Diocese of Virginia to replace Bishop Johnston with provisional bishop for three years

by dpaulsen | Monday, August 20, 2018

Helen K. Spence, president of the Diocese of Virginia’s standing committee, sent a letter to the diocese on Aug. 20 announcing the committee’s decision to seek a provisional bishop for three years after Bishop Shannon Johnston steps down in November. Election of the provision bishop would take place at the diocese’s convention in November. The following is the test of Spence’s letter.

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Bishop Shannon Johnston has announced that he will resign as our Bishop Diocesan during our Annual Convention in November 2018, and he will fully retire on June 30, 2019. In his letter of August 3, Bishop Shannon called for “new vision and new energy for the church in our Diocese.” To create the best opportunity for that vision and energy, the Standing Committee is seeking a Bishop Provisional for election at the November convention, per General Convention Title III.13.1. We want to make all of you aware of the steps involved in this process, as we work for the good of our Diocese.

As stated in Bishop Shannon’s letter, we have been in communication with the Presiding Bishop’s Office to ensure a smooth transition. The process the Standing Committee will follow will be similar to what happens in a parish when a rector leaves, and an interim rector is appointed by the Vestry. In this case, the Standing Committee is working with the Presiding Bishop’s Office of Pastoral Development to identify individuals who would be willing to serve as our Bishop Provisional for approximately three years, with extensions to that time frame, if needed, to be voted on at Diocesan Convention. As with any process like this, confidentiality will be kept to preserve the privacy of all involved.

This month, we are working to prepare questions to ask of the prospective candidates. We have sought input from Diocesan staff, current and former Bishops, leadership of Diocesan bodies, and the Regional Deans and Presidents to help us formulate these questions. We are also reviewing documents on file at the diocesan offices, to assist in preparing for these interviews, which we plan to hold in September. Once we have completed interviews, and a review of all paperwork, we will present the name of one candidate for the Diocese to elect in November, similar to the way a Vestry would for a parish.

This election will be the final act of our Annual Convention. The Bishop Provisional will be an experienced Bishop who will have the canonical authority of a Bishop Diocesan, and who will partner with us in a thorough diocesan review to enable us to prepare for a healthy call for our next Bishop Diocesan.

Many have asked about the role of Bishop Susan Goff in the Diocese as we move forward. In the same way that an associate or assistant rector is not eligible to serve as interim of a parish after the rector leaves, we have discerned, in close consultation with Bishop Goff, the Presiding Bishop and a variety of wise advisors, that our Bishop Suffragan will serve the Diocese best by remaining our Suffragan. She will be an integral part of the new team of leadership of our Diocese and we are grateful for the gifts she will continue to bring.

We ask for your prayers, for this process and for all the individuals involved, as we undertake this work. The best interests of this Diocese are at the center of all we do.

In Christ’s Love,

Helen K. Spence, President
Standing Committee
Diocese of Virginia

Church of South India responds to flooding in Kerala

New York diocese launches relief appeal

by lwilson |

Editor’s note: The Diocese of New York has long-standing and strong ties to the Church of South India, and to the Christian community in India, and has launched a relief appeal

[Anglican Communion News Service] Members of the  Church of South India have been at the heart of the relief efforts after flooding devastated swathes of the south western state of Kerala. The dioceses of East Kerala and Malabar, in the eastern hilly areas of south India, along with parts of the Cochin diocese, remain affected. 

So far, about 350 have died in the floods, and more the 700,000 are displaced and living in relief camps around the region. The crisis began with a wave of monsoons, leading to swollen rivers. Eventually 35 of the 36 dams in the region broke, releasing nearly 700,000 liters of water per second, causing landslides, flooding homes and blocking roads.

Read the full article here.


Episcopalians to join 40-mile Solidarity Walk to immigrant detention facility in New Hampshire

by dpaulsen |
Prayer vigil Manchester

A few dozen people gather outside the Norris Cotton Federal Building in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Aug. 7 for one of the regular prayer vigils for immigrants checking in with federal authorities. Photo: New Hampshire Council of Churches

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians will join others in the New Hampshire faith community this week for a four-day Solidarity Walk for Immigrant Justice, tracing detained immigrants’ path from federal immigration enforcement offices in Manchester to a jail in Dover to raise awareness of immigrants’ plight and to voice their support.

“We’re following on foot the path that people who are detained and taken to jail are themselves traveling,” said the Rev. Jason Wells, an Episcopal priest who serves as executive director of New Hampshire Council of Churches, one of the Solidarity Walk organizers.

This pilgrimage will begin Aug. 22 with a short prayer service at St. Anne-St. Augustin Catholic Church in Manchester, and the walk will kick off from the Norris Cotton Federal Building, where offices of U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement, or ICE, are located. The building also has been the site of regular prayer vigils scheduled for days when immigrants are known to be checking in with ICE, some fearing they will be detained or deported.

The Episcopal Church’s support for immigrants, including those facing deportation, was underscored last month by the 79th General Convention, which passed multiple resolutions on immigration issues after hundreds of bishops and deputies gathered for their own prayer service outside an immigration detention facility near Austin, Texas.

Organizers of the Solidarity Walk in New Hampshire have invoked that example as they plan to gather at the end of their 40-mile journey outside the Strafford County jail, which has a contract with the federal government to hold immigration detainees.

“I think that the Gospel imperative is to work for the poor, the marginalized, to really point out injustice and work for justice,” said the Rev. Sarah Rockwell, a part-time priest at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Manchester and president of the Granite State Organizing Project Executive Council. “I see this as very much a part of living out a life of faith, and our faith should be consequential.”

Although Rockwell will not be available to participate in the Solidarity Walk, others at the Granite State Organizing Project have been involved in planning it. Theirs is an interreligious organization devoted to grassroots community advocacy, and it is one of several groups contributing to the walk, including the American Friends Service Committee.

At the frequent prayer vigils organized by the same groups, about 50 or so people gather outside the federal building in Manchester. They embark on a Jericho walk – seven times around the building, often in silent prayer. More prayers and songs follow, as well as readings from various faith traditions’ scriptures.

During the vigils, some clergy offer to wait with the families of noncitizen immigrants who are checking in. The families typically don’t know if these will be routine visits to provide updates to authorities or if their loved ones suddenly will be told to return by a certain date with a plane ticket back to their native country, Wells said. Some have been taken straight to jail.

Most immigrants the New Hampshire Council of Churches are supporting have been required to check in with ICE about once a month, a frequency that has increased since President Donald Trump took office, Wells said. Previously the check-ins may have happened only about once a year.

The Strafford County jail, one of six facilities in New England holding immigration detainees for the federal government, also has seen an uptick in immigrant detainees in recent years to about 115 a day in 2018, according to the Concord Monitor.

Some of these immigrants came to the United States on work visas that have since expired, so they are trying to gain permanent residency status, Wells said. Others are asylum seekers or refugees or have temporary protected status because the federal government at some point determined it was unsafe for them to return to their home country.

Organizers of the Solidarity Walk say one goal is to draw attention to the prevalence of such immigration cases in upper New England.

“Many [Americans] do not understand the forces that drive people to flee their homelands, the complexities of the immigration system or the hardships faced by migrants,” Eva Castillo, vice president of the Granite State Organizing Project, said in an online announcement of the Solidarity Walk. “We hope to have positive and productive conversations with Granite Stators of all political persuasions along our journey.”

This is doubly important in a northern state that doesn’t normally get associated with immigration issues, Wells said.

“Among all of us there is a desire to keep this awareness in front of New Hampshire,” Wells said. “A lot of the news on immigration tends to focus on the border with Mexico, and we lose sight of the fact that these are New Hampshire families.”

The walk will be broken into segments of about three hours each, with the morning and afternoon segments totaling about 10 miles each day. About 50 people have signed up so far to walk at least one of the segments, and other volunteers will drive the same route in support vehicles.

The Solidarity Walk will conclude each day’s segments with events in towns along the way – Candia, Raymond and Lee – with walkers invited to camp overnight at churches that have volunteered their space.

In addition to raising awareness, participants in the walk want to bring detainees a direct message of support. Organizers are working on how to communicate that support to those inside the county jail as they plan a prayer vigil outside on Aug. 25.

Wells said he and others felt inspired by stories of the Episcopalians who on July 8 shouted, “Te vemos – we see you,” to the immigrant women being held at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas.

If he has the opportunity, he hopes to offer similar words of support to the immigrants being held in the jail in Dover.

“That we see you, we see your humanity, we see that you are made in God’s image,” Wells said. “And even though you are in the jail, you are loved by God, you are loved by us – that we are here, that we have not forgotten you.”

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

Austin Ford, founder of Atlanta’s Emmaus House, dead at 89

by lwilson |

[Diocese of Atlanta] The Rev. Austin Ford, who lived and ministered in one of the city’s most deprived communities, died Saturday at his Grant Park, Georgia, home.

Ford, who was the founding rector of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Decatur, left the security of the fast-growing suburban Episcopal parish in 1967 to start Emmaus House, in Atlanta’s Peoplestown community.

Moving into a dilapidated clapboard house, Ford took his time getting to know the community.  He carefully listened to area residents and responded to their goals – growing the ministry to include an after-school program, once-a-month transportation to the state prison for families of inmates, chapel services, hot meals, and a poverty rights office.

Over three decades at Emmaus House Ford was a consistent and strident voice for welfare rights, neighborhood empowerment and racial justice.

The Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, said Ford was a priest who modeled Jesus’ preference for the poor and disenfranchised.

“Austin Ford was someone who believed and lived his faith shoulder to shoulder with people from all situations and circumstances,” Wright said. “He was a man and a priest who understood that Jesus wants His followers with the poor. His shoes will be hard to fill. His example changed minds, hearts and lives.”

Ford will be cremated. A time for a memorial service is yet to be determined. A.S. Turner & Sons Funeral Home and Crematory in Decatur is in charge of arrangements.

Anglicans join other Christians in Assisi for two-day Ecumenical Prayer for Creation

by dpaulsen | Friday, August 17, 2018

[Anglican Communion News Service] Christians from different denominations will take part in a pilgrimage from Assisi to the COP24 U.N. climate change conference in Poland, after a two-day ecumenical prayer event. The Season of Creation began as an initiative from the Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios in 1989. It has since been endorsed and recommended to the Anglican Communion by the Anglican Consultative Council; and by Pope Francis for the Roman Catholic Church. It runs from the World Day of Prayer for Creation on Sept. 1 to the feast of St Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4.

Read the full article here.

Prayers offered for victims, rescuers following Italy bridge collapse

by dpaulsen |

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Holy Ghost Anglican Church in Genoa, Italy, says that its members living near the site of a collapsed motorway bridge have all been reported safe. But it says that “there is a concern for all who are bereaved, injured or missing.” At least 39 people were killed when a section of the Ponte Morandi collapsed. Around 20 people are still thought to be missing as rescuers continue to search the Polcevera river, the Genoa to Turin and Milan railway lines, and the Ansaldo Energia industrial area below the bridge.

Read the full article here.

New Zealand cathedral praised for its earthquake strengthening proposals

by dpaulsen | Thursday, August 16, 2018

[Anglican Communion News Service] Moves to re-open St. Mary’s Cathedral in Taranaki on New Zealand’s North Island have moved a step closer after receiving local approval for structural improvements that have been described as a best-practice blueprint that could be applied to other heritage buildings.

The cathedral has been closed since February 2016 after a structural survey showed that it was rated at below 15 percent of the national building standards. In addition to earthquake strengthening, the cathedral will undergo a number of additional developments and refurbishment.

Read the full article here.

With two dioceses under one bishop, first-of-its-kind experiment to emphasize collaboration

Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York ponder sharing one bishop, one staff, one mission

by mfschjonberg |

[Episcopal News Service] The “least likely” friendship in the House of Bishops between the Episcopal Church’s oldest active diocesan bishop and its youngest has fostered a first-of-its-kind collaborative experiment that could point to the future shape and feel of dioceses.

Western New York Bishop William Franklin, 71, recently told the House of Bishops that he and Northwestern Pennsylvania Bishop Sean Rowe were the “least likely of friends.” Franklin called himself “an Anglo-Catholic church historian.” He holds a doctorate in church history from Harvard University and was dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University. He has served the Diocese of Western New York for seven years. Rowe, 43, has been bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania for 11 years. He holds a doctorate in organizational development from Gannon University. Franklin called him a “very low church expert in adaptive change.”

However, Rowe said, they “took an idea that came out of friendship” and a common concern for the mission of the church and have been collaborating in new ways. When Franklin and Rowe explained their experiment to the House of Bishops on July 13, General Convention’s closing day, Rowe said that the Great Lakes region is in “an adaptive moment” and that the church ought to be part of that moment by trying a new model that could free up more resources for ministry by eliminating duplication in administrative costs.

For the past five years, Episcopalians in the Dioceses of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania have been sharing certain operations. They have a joint formation process for deacons and a shared board to examine chaplains for the ordination process, and they have held some joint clergy conferences. The dioceses have just started sharing transition ministry functions, and a Northwestern Pennsylvania diocesan staff member is now the intake officer for disciplinary matters in Western New York.

The next step will come Oct. 26-27 when the two dioceses hold a joint convention in Niagara Falls, New York. At that gathering, Western New York will vote on whether to make Rowe its bishop provisional for five years. Rowe has served as bishop provisional of the Diocese of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania since August 2014 while the diocese had what the standing committee called “a healthy, productive period of reflection and discernment about the mission to which God is calling us” after the retirement of Bishop Paul V. Marshall. Rowe will continue to serve as bishop provisional in Bethlehem until the Sept. 15 consecration of Bishop-elect Kevin D. Nichols. Franklin is due to retire April 2, 2019, a milestone that had a lot to do with the proposal.

How the two dioceses got to this point

In April 2017, when he announced his retirement, Franklin asked his diocesan standing committee to consider calling Rowe as provisional bishop. After talking to both bishops, the standing committees of both dioceses agreed to consider the prospect.

The bishops presented the idea to a joint clergy conference in September 2017 when, Rowe told Episcopal News Service, it initially “played to mixed reviews.” Clergy wondered about hidden agendas, and some wished the plan were more fleshed out. Rowe and Franklin told them the only agenda was to put the idea to them and “honestly let people be part of planning it.” There was enough of a consensus to have a small group of people from both dioceses meet to think the idea all the way through.

The results of that process went to both diocesan conventions last October, and both agreed to keep moving forward. More than 500 people in both dioceses came to eight listening sessions last winter to discuss the proposal with its pledge to enhance the collaboration between the two dioceses. In May, the standing committees of the two dioceses unanimously voted to support the idea.

If the Western New York convention elects Rowe on Oct. 26, the collaboration would be just that and not a merger of dioceses. A merger would require the consent of General Convention, and right now neither diocese wants to lose its identity, the two bishops told ENS.

“We’ve never used the word merger,” Franklin said in an interview. “It’s a proposal to have one bishop for two dioceses, and for five years have a provisional bishop.”

Rowe said the experiment “is being driven by a real call to mission and being a missional church and to try to experiment.”

“The only way we’re going to know if these models work is to try them, so it’s a risk. This is not being driven by finances or trying to drive success,” he said. “This is us asking, ‘What do we think is the next best step, given where we are?’ And we’re going to experiment with it. There’s too much conversation about these things in the church and not enough implementation, and this is a big step. We don’t know if it will work.”

James Isaac, chair of the Western New York Standing Committee, told ENS that his attitude is “why not give it a try.”

“The pooled energy of ministry of both the clergy between Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania and the strength of the laity has huge potential,” he said.

Rowe and Franklin met at Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center in 2015. “We realized that we had a very similar vision of the church,” Franklin said. “Even though I’m a historian, I’m pretty radical about wanting to do different things.”

Just don’t call it the Rust Belt

What they have in common is a love of their neighboring dioceses, which are in a part of the United States that has undergone a massive economic downturn. Lake Erie forms the dioceses’ eastern boundaries. Western New York, with headquarters in suburban Buffalo, comprises 57 parishes in New York located between the borders of Pennsylvania and Canada. Northwestern Pennsylvania, with headquarters in Erie, is composed of 33 congregations.

[The maps above of the two dioceses come from the Episcopal Asset Map. The unnumbered markers point to congregations, while the number ones point to clusters of congregations.]

The presence of coal, inland waterways and a ready labor force once made the area a manufacturing center with steel mills at its core. But those mills eventually became outdated, and as the American automobile industry declined, jobs were lost. Wages stagnated. People left.

The area became known as the Rust Belt, but that moniker is not a happy one for many of its residents. When the two bishops and others set up a website for their effort and called it “Rust Belt Episcopal,” they got a lot of pushback.

“It makes my people angry,” Franklin said.

However, redevelopment is happening in cities in both dioceses. “Both areas have seen the worst, and they’re coming back in a different form,” Isaac said, adding that it is not outlandish to use the word “resurrected” when talking about Buffalo and Erie.

“We’re trying to do church in a way that allows the Episcopal Church to survive and flourish in an area where we’ve had challenges – demographic and cultural challenges,” Franklin said.

Rowe agrees. “This is not a move to save an institution. This is not about diocesan viability. In fact, I don’t like that word,” he told the House of Bishops. “Even the smallest of places might be viable. What this is about is what’s best for the mission of the church in our region and the mission of God.”

Rowe told ENS that he and Franklin talked often about the long-term future of the church in a region like theirs. “We put everything on the table, and we said we want a missional church and we want what’s best for the mission of the Gospel,” he said. “What is the best way to do that?”

Working out the details will take time

Eventually, there will be one staff for two dioceses. Rowe will have offices in both Buffalo and Erie, which are about 90 minutes apart, and will make visitations in both dioceses. Elected leaders in both dioceses will exercise their canonical functions, and each diocese will maintain its cathedral.

During the first three years of Rowe’s tenure as bishop provisional, the two dioceses plan to explore more deeply their relationship and “develop shared mission priorities,” to a set of frequently asked questions here.

“If it’s a complete disaster, we could end it at any time,” Rowe said, but he’s asked people to commit to five years “so that we have a long enough time to try this.”

Both bishops and Isaac, the Western New York Standing Committee chair, point to the possible financial efficiencies that could free up more money for mission. There is the possibility, in Rowe’s words, for “a pile of savings.” First off, a bishop search can cost upwards of $200,000, according to those FAQs.

Combining diocesan staffs will “increase the staff capacity for the same number of dollars” by allowing for more specialized staff, Rowe said. He doubts any staff members will lose jobs because both staffs anticipate retirements and other pending departures.

If some people do lose their jobs, Rowe said, “we’re going to treat people like a church does. We’re going to be good to people and fair and help people find the next thing.”

Franklin, acknowledging that he will be removed from the equation once he retires, hopes that the two dioceses “learn to be a missional church above all, that we cannot do business as usual and that we have to do new things.”

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

Diocese of Kansas names three women as candidates for bishop in historic first for the Episcopal Church

by mfschjonberg | Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Rev. Cathleen Chittenden Bascom, left, the Rev. Martha N. Macgill and the Rev. Helen Svoboda-Barber are candidates for 10th bishop of the Diocese of Kansas. The election is set for Oct. 19 in Topeka. Photo: Diocese of Kansas

[Episcopal Diocese of Kansas] In a first for the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Kansas will select the 10th bishop of the diocese from a slate of women candidates.

The three people are:

  • The Rev. Cathleen Chittenden Bascom, assistant professor of religion at Waldorf University, Waldorf, Iowa;
  • The Rev. Martha N. Macgill, rector, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Cumberland, Maryland; and
  • The Rev. Helen Svoboda-Barber, rector of Luke’s Episcopal Church, Durham, North Carolina.

The Presiding Bishop’s Office of Pastoral Development confirmed that this will be the first time that a diocesan bishop is elected from an all-women slate of candidates.

Macgill and Svoboda-Barber were presented as candidates on June 21 by the Council of Trustees, acting in its canonical role as the diocese’s Standing Committee. Chittenden Bascom was added by petition and announced by the council on Aug. 15.

More information about all three candidates is online here.

The Very Rev. Foster Mays, president of the Council of Trustees, said, “From the beginning of our bishop search process, grounded and directed by the Spirit, everyone has sought a slate of excellent candidates for election as the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Kansas. We now have three such candidates. The fact that they are all women, while historic, speaks to the ministry and experience of ordained women across the Episcopal Church. Kansas is delighted to be the first diocese to select their next bishop from an outstanding group of women.”

The first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church (and in the worldwide Anglican Communion) was the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, who was elected bishop suffragan of Massachusetts in 1988.

The first woman to serve as diocesan bishop was the Rt. Rev. Mary Adelia McLeod of Vermont, who was elected in 1993.

Women first were ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church in 1974, in irregular ordinations that were recognized by the Episcopal Church in 1976. The first woman to be ordained as deacon and priest in the Diocese of Kansas was the Reverend Mary Schrom (now Breese) in 1982.

The election of the next bishop will take place on the first day of Diocesan Convention, Oct. 19, at Grace Cathedral in Topeka. The Service of Ordination and Consecration is scheduled for March 2, 2019, at the cathedral, with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry officiating.

Members of the diocese will have the chance to meet the candidates in walkabouts scheduled across the diocese for Oct. 2-5.

The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas includes more than 10,000 members in 44 congregations. It was founded in 1859, and its offices are located in Topeka. The diocese covers the eastern 40 percent of the state of Kansas, extending as far west as Abilene and Wichita. It also includes the cities of Topeka, Lawrence, Manhattan and the entire Kansas City metropolitan area on the Kansas side of the state line.

Ya está disponible el Resumen de las Acciones de la 79.a Convención General

by lwilson |

[15 de agosto de 2018] El Rdo. Canónigo Michael Barlowe, secretario de la Convención General, ha anunciado que el Resumen de las acciones de la 79.a Convención General está ahora disponible en línea en el sitio web de la Convención General, aquí.

Puede acceder al texto de las resoluciones en la sección de las resoluciones de la carpeta virtual, aquí: vbinder.net.

El Resumen de las acciones de la 79.a Convención General presenta los resultados de las resoluciones y la membresía del Consejo Ejecutivo como también otras elecciones y nombramientos hechos durante la 79.a Convención General, que se llevó a cabo el 5-13 de julio de 2018 en Austin, Texas. Este documento está en cumplimiento con el requisito del Reglamento de Orden Conjunto V.15 de la Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal.

El registro diario de la 79.a Convención, que es el registro oficial de las actas, estará disponible comenzando en el 2019.

Si tiene preguntas acerca del Resumen de las Acciones de la 79. a Convención General comuníquese con gcoffice@generalconvention.org.