House of Bishops’ fall meeting grapples with range of issues, from reconciliation to innovation

by dpaulsen | Friday, September 20, 2019
Curry and climate

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joins nearly 100 bishops outside the House of Bishops’ meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Sept. 20 to express solidarity with climate change strikes around the world. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Minneapolis, Minnesota] The House of Bishops wrapped up its fall meeting here on Sept. 20 after spending four days studying, discussing and, in some cases, acting on many of the most important issues facing The Episcopal Church.

Evangelism? Declining church membership? The bishops spent nearly the full day on Sept. 18 listening to the Rev. Adam Hamilton, a renowned Methodist pastor, discuss his successful growth strategies and leadership advice.

Racial reconciliation? A draft report on white supremacy was circulated by the Theology Committee on Sept. 19, prompting a lively and, at times, even tense discussion.

Care of creation? The bishops gathered briefly on the final day outside the Courtyard by Marriott hotel near downtown Minneapolis to stand in solidarity with youth-driven climate change strikes around the world. (Coverage of the climate strike, including comments from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, can be found here.)

“Our house here has been blessed for a long time to be moving in that direction of becoming that to which we aspire, that beloved community,” Minnesota Bishop Brian Prior said in his sermon during the final morning’s Eucharist.

Prior referenced Mark 8:34-38 in which Jesus commanded his disciples to “take up their cross” and follow him. “We continue to have work to do,” Prior said. “We’re working at moving into that place in this house where we have experienced sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, where we experience all those things still today and lots of ways folks feel marginalized.

“All of those things for us are things that we need to set down, so we can collectively pick up our cross.”

Brian Prior

Minnesota Bishop Brian Prior preaches Sept. 20 at the closing Eucharist of the House of Bishops meeting in Minneapolis. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

About 130 bishops were registered to attend this House of Bishops’ meeting for some or all of the four days. Four bishops-elect also joined the meeting, as did a bishop from Tanzania, who was a guest of the Diocese of New York bishops.

The bishops typically meet twice a year as a house, in spring and fall. The next meeting is March 10-13, 2020, at Camp Allen in the Diocese of Texas.

Same-sex marriage, often a central topic for debate at past gatherings of churchwide bodies, was taken up only indirectly in Minneapolis, partly reflecting the fact that General Convention 2018 had virtually settled the matter of making marriage rites available to all couples who request them in all domestic dioceses.

The Diocese of Albany remains the one exception, and news broke on Sept. 18 at the House of Bishops’ meeting that Albany Bishop William Love had been referred to a hearing panel to face possible disciplinary action under the church’s Title IV Canon because he continues to block same-sex marriage in his diocese.

“I greatly appreciate the Reference Panel’s decision to expedite the process by referring this matter directly to the Hearing Panel, where I will have the opportunity to address the concerns raised,” Love said in a message to his diocese.

Same-sex marriage also figured into the bishops’ discussions of the upcoming Lambeth Conference 2020, a gathering in England of all active bishops in the Anglican Communion. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby chose to invite openly gay and lesbian bishops but not their spouses, so part of the Episcopal bishops’ planning has involved deciding how to respond to that exclusion.

Welby’s decision is expected to affect at least three Episcopal bishops with same-sex spouses: New York Assistant Bishop Mary Glasspool, Maine Bishop Thomas Brown and the Rev. Bonnie Perry, who will be consecrated bishop of Michigan in February. All three attended the House of Bishops’ meeting in Minneapolis with their spouses.

Brown told Episcopal News Service on the first day of the meeting that he and his husband, the Rev. Thomas Mousin, were still deliberating over whether to go to England for the Lambeth Conference.

“We continue to be in prayer as a family, along with other bishops in the world … who have reached out arms of support and encouragement,” Brown said.

The House of Bishops spent part of the afternoon Sept. 19 in closed session so bishops and spouses could discuss how they planned to respond individually and collectively to Welby’s decision. That discussion produced a message that was approved Sept. 20 by the bishops that said the Lambeth Conference had “become the occasion for a mixture of joy and sorrow, hope and disappointment.”

“The community of bishops and spouses supports and stands together in solidarity with each of our brothers and sisters in this Episcopal Church as they make these decisions according to their conscience and through prayerful discernment and invite the siblings of The Episcopal Church to join us in that solidarity,” the message said. It was addressed to The Episcopal Church and approved with most, but not all, bishops voting in favor. The full text of the message is available here.

While talk of the Lambeth Conference loomed over the House of Bishops’ meeting from the first day, another two words – sometimes spoken, otherwise only alluded to – were on the minds of the Episcopal bishops from the start as they pondered the future of the church, its size, makeup and mission.

Parochial reports.

Those are the surveys completed by Episcopal congregations that provide The Episcopal Church’s official count of active members, average Sunday attendance and other metrics for gauging church vitality. The latest numbers were released this month. Year after year, they have shown a denomination in decline, mirroring a story being told at other mainline Protestant churches in an increasingly secular United States.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, in his sermon at the House of Bishops’ opening Eucharist on Sept. 17, acknowledged the numbers have not been good, and he nurtured no expectations for a sudden rebound. Instead, he sought reassurance in the immutable Christian values embedded in Scripture.

“I don’t know why everybody goes crazy every year,” he said. “Yeah, the numbers are going down. So what? Look to the rock!” Curry said, quoting from Isaiah. “We’re all followers of Jesus!”

The declining numbers provided sober context for the bishops’ sessions Sept. 18 with Hamilton, the Methodist pastor, who leads Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, Missouri. Membership at Resurrection has grown to top 20,000 across five campuses, and Hamilton offered insights from his successes centered on the theme “Leading Beyond the Walls.”

Some of Hamilton’s practical advice verged on the obvious. Thriving congregations have effective pastoral leadership, skilled preaching and missional outreach to the community, he said. He also pressed the bishops to coach clergy to become better leaders in their congregations and their communities.

“I’d guess at least half of all clergy are introverts,” he said at one point. “Except the job requires us to be extroverts.”

Good leaders also bring about “chaos and change,” he said. Moving a congregation or diocese forward requires a leader to make hard, uncomfortable decisions, to engage in “discernment by nausea.”

“Change, innovate, improve or die,” Hamilton said, again emphasizing that this is the job of faith leaders. “We set the tone for what happens. … You can’t lead people to where you’re not going.”

Adam Hamilton

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, speaks to the House of Bishops on Sept. 18, using analog and digital versions of an Elvis album to make a point about the need for churches to “change, innovate improve or die.” Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The bishops returned to the question of church vitality on Sept. 20 as they welcomed members of the House of Deputies’ State of the Church Committee. Part of the committee’s work, based on a 2018 General Convention resolution, is to help “design a simplified parochial report relevant to the diversity of The Episcopal Church’s participation in God’s mission in the world.”

But the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president, also asked the committee to seek new ways the church can experiment, innovate and adapt to its 21st-century context. For that purpose, the committee members introduced themselves to the bishops and then fanned out to sit at tables around the ballroom to foster discussions, share ideas and record the results.

That morning session set the tone for a particularly busy final day, which included an afternoon business session and small group discussions on a range of topics, including refugees.

Minneapolis has a large Somali refugee community, and some of the bishops spent part of their afternoon meeting with the head of a Minneapolis agency that helps to resettle refugees in the area through Episcopal Migration Ministries, or EMM, one of nine agencies with federal contracts to do that work on behalf of the U.S. State Department.

The Trump administration has cut sharply the number of refugees admitted to the United States for resettlement each year, and reports have suggested that number will be cut further in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Also in the afternoon, a group of nearly 100 bishops gathered outside the hotel and offered words of support for the global climate change strikes. Curry, California Bishop Marc Andrus and Western Massachusetts Bishop Douglas Fisher spoke of the call as Christians to care for God’s creation.

“We are committed to this work. It is our hearts, our hands and our lives,” Andrus said.

This meeting of the House of Bishops highlighted the changing face of a body that is slowly adding more women and people of color. Several new members attended their first meeting this week, and one of them, West Tennessee Bishop Phoebe Roaf, preached at the Sept. 18 Eucharist.

Roaf admitted sometimes feeling overwhelmed in her new role as bishop, but she urged her fellow bishops not to let the pressures of the world immobilize them.

“There are so many silences, in our church and in our country, in need of being broken,” Roaf said. And while the numbers in the parochial report data may be down, she said, “I’m actually energized.”

“I’m kind of fired up about this, brothers and sisters. I mean, what an amazing opportunity for our church in this moment, to get real, to engage in fierce conversations, to create a safe space where people can come as they are and be engaged in open and honest dialogue.”

Phoebe Roaf

West Tennessee Bishop Phoebe Roaf preaches at the Eucharist on Sept. 18 during the House of Bishops meeting in Minneapolis. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

That spirit carried through to the discussion of white supremacy on Sept. 19. In addition to receiving the draft report produced by the Theology Committee, the bishops heard from the Rev. Altagracia Pérez-Bullard, a theology professor at Virginia Theological Seminary who joined the bishops’ committee this year.

“White supremacy is a false narrative,” Pérez-Bullard said. “But it’s the false narrative of our United States context. And we didn’t invent it, and we didn’t keep it to ourselves. So it’s broader. It is something that impacts the whole of The Episcopal Church, which is not just the U.S.” She said it was important for bishops and other church leaders, as people of privilege, “to be able to recognize this thing and to talk about it in a sustained way, recognizing our own complicity.”

The Theology Committee, however, faced criticism from some bishops who questioned why the draft report’s focus appeared to be limited to white supremacy in the United States. Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal, the committee chair, also acknowledged and apologized for the committee’s failure to translate the document into Spanish, a standard procedure for all official church documents.

“It pisses me off,” Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen said English, punctuating his pointed remarks. He questioned whether The Episcopal Church would ever fully embrace the dioceses of Province IX, most of which are in predominantly Spanish-speaking territories and countries.

“There’s not love in this community,” Allen said through an interpreter. “And I’m sad that you always have to apologize. For how much longer?”

Breidenthal told ENS later that he took responsibility for not having the draft report translated, though he also noted that the feedback from the bishops will help the committee produce a more complete final report. The draft report has not been released publicly.

Colorado Bishop Kym Lucas, who is African American and attending her first House of Bishops’ meeting as a bishop, spoke forcefully on the floor about the need to engage fully in such tough conversations, using as an example her 11-year-old son’s experience with racism at school.

“My children’s lives depend on us having this conversation,” she said. “So thank you to the committee for the hard work. And thank you, to all of you, for leaning in to this very uncomfortable, very painful, very real place.”

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

Episcopalians bring spiritual urgency to youth-led climate strikes

by emillard |

The Rev. Deborah Warner, rector of the Church of the Messiah, speaks at a climate strike event in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Sept. 20, 2019. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Falmouth, Massachusetts] A wave of youth-led protests against political inaction on the climate crisis that drew hundreds of thousands to the streets of cities around the world rolled into this usually quiet Cape Cod town when about 160 people gathered on the village green for a boisterous rally on Sept. 20.

Participants hold creative signs at a climate strike event in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Sept. 20, 2019. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

The participants, from toddlers to senior citizens, waved signs with messages like “DECLARE A CLIMATE EMERGENCY” and “THERE ARE NO JOBS ON A DEAD PLANET.” They beat drums and sang songs. They delivered impassioned speeches through a megaphone as passing cars honked in support. And when the clock struck 11 a.m., the bells of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, which overlooks the green, began to ring. St. Barnabas, along with over a dozen other churches across Cape Cod, tolled its bells for 11 minutes, signifying that it is now “the 11th hour” and urgent, swift action is needed to avert catastrophe.

The cacophony was inescapable – and that was exactly the point.

“Church bells have historically been a clarion call to action, a way to bring attention to situations,” said the Rev. Will Mebane Jr., rector of St. Barnabas. “We have a crisis here. Ringing church bells for 11 minutes on a Friday morning as people drive by, walk by – [they go,] ‘What? What’s going on?’ So it’s a way to get attention and to just elevate the consciousness of people.”

The Rev. Will Mebane Jr., rector of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, speaks to a participant at a climate strike event in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Sept. 20, 2019. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

Falmouth is especially aware of the threat it faces from climate change, not only because of its coastal location but also because it is home to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, one of the world’s most renowned marine science centers, and several other scientific institutions that together have produced some of the most important research on climate change.

A group of high school students speak to the crowd at a climate strike event in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Sept. 20, 2019. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

Speakers at the rally included scientists who have contributed to that research, a group of students from local high schools – some of whom had risked a three-day suspension by attending – and the Rev. Deborah Warner, rector of the Church of the Messiah, another Episcopal parish in town.

Participants wore life jackets and other flotation devices to symbolize the urgent threat of sea level rise at a climate strike event in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Sept. 20, 2019. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

“There is no more crucial issue facing the entire world than this,” Warner told the strikers, many of whom wore life jackets and other flotation devices to symbolize the urgent threat of sea level rise. “People like to say it’s either economics or it’s the environment. That’s the same conversation.”

Warner borrowed an image from the theologian Sally McVeigh to illustrate the importance of respecting creation.

“We can look at the Earth as a hotel, where everything is disposable, or it is our home,” Warner said. “For the sake of the children and the young people that we hear, and their children and their grandchildren, we need to stand up and speak out and raise hell!”

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, the House of Bishops interrupted its fall meeting for a moment of solidarity with the strikers. About 100 bishops gathered outside their hotel to pray and sing, having released a statement in support of the strikes the day before, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry spoke about the Christian responsibility to protect the Earth.

“We are bishops of The Episcopal Church. And we are leaders who share leadership with other clergy and lay people in the church. But we are not here today as leaders. We’re here as followers. We’re here to follow the youth mobilization on climate change. We’re here to follow and support what they are doing to stand in solidarity with them,” Curry said. “[Jesus] said, ‘God so loved the world’ – not just part of the world, but the whole world. This is God’s world, and we must care for it and take care of it and heal it and love it, just as God loves it.”

In New York, Lynnaia Main, The Episcopal Church’s representative to the United Nations, was one of the tens of thousands who marched through the streets of Manhattan.

“The climate strikes happening worldwide today are an important opportunity for people to mobilize and raise their voices to demand that we all take action to address the climate emergency that is upon us,” Main told Episcopal News Service. “Notice that I did not say that people are striking to mobilize governments. That is true, but people are also mobilizing to mobilize each other.”

Sixteen year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a demonstration as part of the Global Climate Strike in New York on Sept. 20, 2019. Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The crowds in New York – where the United Nations will hold a special climate summit starting on Sept. 23 – were full of young people who had been given excused absences from the city’s public schools. Young people – inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who was scheduled to speak at the New York event – led the charge at many of the rallies and marches, from major cities to small towns.

Students and staff at the Rock Point School in Burlington, Vermont – affiliated with the Diocese of Vermont – participated in that city’s strike, as did young parishioners at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California.

Students at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, organized their own walkout on the school’s campus.

And students from Trinity Episcopal School in Charlotte, North Carolina, walked to Charlotte’s Government Center with a large cutout of Thunberg and homemade signs.

Though some were too young to spell correctly, their message was clear.

“Act like parins [sic] or we will for you!” read one Trinity student’s sign.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org. David Paulsen contributed reporting to this story from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

United Methodists float plans to split denomination after LGBTQ vote

by lwilson |

[Religion News Service] The United Methodist Church’s deadline for petitions for its next global meeting passed Sept. 18, setting the terms for a final reckoning with LGBTQ issues that have divided the denomination for more than 40 years.

The UMC’s General Conference 2020, to be held in May in Minneapolis, will consider the structure of what church leaders hope can be an amicable, and orderly, breakup of a worldwide church that is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States. The various plans come in response to a vote earlier this year by the church’s decision-making body to strengthen language barring LGBTQ United Methodists from ordination and marriage.

That decision came in February at a special session of the General Conference that approved the conservative Traditional Plan, which centrists and progressives in the church have rejected and adamantly resisted. The resulting chaos has led some churches to withhold money from the denomination or to call for schism.

Bishops in areas that are growing within the denomination and widely seen as conservative, such as the Philippines and African countries, have urged unity in recent statements, even as moderates, most of whom are based in the United States, are optimistic about the prospect of formal separation.

“It’s not a divorce. It’s giving life to expressions of the church that are now in conflict,” United Theological Seminary President Kent Millard told Religion News Service last month.

Read the full article here.

Bishops step up preparations for Lambeth Conference amid anxiety over spousal invitations

by dpaulsen | Thursday, September 19, 2019

New York Assistant Bishop Mary Glasspool speaks Sept. 19 during a small group discussion about the Lambeth Conference at the House of Bishops’ meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Minneapolis, Minnesota] Diocese of New York Assistant Bishop Mary Glasspool left no ambiguity about her plans to attend the Lambeth Conference 2020. She is going, even if her wife was specifically denied an invitation.

“The Diocese of New York needs to be represented. We need to be at the table,” Glasspool said Sept. 19 during an informal group discussion about Lambeth during the House of Bishops’ fall meeting.

The question of whether to go to Lambeth or to stay home has fueled anxiety this week among some of the Episcopal bishops and spouses gathered at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in downtown Minneapolis. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s decision to exclude spouses of gay and lesbian bishops from next year’s Lambeth Conference sparked an uproar within The Episcopal Church and in some other corners of the Anglican Communion.

Should Episcopal bishops skip the conference in protest? Should they go and make their objections clear while in England? Should the spouses who were invited take their own principled stands, and what would that look like? Should the House of Bishops agree on a unified response to what some see as an injustice?

Such questions were to be raised during an afternoon session Sept. 19 in which the spouses accompanied the bishops. That session was closed to reporters, to allow for open and honest conversations, but earlier in the day, Episcopal News Service was able to sit in on the smaller group discussion and listen to about 15 of the bishops share their thoughts, sometimes conflicted, on the best paths forward.

Glasspool opened the discussion with a pragmatic approach.

“Let’s prepare ourselves as best we can, whether we’re making our witness at home or in England,” Glasspool said. She plans to travel to England with her wife, Becki Sander, even if Sander won’t be able to attend official Lambeth gatherings.

Glasspool also cautioned her fellow bishops not to let this one issue dominate discussions at Lambeth, especially if doing so might provoke a conservative reaction, such as a new statement opposing same-sex marriage.

“If you take away all the fear and all my anxiety and all everybody else’s anxiety and ratchet it down, it’s a two-week conference. … My hope for us is that we can prepare as best we can, that we don’t go in blind,” she said.

All active bishops of The Episcopal Church were invited to the Lambeth Conference 2020, along with their counterparts in the Anglican Communion’s 39 other provinces. Spouses typically are invited to the Lambeth Conference, which is held about once every 10 years. The 2020 conference starts July 22.

Maine Bishop Thomas Brown, center, and his husband, the Rev. Thomas Mousin, left, speak to Christopher Probe, husband of Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe, on Sept. 17 at the House of Bishops’ meeting. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Glasspool received a letter from Welby in December 2018 saying Sander was not invited. At the time, Glasspool was the only Episcopal bishop with a same-sex spouse. After Maine Bishop Thomas Brown was consecrated in June, he too received an invitation to Lambeth and a letter from Welby that said Brown’s husband, the Rev. Thomas Mousin, was not allowed to come.

Brown attended the small group discussion on Sept. 19, as did the Rev. Bonnie Perry, who will be consecrated bishop of Michigan in February. Perry has not yet received an invitation, but her wife, the Rev. Susan Harlow, presumably would become the third Episcopal spouse excluded from the Lambeth Conference. Brown and Perry are still deliberating over how they and their spouses will respond.

Diocese of Western Michigan Bishop Whayne Hougland told the group that he was interested in talking about how all bishops and spouses can support each other in their decisions.

“How can we provide appropriate pastoral concern for those who are not going as members of this house for reasons of conscience and those who are going but aren’t invited to participate?” Hougland asked. “How can we be proactive and acknowledging the needs that might be there?”

El Camino Real Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, who serves as vice chair of the House of Bishops, suggested that the bishops discuss such questions and other strategy matters at their tables during the closed session later in the day. With an estimated 134 bishops attending this week’s House of Bishops’ meeting, the larger group isn’t always conducive to strategic planning, Gray-Reeves said, but individual bishops can form smaller planning groups that could report to the full House of Bishops at its next meeting, in March.

The Rev. Bonnie Perry, left, bishop-elect of the Diocese of Michigan, talks with her wife, the Rev. Susan Harlow, on Sept. 17 at the House of Bishops’ meeting. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Some of the bishops noted that the 10 months until the start of the Lambeth Conference doesn’t leave much time to spare. Aside from the spouse issue, they discussed a range of points about preparation for Lambeth.

Several suggested that the bishops schedule a session at their March meeting focused on restorative justice and reconciliation, to equip the bishops for developing relationships with Anglican bishops despite any theological differences.

They also suggested studying 1 Peter, since that Scripture will be a central text at Lambeth 2020. Ohio Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, who attended the last Lambeth Conference in 2008, said he found the Bible studies to be powerful experiences that helped break down barriers between the participating bishops.

“That was the place where people, at least I heard over and over, people’s hearts were softened and arms were opened,” Hollingsworth said.

Security for the bishops was another concern raised. They also suggested discussing communications strategy at the House of Bishops’ March meeting, with a more intensive breakout session on how to interact with the news media, for those bishops who expect they will need such training at Lambeth.

Some bishops and spouses already have decided they will not attend Lambeth 2020 as a matter of conscience, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, in his sermon during the opening Eucharist on Sept. 17, urged the bishops to respect individual decisions. He confirmed he will attend. “I’m going as a witness to the way of love that Jesus has taught me,” Curry said.

But even those thinking of skipping Lambeth have made clear they aren’t breaking with the Anglican Communion and want to find ways to show support for maintaining relationships across the Anglican Communion.

Nebraska Bishop Scott Barker raised the question of what he would do if he chose to stay home, and whether other bishops who make similar decisions can gather in an intentional way behind a positive message. That prompted a discussion of what such a gathering might look like and where it could be held.

Kentucky Bishop Terry White offered a lighthearted response, playing off the name of a small city in his diocese.

“I’m willing to host something in London, Kentucky,” White said, prompting laughter from the group. “They have a great chicken festival.”

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

Federal judge rules in favor of Episcopal Church in South Carolina in trademark infringement case

by emillard |

Diocese of Massachusetts celebrates 20 years of volunteer-run summer day camp

by emillard |

Young volunteers from St. Andrew’s Church in Wellesley get plates full of carrot sticks ready for the tables of hungry kids that will soon fill the room. Photo: Bridget K. Wood/Diocese of Massachusetts

[Diocese of Massachusetts] The difference that the Boston-area B-SAFE summer program makes in the lives of the children and teens it serves becomes quickly apparent during a visit to a host site in full swing. What may be less obvious is the impact that the program has on the many volunteers from Episcopal churches across the diocese whose members give up some of their time and resources each summer to participate.

B-SAFE (Bishop’s Summer Academic and Fun Enrichment Program) is a five-week, full-day program serving young people from first grade through high school at Episcopal school and church sites in Boston’s South End, Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester neighborhoods, as well as Chelsea. This summer marked 20 years of the B-SAFE program, and with that, 20 years of Episcopal partner parishes making it all possible. On Friday, July 26, nearly 800 people who are connected to B-SAFE gathered at Carson Beach for the program’s 20th Anniversary Carnival.

On a Monday morning at the St. Stephen’s Church B-SAFE site in Boston, lunch was being provided by St. Andrew’s Church in Wellesley. The St. Andrew’s volunteers carried in crates of food to serve. Pasta casserole, carrot sticks and sweet potato fries were on the menu – with popsicles for dessert.

As Nancy Echlov and Cam McCormick placed casseroles into the oven to warm up, McCormick explained that parishioners who were unable to take a weekday to go into Boston and serve food could still participate in B-SAFE by preparing one of the casseroles and bringing it to St. Andrew’s ahead of time.

Part of the St. Andrew’s volunteer crew for the day included Karen Pekowitz and her two daughters, Julia, 13, and Alexa, 12. They have all been volunteering with B-SAFE for the past six years.

Alexa has been helping out with B-SAFE since the age of six and said that her favorite part is seeing her actions make a positive impact on others.

“I just like to see that I can make someone’s afternoon or day, just by doing something simple,” Alexa said after the meals were served and the cleanup finished.

Family friends of the Pekowitzes were also on hand to help set up the tables for lunch. Though not St. Andrew’s parishioners themselves, they have regularly joined the Pekowitz family in helping out with B-SAFE over the years. One of those friends, who is 14, told a visitor that he likes helping out with B-SAFE because he gets a chance to interact with other kids his age whom he likely wouldn’t otherwise meet.

Nancy Echlov from St. Andrew’s in Wellesley shares a conversation with a young B-SAFE participant during lunch. Photo: Bridget K. Wood/Diocese of Massachusetts

“It’s fun to connect with the other kids,” he said after lunch was over. “It’s fun to just spend time with other kids our age, serving them food and having a connection with them.”

B-SAFE partners prepare and serve lunches, provide afternoon snacks, read with children and organize Friday field trips. Through these interactions between partners and the children in the program, relationships are built across differences that might otherwise separate people.

Debbie Terry is a parishioner at Grace Church in Norwood, which has been participating in the B-SAFE program for the past 13 years. Since Grace is a smaller parish, it partners with the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan each summer to share a week at the B-SAFE site there. Terry said that after all of these years, and with many repeat volunteers, everyone seems to fall right back into their roles, both from Grace Church as well as from the Church of the Holy Spirit.

“I think we enjoy each other’s company,” Terry said in an interview. “We love working with Holy Spirit, they’re just so supportive. They are always so welcoming and we have found that we work really well together as two church groups coming together.”

In addition to building relationships between parishes, Terry said that, ultimately, the children who attend the B-SAFE program are the reason that volunteers keep coming back year after year.

“When kids come up to you and just give you a big hug around your waist, I think that’s what we all do it for,” Terry said. “We have found that the kids are happy we’re there, and we are definitely happy to be there with them. For those of us who have been doing it every year, it’s just so wonderful to see what this program is all about.”

In an email thanking the partners for a successful summer, the director of youth programs at St. Stephen’s, the Rev. Liz Steinhauser, provided some numbers from this summer’s B-SAFE program: 37,000 meals served (with 17,500 being lunches provided by partners), about 300 volunteers from partner organizations (including nearly 50 partner churches and two interfaith networks), 55 full-day field trips organized (most thanks to partners) and more than 100 half-day field trips. In the email, Steinhauser thanked the partners for making the summer program a success.

“You helped us build community together,” Steinhauser wrote. “In these times when stories of separation and divisiveness are lead news reports, you created ‘Good News’ stories of connection through B-SAFE.”

Many volunteers who return year after year, such as Nancy Marshall from Sudbury, expressed joy in seeing young children in the program mature into the teens and adults staffing the program.

“It’s amazing to me now, having done it for so long, to see all of these adults who were youths in the program come full circle and actively dive into this ministry themselves,” Marshall said. “I think that’s wonderful.”

Marshall and her family have been involved with the B-SAFE program since the very beginning, 20 years ago, first through St. Anne’s-in-the-Fields Church in Lincoln and now as parishioners at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Sudbury.

For Marshall and her family, working with different parishes through B-SAFE over the years has been a way for them to get to know and experience other communities around the diocese, and to feel like part of the larger diocesan community.

“We feel like we’re part of the bigger picture,” Marshall said. “[Our children] have gotten great exposure to the breadth of this diocese and the different communities, ministries and approaches to worship and liturgy.”

Marshall said that B-SAFE has simply become a part of the rhythm of her life, and is something that has blessed her with incredibly meaningful relationships and memories.

“It is ministry, it is seeing God in these children,” Marshall said. “It’s also, for me, a connection with a lot of great memories and a lot of relationships that I don’t want to see end.”

Young Episcopalians bring back stories from US-Mexico border

by emillard |

Massachusetts pilgrims hike part of a migrant trail in the desert to leave jugs of water for those who might need it. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Massachusetts

[Diocese of Massachusetts] With the migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border so often in the news, a group of seven high school-aged Episcopalians, along with three adults, set off in August for a week in Nogales, Arizona, to hear the stories of people who are experiencing it firsthand.

Their trip was part of Las Fronteras: Faith in Action, a yearlong diocesan program that helps young people from different congregations get to know one another and together explore issues relating to the border, such as security and hospitality, stranger and neighbor, privilege and disadvantage, and discipleship and servant leadership. The goal is for those in the program to participate in community service projects across eastern Massachusetts and develop a community of faith and support among themselves, before ending the program with the week-long trip to the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. For four of this year’s seven young pilgrims, crossing over the border into Mexico was their first time traveling out of this country.

Las Fronteras pilgrims, from left: Charlie Ives, Emily Chafe, Kieron Sharwood, Freddie Collins, Kaitlyn von Ehrenkrook, Mikayla von Ehrenkrook and Helen Bradshaw. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Massachusetts

The trip was organized by the diocesan youth missioner, the Rev. H. Mark Smith, who said in an interview that he hopes that the program allows young people to see that the Gospel is a call to action, by providing an opportunity to form real human connections. Smith said that the trip allows the young people to engage the world by engaging each other.

“We can’t love each other across differences until we know each other across differences,” Smith said. “Those of us who are more privileged need to be willing to put ourselves in situations where we are leaving all of our privileges behind, and suddenly we’re the ones who don’t know the language and customs, and we don’t know where we’re going and we’re the ones sort of thrown off balance and unsure.”

The trip was organized in partnership with the Diocese of Arizona, specifically with the Rev. Rodger A. Babnew Jr., who serves as deacon at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Nogales and is the convener and director of Cruzando Fronteras, an Episcopal ministry for border immigration and asylum-seekers in ecumenical partnership with the Grand Canyon Synod of the Lutheran Church and the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ. The ministry of Cruzando Fronteras is in Mexico, offering shelter, food, clothing, medical care and English classes for asylum-seekers and migrants while they wait for a credible fear interview — a screening procedure toward applying for asylum that requires establishing a credible fear of persecution or torture if returned to their home country.

Pilgrims Helen Bradshaw and Freddie Collins work on puzzles with young migrant children. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Massachusetts

In an interview, Babnew explained the importance of trips like these, saying that it is a mutual learning experience for both the young people who visit as well as for the migrants in the shelters.

“The news [the migrants] get in their travels is that America doesn’t want them,” Babnew said. “But when they meet all of these people who want to be with them … it really makes them understand that we do love them, they are our neighbors and we care about them.”

The pilgrims had the opportunity to visit migrant shelters and spend time with migrants staying there. Despite the language barriers, the pilgrims played games like soccer with the migrant children and formed connections that stuck with them.

At a post-pilgrimage dinner, the young pilgrims shared stories and pictures with Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris and their family members. Kaitlyn von Ehrenkrook from St. Chrysostom’s Church in Quincy told the story of how a young migrant girl named Lupita gave both Kaitlyn and her sister Mikayla one of her stuffed toys to hold.

“I thought that was moving because those are probably one of the few possessions she has,” von Ehrenkrook said, “She gave them to us to hold, and we’re strangers.”

Throughout the trip, the Massachusetts high schoolers heard from multiple sides of the border story. They were able to go to a “Border Patrol 101” presentation to hear directly from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and they sat in on court hearings for Operation Streamline, a joint initiative of the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice that adopts a zero-tolerance approach to unauthorized border crossing and pursues criminal prosecution.

At the Nogales point of entry into the United States, those coming from Mexico are greeted with a welcome sign wrapped in barbed wire. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Massachusetts

Helen Bradshaw, a young parishioner at the Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, shared her experience visiting the court proceedings.

“As [the migrants] were leaving, I saw their legs were chained together and their hands were in handcuffs and chained at their waist, and it almost made me cry,” Bradshaw said at the dinner. “It was insane to imagine that our country can treat people that are just looking for asylum like legitimate criminals.”

Freddie Collins, a young pilgrim from St. Elizabeth’s Church in Sudbury, told the story of a migrant the group met in one of the shelters who was in fear for her life. A young graduate student, she was filmed being part of student protests on her school campus, and because those protesters were having their homes targeted and burned as a consequence, she had no choice but to flee her home country.

Collins shared with those at the dinner what the migrant wants people in the U.S. to know: “‘Most people don’t want to leave, but when the only safe place that you have – your home – is no longer safe, where else do you have to go?’”

While on the trip, the pilgrims were able to do a water drop in which they hiked three miles of a migrant trail in the desert in 103-degree heat to leave water for the migrants who might go along that same path.

At the dinner after the trip, one of the adult pilgrims, Matt Miller from St. Elizabeth’s Church in Sudbury, shared with the group the impact that the water drop had on him personally.

“I realized that that activity of leaving water for people in the desert was the closest I had ever come to giving life to someone else,” Miller said. “The ability to have water or not have water in a desert when it’s 103 degrees out – it was really an eye-opening experience that that water I was leaving could save someone’s life potentially. It was sort of the most meaningful thing I feel like I’ve ever done that could have helped someone in a really significant, very sort of primal, basic way.”

On the trip, the pilgrims visited the place where the body of José Antonio Elena Rodríguez was found. Rodríguez was a 16-year-old boy who, while on the Mexican side of the border, was shot and killed in 2012 by a border patrol agent who claimed Rodríguez was throwing rocks at him.

At the post-pilgrimage dinner, the youth participants, including Charlie Ives, left, and Helen Bradshaw, right, share their stories from the borderlands with Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris, center. Photo: Bridget K. Wood/Diocese of Massachusetts

During the dinner, the pilgrims also shared the story of a Mexican artist whom they met less than two weeks after the Aug. 3 shooting in El Paso, Texas, when a gunman killed 22 people.

“One thing that really stuck out to all of us, I think, is that [the artist] said every year he goes to San Diego to sell his artwork and to try to start making a name for himself, but he said that this year he might not even go,” one of the young pilgrims, Charlie Ives from St. Paul’s Church in Newburyport, explained. “He said, ‘Americans like shooting people who look like me.’”

Mikayla von Ehrenkrook of St. Chrysostom’s in Quincy said that having the pilgrimage experience humanizes the issue in a new way.

“Hearing something on the news is kind of a general thing: you hear it, and you go on with your day,” von Ehrenkrook said. “But if you meet the people that are experiencing that issue, it becomes more personal.”

In order to document their pilgrimage and share their experience, the pilgrims wrote blog posts before, during and after the trip. In their final reflections, the young people wrote about all they had seen and heard and what it meant to them.

“One of the most basic teachings in religion is to love your neighbors. Unfortunately, migrants are being turned away by their closest neighbor, the U.S.,” Kaitlyn von Ehrenkrook said in her final reflection. “We have created boundaries and left them to face death as they struggle to cross the desert, traveling miles just to be met with a wall blocking their hope for a new life – a safe home to bring their families to.”

“It is my hope that every person I share these stories with can at least have more insight into the truths of the dangerous conditions that are causing these migrants to leave their homes, and that we may have compassion for these people,” Bradshaw wrote in her final reflection. “The most powerful thing I can do to help is to share the stories and experiences I collected and keep them raw. No modifying, no sugarcoating. These sacred narratives must remain how they were told by the people who lived them.”

At the end of the post-pilgrimage dinner, Harris asked the teenagers, “What should the church be doing about this issue that we’re not doing? What should we do as a diocese or at your particular parish?”

“Keep doing this trip,” Collins replied.

Episcopalians encouraged to take part in Sept. 20 climate strike

by emillard |

Don Robinson, a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Northampton, Massachusetts, and a trustee of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, lifts his hands during a moment of silence at the People’s Climate March on Sept. 21, 2014 in New York, two days before the United Nations Climate Summit commenced. Photo: Amy Sowder

[Episcopal News Service] On Sept. 20, adults and young people around the world will skip school and work to protest political inaction on the climate crisis, and dioceses and parishes across The Episcopal Church are inviting their members to participate.

The climate strike, which takes place three days before the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York, consists of rallies and marches in over 2,500 locations worldwide, from big cities to small towns. Building on the momentum of youth-led school walkouts inspired by teenage activist Greta Thunberg – who will lead the New York march – organizers are expecting millions of people to join the strike.

Reflecting The Episcopal Church’s longstanding support for environmental protection and climate action, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and other bishops who are currently gathered in Minneapolis for their fall meeting expressed support for the strike and will take some time out of their schedule on Sept. 20 in solidarity.

“We Green Episcopal Bishops resolve to support a network of young climate activists in The Episcopal Church, building up to an Episcopal youth presence at the important United Nations Climate Summit in 2020, most likely to be held in the United Kingdom,” the bishops said in a statement. “The Episcopal Church is already committed to action that will support a 1.5°C ceiling on global warming above pre-Industrial Revolution levels. We are working from the individual and household level up to regions and to the level of the whole Church to make the necessary transition to a sustainable life.”

Marc Andrus

Diocese of California Bishop Marc Andrus was among the Episcopalians who participated in the People’s Climate March on April 29, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Andrus also spoke at a Church World Service vigil before the march. Photo courtesy of Marc Andrus, via Twitter.

Western Massachusetts Bishop Doug Fisher and California Bishop Marc Andrus, who organized the bishops’ action and statement, have been especially vocal in advocating for climate action as part of the Christian mission.

“We are slowly waking up from our denial about climate change,” Fisher wrote on his blog, encouraging all to participate in their local strike or to make Sept. 20 “a day for personal climate action.”

Some parishes, like St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, are organizing their own local strikes.

“In the very first stories of our sacred texts of Scripture, we are commanded by God to be stewards of creation,” the Rev. Jared Cramer, rector of St. John’s, told the Grand Haven Tribune.

Go to strikewithus.org or globalclimatestrike.net to find an event near you.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

Albany Bishop William Love to face hearing in disciplinary case for blocking same-sex marriage

by dpaulsen | Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Bishop Love at House of Bishops meeting

Albany Bishop William Love, center, listens to Newark Bishop Carlye Hughes’ sermon during the Eucharist on Sept. 19 at the House of Bishops meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Editor’s note: This story, initially posted Sept. 18 before Albany Bishop William Love could be reached for comment, has been updated Sept. 19 with comments from an interview with Love.

[Episcopal News Service – Minneapolis, Minnesota] Albany Bishop William Love, who last year flouted a General Convention resolution on marriage equality when he vowed to continue blocking same-sex marriage in his diocese, was referred Sept. 18 to a hearing panel for potential discipline under The Episcopal Church’s Title IV Canon.

Love, who is one of an estimated 135 bishops and bishops-elect who are in Minneapolis this week for the fall House of Bishops meeting, was informed of the decision at about the same time as The Episcopal Church issued a late-afternoon press release on the update to his case. Love told Episcopal News Service on Sept. 19 that he was “thankful” that the matter had made it to the hearing panel, as he denied that he had done anything wrong.

“What I tried to do as best I can, by the grace of God, is to be faithful and obedient to that which I believe the Lord has called me to, even though it sometimes can be very difficult, and sometimes it’s not politically correct,” he said. Love also released an online statement in response to the news.

Leading up to the 2018 General Convention, Love was one of eight conservative Episcopal bishops who still refused to allow the church’s approved trial marriage rites for same-sex couples. When General Convention passed Resolution B012 to allow same-sex couples to marry in all domestic dioceses, most of the conservative bishops agreed to abide by the resolution’s requirements.

Love refused. Instead, he issued a pastoral letter and directive in November 2018 in which he called homosexual behavior “sinful and forbidden,” condemned the same-sex rites, rejected the General Convention resolution and suggested Episcopalians in his diocese would leave the church if his directive were overturned.

Bishop William Love

Bishop William Love has led the Diocese of Albany for 13 years. Photo: Diocese of Albany

The order sent shockwaves through the diocese, which is based in New York’s capital city and includes more than 100 congregations, most of them based in less-populated communities from the Canadian border to the northern Catskill Mountains.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry responded on Jan. 11, 2019, by temporarily restricting part of Love’s ministry as bishop because Love’s “conduct in this regard may constitute a canonical offense,” possibly including violation of his vows as bishop and conduct unbecoming a clergy member.

Love told ENS on Sept. 19 that he thought, by taking the position he did, he was upholding his vows, not violating them.

“I chose to take the action that I did, trying to be faithful and obedient to my understanding of what I believe God has revealed through Holy Scripture, what the church has taught for over 2,000 years and what the wider Body of Christ has been asking us to do,” he said.

He added that he had no intention to lead Episcopalians away from the church over the issue, though some in his diocese have told him they would not stay if same-sex marriage is allowed there.

Under Curry’s restriction, Love is “forbidden from participating in any matter regarding any member of the clergy that involves the issue of same-sex marriage,” and he is barred from penalizing any clergy member involved in marrying a gay or lesbian couple. Love appealed that restriction but agreed to abide by it while the case is pending.

Although some priests and congregations in the Diocese of Albany had expressed an openness or willingness to offer the rites to same-sex couples, there have been no reports of anyone in the diocese going against Love’s November directive.

In the church’s Title IV disciplinary process, Bishop Todd Ousley, the church’s bishop for pastoral development, serves as intake officer for disciplinary matters involving bishops. Ousley determined Love’s case merited a full investigation, and a report from that investigation was submitted to Ousley in time for the House of Bishops meeting that is now underway.

On Sept. 18, Ousley met and discussed the report with the church’s Title IV Reference Panel, which also includes Curry and Bishop Cate Waynick, president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops. That panel voted to send the case to the Title IV Hearing Panel for further consideration.

The announcement did not specify what punishment Love might face, nor did it provide a date or timeline for when the Hearing Panel will meet. The panel is responsible for reviewing evidence and taking testimony in a setting similar to a court hearing before it rules on any disciplinary action. Though such hearings are uncommon for sitting bishops, the Love case follows the 2017 hearing when then-Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno was disciplined for his conduct in a diocesan property matter.

The current members of the Title IV Hearing Panel are Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, West Texas Bishop Suffragan Jennifer Brooke-Davidson, retired Southern Virginia Bishop Herman Hollerith, the Rev. Erik Larsen of the Diocese of Rhode Island and Melissa Perrin of the Diocese of Chicago. Knisely serves as the panel’s president.

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

First female Māori bishop ordained in New Zealand

by emillard |

Bishop Waitohiariki Quayle. Photo: Anglican Taonga via ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] More than 1,000 people joined in the celebrations for the ordination of Bishop Waitohiariki Quayle as bishop of Te Upoko o Te Ika, who became the first Māori woman to be ordained a bishop in the church of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The celebration service on 12 September was held in the Anglican school Rathkeale College, Masterton, and was a day of excitement and celebration with the voices of women and young people playing a key part through readings, songs and prayers.

Read the full article here.