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Child abuse inquiry begins public hearing into Church of England safeguarding failures

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 1:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The statutory inquiry investigating institutional responses to child abuse in England and Wales has begun a public hearing into the Church of England’s Diocese of Chichester. The diocese is being investigated as a case study in the “Anglican Church” strand of the inquiry’s investigation into the Church of England and the Church in Wales. Today, Senior Counsel for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), Fiona Scolding QC, began the hearing by setting out the structures of the Church of England and a history of cases involving the diocese, from the 1950s onwards.

Read the entire article here.

Anglican bishop of Boga, Mugenyi William Bahemuka, predicts a Congolese genocide or civil war

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 1:02pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] In the past month, three new military bases have been established by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) in the Djugu territory of Ituri province, but it has so-far failed to stem the increasing tide of violence. Last week, 33 people were killed in an attack on the village of Maze. The bishop of Bogo, Mugenyi William Bahemuka, has said that it is “difficult to confirm” that the recent violence is an extension of ethnic and tribal conflicts. “Is it a planned insurgency that will turn out to be either a civil war or a genocide?” he asked. “Both are situations no one would like to experience. Once again we need prayer and advocacy for peace.”

Read the entire article here.

Liturgy and Music committee offers church a plan to unscramble its calendar of saints

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 11:56am

The Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music has spent the 206-2018 triennium attempting to bring order to the Episcopal Church’s calendar of commemorations. Photo: Church Publishing Inc.

[Episcopal News Service] The church’s calendar of saints has been in a state of extreme flux for years and the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music is recommending a way for General Convention to remedy what it calls a “situation of great confusion.”

The SCLM’s proposal is contained in its Blue Book report to convention. The subcommittee report on the calendar can be found via the side navigation.

The committee said in its report that it inherited a “situation of great confusion about what the calendar of the church was, and what General Convention wanted the next steps to be.” The Blue Book report outlines that multi-year confusion.

“The SCLM’s first step was to pause, take a breath, and determine a clear narrative for where our calendar has been, what has happened to it over the past 10 years, and what General Convention asked us to do this triennium,” the Rev. Devon Anderson, SCLM chair, told Episcopal News Service.

“In some instances, the SCLM received conflicting directives from General Convention. Our Calendar Subcommittee, chaired by Liza Anderson, charted the calendar’s past course in order to interpret and engage the work we were asked to do this triennium, and propose a clear path forward for next triennium. So, what you will see in the report is clarity. We have graphs!”

The 2015 General Convention sent the SCLM 11 resolutions related to the church’s various lists of saints that it has chosen to remember and honor. Those resolutions, along with feedback from the church, led the committee to decide that it ought to prepare a new edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, which would better reflect the diversity of the church, and which could work in conjunction with A Great Cloud of Witnesses, which General Convention voted to “make available” at the last convention but did not authorize.

Efforts have been on-going to create a calendar that reflects the church’s diversity to replace the current list of commemorations that, in the committee’s words, “still skews overwhelmingly clerical, white, and male.” Even the process begun in 2003 that resulted in Holy Women, Holy Men added 100 commemorations, which tended to be white, male clergy.

The SCLM is recommending that convention authorize for optional use its revised version of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, which reflects what it calls “judicious pruning” of names made possible by the idea that A Great Cloud of Witnesses can include some of those names. The report said pruning is needed because convention has been “dramatically increasing the rate at which it adds commemorations, with no signs of slowing down.”

Yet, it said, Episcopalians are concerned about the sheer number of commemorations and their scope, including having multiple choices of people to honor on some days. “Given the inability of the calendar committee to bend space and time in order to create more days in a calendar year, the only solution we see is to keep the commemorations on the main calendar to a manageable number, and to use A Great Cloud of Witnesses to include an even wider scope of individuals,” the SCLM wrote.

The committee also considered the issue of the criteria by which the church decides to include people on the calendar.

“General Convention kicked the calendar back to ‘Lesser Feasts and Fasts,’ which included the criteria for inclusion in “Lesser Feasts and Fasts,” Anderson said. “It also passed a resolution directing SCLM to include former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (and General Convention deputy) Thurgood Marshall on the calendar, with an emphatic ‘now!’

“But under ‘Lesser Feasts and Fasts’ criteria, Marshall could not be included, as at least two generations have not passed since his death in 1993. Our Calendar Committee struck the difference, placing Marshall, in addition to Pauli Murray and Florence Li Tim-Oi, on the draft calendar in brackets, and submitted a resolution that the brackets be removed and the three become a permanent part of our calendar.”

The committee recommended that convention authorize Lesser Feasts and Fasts for “optional use throughout the church,” noting that the idea of “trial use” does not canonically apply to anything other than revisions of The Book of Common Prayer. A process of “optional use” with the next iteration of the SCLM monitoring feedback will allow for refinements at the 2021 meeting of convention, the SCLM said.

The members added a caveat, saying that while they recognize the sometimes irresistible “temptation to tinker with the calendar on the floor of convention,” they generally believe that “the church will ultimately have the highest-quality document if significant revisions can wait until the church has had the opportunity to test this new volume, and if all of the anticipated necessary revisions can be accomplished organically rather than by a process of individual resolutions and amendments.”

The committee’s proposed revised Lesser Feasts and Fasts can be found here.

ENS’ previous coverage of the SCLM’s proposals on prayer book revision is here.

The SCLM plans to post on its blog a series of essays about the various projects it worked on this triennium, and will host on-line discussions there.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

Liturgy and Music committee recommends against revising The Hymnal 1982

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 10:53am

The Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music is recommending to the General Convention that it not authorize a revision of The Hymnal 1982. The committee did propose a revised and expanded collection of rites for the pastoral and liturgical needs of congregations. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] While the prospect of revising the Book of Common Prayer [link] looms large over the upcoming General Convention, the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music has also considered a number of other parts of the Episcopal Church’s worship life.

Those projects are described, and recommendations made, in separate postings on the General Convention website of sections of the committee’s Blue Book report to convention [hyperlink]. Below is a summary of that work and recommendations.

“I am exceedingly proud of the SCLM’s work this past triennium. Because the projects we received were mostly unfunded, the SCLM chose the scope of our work very carefully,” the Rev. Devon Anderson, SCLM’s chair, told Episcopal News Service. “We were determined to send complete, thoughtful and quality work back to General Convention. But more importantly, we were unified in our desire to serve as faithful stewards of the gift and tradition of our liturgy.

Book of Occasional Services

Convention told the SCLM to continue its multitriennium project of revising the 2003 edition of this collection of optional services and texts that are available for “occasional” pastoral and liturgical needs of congregations. The book includes church-year-specific things such as seasonal blessings, a Christmas Festival of Lessons and Music, and a service for All Hallows’ Eve. The committee has prepared a revision that modernizes “archaic language” and adds new material, some of it at the specific direction of convention, including rites for changing one’s name and honoring God in creation. It also includes the outline of a rite for Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead with the hope that local communities will flesh it out. The entire proposed revision is included in the SCLM’s report.

Racial reconciliation

Part of General Convention Resolution A182, which called on the church to address systemic racism, asked the SCLM to produce and post online a set of prayers for racial reconciliation and justice, suitable for inclusion in the Prayers of the People. A subcommittee created four sets of Prayers of the People and a Litany of Repentance and Commissioning for the Ministry of Justice and Reconciliation.


The 78th General Convention, meeting in July 2015, changed the canonical language that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman (Resolution A036) and authorized two new marriage rites with language allowing them to be used by same-sex or opposite-sex couples (Resolution A054).

Convention charged the SCLM with monitoring the use of those rites, formally known as Liturgical Resources 1: I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing: Revised and Expanded, 2015. The committee’s churchwide survey on the rites gathered 260 replies, and of those who said they have read or used the rites, just more than 50 percent ranked them as excellent, according to the SCLM’s report to convention.

After reviewing the survey results and discussing possible responses in its report, the SCLM said it thinks the rites “will continue to serve the church well in its current edition and does not recommend a further revision at this time.” It recommended to convention that the rites remain in trial use until the convention initiates a comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer.

Meanwhile, a separate group, the General Convention Task Force on the Study of Marriage, has said its Blue Book report will call for continued trial use of the rites as “additions to the Book of Common Prayer” with three options. The task force will call for amendments to the rites, prefaces, and appropriate sections of the Catechism to make the language gender-neutral (i.e. “the couple”) rather than specific to a man and a woman.

The three options include continuing trial use of the rites amended as the task force recommends, adopting them at the 2021 meeting of General Convention as part of the prayer book or having that meeting of convention take some other action.

Changes to the Book of Common Prayer constitute constitutional changes and, thus, require the approval of two successive meetings of General Convention.

Hymnal revision

The committee said it “declined to act” on Resolution 2015-D060, which directed it to prepare a plan for the comprehensive revision of the Hymnal 1982. The members based their decision on the fact that they found no historical precedent in the Episcopal Church for a hymnal to be revised prior to a revision of The Book of Common Prayer. “The SCLM would like General Convention to make decisions regarding whether or not to revise the 1979 Book of Common Prayer before any further decisions are made regarding revision of the Hymnal 1982,” the members wrote in their report.

The committee also reviewed The Hymnal Revision Feasibility Study produced in 2012 by the Church Pension Group. Close to 13,000 people filled out a lengthy survey on the hymnal and the results, the authors said, showed the centrality of the hymnal to the life of the Episcopal Church. While saying their survey was not a red light to revision, the authors called for “caution before a decision is taken to go full speed ahead.”

And, the SCLM notes, the convention gave it no money to spend on devising a plan for hymnal revision.

Congregational Song Task Force

In a related matter, Resolution 2015-A060 “empowered” the committee’s Congregational Song Task Force to “further the mission of the Episcopal Church by enlivening and invigorating congregational song through the development of a variety of musical resources” and to develop and expand the work begun in the World Music Project.

The committee reported that it has developed a project to collect information from a sample of participants in each province of the church to discern which hymns and songs are being sung in parishes in the Episcopal Church. The committee calls it “a necessary preliminary step in developing further resources for congregational song.” The task force plans to convene a symposium by the end of the 2018-2021 triennium to bring together at least one participant from each province to discuss the functions of the hymns and songs they use, and identify new sources for hymnody.

The committee noted that it was given no money for this work but that it has applied for a $28,050 Constable Grant to fund this project.

Canonical and consitutional changes

The committee said collaborated with the Standing Commission on Governance, Structure, Constitution and Canons to develop what it called “an appropriate constitutional and canonical ‘vessel’ for liturgies, apart from the Book of Common Prayer,” for General Convention to consider.

It said convention has approved liturgies using a “trial use” designation added in 1964 as a way to introduce the church to new liturgical texts outside of the prayer book. However, the committee said, the use of that designation has gone beyond its intention and other monikers have also been created.

The members proposed amending Article X of the church’s constitution and a parallel amendment to Canon II.3.6 to create a system to authorize additional and alternative texts to supplement The Book of Common Prayer.

The constitutional change, which requires the approval of two successive conventions, would add a provision allowing the convention to “authorize for use throughout this church, as provided by canon, alternative and additional liturgies to supplement those provided in the Book of Common Prayer.”

The canonical change would require that whenever the General Convention uses the authority of the amended Article X to authorize alternative or additional liturgies, the enabling resolution must specify the precise texts thereof, and the terms and conditions under which such liturgies may be used.

This new structure would “lend clear canonical status to worship materials already in use by the church as well as those approved in the future and maintain the integrity of theology and ecclesiology of the Book of Common Prayer.”  The change is not intended to preempt or stop Prayer Book revision (link), the committee said. Instead, it said, it will give the church more flexibility in its approach to worship, and the General Convention a more transparent criterion for authorizing such worship.

“We also see it as an exciting opportunity to engage in a discussion of how we are formed by the way in which we worship,” the committee added.

In addition to these projects, the SCLM has also made recommendations on the church’s calendar of saints. ENS coverage of that project is here.

The SCLM is posting on its blog a series of essays about the various projects it worked on this triennium, and will host on-line discussions there. Those essays include one titled “A better way to authorize liturgical texts.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

Newark standing committee chooses four candidates for 11th bishop

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 10:27am

[Episcopal Diocese of Newark] The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Newark on March 5 announced a slate of four candidates who will stand for election as the 11th bishop of Newark at a special convention on May 19.

The candidates are:

The Rev. John Harmon, rector, Trinity Parish, Washington, D.C., Diocese of Washington




The Rev. Carlye Hughes, rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, Diocese of Fort Worth




The Rev. Lisa Hunt, rector, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Houston, Diocese of Texas




The Rev. Scott Slater, canon to the ordinary, Diocese of Maryland




More information about the candidates is here.

The Bishop Search/Nominating Committee recommended the candidates to the Standing Committee, which approves the slate.

“We believe these individuals possess the skills, qualities, experience and spiritual grounding necessary for the office of bishop, and we are excited to commend them to the Diocese of Newark,” said the Rev. Joseph Harmon, president of the Standing Committee, in a press release. (Note: The Rev. Joseph Harmon and the Rev. John Harmon are not related.)

The Standing Committee also announced on March 5 the opening of a petition process by which nominees may be added to the slate. The process closes at 5 p.m. ET on March 15.

Members of the diocese will have the opportunity to meet the candidates in person at “walkabouts” to be held around the diocese on May 3-6, before the May 19 electing convention.

The new bishop’s ordination and consecration is scheduled for Sept. 22, with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry officiating.

The Episcopal Diocese of Newark comprises the northern third of New Jersey with 98 congregations in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Warren and Union counties. The Rt. Rev. Mark M. Beckwith has been bishop of Newark since January 2007 and will retire in September.

For all announcements, resources and upcoming events related to the Bishop Search, please visit dioceseofnewark.org/bishop-search.

Du cœur financier de Londres à la cathédrale de Montréal

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 9:35am

Le doyen et recteur Bertrand Olivier. (Présence/François Gloutnay)

Depuis le 8 février, la cathédrale Christ Church de Montréal a un nouveau recteur et le diocèse anglican de Montréal a un nouveau doyen. Le prêtre, dont la candidature a été acceptée au terme d’un long processus de sélection, est arrivé à Montréal deux jours plus tôt. Il n’aura pris que quelques heures pour faire ses bagages car le dimanche 4 février, il célébrait la messe pour la dernière fois à All Hallows by the Tower, la plus vieille église de Londres, une paroisse qu’il animait depuis treize ans.

Celui qui remplacera John Paul Kennington, doyen et recteur depuis 2011 qui a décidé en 2016 de retourner en Angleterre pour des raisons familiales, est donc un Londonien.

Un Londonien d’adoption plutôt. Car Bertrand Olivier, 55 ans, le nouveau doyen du diocèse anglican de Montréal, est né en France, à Dunkerque, a grandi dans une famille catholique et a étudié dans un collège tenu par les maristes.

Anglophile dès son jeune âge, il passait ses étés en Angleterre. En 1986, le jeune professionnel s’est installé à Londres où il travaillait en relations publiques avant de créer sa propre boîte de communications. Dix ans plus tard, Bertrand Olivier était ordonné diacre de l’Église d’Angleterre, puis prêtre en 1997.

Organiste dans une paroisse anglicane

«À 18 ans, la religion, ce n’était pas mon intérêt le plus grand», concède le nouveau recteur, assis dans un banc de la cathédrale Christ Church de Montréal. «Et mon but n’était pas de devenir anglican. Mais ce qui m’a toujours retenu dans l’Église, c’est que je voulais jouer de l’orgue.» À Londres, il devint organiste dans une paroisse anglicane.

«C’est ainsi que j’ai mis le doigt dans l’anglicanisme. Dieu a le sens de l’humour», dit-il.

«J’ai trouvé dans la communauté où j’étais organiste quelque chose qui me rappelait d’où je venais. Cela a été une continuation dans mon cheminement. Mais je ne me doutais pas que j’allais recevoir un appel vocationnel. C’est arrivé dans une cathédrale au nord de Londres. J’ai reçu cet appel qui a bouleversé ma vie», dit-il, levant les yeux vers le ciel.

Il entreprit des études en théologie tout en continuant son emploi, qu’il quittera sans regret. Son diocèse lui confia une première paroisse située dans un quartier défavorisé de Londres. Trois ans plus tard, il s’occupait d’une paroisse qui compte beaucoup de professionnels et de jeunes familles.

Puis ce fut All Hallows by the Tower, l’église aux cotés de la tour de Londres, là où ont été décapités en 1535 Thomas More et John Fischer, tous deux canonisés 400 ans plus tard par le pape Pie XI. C’est une paroisse sans résidents, mais grouillante de monde durant la semaine. On y anime une pastorale pour les gens qui viennent travailler dans la City, le cœur financier de Londres.

Un nouveau défi

«Tout allait très bien à All Hallows by the Tower. J’aurais pu y demeurer jusqu’à la retraite. Mais cela ne me satisfaisait plus.»

C’est dans sa personnalité, reconnaît-il. «Je n’aime pas quand la vie devient trop confortable. Dieu m’appelle à faire des choses qui me mettent au défi, qui me permettent de grandir et de faire fructifier mes talents que je mets au service de tous. Je n’aime pas trop ronronner.»

Et surtout, dit-il, «je voulais réexplorer ma foi… en français».

Il connaissait déjà le précédent recteur et doyen John Paul Kennington. «On a été ordonnés dans le même diocèse. Je savais qu’il était ici et que c’était un job dont il parlait avec beaucoup d’affection.» Mais Montréal n’est pas sur son radar.

Jusqu’au moment où «la petite annonce est apparue sur mon écran». Deux fois plutôt qu’une, durant la même semaine. «Il faut que j’explore cette possibilité», s’est alors dit le vicaire de All Hallows by the Tower, dont la photographie est toujours affichée à la une du site paroissial.

«J’avais envie d’une expérience nord-américaine et d’une Église qui n’est pas majoritaire, qui n’est pas une Église d’État, si on peut dire. Je voulais vivre un ministère d’une manière différente. Je voulais parler français mais je ne voulais pas rentrer en France et perdre mon anglais.»

Au terme de deux longues conservations en ligne puis d’un weekend d’entrevue à Montréal avec le comité de sélection, la candidature du révérend Bertrand Olivier fut acceptée. «Venir à Montréal, c’est un projet qui me permet de faire une intégration d’éléments différents de ma vie et de redécouvrir ma personnalité francophone», se réjouit-il.


Il quitte toutefois une église historique – All Hallows by the Tower a été fondée en l’an 675! – pour une cathédrale, certes, mais âgée de seulement 160 ans.

«Beaucoup de gens sont éblouis par les églises historiques. L’histoire, c’est important, cela attire des visiteurs», reconnaît-il. «Mais ces visiteurs, ce ne sont pas forcément des gens qui viennent redécouvrir leur foi ou qui veulent la vivre. La vraie histoire, c’est celle de Jésus, une histoire qui dure depuis plus longtemps que les églises.»

«Les bâtiments sont là pour nous aider à nous rassembler, à prier», ajoute le 23e recteur de la cathédrale anglicane de Montréal. «Ce sont des tremplins. Ce qui m’intéresse, c’est de pouvoir parler de Dieu et de Jésus avec tous ceux que je rencontre. Et j’espère, de temps en temps, pouvoir transformer une vie. C’est cela qui m’importe aujourd’hui.»


Son arrivée étant toute récente, le révérend Bertrand Olivier n’a pas encore rencontré des représentants d’autres Églises chrétiennes de Montréal. Mais il souhaite tisser des liens œcuméniques car il estime que «les Églises sont toujours plus fidèles à la parole du Christ lorsqu’elles travaillent ensemble».

«Dans un monde très sécularisé, il faut rechercher ce qui nous unit, pas ce qui nous sépare», affirme le nouveau recteur.

Le nouveau doyen indique qu’il est «marié avec a same sex partner» – une des rares expressions anglaises qu’il ait utilisé durant cette entrevue qui a duré trente minutes. «Paul – c’est le prénom de son conjoint – viendra me rejoindre mais il est toujours à Londres». Il compte bien participer au débat sur le mariage entre conjoints de même sexe dans l’Église anglicane du Canada. Le diocèse de Montréal, où il œuvrera dorénavant, permet le mariage homosexuel depuis l’an dernier, même si l’Église nationale ne doit officiellement se prononcer qu’en 2019 sur cette question qui divise les diocèses canadiens.

La cérémonie d’installation du nouveau recteur et doyen aura lieu le dimanche 11 mars à la cathédrale Christ Church de Montréal. Elle débutera à 16 h.

Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes names Joseph R. Swimmer as executive director

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 6:38am

[Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes] At the Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes in San Antonio, Texas the organization’s Board of Directors announced it has called Joseph R. Swimmer as the Consortium’s new Executive Director. Joe, who currently serves as the Major Gift Officer at Washington National Cathedral, begins this new ministry on April 1, 2018.

“We are thrilled that Joe has accepted our call to lead the Consortium at this exciting time in the organization’s history.” said the Rev. Matthew F. Heyd, incoming President of the Consortium and Rector of the Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York City. “Our Board of Directors unanimously and enthusiastically selected Joe this week after a year-long national search while meeting at our annual conference in San Antonio.”

Joe’s most recent work has been renewing the Washington National Cathedral’s Congregation, while securing funding for earthquake repair. Baptized and formed in the faith in Oklahoma, Joe is an active citizen and leader in the Cherokee Nation. He received his BA magna cum laude from Tufts and his JD from Stanford. His studied for an MA in American Indian History at the University of Tulsa.

After practicing law in San Francisco, Joe spent many years in the corporate world. Eventually, Joe spearheaded fundraising for legal nonprofits in the Bay Area. Joe will be based in Washington, D.C. where he resides with his husband, Tarak Patel. “I am honored and humbled by the Board’s call to lead the Consortium and build on the firm foundation laid over the last almost forty years. Together with the Board of Directors, membership and other stakeholders, we will continue as a resource and catalyst in the ministries of our members.” He added, “We will explore where the Holy Spirit is leading the Consortium in its work of building up the Episcopal Church and doing the work of the Gospel. Our strong position and continuing growth in ministry offer wonderful possibilities in the years ahead as we take this venerable organization into its next dynamic phase.”

Cary Kelly, chair of the Consortium’s Executive Director Search Committee and past President, stated that “The search committee, comprised of Consortium members, designed a diligent and prayerful process to identify a faithful and strategic partner for the board and advocate for our members. She added “over forty applicants from across the Church came forward and we are deeply grateful for their participation. Joe proved himself to be the one to help lead this organization that we love to the next expression of its

The Rev. Luke Back, immediate past President of the Consortium and the new Rector of Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, Illinois noted that Joe will be a partner with the Board of Directors and the Consortium’s whole membership in developing a “strategic narrative” for our next chapter. “Joe’s deep love for the Church, coupled with his passion, strategic sense and collaborative leadership style will serve to build up the Body of Christ by supporting the work of our parishes and seminaries. This is an exciting time for the

Joe succeeds Cynthia Cannon McWhirter, who has served as the Consortium’s Executive Director since 1999.

The Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes’ mission is to celebrate, inspire and equip its member parishes, seminaries, and other Episcopal institutions for effective leadership, stewardship and transformation in the Church and in the world. For more information, visit the Consortium’s website at www.endowedparishes.org, on Facebook or Twitter @endowedparishes.

Texas church sees ‘the kingdom at work’ in longtime wheelchair ramp outreach

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 2:25pm

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, has built 218 wheelchair ramps since 2001 through its outreach ministry Access Plus, now led by Doug Wayland, center with sunglasses on his hat. This ramp was completed in April 2017 for Vicenta Merida, standing right of Wayland. Photo: Doug Wayland

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal congregations have plenty of tools they can add to their outreach toolboxes: canned goods, used clothes, a warm meal, a place to sleep, coins for the laundromat, backpacks for students and sometimes just the patience to listen.

At St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, the tools of outreach include actual tools. But no carpentry experience is necessary.

“Anybody who can operate a battery-power screwdriver can help us,” said Doug Wayland, who leads the congregation’s Access Plus outreach ministry.

For 17 years, Access Plus volunteers have gathered at least once a month to build wheelchair ramps for residents in need, and the ministry is still going strong. With 218 ramps completed, Access Plus is increasing the number of projects it takes on this year after receiving $12,000 from a local foundation.

Access Plus assembles its wheelchair ramps in 8-foot sections, with a steel end piece bringing the ramp to ground level. This ramp was completed in September 2014. Photo: Doug Wayland

That money will pay for a lot of ramps, with the typical ramp only costing $150 to $600 in materials. As for who is served, there is no typical ramp recipient. A boy suffering from bone disease and an elderly woman with a walker will both benefit from the improved access and mobility that the ramps provide.

The work reminds Wayland of the passage from Matthew 25 in which Jesus says serving “the least of these who are members of my family” is service to God.

“When we’re doing this, we’re doing this for the Lord,” he said.

St. Mark’s is one of five Episcopal churches in and around Corpus Christi, a city of more than 300,000 people, and each congregation has supplied volunteers for Wayland’s Access Plus team, as have congregations from other Christian denominations. The Rev. John Hardie, rector at St. Mark’s, makes a point to describe the builds as ecumenical events.

Access Plus volunteers work on a wheelchair ramp project in 2013. Photo: Doug Wayland

“There’s just a lot of joy in working together. We take so much pride in having people from other congregations come and work with us,” Hardie said. “It feels like the kingdom at work, in simple, basic ways.”

Outreach has been a major part of St. Mark’s identity since the congregation formed in 1986 as a church plant. One of its founding principles was that 10 percent of annual income would be devoted to outreach. Thirty years later, that now adds up to $35,000 to $45,000 a year invested in Access Plus and the church’s various other ministries.

Hardie became rector in 1999, and the idea for Access Plus developed during a trip to Diocese of West Texas offices in San Antonio with parishioner Dik Johnson, a Navy veteran who had lost the use of his legs due to a spinal defect.

As adept as Johnson was at navigating in his wheelchair, the restaurant where they stopped for lunch and the diocesan offices still were not as accessible as they could have been, Hardie said. Later that day, on the road back to Corpus Christi, they began to talk about Johnson’s experiences.

“I asked Dik, do people here in town need a lot of help with accessibility into their homes?” Hardie said. “Do you think there’s a lot of impoverished people that struggle with that? He looked at me like I had two heads and said, ‘Of course.’”

Out of that conversation, Access Plus was born in 2001.

“It was just a Holy Spirit moment, when both of us felt that God’s asking us to do this,” Hardie said.

They enlisted another parishioner, Jerry Pierce, who was an engineer by trade. He and others at the church had been involved with Habitat for Humanity projects, but they were looking for a new ministry to call their own. Pierce led the design and construction of the wheelchair ramps. Wayland joined the team later that first year.

The “Plus” in the ministry’s name initially was meant to encompass other handyman services, such as painting homes and mowing lawns, but the work of Access Plus never broadened beyond the wheelchair ramps.

“What the ‘Plus’ became, and has become more recently, is just the way we involve more people,” Hardie said.

A Roman Catholic church group, for example, asked to help build one of the ramps to broaden its own outreach ministries. And St. Mark’s team taught a Rotary Club how to make the ramps, and the club now makes about 10 ramps a year, Wayland said.

From the start, the goal for Access Plus has been to construct at least 12 ramps a year, with a team of a half dozen or more volunteers gathering on third Saturdays for their monthly projects. Johnson was a constant presence at the worksites until his death in 2011. He was known for bringing doughnuts around for the volunteers.

“Dik never met a stranger,” Hardie said. “And he had a way of turning people toward service and love. He was a remarkable man.”

Pierce moved to the Houston area after he retired a few years ago, and since then, Wayland has taken the lead. Wayland maintains a list of at least 30 people who are waiting for one of Access Plus’ ramps. As he makes his way through the list, he visits each home to determine what size ramp his team will build.

The rule of thumb is a foot of ramp for every inch of vertical drop. If a resident’s steps are 24 inches high, that will require a 24-foot ramp. An 8-foot section costs about $150, and Wayland’s design also includes a flat section at door level, as well as in the middle of the ramp if the ramp includes turns.

Each inch of vertical drop requires a foot of ramp so the decline isn’t too steep. This ramp was completed in February. Photo: Doug Wayland

Wayland, also retired now at 62, fills up the church’s enclosed trailer with the necessary boards, plywood, screws and galvanized steel (for the ends of the ramps) that he picks up from MG Lumber in Corpus Christi. All of the cutting and assembly happens at the worksite, and even with that labor, most of the projects are completed in a matter of hours.

“We start at 8 o’clock in the morning, and we’re usually always gone at 1 o’clock in the afternoon,” Wayland said.

Smaller ramps take even less time. Access Plus’ project No. 218 was a three-foot ramp that Wayland made by himself Feb. 28 in his garage and installed at the house of a local woman.

“Doug is an energetic servant of the lord,” Hardie said. “If he finds a project that’s not too big, he tries to shoehorn a second one in.”

Access Plus crew members joke around at a worksite in May 2014. Photo: Doug Wayland

The 2017 budget for Access Plus was about $8,000 from the church’s pool of outreach money. This year, Wayland’s team hopes to take on 20 projects with the money it received from the Ed Rachal Foundation.

Every project concludes with a blessing. Hardie said the people receiving the ramps are asked if they belong to a local congregation and have a pastor they wish to invite to say the blessing. It need not be an Episcopal priest, but if no one else is available, the blessing is led by the Rev. Bruce Wilson, who serves as the Access Plus chaplain.

The need for these wheelchair ramps is “enormous,” Hardie said, and since a local TV station aired a news report on the ministry in February, Wayland has added two dozen additional names to his waiting list. “There’s no shortage of people asking for help,” Wayland said.

Among the people Access Plus has helped are a man who lost both legs above the knees, a couple who both use walkers, a Vietnam War veteran who suffered a stroke, a girl struggling with the effects of multiple sclerosis and a child suffering from brain cancer.

He has been amazed by some of the obstacles people in wheelchairs have to clear just to get into their homes. One woman who had lost one of her legs showed him her elaborate routine, which involved pushing her body out of the wheelchair and positioning herself backward and halfway inside the doorway, so she could pull the chair in with her over the step.

A mere 4-inch step may not seem like a challenge to an able-bodied person, Wayland said, but “to some people it is.”

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

Oceania Anglican primates gather for first of pre-Lambeth Conference regional meetings

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 1:47pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Primates from the four Anglican provinces in the Oceania region gathering for their annual meeting in Fiji today will be joined by the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Josiah Idowu-Fearon. The meeting is the first of five regional meetings of primates being held over the next two years in the run-up to the Lambeth Conference in 2020. The meetings were one of the outcomes of last October’s primates meeting in Canterbury Cathedral. The primates will also be joined by Phil George, the chief executive of the Lambeth Conference Company, which has been established to run the conference.

Read the entire article here.

Anglican Inter Faith Commission looks to create regional, provincial, diocesan networks

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 1:45pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Communion’s new Inter Faith Commission has held its first meeting and agreed a number of steps to implement its mandate – including the creation of a series of Inter Faith Networks across regions, provinces and dioceses. The Commission was requested by the Primates of the Anglican Communion at their meeting in Canterbury in 2016 and affirmed by the Anglican Consultative Council at their meeting in Lusaka the same year.

Read the full article here.

Jerusalem’s churches wait to hear details of Israeli prime minister’s tax and land announcement

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 1:45pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bank accounts belonging to the Anglican diocese in Jerusalem remain frozen with a tax demand still outstanding, despite an announcement yesterday that the controversial new municipal taxes would be put on hold. Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian leaders closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre last week as tensions rose over the controversial tax introduced by the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. The doors were opened this morning after a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he had set up a task force to negotiate a solution with the churches.

Read the entire article here.

Scotland’s first female bishop consecrated for Aberdeen and Orkney

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 3:52pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Bishop Mark Strange, has consecrated the province’s first female bishop during a service in St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Aberdeen. Bishop Anne Dyer was elected by the province’s Episcopal Synod in November as the bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney after the diocese twice failed to complete the electoral process.

Read the full article here.

Coastal Bend Episcopalians show Presiding Bishop their post-hurricane ministries

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 3:37pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry greets parishioners after the Holy Eucharist service at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Rockport. Photo: Episcopal News Service/Mike Patterson

[Episcopal News Service – Corpus Christi, Texas] When the Rev. Jim Friedel, rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Rockport, Texas, first visited his church after Hurricane Harvey smashed its Category 4 force into the coastal community, he crawled across the floor of the nave to check for water damage. Finding none, Friedel was relieved that monster storm had spared his church from any serious damage.

When he returned a few days later, his shoes went squish, squish. By then, rainwater that had been pressured sprayed around the windows, sills, siding and bell tower by the force of 130-mile-an-hour winds had seeped down the inside of the walls, through the insulation and onto the floor. Soon, the church was humming as six generators powered more than 60 dehumidifiers and blowers to dry out the sanctuary. The damage, it turned out, would require extensive repairs.

This was the kind of story that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry heard repeatedly on Feb. 28 from clergy and lay people as he toured the Coastal Bend region of South Texas in the Diocese of West Texas. Ten Episcopal churches and the diocese’s Mustang Island Conference Center sustained damage when Hurricane Harvey pounded the barrier islands and coast on Aug. 25, 2017, for a dozen hours with massive winds and rain.

When Harvey finally left, it crept up the Gulf Coast and settled over the Houston area and dumped another 30 inches of rain, causing historic flooding. Curry visited the Houston region in the Diocese of Texas in January.

By the time Harvey had finished rampaging from Corpus Christi to the Houston area, 41 Texas counties had been declared federal disaster areas, including 15 in the Diocese of West Texas alone. Harvey dumped some 25 inches of rain on the Coastal Bend and spawned an estimated 200 tornadoes. Recovery work may take up to a decade.

Curry’s message for the distressed Coastal Bend region: “We are all in this together,” he said. “We are in this with you for the long haul.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and guests prepare to leave Corpus Christi to tour the churches and communities damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Photo: Episcopal News Service/Mike Patterson

Curry’s visit focused on Port Aransas and Rockport, two of the hardest hit communities in the Coastal Bend. The presiding bishop, with Sharon Jones, his executive coordinator; the Rev. Deacon Geoffrey T. Smith, chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church; Neel Lane, chair of Episcopal Relief & Development’s board of directors; Josephine Hicks, the organization’s vice president for programs; the Rt. Rev. David Reed, bishop of the Diocese of West Texas; the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson, diocesan bishop suffragan; and Jennifer S.T. Wickham, the diocese’s deputy for disaster recovery, were joined by local clergy and lay leaders whose churches and communities were damaged by the storm.

Both Trinity by the Sea in Port Aransas and St. Peter’s in Rockport had reasons to look forward to 2017 in the months before Hurricane Harvey struck. St. Peter’s had celebrated its first Christmas in its new building only eight months earlier. Trinity by the Sea was designated a parish at the February 2017 Diocesan Council and planned to launch a capital campaign in September to undertake campus improvements.

The Rev. Beverly Patterson, canon missioner of the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Aransas Pass, Texas, points to workmen repairing the roof on her church. Leaks have caused mold damage to the sanctuary’s ceiling. Photo: Episcopal News Service/Mike Patterson

Although there is no seminary course in hurricane recovery, Curry heard multiple stories about how clergy who had never experienced a disaster like Harvey helped lead their parishioners in assisting their neighbors, communities and own churches in relief and recovery.

“The clergy are wise enough to learn how to pivot,” Curry said.

In Rockport, entire city blocks resembled a war zone seen on the evening news. Even months past the storm, Curry’s tour bus passed through neighborhoods where downed trees still remained on rooftops, fences lay crumbled, and mattresses, sign posts, sheet metal and unidentifiable other debris littered the roadsides. He saw holes blown through brick walls, blue tarps covering damaged roofs, once flourishing businesses boarded up and a mile-long mound of storm debris stacked along the median of Texas Highway 35 waiting to be hauled off.

Despite the damage it sustained, parishioners at St. Peter’s jumped in to assist in recovery and outreach efforts in Rockport by providing hot meals, clothing and other resources to help those in need.

The water damage to the nave forced Friedel to conduct church services outdoors, before moving inside to the parish hall. By mid-December, though, the nave was repaired and the congregation celebrated a second Christmas in its new home.

During an impassioned sermon at St. Peter’s, Curry praised the work of the Episcopalians and encouraged clergy and parishioners to continue helping those in need in their communities.

He said that humans derive from “the same cosmic parent. If we come from the same God, we are the same family. Care for each other as brothers and sisters. I’m here to tell you we are family, like it or not, we are a family. We may be dysfunctional, but we are a family.”

Referring to the Gospel, Curry told the 250 attending the Holy Eucharist service that Christ’s message was that caring for those in need is caring for Christ. “The whole point of the Bible” is to be reconciled to God, he said, and Jesus showed the way. “Jesus came to show us how to love each other,” he said.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry delivers an impassioned sermon at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Rockport, Texas. Photo: Episcopal News Service/Mike Patterson

Across the intercoastal waterway from Rockport, Curry visited Trinity by the Sea, where he sat in on a chapel class for the children at the church’s day care and school and sang “Jesus Loves Me” along with them.

After Harvey hit, Trinity put its capital campaign on hold, opened its parish hall as the first supply center in Port Aransas, turned its thrift shop into a community library and deployed volunteers for cleanup efforts.

Daily Morning Prayer services were initiated and broadcast over Facebook, the church doors were opened to community (and to assist in drying) and on the date set for the kick-off for the capital campaign, a candle-light Holy Eucharist was celebrated instead in the darkened and damaged church.

Trinity made repairing its school building a priority and was able to open it by Oct. 16, the same date when the public schools reopened. During the time before classes resumed, Trinity’s teachers were kept on the payroll, despite the lack of tuition income.

Trinity also helped sponsor the Homes for Displaced Marlins, an initiative named for the school mascot in Port Aransas, to provide temporary housing for displaced families in Port Aransas, enabling them to remain in the community and for the children to attend local schools. To date, Homes for Displaced Marlins has raised $1 million to purchase recreational vehicles to give to displaced residents, either as temporary or permanent housing.

Walter Sohl, who organized the initiative, told Curry that many of those who lost their homes were low-income residents whose work is vital to supporting the service sector in an area that relies heavily on tourists and seasonal homeowners for economic vitality.

“We are a spiritual and charitable resource of God’s love,” the Rev. James Derkits, Trinity’s rector, explained. “We became a supply depot and a spiritual depot. We exude joy and hope.”

But far outweighing all the damage “is all the grace and support both from far off and people in town,” Derkits said. “At Trinity, we’ve tried to do that too, by opening our doors and welcoming people in.”

Derkits also told about his own personal spiritual transformation that he experienced in the aftermath of Harvey.

“Whatever I may or may not have believed from my own spiritual evolution where I am now is a much different place,” he said. “I’ve been personally transformed by the whole experience. I’m at the point of talking about God rather than just believing in God. Belief is one thing but I’ve witnessed miracles and they continue to happen.”

Clergy shared stories about the outpouring of volunteer support and financial support they received from churches throughout the diocese and nation. The support ranged from sending volunteers to help with clean up efforts to simply calling parishioners to make sure they were okay.

For example, Trinity has received donations to help with its recovery, including a pledge of $3,500 from St. Bartholomew’s Church in Corpus and a $20,000 grant from the Harvey Relief Fund through Christ Church Cathedral in Houston. St. Mark’s in Houston paid $7,000 toward its diocesan assessment.

The Rev. Beverly Patterson, rector for three small churches in the Coastal Bend, said financial assistance continues to remain a problem for her churches. The congregations are predominately elderly and are located in lower-income areas that don’t benefit from the summer influx of tourists and seasonal homeowners.   “We’re still knee-deep in the middle of repairs,” she said.

Diocese of West Texas Bishop David Reed, right, explains the damage sustained by the diocese’s Mustang Island Conference Center. Photo: Episcopal News Service/Mike Patterson

In addition to touring the damage inflicted by Harvey, Curry also attended a community meeting the evening of Feb. 27 at the Cavalry First Baptist Church in the New Addition neighborhood of west Corpus Christi. Before Harvey hit, The Diocese of West Texas and local Episcopal congregations had begun utilizing the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) model to empower neighborhood residents to revitalize their own neighborhoods and transform them into abundant communities.

ABCD is an approach to community development initiated in the 1980s that is being championed by Episcopal Relief & Development. It recognizes that sustainable change only comes from within each person and each community, and utilizes individual, corporate, personal and physical gifts to transform marginalized neighborhoods into abundant communities.

Although the devastation along the coast received the overwhelming amount of media coverage, this socially and economically marginalized neighborhood consisting primarily of black and Hispanic families also sustained damage.  Homeowners applied to rthe Federal Emergency Mangement Agency and the Red Cross for assistance but received very little support. Moreover, even many homeowners with insurance could not afford to pay their deductibles.

Bishop Charles S. Richardson Sr., pastor of Cavalry, said Harvey had a “negative impact but not as bad as other neighborhoods.” The upside, he said, is that it “brought people together. Sometimes it takes a storm to bring people together” by cleaning up debris, delivering water and providing gift cards to purchase food.

“My heart was delighted to see this community come together,” Richardson said.  “Someday this will be showplace.”

In encouraging the residents to continue to work together, Curry told the meeting that he had served a church in Baltimore where drug abuse was a major problem in the neighborhood. Working alone, the church was unable to address the issue but when it combined efforts with other churches in the community, it was able to see results.

— Mike Patterson is a freelance writer based in San Antonio, Texas.  He can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.

Teens, not adults, lead Episcopalians in gun-violence protests and marches

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 11:37am

A senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School weeps in front of a cross and Star of David for shooting victim Meadow Pollack while a fellow classmate consoles her at a memorial by the school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 18. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Drake

[Episcopal News Service] Sarah Jacobs, 17, doesn’t feel safe.

After the deadly mass shooting at a Florida school on Feb. 14, the senior at Fishers High School in a suburb of Indianapolis, Indiana, said no school is safe from gun violence anymore, and that’s not right.

Jacob attends St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Carmel, and she’s on the Diocese of Indianapolis youth steering committee. Her committee decided during a Feb. 25 conference call to talk during their March 3-4 youth retreat about how they feel about what happened, what they can do about it and share opportunities.

She hopes to attend the national student-led March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. on March 24, while other teens join local marches on the same day nationwide.

“We like to think it doesn’t affect our area, but it does. It’s not just ‘those’ people. It could happen to anyone, anywhere,” Jacobs told Episcopal News Service just after she got out of class.

At Jacobs’ school and at others nationwide, teens are planning a walkout at 10 a.m. March 14, for 17 minutes, each minute for a person who died at the South Florida school.

It’s been two weeks since 17 people — including 14 teenagers — were killed Feb. 14 by a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida wielding his legally owned military-style AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Since then, Episcopal teenagers and children are among the wave of youth across the United States sparked by the most recent shooting to protest, march and speak out for meaningful gun legislation. Nicholas Cruz, who is charged in the Parkland shooting, used the same kind of gun used in several other mass shootings, most notably at the 2012 shooting that killed 27 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

They cannot ignore thousands of letters! All you have to do is pick up a pen and write! We will make change! #NeverAgain pic.twitter.com/LSv3UUbCXo

— #NeverAgain (@NeverAgainMSD) February 26, 2018

Diocese of Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlan will join a youth group to rally and march at the capitol in Harrisburg on March 24. Clergy is invited to attend, vested in cassocks to be a clear, visible witness, she said. The diocesan website has resources on how to respond to gun violence, and its Facebook page will be updated with local events. There will be rallies also in York, Lancaster and possibly Williamsport, she said. More than 1,000 people expressed interest in the Harrisburg event and more than 4,000 for Lancaster.

Although the Washington D.C. march is only a couple hours away, Scanlan wants to stay local. “The whole idea that this is being led by the students is just tremendous, and I want to support our youth in our schools where we live, which I think is more important,” she said.

Whenever there’s a school shooting, Scanlan thinks of 2006 shooting in West Nickel Mine, Pennsylvania, where a gunman shot 11 people in a one-room Amish school house, killing five girls.

So, with this youth movement, Scanlan refers to the Isaiah 11:6 passage, “a little child will lead them.”

“We as adults have a responsibility to create and maintain a just and peaceful society, and we are failing. Our society is fractured and gun violence is one of the symptoms. When our children rise up, I can do nothing less than follow them. They deserve my support,” Scanlan said.

The Rev. Mark Sims, rector of  St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, Florida, asks people to respect the teens during this tough time and listen to what they have to say. One of the school shooting victims, Carmen Schentrup, a 16-year-old youth group leader, belonged to his parish.

The student body at Saint Edward’s School in Vero Beach, Florida, is not making a public statement, said Monica Jennings, the Episcopal school’s spokeswoman.

“There may be individual students who are interested in participating, but at this time, the school as a whole is not taking any specific action beyond internal communication with our faculty and families,” Jennings told ENS. The school constantly updates and re-evaluates security procedures on campus, a process that was already under way at the time of the Parkland tragedy, she said.

Several Episcopal schools did not reply to ENS inquiries asking for comment, including Episcopal School of Jacksonville, Florida, where the head of school was shot in 2012, in a murder-suicide by a recently fired teacher.

However, the National Association of Episcopal Schools has reached out to school leaders and heard from a number of them that they will be traveling by bus to either to New York or Washington D.C. for marches on March 24, said Jonathan Cooper, the association’s communications manager. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School, a pre-K3 through fifth-grade school in Coconut Grove, Florida, is sending hand-drawn cards to the older students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, he said.

Here are some of the hand-drawn cards that students at St. Stephens Day School, a pre-K3 through fifth-grade school in Coconut Grove, Florida, are sending to the older students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Photo courtesy of National Association of Episcopal Schools

Leaders in the Diocese of Washington and Washington National Cathedral are trying to connect out-of-town Episcopal youth groups, clergy and lay leaders who want to bring students to the March 24 rally with hospitality and lodging with their local churches and members.

The Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry of New Jersey is organizing buses to D.C. so that members of the Diocese of Newark, the Diocese of New Jersey and the New Jersey Synod of the Lutheran Church can join the March For Our Lives. They’re encouraging churches to send teens with one chaperone for every five teens.

New Jersey Bishop William “Chip” Stokes invites Episcopalians, young and old, across the church to join in local and national events.

“Like so many people across the country, the members of Bishops United Against Gun Violence are enormously grateful to the young people of [Marjory] Stoneman Douglas High School and their peers across the country, who are leading a renewed movement to end gun violence in this country. We are committed to standing in solidarity and anguish with them and supporting their efforts,” Stokes said.

Prayers and action. Time to enact #CommonSenseGunLaws #PrayerAndPolicy pic.twitter.com/DLsGVNTvN7

— Bishop Chip Stokes (@ChipStokesNJ) February 21, 2018

On the same day as the planned school walkouts March 14, at least seven dioceses are hosting Day of Lamentation services, also organized by members of Bishops United Against Gun Violence. Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, in Trenton, New Jersey, will be the site of a 12-hour service of prayer and fasting.

As head of Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Rev. Allison Liles has a weekly conference call with about 50 national gun-violence-prevention groups. The fellowship has been working extra hard for this cause the last five years, since Sandy Hook, she said.

But this particular school shooting in Florida has sparked something in the country that hasn’t happened before. I think we’ve moved past despair and sadness and straight into anger and action,” Liles told ENS. “And that’s been the case for a lot of Americans.”

Liles’ 87-year-old grandmother called her the day after the Parkland shooting from her Alabama home, after seeing a woman with the ash cross on her forehead doubling over in grief. The Feb. 14 shooting was Ash Wednesday, as well as Valentine’s Day. Her grandmother, a lifelong Republican NRA-supporter wanted Liles to send her sermons and talks about gun violence.

Parkland, Florida. @AP photo by Joel Auerbach pic.twitter.com/ger2sX1PPA

— Tamara Lush (@TamaraLush) February 14, 2018

“We’d always agreed not to talk about certain issues, this being one them,” Liles said. “Hearing that from her, asking me to help her work for change, made me realize something is different this time.”

Her fellowship’s website offers 10 steps a church can take to reduce gun violence, as well as liturgies on gun violence that clergy and lay leaders can adapt for their own sermons and talks.

Before Liles, her husband and two children moved to Dallas, Texas, in August, they lived in Virginia, where every year on Martin Luther King Day since they were in strollers, she brought her children to an interfaith vigil, rally and lobby day on the Richmond capitol lawn. They would pray on the capital lawn and then meet with lawmakers about preventing gun violence.

“We believe it’s really important to raise kids who know how to pray with their feet. We want to live out our faith not only at home and church, but in the public sphere,” Liles said.

The Rev. Allison Liles, executive director of Episcopal Peace Fellowship, took her kids, Pailet, 6, and son Hill, 9, to gun-violence prevention rallies every Martin Luther King Day at the capitol in Richmond, Virginia, when they lived nearby, to teach justice advocacy from the start. Photo: Rev. Allison Liles

These days, when she or her husband drop off their daughter, Pailet, 6, and son Hill, 9, at school, they emphasize safety in their daily prayers for their children. Liles urges people to overcome their fear of broaching such a controversial issue in church, where many believe politics should be avoided.

“But it’s a matter of life and death, so it’s a matter of faith, and it’s up to us to take away the stigma that says gun violence is not a something we can talk about in churches,” Liles said.

Victoria Hoppes, coordinator of ministries with and for youth in the Diocese of Indianapolis, is helping teens such as Jacobs organize the trip to Washington D.C. Since this movement started, all the diocesan youth ministry coordinators have been in conversation about it, Hoppes said.

“I think we are working with a generation that wants to see positive change and is willing to be a voice for positive change. And we don’t always give them a voice and space to take action. This is a youth movement, so we need to make space for them to lead,” Hoppes told ENS.

The desire to do something is coming directly from the teenagers and isn’t instigated by adults, she said.

The words and actions of Episcopal youth are showing adult Episcopalians how to live out the baptismal covenant in the world, church leaders say.

“I’m really grateful our kids are in churches that recognize that they’re not too young to be concerned,” Liles said. “That’s the narrative that the Florida students are showing. They’re young, but not too young to show concern. Their voice matters.”

Read more about it

A growing list of Episcopal Church-related resources for confronting gun violence is available here.

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She can be reached at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com. Editor Mary Frances Schjonberg contributed to this report.


Episcopalians offered resources for responding to gun violence

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 11:32am

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal dioceses and other related organizations are recommending resources to help Episcopalians and others respond to violence, especially gun-related violence. Below is a compliation of many of those resources. This list will grow as Episcopal News Service becomes aware of other resources.

Resources for responding to gun violence
From the Episcopal Church

From Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence

Advocating for gun law reform (from the Episcopal Public Policy Network)
Tell Congress to support common sense gun reform

Tell Congress to ban assault weapons

Liturgical resources
From the Episcopal Church

From Bishops United Against Gun Violence

From Episcopal Peace Fellowship

From the Diocese of Newark

Litany in Response to an Act of Mass Violence

Get involved in Washington, D.C., March for Our Lives on March 24
Diocese of Washington resource page

Get involved
Bishops United Against Gun Violence

Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence








Episcopal Church shareholder activism works to change gun sale practices

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 6:02pm

Dick’s Sporting Goods said Feb. 28 that it would stop selling assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and would no longer sell firearms to anyone younger than 21. Photo: Dick’s Sporting Goods

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council in late January authorized its Committee on Corporate and Social Responsibility to join an attempt to convince Dick’s Sporting Goods to abide by the Sandy Hook Principles developed to stem the tide of gun violence.

A little more than a month later, the Pittsburgh-based retailer announced Feb. 28 that it would stop selling assault weapons at its 35 Field & Stream stores.

The company had removed them from all Dick’s stores after the Sandy Hook massacre. The company also said it would no longer sell firearms to anyone younger than 21, and it would no longer sell high-capacity magazines. And, Dick’s said, it has never and will never sell bump stocks that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire more rapidly.

Dick’s also called on elected officials to ban assault-style firearms, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks; raise the legal minimum age to purchase firearms to 21; require universal background checks that include relevant mental health information and previous interactions with law enforcement; build what it called a “complete universal database of those banned from buying firearms; and close the private sale and gun show loophole that waives the necessity of background checks. All of the company’s actions and its message to government officials fit into the Sandy Hook Principles.

The shareholder activism of the Episcopal Church and other religious institutional investors was not the sole cause of Dick’s decision, but those involved say it had some influence on a company that was considering a change.

The Episcopal Church does not invest in gun manufacturers but, it does own stock in Dick’s Sporting Goods. The Pension Fund does not hold any investments in companies that manufacture or sell guns, according to C. Curtis Ritter, the head of corporate communications. And, unlike some investors, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (the name under which the Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business and carries out mission) has never purchased stock for the sole purpose of engaging in a shareholder action, the Rev. Brian Grieves, chair of council’s corporate and social responsibility committee, or CCSR, told Episcopal News Service. And, both Grieves and Ritter said they are not are aware of any indirect investments in these types of companies in the pooled funds in which their organizations invest.

However, the church was involved in the effort to convince Dick’s to change. After Executive Council approved the committee’s involvement, Grieves said, it joined with five Roman Catholic groups to engage Dick’s Sporting Goods in a dialogue about its gun sales.

That effort actually began in July 2017 when a representative of Mercy Investment Services Inc. wrote to Ed Stack, Dick’s chairman and chief executive officer, asking the company to report on actions, if any, it had taken “on elements such as those based on Sandy Hook Principles.” Mercy is the asset management program for the Sisters of Mercy and its ministries.

The retailer did not respond to the letter, Grieves said, and so Mercy, four other Roman Catholic religious orders and the DFMS filed a shareholder resolution. The filing occurred via the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, an organization that helps religious organizations pool their shareholder power to which both the DFMS and the Church Pension Group belong.

“They finally responded to that, and were agreeable to a dialogue” Grieves said.

“It was a very productive and very good meeting and they seemed to be very interested in having good procedures in place for how they sell these weapons. And so, in order to continue that dialogue we agreed to withdraw” the shareholder resolution, he explained.

Then, the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, happened. Stack said that the company founded by his father had sold a gun to 19-year-old Nicholas Cruz, the suspect in the shooting that left 17 students and adults dead. That gun was not used in the school shooting but, according to Stack, that knowledge moved the company to action.

William McKeown, a CCSR member, said that it is important to remember that “the community of investors of faith has been working on gun safety for years.” The shareholder resolution with Dick’s Sporting Goods “was just one small piece of a wider effort, and no one thought then that it would be — or thinks now that it was — anything like a decisive act.”

“But it helped. The lesson: This work is worth doing.”

Chairman and CEO of Dick's Sporting Goods tells @GStephanopoulos why the company has decided to no longer sell assault style rifles or firearms to anyone under 21 years of age, and no longer sell high capacity magazines. pic.twitter.com/xiuMfqIZLd

— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 28, 2018

McKeown cautioned that, despite the Dick’s Sporting Goods decision, more work needs to be done, and Grieves agreed, saying that an area where investors can be immediately effective has arisen in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre.

“As investors, we also need to thank and support those companies that are severing ties to the NRA” such as rental car agencies, insurance companies and airlines, he said. “The pushback on them is and will be fierce, and we need to let them know we have their back on their actions.”

“We own stock in a lot of those companies,” Grieves added.

While many companies initially won praise for their actions, a backlash is developing. For instance, Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a Republican with an A-plus grade from the National Rifle Association, is leading an effort to get that state to rescind a $50 million sales tax exemption on jet fuel. The exemption was instituted in hopes that Atlanta-based Delta Airlines would add more routes and thus help Atlanta attract more business.

Shareholder engagement is nothing new for the Episcopal Church

CCSR’s roots were at least partially planted during the effort to use the world’s economic power to break apartheid’s hold on South Africa. In 1985, the General Convention directed the Executive Council to divest itself of all holdings in companies doing business in South Africa and Namibia and urged all other church investors to do the same.

Since then, the work of the variously named committee that is now known as CCSR has waxed and waned, but some Episcopalians have always believed, McKeown said, that the church can leverage its investments to advocate for the things in which it believes. The Episcopal Church has about $454 million in investments, and the Church Pension Fund controls about $13.2 billion. Joining with other faith-based investors , they focus on certain areas of concern.

The Pension Fund concentrates on environmental sustainability, human rights violations and corporate executive and board diversity. The DFMS, through the corporate and social responsibility committee, currently concentrates on product and gun safety, human rights, indigenous rights, climate change and environmental sustainability, Israel-Palestine issues and corporate accountability and board diversity.

The CCSR does not make any investment decisions. The Executive Council Investment Committee oversees the DFMS’ investment activity. Grieves and McKeown said the CCSR knows it can only act within the bounds of the policies set by General Convention and through the church’s current investments.

While the Episcopal Church does not invest in gun manufacturers as a matter of course, it does not have a specific prohibition against such investments. There are so-called no-buy lists against investing in tobacco companies, for-profit prison companies and companies that earn more than a specific percentage of their business as military contractors.

The DFMS treasurer’s office says it invests with what it calls “a trinity of avoidance, affirmative action, and advocacy” in mind. Avoidance means not investing in companies whose activities are contrary to the church’s social and moral values. Affirmative investing involves investing in institutions that can provide financial resources to underserved communities. Advocacy centers on voting proxies and activism that “focus on constructively influencing corporate behavior.”

The work ahead

“The corporate world for once is leading the way while our legislators try to have it both ways” Grieves said. “As an ethical investor, the church must engage the work of socially responsible investing. It, too, is part of our witness in the Jesus Movement.”

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is working hard on Capitol Hill, Grieves said. On Feb. 28, it issued an action alert for Episcopalian’s to advocate for an assault weapons ban.

ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress To Ban Assault Weapons https://t.co/LTqe33qPxn pic.twitter.com/9Jhaj38RGS

— The EPPN (@TheEPPN) February 28, 2018

The CCSR sometimes continues to leverage the church’s investments even after the majority of a stock is sold for portfolio management reasons. Grieves said the committee can ask to retain the minimum value of shares needed to continue to monitor a company’s activities and engage with their operations.

Grieves’ committee is due to meet again in late March, and he said the members will discuss next steps on gun control issues. It might suggest that Executive Council consider making a statement about following on the Dick’s Sporting Good action and the decisions by other companies to sever ties with the NRA, he said.

It might also suggest a similar statement by the General Convention during its July meeting in Austin, Texas. That convention’s Committee on Stewardship and Socially Responsible Investing would likely consider any resolutions dealing with shareholder advocacy and other issues surrounding those types of investments.

McKeown cautioned that no one part of advocacy will result in change.

“I don’t think this is the way to save the world,” he said of shareholder engagement, even though he is deeply involved in the effort. “It is a useful approach because  … everything is monetized and financialized so these investments provide access points for influencing decision-making and influencing behavior and influencing policy.

“But they are not the only ones by any means. If you just relied on these, you wouldn’t get very far. They have to be used with everything else that everybody can think of, including marching on the streets and writing to your congressman and running for election and making contributions to good causes whether they are political or not and doing your own work in your neighborhood.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.