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Nominations sought for women’s advocates to attend UN event in 2020

Episcopal News Service - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 1:14pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The search is on for women from across the Anglican Communion to attend the 64th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), to be held in New York next March.

Each year the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, invites primates to nominate women to represent the Anglican Communion at the event. The annual meeting of the CSW draws 9,000 women and men from all the regions of the world to the U.N.’s New York headquarters, with delegates representing and advocating for an estimated 3.7 billion women and girls worldwide.

Read the full article here.

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Youth officer’s advocacy helps Scottish churches tackle rural poverty

Episcopal News Service - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 1:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A youth officer from the Scottish Episcopal Church has been helping rural churches take practical steps to tackle child poverty in their communities.

Ley-Anne Forsyth, 29, who works part time for the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness, in addition to working for a social housing provider, has been a powerful advocate visiting churches and challenging church leaders about tackling injustices in their communities.

“I’ve been a youth officer for the past five or six years and the reason I do that is because young people need a voice,” she said. “I was a young person in a church who needed a voice once, and I was given it by our youth chaplain. It is a really important thing that young people are heard and are influencing our decisions because it’s their world we’re leaving behind.”

Read the full article here.

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Milwaukee bishop announces plans to retire in 2020

Episcopal News Service - Wed, 08/14/2019 - 9:49am

[Diocese of Milwaukee] Milwaukee Bishop Steven Andrew Miller announced his plans to retire in November 2020 in an Aug. 14 letter to the diocese. 

Dear Friends in Christ,

Some years ago when Cindy and I were replacing the roof on our home in Racine, one of our neighbors came by and asked if there was a problem with the roof or was it “just time.” We responded it was “just time.” This phrase has now become part of our family vocabulary. That conversation came to me as I prepared to write this letter to you.

After over thirty-five years of ordained ministry and almost sixteen years as your bishop, it has become clear to me that it is time for me to retire and pass the crozier on to the 12th bishop of Milwaukee. Last night, the Standing Committee, Chancellor and I met with the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley of the Office of Pastoral Development to inform them of my intention to retire in November of 2020 and to begin the process of electing the next bishop of this Diocese.

I have felt a multitude of emotions as I considered these plans, but gratitude for our work and life together in my 16 years as your bishop is first and foremost. I have loved being your bishop and serving Christ with and among you. Our diocese has made a distinctive commitment to forming young persons for ordained ministry and giving them the opportunity to lead, as evidenced by the fact that we have the second-youngest average age of priests in the Episcopal Church. Moreover, thanks to the joint venture with LZ Developers at St. Francis House, our campus ministries at UW-Madison and around the Diocese are on a sure financial footing.

We have also reformed the way that we as a diocese come together to do the work that God has given us to do. Our governance is more representative and transparent than ever, and by making some difficult choices, we’ve lowered the percentage that parishes pay into the diocesan budget and the percentage of the diocesan budget that comes from these assessments. And through some difficult years in the life of our church, our diocese has remained united—not of one mind on all the issues of the day, but united in Christ nonetheless.

With my impending retirement, you have an opportunity, from a position of stability, to face the future. I pray that God will bless you with wisdom and courage, and that the Holy Spirit will lead you in discerning the role our diocese is called to play in the lives of our members, our communities and our church.

In the months I have remaining with you, Cindy, the girls and I hope to have the opportunity to say good-bye to many of you in person. Please be assured that you are in my prayers and that I will carry you all in my heart wherever God calls me to go.

Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
11th Bishop of Milwaukee

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Anglican Journal launches digital magazine ‘Epiphanies’

Episcopal News Service - Tue, 08/13/2019 - 1:38pm

[Anglican Journal] Anglicans looking for in-depth stories and diverse perspectives on complex subjects have a new place to look: Epiphanies, a digital magazine produced by the Anglican Journal team.

The summer issue of Epiphanies, published Aug. 12, focuses on crisis within creation. This first issue offers in-depth reporting on the theology of beeschurch greeningclimate change in the North and food security in Newfoundland and Labrador. It also features reflections by Primate Linda NichollsNational Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Mark MacDonald, and the Rev. Vivian Seegers.

Read the full article.

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ELCA Churchwide Assembly calls sexism and patriarchy sins, condemns white supremacy

Episcopal News Service - Mon, 08/12/2019 - 11:55am

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, far left, addresses the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Aug. 8, 2019. Photo: Emily McFarlan Miller/Religion News Service

[Religion News Service] A new social statement from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America labels patriarchy and sexism as sins and acknowledges the church’s complicity in them.

The social statement — titled “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Call to Action” — was approved by the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly with 97 percent of the vote Friday morning (Aug. 9) on the last full day of the denomination’s triennial meeting at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee.

Afterward, the assembly rose in a standing ovation and sang “Canticle of the Turning,” with the lyrics, “Wipe away all tears,/ For the dawn draws near,/ And the world is about to turn.”

And the Rev. April Larson, the first woman bishop in the ELCA, spoke about the changes she has seen in the church in the 50 years since Lutherans began ordaining women in the United States.

“What a time. What a day for me to be here with you, and I’m so thankful to God and to our wonderful church,” Larson said.

“We are changing. We are being made new. God is busy with us.”

The social statement, which focuses on issues related to justice for women, is seven years in the making.

When the task force that created it started its work, “women’s justice issues were not dominant news,” said Bishop Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld of the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin.

That changed in recent years, as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have drawn attention to sexism and violence toward women, said Thomas-Breitfeld, who co-chaired the task force on women and justice.

“It seems that our work flourished in the sweet spot of the shifting societal awareness,” she said.

For the mainline Lutheran denomination, social statements like the one on women and justice are teaching and policy documents that provide a framework for members to think about and discuss social issues.

This is the 13th social statement adopted by the ELCA. Others include topics like race, ethnicity and culture; caring for creation; and human sexuality.

The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly called for the denomination to write the latest statement, said Mary Streufert, director of the ELCA’s Justice for Women program.

“The thoughtful foresight of the church to precede #MeToo — it’s quite stunning to know that there is this proactive work as opposed to reactive work,” Streufert said.

She said the statement offers an alternative way for the country to see Christianity’s view of women. That’s needed, she said, at a time when “the predominant Christian way to talk about gender puts men and women in a hierarchy.”

A specially created task force consulted with experts both inside and outside the church about topics related to justice for women. Task force members also listened to fellow Lutherans about what they hoped the statement would express, Streufert said.

Most of the feedback the task force received was positive, according to the director.

She said that at least one retiring bishop told her, “I’ve been waiting all my life for the church to say something like this.”

And task force member Bethany Fayard of the Southeastern Synod said she heard from a number of teens at an ELCA youth gathering about their experiences of bullying and sexual assault.

“Many came back multiple times because they felt like we were listening and that this church stands with them,” Fayard said.

“This social statement is a declaration by the ELCA that we stand with all women. Here I stand. Let us stand together.”

Fayard identified herself as a survivor of sexual assault in a different denomination. But it’s not just survivors of gender-based violence who are harmed by patriarchy, she said.

“For too long, women and girls haven’t been able to see God’s reflection in ourselves,” she said.

Serving on the task force challenged some of the preconceived notions held by William Rodriguez of the Florida-Bahamas Synod, he said.

Rodriguez — who teaches ethics, Christian ethics, theories of justice, Africana philosophy and philosophy of religion at Bethune-Cookman University — said his eyes were opened to some of the ways men interact with women that he never had thought about.

That includes telling women to smile or complimenting women’s appearances — things men don’t say to other men, he said.

He also began to notice little ways he treated his son and daughter differently.

“Through the process, I learned so much,” Rodriguez said.

Thomas-Breitfeld, the bishop who co-chaired the task force, said task force members drew from a biblical understanding that God desires “abundant life for all.”

“From the beginning, we wanted to signal that this issue is not only about women. The reason for this work was about all of us,” she said.

The statement on women and justice isn’t meant to sit on a shelf, Thomas-Breitfeld said.

It calls on the ELCA to act to end gender-based violence, to encourage women and girls to pursue ministry and leadership roles in their congregations, to use “gender-inclusive and expansive” language for God and to address inequities in pay and hiring both inside and outside the church.

“We are not able to make the world perfect, but, my siblings, we are called to serve the world in love, including through implementing resolutions that keep us accountable as a church together,” Thomas-Breitfeld said.

With more than 3.3 million baptized members, the ELCA is one of the largest Protestant Christian denominations in the United States. Its churchwide assembly includes 927 voting members from more than 9,100 congregations across the U.S. and the Caribbean.

Other actions that were approved by the Churchwide Assembly as of Friday morning include:

  • A resolution declaring the ELCA a sanctuary denomination — the first denomination in North America to do so, according to Living Lutheran.
  • A resolution condemning white supremacy, specifically calling out language that uses words like “invasion” in reference to immigrants or people of color and naming violent rhetoric in the name of Christian nationalism as “idolatry.”
  • A resolution commemorating June 17 as a “day of repentance in the ELCA for the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9,” who were murdered during a Bible study at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., by a white supremacist who was a member of an ELCA congregation. Two of the victims — the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the Rev. Daniel Simmons — also had attended an ELCA seminary.
  • A “Declaration of Inter-Religious Commitment” approved in front of a large group of ecumenical and interreligious guests — something, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said, “we are not seeing enough of in our country.”
  • A “Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent” that included a confession of the church’s complicity in slavery, named racism as a sin, acknowledged the institutional racism that continues within the denomination and vowed to repent and work for racial justice.
  • And the re-election of Eaton — the first female presiding bishop of the ELCA and now the first to be reelected on the first ballot, according to the denomination.

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Disability advocates call for inclusive action by UN for refugees

Episcopal News Service - Fri, 08/09/2019 - 5:26pm

Migrants waiting to cross the border between Greece and Macedonia carry a woman in a wheelchair in a camp near the village of Idomeni, Greece, in March 2016. Photo: Marko Djurica / Reuters via ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] Church disability advocates from various countries have called for further action from the United Nations to protect people with disabilities in areas of conflict.

Eighteen leaders from the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (WCC-EDAN), met in Beirut, Lebanon, in July, to address concerns in the region and to evaluate the strategic plan.

Executive secretary for the WCC-EDAN Anjeline Okola Charles said all delegates saw firsthand the difficulties facing those with disabilities in refugee camps and zones of conflict in the Middle East.

Read the entire article here.

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Episcopal diocese joins Mississippi churches offering support for families affected by raids

Episcopal News Service - Fri, 08/09/2019 - 5:08pm

Federal authorities conduct a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement worksite enforcement operation in Canton, Mississippi, on Aug. 7. Photo: Immigration and Customs Enforcement

[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of Mississippi is mobilizing Episcopalians in the state to assist families affected by federal immigration raids this week as Bishop Brian Seage joined other religious leaders in condemning the raids, in which nearly 700 workers were taken into custody at seven Mississippi chicken processing plants.

A joint statement signed by Seage and four Catholic, Methodist and Lutheran bishops in Mississippi called on the Trump administration to end immigration enforcement tactics that they say are spreading fear in local communities and threatening to cause “unacceptable suffering” for families and children.

“Within any [political] disagreement we should all be held together by our baptismal promises,” the bishops said. As followers of Christ, “we are his body and, therefore, called to act in love as a unified community for our churches, and for the common good of our local communities and nation. … Of course, we are committed to a just and compassionate reform to our nation’s immigration system, but there is an urgent and critical need at this time to avoid a worsening crisis.”

Seage also spoke briefly at an immigrant rights rally Aug. 8 in Jackson and issued a written statement that raised specific concerns about the effects of the raids on families living in Mississippi.

“We don’t know how many children have been affected at this time, but I am asking for churches and individuals willing to help with caring for the children to contact local officials,” Seage said in his online statement. “Likewise, we are exploring avenues through which support, financial and otherwise, may be extended.”

Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeted several plants in central Mississippi on Aug. 7 that were suspected of employing workers who lacked proper immigration documentation. The raids were said to be the largest conducted so far under President Donald Trump, whose hardline approach to immigration has been a cornerstone of his campaign and presidency.

The Department of Justice announced the day after the raids that 300 of those detained already had been released.

“That’s not enough,” Seage said at the rally in Jackson (starting at about the 36:00 mark here). “And it won’t be enough until all those families are reunited – and likewise, [until] others who dare to have the American dream and dare to go to work can go to work and not worry whether or not they will be coming home at night.”

Seage told the crowd he was horrified by the news of the raids. “Horrified to imagine children being separated from their parents,” he said. “And children coming home to an empty house.”

Federal authorities said they took precautions so children were not left without a parent’s care due to the raids. A Justice Department statement said those detained “were asked when they arrived at the processing center whether they had any children who were at school or child care and needed to be picked up,” and cellphones were provided to help them make arrangements for child care as needed, according to the Justice Department. The department said some parents were released to ensure “all children were with at least one of the parents.”

But some of the families were “traumatized,” Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jackson told the Jesuit magazine America. His diocese’s Catholic Charities is among the agencies reaching out to those families now to offer assistance.

“This is a man-made disaster,” Kopacz said, noting also that the raids happened on the first day of school in these communities. “These folks are our neighbors. They’re not criminals, the vast majority of them. They’re hardworking people.”

Family separations under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies sparked intense controversy last year, prompting federal officials to back down from those measures, though conditions at detention facilities on the southern border remain a contentious issue.

The Episcopal Church, at its General Convention in July 2018, passed a resolution decrying and urging a halt to “the implementation and intensification of inhumane and unjust immigration policies and practices such as detaining and separating children from parents.” It was adopted after more than 1,000 bishops, deputies and other Episcopalians participated in a prayer vigil held outside an immigrant detention facility near the convention center in Austin, Texas.

Another resolution approved last year affirmed the church’s support for “respecting the dignity of immigrants” through immigration policies and reforms.

More recently, church leaders expressed alarm in June when the Trump administration threatened a large-scale roundup of immigrants facing deportation orders in 10 cities. Those threats mostly fizzled.

“We are called as people of faith to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being,” Seage said at the Aug. 8 rally in Jackson.

Seage, in his follow-up statement, asked members of his diocese to contact the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services if they know of a child affected by the raid who is in need of care. That agency put out its own statement saying it was ready to assist children whose parents were detained.

Federal authorities did not alert the state to any child care needs, but the state agency began preparing an emergency response after learning about the raids through local news reports.

“We have foster homes that have been carefully inspected and licensed, and foster caregivers who have been well trained and have passed criminal background checks,” Child Protective Services spokeswoman Lea Anne Brandon said in a news release. “We know we can provide safe and secure placements and trauma-informed temporary care for these children – but we have not been asked to do so.”

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

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Maori trip to South Dakota reservation highlights unity of indigenous Anglicans

Episcopal News Service - Fri, 08/09/2019 - 5:04pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] To mark International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on Aug. 9, Anglican Communion News Service spoke with Isaac Beach, a youth representative on the Anglican Consultative Council from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Beach is a Maori of Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Rangitihi decent. He is is Kaikarakia (prayer leader) at Saint Luke’s in Paki Paki, a village on Aotearoa, New Zealand’s North Island.

“Recently, six indigenous youth from my diocese visited Pine Ridge Reservation in the Diocese of South Dakota, where we spent two weeks in cultural exchange and indigenous mission with the Red Shirt community of Lakota-Oglala Nation,” Beach said. “I strongly believe exposing our young people to international experiences through indigenous exchange is critical to informing how they can live a Christ-centered life. It is a wonderful tool for intentional discipleship.”

Read the full story here.

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ELCA declares itself a ‘sanctuary church body,’ marches to ICE building in Milwaukee

Episcopal News Service - Thu, 08/08/2019 - 5:11pm

Hundreds of attendees at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly march to the ICE building in Milwaukee for a prayer vigil in support of migrant children and their families on Aug. 7, 2019. Photo: Emily McFarlan Miller/RNS

[Religion News Service – Milwaukee] More than 500 years ago, a monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses outlining his grievances with the Roman Catholic Church to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany.

On Aug. 7, members of the mainline Protestant denomination bearing Luther’s name taped 9.5 theses — expressing their concern for immigrants and refugees — to the door of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Milwaukee.

The action was part of a prayer vigil for migrant children and their families during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly this week at Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Center.

It took place on the same day the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America declared itself a “sanctuary church body,” signaling its support for immigrants.

Both came in response to President Trump’s policies at the United States border with Mexico and his pledge to deport millions.

“It just keeps getting worse and worse in terms of unaccompanied children, separated families, detention centers that are just horrific, and so what we wanted to say as a church body, as the Lutheran church, we wanted to now act with our feet and take action,” said Evelyn Soto Straw, director of unit operations and programs for the ELCA’s Domestic Mission.

More than 570 voting members of the churchwide assembly signed up to participate in the prayer vigil at the ICE building. They were joined by staff from the ELCA and its AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities)  ministry, as well as members of the Greater Milwaukee Synod, the New Sanctuary Movement and Voces de la Frontera, a local grassroots organization.

The group marched nearly a mile from the Wisconsin Center to the ICE building, carrying signs with messages like “We put the protest back in Protestant” and chanting “This is what the love of God looks like.”

There, Bishop Paul Erickson of the Greater Milwaukee Synod opened the vigil in prayer to “Jesus Christ, immigrant and savior.”

“Marching is fun, words are great, but action makes a difference,” Erickson told the crowd gathered in the street.

The Rev. Erin Clausen of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod said she joined the vigil as a pastor, a mother and a spouse. Christians are supposed to bring the good news to everyone — “especially to those who are hurting and fearful,” Clausen said.

She thinks of the children separated from their families and of what she would want others to do if that were her child, and her heart breaks, she said.

Clausen marched alongside Iván Pérez, who is lead organizer and trainer on the Metropolitan Chicago Synod’s Antiracism Team.

Pérez, who is Puerto Rican, said his faith gives him boldness to speak out in support of immigrants.

He was “very happy and proud” of the ELCA after the vigil, he said as he marched back to the Wisconsin Center with the group.

Hundreds of attendees at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly march to the ICE building in Milwaukee for a prayer vigil in support of migrant children and their families on Aug. 7, 2019. Photo: Emily McFarlan Miller/RNS

The ELCA Churchwide Assembly — the primary decision-making body of the ELCA — meets through Saturday.

With more than 3.3 million baptized members, the ELCA is one of the largest Protestant Christian denominations in the United States. Its churchwide assembly includes 927 voting members from more than 9,100 congregations across the U.S. and the Caribbean.

The assembly is considering several immigration-related resolutions this week.

On Wednesday afternoon, after the lunchtime vigil, it passed a resolution declaring the ELCA a “sanctuary church body.” That term was proposed by Christopher Vergara, a voting member from the Metro New York Synod.

“We continue to do God’s work with our hands in language the world understands,” Vergara said.

Other measures approved so far this week by the assembly include a resolution recommitting to “being an advocate and justice seeker for immigrants,” advocating for Temporary Protected Status extensions and reaffirming its work with AMMPARO and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service to call for immigration policies and practices that keep families together.

Another resolution, calling on congregations, synods and other church organizations to speak out against the “inhumane policies of harassment, detention and deportation implemented by the U.S. government,” also passed.

Next, the assembly will consider a resolution requesting ELCA staff develop a plan for additional tools providing education and discernment “specifically directed to political rhetoric and the accurate portrayal of migrants and refugees.”

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RIP: Robert Stevens, founding director Dominican Development Group

Episcopal News Service - Wed, 08/07/2019 - 11:45am

[Diocese of Southwest Florida] Robert “Bob” Stevens, the founding director of the Dominican Development Group, died July 29, 2019, at age 76.

“We have lost in the Diocese of Southwest Florida a great saintly asset in the life and mission purpose of Dr. Bob Stevens,” said Bishop Dabney Smith, in a statement. “His sudden death is a shock and great sadness for many, both in this diocese and particularly in the Diocese of the Dominican Republic.”

Read the full obituary here.

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Clergy protest outside Mitch McConnell’s office, demand action on gun violence

Episcopal News Service - Tue, 08/06/2019 - 4:19pm

Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde of Washington, D.C. speaks to a crowd protesting outside Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office in Washington on Aug. 6.. Photo: Jack Jenkins/Religion News Service

[Religion News Service] A group of clergy protested outside Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office on Tuesday (Aug 6), calling on the Republican Senate majority leader to take action to address gun violence in the wake of two mass shootings over the weekend.

The band of around two-dozen faith leaders, who called themselves the Coalition of Concerned Clergy, prayed and challenged what they said was the Senate’s inaction on the issue of gun violence.

Helping lead the event was the Rev. Rob Schenck, who serves as president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, a nonprofit organization that addresses social issues from a Christian perspective. He listed a number of possible policies lawmakers could pass to address gun violence, such as universal background checks or “extreme vetting” for citizens wishing to purchase an assault rifle, but stressed the issue is a moral one.

“As a Christian … we are required to rescue those who are perishing, to come to their aid, and the Bible says if you fail to do it God will hold you to account,” Schenck, who is also a founding signer of an evangelical Christian pledge to take action on gun violence, told Religion News Service. “That’s our message to the senator today. Maybe he fears the NRA more than God. He shouldn’t.”

Also in attendance was Bishop Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C. A longtime advocate for gun violence prevention, Budde said Congress could pass a number of laws to prevent future bloodshed.

“I am among those who believe weapons of war don’t belong in the hands of civilians,” she said. “We’ve just been lulled into this sense of false helplessness that I find to be one of the greatest manifestations of sin that we need to fight against.”

Speaking to the crowd a few minutes later, Budde compared the scourge of gun violence to the rash of lynchings in America’s past, expressing hope that future generations will recollect mass shootings with disdain and disbelief.

“We will look back on these days and wonder how it was that we could have been so collectively aligned to such a needless proliferation of weapons meant to take human life,” she said.

As they stood outside McConnell’s office, faith leaders read the names of those recently felled during mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

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Elizabeth Eaton re-elected presiding bishop of the ELCA

Episcopal News Service - Tue, 08/06/2019 - 4:09pm

[Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — Milwaukee] The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton was re-elected presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or ELCA, on Aug. 6 at the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. On the first ballot, 897 votes were cast and 670 votes were needed for election. Eaton received 725 votes, which is 81.19% of the vote.

Eaton is the first ELCA presiding bishop to win re-election on the first ballot. She was elected to a first term as presiding bishop at the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh.

The first ballot for presiding bishop was cast during the first plenary Aug. 5. The vote was declared invalid because of an unconstitutional early vote on the amendments to the bylaws of the ELCA constitution. This included an amendment that gave the ELCA Church Council the right of vote at a churchwide assembly, which included the election of the presiding bishop.

“Thank you, Vice President Horne. And thank you to all of you, and thank you to the voting member who rightly brought to our attention that we were not following our own procedures,” said Eaton, addressing the assembly after the election results were announced. “The law is in place for a reason, but I’m really happy for the gospel part right now.”

“We’re church, church first,” Eaton said, recalling the first of the four emphases she introduced after her election in 2013. “Our lives are not only supported but our lives are surrounded, and our lives have their basis and meaning in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And especially as we experience that in our lives and are changed by that in word and sacrament. That’s where we get any authority or certainly any integrity to do works of love and justice, because we’re church.”

The 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly is meeting Aug. 5-10 at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. The assembly – the highest legislative body of the ELCA – will participate in plenary discussions to decide how to go about God’s work as a church. The assembly will also spend time in worship and Bible study.

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Bishops United repudiates Christian nationalism, systemic racism

Episcopal News Service - Tue, 08/06/2019 - 3:40pm

[Bishops United Against Gun Violence] Since last weekend, three young white men—all American citizens, all in legal possession of assault rifles—have murdered more than 30 people in cold blood. Most of the precious children of God who are dead and injured are people of color.

When gun violence makes headlines, politicians supported by the National Rifle Association are quick to call white shooters “mentally ill,” while characterizing black and brown shooters as “criminals” and insisting that guns are not the problem. They choose to remain loyal to the gun lobby and its campaign contributions while denying the incontrovertible evidence that more guns mean more deaths.

Common sense measures like universal background checks, assault weapons bans, handgun purchaser licensing, and restrictions on gun ownership by domestic abusers point the way toward sane gun policy that is well within any sensible interpretation of the Second Amendment. They are necessary and long overdue, but they are not sufficient.

This latest sickening cluster of mass shootings has thrust into the headlines the deadly mix of white supremacy and gun violence that is coming to define our era of American history. Anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise and our government holds asylum-seekers on our southern border in inhumane conditions. The president of the United States uses racist tropes and inflammatory language to incite crowds against people of color, refugees and immigrants; and hate crime reports have increased for three consecutive years. The hatred and fury that drives mass shootings can also be turned inward, where it fuels the invisible and growing death toll of gun suicides.

As Christians, we must work actively to dismantle the systemic racism that is part of our country’s founding narrative and that continues to fuel mass shootings and urban gun violence today. We must insist that both our fellow Christians and our elected leaders repudiate white supremacy and white nationalism and embrace humane immigration policies that follow God’s command and the Biblical imperative to welcome the stranger in our midst. And we must refuse to participate in scapegoating people with mental illness, a ploy too often used to distract from the urgent yet simple need to enact common sense gun safety measures.

Seven years ago yesterday, six people were murdered by a white supremacist at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. That massacre, one of two events that galvanized the creation of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, (the other was the shooting at Sandy Hook in Connecticut) brought us together across our differences to demonstrate that we believe in a God of life in the face of death. Today we are weary of witnessing the slaughter gripping our country. But we are no less determined to continue speaking, even when it seems our words make no difference; to continue praying in order to gather our strength to act; and to follow Jesus in speaking truth, especially when it seems that truth is out of season.

Bishops United Against Gun Violence is a network of nearly 100 Episcopal Church bishops working to curtail the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. Learn more at bishopsagainstgunviolence.org and follow Episcopalians United Against Gun Violence on Facebook.

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Sewanee workshop to guide priests grappling with Confederate symbols in their parishes

Episcopal News Service - Tue, 08/06/2019 - 3:04pm

Stained glass fabricator Dieter Goldkuhle, who worked with his late father to install many of the stained glass windows at Washington National Cathedral, replaces an image of the Confederate battle flag after cathedral leaders decided in 2016 that the symbol of racial supremacy had no place inside the cathedral. A year later, the cathedral also removed depictions of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Photo: Danielle E. Thomas/Washington National Cathedral

[Episcopal News Service] A Confederate battle flag depicted in stained glass.

A pew labeled as the one where the president of the Confederacy once worshiped.

A cathedral plaque honoring an Episcopal bishop who fought for the South in the Civil War.

Should such symbols remain on display at a time when the nation is increasingly alert to violence fueled by white supremacists who see the Confederacy as a validation of their racist hatred? With statues, plaques, artwork and other representations of Confederate figures found in Episcopal churches across the country, how should a parish priest respond?

“This is not just a historical question or a question of the political moment, but these are questions of theological issues that all Episcopal churches face in one way or another,” said Woody Register, a history professor at Sewanee: University of the South who is leading a six-year project intended to tell the full story of the Tennessee university’s ties to slavery and segregation.

The answers to those questions are the focus of a pilot workshop at Sewanee in November that was developed by two Sewanee seminary graduates, the Rev. Hannah Pommersheim and the Rev. Kellan Day. Pommersheim and Day have assisted Register with Sewanee’s Project on Slavery, Race and Reconciliation.

The workshop from Nov. 5 to 7 will provide “tools for leading change,” guiding Episcopal priests in discernment about the Confederate symbols in their parishes. The workshop’s three parts will examine the theological underpinnings of such symbols, equip the priests with context for understanding art and symbols and provide best practices for local action.

One core theological issue is the sin of racism. Some early Episcopal leaders, including the founders of Sewanee, promoted the myth that slavery was morally defensible and defended the myth even after slavery was abolished. It was a “story built on the subjugation of a lot of human beings,” Day told Episcopal News Service.

“I think the legacy of that racism is widespread and rampant, and one of the ways we can repent is by naming the story and sort of naming the ways it affects our built structures and sanctuaries,” she said.

Day is now a transitional deacon serving at Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Highlands, North Carolina. Pommersheim has signed on for another year with Register’s project team as a research associate. The two developed the workshop because they sensed that, while the nation debated Confederate symbols in public spaces, “these symbols have different meanings in a church space,” Pommersheim said.

This plaque honoring Leonidas Polk, an Episcopal bishop and Confederate general, was removed in 2018 from display at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo: Sarah Hartwig/Christ Church Cathedral

For example, Day said a Confederate figure might be seen as sanctified when depicted in stained glass, such as the Confederate generals in windows that were removed two years ago at Washington National Cathedral. The cathedral’s decision was hastened by the national uproar over a deadly standoff in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and counter-protesters. The hate groups had gathered there for a rally in support of a Confederate statue that was the focus of a legal battle.

Sewanee and Washington National Cathedral were among the Episcopal institutions that reassessed their own Confederate symbols in the wake of the Charlottesville clashes. Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, Ohio, removed a plaque honoring Bishop Leonidas Polk, a Sewanee founder who served as a Confederate general in the Civil War. In Lexington, Virginia, an Episcopal church that had been named for Robert E. Lee, dropped the Confederate general from its name.

In deciding what to do about those symbols, it is critical to understand what motivated communities – and churches – to erect tributes to Confederate history decades after the end of the Civil War, Register said. Often their motivation had less to do with preserving history than with promoting the myth of the Lost Cause, which claimed the Confederacy was a failed but noble campaign.

“These memorials and monuments tend to say as much or more about the moment in which they were installed than they do about the period or persons they memorialize,” he said.

A pew known as the Jefferson Davis pew is seen among newer pews at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo: David Berenguer

The so-called Jefferson Davis pew was a longtime icon at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama, until its removal last year. Church leaders researched the pew’s history and found that its ties to Davis were false and that a dedication ceremony in 1925 was a political act steeped in racism.

The Rev. Jamie Osborne, associate rector at St. John’s, was one of 13 bishops and clergy members whom Pommersheim and Day interviewed to build a curriculum for their workshop. Osborne will be leading one of the workshop’s sessions, along with Sewanee art professor Shelly MacLaren and the Rev. Molly Bosscher, who spent four years as associate rector at Richmond, Virginia’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, once known as the Cathedral of the Confederacy.

This initial workshop received a $5,000 grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and is only open to Episcopal clergy grappling with Confederate symbols at their churches. Pommersheim and Day hope to recruit up to 15 participants, and afterward, they will assess what worked and what changes would make the curriculum stronger.

Gathering face to face has the advantage of creating a support network of clergy members grappling with the same questions, they said. One of the intended lessons of the workshop is that it is helpful first to create a space for the parish to talk openly and respectfully about these issues.

“How can you pastorally make the best decision but also bring people along with you while you’re making that decision?” Pommersheim said.

Edmund Kirby-Smith was a Confederate general who later taught mathematics at the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee, where this monument to the general is located. It was moved in 2017 from this location to the university cemetery. Photo: Caroline Carson

The workshop also serves as a milepost for the work of Register’s project team, which already has completed substantial research into the history of the university and the 28 Episcopal dioceses that still own and govern it today. Some of that research is informing how Sewanee’s administrators handle Confederate symbols on campus, such as the decision two years ago to relocate a monument honoring Edmund Kirby-Smith, a 19th century Sewanee professor who previously served as a Confederate general.

As part of the Slavery, Race and Reconciliation project, the team has spent the last six months launching an oral history campaign to record old stories of African American life in the community of Sewanee. The university received $12,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to purchase electronic equipment to scan historic photos and produce audio recordings.

The team is considering how to maintain such collections and research after the project winds down in three years. Whatever the outcome, Register says the research is about more than local history.

“Sewanee’s story is not just a mountain top story, and it’s not just an Episcopal story, though it certainly is that,” Register said. “Its history is the history of race and religion and higher education throughout the United States.”

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

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Episcopal task force educates New Yorkers on what’s at stake in decriminalizing prostitution

Episcopal News Service - Tue, 08/06/2019 - 12:18pm

The Port Authority Bus Terminal served as the first station on April 6, 2019, for Stations of the Cross for Sex Trafficking Survivors, an event of the Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking. The task force is now working to educate the public on a bill introduced in the New York State Assembly that would decriminalize prostitution. Photo: Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] At least three U.S. states and the District of Columbia have introduced legislation that would decriminalize the buying and selling of sex, forcing a long-simmering debate on prostitution into the national dialogue.

Legalization proponents, religious or not, often cite biblical references to prostitution dating back to ancient Israel, telling the Genesis story of Judah and Tamar, and falling back on the well-worn phrase, the “world’s oldest profession.” Opponents tend to argue the “profession” leads to an increase in violence against women and girls and reflects men’s power over women.

“I consider prostitution not the oldest profession, but the oldest oppression,” said the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, a longtime sex and labor trafficking victims’ rights advocate who leads the Episcopal Diocese of New York’s Task Force Against Human Trafficking. “I think this decriminalization issue is a backlash against women’s rights and progress we’ve made in terms of equality. It’s a power issue and an entitlement issue.”

In late June, at the close of the New York State General Assembly’s 2019 legislative session, three New York City lawmakers introduced a bill that would decriminalize prostitution and legalize the sale of consensual sex. Massachusetts, Maine and Washington, D.C., have introduced similar bills.

During Lent, the Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking led a Stations of the Cross for Sex Trafficking Survivors event in New York City. 

Writing in the summer 2019 issue of The Episcopal New Yorker, Dannhauser said: “Sex workers’ rights organizations claim that consenting adults should be allowed to do whatever they want with their own bodies – ‘my body, my choice.’ But in most cases, prostitution is more aptly described as ‘my body, his choice.’ It’s not sexual liberation but sexual exploitation. According to Sanctuary for Families, New York’s leading service provider and advocate for survivors of gender violence, 90% of people in prostitution in the U.S. are trafficking victims. This means that only 10% of prostituted people have any real choice in what happens to their bodies in the sex trade.”

Both sides find common ground in calling for the decriminalization of people bought and sold in the commercial sex industry and for the ability of trafficking survivors to vacate their convictions. Opponents of the decriminalization of prostitution typically favor an “equality” model that focuses more on decreasing demand and preventing exploitation, similar to those adopted in Nordic countries, where cultural attitudes have shifted and it’s becoming no longer socially acceptable to purchase people for sex and it’s seen as a barrier to gender equality.

In the United States, the decriminalization conversation has shifted in the context of the #MeToo movement; alongside an awareness of sexual violence on college campuses; and amid the backdrop of high-profile sex crime cases, like those involving New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who allegedly paid for sexual services at a Florida massage parlor, and financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who stands accused of trafficking underage girls and paying them to perform sex acts.

“It’s not about legislating morality, it’s about social context,” said Dannhauser, in an interview with Episcopal News Service in her office at the Church of the Incarnation on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. “It’s a backlash against women’s rights, and it’s an empowerment and entitlement issue … the whole idea of rape culture on college campuses. “It’s finally coming into the light.”

In late July, the Church of the Incarnation, where Dannhauser serves as associate rector, hosted a Tuesday evening panel discussion to educate the public on the bill. As the Episcopal church’s sanctuary filled with some men but mostly women from diverse backgrounds, a small group of bill supporters gathered in protest on the sidewalk outside, as police officers stood watch nearby.

The four-person panel of opponents – two sex trafficking survivors, an activist and educator, and an activist lawyer – shared personal stories and talked about the bill’s specifics. New York Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, a bill co-sponsor whose district includes Incarnation, had agreed to participate but later rescinded saying the venue wasn’t “neutral.” Toward the end of the event, the protesters from outside entered the sanctuary and disrupted the gathering.

Legalization advocates say that decriminalization would protect people who “do sexual labor by choice, circumstance, coercion,” and they call for legislation that would protect people in the sex trade from economic exploitation and interpersonal violence. They also call for people imprisoned on sex-trade related offenses to be freed and for the de-stigmatization of the sex trade.

Bill opponents, however, say it would thwart prosecution of sex and child traffickers, pimps who prostitute children and pimping in general; permit pimping of anyone 18 years of age or older; allow traffickers to vacate convictions; inhibit prosecutors’ trafficking investigations; and make it harder for law enforcement to identify victims. They are also concerned that the bill would legalize the purchase of sex, brothels and commercial sex establishments, and encourage sex tourism.

“We [New York residents] have to ask ourselves, Why do we need people buying sex? What is that all about?” said Yvonne O’Neal, a task force member. “Personally – and it does keep me up at night sometimes – I’m wondering when I go to church on Sunday, as a person of faith, as an Episcopalian, and I look around in the congregation, my question is, Who are these men that are buying sex? And obviously, they have to be some of them sitting in the pews. Who are they? We don’t know, and why is that necessary?”

Proponents of decriminalization say that “if we need to,” people should be able to sell their bodies, and that legalization will lead to safer working conditions and industry regulations. Opponents say it will lead to higher demand and an increase in child sex trafficking as men look to purchase sex from younger and younger girls.

“There are some people in the trade who say, ‘Well, you, know, this is what I choose,’ and I don’t doubt that, but the vast majority of women who have to sell their bodies, I don’t think they are doing it voluntarily,” said O’Neal, who also represents The Episcopal Church at the United Nations as a member of the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons. “We should be able to find ways to help them to make a different kind of living and not have to subject their bodies to this.”

During the panel discussion at Incarnation, Iryna Makaruk, a sex trafficking survivor challenged the theory that sex work is work.

“It’s not work; you’re not selling yourself, you’re sold,” she said.

“There are girls being sold all over in run-down apartments, and they are being raped like I was,” said Makaruk, who was 19 and living in Brooklyn when a trafficker lured her in. “Shame on us if that’s how are girls are making money.”

– Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

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Church leaders urge Episcopalians to strive for peace in wake of massacres in Texas, Ohio

Episcopal News Service - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 3:10pm

Mourners take part in a vigil Aug. 3 at El Paso High School after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal bishops are speaking out in the aftermath of back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, offering prayers, conveying the grief of their dioceses and hoping for a future when American life will no longer be plagued by such sudden bursts of deadly gun violence.

“Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers, and we in the church are called to make peace in our neighborhoods and with our young people,” Diocese of the Rio Grande Bishop Michael Hunn said in an online video reacting to the Aug. 3 massacre of 20 people at a Walmart in El Paso.

A 21-year-old man has been arrested in the killings and is suspected of posting a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto online before opening fire.

“My heart is heavy this morning with the tragic shootings yesterday in El Paso and last night in Dayton,” Southern Ohio Bishop Tom Breidenthal said in a Facebook post on Aug. 4, hours after a gunman opened fire in an entertainment district in Dayton. Police shot and killed the gunman, a 25-year-old man, whose motive wasn’t immediately clear.

Breidenthal, while offering prayers for the victims and those affected by the shootings, lamented that this was the second time in a year that his diocese was in mourning after a mass shooting in one of its cities. An attack in September left three victims dead and two others wounded in Cincinnati.

“Please join me in praying for an end to the epidemic of hate and violence that is sweeping our country,” he said.

Hunn and Breidenthal are part of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a network of nearly 100 Episcopal bishops that formed in the wake of two high-profile mass shootings in 2012, at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The bishops’ mission has taken on a greater sense of urgency amid the growing national alarm at subsequent tragedies.

The Bishops United’s Litany in the Wake of a Mass Shooting was updated on Aug. 4 and now remembers the victims of 43 shootings since 2012.

Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas read the litany in a Facebook video after the El Paso and Dayton shootings, noting that Aug. 5 marks seven years since the Sikh temple shooting.

“This litany is a prayer offered for all the mass shootings, all the victims of mass shootings since Bishops United Against Gun Violence has come together,” Douglas said.

Douglas and other leaders of Bishops United planned to discuss a further response to the recent shootings later Aug. 5, after attention was focused in the morning on a statement read by President Donald Trump from the White House.

“We ask God in heaven to ease the anguish of those who suffer, and we vow to act with urgent resolve,” Trump said in his 10-minute remarks.

The president also forcefully denounced racism and hatred, saying neither has a place in America, and he enumerated four potential policy responses – their focuses included violent video games and mental illness – that could reduce the “barbaric slaughters” he said were carried out by “mentally ill monsters.”

Trump avoided calling for any substantial gun safety reforms, and it remains to be seen whether the shock of the recent violence will push the needle in Washington further toward such legislation. As the list of mass shootings has increased, legislative remedies have gone nowhere in Congress.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention has passed numerous resolutions over the years calling for tighter gun laws. A resolution passed in 2015 included calls for universal criminal background checks for gun purchases, a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, tougher enforcement against gun trafficking and requirements that gun owners be trained in gun safety. In 2018, bishops and deputies passed a new resolution recognizing gun violence as a public health issue.

With the recent focus on tragedies in El Paso and Dayton, Episcopalians churchwide have joined in mourning the victims of the recent shootings. Chicago Bishop Jeffrey Lee issued a statement on Facebook in which he prayed “for the strength and commitment to stand up against the corrosive power of hateful speech and the insanity of all too available guns.” Bishop Sean Rowe, who leads the dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York, sent a letter to both urging Episcopalians not to give up hope.

“I invite you to pray in response to these evil acts – not as a substitute for action, but as a precursor to it,” Rowe said.

Arizona Bishop Jennifer Reddall was among the speakers Aug. 4 at a vigil for gun violence victims in Phoenix.

“You cannot be a white supremacist and be a Christian,” Reddall said, according to Arizona Republic’s coverage of the event. “You cannot love Jesus and hate your neighbor. And if you say you do, you’re wrong.”

And while people of faith pray, Reddall called on politicians to do more than pray. “I want you to do your job, which is to act,” she said.

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

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Christian leaders, including Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, condemn Christian nationalism in letter

Episcopal News Service - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 2:13pm

[Religion News Service] A group of Christian leaders has condemned Christian nationalism in a new letter, calling it a “persistent threat to both our religious communities and our democracy.”

The letter, published on July 29, comes from a coalition of largely liberal-leaning Christian leaders and thinkers. Entitled “Christians Against Christian Nationalism,” it calls on religious Americans to push back against fusions of religion and government they say are distortions of their faith.

“Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy,” the statement reads in part. “Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation. We reject this damaging political ideology and invite our Christian brothers and sisters to join us in opposing this threat to our faith and to our nation.”

The letter also suggests that Christian nationalism treats other religions as “second-class faiths.”

“As Christians, we must speak in one voice condemning Christian nationalism as a distortion of the gospel of Jesus and a threat to American democracy,” the letter states.

The letter was organized by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, a group dedicated to “protecting religious liberty for all and defending the separation of church and state.”

Amanda Tyler, the group’s executive director, said Christian nationalism is “not new” but that she and others at the BJC were inspired to pull the letter together in light of what she said was a spike in Christian nationalist rhetoric and efforts to pass state-level legislation that reflects Christian nationalist sentiment.

“Over the past several years, we seem to be stuck on high in Christian nationalism,” she said. “We’ve seen it in violent, even deadly ways. Christian nationalist views can inspire violence — even against houses of worship.”

Although the statement does not mention Donald Trump by name, the president and many of his evangelical supporters have been criticized by liberal Christians for promoting various kinds of Christian nationalism in speeches and public appearances throughout his first term.

One of Trump’s most vocal supporters, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, preached a sermon in June 2018 insisting that America is a “Christian nation.” The First Baptist choir also took part in a 2017 Independence Day celebration with Trump, debuting an anthem called “Make America Great Again.” The song, composed by a former minister of music at the church, repeatedly invokes Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan but does not mention God or religion.

Endorsers of the letter skew toward liberal-leaning mainline Christian voices and include prominent names such as the Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; Sister Simone Campbell, head of Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK; Tony Campolo, founder of Red Letter Christians; Jim Winkler, president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches; Melissa Rogers, former executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships under President Barack Obama; the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Office of Public Witness; and the Rev. Paul Baxley, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Over the course of the past week, the statement has already received an additional nearly 6,000 signatories, which Tyler said hailed from all 50 states and more than 30 different denominations.

“This is a grassroots campaign,” she said.

Other religious critics of Christian nationalism include the Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. He has repeatedly decried the “false moral narrative of religious nationalism” during public appearances and has made opposing it one of five major issues at the center of the Poor People’s Campaign. During a candidates forum hosted by his group in June, Barber repeatedly asked candidates if they would advocate for a public debate on poverty as well as other subjects — including religious nationalism. (All nine candidates said yes.)

Polls show criticisms of Christian nationalism are likely to resonate with a broad swath of Americans. In April, a Morning Consult survey found that roughly half of registered voters (47%) view Christian nationalism as “a threat to the vital interests of the country,” and 63% of Democrats said the same. Among Republicans, only 35% felt similarly.

Conservative voices such as Washington Times opinion editor Cheryl Chumley have dismissed the statement, calling into question the faith of the signers.

“This is a campaign filled with self-proclaiming Christians whose Christian ideals and beliefs are, in strict biblical teaching, very un-Christian,” Chumley wrote, referencing signatories that include the heads of at least two historic Christian denominations.

Chumley criticized signers who have affirmed LGBTQ identities and relationships.

“If these CACN types see the Bible as their rally call to fight against borders — which is another way of bucking the rule of law — why can’t they see it’s this same Bible that makes clear homosexuality, to God, is an abomination?”

Tyler pushed back on the criticism.

“I don’t think anyone should be challenging the religious identity of the nearly 6,000 Americans who have said they agree with this,” she said.

As a followup, Tyler said she is working on podcasts focusing on the subject of Christian nationalism.

“We wanted to start somewhere and see what kind of resonance this would have with American Christians,” she said. “We’ve seen it has a lot.”

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Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang elected next bishop of Taiwan

Episcopal News Service - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 10:47am

The Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang was elected bishop of the Diocese of Taiwan on Aug. 3, 2019, at a special election convention held at St. James’ Episcopal Church, Taichung. Photo: Diocese of Taiwan.

[Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan] The Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan elected the Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, rector of Advent Church, Taipei, as its sixth bishop on Aug. 3, 2019, at a special election convention held at St. James’ Episcopal Church, Taichung.

One of three nominees, Chang was elected on the second ballot. Nine clergy votes and 19 lay votes were necessary for election on that ballot; Chang received 11 clergy votes and 28 lay votes.

The other nominees were the Rev. Lily Ling-Ling Chang, rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church, Taichung, and Rev. Joseph Ming-Lung Wu, vicar of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Pingtung. All nominees came from within the diocese.

Chang, 64, is married to Hannah Fen-Jan Wei, with two adult daughters and two small grandchildren. He graduated in 1975 with a diploma in industrial engineering from St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology, the predecessor of St. John’s University, Taipei, where he was also baptized in 1970. Armed with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and later a Ph.D., he was associate professor of mathematics at St. John’s University from 1983-2016. Chang’s theological training was through the diocesan Trinity Hall Theological Program, and after ordination as deacon in 1995 and priest in 1999, he became chaplain of St. John’s University (1997-2016) and vicar, later rector, of Advent Church on the St. John’s University campus, which serves as both university chapel and parish church.

Chang is passionate about The Episcopal Church and the unique role of St. John’s University, with its Episcopal foundation and chaplaincy ministry. Leading students to Christ through the chaplaincy, nurturing them through discipleship, and leading them on short-term mission trips within Taiwan and overseas has been a blessing for the whole of the The Episcopal Church in Taiwan. He looks forward to continuing that ministry as bishop, focusing on mission and evangelization, leading the church forward in faith and witness. In his acceptance speech after the election, Chang said, “Building on the work of Bishop David J. H. Lai over the past 20 years, I will continue to go forth in the name of the Lord.” His inspiration and role model is Bishop James C. L. Wong (bishop of Taiwan, 1965-70, and founder of St. John’s University), whose motto was  “Transforming lives through the life of Christ.” Chang continued, “In the future, I will inherit Bishop James Wong’s legacy motto, to lead all of you to commit to this comprehensive mission.”

Lai retires in March 2020, and pending consent of the majority of The Episcopal Church’s bishops and standing committees, Chang will be ordained, consecrated and installed as bishop of Taiwan on Feb. 22, 2020, with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry as chief consecrator. The Diocese of Taiwan is part of The Episcopal Church’s Province 8.

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