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Worshipers separated by culture, language find common ground at Alabama church

Episcopal News Service - Thu, 10/24/2019 - 12:19pm

Gabriel Rosales stands to read one of the scriptural lessons during the Spanish-language service Oct. 20 at All Saints Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Montgomery, Alabama] Shirley Fifield, 88, has attended services at All Saints Episcopal Church in Montgomery since 1973. A widow whose family roots are in Wisconsin, she attends the Sunday morning Eucharist at All Saints, and she speaks only English.

Gabriel Rosales, 25, and his wife, Rosalba Barrera, 19, are fluent in three languages, including Spanish and an indigenous Mexican language known as Mixtec. They began attending the Sunday afternoon Spanish-language service at All Saints about six months ago and since then have had two of their children baptized here.

All Saints has “gone through lots of transformations” over the years, Fifield said, mentioning long-ago renovations and additions to the modest church building located about 10 minutes west of downtown. The biggest transformation, though, may be the one now underway as two small Episcopal communities, separated by language and culture, find common ground and opportunities to share their faith with each other.

An informal blending of the English-language and Spanish-language communities takes place during the hospitality hour between the two services, and church leaders are discussing ways of encouraging further interaction with help from a $14,450 grant from The Episcopal Church’s United Thank Offering program, or UTO.

The Rev. Pamela Long serves as deacon for Todos Santos, a growing Spanish-language worshiping community that gathers every Sunday afternoon at All Saints Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The English-language congregation at All Saints is primarily older adults, and attendance of about 25 is typical at the 10:30 a.m. Sunday services led by the Rev. David Peeples, priest-in-charge. The Spanish-language worshiping community is called Todos Santos, “All Saints” in Spanish, and its 12:30 p.m. Sunday services are led by the Rev. Pamela Long, a Spanish professor at Montgomery’s Auburn University who recently was ordained a deacon. Turnout for a baptism can top 100 people, Long said, but typical attendance usually mirrors the English-language services, about 25.

All Saints parishioners welcomed warmly the Todos Santos families.

“They were so excited to have children in the building again,” Long said. “They were just overjoyed.”

Rosales said he and his family felt a connection to the church. “When I come here, I feel like home,” he said. He and Barrera attended the Oct. 20 afternoon service with Rosales’ parents and sisters, all from Mexico.

Long has been involved in this evolving ministry for more than a decade, starting when she was a parishioner at another congregation, Church of the Ascension just south of downtown Montgomery.

In 2006, the diocese’s missioner for Latino outreach, a priest from Colombia, began visiting Ascension once a month to lead an afternoon service in Spanish, and after he left the diocese to return to Colombia, Long filled in as a lay leader for those monthly services.

One Sunday in September 2016 proved to be a turning point. A couple Latino families had asked for their children to be baptized, 12 in all, and the ceremony was scheduled at one of Ascension’s English-language services. About 150 relatives came, Long said, which took the Ascension congregation by surprise.

Many of those Latino families continued to attend Ascension after the baptisms, Long said, but the clash of cultures was too difficult for the congregation there to navigate. She discussed the future of this Latino ministry with Alabama Bishop Kee Sloan, and he connected her with church leaders at All Saints, which had tried unsuccessfully to create its own Latino ministries.

“There is a real need for that, for the church to reach out to Spanish-speaking people,” Sloan told Episcopal News Service during his visit Oct. 18 with The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, which held its fall meeting in Montgomery. He lauded All Saints as “a joyful congregation.”

In January 2019, the Latino families that had attended Ascension joined Long in an inaugural Spanish-language service at All Saints, claiming it as their new spiritual home.

“It came at a time for our parish when we were wondering what does the future hold for us,” said Peeples, who serves All Saints part time and also works as a hospice chaplain. His congregation was not growing on its own, so it was open to trying something new.

Shirley Fifield, right, speaks with a fellow parishioner after the morning service Oct. 20 at All Saints Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

All Saints and Todos Santos are separate worshiping communities, but they are finding ways to engage with each other. Fifield, while struggling with the language barrier, said she thinks with time it will become easier for the two groups to communicate. On Oct. 20, she struck up a brief conversation at the hospitality hour with a couple and their daughter who had arrived early for the Spanish-language service.

Peeples and Long also said the two groups came together in a big way for a joint Easter service this year that was followed by an outdoor church picnic. “That was the best Easter ever,” Long said. Another joint service is planned around All Saints Day.

The UTO grant is intended to enhance the worship space during the Todos Santos services and make the church more welcoming for Latino families. The English-language service is typically accompanied by an organist or pianist, and Long would like to purchase other instruments for a Spanish-language praise band. Some of the money also will be used to purchase icons, or paintings of Jesus, Mary and other saints, that can be placed at the altar for the afternoon service and then removed.

“Latinos are very serious about the cloud of witnesses. They want to feel the saints in their worship,” Long said.

After the 10:30 a.m. service on Oct. 20, Gwen Moore, an All Saints vestry member, helped set up treats for the hospitality hour on the table in a gathering area near the church’s entrance. Moore has been attending All Saints about five years. She prefers smaller community churches like this and thinks the addition of Todos Santos has potential to “get the life back” in the church she has grown to love.

“It became a blessing when this door opened for us,” Moore said.

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

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Oklahoma diocese updates bishop election slate

Episcopal News Service - Wed, 10/23/2019 - 5:02pm

[Diocese of Oklahoma] The Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma received notification Oct. 23 from the Rev. Greg Methvin, that he was withdrawing as a nominee for bishop of Oklahoma for personal and professional reasons. The Diocese of Oklahoma expresses its thanks to the Rev. Methvin for his willingness to participate in our election process.

The election of the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Oklahoma will go forward with the two nominees, the Rev. Scott Gunn and the Rev. Poulson Reed. The election is scheduled for Dec. 14 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City. The consecration of the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Oklahoma is scheduled for Saturday, April 18, 2020, at the Oklahoma City University.

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Washington, Houston cathedrals strike up World Series wager in Twitter showdown

Episcopal News Service - Wed, 10/23/2019 - 3:57pm

[Episcopal News Service] It turns out the World Series isn’t just a competition between two baseball teams or two cities. This year, it’s also a battle between two Episcopal cathedrals.

As the Washington Nationals make their first World Series appearance against the 2017 champion Houston Astros, the dean of Houston’s Christ Church Cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of Texas, issued a “friendly wager” to his counterpart at Washington National Cathedral in D.C.

“We think you’re gonna lose the World Series,” the Very Rev. Barkley Thompson said in a Twitter video on Oct. 22. “And here’s the bet: Whoever loses has to wear the other team’s gear at a Sunday morning service in church.”

Dean @BarkleyThompson knows that actions speak louder than words. That’s why he’s challenging Dean @Rhollerith at the @WNCathedral to a friendly wager for the @astros and @Nationals @MLB World Series. Your move, D.C.! pic.twitter.com/AYW5ZwpMVi

— Christ Church (@cccathedraltx) October 22, 2019

The rivalry started when Washington National Cathedral posted photos of its famous gargoyles and statues wearing Nationals hats, using the hashtag #GodHasFavorites:

Everyone at @WNCathedral is root root rooting for the home team! @Nationals #STAYINTHEFIGHT #Natitude #GodHasFavorites pic.twitter.com/uuXDsfhYiH

— Washington National Cathedral (@WNCathedral) October 21, 2019

“To those of us in Texas, those are fighting words,” Thompson said in response, noting that Christ Church Cathedral is five blocks from Minute Maid Park, where the Astros play. “Good luck, Nationals. We think you’ll need it. Go Astros, and play ball!”

The Very Rev. Randy Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, eagerly accepted the bet.

So @cccathedraltx has a wager that the @astros can beat the @nationals.

Bring it, Houston, says Dean @RHollerith to Dean @BarkleyThompson. #WSCathedralChallenge@AstroDoughnuts pic.twitter.com/25McLzlyqy

— Washington National Cathedral (@WNCathedral) October 23, 2019

“Bring it on, Houston,” Hollerith replied on Twitter on Oct. 23, after the Nationals won the first game of the series.

“Great game last night! We’re off to a good start – at least, that’s how we think here in Washington,” Hollerith said in his own Twitter video.

The National Cathedral has doubled down on its support for its home team, even posting a video of its organists playing “Baby Shark” – the inescapable children’s song that has inexplicably become the unofficial anthem of the Nationals – on the cathedral’s majestic organ:

Everyone at @WNCathedral is rooting for the @Nationals — even all 10.647 pipes of the organ! @88_gparra #Natitude #WorldSeries #babyshark pic.twitter.com/8vgwJtQIoB

— Washington National Cathedral (@WNCathedral) October 22, 2019

The cathedral has previously posted videos of its children’s choir singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”:

.@WNCathedral is officially changing its name to Washington Nationals Cathedral. #Natitude Go @Nationals! pic.twitter.com/RBA5OoV2ar

— Washington National Cathedral (@WNCathedral) October 3, 2019

And the same song being played on its bells:

In Hollerith’s video responding to Thompson’s wager, he opened a box of Astro Doughnuts – a D.C. favorite – to reveal a dozen donuts with baby sharks in the middle.

If God really does have a favorite, perhaps that will become clearer when the teams face off for Game 2 on Oct. 23 in Houston.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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West Virginia Bishop Klusmeyer calls for election of coadjutor, taking step toward retiring

Episcopal News Service - Tue, 10/22/2019 - 1:36pm

[Diocese of West Virginia] The Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer, seventh bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, called for the election of a bishop coadjutor for his diocese. This formally begins a search process to identify and to elect the person who will become the eighth bishop of The Episcopal Church in the Mountain State.

Klusmeyer made the announcement over the weekend during the diocese’s 142nd Annual Convention at Olgebay Resort and Conference Center in Wheeling, which was the first home to the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia before it relocated to Charleston. Although Klusmeyer has not set a date for his retirement, the search process begins after a search committee is formed by the Diocesan Standing Committee. This approach allows for a smooth transition from the bishop to his successor.

Klusmeyer ended the announcement by expressing his appreciation to his diocese, where he became bishop on Oct. 13, 2001. “This diocese has changed my life,” he said. “This has been a blessing to me. You have brought joy and grace to my life.”

By canons of The Episcopal Church, once the bishop coadjutor is consecrated, tentatively planned for June 2021, Klusmeyer can remain for three additional years or elect to retire earlier.

The Episcopal Church in West Virginia is more than 8,000 members strong. The first church in present-day West Virginia was established as a log structure that became known as Morgan Chapel near Bunker Hill in 1740. Today, there are 63 congregations in the state.

To learn more about The Episcopal Church or the convention, visit wvdiocese.org.

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RIP: Ann Kelly Allin, wife of former Presiding Bishop John Allin

Episcopal News Service - Tue, 10/22/2019 - 12:38pm

Ann Kelly Allin, 93, wife of the Rt. Rev. John (Jack) Maury Allin Sr.; daughter of Thaddeus Robertson Kelly Sr. and Ariadne Wood Kelly; sister of the late Thaddeus Robertson Kelly Jr. and Martha Kelly Lambert; sister-in-law of Carol Allin and the late Richard Allin; and mother of Marcie Skelton (Bill), John Maury Allin Jr. (Betty), Kelly Butler (Thorne), and Fran Hazel (Mark), died on Oct. 19, 2019, at St. Catherine’s Village in Madison, Mississippi.

Born in Helena, Arkansas, Ann Allin lived a happy and fulfilled life.  The small town memories she savored were uncomplicated days of church camp at Petit Jean, church choir at St. John’s, and Christmas dances with her Jack.  For all of her adult life, Ann was steadfast in her service to the wider Episcopal Church family. Prior to Jack’s tenure as the 23rd presiding bishop, his “Lady Ann” supported him across the southern dioceses of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.  Retirement brought seasonal parish life in Jupiter Island, Florida and St. Ann’s Kennebunkport, Maine.

“Big Ann,” who was about as big as a minute, is grandmother to Will Skelton, IV (Crystal), Ann Skelton, John Skelton (Savana), Jack Allin, III (Hailey), Tom Allin (Sarah), Taylor Butler, Jordan Butler, Allin Butler, Taulbee Hazel (Melissa), Sims Hazel, Tapp Hazel (Maddie), and Maddox Hazel; and great grandmother to William Skelton, V, Christopher Skelton, John Maury (Maury) Allin, IV, Sarah Allin, Finley Hazel, and Flora Louise Allin.

Though directed “not to be long-winded or gushy” in this narrative, these progenies are moved to declare our appreciation for the connection to this maternal lifeforce we are privileged to share.  Her legacies are many.  By example, she challenged us to love unconditionally and forgive ungrudgingly.  In quiet confidences, she knew and believed in us before we knew and believed in ourselves.  As a clergy spouse, she understood humility, hospitality, and the importance of humor.  Grounded by an unshakeable, purposeful faith, she was your go-to girl in pain or despair or joy.  Big Ann had a big life and a big heart and a big following.  Ann Allin departed this life as she lived it:  in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.

A Eucharist will be celebrated at 11 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 26 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral with committal later at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.  Visitation is 9:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Francis Hall of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in downtown Jackson.

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Springfield Bishop Martins to retire in 2021

Episcopal News Service - Tue, 10/22/2019 - 11:35am

[Diocese of Springfield] The Rt. Rev. Daniel H. Martins announced on Oct. 19 his plan to retire in 2021. The full announcement issued by the diocese follows.

In his address to the Synod today, the Rt. Rev. Daniel H. Martins, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield announced his intention to retire and called for the election of his successor, who will be consecrated in June of 2021.

Bishop Martins was consecrated on March 19, 2011 and has shepherded a diocese comprised of 33 congregations throughout 60 counties in Central and Southern Illinois. His ministry has included an emphasis re-imagining the way the church operates in an increasingly secular age. Specifically, he sought to begin to change the culture in the diocese about how the nature of mission in a post-Christian culture is understood and practiced. Under his tenure the constitution and canons were revised to give voice and vocabulary to this emerging attitude, whereby “parish” has become a geographic territory in which the Eucharistic Communities bear the primary responsibility for developing mission in that area. Central to this has been a canonical requirement that Eucharistic Communities develop annual Mission Strategy Reports to take their community’s corporate vocation “into the neighborhood.”

The Standing Committee will oversee the election process for the twelfth bishop for the diocese and holds ecclesial authority when the office of the bishop is vacant. Standing Committee President, Fr Mark Evans, who spoke on behalf of the diocese, “We give thanks to Bishop Martins for his service. Now we turn a new chapter in the diocese’s life. It is my prayer that we engage with that shift faithfully, support one another spiritually and practically and that we discern through the Holy Spirit who will be our next shepherd.”

Speaking of his remaining time as Bishop, Martins emphasized the need to focus on the mission of the diocese during this time of transition, “Even as we’re obsessing about the election process — and I’ll surely be obsessing along with you — let’s not forget that we have a mission to pursue, a gospel to proclaim, souls to lead to Christ, and baptisms to perform. We are and remain one church, organized for mission into geographic parishes, manifested in eucharistic communities and communities-in-formation, with a goal of being concretely incarnate in all of the 60 counties of central and southern Illinois. Thank-you for the indescribable joy of sharing this ministry with you.”

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Executive Council closes fall meeting with vote endorsing major ‘Way of Love’ expansion

Episcopal News Service - Mon, 10/21/2019 - 6:48pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaks at a committee meeting Oct. 20 about plans to expand the reach of the church’s Way of Love initiative. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Montgomery, Alabama] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council concluded its four-day meeting here Oct. 21 with a series of votes that included an endorsement of plans for a dramatic expansion of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Way of Love initiative, featuring plans for a major revival event in New York and a growing list of media projects.

Curry spoke to the purpose of those efforts during a weekend committee meeting and again before the vote of the full Executive Council on its final day. Sharing the message of the Way of Love more broadly will counter a strain of conservative Christianity that has strayed from the teachings of Jesus, he said, and the church affirming a Christian message of love “can be helpful for a proudly divided and polarized nation.”

“This is really how can we make – and this actually is evangelism – how can we make the way of Jesus, which is the way of love, a part of what it means to be a Christian in this particular culture,” Curry said.

Executive Council, the church’s governing body between General Convention meetings, also approved a shift in the church’s shareholder advocacy strategy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will result in the church selling all its stocks in three companies that do business tied to construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories. Those companies will be added to a new “no-buy list” that will be based on the church’s newly enacted “human rights investment screen.”

Much of this fall meeting focused on the theme of the church’s racial reconciliation work, drawing on examples from Alabama’s capital city, known for its historic connections to the Civil War and the civil rights movement. Executive Council members broke from their business sessions to spend all day Oct. 19 on a pilgrimage to the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which trace four centuries of racial violence in America and memorialize its victims.

The Episcopal Church’s core racial reconciliation project is the Becoming Beloved Community framework, which encourages and assists congregations and individual Episcopalians in engaging in difficult conversations about racism and racial healing. On Oct. 21, Executive Council approved more than $300,000 from a new grant program to support racial healing ministries and programs around the country.

Executive Council spent all day Oct. 19 on a pilgrimage to the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, and here to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Other grants approved by Executive Council included nearly $690,000 for church planting and $209,000 from the church’s Constable Fund.

In another measure, Executive Council accepted an “Episcopal Creation Covenant” drafted by the Task Force on Care of Creation and Environmental Racism that outlined the church’s three primary commitments related to environmental stewardship: “loving formation, liberating advocacy and lifegiving conservation.”

Over the four days, members of the presiding bishop’s staff briefed Executive Council on a range of ongoing priorities for the church, including the fate of Episcopal Migration Ministries, EMM, which is dealing with the uncertainty of the Trump administration’s refugee policies.

The administration announced last month that it would limit the State Department’s resettlement program to a historic low of just 18,000 refugees, at a time when the global refugee crisis has never been worse, said Demetrio Alvero, the acting director of EMM.

Alvero, speaking Oct. 20 to Executive Council’s Committee on Mission Within The Episcopal Church, said EMM still does not know yet whether it will be renewed for another year as one of the nine agencies with State Department contracts to facilitate refugee resettlement.

Even if that work ends, “what does continue is the engagement of churches … to support the program locally,” Alvero said, so whatever the government decides, EMM has begun developing plans for expanding its advocacy and support work for refugees at the local level. EMM also is looking for ways to assist asylum seekers in a more meaningful way, given the increase in migrants on the southern U.S. border.

Executive Council also heard from administrative and communications staff about proposed renovations at the Episcopal Church Center in New York. In response, Executive Council approved a $750,000 project to upgrade the conference room and pantry space on the center’s fifth floor and to add a multimedia studio that will streamline the church’s growing work on videos and podcasts.

Such multimedia work plays a central role in the Way of Love expansion spearheaded by the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, the presiding bishop’s canon for evangelism, reconciliation and creation care. She noted the church has gained momentum in its evangelism since Curry stepped into the global spotlight with his May 2018 royal wedding sermon in London.

“This is a moment,” Spellers said Oct. 20 in a committee meeting. “It’s a moment for American Christianity. It’s a moment for The Episcopal Church, and we want to step into it.”

The Rev. Robert Wisnewski, rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama, discusses the church’s history with Executive Council members and church staff on Oct. 19, 2019. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The Way of Love is a “rule of life” framework featuring seven practices for Jesus-centered living. Curry introduced it at General Convention in July 2018, and since then the church and partner organizations have developed resources to help Episcopalians incorporate the Way of Love into their daily lives and spiritual growth.

The church also has launched a Way of Love podcast featuring Curry and a “Traveling the Way of Love” video series  highlighting Episcopalians whose work exemplifies each of the seven practices.  Executive Council voted Oct. 21 to allow the church’s development office to pursue a campaign to raise $1.3 million in a low-key, targeted appeal to bolster those and other Way of Love initiatives. One such proposal would enlist Curry to host a limited TV series that could be distributed on a national streaming service, an idea that is still in a conceptual stage.

The church already has begun laying the foundation for a New York revival, after receiving interest from the two Episcopal dioceses in the city, as well as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America synod there. Curry’s staff has helped facilitate 13 smaller Episcopal revival events churchwide, including one planned for this weekend in Appleton, Wisconsin, so a New York revival would continue that work on a larger scale, Spellers said, with opportunities for satellite revivals around the county on the same day.

If partners and donors can be secured to cover the estimated $335,000 cost, Spellers expects the New York revival to take place in October 2020 and draw more than 10,000 people. Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center and Yankee Stadium are some of the potential venues.

The three resolutions relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict passed with little debate or disagreement, a stark contrast to the tensions surrounding the same issue at last year’s General Convention in Austin, Texas. During General Convention, the House of Bishops rejected a measure seen as endorsing a policy of divestment, but the bishops joined the deputies in supporting the creation of a human rights investments screen modeled after one created earlier by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Executive Council on Oct. 21 approved the following language: “Executive Council hereby recommends that any Episcopal Church institutional investor not invest in any corporation supporting or benefiting from denial of human rights consistent with policy adopted by General Convention or Executive Council.”

The resolution then proceeds to apply that screen to the Palestinian territories, barring investment in “any corporation that supports or benefits from denial of human rights in or through the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Gaza Strip.”

A companion resolution specifies that three companies meet that criteria: Motorola, Caterpillar and Israel Discount Bank. The church has engaged for years in shareholder engagement with those companies without persuading them to respond as requested to human rights violations in the Palestinian territories. The church will sell about $1.2 million in Motorola shares and about $125,000 in Caterpillar shares, as well as a much smaller amount in shares of Israel Discount Bank.

“This is a stewardship issue,” said the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church, in a press release after Executive Council wrapped its meeting. “The church does not want to make profits from companies that contribute to the suffering of others.”

Lay member Russ Randle of the Diocese of Virginia proposed an amendment to one of the shareholder resolutions, asking the Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility to research an upcoming stock offering by Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company, for possible church engagement with the banks underwriting that stock offering.

“If we’re going to be calling out human rights violations in the Middle East, we need to be paying attention to this one as well,” Randle said. Executive Council passed his amendment and the underlying resolution.

In other news from Executive Council, the Rev. Charles Graves was elected to fill a vacant seat. Graves was named in April as Canterbury campus missioner in Houston for the Diocese of Texas.

And Executive Council decided to begin a search for a full-time chief legal officer to replace Doug Anning, who has served part-time as acting chief legal officer since September 2017. Executive Council thanked Anning for his service and gave him a round of applause.

Every year, Executive Council also approves waivers for some dioceses that have failed to pay their assessments to The Episcopal Church at the required level, which now stands at 15 percent of diocesan revenue. After aggressive efforts to bring delinquent dioceses into compliance, all but six dioceses have either paid their full assessments or received short-term waivers, according to the Rev. Mally Lloyd, chair of Executive Council’s Finance Committee.

The six delinquent dioceses are Alabama, Albany, Dallas, Florida, Rio Grande and Springfield.

Alice Freeman, a lay Executive Council member from the Diocese of North Carolina, voiced a concern that this meeting was being held in one of those delinquent dioceses, Alabama.

“They are not paying theirs, but they are the beneficiaries of this church contributing economically to their diocese,” Freeman said.

“You got it,” Lloyd said, after acknowledging that she had refrained from bringing up the topic with Bishop Kee Sloan when he visited with Executive Council on Oct. 18, welcoming them to Montgomery.

Dioceses that don’t pay their assessments or receive waivers are ineligible for participation in certain church programs, including churchwide grants.

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

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Bishop’s Sunday Selfie posts aim to challenge popular image of empty churches

Episcopal News Service - Mon, 10/21/2019 - 4:43pm

“The notion that churches are empty buildings is a deep misrepresentation of what is happening in day-to-day lived reality,” says Bishop John Roundhill. Photo: John Roundhill

[Anglican Communion News Service] Australian Bishop John Roundhill hopes to reshape the way people see churches through his Sunday selfie posts on social media. The bishop, who took up his role as bishop of the Southern Region of the Anglican Church in Southern Queensland last year, has written about his popular posts and the thinking behind them.

“Sunday by Sunday, I hope I am helping to re-image the way people see our churches,” he said.

Using the hashtag #SundaySelfie, the bishop has been putting up regular images of himself with different congregations he visits each Sunday.

Read the full article here.

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World’s churches highlight plight of those fleeing violence in Syria

Episcopal News Service - Mon, 10/21/2019 - 4:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Speaking on behalf of churches across the world, the World Council of Churches general secretary has called for an end to the violence in northeast Syria as Turkey’s military action puts refugees at risk. Olav Fykse Tveit said he is gravely concerned about the humanitarian impact on the people of the region, where reports state tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing from Turkish attacks.

He said: “The Syrian people have already been subjected to too much conflict, and far too much bloodshed, destruction and displacement. The churches of the world demand an end to it – an end to the suffering of the people. Enough fighting, chaos and death. It is time for peace, for respite, for dialogue, and for justice for the victims of atrocities perpetrated through these catastrophic years of violence.”

In addition to those displaced by the fighting, it is expected that as many as 2 million people will suffer as a result of the military operation’s impact on infrastructure, facilities and services for basic life needs.

Read the full article here.

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Retired bishop of Quebec running for Canadian Parliament

Episcopal News Service - Mon, 10/21/2019 - 4:15pm

Dennis Drainville, former bishop of the Diocese of Quebec in the Anglican Church of Canada. Photo: Cynthia Dow/Anglican Journal

[Anglican Journal] Dennis Drainville, retired bishop of the Diocese of Quebec, is re-entering politics by running for the Green Party of Canada in the Oct. 21 federal election.

Drainville, who retired as bishop in 2017, announced June 5 he would be running for the Greens in the riding of Gaspésie-Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, which covers a swath of the Gaspé Peninsula as well as the Magdalen Islands.

Drainville, who served as a member of Bob Rae’s NDP government in Ontario from 1990 to 1993, says he’s been involved in politics in some capacity his entire life, so that returning to it feels second-nature to him. His decision to re-enter now, he says, was spurred by a realization that the coming vote will be “an election like no other,” because it will require momentous decisions to be made on how to deal with the twin threats of climate change and unethical government.

Read the full article here.

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Bishop Hougland of Western Michigan elected bishop provisional of Eastern Michigan

Episcopal News Service - Mon, 10/21/2019 - 1:41pm

The crozier passes from the Rt. Rev. Cate Waynick to the Rt. Rev. Whayne Hougland Jr. at the Diocese of Eastern Michigan’s diocesan convention on Oct. 19, 2019. Photo: Diocese of Eastern Michigan

[Diocese of Eastern Michigan] The Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan elected the Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland Jr. to serve as bishop provisional of the diocese during their annual convention on Oct. 19, 2019.

Bishop Hougland, bishop diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan, will serve both dioceses concurrently as the two bodies enter into a 3-5-year period of conversation around relationship and shared resources.

In a letter to the diocese, the Standing Committee of Eastern Michigan celebrated the decision, saying, “We are excited to be building on our commitment to creative and innovative ministry by entering into this next phase of life for our two dioceses. We don’t know where this relationship will lead, but by placing our trust in the Holy Spirit and committing to the work of discernment and risk-taking, we believe we can build a church responsive to the needs of her people and flexible to the demands of 21st century mission and ministry. Let’s dance!”

Bishop Hougland expressed his excitement as well, saying, “We are at the forefront of these kinds of experiments in the church and I think we are uniquely primed to take on this work with good faith, humor, and creativity. I am looking forward to living into these next 3-5 years and to seeing where the Spirit leads!”

This next step for the two dioceses is the result of nearly two and a half years of conversation, kicked off by the resignation of former Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley to become bishop for pastoral development of The Episcopal Church, a position on the presiding bishop’s staff. Following a series of regional and diocesan-wide meetings, the Diocese of Eastern Michigan voted last fall to invite the Diocese of Western Michigan to consent to the nomination of their bishop, the Rt. Rev. Whayne Hougland, to serve as bishop provisional. In the spring, after a series of meetings on the western side of the state, Western Michigan’s Diocesan Council and Standing Committee voted unanimously to accept the invitation.

The two dioceses share a number of ministries and resources already, including efforts in congregational development, local formation, mission work, governing bodies, and staff. Combined, the two dioceses are composed of just over 100 congregations and cooperating ministries, and over 12,000 baptized members.

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Pilgrimage connects racism to America’s core, focusing Executive Council’s work for change

Episcopal News Service - Mon, 10/21/2019 - 11:26am

Executive Council members walk slowly through the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery on Oct. 19, 2019. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Montgomery, Alabama] The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, a small, mostly African American congregation in this city’s Centennial Hill neighborhood, has just eight rows of pews. All of them were filled. Members of The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council were joined by parishioners, both eager to hear from their guest of honor, Bryan Stevenson.

Stevenson, a prominent death row and public interest attorney, is arguably the reason Executive Council chose Montgomery for its fall meeting. His Equal Justice Initiative opened the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice last year in Alabama’s capital city to tell the full story of America’s 400-year history of racial violence and terrorism. Those new institutions, as well as Montgomery’s historic ties to the civil rights movement, have turned the city into a popular pilgrimage destination for Episcopalians and others committed to racial reconciliation.

On this afternoon, Stevenson, 59, said he wanted to talk about memory. He began by relating a story from his childhood about feeling the sting of racism growing up black in segregated southern Delaware, but he quickly broadened his point beyond the personal, beyond the regional.

Bryan Stevenson, author of the bestseller “Just Mercy,” speaks to the Executive Council members on Oct. 19, 2019, at Church of the Good Shepherd in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“We’ve actually made it very easy in this country to forget our history of racial injustice,” Stevenson said, and yet the nation is still burdened by that history, by false narratives that have long gone unexamined and that continue to perpetuate racist systems. “I don’t think slavery ended in 1865. It just evolved.”

Stevenson’s afternoon presentation at Good Shepherd capped Executive Council’s daylong pilgrimage Oct. 19, with stops earlier in the day at Equal Justice Initiative’s museum and memorial. With Montgomery as the backdrop of Executive Council’s four-day fall meeting here, racial reconciliation is a core theme.

Executive Council took up that theme from the start. Morning Prayer on its opening day, Oct. 18, included the church’s Litany of Repentance and its acknowledgement that the sin of racism “is woven into our lives and our cultures.”

Diane Pollard, in her Morning Prayer homily, noted that she and other members of Executive Council prepared for their meeting in Montgomery by reading Stevenson’s book “Just Mercy,” and they participated in two webinars. In one, the Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union in New York, spoke of the need for moral leadership in the world. A second webinar featured Catherine Meeks, executive director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing in the Diocese of Atlanta.

Meeks advised that pilgrimages should be more than mere field trips. “They should be transformative, and we should not return home the way we came,” said Pollard, a lay member from the Diocese of New York.

What should the members bring home with them from their experience learning about the country’s past? “It is my hope that we will bring back with us the memories of not only what happened but the present-day effect it continues to have on our people,” Pollard said during Morning Prayer.

Alabama Bishop Kee Sloan welcomes Executive Council to Montgomery on Oct. 18, 2019, the opening night of the four-day meeting. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Alabama Bishop Kee Sloan joined Executive Council at dinner on Oct. 18 and offered a brief welcome, as well as a preview of what to expect at the Equal Justice Institute’s museum and memorial.

“In some museums you just walk through and you’re done,” Sloan said. “I hope that you will take some time to let it soak in – what you are seeing and what you are feeling. It is an incredibly evocative experience, and I hope you will take the time to sit with it a while. Don’t mess it up with too many words. Just let it soak in.”

On the morning of the pilgrimage, a hard rain fell as members of Executive Council, several carrying umbrellas, walked the few blocks from the Embassy Suites Montgomery Hotel and Conference Center to the Legacy Museum, which is located on the former site of a slave warehouse and holding pen. Heeding Sloan’s advice, the group spent more than an hour slowly pacing among the museum’s exhibits detailing the brutal inhumanities that, the museum argues, have formed the bitter core of the American experience.

By 1860, 4 million blacks were enslaved in the United States, including nearly 24,000 in Montgomery alone.

“Montgomery, Alabama, was among the most prominent and active slave-trading places in America,” one museum display noted, because of the city’s central location on the Alabama River and a railroad line. There were more slave-trading spaces in the city than there were churches or hotels.

Newspaper ads offering “Negros for Sale” and seeking runaway slaves, “$200 Reward,” are displayed floor to ceiling in the Legacy Museum, and similar displays confront the visitor with examples of the continued white supremacy after slavery was abolished. Quotes defending segregation are attributed to a range of prominent white leaders, from governors and senators to a clergy member.

A central premise of the Legacy Museum – as Stevenson reiterated in his speech – is that a narrative of black racial inferiority was used to justify slavery, to ease white Americans’ feelings of guilt at what amounted to a genocide, and “that ideology has endured beyond the formal abolition of American slavery,” according to one of the exhibits at the museum.

It endured through the post-Reconstruction rise of lynchings – or, as the Legacy Museum describes them, “racial terror lynchings.” From 1877 to 1950, the Equal Justice Initiative has documented more than 4,000 lynchings across 12 Southern states, and several hundred more such attacks occurred in other states, including in the North.

The Equal Justice Initiative also looks beyond that period of violence to portray ways that today’s system of mass incarceration is rooted in the same distorted narrative, with black citizens often perceived unjustly as criminals and punished more frequently and more severely by the criminal justice system than white citizens.

The Episcopal Church, backed by General Convention resolutions, has taken up the cause of ending mass incarceration as part of its racial reconciliation work, and it also has acknowledged its own history of complicity in racist systems. Such faith-based efforts are a crucial part of the push for systemic change, the Legacy Museum suggests in a final display, which prompts visitors to consider how to take action with what they’ve learned.

“Do churches and people of faith have a special obligation to address the history of racial inequality?” the exhibit asks.

At the center of the Episcopal Church’s work on these issues is the Becoming Beloved Community framework, released nearly three years to encourage and assist congregations and Episcopalians in engaging in difficult conversations about racism and racial healing. One part of that framework is “telling the truth,” which also is central to the mission of the Equal Justice Initiative’s museum and memorial, said Joe McDaniel, one of three guides during Executive Council’s pilgrimage.

McDaniel, a retired attorney from Pensacola, Florida, serves as co-chair with Gary Moore on the Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, which includes the southern portion of Alabama. To lead Executive Council’s pilgrimage, they teamed up with the Rev. Carolyn Porter, a deacon from the Diocese of Alabama and co-chair of that diocese’s racial reconciliation commission.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on Oct. 19, 2019, looks up at one of the columns hanging at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. The steel columns memorialize the victims from all American counties where at least one lynching occurred from 1877 to 1950. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

It was McDaniel’s fifth time leading a reconciliation pilgrimage to Montgomery since December 2018. He also visited the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in April of that year, around the time the two sites opened, and that first time, the memorial was a particularly difficult experience for him.

“It was overwhelming,” McDaniel said. “I actually had to leave early. I broke down in tears, just witnessing man’s inhumanity to each other.”

The memorial is intended to honor all of the more than 4,000 lynching victims in the country, some named and some whose identity is unknown. On a hill overlooking downtown Montgomery, a series of steel columns hang in rows around a green square. Each column represents a county where the Equal Justice Initiative has confirmed at least one lynching had occurred. The victims are listed on the columns.

The Executive Council members ascended the hill to the memorial’s starting point. As they began passing between the columns, they were able to examine them at eye level. But as they proceeded, they followed a path downward, so that the columns further along the path were suspended higher and higher overhead – invoking the sight of victims hanging dead.

The Equal Justice Initiative also created duplicate columns for each of the more than 800 counties and laid them on the grounds of the memorial, inviting each county to claim and display its column as an act of confronting, acknowledging and remembering its history. Few counties have done so yet.

The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd is located in Montgomery’s historically black Centennial Hill neighborhood. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“You can’t have reconciliation until you have truth,” Stevenson told the Executive Council later that day, after they had traveled by bus and van to Good Shepherd. Stevenson also urged them not to lose hope in the face of such injustices.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaches Oct. 20, 2019, at St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“Hopelessness is the enemy of justice,” he said. “Our hope is critical to our capacity to change the world.”

The following morning, on Oct. 20, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry referred to Stevenson’s “words of wisdom and his words of hope for us all” in his sermon during the Eucharist at St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Montgomery. A large crowd, easily topping a hundred, had packed the nave of the church.

Curry, as he often does in his sermons, emphasized the theme of God’s love and assured his listeners that Jesus had shown the way of love.

“There is one God who created us all, and if we come from one source, you know what that means, we’re all kinfolk,” Curry said. “We are all the children of God. We can learn to live together. We can learn to build life together. … We can learn to build a new world.”

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

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Facing financial struggles and board resignations, Integrity apologizes for lack of transparency

Episcopal News Service - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 6:45pm

An Integrity chapter participates in a Pride parade in Portland, Oregon, in 2012. Integrity has been advocating for LGBTQ inclusion in The Episcopal Church since 1974. Photo: Integrity via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] Integrity, the nonprofit organization dedicated to LGBTQ advocacy within The Episcopal Church, is a shadow of its former self, beset by struggles with leadership, finances and communication – as well as questions about whether it is still relevant or necessary in 2019.

Many longtime members and former Integrity leaders have expressed frustration and concern at what they consider mismanagement and a lack of transparency, and with tension boiling over on social media within the past two weeks, board members say they are making a renewed effort to improve organization and communication.

The Rev. Gwen Fry at the 2015 General Convention. Photo: Integrity via Facebook

“I have failed to be perfect … and I fear that the spiritual, mental, and physical health of Integrity has suffered because of it. For this, I am profoundly sorry for any part that I have contributed to with regard to the health of our organization,” the Rev. Gwen Fry, president of Integrity, wrote in a statement posted on Facebook and Integrity’s new website, which went live on Oct. 17.

Founded in 1974 by Louie Crew to help gay Episcopalians gain acceptance within the church, Integrity grew to have 58 local chapters and about 2,000 active members by 2011, the last year for which it released a complete annual report. With its official mission of full inclusion of all LGBTQ people in the sacramental life of The Episcopal Church, Integrity has been an active presence at General Conventions since 1977, helping draft resolutions and gathering support. Its primary goal was accomplished in 2015, when General Convention approved marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Fry’s term as president has been marked by instability and uncertainty, but Integrity’s struggle to stay afloat in a radically changing environment runs deeper. According to IRS filings, Integrity had $516,152 in net assets at the start of 2013 and had been taking in well over $200,000 per year for the preceding several years. By 2015, the last year it filed a full return to the IRS, Integrity reported $134,029 in net assets. That year, it reported just $54,574 in revenue, but $225,225 in expenses. In January 2018, Integrity laid off the last of its paid staff. The Rev. Gwen Fry, the previous vice president of national affairs who formerly served in the Diocese of Arkansas, was elected president for a three-year term in June 2018, and during the Integrity Eucharist at that year’s General Convention, she announced that Integrity had been renamed The Episcopal Rainbow, though that change has apparently not taken effect.

Much of the confusion expressed by Integrity members focuses on who is actually in charge of the organization. In late 2018,Between March and June, Deanna Bosch, treasurer, Letty Guevara-Cuence, secretary/communications director, and Brent Cox, vice president of national affairs, all resigned, leaving Kay Smith Riggle, vice president of local affairs, as the only remaining elected board member.

“It really had to do with other things going on in those people’s lives and they realized they just didn’t have the time,” Smith Riggle told the Episcopal News Service. “We weren’t really trying to hide anything. Things were moving really quickly and it was difficult to respond to what was happening in addition to getting the information out.”

Integrity’s bylaws specify that if the president is “unable to perform his/her office,” the Stakeholders’ Council (made up of Integrity’s chapter- and diocesan-level leaders) elects a new president to serve the remainder of that term.

Smith Riggle told ENS that a new election was “under consideration” at one point but directed further questions to Fry, who did not respond to requests for an interview.

Over the summer, Integrity announced on Facebook that the Rev. Frederick Clarkson had been appointed treasurer, Lindsey Harts had been appointed secretary and director of communications and Paul Horner had been appointed vice president of national affairs. Integrity’s bylaws allow appointments to fill board member vacancies. It also announced that an internal audit of Integrity’s assets and a new website would be completed by Sept. 1.

But by October, with no audit and the old website (featuring the previous board of directors, whose terms expired in 2018) still up, members began venting their frustration on the official Integrity Facebook group.

“This should be profoundly concerning for all of us who love and believed in this organization and its role within our church, and who play a role on the ground in our parishes and dioceses. We are a people who believe in resurrection. When can we have a serious discussion about what it would take to have a proper resurrection for Integrity USA? Is it better to officially close down, then choose to re-launch after this (long overdue) audit?” wrote Jason Crighton.

“The board seems not to have any funds to work with, and also seems to value a culture of secrecy and distancing itself from the membership. It may be time to let it go,” wrote Frank Dowd, a view shared by other commenters.

Several commenters wrote that their dues checks had been cashed without any acknowledgment or confirmation, that the website’s map of welcoming congregations had not been updated since 2014, and that commenters’ questions were not being answered. Members have repeatedly expressed concern about Integrity’s financial transparency, noting that it has not released a full financial report since 2011 or filed a full 990 return with the IRS since 2015, and have wondered whether the organization is in danger of losing its tax-exempt status.

Although most tax-exempt nonprofits are required to file 990 returns with the IRS annually, organizations that bring in under $50,000 per year can file a 990-N, an “electronic postcard” listing just the group’s basic information and affirming its gross receipts have not exceeded $50,000, to satisfy IRS requirements. Integrity has done that for 2016 and 2017.

The internal audit, which was ordered by the board as part of the administrative transition and done by Clarkson, the treasurer, and Horner, vice president of national affairs, was completed on Oct. 13 and made available to chapters by request. A draft copy of the conclusion provided to ENS said that that “no discernible irregularities were discovered” and listed bank transactions for 2019 to date, all of which were for typical administrative expenses and disbursements to local chapters. Clarkson told ENS that Integrity has about $53,000 on hand as of Oct. 17.

“I think one of the things that most people aren’t aware of – Integrity has no building,” Clarkson told ENS. “Integrity basically was a box of documents that were sent to me and had to be reorganized. … Part of the issue that occurred is that Integrity’s infrastructure, like its website, is ancient.”

Along with the new website, Integrity announced that it is taking a census to figure out exactly how many active chapters and members it has, and that it will be distributing grants of up to $3,000 to censused chapters. Clarkson said that money comes from a bequest from an estate of just over $30,000.

Smith Riggle said changes will be made to the payment system this week so that members paying dues will receive an automatic confirmation. The board is meeting by conference call every two weeks, Smith Riggle said, and further financial information will be posted on the new website.

Clarkson said he has dedicated his time to Integrity because he believes it is still needed – particularly for transgender people, and in more conservative areas of the country – and he wants to help local chapters succeed.

“The most effective thing that integrity can do is support its chapters, because they’re really the ones who do the work.”

Reaction to Integrity’s recent statement has been mixed, with some calling it too little, too late and some grateful for the update but confused about what Integrity’s purpose will be going forward.

The Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity from 2003 to 2009, told ENS she’s disappointed at the state Integrity is in now.

“Where there’s no vision, people wallow around and make decisions,” Russell said. “I think that what we’re seeing right now is sort of the last gasp of an organization that has outlived its legacy.”

Russell says she cares deeply about Integrity and wants to see it succeed, but the board has a lot of “deferred maintenance” to do.

“I’m hopeful that something could come out of this. But in order for that to happen, there has to be some healthy leadership and there’s got to be some transparency.”

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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Executive Council gathers in Montgomery, Alabama, as city underscores theme of racial reconciliation

Episcopal News Service - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 3:31pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry gives his opening remarks Oct. 18 during Executive Council’s meeting at the Embassy Suites hotel in Montgomery, Alabama.

[Episcopal News Service – Montgomery, Alabama] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council gathered here Oct. 18 for a four-day fall meeting with racial reconciliation as a central theme, amplified by this city known for its prominent place in the histories of both the Civil War and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The business sessions have been scheduled around a full-day pilgrimage on Oct. 19 that will include visits to the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peach and Justice, as well as a meeting with Bryan Stevenson, the death row attorney whose Equal Justice Initiative founded the two institutions in 2018 to tell the story of racial injustice and violence in the United States, from slavery to mass incarceration.

“It is the history of America, and this is important for us to remember,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in his opening remarks Oct. 18 in a meeting room at the Embassy Suites Montgomery Hotel and Conference Center. “It’s not just a Southern story, and it’s not just a regional story.”

Diane Pollard gives the homily during Morning Prayer on Oct. 18 at Executive Council in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The day opened with Morning Prayer and a homily by Diane Pollard, a lay member of Executive Council from the Diocese of New York. Pollard described Montgomery as “a city that is as simple and yet as complex as the shaping of the American dream. If the streets and buildings could only speak to us, what would they say?”

Montgomery is Alabama’s capital and a city of about 200,000 people. It was the first capital of the Confederate States of America in 1861, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis worshiped at St. John’s Episcopal Church here until the Confederate capital was moved to Richmond, Virginia.

Montgomery also is the city where Rosa Parks was arrested on Dec. 1, 1955, for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. In 1961, the Freedom Riders were attacked by white mob at the Montgomery bus terminal. In 1965, Martin Luther King Jr., after leading the voting rights march from Selma, delivered his “How Long, Not Long” speech on the steps of the state capitol before 25,000 people. King got his start as pastor a decade earlier at the nearby Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

Touring the city’s historic sites will offer Executive Council members a lesson in the country’s terrible history of injustice, Pollard said. “These places will also provide us with a painful opportunity to ask ourselves why and how these events could happen,” she said, and they will reveal parallels to present-day injustices. “These issues haunt our existence as the land of the free.”

Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1), and it typically meets three times a year. During this triennium, it has set a goal of meeting once in each of The Episcopal Church’s nine provinces.

Twenty members of Executive Council – four bishops, four priests or deacons and 12 laypeople – are elected by General Convention to six-year terms, with half of those members elected every three years. Each of the Episcopal Church’s nine provinces elects an ordained member and a lay member for six years, and those elections also alternate every three years.

Curry, as presiding bishop, serves as president of Executive Council. Vice president is the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, in her position as president of the House of Deputies. Jennings said in her opening remarks that she was eager to meet with and learn from Stevenson during an afternoon gathering Oct. 19 at Church of the Good Shepherd.

“The deep injustices in our justice system are no recent invention,” Jennings said. “Stevenson’s work and witness teach us about the inextricable connection between the enslavement of Africans, the reign of terror known as Jim Crow and the modern-day systemic racism that leads to our country incarcerating more of its citizens than any other nation in the world.”

Jennings also highlighted the work of St. John’s to unravel a racist myth within its own walls. The congregation had long maintained a plaque on a pew that identified it as the place where Jefferson Davis once sat for worship, but research into the pew’s history found that the connection to Davis was tenuous and its 1925 dedication steeped in racism. The congregation announced in February it had removed the plaque and pew.

“The history that most of us learned in school is riddled with stories – you might call them myths – that render invisible the way that race, or what we think of as race, has created and sustained our economy and our social structures, including our churches,” Jennings said.

Curry, in his opening remarks, read a passage from Maya Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of the Morning.”

“‘History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived but, if faced with courage, need not be lived again.’ That’s the spirit of being in Montgomery,” Curry said.

The presiding bishop continued by highlighting the positive responses he and his staff have received to the Way of Love, which offers resources centered around seven steps to help Episcopalians bringing Jesus to the center of their daily lives. Curry suggested it shouldn’t be surprising that congregations are adopting the Way of Love, “because I think it reflects who we really are.”

Curry also briefly eulogized Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died this week. Though Cummings was not an Episcopalian, Curry held him up as an example of “just a good human being, who really did try to live out the social teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.” Just as Cummings strived to work with lawmakers who disagreed with him, Curry said The Episcopal Church can be a force for seeking the good in each other, “not to change anybody’s vote but to change how we relate to each other as human beings.”

And Curry, whose sermons frequently quote Martin Luther King Jr., described plans for staging one of The Episcopal Church’s ongoing series of revivals at a major venue in New York. Details of that event are still being worked out, but Curry said the church is embracing greater evangelism because it shares King’s vision that we must “learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish as fools.”

Executive Council’s work is divided among four committees, which will review and finalize resolutions for votes of the full council on Oct. 21. A large portion of those resolutions will come from the Finance Committee, which has begun the process of drafting a budget for the 2022-24 triennium.

The Rev. Mally Lloyd of the Diocese of Massachusetts, the Finance Committee chair, provided an overview of the committee’s agenda, starting with a series of resolutions on gun safety and Israel-Palestine that were submitted by the Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility. Other resolutions will address travel reimbursement for volunteers, fundraising priorities, diocesan assessments and the creation of new meeting rooms at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

The Rev. Michael Barlowe, the General Convention secretary, announced future meeting locations for Executive Council through General Convention 2021. The next meeting will be Feb. 12-15 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the other meetings will be held in Puerto Rico; Baltimore, Maryland; Providence, Rhode Island; and, Cleveland, Ohio.

The Executive Council also is voting to for a replacement for a member who resigned earlier this year. Four nominees were chosen out of 58 applications received for the position, Barlowe said. The council is in the process of voting on those four nominees.

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

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Redlining exhibit at Cleveland cathedral examines historic roots of housing discrimination

Episcopal News Service - Tue, 10/15/2019 - 5:28pm

“Undesigning the Redline” is on view through Dec. 20 at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: Trinity Cathedral via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] One of the most pervasive and insidious forms of systemic racism in the 20th century is still with us today: the once federally sanctioned practice of housing discrimination known as redlining. Its impact on American cities can still be seen – and even mapped – in the glaring inequities in access to education, health care and other resources based on where people live.

But many Americans don’t realize that the demographic and economic makeup of the neighborhoods they live in can be traced back to racist government policies from the 1930s, making it difficult to address the root causes of the de-facto segregation seen in many cities.

That’s why Cleveland’s Trinity Cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of Ohio, invited a traveling interactive exhibit called “Undesigning the Redline” to set up shop there.

“This is a cathedral where the congregation and the staff really value our presence as being a part of the wider civic conversation,” said the Very Rev. Bernard J. Owens, dean of the cathedral.

The goal, Owens told the Episcopal News Service, is “to create a space where folks can come in and really see the history for what it is and be changed by that. We’re not trying to tell people what to think. We’re just inviting them in to see what the history really is – how our city grid got made and how we forgot that process – so that we can actually begin to heal.”

In the 1930s, federal agencies created “residential security maps” of hundreds of cities for mortgage lenders, indicating which neighborhoods they considered safe investments and which ones they deemed more risky. Demographics were a significant part of the criteria; areas with high proportions of African-American, Jewish, Asian and Hispanic residents were labeled less desirable and banks were discouraged from investing in those areas. Neighborhoods were color-coded: green for “best,” blue for “still desirable,” yellow for “definitely declining” and red for “hazardous.”

Redlining made it extremely difficult for residents of the “undesirable” neighborhoods to buy homes – one of the causes of today’s racial wealth gap – and it lowered property values there, paving the way for “urban renewal” projects that often razed entire neighborhoods.

“Undesigning the Redline” connects the systemic racism of the past with the persistent inequities of the present. Photo: Trinity Cathedral via Facebook

The interactive exhibit, developed by a New York firm called Designing the WE, has previously been staged in other cities around the country that were affected by redlining. It includes the original 1930s maps distributed by the federal government, along with contemporary maps showing the lingering effects of redlining.

“You place a pin on the map where you live, and you can see visually how the cities were laid out and divided,” Owens said. “Then it’s got maps that list outcomes based on where people live today, so maps that look at access to transportation and health care, poverty, all of which are overlaid over these maps that were put in place 80 years ago.

“‘Lingering effects’ barely begins to state it. It continues to shape and impact the people who live there today,” Owens added.

Owens said the exhibit has elicited personal stories from members of the diocesan and cathedral staff who have been impacted by redlining, and it’s changed the way he thinks about his own neighborhood.

“I can see the neighborhood where I now live, how it was zoned back in the ’30s and how that has impacted who my neighbor is today. And it’s important for me to look at that and now own that because that’s now my history too,” Owens told ENS.

The Very Rev. Bernard J. Owens, dean of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio, takes in the “Undesigning the Redline” exhibit. Photo: Trinity Cathedral via Facebook

The exhibit is on view from Oct. 7 through Dec. 20, and it includes a series of presentations and forums and a trolley tour through the city to see some of the starkest examples of redlined neighborhoods.

Owens sees his cathedral as a place “where we can all come and learn,” and this exhibit is just one way of fulfilling that vision.

“You almost have to want to know about [redlining] to learn about it,” Owens said. “And my hope with exhibits like this – I feel a responsibility as a pastor to communicate to my congregation that this is real. And this shapes everything, like how we are fortunate or not fortunate to have wealth or not. … Reconciliation starts with the willingness to walk into the spaces and look at the history.”

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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North Dakota diocese to welcome pilgrimages at Standing Rock interpretive center and lodge

Episcopal News Service - Mon, 10/14/2019 - 5:36pm

Youth camp participants pose for a group photo in July in front of the new Star Lodge at St. Gabriel’s Camp in Solen, North Dakota. Photo: John Floberg

[Episcopal News Service] A new lodge at an Episcopal youth camp on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation will double as a Native American interpretive center, highlighting local history and culture for visitors drawn to the region by an interest in the indigenous rights advocacy there.

The Episcopal Church was a prominent supporter of tribal demonstrators who in 2016 tried to block construction of part of an oil pipeline that they feared could threaten Standing Rock’s drinking water. Despite their objections, the Dakota Access Pipeline was allowed to cross the Missouri River just north of the reservation, and oil began pumping in June 2017.

Since then, the Diocese of North Dakota has welcomed various outside groups, interested in learning about the fight for indigenous and ecological justice, at its St. Gabriel’s Camp in Solen, North Dakota, a few miles west of the Missouri River on the northern edge of the reservation. Disciples of Christ youth groups have visited in each of the past two years. A group from Dayton University in Ohio visited in May, and another is coming in November from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.

The Rev. John Floberg, rector at the diocese’s three congregations serving Standing Rock, has worked with other church leaders to accommodate such pilgrimages as best they can, including by setting up visits with tribal officials and residents. That spirit of welcome is about to swell with the development of the 2,700-square-foot Star Lodge as an interpretive center.

“We’re looking at trying to help people translate what is here to their own communities,” Floberg told Episcopal News Service.

The lodge at St. Gabriel’s Camp is named after the Rev. Terry Star, a 40-year-old deacon and member of Executive Council who died suddenly in 2014 while studying to become a priest. Star’s great-grandfather was Chief Red Hail, whose name had graced the previous lodge until it was struck by lightning and burned down in August 2018.

Now, with the help of a United Thank Offering grant and additional funds scheduled to be approved this week by Executive Council, the new Star Lodge will not only restore what was lost in last year’s fire. It also will incorporate geothermal heating and solar power while expanding the diocese’s capacity to host youth groups in the summer and other church groups year-round.

The overall project costs about $280,000, Floberg said, and the structural shell of the new lodge already has been built with money received through the diocese’s insurance after last year’s fire. The $58,000 grant from United Thank Offering, or UTO, and about $20,000 from Executive Council will be used to complete the inside of the lodge and install the renewable energy sources.

Without the sustainable energy upgrade, the diocese wouldn’t be able to afford to keep the lodge open in the cold winter months, said Floberg, who also serves as president of the Diocese of North Dakota Standing Committee. The diocese already upgraded one of its Standing Rock churches, St. James Episcopal Church in Cannon Ball, to geothermal and was able to reduce its winter heating bills to about $130 a month, a small fraction of what propane heat had cost.

The size of Star Lodge is another big upgrade. Its meeting hall alone will be as large as the former lodge, and the diocese is in the process of converting the building’s additional space into a self-contained apartment with three bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen. The bedrooms will be able to house up to 16 guests, and the meeting hall can be converted to sleeping quarters to accommodate larger groups.

In addition to its primary use hosting youth groups, the former Red Hail Lodge was the site of trainings for local residents interested in becoming deacons and priests. Developing Native American leaders for service in the church will continue to be part of the mission at Star Lodge, Floberg said.

The diocese also aims to offer racial reconciliation pilgrimages, with programs for 10 to 30 people at a time, through Star Lodge’s interpretive center. One of its core themes, according to the UTO grant application, will be the treaties signed more than a century ago between American Indian tribes and the U.S. government, emphasizing the promises made to the country’s native peoples.

The broader movement to draw attention to those promises gained steam on Oct. 14 as the federal holiday known as Columbus Day was celebrated by a growing number of Americans as Indigenous Peoples Day.

Floberg, speaking to ENS last week, sought to put Christopher Columbus’ 1492 landing in perspective.

“Every acre of this land on this continent was already spoken for,” Floberg said. “There was no vast wilderness where there weren’t people already inhabiting territory. … We’re all on Indian land.” That makes it all the more important, he added, for the church to take the lead in learning about and listening to America’s indigenous residents.

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

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