no siendo claramente miembros de la Comunión, y por el boicot a la Conferencia de Lambeth y otras reuniones de los Instrumentos debido a desacuerdos con algunas de las provincias”.

Añadió que Welby está trabajando con “los miembros de su equipo” para encontrar “una manera de escapar a este dilema”. Sin embargo, el pidió la ayuda del CCA “para evitar un cisma dentro de la Comunión.

Advertencia sobre la economía

Idowu-Fearon dijo que el trabajo de la Oficina de la Comunión Anglicana está económicamente limitado. Más tarde en el día, David White, el director de operaciones de la Comunión, dijo al CCA que la labor bosquejada en un plan estratégico de seis años que los miembros solicitaron en la última reunión en 2016 podía potencialmente al menos duplicar el actual envío anual a la oficina de £2,.0-2,5 millones ($2,6-$3,2 millones).

El Secretario General dijo que “dos provincias mantienen funcionando a esta Oficina de la Comunión Anglicana [así como a nuestros] ministerios dentro de la Comunión”. Él no dijo qué provincias. Su informe escrito decía que esas dos provincias contribuían con el 67 por ciento.

Sin embargo, históricamente, la Iglesia de Inglaterra y la Iglesia Episcopal han sido las dos mayores contribuyentes de lo que se conoce como el Presupuesto Interanglicano. La Convención General ha presupuestado $1.150.000 como su contribución [en el trienio] 2019-2021  (véase la partida 412 aquí). El Secretario General dijo en su informe escrito que el 94 por ciento proviene de 10 provincias.

“Hay provincias que, desde 2011, no han pagado un centavo como parte de su responsabilidad económica con la Comunión”, le dijo Idowu-Fearon al Consejo. Él no nombró a esas provincias.

El Secretario General solicitó el consejo del CCA acerca de qué hacer respecto a esas provincias que “pueden [pagar] pero son económicamente irresponsables”.

Tanto Idowu-Fearon como White dijeron que la oficina de la Comunión comenzará a mirar fuentes de recaudación de fondos más allá de las provincias, tales como Sociedad de la Rosa Náutica de la Comunión Anglicana e instituciones que conceden subvenciones.

“Quiero retar a los miembros de las provincias que no están siendo económicamente responsables. Quiero retarles a que hablen con sus obispos, a que hablen con sus primados respecto a ser económicamente responsables”, afirmó.

El CCA está programado para oír más acerca de finanzas el 4 de mayo y considerar una nueva propuesta para fijar el nivel de compromisos económicos de las provincias.

Después del almuerzo del 29 de abril, los miembros del CCA dedicaron 20 minutos en sus mesas a debatir el informe de Idowu-Fearon. Ellos presentaron resúmenes por escrito de sus reacciones y recomendaciones.

Lea más al respecto

La historia del CCA se encuentra aquí.

La cobertura permanente de ENS al CCA se encuentra aquí.

La cobertura del Servicio de Noticias de la Comunión Anglicana [Anglican Communion News Service] se encuentra aquí.

Se envían mensajes de Twitter a través del hashtag  #ACC17HK.

– La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es redactora sénior y reportera Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri

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Recordando a Rachel Held Evans Obispo Presidente ofrece homenaje

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 10:22am

[6 de mayo de 2019] El siguiente comunicado del Obispo Presidente de La Iglesia Episcopal Michael Curry es un tributo a Rachel Held Evans:

Hoy es un penoso día para nuestra Iglesia y para todos aquellos quienes gracias a Rachel Held Evans encontraron le camino a casa a nuestro Dios amoroso, liberador y vivificante. Ella fue una intrépida buscadora de la verdad y servidora de Jesús, y su testimonio inspirará y sanará a las generaciones venideras. #BecauseofRHE

En tus manos, oh misericordioso Salvador, encomendamos a tu sierva, Raquel. Reconoce, te rogamos humildemente, a una oveja de tu propio redil, a un cordero de tu propio rebaño, a un pecador que tú has redimido. Recíbele en los brazos de tu misericordia … y en la gloriosa compañía de los santos en luz. Amén. #BecauseofRHE

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Bishop of Oregon Michael Hanley announces intention to retire January 2021

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 9:39am

[Diocese of Oregon] Diocese of Oregon Bishop Michael Hanley on May 6 announced his intention to retire in January 2021 and called for the election of his successor.

In a letter to the diocese, Hanley wrote, “My reasons for this are quite simple. First, it is time for me. By the date of my retirement, I will be 66 years old and I will have served as deacon, priest, or bishop for just under 40 years. I feel that God is now calling me to focus [on my family and] being a parishioner in the church.”

Hanley was ordained and consecrated in April 2010 to lead a diocese of 71 congregations and more than 15,000 parishioners. His ministry has included an emphasis on social justice issues, particularly through expanding the diocesan commitment to Latino ministry and his involvement with Bishops United Against Gun Violence. Hanley also serves as part of the Common Table group of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, which seeks to build relationships between religious leaders and provide a united voice of faith on community topics.

The Standing Committee will oversee the process, which is expected to include an electing convention in June 2020. Further details will be published, but the process typically includes the formation of search and transition committees, the creation of a diocesan profile, and a period of nominations before the slate is announced.

Hanley concluded his letter, “Thank you, good people, for your help and support over these past nine years. Thank you for your prayers and, perhaps most of all, thank you for allowing me into your diocesan family. It has been an honor and privilege to serve the church with you. I look forward to the rest of my time with you as your bishop.”

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Phoebe A. Roaf consecrated as fourth bishop of the Diocese of West Tennessee

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 2:30pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry stands with West Tennessee Bishop Phoebe Roaf at Roaf’s consecration May 4. Photo: Diocese of West Tennessee

[Diocese of West Tennessee] The Rev. Phoebe A. Roaf was ordained and consecrated as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of West Tennessee at 11 a.m. May 4 at Hope Church in Memphis.

Roaf became both the first woman and the first African American bishop in the diocese’s 36-year history. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry led the service as chief consecrator. The Rev. Judy Fentress-Williams, professor at Virginia Theological Seminary and assistant pastor at Alfred Street Baptist Church, both in Alexandria, Virginia, was the preacher.

In addition to a 116-voice mass choir made up of choristers from across the diocese, the LeMoyne Owen College Concert Choir performed the Prelude. Following the service, a celebratory reception was held at the church.

On May 5, the newly consecrated bishop was formally welcomed and “seated” at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Memphis.

Roaf was elected at the Diocesan Convention on Nov. 17 on the first ballot. Prior to election, she was the rector of St. Philip’s, the oldest African American church in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, a position she had held since 2011.

Roaf is a lifelong Episcopalian who grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. She received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a Master of Public Administration from Princeton University. She later received a law degree from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, and clerked for a federal judge for two years before practicing law in New Orleans. She attended Virginia Theological Seminary, where she is vice-chair of the Board of Trustees.

Roaf succeeded the Rt. Rev. Don Johnson, who had served as the third bishop of the diocese since 2001.

The Diocese of West Tennessee was established in 1983 and covers all of Tennessee west of the Tennessee River. It has 8,260 active members and an average Sunday attendance of more than 3,000.

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Jonathan Folts elected 11th bishop of South Dakota

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 9:58am

[Diocese of South Dakota] The Diocese of South Dakota elected the Rev. Jonathan H. Folts as its 11th Bishop at its Special Election Convention in Pierre on May 4.

One of four nominees, Folts was elected on the fourth ballot. Folts, the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex, Connecticut, received 40 votes in the clergy order and 103 votes in the lay order. Thirty-eight clergy votes and 96 lay votes were necessary for election on that ballot.

Folts earned his Master of Divinity and his Doctor of Ministry degrees (in Missional Church Development) at Virginia Theological Seminary. He is married to the Rev. Kimberly Folts; they have three children.

“Thank you for your perseverance, thank you for your trust, thank you for being so open to the Holy Spirit,” Folts said in addressing the convention via telephone. “Thank you for your generous invitation to serve Christ with you. I am deeply honored, deeply humbled, deeply grateful – and very, very excited for what lies ahead of us!

“By the grace of God our Creator, steadfastly following in the footsteps of our Savior Jesus Christ, trusting in the full power of the Holy Spirit, and with the help of all the good people of the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota it is with a humble heart that I accept your invitation to serve and lead as your next bishop,” Folts said in his statement after accepting the election. “I pray and firmly believe that God will equip us all with all things necessary to do His will in this beautiful part of God’s kingdom.”

The other nominees were:

  • The Rev. John Floberg, Rector of St. Luke’s, St. James’ and Church of the Cross on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation;
  • The Rev. Mark Story, rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Edmond, Okla.;
  • The Rev. Robert Two Bulls Jr., Missioner of the Department of Indian Work and Multicultural Ministry for The Episcopal Church in Minnesota, and Vicar of All Saints Indian Mission, Minneapolis.

Pending consent of a majority of the church’s bishops with jurisdiction and the diocesan standing committees, Folts will be ordained and consecrated on Nov. 2, with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry as the chief consecrator. Folts will succeed the Rt. Rev. John T. Tarrant, who has served the diocese since 2009 and will retire in July.

Folts, 51, is a life-long Episcopalian who was raised in a clergy family in the Dioceses of West Texas and Northwest Texas.

The Diocese of South Dakota, encompassing 78 congregations, has the largest Native population in the Episcopal Church.

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Anglican Consultative Council elects one of its new youth members to the Standing Committee

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 2:20am

[Anglican Communion News Service] On the final morning  (May 4) of the formal meetings of the 17th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-17) in Hong Kong, three new members have been elected to the Standing Committee including, for the first time, a youth member. The three are, Basetsana Makena, Anglican Church of Southern Africa; Joyce Haji Liundi Anglican Church of Tanzania; and Hosam Elias Naoum, the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Makena was attending her first ACC meeting as one of the new regional Youth Members, representing the continent of Africa.

Read the entire article here.

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Process issues, packed agenda prompts ACC-17 members to call for changes at future meetings

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 1:52am

Anglican Consultative Council members raise their hands in a rare actual vote on a measure. Most resolutions were passed by “general consent” or “general assent,” rather than by a show of hands. Photo: Neil Vigers/Anglican Communion News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Hong Kong] As the Anglican Consultative Council concluded its April 28-May 5 meeting here, many members were saying the group needs to reconsider the structure of its meeting and its resolution process.

Episcopal Church ACC members Oklahoma Bishop Edward J. Konieczny, the Rev. Michael Barlowe and Rosalie Ballentine all said in a May 4 interview with Episcopal News Service at the end of the ACC’s last business session that they wished the agenda had not been so crowded. The previous meeting, ACC-16 in Lusaka, Zambia, lasted 12 days in 2016. This meeting ran eight days.

“It became evident among most everybody here that we want to have space and time to learn and understand one another, and to debate and to listen, and to have all of the emotions that go up and down and beyond,” Konieczny said. “I hope that those who have organized this meeting have heard that.”

Business sessions featured video and live presentations coupled with table discussions that at times that many said felt rushed and difficult for those for whom English was not their first language. Ballentine, who attended ACC-16, said this meeting had “an absolute lack of process”

“We talk about ‘walking together,’ but part of that walking together has to be the opportunity for us to talk together, to hear each other, to listen,” Ballentine said. “You can’t do that if  you don’t create the space for that to happen.”

Barlowe wrote a lengthy Facebook post May 2 about what he called the “the control exercised over the interaction and involvement of Anglican Consultative Council members.” Barlowe, who is The Episcopal Church’s executive officer and secretary of General Convention, runs an office that spends much of it time planning meetings, including General Convention, that are meant to operate within what he called the church’s “commitment to participation and transparency” in governance.

During the group’s contentious debate about sexual identity earlier on May 4 Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby frequently spoke in French and translated texts displayed on the screens in the room into French and asked others to interpret his comments and to translate the texts into Spanish and Swahili. However, those are only three of the many languages spoken by ACC members.

“Much of the disagreement and much of the confusion and the anxiety today was around language,” Konieczny said. Bishops from the global south told him that they did not understand the wording of parts of his resolution. And, they told him that some word choices would convey concepts that would be “extremely difficult and different” in their culture, he said.

Full ENS coverage of the 17th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council is available here.

Thus, Konieczny said, those bishops were reluctant to consider the motion. Their reluctance brought the meeting to a halt as Konieczny, some of those bishops and Welby drafted a compromise amendment which rewrote the resolution. Welby eventually explained the compromise in French, translated the text into French, and asked other members to do so in Spanish and Swahili.

ACC members need more than partial translations or to know enough English to able to figure out what’s going on, Konieczny said. They all need a setting in which they can carefully examine the proposed actions and fully participate in the debate so that the council can hear all points of view, he said.

Barlowe said the difficult debate on the sexual-identity resolution showed the “collapse of control,” adding that “the controlled agenda and everything else actually didn’t do what perhaps was intended, which was to stifle debate and conversation.” Instead, when people had a chance to truly debate an issue, he said, they had things to say but interpretation and translation issues and the lack of previous engagement on the issue “made the situation worse.”

ACC Vice Chair Margaret Swinson told her colleagues at the end the last business session of the meeting it was clear go her that “we need a process review around resolutions.”

She cited two reasons. The first was “for the sanity of the resolutions committee,” which often met while others were doing other things such as eating or on trips to visit parishes in Hong Kong.

Episcopal Church ACC members Oklahoma Bishop Edward J. Konieczny, center, the Rev. Michael Barlowe and Rosalie Ballentine talk during a break May 1 outside the Anglican Consultative Council meeting room at the Gold Coast Hotel in Hong Kong. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The other is the fact that members for whom English is not their first language struggled throughout the meeting from the lack of any formal interpretation or translation services.

There were no official interpreters at the meeting, which was conducted in English. Earlier in the week, Chief Operating Officer David White acknowledged that “for a very large number of people here, English is not your first language.” Many reports and other documents are available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, something that was not true at previous ACC meetings. However, resolutions were available only in English.

White said it would have cost the communion office $10,000-15,000 per person to provide interpretation services to those who needed it, a cost he called “financially impossible.” He said those members were asked to “bring somebody with you and we will deal with translations that way.”

More than once during business sessions, Welby called attention to the fact that, as he put it during one point of order, ACC-17 was “insisting that [members] use English, when either they may not read or understand English, or it’s their second or third or even fourth language.”

Swinson said resolution filing deadlines would need to be earlier to allow for translation. She committed the communion’s Standing Committee, of which she is a member, to review that process.

The council’s rules of order seemed to be fluid at times, with council officers sometimes strictly enforcing announced deadlines and limits on resolution amendments, and at other times offering flexibility. May 4 especially featured debate in the midst of sometimes-changing rules about the admissibility of amendments.

The council did not actually vote on many resolutions or amendments, but rather the members were asked by the chair “Are you content to give your general assent to this resolution?” Sometimes, the term “general consent” was used. The chair did not ask for dissenting voices. The session chair did and could decide to put a motion to a show of hands.

In one instance, the members objected to the chair’s decision that they had consented to a measure, despite an audible number of “no’s.” Konieczny asked for a show of hands and was reminded that the council had been told earlier in the meeting that one-third of the members were required for such a request. More than one-third of the members rose to support his request.

Barlowe said that while The Episcopal Church is not perfect, it tries to “level the playing field through things like rules of order and standard parliamentary procedures.” Such rules can seem boring, he said, but they provide “a way to hear all voices.”

Read more about it

ACC background is here.

ENS coverage of the ACC is here.

The Anglican Communion News Service covered the meeting here.

Tweeting happened with #ACC17HK.

The bulk of the meeting took place at the Gold Coast Hotel, about 45 minutes from central Hong Kong.

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


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New Anglican Communion budget formula has ‘extreme potential impact’ on The Episcopal Church

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 1:34am

Episcopal Church ACC member Rosalie Ballentine of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands asks May 4 for more information about the new formula for calculating provincial contributions to the Inter-Anglican Budget. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Hong Kong] A new formula for setting the level of financial commitments from the Anglican Communion’s provinces approved May 4 by the Anglican Consultative Council has the potential to greatly increases the amount of money expected from The Episcopal Church.

Anglican Communion Chief Operating Officer David White acknowledged that annual formula, based on the number “active bishops” in a province multiplied by their average salary (including housing costs) multiplied by 10 percent produces “the most extreme case of potential impact” for The Episcopal Church.

It would be up to each province to determine the two variables to plug into the formula. The only organization in The Episcopal Church that currently collects bishop and clergy salary information is the Church Pension Fund. It uses that information to calculate annual pension assessments and eventual benefit levels for each clergy participant in the fund. It has traditionally considered that information to be confidential.

Thus, it is impossible run the formula at this point. It was also unclear how the formula would impact the Church of England, which is the largest contributor.

Episcopal Church ACC members Oklahoma Bishop Edward J. Konieczny, the Rev. Michael Barlowe and Rosalie Ballentine voted against the measure when a show-of-hands vote was called for.

Full ENS coverage of the 17th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council is available here.

The decision came during the last business day of the 17th meeting of the ACC, which ran April 28-May 5.

Historically the Church of England (at 41.4 percent of the total income) and The Episcopal Church (at 21.9 percent) have been the two largest contributors to what is known as the Inter-Anglican Budget. General Convention has budgeted $1.15 million as its total 2019-2021 contribution (line 412 here).

White’s budget report says the ACC’s unrestricted spending budget in 2019 is about $2.3 million. “Given the consistent excess of ambition over resources,” the report says the budget needs a 5 percent annual increase in money available for unrestricted spending, as opposed to money contributed for specific programs.

Ballentine told White “when we look at the proposed formula, just by throwing around some quick numbers, there are some of us whose contributions, voluntary or not but based on this proposal, would increase exponentially.”

She asked him for more details about a line in his report that mentions the communion office’s willingness to negotiate during a 2020-23 transition period with provinces whose expected contribution would dramatically increase or decrease.

“It is absolutely the case that there will be discussion,” White said. “I recognize that [this] is the most extreme case of potential impact. It is not the case that in our planning that we have assumed that it is possible for The Episcopal Church to move from the current position based on history to that which might be determined purely by strict application of the formula in the [transition] time period or potentially at all, but it becomes a basis for discussion.”

“The generosity of The Episcopal Church is not in question,” White said, given its budgetary contribution, Episcopalians’ involvement in the of the Compass Rose Society, which which contributes 21 percent of the communion office’s budget and the “additional bits of support that happen across the communion.” There is only the question as to how the formula “can be managed against that context,” he said.

Oklahoma Bishop Edward J. Konieczny, left, talks May 4 with Anglican Communion Chief Operating Officer David White during a break in discussions about the funding formula for the Inter-Anglican Budget. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Combining the $1.15 million budgeted as its total 2019-21 contribution with money for “global mission development” and salaries and travel for church-wide staff who work with partners across the communion, the current triennial budget includes $3.89 million for mission and ministry in the Anglican Communion. The triennial budget does not include the work of Episcopal Relief & Development across the communion. The latest annual report is here.

The Inter-Anglican Budget is heavily dependent on the provinces’ contributions, which account for 73 percent of all unrestricted income. Ten of the communion’s 40 provinces and six extra-provincial churches contribute 94 percent of the income. They are (in percentage order) Church of England; The Episcopal Church; Australia; Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; Canada; Wales; Ireland; Hong Kong; Scotland and Japan.

White’s report said “several” provinces contribute “substantially below the sum requested.” According to a chart in the report, 16 provinces paid nothing in 2018. The non-paying provinces in 2018 were Brazil, Burundi, Central Africa, Central America, Congo, Nigeria, North India, Mexico, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, South East Asia, South India, Tanzania, Uganda and West Africa. Fifteen paid nothing in 2017, 17 in 2016 and 16 in 2015.

The current voluntary contribution has been calculated based on the province’s historical contribution plus annual inflation. White’s report suggests that the number of active bishops in a province is a reasonable indication of its size and that what a province pays its bishops points to its financial strength. The formula would automatically adjust for numerical and economic growth and would automatically adjust for inflation, the report said.

The budget report said total income might increase by 20 percent to 40 percent if the proposed formula was applied and if half of the current non-contributing provinces started to make regular annual contributions.

The communion’s Standing Committee has regularly discussed “introduction of an operational sanction,” White said, and has considered telling those provinces which can afford to contribute but do not that their representatives to ACC meetings and the Primates Meeting would not be reimbursed by the ACC’s budget, as they are now. However, the resolution passed by ACC members does not include that provision.

In a separate resolution, the ACC accepted a six-year strategic plan for the Anglican Communion Office’s work that outlines work that could potentially at least double the office’s current annual spending of £2.0-2.5 million ($2.6-$3.2 million). It says that $6.6 million in spending by 2025 is “a reasonable ambition.”

Read more about it

ACC background is here.

ENS coverage of the ACC is here.

The Anglican Communion News Service covered the meeting here.

Tweeting happened with #ACC17HK.

The bulk of the meeting took place at the Gold Coast Hotel, about 45 minutes from central Hong Kong.

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

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Welby’s Lambeth invite apology smooths way for Anglican Consultative Council to walk together

Sat, 05/04/2019 - 11:55am

Oklahoma Bishop Ed Konieczny is embraced May 4 by Burundian Bishop Eraste Bigirimana, right, and Diocese of Nairobi Bishop Joel Waweru, both of whom opposed a resolution he proposed. Both participated in crafting a compromise that the Anglican Consultative Council unanimously passed. Photo: Paul Feheley/Anglican Communion News Service

[Episcopal News Service — Hong Kong] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, working with others, preserved the unity of the 17th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council on May 4 by apologizing for his 2020 Lambeth Conference decisions about bishops in same-sex relationships and agreeing to renew the communion’s 21-year-old promise to listen to the experiences of LGBTQ people.

“I ask your forgiveness where I made mistakes,” Welby said.

The April 28-May 5 meeting came close to breaking down during the afternoon of its last business day, not over the Lambeth Conference, but over the larger issue of how much the council ought to say about the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life of the church.

The conflict arose via Oklahoma Bishop Ed Konieczny’s resolution calling on the communion’s Standing Committee to gather information about the provinces’ efforts to listen to people “who have been marginalized due to their human sexuality within the church, society and their respective cultures.”

Full ENS coverage of the 17th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council is available here.

The members did not object to that work. However, a number of them refused to accept the resolution’s preamble, which would have reaffirmed “the respect and dignity of persons as Children of God who have been marginalized due to their human sexuality” and state that “they should be fully included in the life of the Anglican Communion.”

The frank but polite debate over the resolution, the intense negotiations that took place during breaks in that debate and the ensuing completely rewritten resolution proved that “in the end, the love of Christ showed through,” Konieczny told Episcopal News Service after the meeting. “We showed that we’re able to have conversation and we’re able to understand one another and that we’re able to compromise.”

“Maybe what little bit of what we did here can be an example for the larger communion and, for those who chose to stay away, that maybe in some way this will help them at least think about coming back.”

Only Nigeria and Uganda did not send members to the ACC-17 meeting. Some bishops have said they will not attend the Lambeth Conference because they object to the theological stances of other bishops and provinces.

The Rev. Michael Barlowe, The Episcopal Church’s clergy member on ACC, called Konieczny’s weeklong effort “courageous.” The Episcopal Church, he said after the meeting, was served well by Konieczny “graciously trying to engage a very controversial subject.”

The entire ACC was gracious during the nearly three hours of debate and negotiation, said Rosalie Ballentine of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands, The Episcopal Church’s lay member.

“It does show that we can disagree in a loving way,” she said. “Some of us in The Episcopal Church sometimes need to learn to step back and realize that it’s really supposed to be about Jesus, about God, about how we walk in faith, as opposed to getting our way. A lot of that was demonstrated today.”

Debating ‘included’ versus ‘welcomed’

The language in the resolution’s preamble touched all the rifts in the communion over sexuality and went too far for some. It got no better when an amendment proposed changing the last clause “they should be fully included in the life of the Anglican Communion” to “they are fully welcomed in the life of the Anglican Communion.”

The members debated the nuances of being “included” or “welcomed,” and whether the understanding of either word changed when translated into other languages.

Konieczny accepted the amendment to move the resolution forward and it passed 38-20, with 17 abstentions.

During the ensuing debate on the resolution, Sudanese Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo said that in his majority-Muslim country “tomorrow the church will be closed” if the ACC agreed to the resolution. “If we pass this resolution, we are sending a very wrong signal” to the church and the world, he said.

Bishop Eraste Bigirimana, from the Burundian Diocese of Bujumbura, said the communion has been divided since Anglicans formally began talking about sexuality at the 1998 Lambeth Conference. The division, he said, comes because not all believe that “the Bible is very clear: fornication is a sin, adultery is a sin, homosexuality is a sin for the Christian.” Bigirimana said “the Bible has to be our reference.”

Diocese of Nairobi Bishop Joel Waweru opposed the resolution because it “sets doctrine,” something the ACC does not do. He said ACC members “have not had any time to discuss issues of human sexuality,” but were now being asked to vote on a resolution about it. And, Waweru argued, the resolution ought to be expanded to include people who have suffered discrimination for any reason.

“As one coming from the global south,” the bishop said he agreed with others who worried that passing the resolution would give fodder to conservative Anglicans, prompting even more of them to boycott the 2020 Lambeth Conference.

Canadian Diocese of Edmonton Bishop Jane Alexander told her colleagues that the ACC resolution simply reminded the church about the yet-unfulfilled commitment the 1998 Lambeth Conference made via Resolution 1.10 to listen to LGBTQ people.

If the ACC cannot reaffirm the respect and dignity of those who have been marginalized due to their human sexuality, she said, “then my heart is broken and we’ve broken our Baptismal Covenant,” and “we didn’t mean a word” of a Code of Conduct, which members passed at the start of the meeting that contains a similar statement.

Near the end of nearly 45-minute debate, Konieczny said he would not support a proposal that was made to delete the entire preamble. He said he worked on the resolution all week and accepted “multiple revisions” because he was conscious of the differences that ACC members represent.

“I’m distressed. My heart is broken. My faith is challenged that” the council cannot affirm the statement made in the week-old Code of Conduct and “that we want to send a message to the world that we will respect you at a distance, but you’re not welcome. This is not the body of Christ in which I belong.”

For the ACC to debate whether anyone was a child of God and welcome in the church “is beyond my understanding,” he said, adding that 50 percent of the geographical areas of the member churches “disenfranchise, incarcerate and execute people who differ in their human sexuality, yet we say nothing.’

“Instead, we’re worried about the politics instead of the people.”

After the members paused to pray, ACC Vice Chair Margaret Swinson ruled that the proposal to delete the preamble “destroys the spirit in which this motion was offered too much” for her to exercise her discretion to allow it to come to a vote.

During the afternoon tea break, an increasingly large group of ACC members gathered around the Archbishop of Canterbury and Oklahoma Bishop Ed Konieczny as they stood below the dais in the council’s meeting room, searching for compromise. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

Welby suggested that the council pause for table group discussion. That pause led into what became a nearly 50-minute “tea break” during which various combinations of members and staff huddled, sometimes joined by Konieczny, trying to craft a compromise. Welby was often at the center. Waweru and Konieczny worked together at one point, Waweru with his hand on Konieczny’s back as he sat and read the final proposal.

With that draft in hand, Swinson asked the members to listen to Welby and decide if they could accept it as a compromise. He reminded the members that the Anglican Communion has fiercely disagreed in the past about contraception, divorce and women’s ordination. “So, we must not panic” about the current chapter in the communion’s the nearly 30-year-old debate about sexual identity.

The archbishop of Canterbury is known as the “focus of unity” for the ACC, Lambeth Conference and the Primates Meeting. In that spirit, Welby said it is his “fault and my responsibility” that certain people are upset because some people were invited to the 2020 Lambeth Conference and others were not.

“It may be that at the end of time, I will understand that I got that wrong, and I will answer for it in one respect or another on the day of judgement,” he said. “Where I handled it badly, which I am sure I did, for one group or another, I want to apologize to you because I have not helped the communion, either for those who are concerned by who was invited or those who are concerned by who was not invited.

“I ask your forgiveness where I made mistakes.”

Diocese of Nairobi Bishop Joel Waweru, standing at left, keeps his hand on Oklahoma Bishop Ed Konieczny’s shoulder as the latter reads the language of a possible compromise that threatened to derail the last business session of ACC-17. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby stands reading at Konieczny’s left, Bishop of Lambeth Tim Thorton is at his right and next to Thornton is Lambeth Palace Assistant Chief of Staff Stephen Knott. ACC Vice Chair Margaret Swinson, at right, talks with ACC legal advisor Darren Oliver while Bishop Anthony Poggo leans over the table. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

The compromise wording, which came to the council as an amendment by Waweru, notes “with concern the pattern of invitations to the Lambeth Conference 2020” and asks Welby to put in place a listening process “with supportive and independent facilitation in order to hear the concerns and voices of people especially those who have felt themselves marginalized with regard to their sexuality.”

Welby must also organize the collection of the work already done in the communion since Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 called for such a process. He is to report to the Standing Committee and ACC-18 in 2022. Lastly, the resolution asks him to report to both groups about “all issues of discrimination” across the communion.

After his apology and explanation of Waweru’s amendment, Welby apologized in French and translated the amendment into French. He asked Diocese of Northern Argentina Nick Drayson to translate both into Spanish and Diocese of Central Tanganyika Bishop Dickson Chilongani to do the same in Swahili. Members for whom English is not their first language have struggled throughout the meeting from the lack of any formal interpretation or translation services.

“Out of respect and love and affection for our archbishop and out of love and affection for our member churches, and especially for my brothers in the global south, and for the unity of the church,” Konieczny said that he was “willing to accept this amendment from my brother, Joel.”

Struggling to speak, he said he wanted his “brother bishops in the south” to know that “we are willing to talk, and walk in unity and love together, and encourage them to come and meet with us.”

Waweru’s amendment passed 83-0 with three abstentions in a straw poll meant to test its strength. Waweru, Chilongani and Bigirimana came to Konieczny to hug him. Konieczny kissed Waweru’s hand as the members began to sing “Bless the Lord, my soul.”

The council formally convened and passed the amended resolution “by general consent.”

The resolution, titled “The dignity of human beings,” says

”The Anglican Consultative Council

  1. notes with concern the pattern of invitations to the Lambeth Conference 2020 and requests that the Archbishop of Canterbury as a focus of unity ensures that a listening process is put in place with supportive and independent facilitation in order to hear the concerns and voices of people especially those who have felt themselves marginalized with regard to sexuality. The Archbishop of Canterbury will also be responsible for compiling all the work done in this area across the Anglican Communion since Lambeth 1998 and reporting to the Standing Committee [of the ACC] and ACC18.
  2. requests the Archbishop of Canterbury to look at all issues of discrimination across the Anglican Communion and make recommendations to the Standing Committee and to report back to ACC18.”

The council later rejected a previously filed resolution that would have asked Welby to consider establishing a theological task group to clarify the core identity and boundaries of the Anglican Communion in the 21st century. Konieczny said he feared the resolution’s actual intent was to create a body with the power to declare “who’s in and who’s out in the Anglican Communion.”

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

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Episcopal delegation represents the church at UN meeting on indigenous issues

Fri, 05/03/2019 - 1:26pm

Lynnaia Main, far right, the Episcopal Church’s representative to the United Nations, poses for a photo with the four-member Episcopal delegation to the 18th United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: from left, Melissa Skinner, Ron Braman, the Rev. Cornelia Eaton and the Rev. Bradley Hauff, Episcopal Church missioner for indigenous ministries. Photo courtesy of Lynnaia Main

[Episcopal News Service] An Episcopal delegation is wrapping up its participation in the annual two-week meeting of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, where for the first time an Episcopal delegate was able to speak on the floor of the main gathering.

Ron Braman from the Diocese of Idaho, one of four Episcopalians representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at U.N. headquarters in New York, read a statement May 1 that he had drafted with the Rev. Bradley Hauff, Episcopal Church missioner for indigenous ministries, and the rest of the delegation.

“The Episcopal Church counts among its 2 million members many indigenous people from over 50 tribal nations in the United States, Honduras, Ecuador and Colombia,” Braman said in his three-minute speech. He also said The Episcopal Church has been at the forefront of efforts to repudiate the centuries-old Doctrine of Discovery that once was used to oppress indigenous people in the name of spreading Christianity.

“The Episcopal Church is engaged in works of reconciliation with indigenous peoples in the United States and throughout the world,” Braman said, and he noted the growing number of Native-language translations of the Book of Common Prayer.

The purpose of the Permanent Forum is to allow indigenous people to provide expert advice to global leaders through the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council, or ECOSOC, and to inform U.N. agencies working on a variety of international issues, from human rights to the environment.

This year, the 18th meeting of the Permanent Forum was held April 22 to May 3. The theme was “Traditional knowledge: Generation, transmission and protection.”

The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer translations are part of global efforts to preserve Native languages, which factor significantly in promotion of traditional knowledge and sustainability of indigenous cultures.

“Words can create and transform reality. Therefore, languages are much more than communication tools; they are tools to transmit culture and history,” U.N. General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés said in her speech on April 22, the Permanent Forum’s opening day. “The indigenous languages are unique knowledge systems to understand the world.”

Lynnaia Main, the Episcopal Church’s representative to the United Nations, called Braman’s speech this week a “historic moment” for The Episcopal Church. As an ECOSOC-accredited nongovernmental organization, the church has submitted statements to the Permanent Forum in 2015, 2016 and 2017, but until now, the Episcopal delegation had not been high enough on the speaker’s list to read its statement directly to the U.N. body.

Ron Braman of the Diocese of Idaho attended nearly the full two weeks of the 18th United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Photo: The Episcopal Church, via Facebook

Hauff, who is Lakota, and Braman, of the Eastern Shoshone tribe, were joined by the Rev. Cornelia Eaton of The Episcopal Church in Navajoland and Melissa Skinner, who is Dakota and an Episcopalian from the Diocese of South Dakota.

Main told the Episcopal News Service in an email that the delegates had a productive time “deepening their knowledge of the interaction between indigenous peoples and the U.N. system” and delving into “the role The Episcopal Church has been playing there since 2012, and brainstorming about various means of representation and advocacy for this year’s forum and beyond.”

Highlights for Skinner included several side events on topics ranging from language revitalization and sacred site desecration to the effects of deforestation and water pollution on indigenous people.

“One of the most interesting sessions was a group from California, how they felt they were losing their language but worked or are working together to bring it back,” Skinner said by email. “They shared that it’s beneficial [and] important to start with our children, our babies, as they’re not only our future but they learn quickly, and it’s easier than adults learning what could be a second language.” It reminded her of a school in South Dakota where 3-year-olds are taught the Lakota language.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was formed by U.N. resolution in 2000 to focus on indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. Its first meeting was held in 2002.

The Episcopal Church has made a deliberate effort in recent decades to welcome Native Episcopalians into fuller participation in the church and to atone for its role in past injustices. In the 1800s, Episcopal missionaries ministered to American Indian tribes, but conversion to Christianity typically required leaving Native spirituality behind.

General Convention resolutions starting at least as far back as the 1970s sought to support Native American land claims and human rights. A 1997 resolution specifically called on the church to “take such steps as necessary to fully recognize and welcome Native Peoples into congregational life.”

And in 2009, General Convention repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, rooted in a 1493 document that purported to give Christian explorers the right to claim lands they “discovered” and convert the people they encountered.

Today, the church works to “promote love, liberation and the giving of life, as experienced within the Jesus Movement, to the indigenous people of the world,” Hauff said in an emailed statement. “This involves acknowledging, repudiating and taking responsibility for the tragic effects of the Doctrine of Discovery on indigenous people. It entails standing with them in their struggle for justice and including them and hearing their voices in the corridors of influence within the church and the world.

“Our work at the United Nations, particularly at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, is a necessary and important part of that.”

– 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 Consultative Council Digest: May 2 and 3

Fri, 05/03/2019 - 11:12am

Members of the Anglican Consultative Council posed May 2 outside their meeting room in the Gold Coast Hotel for a group photo. The ACC is composed of bishops, clergy and laypeople, making it the communion’s most representative body. The Episcopal Church’s ACC members are Oklahoma Bishop Edward J. Konieczny, the Rev. Michael Barlowe and Rosalie Ballentine of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands. (Clicking on the photo will enlarge the view.) Of the 99 members present at the 17th meeting of the ACC, 69 are male and 30 are female. More than half are new members. Fifty-six are ordained and 43 are lay. Of the 56 ordained members, nine are women. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Hong Kong] During the Anglican Consultative Council’s 17th meeting here, a number of things happen. In addition to Episcopal News Service’s other coverage, here are some additional highlights from May 2 and 3.

New ACC youth members pose questions to three bishops

Canadian Diocese of Edmonton Bishop Jane Alexander answers a question May 2 from two of the new youth members of the Anglican Consultative Council while Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Southern Africa Archbishop Thabo Makgoba listen. Youth members Isaac Beach of New Zealand, far left, and Basetsana Makena of South Africa, second from left, posed the questions. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

For the first time this ACC meeting includes eight youth members from five regions across the Anglican Communion. The communion’s standing committee agreed to a request from ACC-16 to allow such membership.

On May 2, youth members Isaac Beach of New Zealand and Basetsana Makena of South Africa conducted a panel discussion with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Southern Africa Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and Canadian Diocese of Edmonton Bishop Jane Alexander, posing questions the two said they distilled from conversations with their other youth colleagues.

Makena led off the session asking if the three were satisfied with the fact that the youth members plus three other young people who serve as province-specific members make up 14 percent of the council.

“We’re a work in progress,” Makgoba said, adding that the church needs to diversify its leadership structure to include more youth and women as well as other minorities and races. Alexander said that, while she was not satisfied with the percentage, “it’s amazing to see the youth delegates participating fully in the life of the ACC … but in terms of us really hearing that voice and that passion, I don’t think we’re there yet.”

Welby cautioned that in the Church of England, and probably elsewhere in the communion, “we think youth involvement in the church means sitting on committees,” while true involvement in the church is about “people going out and changing the world.” He said he is wary of “ending up with a series of quotas which would mean that we have identity politics,” but when the effort to change the world only “looks like we’re going out as a bunch of middle-aged white men, then we need to ask ourselves some serious questions about why we’re neglecting the vast majority of the church.”

However, Welby said, “simply putting people on more committees is necessarily not a good answer to the problem.” What empowers young people is “the liberation of people of all ages in ministry and witness and transformation and activism in the right sense, that is being active in the service of Christ, and of deepening religious life.”

ACC-17 members continue their work on resolutions

Council members passed eight resolutions on May 3 from a current list of 24 resolutions.

The council is not actually voting on resolutions, rather they assent. “Are you content to give your general assent to this resolution?” the chair of each session asks the members and does not ask for dissenting voices.

Those attending ACC-17 were encouraged to wear black on May 2. The Anglican Communion supports the World Council of Churches’ Thursdays in Black campaign. https://www.oikoumene.org/en/get-involved/thursdays-in-black The effort urges people “to declare you are part of the global movement resisting attitudes and practices that permit rape and violence.” The organization notes that “often black has been used with negative racial connotations. In this campaign black is used as a color of resistance and resilience.” Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The nine resolutions agreed to on May 3 were ones:

* calling for continued support of the colleges and universities of the Anglican Communion;

* encouraging networks to improve theological education in the Anglican Communion;

* affirming support of the International Anglican Women’s Network and women’s ministries;

* recognizing that there is a global climate emergency, encouraging member churches to make the Fifth Mark of Mission (To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth) “a living testament to our faith” and encouraging the Lambeth Conference 2020 to be as environmentally sustainable as possible;

* calling for work to develop an Anglican Health Network;

* affirming the work of the Anglican Alliance and encouraging provinces to support it;

* commending the emphasis on intentional discipleship and disciple-making in the Anglican Communion Office’s strategic plan and asking the Mission Department to develop a resource hub “to support and equip the culture change in the communion towards intentional sharing and living a Jesus-shaped life; and

* encouraging member churches to invest in pathways to education and employment for young lay people.

ACC members passed five resolutions on May 1, four dealing with welcoming and commending for study statements from some of the communion’s ecumenical dialogues and one concerning safe-church practices. The actions on May 1 and May 3 leave 11 resolutions for May 4, the last day of business sessions for ACC-17. The meeting ends with local parish visits during the morning of May 5 and a joint closing Eucharist that afternoon.

ACC members pray over ‘public statements’ of concern

On May 3, council members also prayed about each of six so-called “public statements” and then spent time in group prayer for the six together. The statements, which could be submitted by any member, are in Archbishop of Hong Kong and ACC Chair Paul Kwong’s words, “expressions of solidarity for particularly concerning or troubling situations around our communion.” They are not the same as formal resolutions.

Full ENS coverage of the 17th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council is available here.

They included ones which:

* express sorrow for and support of Sri Lankans following the Easter terrorist attacks, and calls on the government, civil society and people of faith to work together to counter any escalating tensions and promote the safety of all citizens of and visitors to Sri Lanka;

* encourage Anglicans to pray for the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution on the Conflict in South Sudan; for forgiveness, reconciliation and peaceful co-existence among the South Sudanese people, and for support for relief and rehabilitation for internally displaced persons and refugees;

* declares solidarity with the Sudanese people, calls for a peaceful transition to civilian democratic government and the protection of religious freedom especially for the Christian community, urges the international community to support refugees and internally displaced people and their communities, and asks Anglicans to pray for peace and the empowerment of the vulnerable;

* support peace on the Korean peninsula;

* laments continuing tensions between Pakistan and India, gives thanks that hostilities between the countries were de-escalated in February, implores all of both nations to pursue peace and encourages the growth of mutuality and trust in the body of Christ for the Christian churches in each country; and

* laments the natural and humanitarian disaster caused by Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, calls Anglicans to send messages of solidarity to the people of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe and to offer practical support through the appropriate relief agencies.

Council voting on standing committee members

The primates on the communion’s Standing Committee are, left to right, Archbishop Philip Freier (The Anglican Church of Australia), Archbishop Paul Kwong (ACC chair, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui), Archbishop Thabo Makgoba (The Anglican Church of Southern Africa), Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Archbishop Julio Murray Thompson (The Anglican Church in Central America), Archbishop Suheil Dawani (The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & The Middle East) and Archbishop Richard Clarke (The Church of Ireland). Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The ACC voted May 3 from among seven nominees for three open seats on the communion’s 15-member Standing Committee.

The council used a secret ballot ranked-voting method in which each member ranked the candidates in order of choice. The nominees were the Rev. Inamar Correa de Souza (The Episcopal Church of Brazil), Joyce Haji Liundi (The Anglican Church of Tanzania), Basetsana Makena (The Anglican Church of South Africa), the Very Rev. Hosam Naoum (The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East), Carlos Romero (Anglican Church of Chile), the Archbishop Prem Chand Singh (The Church of North India) and Fe’iloakitau Kaho Tevi (The Anglican Church Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia).

As the voting process was about to be explained, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby raised a point of order, noting that the fact that materials about the nominees, the process and the ballot were in English, thus “insisting that [members] use English when either they may not read or understand English, or it’s their second or third or even fourth language.”

“Thank you, Your Grace,” responded Darren Oliver, the ACC’s legal adviser, suggesting that the council pause after his explanation of the process so that those who need it can have a “more detailed explanation or translation, if necessary.”

There are no official interpreters at the meeting, which is being conducted in English. Earlier in the week, Chief Operating Officer David White acknowledged that “for a very large number of people here, English is not your first language.” Most documents are available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, something that was not true at ACC meetings in the past.

However, White said, it would have cost the communion office $10,000-15,000 per person to provide interpretation services to those who need it. “We wanted to be able to offer translation service for everybody who needed a certain language translation in order to better understand our business,” he said. “The reality is there are so relatively few of you who have told us that you are not able to follow the meeting that that became financially impossible.”

White said those members were asked to “bring somebody with you and we will deal with translations that way.”

The election results will be announced the morning of May 4, ACC-17’s last business day.

The current ACC members on the Standing Committee are Archbishop Paul Kwong (ACC chair, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui), Maggie Swinson (ACC vice chair, The Church of England), Bishop Jane Alexander (Anglican Church of Canada), Alistair Dinnie (The Scottish Episcopal Church), Jeroham Melendez (The Anglican Church in Central America) and Bishop Joel Waweru (The Anglican Church of Kenya).

Five primates are elected by their peers to sit on the Standing Committee: Archbishop Richard Clarke (The Church of Ireland), Archbishop Suheil Dawani (The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & The Middle East) Archbishop Philip Freier (The Anglican Church of Australia), Archbishop Thabo Makgoba (The Anglican Church of Southern Africa) and Archbishop Julio Murray Thompson (Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America). Welby is also a member.

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

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Q &A with Justin Welby: Trump, Brexit, China, colonialism, prayer

Thu, 05/02/2019 - 6:43pm

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby spent about 70 minutes the evening of May 1, the fourth day of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong, answering questions from ACC members and staff. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Hong Kong] During an evening Q&A session here May 1, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby gave his thoughts on a wide range of issues, including President Donald Trump, Brexit, the Anglican church’s colonial legacy, the efficacy of being a leader of the United Kingdom’s established church, the future of the church, his recent visit to China and his prayer life.

He also addressed his decision to exclude the same-sex spouses of bishops invited to the 2020 Lambeth Conference, the second time he has done so since arriving here for the 17th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. Episcopal News Service’s coverage of that part of the session is here.

The 70-minute session was on the record. However, reporters were prohibited from attributing questions to the askers. What follows is an edited collection of Welby’s replies to some of those questions.

Question: How can President Donald Trump enforce a harsh immigration policy and then go to St John’s Lafayette Square, an Episcopal church near the White House, and “we welcome him as if nothing has happened?”

“I’m very careful about trespassing on other countries, but I think as Christians we have an absolute obligation to speak for justice, but we also have an obligation to speak for justice in a way that people can hear. And that is much more complicated.”

Welby said he knows that often at St. John’s “the priests are very direct in their preaching because there’s been comment on it.”

“Jesus came to bring sinners to repentance and there’s not one of us that isn’t a sinner, all of us. I do things as the archbishop of Canterbury that I wake up in the middle of the night doubled up in pain at the thought that I did that thing because I’m so ashamed.”

“I don’t know President Trump at all. I know he’s the president of the United States of America and because I respect the United States of America, I respect the presidency. If I were to say anything [to him], which I will never have the opportunity to do, I would say it to his face, not behind his back.”

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and stewardship of creation, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry belt out the Lord’s Prayer in front of the White House on May 24, 2018. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Welby said he knows that The Episcopal Church has spoken strongly and frequently about the administration’s policies. He was “hugely impressed” by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s participation in a vigil outside the White House in May 2018 just a few days after he preached at the royal wedding (where, Welby noted, Curry’s “incredible sermon” ran 13 minutes and 10 seconds, “which I understand is seven Curry minutes”).

Welby recalled an interview in which Curry said of Trump, “He’s my president and I pray for him every day.”

“That’s what I would say: pray, respect the office and be clear about the nature of what is justice. Let’s not descend into ad hominem, personalized attacks. I think that’s where it goes wrong because we demean them, but we don’t like to be demeaned ourselves. ”

Question: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an established church? Do you see a time when the Church of England will be disestablished?

“I am not a politician, but I am enough of a politician to know that you never say never.”

“What are the advantages? I think we would notice it if we weren’t established in terms of less ability to speak clearly in the public square. We do have a huge right to speak in the public square in the U.K.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby Photo: Neil Vigers/Anglican Communion

The disadvantage is “we have duties and obligations. We’re seen as the umbrella for all churches and all faiths, in other words, we’re expected to speak for those of faith, as well as those of Christian faith, and that’s sometimes complicated. It sometimes constrains us, but I think it constrains us very helpfully because it calls us to think very, very hard.”

“It’s not that it constrains us to be pro-government,” Welby said, noting that the bishops who sit in the House of Lords, which includes himself, tend to “vote three times against the government for every time they vote for it.”

“We are people through whom things are done. We educate a million children in state-run schools that are operated by the church under the local parish. I think the balance is that it’s good for us and I really think that it’s very good for the country because it says human beings are more than merely material. It says that the constitution recognizes that we are under God.

“The first thing that the queen did at her coronation in 1952 was walk straight past her throne up to the high altar of Westminster Abbey, kneel and pray silently. Then she went back to the throne, sat down and received homage from the political leaders of the country. She paid her homage to God and then people paid homage to her.”

Question: Can you share with us your role and your vision about the indigenous church and the legacy of colonialism?

“There is a very long history of colonialism” in his family, Welby said, explaining that on his mother’s side, he was the first to be born in the England rather than India since the end of the 18th century. He was raised by his grandmother, who was born in India in 1906 and who “shaped my vision.” She favored India’s independence and she told him she was the only English woman willing to nurse Indian troops with dysentery on the Burma Front during World War II.

Full ENS coverage of the 17th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council is available here.

“I was brought up with this attitude that colonialism was bad. That although there were good people in the empire who sought to serve … the principle of imperialism, of colonialism, was deeply wicked. When you come to the Anglican Communion, it seems to me that we have to recognize that it is inherited from the colonial legacy.

“That is why I am so keen on saying we are a family of churches and the archbishop of Canterbury  is the first among equals – among equals. I would hope that sooner rather than later it is possible for people outside the British Isles to be archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a long and complicated process and there’s no point in rushing these things. It’s very dangerous to do that.

“My vision is that, more and more, we become an effective, equal family of churches in which the imperial legacy is only history and a sad history at that.”

Question: What are your thoughts about Brexit?

“Is the press listening? Are you kidding me?” Welby began.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby Photo: Neil Vigers/Anglican Communion

He is “ashamed” that he “didn’t listen well enough” and so assumed the vote would go the other way. “We didn’t listen carefully enough,” he said. “So, I’ve become much more cautious in trying to listen harder to the cries of pain from the poor and marginalized, and those shut out.”

“The vote has been taken and I think we have to listen to the vote,” but the issue of establishing a hard border between the Republic of Ireland, which was not part of the vote, and Northern Ireland, which was but did not favor exiting the European Union must be addressed.

“We have to have reconciliation … and that’s going to be unbelievable difficult. How as yet, I don’t think anyone knows. I sit in Parliament and I listen to MPs (members of Parliament) at all levels. I find members of Parliament in the most profound emotional distress. We’re asking them to make the most difficult decision that any British Parliament has had to make since probably during [the Great Labor Unrest of 1910-1914 ]. We need to pray for them and love them and support them because a lot of them are being pushed to the very of endurance.

“I’m not naïve [about the Ireland border issue] and I don’t see a way forward at the moment but in a sense, it’s not my job. Our job is to be those who make peace.”

Question: What is your personal discipline of prayer?

“I got into trouble the last time I answered that,” Welby replied, referring to an interview he gave in January in which he said he prayed in tongues every day.

Sister Patricia Sibusisiwe, of the ACC-17 Chaplain Team and a member of the Community of the Holy Name in South Africa, asks Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby a question during the May 1 session. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“I’m an early riser and I spend it with Scriptures, and in meditative prayer with the Scriptures. I work though the Bible steadily and systematically, always with an up-to-date commentary, often with one I disagree with because it really matters that it provokes you into thinking.”

“Then I go for a run and I use that for a very systematic time of intercession,” beginning with confession and then prayer for family, colleagues at Lambeth Palace, the Church of England, the upcoming Lambeth Conference, those who lead the congregations and diocese he used to lead, and the five people he has committed to pray for via the Thy Kingdom Come effort.

“I intersperse each section with praise because my spiritual director taught me to do that, expressions of love and praise for God.”

“And then finally I pray for myself. I spend time in between each section telling Jesus, ‘Thank you and I love you.’ And sometimes it goes well and sometimes it goes badly, but it’s what I do.”

He attends both Morning Prayer, daily Eucharist and Evening Prayer. He also tries to have 45 minutes of “silent prayer before the Sacrament” and often prays Compline.

“It’s pretty undramatic.”

“And I’m learning when I wake in the night, to pray.”

Question: Why did you visit the People’s Republic of China for a second time just before this ACC meeting?

“It’s 1.2 billion people. It’s very soon going to have the world’s largest economy. It’s rapidly becoming one of the world’s great military powers. It is a great civilization with profound intelligence within it and thoughtfulness and creativity, and a million other things that are good. Historically, it has only been for the last 150 years that it has not been the world’s greatest economy.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby Photo: Neil Vigers/Anglican Communion

“It has a huge church. The official, registered Protestant church is about 35 million people, according to the [government] minister who I saw last week. The official Catholic Church is, I think about 20 [million people] and there are loads of arguments about the unregistered, the underground church, but from what I hear it could more or less double those figures.”

“Christianity is good for China. It brings stability. It brings harmony, peace, the love of those who are vulnerable, particularly the elderly. And Christianity has to have a Chinese face.”

The Christian church has grown since 1951 when the Protestant churches were officially combined and membership numbered about one million, Welby said. “And they’ve done that through difficulties and the Cultural Revolution [1966-76] and all kinds of things. We have so much to learn. They’re our sisters and brothers in Christ.”

“Don’t just leave it to the big international traders and commerce companies to be interested in China. Of all the dumb things to do, that is about the dumbest thing I can think of. We want to bless China.”

“Let’s work with Chinese Christians to exchange ideas. I think we have some things to contribute in terms of training for clergy and laity… I think we could learn from them this passion for Christ in great simplicity. I think we learn from them how to be a blessing to the country you’re in. I’m utterly gripped and fascinated by that country.”

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

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Archbishop of Canterbury visits social justice ministry while in Hong Kong for ACC-17

Thu, 05/02/2019 - 2:50pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] While in Hong Kong for the 17th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby took a break May 1 to see discipleship in action by meeting with Jackie Pullinger at the Shing Mun Springs Multi-Purpose Rehabilitation Homes.

Pullinger travelled from England to Hong Kong more than 50 years ago and initially began work as a school teacher in the Kowloon Walled City. At that time in the 1960s, it was one of the world’s largest opium-producing centers and was run by criminal triad gangs. In 1967, Jackie founded a youth club to help addicts and others who had been abused find a safe place for them to meet and play. Over many years, it grew it into a major social justice ministry and is overseen by the St. Stephen’s Society.

Read the full article here.

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Alabamians, Episcopalians battle it out over gumbo

Thu, 05/02/2019 - 2:05pm

Toni North and the Birmingham Soul Sisters won the 2018 Chef’s Choice Seafood Award at the 2018 Gumbo Gala, the biggest Episcopal event in Alabama. Photo: Sara Walker

[Episcopal News Service] After Hurricane Katrina disrupted people’s lives across the Gulf Coast, inland cities welcomed the displaced and strangers offered shelter and services. For some evacuees to Birmingham, the hospitality became permanent, and the influx led to a hugely successful Episcopal fundraising event celebrating the distinctive comfort food called gumbo.

At least 3,000 partiers are expected May 4 for the Gumbo Gala, now in its 14th year as the largest Episcopal event in Alabama. The Gumbo Gala annually raises $100,000 for Episcopal Place, which provides 141 units of affordable housing and independent living in Birmingham for seniors and adults with disabilities.

According to Episcopal Place’s history, a “mustard seed” started all this in the 1970s when an elderly Episcopalian wrote to then-Bishop Furman Stough about being no longer able to live by herself and with no place to go. The gumbo competition that started in the wake of Katrina today enables Episcopal Place to care for older adults with fixed or limited incomes who cannot afford rising apartment rents or maintain a home.

Holy Apostles Episcopal Church vied for the Most Divine Gumbo trophy and the Spirit Award at the 2018 Gumbo Gala. Photo: Sara Walker

Get the dog!

In August 2005 as Hurricane Katrina approached the Mississippi coast, Lynnes Thompson told his wife Linda, “Get the dog! We’re gone.” The storm destroyed their home as the couple headed to family in Birmingham, 350 miles northeast of New Orleans.

Because Linda Thompson has chronic health issues, the couple needed somewhere stable near medical facilities, like Episcopal Place. Within a month, they and their dog moved in, as did three other couples from Katrina’s path.

“For these survivors, initially it was about shelter and food, then it was dealing with emotional and mental health issues,” recalled Episcopal Place social worker Shannon Atchenson. “One couple had lost a dog. There was some depression and anxiety. We wanted to give residents a sense of belonging, because when you’ve lost your home, that’s important.”

Residents don’t have to pay for supportive services like transportation, food delivery and pet care; those are covered by donations to the Episcopal Church Foundation and volunteers. With need rising in the hurricane aftermath, Episcopal Place knew “we weren’t going to get support from the government for the Katrina people or for anyone,” Atchenson said.

Meanwhile, as a way of settling in, Lynnes Thompson, a Baptist, began a nondenominational Bible study at Episcopal Place.

“Episcopal Place has done more than their part for all of us,” said Lynnes Thompson, now 78. “It’s quite expensive to operate a place like this that’s so good.”

Food prep at the 2018 Gumbo Gala, the biggest Episcopal event in Alabama. Photo: Sara Walker

Rising water, changing direction

A year before Katrina, Hurricane Ivan had flooded Episcopal Place. Staff sent out an SOS, and Episcopal Place’s activities and volunteer coordinator Amanda Ward recruited her classmate Matt Ennis. The power was out at his corporate job, so he didn’t mind wet vacuuming the flood water at Episcopal Place.

Volunteering that day made him realize that he wanted to work closer with people in need. The next day Ennis quit his job; and was a volunteer supporting Ward’s fundraising efforts at Episcopal Place when Katrina hit.

“Amanda and I had seen how a chili cook-off was a good business model, because you charge people to cook and to eat,” said Ennis, a member of All Saints. “We had these new residents from Hurricane Katrina, so how about gumbo?”

Despite running out of the main attraction, the first Gumbo Gala raised almost $10,000 for Episcopal Place, with jazz and a second line parade that celebrated the Gulf Coast evacuees. Over time, it created even more community pride as Episcopal Place residents competed with their own gumbos, and felt supported by their Birmingham neighbors.

Ennis married Ward in 2007, built a nonprofit fundraising firm and every year gathers their two kids and assorted relatives and friends to compete in the Gumbo Gala. His stinky secret to prize-winning gumbo is the rich seafood broth he prepares in advance with discarded fish scraps from a seafood market.

“Call it a progressive mindset or a sense of social justice, but when Episcopalians get an opportunity like this to help, they just do it,” said Ennis.

The Wednesday Morning Sinners team from All Saints’ Episcopal Church has competed in all 14 years of the Gumbo Gala, the biggest Episcopal event in Alabama. Photo: Sara Walker

Easy to rue/ruin the roux

Early on, St. Luke’s and St. Mary’s were the church teams to beat in the quest for the Most Divine Gumbo, which is determined by the palate of Alabama Bishop Kee Sloan and two local priests. Church of the Ascension called its team the Gumbo Filers, a nod to filé, the powdered sassafras originally used by Native Americans that gives gumbo its flavor. One of the church’s members, Nancy Sharp, lives at Episcopal Place and competes on the team.

The Gumbo Filers twice have won the first-place trophy (an engraved golden stockpot) behind the leadership of professional chef John Wilson, who first tasted gumbo while apprenticing in New Orleans.

“It’s so hard to describe gumbo because it’s an entity unto itself,” he said. “You have to be in the South and taste a lot of gumbo to understand. Everyone makes it their own way and it’s all wildly different. It’s so complex that you need the first few spoonfuls to try to appreciate what’s going on.”

Originally from Boston, Wilson maintains that the heart and soul of any decent gumbo is the roux (pronounced “rue”), a thickener of flour and fat that originated in French cooking. At least one Gumbo Filer will keep a constant eye on the roux. “It needs to be a deep dark color, like roasted chestnuts,” Wilson said. “If you can get it to that point without burning it, you are going to have a good gumbo.”

To the roux, his team will add broth, meat (this year it’s smoked duck) and locally-grown vegetables diced the day before. Their competition entry is 15 to 20 gallons, some of this and some of that, making a sum that is greater than its parts. For Wilson, the multiplying effect (more fish focused, less on loaves) reflects Episcopal outreach.

“Gumbo is typical of what we do and who we are: We help people in need,” Wilson said. “Cooking is what I do, so that’s what I contribute.”

The Rev. Katy Smith Katy Smith (center) volunteers at the 2018 Gumbo Gala, the biggest Episcopal event in Alabama. Photo: Sara Walker

These pit crews tend fires, not change tires 

Competitive cooking for charity draws well in the South, especially in the months between college football seasons. While only the churches compete for the Most Divine Gumbo prize, the Gumbo Gala has divisions for professional chefs, amateur cooks and student teams.

Wilson directs the culinary arts program at nearby Wallace State Community College, which sends a team of chefs-in-training to compete in the Gumbo Gala’s student competition. So will their rival, Jefferson State Community College.

“I think we have an edge on them because I’ve won this a couple of times and know what the judges are looking for,” Wilson said. “It’s about layers of flavor and how you’ve put that together. The judges are pretty experienced professionals with good palates, and they can taste those layers.”

Members of the Dodd Squad Gumbo Cooking Team, representing the Dodd Law Firm, compete in the 2018 Gumbo Gala, the biggest Episcopal event in Alabama. Photo: Sara Walker

This year, 15 churches will compete in a field of 35 to 40 teams. All Saints’ Episcopal Church will send two teams: the Young Adults and the Wednesday Morning Sinners, a team of retired men who have competed in every Gumbo Gala, a 14-year streak. A newcomer in the professional division is Bright Star, in operation since 1907 as Alabama’s oldest restaurant (its seafood gumbo sells for $4.75 a cup and $6.75 a bowl).

“Despite all of the spirited debates and hoopla of which gumbo is best, one thing is for sure: this delicious comfort food that calls Southerners back home is made up of many different ingredients that all arrive from many different places, much like Episcopal Place and the Church,” Whitehurst said.

“Each ingredient is wonderful on its own and when they all come together to make gumbo, something magical happens. In that regard, we are proud Episcopalians who come from many backgrounds, with many ideas and understandings of God’s word. Gumbo Gala started 14 years ago with a mission, much like Episcopal Place. Mission begins with the breath of God, and it is through helping others that we experience his boundless love.”

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

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