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General Convention revival sermon by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 6:31pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Afffairs]  The following is the text of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon from the General Convention Revival at the Palmer Events Center on July 7.

Oh, my Lord! Let the whole Church say Amen! Say it again. Say it one more time! Amen! I’m out of breath for ya. This is a blessed night. It is a blessed night. We gather this night. Many of us are Episcopalians. Many of us are from other Christian traditions and families. Many of us are people of good will of no particular denomination or stripe. Some of us are probably Republicans. And, some of us are probably Democrats. Some of us are probably independents. But all of us are children of God. All of us! All of us! And that’s what we celebrate this night. We come together as the children of God. Like that old song used to say when I was a kid,

Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in his sight.

All! All! All!

Allow me if you will then, to on your behalf thank all of those who have made this night possible. We thank you! We thank you! We thank you! And allow me also on your behalf to the thank the bishops and people of the Diocese of Texas. Thank you, Texas! Thank you, Texas! Thank you, Texas!  Texas!  Texas!

Well I’m in an awkward position because I have a feeling we are the only thing standing in the way of food. This is an unenviable position. So let me hasten to my text. From the New Testament, the Gospel of John, near the end of John’s gospel. In fact some scholars say chapter twenty ends the gospel. But if you look in your Bible, you’ll see there’s another chapter. And scholars have all sorts of theories about whether chapter twenty-one is an addition, an extension, or an appendix. I’m not a scholar. I’m a country preacher, and I know preachers, and you do too. I’ve got a feeling John finished his sermon in chapter twenty, the plane was landing, and he remembered somethin’ else. And took off and came around again. That’s what happened. So on his first landing, which is chapter twenty, he almost brings it to conclusion. And he does so with these words:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. But these few are written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

My brothers, my sisters, my siblings, God wants you to live. God wants us to live. God wants this world to live. God wants us to live! You can almost hear it in the text. John is tryin’ to land the plane, and he says there are many other things that I could’ve written,  but these few things that I have written, in this whole Gospel of John, the stories of Jesus turning water into wine, the story of Jesus meeting old Nicodemus, the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman that Bishop was talkin’ about, by the well, the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 folk,  (ain’t she wonderful [referring to interpreter]?). All these stories, the story of Lazarus, the story of the crucifixion of Jesus, the story of him being raised from the dead, I could have told you more stories. This is Jesus Christ we’re talking about! This is not John Doe! This brother was incredible! I could be telling you stories all night, and you’d never get your barbecue! But these few stories I have told you so that you might come to believe. And believing means just trust. It doesn’t mean you understand. It doesn’t mean you got it figured it out. It means I’m just going to trust you. These have been written so that you might believe that Jesus really is, really is the Messiah, the Christ, the human face of God, the incarnation of God’s love in the life of a human person. Or as the Nicene Creed says:

God of God,
Light of Light,
Very God of very God

This is not John Doe we’re talking about! These have been written so that you might believe. That he really is the sign, the ultimate seal of how much God loves you. And this has been written so that you can have life. Life. Real life, not life you can barter for on E Bay. Real life! Life that the world did not give, and the world cannot take away. Life! Life! And in John’s gospel it’s incredible . . . I wanna make sure, how ya’ll doin’? I wanna make sure. We want to make sure everybody’s in. If you look at John’s gospel, the theme of life is woven from beginning to end. At the beginning of the gospel with that wonderful poetry,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. And the Word was God. In him was life.

And that life was the light of the world.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

This is life! Life with God! Life! And it goes on.  I’m not making this up. It’s in the book.  He says in the sixth chapter, “I am the bread of life.” In the fourth chapter, he says, “I am the waters of life.”  In the third chapter, Jesus meets, he meets, he meets the first Episcopalians. It’s true! I am convinced that Nicodemus in the third chapter of John was the first Episcopalian. If you read the text carefully, it says that Nicodemus, who was a member of the Pharisees, probably a member of the Sanhedrin, which was the high court, he was a sort of an aristocrat, smellin’ like an Episcopalian to me! But even better than that, John’s gospel says, Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. Only an Episcopalian would try to get close to Jesus when nobody was looking. That’s an Episcopalian!  But Nicodemus was alright, ‘cause when push came to shove, Nicodemus defended Jesus in front of the Sanhedrin. And Nicodemus got with Joseph of Arimethea and made provision for the burial of Jesus. That’s also an Episcopalian. My reason for mentioning that, it was in the conversation with Nicodemus that Nicodemus said, “You know Lord, I want to know more about your teaching.” And Jesus said to him, “Nicodemus, don’t give me that jive.  We’re not on Oprah Winfrey”. He said Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” In the Greek it can be translated, born again, born anew, or born from above. And the point, I think, the only reason to be born is so that you can live! God wants you to live! God wants us to have life, and God wants all of his children to have life! I could go on but I won’t.

It goes on in John’s gospel, he says, “I am resurrection and I am life”. He says in the fourteenth chapter, “I am the way, and the truth and the life”. In the tenth chapter, “I have come that you might have life.” And then at the end of the gospel, I’ve written all these things so that you might believe and have life! The whole point is life! Life abundant meant for each. Life for rich folk and life for poor folk. Life for Democrats and life for Republicans. Life for Independents! Life for Deputies! Life for Bishops! Life for everybody! Life! Life! Life! Life. Life. And the truth is it’s so easy to be deceived about what makes for real life. John’s gospel noticed that Jesus wasn’t talking about biology. Biology is important. ‘Cause you got to start somewhere. But that’s the basics. I mean the truth, is we are all human beings, and biologically that is who we are as human beings. But biologically, we are simply part of the animal world. We’re basically like that pigeon in the House of Deputies. I leaned over to President Jennings and said, “Madam President, ya’ll got a pigeon in this house.” But that’s basic biology. We’re part of the animal world. And I’m going to be careful here, because I know Bishop Katharine is in here somewhere and she’s a scientist. I don’t want to get out of my pay grade, but I think my eighth grade teacher taught us in living things that members of the animal world have certain characteristics, that among these are three: they breathe, they eat, and they make more of their own kind.  Respiration, (sounds better in Spanish, I like that), respiration, consumption, and reproduction.  They eat, they breathe, they make more of their own kind. My wife has two cats who can do that. Actually they’ve been to the vet they can do two out of the three. And that’s fine, but the truth is, life is more than that. Jesus said as much. Is not your life more valuable than even the sparrows? Those priceless creatures of God, you are of more value than the sparrows. You need clothes, but how much do you need? Consider the Lillies of the field. They grow, they spread. They toss. They turn, and even your heavenly Father takes care of them. And how much more valuable are you? I’ve come to show you life! Not just biological life! Not just existence! Not just surviving!  Not just getting by!  To have life!  Life as I dreamed it!

Life as I intended! God wants you – are ya’ll with me?  And the truth is, I’m convinced, that love is the key to life. I have a theory, and I know there’s some theologians in this room, I’m gonna be careful, but I’m convinced that the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is selfishness, and hatred is a derivative of selfishness. Yeah, I think we’re onto something here. See selfishness, or self-centeredness, or as the ancient mothers and fathers used to say that hubris, false pride, yeah, that false, self-centered pride that puts me in the center of the world, and you and God and everybody else on the periphery, that selfishness, it is the root of all evil. It is the source if every wrong. It is behind every bigotry. It is behind every injustice. It is the root cancer of every war. It is the source of every destruction. That selfishness destroys homes!  It will destroy churches! It will destroy nations! And left untethered, it will destroy creation! Selfishness! Selfishness! Selfishness!  Selfishness!

And love is the cure. I had to say that briefly at a wedding recently. I had to get it in in a little bit of time. I’m not going to go too much longer with you all either. But love is the Balm in Gilead. Love will heal the sin-sick soul. Love can lift us up when the gravity of selfishness will pull us down! Love can bind us together when selfishness will tear us apart. We actually have a television show which is the incarnation of selfishness. And actually there’s another word for selfishness, believe it or not. It’s called sin. That’s why we have Lent, a season to deal with sin. But love is the cure. We got a television show, and you know the one I’m talking about. It’s the television show Survivor. Now it’s just a television show, I know. But think about the premise of the show. The premise of Survivor is that you put all these people on a desert island, and the goal of their life, is to find life by getting everybody else kicked off the island. That’s a parable of selfishness! ‘Cause eventually selfishness gets everybody kicked off the island! And there’s nobody left but you! And you are incredibly boring by yourself!

But love brings us together. Love heals the wounds. Love can lift us up. Love is the source of setting us free, and it is the root source of life. In fact the truth is the only reason we’re here is because of love. Give me another minute or two. I mean stop and think about it for a moment. We Christians believe in God. We believe in one God, and yet we believe in God the Holy Trinity. Am I right about that? Please say that with more confidence, it really is true. We have one God and yet we know this one God in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. But we don’t have three gods, one God! We just know this one God in magnificent ways! We got ourselves a many splendored God! And God you see, the Holy Trinity is our tradition’s way of telling us that God can embrace individuality and multiplicity all at the same time!  God is not worried about uniformity. God can have unity and diversity, not uniformity at the same time. Ya’ll hear what I’m gettin’ at now?  The truth is God has in God’s self everything God that needs to be whole and to be fulfilled, and to be complete. St. Augustine of Hippo, no flaming liberal to be sure, Augustine of Hippo once said, that the Trinity means that God is a community of love in God’s self. And First John, chapter four, verse says, “Beloved let us love because love is from God, and those who love are born of God, and know God because God is love. God is love! God is love! And guess what, guess what, that’s the reason we’re here! God is the Trinity. God had all the company God needed in God’s self. Which means God did not need y’all!  God did not need the world to be a headache. But love moves over and makes room and space for the other to be. Love says, let there be light!  Love says, let there be a world! Love says, let there be Andy! Love says, let there be Byron! Love says let there be Deena! Love says let there be Hector! Love says let there be Jeff, well Jeff, let me think about it. Love, the reason we are here, the reason there is a world because God is love. We are here. We have life because of love. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you that you love one another.” And after he rose from the dead, he asked Simon Peter, “You want to follow me now?” It’s not about mechanical following. He says, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said, “Yeah Lord, you know I love you.” “I want you to take care of my sheep. Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Lord, I just got through sayin’ I love you. Yes I love you. You knew that.” “Then take care of my sheep!” He says, “Simon son of John, DO YOU LOVE ME? If you love me, you will overcome your self- centeredness, and another will take you by the hand, and may lead you to where you do not want to go. But it won’t be all about you any more. It will be about following me!” And then Jesus said, “Now follow me.” The key to following Jesus, the key to being his disciples, the key to life is love! Is love! Is love. It’s love.

Well, I’m going to stop now. I’m getting older now. That’s an understatement. But you know the older I get the more I am convinced that we waste a lot of time in life in stuff that does not give life. And some of that’s human, we’re human. And that’s okay I’m not puttin’ all that down. But at the end of the day, we’ve gotta live. We’ve got to live in a world where little children are not separated from their parents at our borders. We gotta live in that kind of world. And the work of love is to make a world with the possibility of life for all is real. That is the work of love. And I really believe that’s why I am a Christian, better yet why I’m a follower of Jesus. A very faulty one, by the way, but a follower nonetheless. But I am because I believe Jesus was right. The way to life is the way of love. Love the Lord your God. Love your neighbor. And while you’re at it, love yourself. That’s the key. Well, all this is predicated on a prior conviction, a conviction that (To audience and referring to interpreter: We do this all the time, you should have seen us in Honduras. We were even better.) It really is based on a conviction that God knows what God is talking about. Think about that for a second. Everything I’ve said, everything I’ve said is based on the conviction that Jesus knows what he’s talking about. That God knows what he’s talking about. If he doesn’t, then ya’ll might as well go eat barbecue right now!

I realized that years ago. I was a parish priest in Baltimore – Diocese of Maryland, there’s probably somebody around – and our youngest daughter was probably three years old, and my wife went off to teach school, and I think our oldest daughter went off with her, I can’t remember now. But they would go out and then I would take the young one to nursery school. (To audience and referring to interpreter: I don’t know what my sister said, but you all obviously enjoyed it.) Okay. So anyway, I’m there at home, I’m with Elizabeth and we were waiting a little while before we went off to school. And so I said, “Elizabeth I need you to go and put your raincoat on.” And she looks back at me, at three years old now, and here I am the rector of the rector of St. James Church, the third oldest African-American Church in the Episcopal Church. A historic church, the church that gave you Thurgood Marshall. Yeah!  This is a serious church!  Yeah! So here I am the rector of St. James and here’s this little three year old person. I said, “Elizabeth go put your rain coat on.” And she said, “Why?” I said, “Because it’s going to rain.” She ran to the window in the living room, and looked out the window and said, “But it’s not raining outside”. I said, “I know that, but it’s gonna rain later.” She said, “Mommy didn’t say it was gonna rain.” See you got to know the source of authority. I said, “I know Mommy didn’t say it was gonna rain, but Al Roker said it was gonna rain.” I tried to explain to her about weather forecasting, and I showed her the newspaper. And I finally said, “Why am I doing all this? Elizabeth just go and put your raincoat on!”

So we left the house and got in the car, and drove off to nursery school. And so I took her in school. And I came back out and I sat in the car. And I sat in the car. I said I can’t believe that little thing. She actually thought she knew better than I do. Here I am the rector of historic, St. James. Thurgood Marshall, Pauli Murray, they all came out of that church. Yeas!  Here I am and she actually thought she knew more than I did. I spent more time in seminary than she’s even been on the earth. And she actually thought she knew more than I did! And it occurred to me that that must be what we look like to God!  That’s what! And I have this fantasy of God putting his hands on his cosmic hips, and just saying, they are so cute! They think they know so much, but don’t they know that I was the one that called this world into being in the first place? Don’t they know that I created the vast expanse of interstellar space? Don’t they know that I told old Moses, go down Moses, way down in Egypt land, and you tell old Pharaoh, let my people go? Don’t they know that I’m the author of freedom? Don’t they know that I’m the creator of justice? Don’t they know that I’m the God of love! Don’t they know that I came down as Jesus to show them the way, to show them the way of love, to show them the way to life, to show them how to live together! Don’t they know how much I love them! How much.

My brothers, my sisters, my siblings, we have work to do. To stand for Christianity, a way of being Christian that looks like Jesus of Nazareth.  A way of being Christian that is grounded and based on love. A way of being Christian that is not ashamed to be called people of love. So go from this place and be people of the way. Go from this place as people of Jesus. Go from this place as people of love! Go from this place and heal our lands! Go from this place and heal our world! Go from this place until justice rolls down! Go from this place until the nightmare is over! Go from this place until God’s dream is realized! Go from this place and help us live!

God love ya! God bless ya! And GO!

Go! Go!

Impeccable pigeon captivates 79th General Convention with real, digital presence

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 5:29pm

The General Convention Pigeon is spotted on the House of Deputies floor in this photo tweeted by Rev. Diana L. Wilcox.

[Episcopal News Service –Austin, Texas] It arrived early to the 79th General Convention and soon was swooping through the House of Deputies and strutting through the neighboring Exhibit Hall.

At times it is elegant trickster; at others it is a small scavenger.

It’s the General Convention Pigeon.

On July 7 the pigeon attempted to join debate in the House of Deputies, stepping to the counter at Microphone 2. Apparently, it was not aware that those wishing to be recognized by the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, the deputies’ president, needed to insert their “smart cards” into their voting devices to enter the queue of debaters.

@HODPlatform There is a deputy who wishes to speak at microphone 2. pic.twitter.com/FxatNSymaJ

— Curtis Hamilton (@CDHton) July 7, 2018

It has no such equipment because it has not acquired the proper credential. It was reportedly wandering around in the convention registration area later on July 7, perhaps attempting to secure official permission.

I tried. I really did. But it was hard to insert the smart card without opposable thumbs! https://t.co/msQyxJBNVg

— General Convention Pigeon (@gc79pigeon) July 7, 2018

Still, it is the only creature with full access to the house without the needed red credential holder around its neck. This seems to be attributable to its powers of propulsion.

However, it has acquired something potentially much more valuable than #GC79 credentials: The Twitter handle @gc79pigeon and, as of the writing of this story, 608 followers. (The bird follows six other Twitter accounts, including @episcopal_news.)

General Convention Pigeon, who claims to be a “Nested Episcopalian” similar to the human designation of “Cradle Episcopalian,” appears to be much gentler than Austin’s grackles, which have been dive bombing people on foot and on bicycles, sometimes landing on their heads (including this reporter).

In an interview with Episcopal News Service during July 7 and 8 (the bird is busy) via Twitter direct message, @gc79pigeon said it hopes it is “part of the movement of the spirit that brings something to keep people relaxed, laughing, and in good spirits when things get tense.”

The bird cited the Diocese of Fort Worth’s Deputy Bingo and a number of Flat Jesuses making their way around the Exhibit Hall. The fact that the deputies are aflutter over the General Convention Pigeon is reminiscent of the house’s Bonnie Ball game during the 77th General Convention in 2012.

Asked by ENS if it had to fly a long way to get to #GC79, the bird reported having flown 1,080 miles from Salt Lake City, the site of the 78th General Convention in 2015. “Good workout,” @gc79pigeon noted.

The bird’s sense of the passage of time is apparently unlike that of humans. During the interview, it professed to be young. “I’ve been an Episcopalian since I was a chick,” it pecked. “Now, given that was only a few months ago, that’s nowhere near the experience of everyone gathered at General Convention. But, when measured in bird years? Yes. Nested Episcopalian.”

The bird appears also to be visiting members of its extended family.

OMG SARAH IS HERE. You know what they say about birds of a feather… they look for stale donuts together.

Conversaciones TEC Ofrecen Una Manera Única de Participar en la #GC79

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 4:51pm

Una de las ofertas únicas en la Convención General de este trienio son las Conversaciones TEC (Conversaciones de la Iglesia Episcopal), que se realizarán durante tres sesiones conjuntas de la Cámara de Obispos y la Cámara de Diputados durante la próxima semana. Cada conversación ofrece oradores múltiples, presentaciones de video e interludios interesantes alrededor de tres prioridades de esta reunión: reconciliación racial, evangelismo y cuidado de la creación. Los oradores representan a líderes internacionales, episcopales conocidos y las nuevas voces prometedoras en la Iglesia.

Cada Conversación TEC estará disponible en vivo para que las personas puedan participar simultáneamente con los diputados y obispos. Cada una también estará disponible por Internet, con materiales de apoyo, para uso local en las iglesias en una fecha posterior.

Los oradores de la primera Conversación TEC incluyen: a un antiguo líder reformado de una organización mundial racista de las cabezas rapadas, Arno Michaelis; la directora del Centro Episcopal Absalón Jones para la Sanación Racial en Atlanta, Georgia, la Dra. Catherine Meeks; y la Reverenda Nancy Frausto, natural de Zacatecas, México y sacerdote beneficiaria de DACA (Acción Diferida para Personas Llegadas en la Infancia). La Conversación de Reconciliación Racial tendrá lugar el 6 de julio de 10:30 de la mañana a 12:00 del mediodía, hora Central. Una guía de discusión se puede encontrar aquí.

La segunda Conversación TEC se enfoca en Evangelismo. Los oradores destacados incluyen: a la Reverenda Dra. Lauren Winner, prolífica autora, vicaria y profesora asociada de Espiritualidad Cristiana en Duke Divinity School; el Rvdmo. Alan Scarfe, obispo de Iowa, cuyo profundo compromiso con la renovación espiritual y el pensamiento creativo ha inspirado un año de avivamientos en todo el estado y ha dinamizado a su electorado; y el reverendo Daniel Vélez-Rivera, cuyo ministerio ha consistido en plantar nuevos ministerios latinos y crear congregaciones sostenibles en dos idiomas. La Conversación Sobre Evangelismo es a partir de las 2:30 a 4:00 de la tarde, Hora Central, el sábado 7 de julio. Una guía de discusión está disponible aquí.

La tercera y última Conversación TEC considerará nuestro Cuidado de la Creación como cristianos comprometidos. Al salvaguardar la integridad de la creación, ¿cómo abrazamos el uso responsable y fomentamos más conversaciones sobre el clima y la fe? Los oradores incluyen al Arzobispo de Ciudad del Cabo, el Rvdmo. Dr. Thabo Cecil Makgoba, quien tiene un currículum extenso sobre liderazgo ético y administración; Bernadette Demientieff, nativa de Alaska y firme protectora de tierras y aguas sagradas indígenas; y la Reverenda Stephanie McDyre Johnson, planificadora ambiental y educadora y copresidenta del Consejo Asesor de la Iglesia Episcopal sobre el Cuidado de la Creación. La Conversación sobre Cuidado de la Creación se llevará a cabo el martes 10 de julio a las 10:30 de la mañana y concluirá a las 12:00 del mediodía, Hora Central. La guía de discusión se puede encontrar aquí.

Siga las Conversaciones TEC desde su casa, reúna amigos en la iglesia para participar, o visite la Convención General como visitante de un día. Los pases de visitantes están disponibles por $50 por un día en el Centro de Convenciones de Austin.

La 79.ª Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal * Palabras de Apertura de parte de la Presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, Rda. Gay Clark Jennings *

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 4:49pm
La presidente Jennings dijo estas palabras en la sesión de apertura de 79.ª la Convención General el 4 de julio: July 4, 2018

¡Buenas tardes y bienvenidos a la 79.ª Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal! Estoy tan feliz de tener la oportunidad de darles la bienvenida a Austin que acepté ocupar lo que ampliamente se reconoce como el espacio de conversación menos codiciado en toda la cristiandad: la persona que viene después de Michael Curry.

En ese sentido, necesito confesarles algo. Cuando el Obispo Primado me envió un mensaje de texto para decirme que había sido invitado a predicar en la Boda Real, pensé que estaba bromeando, algo que se sabe que él hace. La conversación fue algo como esto:

Él: “Solo quería que supieras que el Príncipe Harry y Meghan Markle me han invitado a predicar en su boda”.

Yo: “Muy gracioso. ¿Has perdido la cabeza?”

Él: “Eso es más o menos lo que dijo mi esposa”.

Yo: “Alguien obviamente ha interceptado tu teléfono y me ha enviado este mensaje de texto”. Creo que debes llamar al Departamento de Seguridad Nacional, a Jeff Sessions, o al director interino de la CIA”.

Él, otra vez: (Esta es la mejor parte). “La noticia es confidencial hasta que sea anunciada por Kensington Palace. Por favor, mantén esto en secreto, aunque no sé por qué alguien querría saberlo”.

Pues resultó ser, que todos estábamos muy emocionados de saberlo. Michael, a nombre de la Iglesia Episcopal entera, quiero expresar mi gratitud no solo por su sermón que tomó por asalto al mundo, sino también por la gracia y el buen humor con los que ha soportado el frenesí de los medios y por su inquebrantable determinación para usar su tiempo bien merecido siendo el centro de atención para proclamar las buenas nuevas del amor, la misericordia y la justicia de Dios. Usted estableció un ejemplo para todos nosotros, y estoy muy agradecida por su liderazgo y su amistad.

Hoy es el 4 de julio, Día de la Independencia aquí en los Estados Unidos. Especialmente en este día, estoy agradecido por las palabras fieles de nuestro Obispo Primado sobre la crisis del liderazgo moral y político que actualmente atrapa a los Estados Unidos y la crisis de los inmigrantes que buscan asilo en la frontera aquí en Texas.

El Día de la Independencia es un día en el cual algunos episcopales en los Estados Unidos se han acostumbrado a celebrar nuestra cómoda relación con el poder del estado. Pero el leccionario del día de hoy no presume de tanto. Y dado que nuestra Eucaristía de apertura no es hasta mañana, pasemos un poco de tiempo con estas lecturas ahora.

En el pasaje de hoy del Deuteronomio, leemos: “El Señor su Dios es el Dios de dioses y el Señor de señores; él es el Dios soberano, poderoso y terrible, que no hace distinciones ni se deja comprar con regalos; que hace justicia al huérfano y a la viuda, y que ama y da alimento y vestido al extranjero que vive entre ustedes. Ustedes, pues, amen al extranjero, porque también ustedes fueron extranjeros en Egipto”.

En este día en que algunos de nosotros estamos quizás más inclinados a sentirnos en casa en los Estados Unidos, la Biblia nos dice que no nos pongamos tan cómodos. Éramos extraños una vez. Es posible que pudiéramos ser extraños nuevamente algún día. Y se nos ordena amar al extraño, incluso cuando hacerlo interrumpe nuestra cómoda relación con los poderes temporales y los principados.

Entonces, aquí en el primer día de lo que espero y creo será una convención productiva, esta lectura me hace sentir incómoda. Porque quiero que nos instalemos para hacer el trabajo esencial, dirigido por el Espíritu, de gobernar la iglesia. Quiero que el aire acondicionado funcione bien, quiero que las líneas del almuerzo sean cortas, quiero que haya un buen café y acceso a Internet excelente, y quiero que la carpeta virtual funcione perfectamente. Quiero que podamos ponernos cómodos y hacer nuestro trabajo.

Pero incluso si suceden todas esas cosas; por favor, Dios, permite que ocurran todas esas cosas, no podemos perder de vista a los padres y niños en la frontera que han sido destrozados por nuestro gobierno. No podemos perder de vista el hecho de que, debido a una ley de inmigración estatal dura, aquellos de nosotros, como yo, que tenemos el privilegio de los blancos y el privilegio conferido por la ciudadanía de los Estados Unidos podemos movernos por este lugar con menos miedo que algunos de nuestros compañeros episcopales.

Y cuando debatimos las resoluciones de inmigración en los comités legislativos y en las sedes de ambas cámaras, debemos sentirnos lo suficientemente incómodos como para recordar que estos son asuntos de vida o muerte para muchos episcopales en los Estados Unidos y en los otros países que componen nuestra Iglesia. No todos estaremos de acuerdo con la legislación que se nos presentará. Pero la falta de unanimidad no cambia el hecho de que se nos ordena amar al extraño, porque todos éramos extranjeros en la tierra de Egipto.

Entonces, ¿cómo podemos nosotros instalarnos para hacer el trabajo que la iglesia nos ha enviado a hacer aquí mientras mantenemos nuestra identidad como extraños? La lectura de Hebreos nombrada para hoy nos muestra el camino.

Por fe, Abraham, cuando Dios lo llamó, obedeció y salió para ir al lugar que él le iba a dar como herencia. Salió de su tierra sin saber a dónde iba.

Puedo identificarme completamente con eso. Si ha intentado encontrar nuestra oficina de tecnología de la información aquí en el centro de convenciones, probablemente ustedes también puedan identificarse. (Por cierto, tecnología está en la Sala 15 aquí en el Centro de Convenciones en el cuarto piso y Darvin Darling y su equipo están haciendo un trabajo increíble en nuestro nombre). Regreso a Hebreos.

Por la fe que tenía vivió como extranjero en la tierra que Dios le había prometido. Vivió en tiendas de campaña, lo mismo que Isaac y Jacob, que también recibieron esa promesa. Porque Abraham esperaba aquella ciudad que tiene bases firmes, de la cual Dios es arquitecto y constructor.

Voy a saltar un par de versículos que hacen comentarios muy cuestionables sobre ciertas personas que son demasiado mayores para hacer algo bueno. Pero después de eso, la lectura continúa:

Todas esas personas murieron sin haber recibido las cosas que Dios había prometido; pero como tenían fe, las vieron de lejos, y las saludaron reconociéndose a sí mismos como extranjeros de paso por este mundo. Y los que dicen tal cosa, claramente dan a entender que todavía andan en busca de una patria. Si hubieran estado pensando en la tierra de donde salieron, bien podrían haber regresado allá; pero ellos deseaban una patria mejor, es decir, la patria celestial. Por eso, Dios no se avergüenza de ser llamado el Dios de ellos, pues les tiene preparada una ciudad. (Hebreos 11: 8-16)

Mis amigos, mientras que algunos de nosotros podemos estar bastante cómodos en nuestra vida cotidiana, esta lectura es sobre nosotros. Nosotros, los episcopales del siglo XXI, todos nosotros, somos extraños y extranjeros que buscamos una patria. Hemos dejado atrás la iglesia institucional que conocíamos tan bien y que hacía sentir cómodos por lo menos a algunos de nosotros y a muchos de nosotros incómodos y personas no gratas. Hemos dejado de creer en nuestro lugar preferente en la élite gobernante de los Estados Unidos y la garantía de que nuestros legados siempre proporcionarán más de lo que necesitamos. Y muchos de nosotros nos estamos reconciliando con el hecho de que podemos ver solo desde lejos la plena realización de la promesa de Dios para el futuro de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Es tentador pensar en, o incluso anhelar, la tierra que nos queda. Pero Dios nos asegura que nuestra verdadera identidad es como extraños y extranjeros que buscan un país mejor. Dios nos llama a no ponernos demasiado cómodos en esta tierra, a no valorar nuestra ciudadanía más que nuestro compromiso de amar al extraño, a no atesorar nuestras tradiciones o nuestros edificios, o incluso nuestra identidad como diputados y obispos, por encima de nuestra identidad como herederos de la promesa de Dios y como habitantes de la ciudad de Dios.

Entonces, ¿cómo debemos proceder con los asuntos de la iglesia? Nuestro reglamento de orden y documentos gobernantes y procedimiento parlamentario no definen nuestra identidad. Estos son más bien las herramientas a través de las cuales podemos escuchar las voces de todos los bautizados en nuestra vida común, y establecen para nosotros las formas en que podemos ser guiados por el Espíritu para hablar como uno contra el racismo, la violencia, la pobreza y toda la injusticia que se acumula a nuestro alrededor de maneras insoportables. Y esas herramientas nos dan formas de abrir nuestras mesas y nuestros altares y nuestros corredores de poder, y aceptar las muchas veces en que hemos fallado o nos hemos negado a ver a Dios el uno con el otro.

Pero la manera como utilizamos estas herramientas de gobierno depende de nosotros. Ya sean diez diputados por diez años u obispos de treinta y dos años como mi querido amigo Arthur Williams de Ohio, o si esta es la primera vez que vemos el interior de una sala de convenciones, podemos elegir cómo habitamos el proceso legislativo.

En la lectura del Evangelio de hoy, Jesús tiene algunos consejos:

Has oído que se dijo: “Amarás a tu prójimo y odiarás a tu enemigo”. Pero yo te digo: “Ama a tus enemigos y ora por aquellos que te persiguen, para que sean hijos de tu Padre en el cielo; porque él hace salir su sol sobre malos y buenos, y hace llover sobre justos e injustos.

Porque si amas a los que te aman, ¿qué recompensa tienes? ¿No hacen hasta los recaudadores de impuestos lo mismo? Y si saludan sólo a sus hermanos y hermanas, ¿qué más están haciendo que otros? ¿Ni siquiera los gentiles hacen lo mismo? Sé perfecto, por lo tanto, como tu Padre celestial es perfecto.

Les diré en este momento que soy terrible para ser perfecta. Y también les diré que, aunque parezca rebuscado en este momento pensar en cualquier persona en este centro de convenciones como un enemigo por el que deben orar, es posible que tenga una opinión diferente después de diez días sin dormir lo suficiente, sin suficiente ejercicio, y un montón de reuniones.

Amigos, nos estamos embarcando en un trabajo duro y sagrado. En los próximos diez días, hablaremos sobre algunos de los temas que más nos afectan: el matrimonio, el Libro de Oración, la violencia armada, el racismo, la explotación sexual y el acoso, y mucho más. Mientras debatimos, escuchemos. Mientras deliberamos, oremos. Y mientras votamos, hagámoslo con caridad para aquellos con quienes no estamos de acuerdo. Hagamos nuestro trabajo como extraños y forasteros, con destino al reino de Dios.

El vicepresidente de la Cámara de Diputados, Byron Rushing, es fiel en su recordatorio anual a la iglesia de que la frase “los fundadores de este país obtuvieron libertad para sí mismos y para nosotros” en el Día de la Independencia no son precisos. Byron sugiere que en su lugar utilicemos el recopilatorio titulado “Para la Nación” (For the Nation) en la página 258. Oremos:

Señor Dios Todopoderoso, tú has hecho todos los pueblos de la tierra para tu gloria, para servirte en libertad y en paz: dale a la gente de nuestro(s) país(es) un fervor por la justicia y la fortaleza de la paciencia, para que podamos usar nuestra libertad conforme con tu voluntad de gracia; por Jesucristo nuestro Señor, que vive y reina contigo y el Espíritu Santo, un solo Dios, por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

Schentrups deliver emotional plea to end gun violence

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 2:48pm

Philip Schentrup speaks to those attending the public witness against gun violence on July 6. His daughter, Carmen, was among those killed Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Evelyn Schentrup watches. The family are members of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, Florida. Photo: Melodie Woerman/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] On the gentle slopes of Brush Square Park in downtown Austin and under the canopy of live oak trees, hundreds gathered on July 8 to hear gut-wrenching testimony from Philip and April Schentrup, Episcopalians whose daughter Carmen was one of 17 students and educators killed by a gunman at Parkland, Florida’s, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Standing on a stage surrounded by dozens of bishops, the Schentrups shared their grief and emotional journey in the aftermath of their daughter’s murder on Feb. 14, 2018. “I was unable to talk, unable to eat, unable to sleep, barely able to carry on,” Philip Schentrup said as his wife, April, son, Robert, and daughter, Evelyn, stood at his side.

“I was filled with anger and despair,” he said. “Why would God take my daughter from my family, why would God take one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known, why would God inflict so much pain and suffering?”

Carmen was shot four times with an AR-15 rifle by Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student who walked into the school building, killed 16 others and wounded another 17.  The Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting was one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, one of the organizers of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, shows one of the crosses being distributed to remember the 96 people who die from gun violence every day in the United States. Photo: Melodie Woerman/Episcopal News Service

The Schentrups were invited to speak by Bishops United Against Gun Violence, an organization comprised of 80 Episcopal bishops working to curtail gun violence in the United States. The bishops are in Austin to attend the nearly two-week 79th General Convention, a span in which another 1,000 are expected to suffer from gun violence.

Schentrup led the bishops and spectators through the crisis of faith caused “by the evil that had been wrought on my family.”

“I searched for an answer to this senselessness and questioned everything,” he said as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry listened in the background. “The world was upside down and my once boundless sense of hope and happiness was destroyed by a monster.”

Finally, he said, “I had what I believe is a moment of inspired reflection. I understood at that moment that I had it all wrong. God did not intend to inflict deep and lasting damage on my family. God is saddened by Carmen’s murder and all the violence that people are allowed to inflict on one another. God weeps for all of his children.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaks to the crowd, as April and Philip Schentrup look on. Photo: Melodie Woerman/Episcopal News Service

Schentrup said that “God gave us free will, the ability to do good, to be complacent, to inflict harm. God gave us the prophets, his son and the Holy Spirit to show us the way. God wants us all to live into his path of love and kindness. I realized that God’s plan was simple. He gave us the ability to choose to love and to care for one another and he taught us how to do it.”

“Evil and violence happen in this world because we allow it, not because God allows it,” he said. “We suffer violence because we collectively allow it. God is waitng for us to choose to make the world he wants.”

Although a daunting challenge, Schentrup said, “I have hope. I hope in Jesus. I have hope in the hearts and the humanity of people. I have hope that just as people of faith led the fight to overcome segregation, laws that demean people, through love we can end senseless violence.”

“I ask everyone here to step up, to choose to make the world a better place and then to act,” he said.

April Schentrup wipes away tears as she speaks about her daughter, Carmen, who was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14. With her are her son Robert, daughter Evelyn and husband Philip. The family are members of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, Florida. Photo: Melodie Woerman/Episcopal News Service

Following her husband’s remarks, April Schentrup told the crowd that as a nation “we have stood by and listened as others have been gunned down in movie theaters, concert venues, places of worship and offices. The truth is in America gun violence happens every day and devastates families.”

“We have convinced ourselves that we can’t doing anything to fix it or that it can’t happen to us,” she said. “I’m here to tell you that it can happen.”

She said the nation makes guns too easily accessible and “all too easy for those who shouldn’t have them to own them. Gun manufactures have made weapons and arsenals so destructive than anyone can cause severe devastation within a matter of seconds.”

Schentrup said she is an “advocate for change. Gun violence is a complex issue that will take more than just thoughts and prayers. It will take many working hands and strong voices. Enough is enough”

Abigail Zimmerman, a member of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Waco, Texas, talks about the school walk-out she helped organize in response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Looking on are Philip Schentrup, whose daughter was killed in that shooting, and Bishop Mark Beckwith of Newark. Photo: Melodie Woerman/Episcopal News Service

Abigail Zimmerman, a ninth-grader and Episcopalian from Waco, Texas, who co-led a school walkout March 14 in response to the Parkland massacre, told the bishops and audience that young people have “grown up as shooting after shootings after shooting have plagued our country and we have had enough gun violence.”

Since the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting where 20 children and six adults were killed, she said there have been 239 additional school shootings in which 138 people, mostly children, have died. “But this time the survivors refused to let it continue,” she said. “They found their voices. We found our voice. I found my voice. I wanted to do something, I had to do something.”

She and her classmates organized the walk-out at her school on March 14 that drew about 300 students and teachers outside to advocate for an end to gun violence. She encourages universal background checks for gun purchases, banning assault rifles, raising the minimum age to purchase a gun and increasing the funding for mental health and counseling programs in schools.

Bishops gather before the start of the public witness against gun violence July 8 in Austin. The event was organized by Bishops United Against Gun Violence. Photo: Lori Korleski Richardson/Episcopal News Service

Although she has had heated arguments with those who oppose her views, Zimmerman vowed that “I know what I am doing will make a difference and so I persevere. I am determined to make sure that my little brother, my children, my grandchildren will not have to be afraid of going to school.”

“I encourage all of you to make change happen,” she said. “Educate yourself, your friends. Vote. Join organizations devoted to common sense gun legislation. Write letters. Do whatever you can to make a difference. Change must happen and it must happen now.”

— Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.

El obispo de Honduras insta a la Convención a servir mejor a los participantes que no hablan inglés

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 12:12pm

Miembros de la Cámara de Obispos se solidarizan con Lloyd Allen, el obispo de Honduras, cuando fue al micrófono para criticar lo que llamó la falta de interés de la Convención por los participantes que no hablan inglés. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] El obispo de la Diócesis de Honduras, Lloyd Allen, continúo exigiendo el 6 de julio apremiante atención a lo que dijo era una falta de completo acceso a servicios de traducción e interpretación durante la Convención General.

Sus dos intervenciones a título personal en la Cámara de Obispos dieron lugar a que el obispo primado Michael Curry nombrará a un pequeño comité para identificar “específicamente los asuntos y preocupaciones que se han suscitado, tanto a corto como a largo plazo” y cómo deben abordarse y por quién.

Toda la cobertura de ENS de la 79ª. reunión de la convención General se encuentra aquí.

El día anterior, Allen le dijo al comité legislativo encargado de estudiar cambios en el Libro de Oración Común que la falta de un traductor oficial para la audiencia era sintomático de su constante percepción de no ser bienvenido en la Iglesia. Él criticó que una de las resoluciones sujeta a la consideración del comité aún no había sido traducida.

Cuando la Cámara de Obispos se reunió para su sesión legislativa del 6 de julio, Allen fue hasta un micrófono para objetar que el propuesto “Pacto para la práctica de equidad y justicia para todos en la Iglesia Episcopal” no había sido traducido. Su objeción se produjo después que los obispos habían discutido el documento en sus mesas. El pacto fue propuesto en respuesta a la “Liturgia de Escucha”del 4 de julio.

Muchos participantes que no hablan inglés no entienden lo que está teniendo lugar en la Convención porque “hay cuerpos legislativos donde nadie está traduciendo”, dijo Allen, que es plenamente bilingüe.

“No es justo lo que está pasando en la Convención con la delegación de la IX Provincia”, afirmó él, “pese a haber luchado contra viento y marea para llegar aquí porque nos consideramos parte de esta Iglesia”. Allen preguntó por qué no se habían tomado medidas para contar con una “traducción adecuada”, en lugar de lo que dijo habían sido traducciones literales.

Todas las sesiones legislativas en ambas cámaras tienen intérpretes, como también los oficios diarios, las sesiones conjuntas y algunas, pero no todas, las reuniones de comités. Los dos volúmenes de informes a la Convención General, que se conocen como el Libro Azul, están disponible en español. La Carpeta Virtual, con la que cualquiera puede seguir el proceso legislativo, se encuentra en inglés y en español. En la versión en español, los nombres de las resoluciones están en inglés y algunas pero no todas las resoluciones han sido traducidas. Las que [sólo] están en inglés dicen “Por ahora no hay traducción al español”, dando a entender que la traducción está pendiente.

Durante la audiencia del 5 de julio, Allen amenazó con abandonar la Iglesia Episcopal si “continúa cambiando el libro de oración y jugando con la Escritura”. Durante la sesión de la Cámara de Obispos, Allen dijo que si no se tomaban medidas para corregir lo que llamó la situación imperante, “le pediré a mi delegación que se levante y se vaya de la Convención”.

Wayne Smith, el obispo de Misurí, propuso entonces aplazar la traducción del pacto que estaba pendiente.

La Cámara de Obispos comenzó a debatir la Resolución B014 sobre la compensación salarial al/a la presidente de la Cámara de Diputados cuando Allen volvió nuevamente al micrófono, esta vez llamando a sus compañeros de la IX Provincia, sus hermanos latinos y los obispos afrodescendientes para que le manifestaran su apoyo. Cerca de 20 obispos lo hicieron.

“Aplazar el asunto es volver a echarlo a un lado” expresó él. “Algo debe hacerse. No más”.

Otros obispos comenzaron lentamente a levantarse y Allen entonces dirigió a la Cámara en una larga oración en inglés y en español.

Luego de un largo rato de silencio, Curry pidió un receso para él, Allen y unos cuantos más a fin de “juntar ideas y sentimientos”.

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

Presiding Bishop preaches ‘God is love and gives life’ message during Austin revival

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 10:52pm

Jumbo screens were required to enable the large audience to watch Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preach. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry brought a rousing “God is love and gives life” message to Episcopalians and others gathered here during a revival to standing ovation after standing ovation every time he told the crowd to live.

“The only reason to be born is to live,” said Curry. “God wants us to have life … God wants all of his children to have life…

“God wants you to live. God wants us to live. Got wants this world to live … live, live, live.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry begins an impassioned sermon before a packed audience at a revival held on July 7 at Austin’s Palmer Center. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service

As proof, Curry offered the Gospel of John, throughout which Jesus makes clear the link between love and life. Curry cited chapter 4, “I am the water of life”; chapter 6, “I am the bread of life”; in Chapter 10, “I have come that you might have life”; in chapter 14, “I’m the way the truth and the life.”

In John 21 the risen Jesus who ask Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Jesus asks Peter the question for every time Peter denied knowing Jesus the night before his crucifixion. Through his questions, he demonstrated the way of love.

“God is love. And guess what, that’s the reason we are here,” he said.

The presiding bishop preached for close to 45 minutes in English and Spanish through an interpreter at the July 7 revival at the Palmer Center. Buses – 15 departing the JW Marriott and 16 departing the Austin Convention Center – making two trips transported some 2,000 people to the Palmer Center and the total crowd estimate was closer to 2,500.

One has to lay down selfishness, which is akin to sin, in order to follow Jesus, Curry said.

“The key to following Jesus, the key to being his disciple, the key to life is love, is love, is love, it’s love.

“The older I get, the more I am convinced that we waste a lot of time in life on stuff that doesn’t give life. And, some of that’s human; we’re human … but at the end of the day, we’ve got to live, we’ve got to live in world where little children are not separated from their parents at our borders,” he said to rousing, sustained applause.

“And the work of love is to work to make a world with the possibility of life for all. That is the work of love.”

The 79th General Convention is underway nearby at the Austin Convention Center through July 13 in the Diocese of Texas.

“Lord, send a revival,” said Texas Bishop Suffragan Jeff Fisher in the service’s opening acclamation. “And let it begin in me,” roared the crowd in response.

Evita Kristlock was in the very last row singing and clapping along to the warm-up music as the main event was about to get underway. “I used to be a youth coordinator, so EYE is quite like this,” she said.

Kristlock is a lay leader who worships at Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Spokane, Washington. She was joined by other members of the Diocese of Spokane, all wearing purple shirts with the message “Creative Compelling Witness” on the back

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaches as a Spanish-language translator Dinorah Padro stands at his side. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service

They weren’t the only ones singing and clapping, as the center filled with raucous sound. The single word “Revival” was displayed on giant screens to the left and right of the stage.

“Is anybody here looking for a revival?” the praise band sang from the stage as thousands cheered their approval, most of them on their feet.

Immediately before Curry began preaching, Sandra Montes of the Diocese of Texas brought down the house with “Montaña.” “Esa montaña se movera,” or “the mountain will move,” she sang.

“Let the whole church say amen,” said Curry, as he prepared to preach his sermon, joking it’s hard to preach when he was the only thing standing between the crowd and a barbecue. Following the revival, the Diocese of Texas was to host a Texas-style barbecue.

The crowd, however, didn’t move for the doors until Curry gave them the blessing and dismissed it. Its energy remained high following the revival, as people made their way to the barbecue.

Someone needs to make sure the translator gets first dibs on food at the barbecue. She is a CHAMP for keeping up with Bishop Curry #gc79

— Wil Root (@WilRoot88) July 7, 2018

“It was great, all the people, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the invitation to love and to live, and to look at what really living and really loving look like. Compassion, hope, realizing that there’s nothing with God that we can’t do,” said Sandye Wilson, rector of Church of St. Andrew and Holy Communion in South Orange, New Jersey, in the Diocese of Newark.

“Bishop Curry is chief evangelist, so what he’s done is letting us understand that we’re all called to be, which is evangelists.”

Wilson, who has been a deputy 12 times deputy and former member of Executive Council, said she is helping at the Union of Black Episcopalians and Church Pension Group booths in the convention’s Exhibit Hall.

“It was awesome. It was fantastic,” Stefan Schuster said after the revival.

He and his wife, Periwinkle, are members of St. George Episcopal Church in Austin and have volunteered at General Convention through the Diocese of Texas. It has been a great experience meeting people from all over the world, Schuster said, and he has been impressed by the Episcopal Church’s diversity and spirit of welcome.

“Having that message echoed by the presiding bishop was really wonderful,” he said as he, his wife and their two sons headed to the barbecue. “We’re a church of love.”

Following the sermon, a dozen prayer stations catering to English, Spanish and French speakers were opened so that people could open their hearts and make their prayers known.

Dixie Roberts Junk of Kansas City, Kansas, was among the revival-goers who prayed with clergy at the stations set up along the outer walls of the revival space.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

This wasn’t her first Curry-led revival — she also attended the one held last year in the Diocese of West Missouri — but there was something special about this revival at General Convention, she said, from the singing and music to Curry’s uplifting sermon.

“There’s always something to take back that’s just the richness of our church,” she said.

Curry hosted his first revival in February 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and has since held ones in Kansas City, Missouri, Stockton, California, Waverly, Georgia, and in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The next revival is scheduled for Western Massachusetts in October.

The revivals are a dedicated series of gatherings that combine inspiring worship, compelling teaching, honest faith-sharing, intensified prayer, and some form of engagement with the mission of God – all for the sake of the spiritual renewal and transformation of people and of society.

Video of the entire Austin revival, which ran about two and a half hours, can be viewed on demand here.

— Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service. David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for ENS.

TEConversations speakers urge Episcopalians to embrace evangelism, share love of Jesus

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 6:47pm

The Diocese of Olympia contingent to the 79th General Convention gathered to discuss evangelism during the TEConversation joint session with bishops and deputies held July 7 in the deputies’ hall. Photo: Sharon Tillman/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Bishops and deputies gathered July 7 for the second joint session of the 79th General Convention for a 90-minute program of speakers, video, music and discussion highlighting some of the leading edges of the Episcopal Church’s push for evangelism.

The session was the latest installment in General Convention’s TEConversations series. The first, held July 6, focused on racial reconciliation. Care of creation will be the topic of the third, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. July 10.

The session on evangelism kicked off with a presentation by Iowa Bishop Alan Scarfe, who detailed how his diocese staged 40 revivals across the state in 2017. Scarfe paired his stories with words of encouragement for Episcopalians in their own evangelism, at one point taking inspiration from Jesus’ question to Peter in the Gospel of John: “Do you love me?”

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

“We do love Jesus,” Scarfe told the crowd of hundreds. “We just don’t always know how to express it and how to own it and how to share it.”

Later in the program, the second speaker, the Rev. Daniel Velez-Rivera, offered his own suggestion for how to share the love of Jesus.

“I love Saint Nike. You know, he’s the one who coined, ‘Just do it,’” said Velez-Rivera, a church planter from Virginia.

TEConversations were conceived for this General Convention to underscore the church’s three priorities during the current triennium, as established in 2015 at the 78th General Convention. The format is built around presentations by three experts on each topic.

At the session on evangelism, the interludes featured a song by members of the Episcopal Youth Event House Band and a video about the work of the Rev. Eric McIntosh and St. James Episcopal Church of Penn Hills in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which received a Mission Enterprise Zone grant to develop new ministries.

Each of the TEConversations concludes with about a half hour of discussion among each diocese’s members as the bishops and deputies reflect on what they have heard and how they can apply it to their work in the church.

The third speaker in the evangelism session, the Rev. Lauren Winner, alluded to Episcopalians’ reluctance to talk about evangelism because they may envision handing out pamphlets and harassing people on the street. True evangelism, she said, is rooted in a curiosity about God and a desire to share the love of Christ.

Evangelism can happen within a community of believers, as well as by moving out into the larger community, she said, and the goal needs to be more than simply reviving the denomination.

“Priests are not executive directors of religious nonprofits,” said Winner, an Episcopal priest and author. “What priests are are curiosity provokers. We provoke people’s curiosity about God and then we accompany people as their curiosity compels them to seek out God.”

Joel Joa, Sam Hansley, Demethia McVea and Aimee Bostwick, who performed together at Episcopal
Youth Event 2017 in Oklahoma City, perform during the TEConversation on July 7 during a
joint session in the House of Deputies. Photo: Sharon Tillman/Episcopal News Service

Velez-Rivera also noted the common skittishness about “the E word.” And he agreed that evangelism can be hard, uncomfortable work. He regularly looks to Mark 10:27 for inspiration: “With God all things are possible. Con dios, todo es posible.”

He pointed to the example of Christianity’s first evangelists – Peter, Mary Magdalene, Paul.

“Did they know what they were doing? No, but they had a teacher,” Velez-Rivera said. “They had Jesus.”

Velez-Rivera likes to bring outsiders into the church, even though his congregation, St. Gabriel Episcopal Church, isn’t based in a permanent building. Instead, he reaches out to people in the community. It takes practice to talk to others about Jesus in a relaxed and confident way, he said, but that is what Christians are called to do.

“You are the good news, we are the good news,” he said.

Scarfe’s presentation sought to portray the wide variety of revival events that his diocese organized or assisted with during its first year of experimentation. Each congregation took ownership of the details, with some featuring bluegrass music, a praise band or a choir. One revival also offered a bounce house for the kids, but the bishop indicated he, too, got in on the fun.

“Bouncing up and down in the name of Jesus, and I never laughed as much in my life,” Scarfe said.

Each revival had essential elements, including scripture, prayer and testimony. “Testimony, saying what God really means to you personally, being able to recite how God has worked in yourself or your loved one,” he said.

At the end of 2017, when the revivals were over, Scarfe said he began returning to normal daily and weekly routines but then began wondering, why go back? Instead, the diocese is picking up where it left off and organizing more revivals this year while learning from each experience.

The diocese and its members already have learned to stop “apologizing” for revivals and have embraced their form of evangelism, Scarfe said, and he encouraged his fellow Episcopalians to find their own path.

“Are you renewing, are you recharging, are you rekindling?” he said.

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

Vestment evokes parallels to current refugee crisis

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 5:40pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry wears a chasuble depicting the life of Mary at the opening Eucharist of the General Convention. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service

Against a medieval backdrop, the Holy Family flees to Egypt in this detail on a chasuble similar to the one worn by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the General Convention. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] For years, CM Almy has donated vestments to the Episcopal Church for the General Convention. This year, it received a special request from the presiding bishop himself.

A particular vestment had caught the eye of Michael Curry and he wanted to wear it at the opening Eucharist at the 79thGeneral Convention this year.

The chasuble depicts eight printed images illustrating the life of Mary and the images resemble stained glass windows found in ancient European churches.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

What apparently attracted Curry to this particular vestment was how the imagery of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus as refugees fleeing to Egypt evokes a parallel to the plight of today’s refugees worldwide and especially those caught in the U.S.-Mexico border crisis.

Representatives of Almy told the Episcopal News Service that they are pleased to  provide the vestments worn at the General Convention and especially this one for Curry.

“We have a tremendous respect for Bishop Curry and are pleased to help spread the word about what he is doing,” said David Fendler, Almy’s director of marketing.

Curry’s vestments were designed by Father Vincent de Paul Crosby, O.S.B. And for anyone who might wish to purchase a chasuble like the one Curry wore, it can be obtained from Almy for $455.00.

– Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.

Debate over leadership of College for Bishops continues

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 5:24pm

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The Committee on Churchwide Leadership held a rather lively discussion on the morning of July 7 of Resolution A149, which calls for reorganizing the board of directors of the College for Bishops.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

The College for Bishops has been part of the presiding bishop’s Office of Pastoral Development until 2017. However, its status within the governance structure of the Episcopal Church changed in 2010. The House of Bishops unanimously voted to incorporate it as a separate nonprofit entity. A letter from Bishop Clay Matthews, managing director of the College for Bishops, was read during the hearing in which he explained that the college is now owned by the House of Bishops. It has a $6 million endowment, according to Matthews.

For more information about the College for Bishops see the Episcopal News Service story “Teaching Bishops to be Bishops.”

The Task Force on the Episcopacy, mandated by General Convention 2015 to consider the election, appointment, roles and responsibilities of the church’s bishops, submitted Resolution A149.

Opinions on the resolution range from advance it to table it, and shades in between. Much of the testimony centered on “diversity,” a word that does not appear anywhere in the resolution nor the explanation.

Bishop Sean Rowe, Northwestern Pennsylvania, offered background to the committee. He explained that when funding was cut in 2009 the bishops felt that College for Bishops was important to the life of the House of Bishops. The Intent was to keep the college going. They incorporated the college “and it was perceived as being an end run,” Rowe said. It is essentially “owned by HOB” and this resolution is to provide wider ownership by the church. He later added, “if there had been conversations back then, we wouldn’t be here today.”

In the resolution the college is “urged to amend its Certificate of Incorporation and By-laws” so that the board members are nominated jointly by the presiding bishop and president of the House of Deputies, are elected by the House of Bishops and confirmed by the House of Deputies at General Convention. An amendment offered by Deputy Paul Stephens, Mississippi, and adopted by the committee, says that the nominees should reflect the diversity of the whole church.

Currently the board is self-perpetuating, in other words the people on the board, through a nominating committee, recommend new board members to fill vacancies. The resolution is seeking to change that method to an appointed board.

The Rev. Nina Ranadive Pooley, deputy from Maine, said “Self-perpetuating boards tend to perpetuate themselves in their own image and fear appointed boards. It is easier to ask your friend because your friend might say yes.” Speaking to the recent work the board has done to increase its diversity, she added, “I know the board is moving forward with the best intentions.”

In his message to bishops urging them to dissent to this resolution, Matthews explains the “By Laws already make mandatory that all orders of ministry be represented on the board as called for in A149.” The college amended its bylaws earlier this year, according to a committee member who also serves on the Task Force for the Episcopacy.

The Rev. Marian Fortner, deputy from Mississippi, who was appointed to the board of directors in April, testified during the hearing, saying that the board is trying to diversify. Of the 20 board members, the presiding bishop is always the chair of the board, there are 12 bishops and eight other members. Fortner abstained from the voting.

Resolution A149 is on the consent calendar as amended for the House of Deputies for July 8

— Sharon Tillman is a freelance writer for Episcopal News Service.

House of Deputies votes to begin process to revise the Book of Common Prayer

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 4:45pm

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The House of Deputies on July 7 adopted a resolution that would set the stage for the revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

The outcome of Resolution A068 was decided in a vote by orders, with each diocese casting one ballot for its lay and one ballot for its clergy deputies. To prevail, the resolution needed 56 yes votes in the lay and in the clergy orders.

The House of Deputies passed Resolution A068, to begin a process of Prayer Book revision, in a vote by orders on July 7. Photo: Melodie Woerman/Episcopal News Service

The results were:
* Lay: 63 yes, 30 no, 17 divided (the deputies were split 50-50)
* Clergy: 69 yes, 26 no, 15 divided.

The resolution now goes to the House of Bishops for its consideration.

The resolution adopts a process recommended by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, or SCLM,  which from now until 2021 will gather data about how the current 1979 prayer book is being used in congregations across the Episcopal Church, with a focus group meeting in every diocese and a variety of consultations.

The resolution directs that any future revision will “utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity” and will “incorporate and express understanding, appreciation, and care of God’s creation.”

The Rev. Matthew Mead, a New York deputy, offers and amendment during debate on July 7. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Additional guidance for the process was included in floor amendments, which deputies presented on July 7, after having debated the basic resolution the day before. The amendments direct that elements of prayer book revision be faithful to the historic rites as expressed in the Anglican tradition while making space for rites that might arise from the working of the Holy Spirit. Work also is to take into account the church’s “liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender, physical ability, and ethnic diversity,” as well as adhering to the four elements identified by Anglicans as the essentials for Christian unity: scripture, the creeds, sacraments of baptism and Eucharist and the historic episcopate.

Because of concerns that have arisen during the convention about the availability of materials for non-English-speaking deputies, the resolution calls for materials generated in the next three years to be available in English, Spanish, French and Haitian Creole – the primary languages spoken by people in the 17 countries of the Episcopal Church.

In the process set out by the SCLM, a revised Book of Common Prayer will be created by 2024, with three years of trial use after that. Final adoption of that revision by two successive General Conventions would result in a new prayer book in 2030.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Deputies debated the resolution for an hour on July 6, with speakers alternating between those supporting and those opposing it.

The Rev. Jane Johnson, deputy from Fond du Lac, said that since human beings, in all their diversity, are made in the image of God, then the church must move away from an image of God that is white and male. “God’s pronouns are them and their, not he,” she said.

The Rev. James Sorvillo, deputy from Central Florida, said he thought the money planned for the overall revision process, estimated at $8 million over 12 years, could be better spent on providing Spanish language materials for Puerto Ricans now living in his area.

Chicago Deputy Louisa McKellaston said that all human beings are made in God’s image “but that is not reflected in our Book of Common Prayer.” She said she is concerned that exclusive language in the prayer book is unwelcoming and alienating to both members and seekers.

The Rev. Everett Lees, deputy from Oklahoma, said that while he understands the need for more expansive liturgical language, now is not the time to address it. Noting that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry now is frequently appearing on television, “people are coming to look for us.” He said revision “will draw us from the important work of evangelism.”

— Melodie Woerman is director of communications for the Diocese of Kansas and is a member of the ENS General Convention reporting team.

Trump administration’s policies loom large in joint hearing on immigration

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 4:03pm

The Rev. Nancy Frausto, a “dreamer” and deputy from the Diocese of Los Angeles, testifies July 7 at the joint hearing on immigration resolutions. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Few issues were as primed for spirited debate heading into the 79th General Convention as immigration. The Episcopal Church’s triennial gathering is being held in the capital of this border state amid a continuing uproar over a Trump administration policy of “zero tolerance” toward immigrants coming into the country, a policy that involved until recently the separation of children from their parents in detention.

General Convention is considering nine resolutions relating to migration and immigration, and all nine were on the agenda July 7 at a joint hearing of two legislative committees at the JW Marriot hotel, just west of the convention center.

“We need a statement that says these families matter to this church,” the Rev. José Rodríguez-Sanjuro and alternate from the Diocese of Central Florida said.

About two dozen people testified, including Central American bishops, border state priests, Episcopalians active in refugee resettlement and at least one “dreamer,” the Rev. Nancy Frausto, who like other dreamers was brought to the United States illegally when she was a child. She now is a priest in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

“The 800,000 dreamers need to have the Episcopal Church stand behind them, and not just them but all immigrants,” Frausto said, speaking in favor of Resolution C033, which puts the church on record as respecting the dignity of immigrants and outlines how public policy should reflect that belief.

“I’m going to keep it simple: This saves lives,” said Frausto, who also was one of the three panelists who discussed racial reconciliation July 6 at the first of three TEConversations, scheduled as joint sessions of General Convention.

The two social justice committees, one focused on United States policy and the other on international policy, held the hearing to take input on resolutions covering a range of topics, including providing sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation, condemning the separation of migrant families, supporting Haitians who are poised to face deportation and calling for legislation to give permanent legal status to the dreamers through federal legislation known as the DREAM Act.

General Convention has spoken out on immigrations issues through resolutions dating back at least as far as the 1980s.  Among them is a resolution from 2012 urging passage of the DREAM Act. This year, Resolution C002 urges passage of a “clean” DREAM Act, a reference to recent political developments that have bogged down progress on the legislation since President Donald Trump ended an executive branch policy of protection for the dreamers.

Resolutions passed by General Convention can be used for advocacy work by the Office of Government Relations, which is based in Washington, D.C., and conducts nonpartisan advocacy through direct appeals to congressional offices and by mobilizing the Episcopal Public Policy Network.

Of the nine resolutions on immigration before General Convention, the international policy committee is reviewing just one, D009, but that one is substantial. Titled, “Christian Principles for Responding to Human Migration,” it lays out some of the scriptural and theological basis for the church’s advocacy on such issues, as well as the real-world application of those beliefs.

The Rev. Paul Moore, an Episcopal priest from Silver City, New Mexico, and chair of Rio Grande Borderland Ministries, testified in favor of D009, speaking in English and then translating himself into Spanish and he cited several Bible passages underpinning the church’s outreach toward immigrants.

“Welcome strangers, lest we not miss entertaining angels,” he said, referencing a passage from Hebrews.

Angela Smith testified of her work with Saint Francis Migration Ministries in Kansas, an affiliate of Episcopal Migration Ministries, one of the nine agencies which contract with the U.S. State Department to resettle refugees in this country. The number of resettlements has plummeted under Trump, which Smith argued is affecting the country’s standing in the world.

“This is not who we are. It is not who we want to be,” Smith said. “Refugees enrich our communities throughout the United States. They bring joy, and they make us better.”

More than 100 attended the joint hearing July 7 on immigration resolutions at the JW Marriott hotel in Austin, Texas, during the 79th General Convention. David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

And the Rev. Chris Easthill, a deputy with the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, emphasized that the issues surrounding migration are not exclusive to the United States, and the church can help stem the tide of fear and hate.

“Migration is the big political divide across the globe,” Easthill said. “We need a robust Christian response.”

The hearing came as the bishops and deputies attending General Convention are planning a visible response of their own, with a scheduled trip July 8 to a federal immigration detention facility a little more than a half hour from Austin.  A prayer service is planned for about noon outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center, and the Sunday legislative schedule was adjusted to accommodate those who wished to attend.

The prayer service was arranged in response to the Trump administration’s policy toward immigrant families crossing the border illegally with children, and that policy is referenced directly in Resolution A178 is titled “Halt the Intensification and Implementation of Immigration Policies and Practices that are Harmful to Migrant Women, Parents and Children.”

The policy also was cited July 7 during testimony at the joint hearing on immigration.

Bishop Juan David Alvarado of the Anglican-Episcopal Church in El Salvador testified in Spanish with an English interpreter to tell the committees the natural and human-made disasters the country’s people suffered through, from earthquakes to floods to civil war. Salvadoran immigrants seeking to enter the United States are driven by thoughts of safety, family and opportunity, he said.

“The policy of zero tolerance in this country effect greatly the region of Central America,” Alvarado said in supporting Resolution C033.

Several people called for language in the resolutions that strengthened the call to action or provided more specifics about the urgency of these issues. Others said it was important simply for the church to take a stand.

“We need a comprehensive statement. We need this statement,” the Rev. José Rodríguez-Sanjuro, an alternate deputy from the Diocese of Central Florida.

He said his congregation, Jesus of Nazareth Episcopal Church in Orlando, is half immigrants, and many are afraid. He described meeting in his office with a family, the little boy crying. His father already was facing a deadline for deportation and his mother had to check in later this year with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We need a statement that says these families matter to this church,” he said in advocating for Resolution C033. “I’m losing parishioners because of deportation. Give me something I can use to give them hope. Give me something to reinforce the message that this church welcomes you, this church loves you.”

The Rev. Devon Anderson of Minnesota, chair of the domestic policy committee, closed the hearing by thanking those who testified and the more than 100 people who attended.

“Thank you for proclamations of hope and possibility for a presence of our church in the world around advocating for immigrants in our communities,” she said.

Committee deliberations on the resolutions are scheduled for the morning of July 9.

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

Schentrup family urges convention to continue work against gun violence

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 3:50pm

Philip Schentrup stands with his family as he addresses the House of Bishops about gun violence. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Philip and April Schentrup, Episcopalians whose daughter Carmen was one of 17 students and educators killed by a gunman at Parkland, Florida’s, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School appeared before the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies on July 7 to ask them to continue their work to end gun violence.

The House of Bishops stood in silence as the Schentrup family entered the conference hall at the 79th General Convention and approached the podium.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Standing at the microphone with his wife and family at his side, Schentrup described his daughter as “amazing, compassionate and energetic” who “gave her mom and dad a hug every evening.” She was a straight A student, he said, and a talented musician.

“All of Carmen’s dreams came to an end on Ash Wednesday,” he said. That’s when Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, walked into the school building on Feb. 14, shot Carmen four times with an AR-15, killed 16 others and wounded another 17.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting marked one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. In the first 21 weeks of 2018 alone, there have been a total of 23 school shootings where individuals have been injured or killed. Nearly 40 have died in the shootings.

Schentrup told the bishops that “we’re confronting a sobering fact” in the campaign against gun violence. “We’re in a battle between fear and fact,” he said.

He said many advocacy groups have discovered the power of fear with messages to “be prepared because someone’s going to attack your children or destroy your Christian values” and where people are hated “who don’t look like us, act like us.”

He applauded the bishops’ statement against gun violence (https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/pressreleases/episcopal-house-of-bishops-meeting-in-retreat-accepts-statement-on-gun-violence/) issued earlier this year, and thanked them for their support for his and other families and for hearing their plea to work for an end to gun violence.

After Schentrup spoke, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry stood and asked for a moment of silence before leading the bishops and visitors in reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Schentrup’s remarks came a day before a scheduled public witness event (http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org/witnessgc79/) organized by Bishops United Against Gun Violence. The event is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. July 8 at Brush Square Park, across the street from the Austin Convention Center where the General Convention is meeting.

The Schentrups will speak at the event, along with Abigail Zimmerman, a ninth-grader and Episcopalian from Texas who co-led a school walkout in March in response to the Douglas High School massacre.

Bishops United Against Gun Violence is a group of more than 70 Episcopal bishops that is working to curtail gun violence in the United States. “We believe in a God of life in the face of death who calls our church to speak and act decisively against the unholy trinity of poverty, racism and violence,” according to its website.

Following the event, participants will be invited to walk together to the 10:30 a.m. General Convention Eucharist or to attend worship at local Episcopal churches.

— Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.

Convention budget process gets committee airing, with call for more input and better timing

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 12:47pm

[Episcopal News Service –Austin, Texas] In the midst the process of crafting the Episcopal Church’s 2019-2021 budget, a legislative committee took testimony about the need to change that process so all Episcopalians can have greater input in decisions about how the church spends its money.

Only two people, one bishop who had been involved in the process and another currently doing so, spoke to the Governance and Structure Committee on Resolution A102, which calls for a task force “to study and recreate the budget process for the church.”

Maine Bishop Steve Lane, vice chair of Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget & Finance, finds a quiet moment in a lonely hallway of the Austin Convention Center July 7. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The resolution was proposed by the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons, which says that the current process “does not make enough time available for input by the church at large prior to and during General Convention.” The situation makes for “frustration, suspicion and disappointment of many deputies, bishops and other stakeholders.” The resolution’s explanation also says it is unclear who is responsible for budget oversight between General Conventions.

The current budget process is outlined in Canon I.4.6 (page 33 here). And, according to the joint rules of General Convention (II.10.c.ii at page 227 here), council must give its draft budget to the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget & Finance no less than four months before the start of General Convention (essentially by February of convention year).

PB&F uses the draft budget and legislation passed by or being considered by General Convention to create a final budget proposal. It also holds hearings for people to explain to the committee why their resolutions should be funded. The budget process at convention runs parallel to the resolution process and, often, one process overtakes the other.

“The greatest heartbreak I’ve had in the church was sitting at the hearings for Program, Budget and Finance and listening to people passionately come and ask us to please fund certain elements of the budget,” West Virginia Bishop W. Michie Klusmeyer, who served on PB&F at the 2006, 2009 and 2012, told the committee. “They were asking for anywhere from $5,000 to $250,000 and pleading their case passionately for what they wanted. I looked down at the papers I had in front of me and at that moment when the hearings were taking place, the budget was probably 96 to 98 percent complete.”

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Klusmeyer, who pleaded for a better budgeting system, added that “had we all been honest, we should have stood up and said ‘It ain’t gonna happen.’”

The current draft budget was posted in mid-November on the General Convention website for comment by the church, the second time council has done so. PB&F met in the fall and again earlier this year to familiarize itself with the budget and has been meeting daily in Austin since July 3.

Maine Bishop Steve Lane, PB&F vice chair, told the legislative committee July 7 said that the budget committee got lots of comments on the 2016-2018 draft budget. The current draft “got very few.”

Lane said PB&F’s current working draft has about $12 million more in funding requests than it has income to cover them. “That’s normal,” said Lane, who is in his third consecutive term on as vice chair.

“It’s our job to receive the requests and present convention with a balanced budget. I don’t know that that would change if we expanded the input [time]. There’s always going to be a greater demand for resources than we have at the moment. Program, Budget and Finance is going to have to do the hard work of balancing desires with resources available. The big problem right now is the time pressure.”

PB&F’s budget must be presented to a joint session of the houses of Bishops and Deputies no later than the third day before convention’s scheduled adjournment. To meet that deadline, the committee must finish its work essentially the day before. According to the draft convention schedule, that presentation is set to take place at 10:30 p.m. CDT on July 11. The two houses then debate and vote on the budget separately. Both houses must approve the same version of the budget, which takes effect at the beginning of 2019.

“It has become clear that it is very difficult for Program, Budget and Finance to materially change the draft budget from Executive Council to reflect funding priorities adopted by General Convention after the draft budget has been prepared or to incorporate funding for major initiatives or projects adopted at General Convention,” the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons said in its report to convention in which it proposed Resolution A102.

Between meetings of convention, the canons assign oversight of the budget to council while convention’s Joint Rules of Order assign very similar responsibilities to PB&F.

“And there is the reality that on a day to day basis it is the staff which administers the budget and makes multitudes of spending decisions that ultimately affect and establish the actual funding priorities,” the Governance, Structure, Constitution and Canons said in its Blue Book report, adding that “there is an inherent conflict or lack of congruency and possibly accountability” between convention, council and staff.

In answer to questions from the committee, Lane said he thinks the budget process is “complicated; I’m not sure it’s broken.”

Over the last three triennia “the process has become increasingly collaborative with Executive Council” through the initiative of both groups, he said. During this triennium, for example, at least one PB&F member has attended each of council’s nine meetings and sat with its Finance for Mission Committee.

The result, Lane said, is that “this current budget is the best budget I have seen in my time with the church; it came to us balanced, it came to us prioritized.”

He said tension around the budget process comes from trying to balance “planning and accountability” on the one hand and “democratic participation” on the other. Council begins to build a budget after consulting with the churchwide staff and various groups around the church. However, that action was one way: council members soliciting input. “It wasn’t ‘y’all come.’ The ‘y’all come’ happens here,” Lane said.

Convention is “somewhat stuck with that structure” unless it can devise another “official and formal” way to get the wider church’s input, he said.

Asked if a task force is needed or whether council and PB&F could make the needed changes, Lane suggested that those two groups have already done such things having budget committee members attend council meetings, allowing PB&F to meet months before convention and posting the draft budget for comment.  “It might be helpful to have a sense of direction about what you all want” in terms of how to achieve greater democratic participation.

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

July 7 dispatches from 79th General Convention in Austin

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 10:59am

A mural on the frontage road just west of Interstate 35 at Sixth Street in Austin, Texas. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Much happens each day during General Convention. To complement Episcopal News Service’s primary coverage, we have collected some additional news items from July 7.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Committee expresses regret for lack of language interpreters, seeks changes

The Committee to Receive the Report of Resolution 169, which is dealing with a variety of resolutions regarding the Book of Common Prayer, on July 6 drafted a resolution of regret for situations that took place in one of its hearings on July 5 and sought ways to keep them from happening in the future.

In that hearing, on Resolution B012, Diocese of Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen criticized the committee for failing to have an official interpreter available for Spanish-speakers who wished to testify. He said it was symptomatic of the constant feeling he has of being unwelcome in the church. (ENS story about the hearing.)

In response, the committee crafted Resolution A220, which expresses “deep regret for our lack of sensitivity and hospitality to our Latino and Latina siblings in Christ,” noting both the lack of interpreters and translations of the resolutions up for debate.

The resolution also recognizes that the committee itself is lacking in diversity and urges the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies, who appoint members of legislative committees, to take note of this fact. It also asks that the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons review the convention’s Joint Rules of Order and suggest changes so that translations of all resolutions, as well as availability of interpreters, is required.

-Melodie Woerman

El Obispo Primado insta a los episcopales a abrazar ‘el camino del amor’ para su desarrollo spiritual

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 10:08am

El obispo primado Michael Curry predica un sermón en la eucaristía de apertura de la 79ª. Convención General, en Austin, Texas. Foto de Mike Patterson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] la eucaristía de apertura de la 79ª. Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal el 5 de julio incluyó música movida en muchos estilos, comunión para miles de personas y un sermón del obispo primado Michael Curry en que llamaba a los miembros de la Iglesia Episcopal a abrazar prácticas espirituales que puedan ayudarles a conducir una vida centrada en Jesús.

Llamado El camino del amor, he aquí las siete prácticas que ofrecen una Regla de Vida que todos los episcopales son alentados a seguir:

  • Vuélvete: Detente, escucha y sigue a Jesús
  • Aprende: Reflexiona diariamente sobre la Escritura, especialmente sobre la vida y enseñanzas de Jesús.
  • Ora: Pasa tiempo con Dios en oración todos los días.
  • Adora: Reúnete en comunidad para adorar cada semana.
  • Bendice: Comparte la fe y encuentra los medios de servir a los demás.
  • Ve: Sal de la comodidad propia para dar testimonio del amor de Dios con palabras y acciones.
  • Descansa: Dedica tiempo a la restauración y la salud.

Toda la cobertura de ENS de la 79ª. reunión de la convención General se encuentra aquí.

Curry dijo que hace varios meses le había pedido a un grupo de obispos, clérigos y laicos que se reunieran con él para explorar cómo la Iglesia podría ser más profundamente la rama episcopal del Movimiento de Jesús, una afirmación que ha sido el tema de sus primeros tres años como Obispo Primado. Afirmó que quería encontrar una vía para “ayudar a la gente a lanzarse en brazos de Jesús”.

Ese grupo llegó a la conclusión de que la Iglesia Episcopal no necesitaba un nuevo programa, sino que debía recurrir a prácticas espirituales que durante siglos habían ayudado a los cristianos a acercarse a Dios. El resultado, El camino del amor, es una adaptación de tradiciones monásticas que Curry dijo que ayudarían a los miembros de la Iglesia a “sincerarse el alma y el espíritu”.

El obispo primado Michael Curry predica un sermón en la eucaristía de apertura de la 79ª. Convención General, en Austin, Texas. Foto de Mike Patterson/ENS.

Él también animó a todos en la Convención General a dedicar tiempo a meditar en la vida y enseñanzas de Jesús antes de tomar cualquier decisión, incluida la de hablar por un micrófono.

Unos voluntarios repartieron folletos en que se describían las prácticas mientras las personas salían del salón donde había tenido lugar el culto.

Materiales que explican El camino del amor aparecen publicados en el cibersitio de la Iglesia Episcopal.

El texto del sermón de Curry se encuentra aquí.

– Melodie Woerman es directora de comunicaciones de la Diócesis de Kansas y miembro del equipo de información de ENS para la Convención General.

Honduran bishop calls on convention to better serve participants who do not speak English

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 8:50pm

Members of the House of Bishops stand with Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen and he stood at the microphone to criticize what he said is convention’s lack of concern for participants who do not speak English. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Diocese of Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen continued July 6 to call critical attention to what he said was a lack of complete access to translation and interpretation services during General Convention.

His two points of personal privilege in the House of Bishops prompted Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to appoint a small committee to identify “specifically the issues and concerns that are being raised both short-term and long-term,” and how they can be addressed and by whom.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

The day before Allen told the legislative committee charged with considering changes to the Book of Common Prayer that the lack of an official translator for the hearing was symptomatic of the constant feeling he has of being unwelcome in the church. He criticized the fact that one of the resolutions the committee was considering has no yet been translated.

When the House of Bishops convened for it legislative session July 6, Allen went to a microphone to object to the fact that the proposed “Covenant for the Practice of Equity and Justice for All in The Episcopal Church” had not be translated. His objection came after the bishops had discussed the document at their tables. The covenant was proposed in response to the July 4 “Liturgy of Listening.”

Many non-English-speaking participants do not understand what is happening at convention because “there are legislative bodies where no one is translating,” said Allen, who is fully bilingual.

“It’s not fair what’s going on at convention with the Province IX delegation,” he said, despite it having “gone through thick and thin to get here because we considered ourselves as part to this church.” Allen asked why provisions were not made for “proper translation,” rather than what he said have been word-for-word translations.

All legislative sessions in both houses have interpreters, as does the daily worship, joint sessions and some but not all committee meetings. The Virtual Binder, with which anyone can track legislation, is available in English and Spanish. In the Spanish version, the resolution names are in English and some but not all resolutions have been translated. Those in English say “Por ahora no hay traducción al español,” meaning translation is pending.

During the July 5 hearing, Allen threatened to leave the Episcopal Church if it “continues to change the prayer book and to play with Scripture.” During the House of Bishop’s session, Allen said that if action was not taken to correct what he called an on-going situation, “I will ask my delegation to get up and exit the convention.”

Diocese of West Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith then moved to postpone the covenant pending translation.

The House of Bishops began to debate Resolution B014 on compensating the president of the House of Deputies when Allen again came to the microphone, this time calling on his fellow Province IX bishops, his Latino brothers and the bishops of African descent to stand with him. About 20 bishops did so.

“Tabling the matter is just brushing it off again,” he said. “Something needs to be done. No more.”

Other bishops slowly began to stand and Allen then lead the house in a long prayer in English and Spanish.

After a long time of silence, Curry asked for a recess for he, Allen and a few others to “put our heads and hearts together.”

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

TEConversations opens with racial reconciliation

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 8:17pm

Members of the Diocese of Newark converse with each other July 6 during the 79th General Convention’s first TEConversation. Racial reconciliation was the topic of this joint session. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] One of the unique offerings at this triennium’s General Convention are TEConversations (The Episcopal Church Conversations), which are being held during three joint sessions of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies over the coming week. Each conversation offers multiple speakers, video presentations and engaging interludes around three priorities of this gathering: racial reconciliation, evangelism and care of creation.  Speakers represent international leaders, well-known Episcopalians, and rising voices in the Church.

The first of these, A Conversation on Racial Reconciliation, opened at 10:30 a.m. July 6.

“This day is designed for you. This day is for everyone to learn and be included. A day of listening. A morning of conversation. A day of learning. As you listen to the speakers remember that everyone matters,” said the Rev. David Crabtree of North Carolina, moderator of the July 6 conversation.

Arno Michaelis told his story of being the former leader of a worldwide racist skinhead organization. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Speakers for the first TEConversation took a deep and personal look at racial reconciliation.

A reformed, former leader of a worldwide racist skinhead organization, Arno Michaelis kicked off the presentations. “Hate ruled my life,” he said. As the former leader of the largest racist skinhead nation in the world for seven years he speaks of hate and violence as an all-consuming a way of life. Meeting Pardeep Kaleka, the eldest son of Satwant Singh Kaleka – the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, who was gunned down during the attacks of Aug. 5, 2012, changed Michaelis’ life. Together they started Serve to Unite https://serve2unite.org/  in response to the August 5, 2012, attack. Through this organization they “wage peace” and invite others to join them.

Channeling peace, love and especially the “double-edge sword of forgiveness and compassion” Michaelis also works to get people out of organizations like the KKK. Through this practice of nonviolence he told the story of “saving” a father and son from that life.  The Imperial Grand Wizard of the Georgia Klan also burned his robes and left that life. “Hate and violence can be stopped by forgiveness and compassion.” He said that if he had been violent in response to their anger they would likely still be in the KKK.

Local Austin poet, Charles Dawain Stephens, aka Chucky Black, recited his poem “Black Magic.” Photo: Courtesy of Cynthia Black

The scheduled speakers were punctuated by a special guest: Local Austin poet, Charles Dawain Stephens, aka Chucky Black, recited his poem “Black Magic” about the goodness and magic he sees in his people that help him through the dark times.

The next speaker, Dr. Catherine Meeks, director of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, Georgia, is committed to helping people find the best parts of themselves. She told participants from her seat on the stage that “love and acceptance are the simple message (of reconciliation) but we are always looking for something more complicated.”

She urged people, “Do not leave this place and act the same way you acted when you got here. We need to make differences in ways that are concrete and take away the constructs that divide us.”

Catherine Meeks is the director of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

In a video presentation the question – What is A Beloved Community? – was answered by people representing the diversity of the Episcopal Church. Some of their responses:

  • “An ever-widening circle of God’s Grace.”
  • “We should always take care of each other, not just when there is a disaster, but always.”
  • “Has to be an absolutely intentional community, it can’t just happen.”

The Rev. Nancy Frausto, a native of Zacatecas, Mexico, and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) beneficiary priest was the morning’s final speaker. Frausto is a dreamer, “which means I entered the country illegally. I ran … and hid … to be reunited with my father.” She was 7 years old when she came to this country and a beloved community is something she desperately wants.

“Imagine working toward a beloved community. You have to work toward racial reconciliation. To get there you have to talk about truth.” It is about the entire system, according to Frausto. If we truly care about the dreamers, then we must care about the parents – the original dreamers, and the children in the camps today, and the black boys and girls in the neighborhoods, and all those who are marginalized.

The Rev. Nancy Frausto of the Diocese of Los Angeles is a native of Zacatecas, Mexico and a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) beneficiary. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Frausto closed with the story of Jesus and Lazarus when Jesus said to the people, “Unbind him. Let him go.” She went on to say, “Imagine us unbinding this country from racism. We have a lot of work to do. … We do need to love one another. As you leave General Convention make sure you do the work tell the truth and unbind this country.”

About 30 minutes of discussion that asked participants to take a deep and personal look at racial reconciliationfollowed the presentations. Deputies and bishops were asked to “explore personal and communal hopes for living as the Jesus Movement and sharing in loving, liberating, life-giving relationships with God, each other, and the earth.”

During that time people first sat in pairs, and then in groups. These were generally made up of one or two diocese’s bishops and deputies. An Episcopal Church staff member noted that some groups included their alternates in the discussion, although rules about who can be on the floor at a given time made this tricky.

In an email following the TEConversation, Deputy Stewart Lucas of Maryland shared a comment he had made as part of their discussion. “We must just be ourselves, especially when we are in a minority. All we can do is share our story and our pain and our journey. Relationships change opinions and deeply held values. Those of us in a majority who are privileged in many ways have a baptismal responsibility to find and listen to the story of the ‘other,’ ”

As the deputies and bishops left the floor of the House of Deputies they shared their reactions from the first TEConversation.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry opens the 79th General Convention’s first TEConversation July 6, this one on racial reconciliation. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Deputy Krisita Jackson of Central Florida said, “Conversations need to be continued. Reconciliation is tough work and requires a lot of looking into oneself, finding the truth and speaking the truth.”

Bishop Greg Brewer, also of Central Florida, was energized by the session. “I welcome it. These conversations are absolutely necessary if we are going to go from racial enclaves to reflecting the multi-racial Jesus Movement that the presiding bishop envisions.” He added that he appreciated the diversity of the presentation, “from hip-hop to Dr. Meeks sitting down and talking to us.” And, he said that he looks forward to the next conversation.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Jackson also commented that the presenters were relevant and that she appreciated hearing views from a cross-section of the Church. “It wasn’t a narrow focus. It’s a problem about all people.”

Each TEConversation will be available live so people can participate concurrently with deputies and bishops. Each will also be available online, with support materials, for local use in churches at a later date. Participants can also text 51555 to share resources, ask questions, and continue the conversation. On social media #belovedcommunity and #jesusmovement and #gc79 can be used to share thoughts and ideas.

The next TEConversation is on Evangelism. It will be 2:30-4 p.m. CDT on July 7.

– Sharon Tillman is a freelance writer and a member of the ENS General Convention reporting team.

Cuba committee to hold hearing July 7 on new resolutions

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 8:06pm

Western North Carolina Bishop Jose McLoughlin addresses the Episcopal Church of Cuba Committee during its July 6 afternoon session while New Jersey Bishop William “Chip” Stokes, co-chair of the committee, looks on. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Turns out there is no mechanism for the Episcopal Church to admit an existing diocese into its structure without making a change to its constitution: a change that requires approval by two successive conventions.

The 79th General Convention is underway at the Austin Convention Center and runs through July 13. The 80th General Convention will convene in 2021.

The Episcopal Church in Cuba Committee spent two sessions July 6 deliberating the language of two new resolutions, A209, Reunification with the Episcopal Church of Cuba, and Resolution A214, which addresses the necessary constitutional and canonical changes. It will hold an open hearing on the two resolutions beginning at 7:30 a.m. on July 7 in the Hilton Austin Grand Ballroom K.

“The first one, A209, expresses regret over the history that brought us to this place … and our strong desire for reunification,” said Becky Snow, who co-chairs the committee along with New Jersey Bishop William “Chip” Stokes.

Cuba Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio listens as the Episcopal Church in Cuba Committee deliberates the second of two new resolutions on July 7. Photo: Lynette Wilson

Resolution A029 calls on General Convention to express its joy at the Episcopal Church of Cuba’s request to rejoin the Episcopal Church; lament the House of Bishops’ action in 1966 that split the two churches; note that the two churches “seek to employ God’s justice to confront our shared brokenness, and to equip and empower our efforts toward healing, wholeness and reconciliation for generations to come”; desire complete reunification; express deep regret that structural and constitutional issues prevent the realization of fullest expression of reunification at the 79th General Convention; and expresses the Episcopal Church’s eagerness “to share a future” with the Cuban Episcopal Church.

To prepare for the admission of the Episcopal Church of Cuba, the committee drafted Resolution A214, which commends the church for meeting the actions proposed by the Task Force on Cuba, which General Convention created in 2015 to facilitate the reunification of the two churches.

“We recognized that there needed to be a resolution that was not our resolution that went to Governance and Structure about necessary canonical changes, which they are working on to help not merely with Cuba, but in the event that a request like this should come again we have something in place according to our Constitution and Canons,” Stokes told Episcopal News Service. He added that the notion that a diocese already established as an Anglican Communion province wasn’t foreseen.

The constitutional change to accept a diocese outside the Episcopal Church’s structure and the canonical change necessary to accept a bishop elected, or in this case appointed, in another Anglican province didn’t present themselves until the committee began its deliberations.

Resolution A214 expresses the 79th General Convention’s desire for an immediate reunification, though recognizing that the Episcopal Church “has yet to attend to the structural and canonical requirements necessary and pledges to complete the following actions to welcome” the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese to the 80th General Convention.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Further, it calls for the necessary constitutional and canonical changes to name Cuba a diocese; it calls for the bishop of Cuba’s participation in the House of Bishops; the continued establishment of diocesan and congregational companion relationships; and $400,00 for support of the Cuban church’s ongoing mission and ministry. It also sets the Cuban clergy’s eligibility to participate in the International Clergy Pension Plan administered by the Church Pension Fund at the close of convention.

When the relationship between the two churches ended, so did clergy pensions.

“It’s been difficult for the Diocese of Cuba and we certainly recognize the pain and strain of that,” said Stokes. “But we also believe that this will create permanent changes that should anything like this happen in the future we’re much more able to deal with it in a way that’s fair and treating others the same rather than just making things up as we go.”

Finally, A214 calls for an interim body to accompany the two churches through their transition to re-unification and $50,000 to fund that work.

During its July 4 open hearing the committee formed four subcommittees to study a covenant committee, constitutional and canonical issues with reunification, pension and Resolution A052. While the committee held its July 4 hearing, a second resolution, D060, to establish a covenant with the Diocese of Cuba was filed. Later, the committee decided to strike the covenant language.

The House of Bishops took its action in 1966 in response to the effects of the Cuban Revolution and the United States’ response. The Cuban Revolution, led by Castro, began in 1953 and lasted until President Fulgencio Batista was forced from power in 1959. Batista’s anti-communist, authoritarian government was replaced with a socialist state, which in 1965 aligned itself with the communist party.

Formerly a missionary district, the Episcopal Church of Cuba is an autonomous diocese of the Anglican Communion under the authority of the Metropolitan Council of Cuba. The council is chaired by the primates of the Anglican churches of Canada, the West Indies and the Episcopal Church. The council has overseen the church in Cuba since it separated from the U.S.-based Episcopal Church in 1967.

Prior to that time, in 1961, Episcopal schools in Cuba had been closed and appropriated, and many clergy and their families were displaced. Some remained in Cuba; some either returned or immigrated to the United States. Some clergy who remained in Cuba were imprisoned, executed, or disappeared. Church buildings were closed and left to deteriorate. The church was polarized politically, and its clergy and lay leaders suffered. But the Church continued, in the living rooms of the grandmothers, who held prayer services and Bible studies in their homes. Through them is transmitted a story of pain, and of faith.

The Episcopal Church of Cuba traces its origins back to an Anglican presence beginning in 1901. Today there are some 46 congregations and missions serving 10,000 members and the wider communities. During the 1960s, Fidel Castro’s government began cracking down on religion, jailing religious leaders and believers, and it wasn’t until Pope John Paul II’s 1998 visit to Cuba, the first ever visit by a Roman Catholic pope to the island, that the government began a move back toward tolerance of religion.

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

Israel-Palestine resolutions spark impassioned testimony under expedited process for review

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 8:06pm

Tarek Abuata of the pro-Palestinian Friends of Sabeel North America testifies July 6 at a hearing on General Convention resolutions related to Israel and Palestine. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Dozens of people representing a broad range of interreligious voices testified July 6 at a joint hearing on resolutions related to Episcopal Church policy toward Israel and Palestine, a contentious issue at past General Conventions that this year was discussed openly and, for the most part, cordially.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Some read their prepared statements by scrolling their smartphones or shuffling through notes on paper. Others gave testimony from memory or off the cuff, and many of the nearly 50 people who addressed the committees shared grim examples of life and death in the region, from Gaza to the West Bank.

“I’ve heard stories of hope and stories of pain, from both Israelis and Palestinians. We need to listen to both,” said retired Bishop Ed Little, previously of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, who spoke from his experiences during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The Social Justice and International Policy Committee and the Stewardship and Socially Responsible Investing Committee of the 79th General Convention met jointly with the goal of getting the resolutions to the House of Deputies by July 8, part of an expedited process outlined by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president.

That process was recommended by a task force formed by Curry and Jennings after the 2015 General Convention to look at ways to ensure a full, open and productive debate on such thorny issues as whether to divest church funds from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

So far, the reaction to those changes has been positive, and the openness of the debate was readily evident to the more than 100 people who attended the 2.5-hour hearing in a ballroom at the JW Marriott hotel just west of the Austin Convention Center.

Several pro-Palestinian organizations mobilized individual representatives and groups of people to testify, helping to tilt the balance of views in favor of approving resolutions calling for a tougher stance against Israel and greater promotion of peace. A small but forceful minority spoke in defense of Israel – or to assert that this decades-old conflict defies easy assignment of blame.

“It’s a family fight, and like a family fight, there are two sides,” Katy Dickinson, a deputy from the Diocese of El Camino Real in California, said in her testimony supporting Resolution D027, seeking justice in Gaza. “It’s mostly Israel’s problem,” she said, but Hamas also is firing missiles and needs to be part of the solution.

But if this conflict is a family fight, Tarek Abuata, a Palestinian Christian from Houston, Texas, sought to undercut the analogy with a variation of his own.

“It is not a fight. It is not a family fight when my father has been abusing my mother and raping her for 70 years,” Abuata testified. He is executive director of Friends of Sabeel North America, a Christian group that supports the Palestinian cause and that was represented at the hearing by several members.

The two committees have been assigned 15 total resolutions on issues related to Middle East peace, including the civil rights of Palestinian children, the status of Jerusalem, supporting Palestinian-owned businesses and preserving the right to boycott as a form of protest against the occupation.

The various resolutions often generated passionate testimony from deputies and other Episcopalians, as well as members of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Jewish, Muslim, Mennonite and Quaker faiths.

They spoke of Palestinians’ homes being bulldozed, of Palestinian children being ripped from their families and jailed, of the “racist extremism” that had turned Palestinians into second-class citizens in their own homeland. Their testimony described the Palestinian territories, particularly Gaza, as a “nightmare,” “concentration camp,” “prison camp” and the equivalent of the Jim Crow era of segregation in the United States or the former system of apartheid in South Africa.

More than 100 people attended the joint hearing of the international policy and the socially responsible investing committees on July 6, and nearly 50 people testified. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Comparisons to apartheid was underscored, though not explicitly, by a joint statement issued July 3 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican leader who was a pivotal figure in the fight to end apartheid, with former House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson and Patti Browning, widow of former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning.

“We recognize that as the convention considers these resolutions, we must continue the journey of reconciliation with our Jewish sisters and brothers for the centuries of oppressive and anti-Semitic behavior which culminated in our complicity in the Holocaust,” the letter says.  “At the same time, we must not let those horrific injustices blind us to the injustices perpetrated on the Palestinian people.”

The letter goes on to single out the “cruel and illegal Israeli-led siege” of Gaza and says the Episcopal Church will be complicit in the occupation as long as its investments are tied to infrastructure work there.

The issue of divestment generated the most divergent opinions at the hearing, from agreement that the church must end its complicity in an oppressive system to opposition, either from those who side more with Israel or those who worry that divestment might inadvertently cause more harm than good for the Palestinian cause.

The Rev. Jason Poling, vicar of St. Hilda’s Episcopal Church in Maryland, said much of the prevailing rhetoric gives the impression of Israel as a unilaterally vicious occupying power, ignoring Palestinian extremism that has included rocket fire, suicide bombings and kidnappings while serving as a roadblock to progress on peace negotiations.

“Our Israeli friends have a reason to be defensive, because they have a lot to defend against,” Polling told the committee in testifying against Resolution C017.

Alma Bell, a deputy from Maryland, also opposed divestment, because it could lessen the Episcopal Church’s economic leverage in the region and might jeopardize the work of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem under Archbishop Suheil Dawani, who is in Austin this week but did not attend the hearing.

Resolution B016 would model the Episcopal Church’s investment policy after one adopted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which created something called a human rights screen for Israeli and Palestinian investments.

“There are many Lutherans who are thrilled today that our closest communion partner has chosen to take up this same resolution,” said Dale Loepp, a Lutheran who worked on the ELCA measure.

Another resolution, B019, would call for the church to pursue investments that support “a sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” but even that measure drew a mix of praise, reservations and opposition, particularly from those who don’t see such investments as doing anything to end the occupation.

“Palestinians don’t need pity. Palestinians need solidarity,” said Kareem El-Hosseiny of American Muslims for Palestine.

And the Rev. Gary Commins, priest-in-charge at Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Jersey City, New Jersey, cast doubt on whether reconciliation is possible with such an imbalance of power between the Israelis and Palestinians. He urged the committees not to support Resolution B018 for that reason.

“There’s almost nothing in the resolution that hasn’t been said in previous conventions,” Commins testified. “This resolution is just something to make us feel better. … It is an opioid.”

Later in the day, the international policy committee met and voted to discharge B018, essentially agreeing that it covered ground already trod by previous General Conventions. The committee also combined two resolutions on treatment of Palestinian children and two resolutions on the status of Jerusalem before voting to send them to the full House of Deputies. The committee ended the night by recommending the rest of its resolutions to the House as well. The status of the investment-related resolutions assigned to the second committee wasn’t immediately available.

At the morning hearing, everyone who wanted to testify was given that opportunity, though committee chairs asked them to keep their remarks to two minutes or less.

People who have followed these issues over multiple General Conventions said the openness was a welcome change, in contrast to what they felt were more strict limitations on discussion.

Another key change is that the House of Deputies was chosen as the house of initial action for all resolutions on Israel and Palestine. At General Convention in 2015, a resolution calling on the church to divest from companies engaged in certain business with Israel failed in a vote of the House of Bishops, which meant it never made it to the House of Deputies for consideration.

And the House of Deputies and House of Bishops are expected to take up the resolutions through a “special order of business” which gives the resolutions greater weight and ensures debate isn’t sidelined by procedural barriers. The special order in the House of Deputies is scheduled for the afternoon of July 8.

“There seems to be a process this time that allows for discussion and debate,” the Very Rev. Will Mebane of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo, New York, told Episcopal News Service during a short break in the hearing on July 6. “There was a recognition at the highest levels of the church that 2015 didn’t work.”

Mebane said he traveled to the Holy Land several years ago, and the experience affected him deeply. The difference between life on the Israeli side and the Palestinian side is like day and night.

“Not one person in this room would tolerate for one day the conditions that exist in Israel and the occupied territories of Palestine,” Mebane told the committees while speaking in favor of Resolution D041, one of the resolutions about protecting Jerusalem as the holy city of the three Abrahamic faiths.

The Rev. Sunny Hallanan, a deputy from the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, testifies in favor of Resolution D041.

The Rev. Sunny Hallanan, a deputy from the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, also spoke in favor of D041, saying people in Europe are puzzled by the U.S. policy toward Jerusalem.

“Why are we turning from the values we have stood for?” Hallanan said, her voice wavering for a moment. “We, the church, must take a faithful, prophetic stand.”

Some of the most poignant testimony addressed the plight of Palestinian children, as addressed by Resolution C035 and Resolution C038. Several witnesses told stories of children being taken from their families and detained for long periods of time, often suspected only of throwing rocks.

“I know you share my moral outrage,” Jennifer Bing of the American Friends Service Committee said. “You know that military detention is no way to treat a child.”

Haithem El-Zabri, a Muslim and leader in the Austin’s Interfaith Community for Palestinian Rights, shared a personal story – of his Palestinian parents, who moved to the United States in the 1960s as refugees. Now he longs for the opportunity to visit to his ancestral homeland. But he can’t, due to restrictions imposed by Israel.

“All we are asking for is our right to live in peace and dignity in our homeland in equality with all who inhabit it,” El-Zabri said in voicing support for Resolution D018, recognizing both Israelis’ and Palestinians’ rights to self-determination.

Former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori leads a closing prayer at the end of the hearing on Israel-Palestine resolutions.

When the testimony was over, the committee chairs asked former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, a member of the international policy committee, to lead a closing prayer.

“Open our ears,” she prayed, “that we may hear the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the land of the holy one, that we may respond with your justice, your compassion, and we pray that we may be willing to enter sacrificially into the lives of all your people.

“May we be people of justice, of shalom, of salam. May we help to repair the breach in our own hearts, in our world, among all your people. In the name of the God of Abraham, we pray. Amen.”

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