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Anglicans attend Vatican-hosted ecumenical conference on challenging xenophobia

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 2:49pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans attending a joint World Council of Churches and Vatican conference in Rome have spoken out on the need to counter xenophobia and racism towards refugees and migrants. Anglican experts were called to the World Conference on Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration, which took place in Rome from 18 to 20 September, co-sponsored by Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the WCC, with the support of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Read the full article here.

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Episcopal clergywomen raise concerns about Danforth’s comments on Kavanaugh allegations

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 4:13pm

John Danforth signs a copy of his book “The Relevance of Religion: How Faithful People Can Change Politics” for Diocese of New York Bishop Andrew Dietsche after Danforth’s September 2016 presentation to the House of Bishops. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] A letter to the New York Times this week that was endorsed by hundreds of Episcopal clergywomen raises concerns about comments former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, a Missouri Republican and Episcopal priest, made about the confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump’s latest nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The letter, posted to the Times’ website on Sept. 25, was authored by the Rev. Teresa Danieley, a Missouri priest, and was submitted with 327 additional names attached. The clergywomen specifically question Danforth’s defense of Brett Kavanaugh, 53, in the face of allegations the judge sexually assaulted a teenage girl while he was in high school.

“No one, not least a priest of the church, should publicly shame, blame or question the motives of women who step forward to report instances of sexual abuse,” the letter says. “Those in ordained ministry are called to display Christ’s love for both accuser and accused, fulfilling the baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace and to respect the dignity of every human being.”

328 women clergy in The Episcopal Church sign letter criticizing former Sen. John Danforth, also an Episcopal priest, for saying he feels "terribly sorry" for Kavanaugh, while showing no compassion for the women. https://t.co/2SmIElZ8AA @nytimes @episcopalchurch

— Laurie Goodstein (@lauriegnyt) September 25, 2018

Danforth, in an email to Episcopal News Service, strongly objected to how the letter described his comments about Kavanaugh.

“The characterizations in the letter bear no resemblance to anything I have ever said or thought. Specifically, I have never shamed, blamed or questioned the motives of women who report instances of sexual abuse,” Danforth said. “I believe that both the accused and the accuser should be heard.”

Danieley first learned of Danforth’s defense of Kavanaugh in the Times from a friend in seminary.

“Personally, it was just very dismaying that he would say anything at all,” Danieley told ENS in a phone interview. “It just seems antithetical to a pastoral response.”

The Episcopal Church has grappled with its own neglect in addressing sexual harassment. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, issued a call to the church in January to examine its history of failures to protect victims of harassment, exploitation and abuse.

“When facts dictate, we must confess and repent of those times when the church, its ministers or its members have been antagonistic or unresponsive to people—women, children and men—who have been sexually exploited or abused,” Curry and Jennings said in their letter to the church.

Kavanaugh, a federal Court of Appeals judge, had appeared headed for confirmation in the Republican-controlled Senate, with supporters describing him as one of the most qualified nominees to be picked for the nation’s highest court. The allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford have thrown the confirmation into question, with two more women coming forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when he was young. Kavanaugh has denied all the allegations.

The allegations also have led to comparisons to the confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991 and the sexual harassment allegations against Thomas made by law professor Anita Hill. Danforth, a senator at the time and a prominent Thomas defender, was quoted by the New York Times in a Sept. 17 story headlined “Echoes of Anita Hill, but in a Different Era for Women.”

“I just feel so terribly sorry for Kavanaugh and what he’s going through,” Danforth told the Times. “Here’s a man who’s had just a marvelous reputation as a human being and now it’s just being trashed. I felt the same way about Clarence.”

Danforth also referenced the #MeToo movement, in which women have gone public with similar allegations of harassment, assault and sexual misconduct by prominent men. “With the #MeToo movement, it makes it even harder for him,” Danforth said in the Times’ report. “It was bad enough for Clarence, but this is really going to be difficult.”

Danforth also discussed Kavanaugh’s nomination Sept. 19 in an interview with CNN, calling the confirmation process “totally out of control.”

After talking with Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith about Danforth’s comments, Danieley drafted a letter in response, and a group of female Episcopal clergy offered feedback and helped edit the letter.

Danieley said she shared the text of the letter Sept. 22 to two Facebook groups with primarily Episcopal women as members and invited those who agreed with the sentiments to add their names to the letter through a Google Form. She learned later that the letter had been re-shared on a diocesan clergy email list, generating additional support.

By the time Danieley submitted the letter to the Times, 328 names were attached.

The Rev. Susan Russell, associate rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, was among the women who endorsed the letter. “For me it was a no-brainer opportunity,” Russell told ENS by email, “to hold a brother priest accountable for behavior that runs counter to our baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of every human being by categorically dismissing the lived experience of survivors of abuse.”

Former Sen. John Danforth (R-Missouri), an Episcopal priest, center, talks with Chicago Bishop Jeffrey D. Lee, left, and Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith before Danforth’s September 2016 presentation to the House of Bishops. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Danforth, a lawyer who is identified as a partner in the Missouri law firm Dowd Bennett, received a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School and has written several books about the intersection of faith and politics. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1977 to 1994.

Although Danforth’s quotes in the Times don’t directly reference Kavanaugh’s accuser, Danieley said the comments struck her as one-sided.

“To me this isn’t an attack on Danforth – I mean, he did make public comments, so it’s legitimate to respond to public comments – but rather reiterates that [clergy] are supposed to be responsive when people come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct,” she said.

Curry and Jennings called on Episcopalians to spend Ash Wednesday 2018 “meditating on the ways in which we in the church have failed to stand with women and other victims of abuse and harassment” and, during Lent, to consider “how we can redouble our work to be communities of safety that stand against the spiritual and physical violence of sexual exploitation and abuse.”

Taking up that call, the House of Bishops held a “Liturgy of Listening” in Austin, Texas, on July 4 during the 79th General Convention to share stories from victims of sexual misconduct perpetrated by someone in the church, chosen from 40 stories submitted in response to the bishops’ request for reflections.

“People who courageously step forward with allegations of sexual harassment or assault deserve to be heard and respected,” the Episcopal clergywomen say in their letter to the Times. “We can and must demand better from our clergy, even if we cannot expect better from secular authorities.”

Danieley, a former parish priest who now works for the nonprofit Missouri Jobs With Justice, said it was important to speak out now and make this a “teachable moment” – “that what we say matters and how we respond to women who make accusations matter.”

Danforth, in his email to ENS, called Thomas’ 1991 confirmation hearings “perhaps the worst experience of my life.” Helping his “dear friend” get through that period is why he now feels “terribly sorry” for Kavanaugh.

He said the problem is in how the Senate confirms Supreme Court nominees. “Something is very wrong,” he said, without elaborating on what is broken.

“With the writers of the letter,” he said, “I embrace ‘the baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace and to respect the dignity of every human being.’  However, the circumstances surrounding the Kavanaugh confirmation are the antithesis of that baptismal promise.”

Senate Republicans have scheduled a hearing for Sept. 27 at which Kavanaugh and his accuser, Ford, are scheduled to testify. A committee vote to move the nomination forward could come as soon as the next day, potentially sending Kavanaugh to a full vote in the Senate, where Republicans have a slim two-vote majority.

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

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Anglican diocese launches floating church on London river

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 3:10pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Diocese of London has launched another new church in its plan to develop 100 new worshipping communities by 2020 – this time on a floating barge in the River Lea Navigation. St. Columba’s Church will eventually be housed in a new purpose-built floating barge, but last week it launched in its temporary home on board the Elsdale II.

Read the full article here.

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Minnesota Bishop Brian Prior announces plans for retirement, seeking new bishop

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 5:22pm

[Diocese of Minnesota] Bishop Brian Prior issued a statement on Sept. 25 announcing he plans to step down after nearly a decade of service leading the Diocese of Minnesota. His retirement announcement says the diocese’s 10th bishop will be consecrated in February 2020. The full statement follows.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

With the beginning of my 10th year of serving as the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota on the horizon, and after much prayer and conversations, the Spirit has led me to believe that it is time to begin the process of calling the 10th Bishop of Minnesota.

The question inevitably is, why now? ECMN is clear about its calling to engage God’s mission of becoming the Beloved Community. In every corner and in countless neighborhoods faithful Episcopalians are participating in the Jesus movement through building relationships and cultivating partnerships across the great state of Minnesota.

ECMN is incredibly healthy. We are blessed to have great clergy and lay leaders, a phenomenal Team of Missioners and very competent leaders at all our affiliates. Our Elected Bodies and our Mission Areas are functioning at a high level of collaborative leadership. We are, and have been for a number of years, very financially solid; including being debt free on all ECMN properties.

Why now? Because what I have learned in over three decades of leadership and ministry development is that the best time for leadership transition is when the organization is healthy, has strong shared leadership, and a clear sense of its mission. ECMN is in a great position to expand its capacity for engaging God’s mission of the Beloved Community.

Serving as Bishop of ECMN is an incredible privilege and an immense blessing. I absolutely love serving as the Bishop here. And that, too, is why now. Because I believe others should have the opportunity to serve in such a Spirit-filled place with such gifted people. It’s a great time for me to get out of the way and create space for the Spirit to bring whom you will bless next as you have immeasurably blessed me.

My family and close friends know that for years I have had a countdown app on my phone that marked the date I was eligible to activate my pension. That date was a little over a year ago. During the last year, Staci and I began to discern what a next chapter might look like for us and our family. Bishop Todd Ousley, Bishop for Pastoral Development, Presiding Bishop Curry and a few close colleagues and confidants have walked with us during this time and we are exploring a myriad of possibilities to use our gifts for God’s mission. Staci and I would greatly appreciate your prayers.

The election of your 10th Bishop will be at our ECMN Convention. The Ordination and Consecration of your 10th Bishop will be in February of 2020. Between the election and the Consecration I will take a portion of that time for my unused sabbatical. In short order, the Standing Committee, working with Bishop Ousley will call a search Committee and Transition Committee.

As ECMN begins this season of discernment for the 10th Bishop, we will continue to engage God’s mission of the Beloved Community. As always, I invite all of us to pray deeply and participate fully.

Click here for a resource to use as a bulletin insert or for wider communication.

The Rt. Rev. Brian N. Prior

IX Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota

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Cree priest becomes suffragan bishop in a first for Canadian area mission

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 5:13pm

[Anglican Journal] Archdeacon Larry Beardy, a Cree priest, educator and former executive archdeacon of the Diocese of Keewatin, was consecrated first indigenous suffragan bishop of the Northern Manitoba Area Mission – a new grouping of parishes within the indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh – at a ceremony at Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba on Sept. 23.

Read the full article here.

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Archbishop of Canterbury on US trip preaches of God’s wisdom as light for confused world

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 3:52pm

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby preaches Sept. 23 at Trinity Church Wall Street in this image from the congregation’s video of the sermon.

[Episcopal News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby spoke of the vision, wisdom and light that the Gospel and followers of Jesus can bring to “a world of puzzlement and confusion” in sermons during recent stops on a trip to the United States.

Welby, head of the Anglican Communion, was in Dallas, Texas, last week to participate in a vocational conference, and he preached Sept. 23 at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York with a message to spread the wisdom of the Gospel to the world.

“The reality of Jesus is seen in a holy people of prayer, who desire God from the bottom of their hearts,” Welby said at Trinity Wall Street.

“The search for God-centered wisdom from above, the holy understanding of what to do now, begins with our identity, which is found truthfully in Christ alone,” Welby said. “That will only happen when we are outward-looking.”

He praised Trinity Wall Street for its outward focus in seeking to serve others, and he emphasized the importance of practicing simplicity and heeding God’s wisdom from above.

“Christ called his disciples to ‘go,’ … But to go we must listen,” he said.

The sermon drew on a range of allusions, from the threat of climate change to the example of a Catholic archbishop who spent time in captivity during the Vietnam War. The text of the sermon is here; a video is here.

His earlier appearance in Dallas kicked off Sept. 20 with a joint event with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church. Welby and Curry spoke about love and reconciliation in today’s world in a discussion sponsored by the American Friends of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

That event was followed later in the day by Welby’s appearance at RADVO, which stands for Radical Vocation, a three-day conference on discerning the call to priesthood. It was presented by Communion Partners, http://communionpartners.org/ a group of Episcopal and Anglican traditionalists.

Welby preached at the Evensong on Sept. 20 at Church of the Incarnation, Dallas.

“Let me be clear; although as Anglicans we are already in a church divided globally since the Great Schism, and far more so since the Reformation … we are called in everything we do to be together, despite all the difficulties involved,” Welby said.

Christians also are called to be “children of light,” he continued.

“The nature of ordained ministry is to seek to ensure that the church shines a light that illuminates,” Welby said, “and yet to find oneself doing that in a confusing world, where options and choices often have the appearance of equal validity.”

The text of Welby’s sermon can be found here.

During his trip to Dallas, Welby also visited the Texas School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the bullets that killed President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1063, Anglican Communion News Service reported.

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

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Episcopal Church in Puerto Rico implements long-term recovery strategy a year after Maria

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 1:08pm

Elisa Sanchez, a member of Puerto Rico’s Occupy Movement who also works for Episcopal Social Services, explains the plans to retrofit one of the many schools closed by the government for housing and a community center. Listening are Edith Aquino, a member of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church and a volunteer at the former school, and Lydia Pendleton, a Young Adult Service Corps volunteer from New Hampshire serving the Diocese of Puerto Rico. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – San Juan, Puerto Rico] In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico Bishop Rafael Morales Maldonado issued an order for all Episcopal churches on the island to open their doors to the community. In doing so, the churches became points of distribution for emergency supplies, and also symbols of hope.

“I believe the Episcopal Church in Puerto Rico was, after the hurricane, and is a great beacon of hope in this country,” said Morales in an interview with Episcopal News Service in his office in Trujillo Alto, a barrio of San Juan.

Many people, he said, came to know the Episcopal Church as a result of Maria. The Diocese of Puerto Rico has 52 congregations located throughout the island, some in hard-to-reach remote mountain regions, in small towns, on the island of Vieques and in the cities. The priests and church members reached out to everybody in the community, “offering love,” he said. And, as a result, the church has welcomed new “brothers and sisters.”

The Rev. Ana Maria Mendez, vicar of St. James and St. Philip the Apostles, describes her church as a “church of the street.” Mendez also directs the diocese’s disaster response program, REDES. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Those efforts continue as the diocese, in partnership with other agencies and organizations, continues to offer mission and education fairs in communities across the island. The most recent took place in Yabucoa on Sept. 20, the one-year anniversary of the hurricane. On Sept. 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall as a Category 4 storm in Yabucoa, on the island’s southwest side, bringing 155 mph winds, massive rains and flooding across the island.

The diocese, with assistance from medical staff from St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, its facility in Ponce, has conducted regular mission and education fairs over the past year. The fair on Sept. 20, however, included a special service to remember the thousands of lives lost, and survivors still affected and mourning. And then, in partnership with the Diocese of New York, Morales participated in a Eucharist in remembrance of Maria’s victims on Sunday, Sept. 23 at Church of the Intercession in Manhattan. New York City is home to more than 700,000 Puerto Ricans, the largest diaspora on the mainland.

Though the initial death toll stood at 64 people, thousands of others died in the storm’s aftermath, some from medical needs that went untreated. A recent study recorded 2,975 deaths. Many residents were with out electricity for months, and some in remote regions still don’t have power.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory; its 3.3 million residents are U.S. citizens. The Diocese of Puerto Rico – 5,000 Episcopalians – is part of the Episcopal Church’s Province IX. Of the diocese’s 87 buildings, 66 sustained damage. Emergency repairs were made so that the doors could open; if the structures weren’t safe, the bishop’s mandate was to set up a table outside.

When Maria hit, neither the government nor nongovernmental institutions, including the diocese, had disaster plans in place.

“There was no plan, but everyone came together – not just the diocese, but [Maria] brought the church and community together,” said Yaitza Salinas, diocesan administrator.

The Rev. Ana Maria Mendez, right, director of the Diocese of Puerto Rico’s disaster response program, and a volunteer pack bags for distribution to people in need in a makeshift warehouse on the diocese’s property in Trujillo Alto, a barrio of San Juan. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Diocesan staff sprang into action and divided the island into four quadrants, assessing damage and distributing food, water and other emergency supplies. In late September and into early October, the diocese received 17 shipping containers full of emergency supplies – food, water and  generators – which it sent to churches to distribute to communities, though it took a full two weeks and the use of four-wheel drive vehicles before remote communities could be reached.

“The people saw the trucks coming and they came out into the streets,” said Salinas.

Loiza, a barrio of some 4,700 people known in the past for its high murder rate, was one of the hardest hit areas on the northeast end of the island. It lies at the end of a 25-minute scenic drive along Highway 187 from San Juan. Many of the barrio’s residents still live with blue tarpaulins on their roofs.

“Nobody was prepared for Maria,” said the Rev. Ana Rosa Mendez, vicar of St. James and St. Philip the Apostles. “The church was responding to Irma.”

Loiza was one of the barrios affected by Hurricane Irma, which hit on Sept. 6, 2017. The Virgin Islands bore the brunt of Irma, but it also caused major flooding in some areas of Puerto Rico. Loiza and nearby communities were already struggling, and their need increased after the hurricanes.

Mendez, who now coordinates the diocese’s disaster response program, already has made inroads into the community, providing services to teenage and single mothers and training them to be self-sufficient. The church also provides meals to some 500 housebound people.

“It’s been a difficult year,” said Mendez in an interview with ENS at the church. Scarcity of building materials is one of the major challenges. Still, even in the hurricanes’ aftermath, Mendez said, “the churches worked together and there was some good that came out of it.”

Edith Verdejo, a longtime member of St. James and St. Philip, echoed that sentiment. Verdejo, who’s also a community leader, worked to connect the church to other community organizations and the local government to coordinate a response. Together they worked to help property owners secure the deeds to their dwellings, as well as distribute supplies and establish disaster protocols.

“Everyone rolled up their sleeves and came together as a community,” Verdejo said. “We used to have a high murder rate, and that has lowered since the storm. People are really coming together.”

The community realized they have to come together and help themselves, not wait for help from the government, said Verdejo.  Still, “the priest [Mendez] has told us, if you see someone in need …”

The governmental response, particularly the federal response, has been criticized, while President Donald Trump has continued to say the revised death toll was fabricated.

In the future, the diocese and its churches want to be better prepared. In partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development, they are implementing a diocesan response strategy.

Episcopal Relief & Development is committed to working with the Diocese of Puerto Rico on the Recovery and Preparedness program, REDES, for the next several years. The program is currently focused on supporting pastoral care and mental health, and providing housing repair and livelihood recovery to households impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

REDES collaborates through and with the 52 congregations in the diocese, connecting resources and volunteers, conducting preparedness assessments for future all-hazards planning, and supporting clergy and lay leaders on a variety of disaster preparedness activities.

“We are grateful to be able to support the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico as it acts as a beacon of hope to so many who have lost so much, and continue on the long road of recovery,” said Abagail Nelson, senior vice president of programs for Episcopal Relief & Development.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Ponce, like other hospitals on the island, struggled with electricity after the storm. As the 2018 hurricane season was reaching its peak and Hurricane Isaac posted a threat to the island, Dr. William Santiago, medical director, said in an interview with ENS at the hospital that it had contingency plans in place, including many more generators on hand.

Beyond preparing for the next disaster, the diocese continues to respond to last year’s hurricanes. Not all who suffered damage or loss of their homes qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. For instance, it can be difficult to prove ownership of a dwelling that’s been lived in by and handed down through generations, as is more often the case in rural communities. The diocese created a relief fund with a $200,000 donation from Trinity Church Wall Street in New York to assist residents who are ineligible for federal disaster funds.

Those funds can go to assist people like Luis Oliveras’ neighbors. Oliveras, who coordinates the diocese’s disaster response in the southern district, witnessed seven of his neighbors, who lived in wooden houses, lose everything.

“It was hard to watch,” said Oliveras. “None of them had deeds for the houses, so FEMA said no help for them.”

Oliveras lives in a mountainous region in the southwest, where the majority of people work in agriculture on coffee, plantain and citrus plantations. Many of the farmers, who struggle to make a living even during good times, live in wooden houses rather than sturdier concrete structures. As their plight demonstrates, it’s the people who struggle to make ends meet during regular times who really struggle in the aftermath of a disaster. Many people were left homeless.

One creative endeavor supported by the diocese and St. Bartholomew’s Church in Bartolo was the conversion of a vacant pubic school into a short-term – now long-term – response to a housing shortage.

Puerto Rico’s first vocational agricultural school and one of the hundreds of schools closed by the government has been “occupied” and transformed into apartments, a community center, a museum and coffee shop. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Before Maria, Puerto Rico’s financial crisis made headlines, a situation exacerbated by the hurricane as even more residents have fled the island. A year ago, Puerto Rico’s government closed 167 public schools; this year it plans to close 265 more.

One of those schools closed is in Bartolo, where Elisa Sanchez, a community organizer who has been active in Puerto Rico’s Occupy Movement and in a network of grassroots support centers across the island, has worked to transform the school into 15 residences, a community center offering art and other workshops, and a museum and coffee shop operated by young people. The hope is to secure a projector so that the coffee shop can screen movies.

One of the first things Elisa Sanchez did when “occupying” the school was paint the bus stop, to make it more inviting and to create goodwill in the community. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Sanchez has received more than $180,000 in interfaith support for the school’s transformation; a volunteer crew from Washington National Cathedral helped to paint the build’s interior. Sanchez now is working with Episcopal Social Services, a diocesan program, and the Rev. Carlos Velez, the priest at St. Bartholomew’s, just up the street, to persuade the government to transfer the property to the church. In the 1920s the church owned the land, 5 acres, and later sold it to the government to build the school, which was the first vocational agricultural school on the island. Residents feel pride in bringing the region’s agriculture and the school back to life, she said.

The bishop agrees.

The project is an example of the church working with the community, said Morales. “This community has a big spirit and Father Carlos has been an inspiration”

At one time, there were 50 coffee plantations near Bartolo. Today, still, there are coffee, plantain and citrus plantations in Puerto Rico, but less than 2 percent of the population works in agriculture. There’s an effort to revive smaller farms, and restaurants are beginning to tout locally grown food. The hope is to revitalize agriculture and agro-tourism, making Bartolo a brand, something for the community to be proud of as it continues to recover.

Bartolo was devastated by the storm and the local government has always supported the plantation owners, not the farmers, Sanchez said.

“We were going to occupy this space temporarily, but the strategy [now] is to keep this place permanently occupied,” said Sanchez.

“It’s a moral issue. … We don’t want to get political, we want to empower the community.”

The school doesn’t just provide housing, it provides support for women fleeing domestic violence. Mothers and their children have a safe place and the mothers receive self-sufficiency training. Farmers need assistance, too, and to that end Sanchez and others are working on a community agriculture project. The hope, said Sanchez, is to rebrand the region based on agricultural products.

“The people here were abandoned before the hurricane,” said Sanchez. “They’ve given so much but not received what they deserve.”

-Lynette Wilson is a reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service.

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Milwaukee congregation’s ministry sees college students as neighbors in ‘mission field’

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 4:55pm

Students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee participate in a Dinner & Dialogue session through an ecumenical partnership that involves St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Photo: Matt Phillips

[Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee] For some, deciding to start a campus ministry from scratch may not seem like the most logical step to grow their church community. After all, college students are by nature transient and unlikely to become sustaining members of the parishes they attend while in college.

But for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on the east side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it seemed the right choice, because the church is just a few blocks south of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, or UWM.

“I thought it would be irresponsible not to develop a ministry for our closest neighbors,” said the Rev. Ian Burch, St. Mark’s rector. “These students are in our mission field.”

Burch began serving at St. Mark’s in January 2016, so he was relatively when he initiated this campus ministry. “Any time you have a transition is a good time to reassess your strengths and weaknesses,” said Peggy Bean, Diocese of Milwaukee canon for congregations, who serves as the diocesan transition minister.

St. Mark’s already had a working relationship with UWM by hosting several of the university’s cooking classes. “Building and strengthening those relationships made good sense,” Bean said. “When you have good staff plus a relationship, that’s exactly when you do it.”

St. Mark’s hasn’t offered a full-fledged campus ministry at UWM for at least 20 years, Burch said. Previously, the parish had dedicated a house and a full-time priest to that work. Burch thought it deserved another try.

“There are 22,000 undergraduates, 4,800 graduate students, and 61 percent of undergraduates live in on-campus housing – that’s quite an opportunity for ministry,” said Burch.

UWM has evolved from being a primarily commuter campus to a more residential campus. There are more residential halls and more campus activities available today compared to 30 years ago. “I happen to think the Episcopal Church generally and St. Mark’s specifically have something to offer to young people,” Burch said. “We are a warm, vibrant and quickly growing parish ready to offer God’s love and justice to young people in an incredibly exciting and formative moment in their lives.”

To support this ministry, Burch applied for and was awarded a $29,800 Young Adult and Campus Ministry grant. “These grants help the Episcopal Church live into an expanded understanding of what it means to be in ministry with young adults on and off college campuses,” said the Rev. Shannon Kelly, officer for young adult and campus ministries. “This is a growing ministry, one that shows the church how to engage mission and the Jesus Movement in new, innovative ways.”

Burch also received a grant from the Diocese of Milwaukee. With the money St. Mark’s has received, it hired Matt Phillips as director of campus and youth ministries in July 2017.

Phillips was raised in the Episcopal Church, and while a religious studies student at the University of Illinois, he participated in the campus ministry program there. “I worked most Sunday mornings, so the Wednesday night services at my university Episcopal campus ministry house was my point of connection with the church.”

He sees campus ministry as an entry to the church. “It’s the time in [students’] lives that they have to make a conscious effort to go to church, or even to stop in a church for the first time,” Phillips said. “College can be a time to return to the church or to decide which churches align with their beliefs.”

A challenge for campus ministry is that you have to spend a lot of time building relationships with students to get them to step into your church building. Phillips said commit to taking the time with students, you have a “greater chance that they will be the church going forward.”

St. Mark’s has been offering direct programming for young adults and college students. It offered a six-week wellness program with Living Compass Living Wellness last fall, and it plans to offer it again next spring. St. Mark’s is now offering a monthly Sunday evening Eucharist specifically for campus students.

St. Mark’s also has partnered with Better Together, an interfaith organization at UWM whose mission it is to bring awareness to various faith and non-faith communities, and The Corner House, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America campus ministry, to run a program they call Dinner & Dialogue.

“It started with a suggestion from a grad student who had participated in this type of engagement while an undergrad at another institution and was looking for a way to experience these conversations and engagement at UWM,” Phillips said.

The three organizations knew they had a good idea: to gather together over dinner to discuss a variety of topics (faith, belief, doubts, liberation theology, queer theology). They put the word out through Facebook, Meet-Up and word-of-mouth and were delighted that 20 people showed up for the first session. They continued to meet twice monthly to the end of the semester, sharing food and talking about faith and doubts. They are resuming these sessions this month.

In addition to his work at UWM, Phillips also serves the Marquette University campus as the interim affiliated minister for the year and will be leading a weekly Evening Prayer and fellowship, as well as a six-week Living Compass Wellness series.

What will these types of ministries become?

“I told the vestry that campus ministry is a lot like ministry to the housing insecure. Rarely would they become permanent members of our worshipping community. They may be with us for a season and then move on,” Burch said. “My hope is that their experience at St. Mark’s will instill in them the love of a local worshipping community and that, when they do put down roots somewhere, they might find themselves looking around for their local Episcopal church.

“It’s also been my experience that campus ministry is a place where young people work out their sense of vocation, and I expect that we will see young people considering Holy Orders more frequently because of our efforts.”

Bean echoed those sentiments.

“I don’t think growing our average Sunday attendance is what our task is,” she said. “Our task is to build disciples of Christ and to be the hands and feet of Christ every day.”

– Sara Bitner is communications officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee.

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RIP: The Rt. Rev. David Richards, whose work led to creation of College for Bishops

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 4:15pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev. David E. Richards, a longtime Episcopal bishop who died last month, is being remembered fondly by those who served with him across the church, from Central America to the Diocese of Albany to the College of Bishops, which now bears his name.

Bishop David E. Richards

Richards, 97, died Aug. 21 at his home in Coral Gables, Florida. His funeral was Aug. 25 at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Coral Gables.

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1921, Richards graduated from General Theological Seminary in 1945 and was ordained a priest in Panama. He was consecrated Albany’s suffragan bishop in 1951, and six years later he was elected bishop of Central America, where he provided leadership on a range of matters, including indigenous ministries.

A history of the church in Central America notes that Richards was the first bishop of the Missionary District of the Episcopal Church in Central America, which was created in 1957 when the Church of England transferred jurisdiction of chaplaincies in Guatemala, Honduras and Salvador to the Episcopal Church. Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica made up the new missionary district; Richards lived in Costa Rica.

From 1968 until his retirement in 1988, Richards served as national coordinator of the House of Bishops’ Office of Pastoral Development and based his operations in Florida. The “bishop to bishop” mentoring program he created in the 1970s led to the formation of the College for Bishops in 1993 at General Theological Seminary, according to an online history.

Richards also was remembered for his work training Anglican bishops throughout Africa, the Rev. Michael Sahdev, assistant rector at St. Phillip’s, said in a tribute Aug. 24 on Facebook.

“Personally, it was a blessing to know Bishop Richards in my first year as a priest,” Sahdev said. “As his health declined things got harder, but he always offered prayers for me & the world. This past Thursday we made our confession and absolved one another. His gift of mentoring priests never left.”

Richards is survived by his wife, Helen Richards. In 2013, the College for Bishops was renamed The Rt. Rev. David E. & Helen R. Richards College for Bishops, “in recognition of the fact the Richards’ ministry was a team operation,” said Bishop Clay Matthews, the Office of Pastoral Development director at the time.

At the time of his death, Richards was senior bishop of the Episcopal Church by order of consecration, according to the Diocese of Southeast Florida.

“May Bishop David rest in peace and rise in glory,” the diocese said in announcing his death.

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Carlye J. Hughes ordained 11th bishop of Newark

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 1:18pm

Mark M. Beckwith, 10th bishop of Newark, passes the diocesan crozier to Carlye J. Hughes, newly consecrated 11th bishop. Photo: Cynthia L. Black

[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev. Carlye J. Hughes was ordained and consecrated as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark Sept. 22 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ. More than 2,000 people attended the consecration service, and nearly 200 others from around the world watched on live-streamed video.

Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry led the service as chief consecrator. The Rev. Brenda Husson, rector of St. James’ Church in Manhattan, was the preacher for the service.

The service was a festive celebration, with music led by a choir of more than 300 singers, including a children’s choir of more than 60. There was a mix of traditional and Gospel music, accented by a brass quintet, a jazz pianist, African drums and bagpipes, as well as the traditional organ.

The consecration service may be viewed at the diocesan website and YouTube channel.

On Sunday, Sept. 23, the newly consecrated bishop was formally welcomed at Trinity & St. Philip’s Cathedral in Newark at a service of choral evensong, and was seated in the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, that is symbolic of the bishop’s office.

Earlier that day, Hughes led morning worship at an outdoor service for the combined congregations of Episcopal churches in Jersey City, while Curry led worship at St. Paul’s Church in Paterson.

Hughes was elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark on May 19, 2018 on the first ballot – the same day Curry caught the world’s attention by preaching at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The 1,109th bishop of the Episcopal Church, she is the first woman and first African-American to serve as Bishop of Newark.

Prior to her election, she was rector of Trinity Church, Ft. Worth, Texas, a position she held since 2012. In 1998, she earned a bachelor’s degree in drama from the University of Texas; and in 2005, she received a master of divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary. She is married to David Smedley, a student financial aid specialist.

Hughes succeeds the Rt. Rev. Mark M. Beckwith, who served as the 10th bishop of the diocese for nearly 12 years.

The Episcopal Diocese of Newark comprises the northern third of New Jersey, with congregations in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Warren and Union counties, and includes the two largest cities in the state, Newark and Jersey City.

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Exiled South Sudanese Anglicans pray for lasting peace

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 12:24pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans in the Episcopal Church of South Sudan’s Diocese of Kajo-Keji are praying about a return to South Sudan, after operating in exile in Ugandan refugee camps for a number of years. But Bishop Emmanuel Murye says that past experience of failed peace initiatives is creating doubt in the minds of the exiled.

Read the full article here.

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Retired Episcopal priest from England fears deportation over mistakenly voting in US election

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 3:21pm

[Episcopal News Service] A retired Episcopal priest in southern Illinois is facing possible deportation back to his native England after he says he mistakenly voted in 2006 because he wasn’t aware at the time that only U.S. citizens could participate in federal elections.

That 12-year-old mistake came back to haunt the Rev. David Boase recently when it was discovered by federal authorities reviewing his application for U.S. citizenship. Now, instead of taking steps toward becoming an American, he faces an immigration hearing Sept. 28 in Kansas City, Missouri, where he plans to ask the judge to allow him to return to England voluntarily in lieu of deportation.

“My life is here,” Boase, 69, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He served for a decade, from 2004 until his retirement in 2014, at the Episcopal Parish of Alton, Illinois.

The choice to move back to England is a tough one, but it could allow him more flexibility in the future. He fears a deportation on his record would hurt his chances of returning to his adopted country.

Friends and parishioners have rallied behind Boase, including by setting up a GoFundMe page to help pay for his legal bills and moving costs. They also are asking for lawmakers to join in support of Boase’s cause.

“For 14 years, David has been there for us — at baptisms and funerals and weddings, on Sunday morning and in the middle of the night. Your prayers and your support are what he needs now,” the fundraising webpage pleads. By this week, it had topped its goal of raising $5,000.

The root of Boase’s dilemma was not an election but a driver’s license. News reports and the fundraising page indicate he applied for a license in 2005, and a licensing employee asked if he also wanted to register to vote. Boase said he was surprised but went ahead and signed the voter form. He said he proceeded to vote, just once, in the 2006 election.

After learning of his error from a parishioner, he never voted again, Boase told the Alton Telegraph.

However innocent Boase’s mistake, he isn’t expecting to be allowed to stay in the United States but hopes he is able to leave voluntarily and return someday.

“It is going to wreck my life. I am so happy here, in the parish, in the community and the area. It is a mess,” he told the Telegraph. “I want to come back to America, the land and places I love.”

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

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Kevin D. Nichols ordained as 9th bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 2:00pm

Kevin D. Nichols, newly ordained and consecrated ninth bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, receives the crozier from Sean W. Rowe, who has served as bishop provisional since March 2014.

[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev. Kevin D. Nichols was ordained and consecrated as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem on Saturday, Sept. 15, at the First Presbyterian Church of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Nearly 600 people attended the festive consecration service, at which the Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, bishop of New Hampshire, preached. The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, led the service as chief consecrator.

Nichols will be seated at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity on October 12 during the diocese’s annual convention.

During the ordination service, Nichols was presented with a pectoral cross designed by Curtis Drestch, a professor at Muhlenberg College. The cross, a symbol of the bishop’s office, is made of stainless steel in recognition of the region’s history as a center of coal mining and steel manufacturing.

The Rt. Rev. Kevin D. Nichols was ordained and consecrated as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem on Saturday, Sept. 15.

Nichols was elected bishop on April 28. Prior to his election, he was chief operating officer and canon for mission resources in the Diocese of New Hampshire, a position he held since 2014. Nichols was formerly president of the Diocese of New Hampshire’s Standing Committee and a member of the churchwide Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church.

A former Roman Catholic priest who received his master of divinity degree from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, he was received into the Episcopal priesthood in 1999 and has served as rector of St. Stephen’s in Pittsfield, New Hampshire, and St. Andrew’s in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. He is married to Patti, a licensed clinical social worker. They have four adult children: Graham, Lindsay, Bryan and Keaton, and three grandchildren.

Nichols succeeds the Rt. Rev. Sean W. Rowe, who has served as bishop provisional since March 2014.

The Diocese of Bethlehem includes more than 9,000 Episcopalians in 58 congregations across northeastern and central eastern Pennsylvania.

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Anglicans join other faith leaders in global advocacy to UN for internally displaced people

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 1:23pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Josiah Idowu-Fearon has joined a number of Anglican Primates and other faith leaders in calling on heads of state to support the world’s 40.5 million internally displaced people. World leaders are preparing to descend on the U.N. headquarters in New York for this year’s General Assembly meeting.

Read the full article here.

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Jerusalem archbishop picks priests from US, UK for leadership positions

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 1:20pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Anglican Diocese in Jerusalem has appointed an American priest as his chaplain and a British priest as dean of St. George’s College. The diocese attracts thousands of visitors each year as it is home to the birthplace of Christianity. It serves Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Syria and Lebanon. The Rev. Donald Binder, currently rector of Pohick Episcopal Church near Mount Vernon in Virginia, will become Suheil’s new chaplain. The Rev. Richard Sewell, currently rector of the Barnes Team Ministry in South West London, will become dean of St. George’s College. Both will begin their appointments in October.

Read the full article here.

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Asian Anglicans pledge to work for peace in Koreas

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 1:12pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Leaders from Anglican Churches in east Asia have expressed repentance for not playing “a proper role” in the Korean conflict. The comment was made in a communiqué issued at the end of this year’s meeting of the Council of the Church in East Asia – which brings together Anglican provinces from South East Asia, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan – a diocese of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church – together with the Anglican Church of Australia and the Philippine Independent Church.

Read the full article here.

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Diocese of West Tennessee announces slate for election of 4th bishop

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 1:09pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee has announced a slate of three nominees for election as its fourth bishop.

The candidates are:

  • The Rev. Marian Dulaney Fortner, rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Hattiesburg, MS, Diocese of Mississippi
  • The Rev. Sarah D. Hollar, rector, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Huntersville, NC, Diocese of North Carolina
  • The Rev. Phoebe A. Roaf, rector, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, VA, Diocese of Virginia

More information on the nominees can be found on the search website.

Nominations by petition may be filed until 5 p.m. on October 5. Information can be found here.

The fourth bishop will succeed Bishop Don E. Johnson, who was consecrated as the third bishop of the Diocese of West Tennessee in June 2001. He was preceded by Bishop James M. Coleman, consecrated in 1994, and Bishop Alex D. Dickson, Jr., consecrated in 1983.

The election is scheduled for Nov. 17, during the diocesan convention. After receiving the canonical consent of the majority the church’s diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction, the new bishop will be ordained and consecrated May 4, 2019.

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Ex-inmates learn to share their stories as Episcopal Church expands prisoner re-entry ministries

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 11:07am

Formerly incarcerated New Yorkers gather Sept. 10 in a room at the Church of the Heavenly Rest in Manhattan for the kickoff meeting of the 10-week Raising My Voice course on public speaking and leadership. Photo: Angela James/angelajamesphotography.com

[Episcopal News Service] The assignment was to talk about something you do well, and Keith Rhames had a recipe for mac and cheese. That may sound like a strange topic for a motivational speech, but Rhames knew himself, knew his audience and already grasped some of the techniques that make brief TED-style talks so engrossing.

Rhames, 52, smiled broadly and made careful eye contact as he shared his story with the 20 or so people who had gathered for the evening Sept. 17 in a parish meeting room at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York City. What made this mac and cheese special, Rhames said, was its timing, last May.

He had wanted to surprise his mother with a meal. It was Mother’s Day. It also was just three months since his release from prison after serving 30 years for second-degree murder, and he would have settled for any meal that didn’t taste like the soybean-based slop that was his involuntary diet behind bars. But how would he learn to cook mac and cheese?

“Lo and behold, these days they have something called YouTube,” Rhames said, intuitively knowing it would be an effective laugh line. (It was.)

Rhames is one of a dozen formerly incarcerated New Yorkers who have signed up for Raising My Voice, a free 10-week public speaking and leadership course presented by Circles of Support and hosted by the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York. The congregation has placed prisoner re-entry ministries at the core of its outreach efforts at a time when the Episcopal Church, too, is turning much of its criminal justice work toward re-entry ministries.

A volunteer coach from Heavenly Rest chats with one of the participants in Raising My Voice during the Sept. 10 session. Photo: Angela James/angelajamesphotography.com

For Raising My Voice, Church of the Heavenly Rest volunteers help provide feedback to budding public speakers like Rhames. Other Episcopal dioceses and congregations are developing their own approaches to helping prisoners re-enter society, such as the Bridge Project in the Diocese of El Camino Real and Bridges Reentry in the Diocese of Arizona, both of which received grants this year through the church’s United Thank Offering, or UTO.

The time is ripe for church engagement. American prisons and jails are holding more than 2 million people behind bars, and most of those inmates someday will be released. More than 4.5 million people are serving probation or parole, living with the threat that one slip-up could return them to the “inside.”

Mark Cohen is optimistic about his future. “I changed my life around a lot since I came out,” the 54-year-old Brooklyn, New York, resident told Episcopal News Service. He served a 22-year prison sentence from a drug-dealing case but has been free for three years and is participating in the Raising My Voice classes at Heavenly Rest with the hope that the training will help him find better jobs.

Other participants of Raising My Voice shared similar stories of working to put their lives on a positive track after prison – doing their part to prove that all of us are “more than the worst thing we’ve ever done,” as prominent death row lawyer Bryan Stevenson has written.

The Episcopal Church’s work on criminal justice issues in recent years can be traced to a 2006 resolution passed by General Convention, and subsequent resolutions have expanded the scope of the church’s involvement, including to the problem of mass incarceration.

Such commitments overlap with the Episcopal Church’s elevation of racial reconciliation to a top priority, given that black and Hispanic inmates make up a disproportionately large cross-section of the prison population.

“There is an increasing awareness throughout the Episcopal Church of the oppressive and dehumanizing impact of mass incarceration on black, Latino and indigenous men, women, and children,” said the Rev. Charles A. Wynder, a deacon and the Episcopal Church’s staff officer for social justice and engagement. “Transforming criminal justice ministries from traditional prison ministry models to more holistic work of re-entry and policy advocacy is a holistic, and integrated approach to more fully living into our Baptismal Covenant.”

In July, the 79th General Convention passed Resolution D004 to endorse specific reforms, such as reduction of mandatory minimum sentences, repeal of laws allowing life sentences for nonviolent offenses and implementation of measures to reduce discrimination against former offenders. Other resolutions seek to end the death penalty and to eliminate a clause in the U.S. Constitution that makes an exception for inmates in the prohibition of slavery.

The church has been active in supporting congregations and Episcopalians who choose to invest in ministries involving visits to inmates in jails and prisons, taking their cue from the Gospel of Matthew: “I was in prison and you visited me.” Prisoner re-entry ministries are a new churchwide emphasis, and they are gaining momentum.

“Engaging in ministries that involve the accompaniment of men, women and children returning home from prison allows for mutual formation and transformation that may start with pain but doesn’t have to remain there,” Wynder said. “It is fundamentally part of God’s mission of transformation, renewal and justice.”

Heavenly Rest in Manhattan’s affluent Upper East Side neighborhood wanted to do more than simply advocate for reform, preferring to get to know the people who are going through the re-entry process, said Richard Buonomo, one of the co-chairs of the congregation’s prison re-entry ministry.

He wasn’t sure parishioners would embrace the effort, but they have. “It just took off,” Buonomo said. “The activities we have created really get the volunteers to experience the transformation right at their fingertips with the people.”

The congregation’s assistance to prisoners re-entering free society falls into three general categories: Helping with their first days out of prison, helping them establish a stable family life and helping them find jobs. None of those tasks comes naturally to the parishioners at Heavenly Rest, which is why the first step was establishing connections with community organizations already involved in such work, said the Rev. Anne Marie Witchger, the congregation’s associate rector.

Those partner organizations include the Fortune Society and Network Support Services, both of which provide services to formerly incarcerated individuals. Heavenly Rest also has worked closely with Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison to provide welcome bags filled with living supplies for inmates as they are released and to host celebrations for former inmates who have graduated from Hudson Link’s degree programs.

Circles of Support is a partnership of several organizations, including the J.C. Flowers Foundation, Heavenly Rest and several other Episcopal churches in New York. The partnership’s mission is expressed in the name, to create circles of support for inmates after their release.

Linda Steele, a staff member with Circles of Support, speaks to the group Sept. 17 during their second session of Raising My Voice at Heavenly Rest. Photo: Angela James/angelajamesphotography.com

“We build them up to succeed,” said Linda Steele, a Circles of Support staff member who leads the Raising My Voice course at Heavenly Rest. She noted her students are paid $30 stipends for the three hours they spend at each weekly session. Heavenly Rest provides a meal, and Steele gives each participant a subway card to make it easier to attend.

Steele, too, is a former inmate, having long since moved past a series of arrests and convictions for drug use and other crimes when she was younger. She has been working for more than a decade in settings like this, assisting others on the post-incarceration path. Learning how to speak in public and share their stories can be an invaluable experience for former inmates, she said.

“They’re able to make sense out of their lives,” Steele said. “People grow, and they walk out stronger than when they walked in.”

On this Monday evening, Steele had taped a large piece of paper to a side wall with a quote from classic Hollywood director John Ford written in marker to inspire her Raising My Voice participants: “You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.”

This is the sixth Raising My Voice class she has led. The group that met at Heavenly Rest was made up mostly of black and Latino men but also a few women. Ages varied widely. Some participants were approaching their senior years. Others were barely into their 20s. Each took turns delivering two-minute speeches and receiving feedback.

A 22-year-old woman told the group of the day last year when she suddenly realized she had a future beyond her former life behind bars. A tall, graying man shared his love of “Concierto de Aranjuez” from Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain.”

The feedback the participants offered was nearly all supportive, whether expressing connection with the speaker’s message or noting the speaker’s physical poise or vocal clarity. Steele added some positive feedback of her own, as well as tips for improvement.

Some members of Heavenly Rest have been trained to provide feedback as well. With the exception of Buonomo, though, they remained mostly silent during this session, just the second of this latest series. Steele later said she expects more from the church volunteers as they become comfortable with the format.

Reginald Paige drew praise for his unique response to the question of the evening: “I find myself good at being me,” he said to open his presentation. “Most of my life, I did my very best to be anyone but me.”

Paige confided in the group that he had been arrested 76 times and jailed eight times. Now at age 48, he was proud to say, “my past didn’t take my future.”

Keith Rhames, who was released from prison in February after serving 30 years of a sentence for second-degree murder, speaks at the kickoff meeting of Raising My Voice on Sept. 10 at Heavenly Rest. Photo: Angela James/angelajamesphotography.com

When the evening’s session was over, Paige explained to ENS his troubles early in life were primarily tied to drugs. He was last released from prison in 2007 and has been drug-free for two years. He works as a certified recovery peer advocate, helping other recovering addicts keep their lives on the right path.

“I went from a dope dealer to a hope dealer,” he said.

Rhames’ face showed no sign that 30 years in prison had left a mark on him as he talked cheerfully after the class. But he admitted he sees his life as a cautionary tale, and learning public speaking skills may allow him to share his story in a way that will inspire young people not to follow the same dark path.

“My main thing is to try to avoid anybody else going through what I went through,” he said.

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

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El Obispo Primado y la Iglesia responden a nuevas reducciones al programa de reasentamiento de refugiados de EE.UU.

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 9:28am

A principios de marzo de 2015, la Iglesia Episcopal dirigió una peregrinación a la región de los Grandes Lagos de África y visitó el campamento de refugiados de Gihembe, en Ruanda, para imponerse de la situación de los refugiados congoleses y del Programa de Admisiones de Refugiados de Estados Unidos. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service] Estados Unidos era líder mundial en reasentamiento de refugiados hace apenas dos años, cuando más de 80.000 refugiados ingresaron en el país con la ayuda de nueve agencias con contratos federales para llevar a cabo esa labor, entre ellas el Ministerio Episcopal de Migración. Esa cifra ha disminuido durante el gobierno de Trump, el cual anunció el 17 de septiembre que reduciría aun más el número de reasentamientos, a sólo 30.000 al año.

La Iglesia Episcopal tiene una larga historia de defensa de los refugiados, personas que huyen de la violencia, la guerra y la persecución religiosa, y el 18 de septiembre la Iglesia expresó su inconformidad con la reducción en el límite del número de refugiados.

“Como seguidores de Jesucristo, nos entristece esta decisión”, dijo el obispo primado Michael B. Curry en una declaración escrita. “Nuestros corazones y nuestras oraciones están con esos miles de refugiados que, debido a esta decisión, no podrán encontrar una nueva vida en Estados Unidos. Esta decisión del gobierno no refleja el cuidado y la compasión de los estadounidenses que todos los días acogen a refugiados en sus comunidades. Nuestra fe nos llama a amar a Dios y a amar a nuestro prójimo, de manera que estemos prestos a ayudar a todos los que podamos de cualquier manera que podamos”.

El límite actual para el asentamiento de refugiados es de 45.000 para el año fiscal que termina el 30 de septiembre, pero hasta ahora, menos de la mitad de esa cifra, sólo 20.918, han sido admitidos. El Departamento de Estado de EE.UU. anunció el 17 de septiembre que Estados Unidos reduciría la cifra límite a 30.000 para el año fiscal que comienza el 1 de octubre, el nivel más bajo desde que se creara el programa en los años 80 del pasado siglo.

“Es una semana desalentadora en la vida de nuestro país. El anuncio del gobierno de que sólo recibiremos 30.000 refugiados, de los 85.000 de hace sólo dos años, es particularmente triste, dado que los refugiados es el grupo de personas más investigado de nuestro país y, en consecuencia, presenta muy poca amenaza a nuestra seguridad y nuestro modo de vida”, dijo el Rdo. Charles Robertson, canónigo del Obispo Primado para el ministerio fuera de la Iglesia Episcopal, quien supervisa el Ministerio Episcopal de Migración.

“Incluso esta cifra de 30.000 es un límite, no una meta”, dijo Robertson.

En la actualidad, hay 25,4 millones de refugiados en todo el mundo, según Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (UNHCR por su sigla en inglés) cuyo mandato consiste en brindarles protección internacional a los refugiados.

La tarea principal del UNHCR es la repatriación, o el retorno seguro a los países de origen. Cuando eso no es posible, la agencia ayuda a los refugiados a buscar ciudadanía o residencia legal en el país de acogida. La tercera opción es el reasentamiento en uno de lo más de 40 países en todo el mundo que aceptan refugiados. Mundialmente, menos de un 1 por ciento de los refugiados  obtiene reasentamiento. Históricamente, Estados Unidos ha estado a la cabeza de los países que acogen refugiados.

La participación de la Iglesia Episcopal en el reasentamiento de refugiados se remonta por lo menos a la segunda guerra mundial, cuando las iglesias patrocinaron a refugiados que huían de la opresión nazi. Empezando por el Fondo del Obispo Primado para Ayuda Mundial (ahora la Agencia Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo) y asociándose posteriormente con el Servicio Mundial de Iglesias, la Iglesia Episcopal estableció el Ministerio Episcopal de Migración en 1988.

Estados Unidos formalizó su programa de reasentamiento de refugiados con la Ley para los Refugiados de 1980 en respuesta al creciente número de refugiados que huía del comunismo en Asia Sudoriental. Hasta entonces, las iglesias auspiciaban visas de refugiados; pero, para mediados de la década del 70, ese proceso resultó insuficiente para responder a las necesidades.

El EMM ha reasentado más de 90.000 refugiados a lo largo de los últimos 30 años. Anteriormente, el EMM había manejado 31 filiales de reasentamiento en 26 diócesis, proporcionándoles ayuda directa a los recién llegados. Más recientemente, el número ha descendido a 14 filiales en 12 diócesis, aunque el EMM aún se propone reasentar 1.527 individuos en el actual año fiscal.

El objetivo de programa de reasentamiento de EE.UU. es ayudar a refugiados a establecer nuevas vidas y a convertirse en autosuficientes. Con vistas a ese objetivo, el EMM se asocia con afiliados, iglesias y gobierno y organizaciones no gubernamentales para brindarles servicios a familias de refugiados desde su llegada a Estados Unidos. Esos servicios vitales incluyen clases de idioma inglés y de orientación cultural, servicios de empleo, matrícula escolar y ayuda inicial con vivienda y transporte.

El EMM es una de nueve agencias asociadas con el Departamento de Estado de EE.UU. para acoger y reasentar refugiados. Seis de las asociadas del gobierno en los reasentamientos son [organizaciones] de carácter religioso; el programa ha disfrutado históricamente de apoyo bipartidario la mayor parte de las veces.

“Mientras el EMM siga siendo un asociado del gobierno, seguiremos reasentando refugiados y, en cualquier caso, continuaremos brindándoles servicios a los refugiados”, dijo Robertson.

La Constitución de EE.UU. garantiza libertad de cultos y el reasentamiento de refugiados les permite a los que vienen a EE.UU. vivir en seguridad y practicar su religión sin persecución, dijo Rebecca Linder Blachly, directora de la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal con sede en Washington, D.C.

“Como Iglesia, tenemos particular interés en garantizar la libertad de cultos para todas las personas en todo el mundo. Este gobierno ha hablado en repetidas ocasiones de la importancia de la libertad de cultos, pero estamos viéndolo retraerse de uno de las maneras más efectivas en que podemos proteger a los que son perseguidos o amenazados por cuenta de sus creencias religiosas”, dijo Blachly. “Como nación, hemos ofrecido históricamente protección a los que no están seguros en sus países de origen. Esta drástica reducción en el número de refugiados —y el sistemático desmantelamiento de este exitoso programa— tendrá graves consecuencias humanitarias”.

El presidente Donald Trumpm hizo de la reducción de la inmigración una pieza central de su campaña electoral, y las reducciones de su gobierno al programa de reasentamiento de refugiados muestran un interés en limitar más que la inmigración ilegal. El Presidente determina el número de refugiados que pueden entrar en Estados Unidos; y, durante meses, funcionarios de la administración han presionado por reducir aún más el número de refugiados admitidos.

“Reducir el número de admisiones para reasentamiento de refugiados a una cifra históricamente baja se vincula a los empeños de este gobierno de frenar la inmigración ilegal”, dijo Lacy Browmel, asesora de política migratoria y de refugiados de la Iglesia. “Este empeño está teniendo graves repercusiones en las familias y en las personas vulnerables. Instamos a los miembros del Congreso a hacer todo lo que esté a su alcance para mantener el sistema de reasentamiento, las protecciones para los solicitantes de asilo y soluciones compasivas para todos los inmigrantes”.

Para obtener más información sobre la participación de la Iglesia en el reasentamiento de refugiados o para apoyar al EMM, hacer clic aquí.

– Lynette Wilson es reportera y jefa de redacción de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

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Declaración del Obispo Presidente Michael Curry sobre la cuota máxima de refugiados fijada por el gobierno para 2019

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 11:40am

La Iglesia Episcopal está profundamente decepcionada por el anuncio del Secretario de Estado Mike Pompeo el día de ayer de que la administración ha establecido la cuota máxima de admisiones de refugiados para el próximo año en 30.000. Este es el límite más bajo en la historia de nuestro país y constituye otro esfuerzo más para alejar a los Estados Unidos de nuestro liderazgo para enfrentar las crisis humanitarias. Además, esta marcha atrás en el reasentamiento de refugiados va en contra de la historia de nuestra nación de ser un lugar de refugio para los perseguidos. La Iglesia Episcopal, a través de los Ministerios Episcopales de Migración (EMM), se compromete a dar la bienvenida a todos.

“Como seguidores de Jesucristo, estamos tristes por esta decisión.” dijo el obispo primado Michael B. Curry. “Nuestros corazones y nuestras oraciones están con todos aquellos miles de refugiados que, debido a esta disposición, no podrán encontrar una nueva vida en Estados Unidos. Esta decisión del gobierno no refleja el cuidado y la compasión de los estadounidenses que acogen a los refugiados en sus comunidades todos los días. Nuestra fe nos llama a amar a Dios y amar al prójimo, por lo cual estamos dispuestos a ayudar a todos los que podamos de cualquier manera que podamos”.

Los Ministerios Episcopales de Migración, que han reasentado a más de 90.000 refugiados desde la década de los 80, son la respuesta primordial de la Iglesia Episcopal a las crisis de los refugiados. Trabajando en asociación con oficinas y grupos dentro de la Iglesia, así como con gobiernos y organizaciones no gubernamentales (ONG), los Ministerios Episcopales de Migración proporcionan servicios vitales a miles de familias de refugiados a su llegada a los Estados Unidos: clases de inglés y de orientación cultural; servicios de empleo; inscripción escolar; y asistencia inicial con alojamiento y transporte. El objetivo es la autosuficiencia y la autodeterminación para cada familia. Después de años de vivir en una situación incierta, los refugiados tienen la oportunidad de comenzar de nuevo sobre una base sólida que honre sus historias y su dignidad, gracias a Los Ministerios Episcopales de Migración. Apoye a los EMM mientras continuamos dando la bienvenida a los refugiados recién llegados y apoyando a las familias que ya están aquí.

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