[Anglican Journal] General Synod passed a resolution July 15 to recognize full communion among the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC), the U.S.-based Episcopal Church (TEC), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
Dean Peter Wall, co-chair of the Joint Anglican Lutheran Commission, introduced the resolution by reading excerpts from the Memorandum of Mutual Recognition of Relations of Full Communion, which was drafted at a meeting of the Joint Anglican Lutheran Commission and the Lutheran Episcopal Coordinating Committee in September 2018.
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[Episcopal News Service] In 1971, St. Christopher Episcopal Church in League City, Texas, gave a Bible to a parishioner, David Scott, to take with him on a business trip. To this day, the congregation still has not gotten it back.
That’s because he left it on the moon.
As the world commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, the parish southeast of Houston is remembering its own small part in the history of space exploration. The Bible they presented to Scott appears to be the only one ever left on the Moon, and perhaps the only Bible outside Earth today.
Scott was the seventh person to walk on the moon (one of four living people to have done so) and the commander of the Apollo 15 mission. When Apollo 15 launched, Scott was carrying the Bible his parish had given him, though it’s unclear whether this was officially allowed. Apollo astronauts were permitted to bring personal items with them in small bags with weight restrictions. Earlier that year, Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell took 100 microfilm Bibles – the entire King James Version printed on a 1.5-square-inch piece of film – with him to the surface of the moon, but he brought all of them back to Earth.
Apollo 15 was the first mission to bring a lunar rover to the moon, and Scott was the first person to drive it there. On Aug. 2, 1971, just before returning to Earth, Scott placed the St. Christopher Bible on the lunar rover’s control panel. He walked to a nearby hollow, where he placed a memorial plaque and statuette honoring the astronauts who had died during their missions, and then he returned to the lunar module. (This was kept secret until the post-mission press conference.)
Scott, who recalled the moment in the book “Two Sides of the Moon,” later presented to his parish a signed copy of a photo showing the Bible sitting exactly where he left it on the lunar rover. That’s where it remains today: in the moon’s Sea of Showers, between Hadley Rille and the Apennine Mountains.
– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at email@example.com.
[Anglican Communion News Service] A global shortage of frankincense could threaten the production of church incense which some traditions use during worship as a visible sign of prayers ascending to God. The aromatic resin, used to produce incense, comes from Boswellia, a genus of trees and shrubs from the Horn of Africa, Arabian Peninsula and India. According to a report in a sustainability journal, there is a danger frankincense supplies will collapse after researchers found the Boswellia trees are being destroyed by cattle farming, drought and conflict.
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[Anglican Communion News Service] The world’s first Bible in Tokelauan is being prepared for publication after the final verse of the new work was translated July 10. It marks the culmination of more than 23 years of work by a team of translators led by head translator Ioane Teao.
Tokelauan is a Polynesian language spoken in Tokelau, on Swains Island in American Samoa, and parts of northern New Zealand.
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[Anglican Communion News Service] Education and joint activities across different faiths will help move some of Nigeria’s most divided communities away from hatred and fear, according to the secretary general of the Anglican Communion Josiah Idowu-Fearon.
“Education is the weapon that we must all be willing to use in our efforts to live in peaceful coexistence with one another. And that is why this institution is important,” Idowu-Fearon said speaking at the graduation of students from Kaduna Centre for the Study of Christian-Muslim Relations in Nigeria.
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[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of North India will be using its 50th anniversary this year to review, consult and then re-set its mission priorities for the next 10 years as thousands of people come together from around the country. Starting in November 2019, the golden jubilee to mark the formation of the united Church in North India, will include a year-long celebration including programs, processions, consultations and events.
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[Episcopal News Service] Trump administration officials reportedly have discussed the option of reducing refugee resettlement to zero in the next federal fiscal year, a move that critics warn could devastate the long-term resettlement capabilities of Episcopal Migration Ministries and the eight other agencies with federal contracts to do that work.
A final decision on resettlement numbers isn’t expected until September – the fiscal year starts in October – but Politico’s July 18 report on the administration’s discussions prompted Episcopal Church officials to affirm the church’s support for the resettlement program and warn against halting it.
“Welcoming the stranger is a core tenet of our faith. Episcopalians around the country in our churches and faith communities stand ready to welcome and embrace refugees,” said the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church.
His quote was released as part of a statement from Episcopal Migration Ministries, or EMM, that urged the Trump administration to return refugee resettlement numbers to historical norms after the sharp cuts of recent years. The ceiling for refugee resettlement was lowered to just 30,000 this year, down from 85,000 before President Donald Trump took office in 2017.
Reducing the ceiling to zero would parallel other policy moves the Trump administration has made to curtail both legal and illegal immigration, after candidate Trump made a hardline approach to immigration a cornerstone of his winning election bid. This week, his administration announced restrictions on protections for asylum-seekers that would turn away most of those who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum. That plan faces legal challenges.
“In light of the recent asylum restrictions, these reports of the administration admitting zero refugees next year are extremely concerning and indicate an attempt to curtail any humanitarian pathways to protection,” Lacy Broemel, policy adviser for The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, told Episcopal News Service in an email. “It’s critical that Episcopalians speak out to their members of Congress to oppose such policies.”
The Politico report is just the latest development to add to the ongoing uncertainty that Episcopal Migration Ministries and other refugee resettlement agencies face in the Trump era. It wasn’t clear until late last fall that all of those agencies’ contracts would be renewed for this year to help the State Department resettle refugees fleeing war, persecution and other hardships in their home countries.
EMM has resettled more than 95,000 refugees since the 1980s, providing a range of services for these families upon their arrival in the United States, including English language and cultural orientation classes, employment services, school enrollment and initial assistance with housing and transportation.
The agency finally received word on Nov. 30, 2018, that the State Department would renew its contracts with all nine agencies, but with the ceiling down to just 30,000 for the year, much of that work already had been reduced. EMM once oversaw 31 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses, but now that number is down to 13 affiliates in 11 dioceses.
At a meeting of federal security officials last week, a representative from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services suggested lowering the cap to zero, Politico reported, citing unnamed sources who were familiar with that plan. The immigration official, and a second official from the State Department, reportedly argued such a plan was justified by refugee security concerns, adding that protections still would be available through the asylum process.
Homeland Security officials raised the possibility of lowering the cap to 10,000 or as low as 3,000, Politico reported, effectively maintaining only the barest of resettlement programs. An official with Church World Service, one of the nine resettlement agencies, told Politico that such cuts would have long-term negative effects.
“It would mean that the capacity and the ability of the United States to resettle refugees would be completely decimated,” said Jen Smyers, a Church World Service director.
The Department of Defense, in the past, has defended the resettlement program, citing the example of Iraqi refugees who were resettled in the United States after assisting the American military in Iraq. Politico reported former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had advocated keeping the ceiling at 45,000 refugees.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has been vocal in recent months supporting refugees and compassionate immigration policies. He issued a plea to “welcome the stranger” in a video released in June for World Refugee Day, and this week, he released another video message referencing Christian teachings and scripture in lamenting the humanitarian crisis on the United States’ southern border.
Curry, in Panama for Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales, told ENS on July 19 that he hoped the Politico report was not true.
“But if it’s true, it’s wrong,” Curry said, invoking the symbol of the Statue of Liberty to counter anti-refugee sentiments. “We can be better than this. I know that we can be better than this. We have been, and we must find a way. … America must become America again.”
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Managing editor Lynette Wilson contributed to this report.
[Episcopal News Service – Guatemala City, Guatemala] Eighteen-year-old Ubelia watched as each of her four sisters became a teenage mom. As the fifth and youngest daughter in the family, she didn’t want to follow in the same path. But other than her father offering general “be safe” advice, she didn’t feel she had the education or the information to make informed choices regarding her own reproductive health and pregnancy prevention.
Enter the Guatemala Youth Initiative, a nongovernmental organization founded by Episcopalian Greg Lowden with support from others in The Episcopal Church, especially the Diocese of Virginia, wherein Lowden grew up attending Leeds Episcopal Church in Markham, 60 miles west of Washington, D.C.
“This program saved my life,” said Ubelia, her black hair tied in a tight bun on top of her head, a butterfly earring in each earlobe. “I didn’t know how not to end up like them.”
Worldwide, 20,000 girls under age 18 give birth daily in developing countries; that’s 7.3 million births annually, according the United Nations Population Fund. The pregnancy rate is even higher when factoring for unviable pregnancies; and each year, tens of thousands of teenage girls die from pregnancy complications and childbirth.
Lowden founded the Guatemala Youth Initiative in 2013. It empowers youth to make responsible sexual and reproductive health decisions by providing comprehensive sex education workshops in schools; training teen leaders as peer sex educators; and increasing access to family planning services, which are technically available through government-funded healthcare but not always easily accessible.
“Guatemala is a country that has fallen far behind in comprehensive sexual education, contraception and early childhood development compared to the rest of Latin America,” said Lowden. “Sex education and contraception are very much taboo subjects in Guatemala, based on the fear that they will incentivize youth to have sex. Despite contraceptives being available, most contraceptive providers have cumbersome processes for adolescents that make it unlikely for them to seek help.”
Ubelia’s father repairs radios, and her mother works seasonally selling Christmas ornaments. One of her sisters sells candy on a “chicken bus,” as Latin Americans call decommissioned school buses used for public transportation, while the others depend on their husbands. In November, Ubelia will become the first in her family to graduate high school, a special school for secretarial skills.
“I never want to depend on a man for anything; with my diploma I can get a job,” said Ubelia, identified here only by her first name to protect her privacy.
Ubelia’s family lives near the Guatemala City trash dump in a marginalized community that struggles with extreme poverty, family brokenness and crime. When Ubelia, now a peer sex educator, first encountered the Guatemala Youth Initiative during a workshop organized by another NGO providing educational services, a third girl in her social circle had just given birth. As studies show, when a girl becomes pregnant and gives birth, her education and job opportunities diminish.
“In underprivileged communities, most young girls who become pregnant are not able to continue their studies. They suffer social stigma, especially if the father [of the child] doesn’t ‘take responsibility,’ said Lowden. “Before, we saw many cases where the teen mother was either completely dependent on the father or finding a new man. Now, with access to contraception and support programs, we are seeing that pattern change.”
Along with education and contraception, the Guatemala Youth Initiative operates a program for teenage mothers, teaching parenting skills and providing support and community. Teen moms often lack parenting skills, and caring for a baby often means new moms spend a lot of time home alone.
The Guatemala Youth Initiative focuses its work in Zone 3, one of 18 squatter communities surrounding Guatemala City’s trash dump. Residents live side by side in cement-block and sheet-metal homes constructed along narrow walkways bleached by the sun. An area the size of 40 football fields with room for expansion, the trash dump receives two-thirds of the country’s refuse. It’s the largest trash dump in Central America and employs 10,000 workers, the majority laboring six days a week from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., making $5 a day.
The dump began operating in the 1950s after the government stopped incinerating trash. In some cases, generations of families have worked there while living in the surrounding communities. Others, fleeing rural poverty, continue to arrive in search of work.
The working and living conditions in the area have attracted the attention of charitable organizations including 30-some NGOs that provide daycare, educational, health, and counseling services to workers and their families.
“The communities around the Guatemala City trash dump are some of the most marginalized urban communities in the entire country,” said Lowden.
“Youth have virtually no access to information about sexual and reproductive health, and even less support for contraception and teen pregnancy,” he said. “We decided to focus on these areas after finding that approximately half of adolescent girls (or more) are becoming teen mothers near the trash dump.”
That finding came through a deliberate evaluation of the communities’ needs. Rather than duplicate services, Lowden, who’d previously worked for an NGO and studied child abuse rates on the ground in Guatemala, decided to conduct a six-month survey of 300 students, teachers, parents and psychologists to understand the problems facing at-risk youth.
Family dysfunction surfaced as the number one problem, which leads youth to spend most of their time away from home in the streets, and to drug and alcohol use. The survey also found that half of the children in the communities were born to teen moms; nearly half of teenagers ages 15-19 were sexually active, with many having multiple partners; and, that the majority of sexually active teenagers used no contraception.
Parents’ long hours working in the trash dump and an absence of a home structure, combined with poverty and the other challenges of living in a high-crime, marginalized community, mean that sometimes the only affection youths receive is from one another, which often leads to sex.
“If you spent your childhood in a dysfunctional household without love, you are going to look for anything that resembles it,” Lowden said. “Most youth at-risk find it through sex during adolescence when the first guy or girl shows them affection.”
At the initiative, Byron Paredes, a sexual and reproductive health educator, and Sophie Swallow, a youth coordinator, have created a secular and a biblical version of the program, the latter making it more appealing to parochial schools. The Roman Catholic and evangelical churches keep a tight grip on society. Still, as teen pregnancy rates soar, society recognizes the need for sex education and easy access to contraception.
Understanding consent, and females understanding that they are in control of their own bodies, also are part of the message, said Swallow. “They are in control of what their future will look like.”
On a June morning, 35 co-ed middle-school students wearing navy blue T-shirts with the words “hope,” “education” and “opportunity” printed on the back in large white letters, gathered in Safe Passage’s school cafeteria for a workshop. On the gray and white concrete wall, facilitators hung four posters depicting male and female anatomy, contraceptive methods and sexually transmitted infections. The workshop began with students shouting out in Spanish the anatomical parts: cervix, fallopian tubes, vagina, penis, testicles, vas deferens.
“We read all the parts of the anatomy and scream them so they know we’re not going to be uptight or squeamish,” said Swallow, as the workshop began.
“I can’t hear you: ‘vagina,’” she shouted.
Understandably, there’s some laughter. And to make it fun and competitive, the facilitators divide the students into two self-named teams. The teams then race to pin prepared construction-paper labels on the corresponding female and male reproductive organs.
Swallow and Paredes spent a year editing the workshop and learning how to communicate critical information quickly. Beyond anatomy and the male and female reproductive systems, workshop participants learn about consent, contraceptive methods, IUDs, implants, birth control pills, condoms and STIs. Using a wooden anatomical model, facilitators demonstrate how to put on a condom correctly.
“Condoms are the only method that protect against STIs,” said Paredes, and as he and Swallow both point out, their use requires consent from both parties.
When Paredes isn’t conducting workshops, he consults with clients one on one, answering teens’ questions and providing them with birth control; in some cases, he also consults with their parents, who may also be seeking knowledge about and access to contraception methods.
Swallow – who once transported a carry-on bag full of 3,000 condoms from the United States to Guatemala – admits that when she joined the initiative’s staff, she herself lacked adequate sex education and that Paredes educated her.
“Lack of sexual education is not a Guatemala problem, it’s a global problem,” said Swallow. “I am also a young woman who grew up in an education system that ignored sexuality. Unguided sexuality is a root problem across the globe, and it’s only more dangerous in marginalized communities like Zone 3. Avoiding the topic puts young people at great risk.”
Before joining the Guatemala Youth Initiative’s staff, Swallow, a student on leave from Middlebury College in Vermont, volunteered at a nearby school that closed abruptly. Through connections, she met Lowden; coincidentally, they both grew up in The Episcopal Church. Swallow grew up attending St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, North Carolina.
Despite being only 20 years old, Swallow, and Paredes, who is 28, know that peer sex educators are key to running a successful program. Ubelia, for instance, has become an expert, and fellow students at her all-girls school approach her for advice and information, and to correct misinformation. Like when a peer asked her if using contraception would lead to infertility, Ubelia answered, “no.”
The Guatemala Youth Initiative has trained more than 30 peer sex educators, and these teens often go beyond the basics into more profound discussions. It’s the teen sex educators who also refer their friends and peers to Paredes for one-on-one consultations.
“Local youth are perhaps the best suited to educate their peers in topics of sexual and reproductive health. Adolescents are much more likely to confide in one another, and if we arm local youth with correct information and resources, they can take the reins,” said Swallow. “Not only can they explain technical concepts, they can also empower their peers to take control of their futures. By training local youth in reproductive health, we give the power back to the people who need it most.”
– Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at email@example.com.
[Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles] Mt. Calvary, the monastery and retreat center of the Order of the Holy Cross in Santa Barbara, California, will close in 2021, ending more than 70 years of ministry in the Diocese of Los Angeles, according to a July 11 letter from Prior Adam McCoy to OHC associates and supporters.
The directive to close the monastery came from Br. Robert James Magliula, superior of the order, and stemmed less from financial need than from the dwindling number of monks available to staff the retreat center. OHC members at the Santa Barbara facility are Brother Will Brown, who just turned 94, Brother Thomas Schultz, who is 85, and McCoy, age 72.
As quoted by McCoy, Magliula wrote, “At our annual Chapter [meeting] in June we had frank discussions around the fragility of some of our houses and the need to focus our attention on the Order, which is overextended in four locations and three countries. The frailest of the houses is Santa Barbara. The three brothers there have done an admirable job at living the life faithfully and carrying on an extensive guest ministry. This has been accomplished, despite less-than-optimal conditions of age and health, under Adam’s leadership.
“Directed by the Chapter to make a long- and short-term plan, the Council has decided to close Mt. Calvary Monastery no later than our Chapter in 2021, and withdraw from the Diocese of Los Angeles. We have ministered in Santa Barbara and on the West Coast since 1947. At this point in our history, it is just not sustainable to maintain four houses. This is especially true with a growing number of elderly brothers who would be better served in our Assisted Living, which will be expanded in West Park,” the order’s New York headquarters.
McCoy emphasized that the monks will honor their existing retreat commitments and that their staff have pledged to remain with the monastery until it closes. “Through the end of December 2020, we will continue to function as we have,” he wrote. “From Jan. 1 through Sun., Feb. 14, 2021, we will welcome both individuals and groups. During Lent, beginning with Shrove Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, we will welcome individuals only. After Easter, April 4, we will close to retreatants and begin the necessary work to be able to move out by May 31.
“There will be many opportunities for us to share personally over these coming 22-plus months,” McCoy continued. “There will also be several public celebrations of OHC’s more than 70 years of ministry. I pray that we will all take the time to give thanks to God for the incredible blessing Mount Calvary has been, in so many ways for so many people and for so many years.”
“Hearts all over the diocese are saddened by this news,” said Bishop John Harvey Taylor of the Diocese of Los Angeles. “Mt. Calvary is a place of welcome, fellowship, prayer, deep silence, and profound learning. As with the Order of the Holy Cross, our first priority is the care of Brs. Adam, Will, and Tom as well as the lay employees. As for what happens at Mt. Calvary after mid-2021, we look forward to conversations with OHS and other potential partners about what might be possible.”
“My heart hurts as I imagine this beautiful place no longer available to us,” Sister Greta Ronningen, a monk of the Community of Divine Love, San Gabriel, told The Episcopal News. “I’m surely not alone. I have been leading annual yoga and silent retreats there for the last nine years. I will miss dropping into the prayer life of my big brothers and eating the delicious food of our beloved Louis. I will miss sharing a meal with the brothers as they weigh in with joy and wisdom. Nothing can or will replace the sense of a home away from home that I feel when I arrive there.”
The future of the monastery property has not yet been determined. The brothers moved their residence and retreat ministry to the present site next to the old Santa Barbara mission after a devastating fire in 2008 destroyed their scenic Spanish colonial-style monastery, which had been in operation since 1947. Although they first hoped to rebuild on that site on a bluff overlooking Santa Barbara, the projected cost was deemed to be prohibitive, and the property was sold.
“This is what happens. Change happens,” said Ronningen. “And we can only accept with grace what was undoubtedly a difficult decision. We can hold our memories like jewels in our hearts as they are our treasure. We can pray for the brothers as they approach the changes ahead.”
Holy Cross, an Anglican/Episcopal Benedictine order, was established in 1884 and is centered at its monastery in West Park, New York. Other monasteries are located in Toronto, Canada, and in Grahamstown, South Africa.
[World Council of Churches] The World Council of Churches invites all people of goodwill to observe a Sunday of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula on Aug. 11.
Each year, Christians are invited to join in a prayer for peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Prepared by the National Council of Churches in Korea and the Korean Christian Federation, the prayer is traditionally used on the Sunday before Aug. 15 every year.
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