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Grant programs offer boost to church renovation projects, within constitutional limits

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 4:59pm

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church was built in 1894 in downtown Jamestown, New York, and features a bell tower with working carillon bells. Photo: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] It’s a reliable truth, as familiar to Episcopalians as the words of the Gospels: Church buildings don’t get any younger.

Wear and tear on those buildings combined with the limited financial resources available to many Episcopal congregations often translates to deferred maintenance that can leave church leaders wrestling with how to be better stewards of their properties. And then lightning can strike – literally.

“Like a message from God,” is how the Rev. Luke Fodor describes the lightning strike in 2013 that damaged the bell tower at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown, New York. He joined St. Luke’s as rector the year after the tower was damaged, inheriting a list of repairs that went well beyond what could be blamed on the lightning.

“It was kind of a clarion call: Hey, take care of your buildings,” Fodor told Episcopal News Service.

One silver lining to this maintenance storm is that the very age of some older Episcopal churches can be an asset in planning for repairs, with grant money available to assist in certain projects that can be categorized as historic preservation. St. Luke’s was awarded $500,000 last month through a New York grant program, and another Episcopal congregation, St. Peter’s in Manhattan, was awarded $500,000 from the same grant program.

“It’s going to be an exciting year ahead for us,” Melissa Morgenweck, senior warden at St. Peter’s, said in an interview. The congregation, which also is searching for a new rector, has just begun taking steps toward launching its rectory restoration project with help from the grant money.

The grants were among $19.5 million awarded by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. To receive the money, the congregations must ensure the projects are thoroughly documented to meet the state’s criteria, including the ability to raise matching funds.

Grant money for historic preservation of churches is available from numerous sources, but for a grant program like New York’s that is backed by public resources, the projects must in some way benefit the public, not just the congregations. At St. Peter’s, though the rectory’s top floor is set aside as a rector’s apartment, the rest of the building is regularly used by the community for activities from substance abuse group meetings to photography classes.

“Our rectory is used very much as a community space,” Morgenweck said. “It’s become a real hub for the community, but the building needs significant work.” A leaky roof and walls are just the start, she said.

Preservation of a historic building also qualifies as a benefit to the public. A 125-year-old church like St. Luke’s can offer “history that’s visible, not just history that’s tucked away in museums,” Fodor said. His church is one of 103 buildings in downtown Jamestown that are identified as contributing to the Jamestown Downtown Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fodor acknowledged that not everyone is comfortable with giving public money to faith-based organizations, even with the goal of saving important local structures. Fodor said he initially faced pushback within his own congregation from some parishioners who questioned why state money would be used to help the congregation stabilize its bell tower and front porch.

“It’s a concern both ways,” Fodor said. “How do you use public resources? What’s the best use?”

Such questions became a legal issue in New Jersey that was settled last year by the state’s highest court, which ruled against churches that were benefiting from a preservation grant program. Three Episcopal churches were among the 12 churches in Morrison County listed as defendants in the suit brought by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation and a Morris County resident.

One of the churches, the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Morristown, had received a $294,000 grant in 2013 to restore its 1926 parish house and an additional $272,000 in 2015 to restore the church’s slate roof.

One of the underlying legal precedents was set relatively recently, in 2017, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that churches should be treated like any other community organization eligible for grant programs, as long as the money does not support the congregations’ spiritual missions.

The New Jersey court concluded Morrison County didn’t pass that test. The decision did not require the 12 churches to repay the $4.6 million they received over four years, but the county was barred from awarding money to churches in the future.

New York’s grant guidelines make such criteria clear, Fodor said. Grants cannot be used to pay for basic repairs or routine maintenance, the agency says in an online document. “Work intended for the primary benefit of the worshippers which is not restoring something historic (for example adding a new elevator or ramp for persons with disabilities) is not an eligible expense and cannot be reimbursed with State historic preservation grant monies.”

That’s why the $1.6 million project at St. Luke’s that was awarded a state grant only focuses on shoring up the structural integrity of the bell tower and porch. Separately, the church used about $700,000 that it raised through a capital campaign to pay for interior renovations that would not qualify for public money because they only benefit the congregation, such as replacing a boiler and adding a bathroom.

Fodor thinks it is easy for congregations like his to get overwhelmed by the task of keeping large, old buildings in good shape.

“They don’t teach you classes in seminary on how to do this work. You just have to feel in the dark,” he said.

The most important step, he said, is to face maintenance challenges head on and develop a plan to address them. “Just keep moving. Don’t give up,” he said.

Public grant programs aren’t the only resources available to help congregations maintain their historic buildings. Nonprofit organizations at the local and national level also award money for preservation projects, include church restoration.

In New York, for example, an organization called the New York Landmarks Conservancy offers a Sacred Sites grant program specifically for houses of worship. St. Luke’s received $45,000 in 2017 from that program to pay a consultant to conduct a full property inspection and recommend repairs. St. Peter’s received $25,000 for repairs to the church’s exterior walls.

Another funding source open to churches across the country is the National Fund for Sacred Places, a program of Partners for Sacred Places  in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and supported financially by the Lilly Endowment. In addition, Partners for Sacred Places’ offers a “Repair & Maintenance Guide” for congregations on its website.

And within the Episcopal Church, congregations are encouraged to contact the Episcopal Church Building Fund, which offers loans and consulting services to help with building and renovation projects, “so that lives inside church buildings and out in our community are transformed through the ministry of our church, by God,” the agency says on its website.

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

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La Iglesia Episcopal vende propiedad en Austin

Wed, 01/02/2019 - 8:51am
La Iglesia Episcopal ha anunciado la venta en su totalidad de la cuadra 87 en Austin, Texas a CPG Block 87, LP una Sociedad Comanditaria tejana el 14 de diciembre de 2018.

La cuadra delimitada por las calles Séptima, Octava, Trinidad y Neches, y que cuenta con un parqueadero comercial, había sido adquirida por la Iglesia Episcopal en 2009 con el objetivo final de construir un edificio que alojara los archivos nacionales. La buena gestión de este parqueadero generó un ingreso mayor cada año lo cual aumentó el valor de la cuadra 87.

En el 2017, la Iglesia seleccionó a Cielo Property Group como socio en este desarrollo inmobiliario para que incluyera espacio del terreno para los Archivos de la Iglesia Episcopal y un proyecto aledaño de uso mixto. A comienzos de 2018, la Iglesia y la constructora recibieron el visto bueno del municipio a la petición de que la ciudad renunciara a un callejón que entrecruzaba la cuadra realzando así el valor de la propiedad y allanando el camino para que el proyecto de uso mixto sea construido.

En su reunión de abril de 2018, el Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia Episcopal recibió una actualización sobre el Proyecto Archivos. “En ese momento, el liderazgo de la Iglesia acordó que nuestra decisión de proseguir de manera estratégica con el desarrollo de este lote dio como resultado un significativo incremento de su valor” dijo el Rdo. canónigo Lang Lowrey III, consejero de la Iglesia. “Si bien la intención originalmente fue crear un nuevo hogar para los Archivos en este lugar, la valorización de la propiedad y el uso del ingreso del parqueadero para reducir las obligaciones financieras presentaban una inesperada oportunidad. Es decir, vender la propiedad y con el producto de la venta buscar otros lugares y así agilizar la construcción de los Archivos”.

“Esta transacción es un acontecimiento positivo” dijo el obispo presidente de la Iglesia Episcopal, Michael Curry. “Amplía las oportunidades de la Iglesia y crea nuevas posibilidades para abordar las necesidades archivísticas de la iglesia”.

“La venta de este lote a CPG Block 87, LP replantea nuestra estrategia de obtener un nuevo hogar para los Archivos” dijo Mark Duffy, director de los Archivos de la Iglesia Episcopal. “Construir un edificio en la cuadra 87 de Austin requería una donación considerable para financiar los gastos operativos. El tener acceso al aumento del valor de nuestra propiedad a través de esta venta nos ofrece flexibilidad para poder seguir adelante con opciones diferentes para los Archivos en el siglo XXI”.

Los Archivos de la Iglesia Episcopal son el repositorio oficial de la Iglesia Episcopal que incluyen la Convención General, La Sociedad Doméstica y Extranjera, las organizaciones de la Iglesia Episcopal, y los documentos personales de sus líderes.

Los Archivos de la Iglesia Episcopal pueden consultarse en: https://www.episcopalarchives.org/

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Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2018 Christmas Sermon

Tue, 12/25/2018 - 10:52am

Read Archbishop Justin Welby’s sermon preached at Canterbury Cathedral the morning of Dec. 25.

John 1:1-14

Christmas is full of sounds. There are the sounds of parties and gatherings, of familiar people arguing, or joking, or sitting quietly enjoying being together – sounds that bring hope, or joy, or sorrow.

God, in the greatest of sounds, the Word of God, the baby at Bethlehem, calls to the world through a baby’s cry: “This is who I am. This is my way of being. This is my language, love.”

That word of God has become flesh – tangible, visible, intimate – flesh that changes the world, changes every person who hears and responds.

People will be rejoicing and celebrating, others will be causing trouble and others bringing joy. The world does not stop because it is Christmas. To think so is a dangerous illusion because God came into the reality of the world, to change it, not to give us an escape from it.

God’s love, expressed in the word of Jesus, is not a language of sentiment and cheap comfort but a language fit for the reality of a harsh world of oppression, of cruelty, of injustice and suffering. It has a vocabulary for passion, for anger, for protest at injustice and lament. It is the language of the whole of scripture. It is the language lived by Jesus, and it starts in the manger.

Language is the tool through which we decipher and describe the world. God’s language of love describes each of us, as we are, not as we pretend, claim, simulate or deceive.

God’s language of love changes us as we use it. When we weep over the suffering of a friend, lament the loss of one whom we loved, celebrate new life, discover how much someone loves us, we do so more deeply when we are filled with the love of God, a love expressed in the Word that comes into our lives through this child in the manger, God’s language of love.

When great events stir us, or gathering shadows in nation or world wake us in the dark hours, we bring light when we turn to God made flesh and speak the language of God’s love.

When suffering overwhelms, and all answers seem vain, God’s word is faithful – faithful to those who do not have the strength to hang on to God. This language is spoken even when we cannot receive it.

In this child Jesus, God comes among usphysically. God’s language of love is a body language: being present as a human amid the joys and terrors of human existence. It is a language that few understood – as we have just heard it read “the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him” (verse 10).

This language of love is why the birth of a baby to poor, unknown parents changes the nature of everything. All babies cause change. Our three-week-old granddaughter changes the lives of her parents, of her brother, of those around, but despite her best efforts she does not change everything that exists.

But this baby, Jesus, unknown, as fragile as little Iris, as needy, as limited by being a human baby – this baby, Jesus, does change everything in creation because He is the Word of God who makes it possible for us to learn the language of God’s love.

God’s language of love is exclusive. It requires us to forget other languages of hatred, tribalism, rivalry, political advantage and of materialism, pride, greed, and so many more.

God’s language of love is not mushy sentiment. In the bible we see the richness of its vocabulary. It encompasses every aspect of living, and every aspect of knowing God. Jesus the adult spoke it perfectly. The baby in the manger lives it flawlessly before He can speak a word, because by His mere existence He is the Word of God to us.

It can be spoken by the generous and wealthy and powerful.

It must be spoken by us on behalf of the persecuted, those farmers in the middle belt of Nigeria who speak God’s language of love in protest and lament as they suffer. One thousand and more killed this year alone. It must be spoken by us on behalf of the Christian communities of the middle east and around the world.

And God speaks its words for the poor and suffering and oppressed in every place at every time.

To speak God’s love fluently, we must share the heart of God, and we begin to do that through our response to the baby in the manger because in him, unlike us, there is no disconnect between his words and his actions. We over-promise and under-deliver. God under promises in the event of Jesus, a small baby born in a stable, but over delivers in giving salvation to the world.

God’s language of love is not just for Christians, or for the comfortable and respectable. Shepherds learned it from angels. Shepherds – awkward, often drunken, frequently violent, seldom religious in the sense the religious leaders wanted. Kings came, foreigners and outsiders, and they learned the language.

I have a friend, also called Justin – Archbishop Vardi of south Sudan, a country where there have been two and a half million refugees since the war started in December 2013. There the Government and opposition groups have been brought together in Christ and a ceasefire is holding.

It is learned by worship, like the Kings and shepherds. It is learned stumblingly, beginning with no more than a doubt filled, questioning opening to God who says to us and to the whole world, through this baby, “here I am”. We reply in the same way, knowing almost nothing except we are not fit or ready for Jesus, and we reply, “and here I am too”.

To follow Jesus is not through compulsion, for he has expressed God’s language of love by being a baby, so vulnerable and weak, so easily overlooked.

To follow Jesus is not to become dull and tedious, for in him is light and life more than anywhere else in all eternity. The very heavens shake with the music of his birth.

In him is love spoken and reliable.

In Him is a new language that transforms us and all around us, God’s language of love.

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Director of Anglican Centre in Rome steps down after sexual misconduct allegation

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 12:34pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The governors of the Anglican Centre in Rome have announced the resignation of the centre’s director, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, following an allegation of sexual misconduct. The Anglican Centre in Rome is the permanent Anglican Communion presence in Rome. Its director is also the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Personal Representative to the Holy See.

Read the entire article here.

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Primate of South Sudan plans New Year’s Eve peace march and prayer service

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 12:30pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of South Sudan Justin Badi Arama is calling on Christians in the country to take part in a peace march and prayer service on New Year’s Eve. His vision is for 10,000 Christians to take part in the march, which will set off from Buluk Field in Juba. They will take part in a mile-long march to All Saint’s Cathedral, where a prayer service will be held, “asking God for real peace in our nation in 2019.”

Read the entire article here.

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No word from kidnappers as more details of Nigerian bishop’s abduction emerge

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 12:28pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Police in Nigeria’s Rivers State have expressed their hope that the Bishop of Ahoada, Clement Ekpeye, will be released. He was kidnapped on the evening of Dec. 18. The Tide news website reports that the kidnappers have not made any contact to express ransom demands. The Tide reports a rise in “serious tension and anxiety” in the area following the abduction.

Read the entire article here.

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Living nativity scene offers roadside evangelism in Central Pennsylvania

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 9:31am


[Episcopal News Service] Take a centuries-old tradition. Find a church with a big front lawn on a busy street. Get a priest who is also a carpenter. Recruit volunteers – lots of volunteers. Get your friends to donate costumes. Figure out who has farm animals. Get the bishop to deliver some hay.

Put it all together, and it’s the living nativity scene at St. Andrew’s in the Valley Episcopal Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that was staged Dec. 19 from 5 to 7 p.m.

If the estimated 300 people who drove past the scene, and those who took advantage of the chance to get a photo with St. Nicholas, learned something about Jesus and the nativity and realized that “the heart of the season is open to them,” then the effort was a success, Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlan told Episcopal News Service.

If those folks make the connection that what she called this “creative and novel” effort came to them via the Episcopal Church, “that’s bonus to me.”

The living nativity was the December edition of Scanlan’s “Bishop Out of the Box” series, or BOTB, an effort to show Episcopalians how they experiment with new kinds of evangelism by thinking outside the box.

The Rev. Nelson K. Baliira, St. Andrew’s rector, said in an interview the morning after the event that he hoped the living nativity scene showed that “the Episcopal Church is a living church” in which “we are not telling our own story, we are telling the story of Jesus.” It is a story, he said, that must be told to the world over and over again.

The effort was part of Scanlan’s ongoing invitation to local Episcopalians to live out the Gospel in new and creative ways and encourage them to collaborate across parish lines. “This is a project that has taken people from the cathedral. It’s involved farmers from across the diocese,” she said. “It’s involved people from four or five different parishes who have agreed to come together to be shepherds and angels.”

The living nativity scene also attracted the attention and work of some young people “who don’t necessarily go to church all the time,” Scanlan said. Some of them took turns portraying Mary and Joseph so no one has to be outside for a long time in the winter night.

Altogether, about 40 people volunteered to make the event happen, according to the Rev. Dan Morrow, canon for congregational life and mission idea, who had suggested the living nativity. He explained that St. Andrew’s, with that big front lawn and 30,000 cars driving past each day, was a great location for something he’d been wanting to do for years.

To publicize the nativity scene, the diocese rented a large, orange digital highway construction warning sign and parked it on the side of the street by the church’s sign, with the message, “Live nativity here 5-7 December 19.”

Baliira, a bi-vocational priest who grew up in Uganda, put his skills as a carpenter to work to build the creche with the help of Steve Guszick, a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg and the husband of Alexis Guszick, diocesan canon for communications. Morrow gave Baliira a photo of a creche and, the carpenter priest told ENS, “I knew exactly what I needed to do” to get it built.

He joined together wood pallets from a local roofing company for the floor and built the back and sides with plywood and two-by-fours. The roofing material came from Home Depot, Baliira said.

The Rev. Nelson K. Baliira, rector of St. Andrew’s in the Valley, was building the manger for the living nativity scene Dec. 17 when Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlan drove up in her pickup truck to deliver the needed hay. Photo courtesy of Nelson K. Baliira

“We put everything together in four hours” on a drizzly Dec. 15, he said. Scanlan delivered the hay in her pickup truck on Dec. 17 while Baliira was building the manger.

The evening of Dec. 19, between 70 and 80 cars, each filled with adults and children, drove up the church’s quarter-mile long driveway to view the tableau. Some got out of their cars to pet the goats and donkeys, and one dog, and to talk to the participants.

Then they drove on to where the driveway forks and saw a sign inviting them to stop at the church for cookies, hot cocoa and a visit with St. Nicholas and Scanlan. Ryan Tobin, a young man who is the junior warden of St. Stephen’s in Harrisburg, played St. Nicholas. “He’s an experienced St. Nicholas,” Scanlan said. “He’s done this before.”

Tobin was vested as the bishop that St. Nicholas was, rather than the Santa Claus that his life inspired. The point was to show that Nicholas and Scanlan are “part of that same big family,” Morrow said. A history of the St. Nicholas-Santa Claus connection, written by the St. Nicholas Center, was available.

Along with his traditional gift of gold (chocolate) coins, St. Nicholas handed out candy canes that young people at the diocesan fall youth retreat had decorated to look like croziers.

The organizers also distributed an invitation “to reflect on the gift of Jesus Christ at Christmas,” Morrow said.

Baliira, who had seen living nativity scenes in his native Uganda, said the one on St. Andrew’s front lawn seemed alive with the presence of God.

“We were away from the malls,” he said with a chuckle. “We were in our little village of St. Andrew’s” with animals and people out in the quiet night air.

“The noise was the noise of the donkeys and the other animals” that reflected “the natural beauty in which the Lord Jesus came to visit us and be part of us.”

Part of a bigger plan

BTOB began in September with an agape love feast in Riverfront Park along the Susquehanna River that runs through Harrisburg. Scanlan said participants asked passersby if they needed prayers and, if so, invited them to pray with them.

“A lot of churches in this day and age have a lot to be anxious about: numbers, dwindling finances, the building, clergy shortages,” Morrow said. “One of the things we found is that, given all those things to worry about, given all the anxiety, sometimes what suffers is creativity and imagination.

“So, the basic idea of Bishop Out of the Box is to go to these different communities and help them do something that’s out of the box, something that’s imaginative, something that gets them out of the church building and into the community. We try to do them in ways that are easy to implement and are easily replicable.”

Scanlan said their travels are part of her vow to live the sermons she’s been preaching around the diocese this year. She speaks about Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s call to the Way of Love. She said she echoes his sense that God calls people “not just to the places where we’re comfortable but to go to places that sometimes make us uncomfortable and that are challenging for us, because God often needs us there even more.

“So, in standing up in the pulpit and telling people to do this, I’m also trying to model it for them; kind of walk the walk and say, ‘well, I’m going to do this, even if it makes me uncomfortable as well. We can walk together in this.’”

Also in September, BOTB did a prayer walk through the Bloomsburg Fair. When diocesan convention convened in Williamsport in October, BOTB staged a walk through the downtown “to warm up the city to us being there,” she said. Participants went to the emergency room and the bus station to pray with people.

The day before Thanksgiving, BOTB was at the Central Market in Lancaster, asking shoppers what they were thankful for and what gives them hope.

In January, BOTB will be in the Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. The area is predominantly African-American, with refugees and immigrants living there as well. People will be invited to help paint and color in an outline of King on a giant canvas and use a big blackboard to answer the question “What is your dream?”

The monthly travels have become popular, Scanlan and Morrow say. “People are kind waiting for us to come to them, and when we get there we’re inviting them to come along and they’re proud and happy to be part of it,” she said.

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

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Diocese of Ohio couple in national spotlight for outreach to Haitian asylum seeker

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 5:05pm

[Episcopal News Service] Two Episcopalians, a husband and wife from Ohio, are receiving national recognition for their outreach to a Haitian man who recently was released from federal detention after spending more than two years behind bars waiting for a decision on his request for asylum.

Not only was Ansly Damus released while his legal case proceeds, but he has been welcomed into the Cleveland Heights home of the couple who championed his cause, Melody Hart and Gary Benjamin. Living with the couple was one of two court-approved conditions of his release, the other being that he wear a monitoring bracelet on his ankle.

Benjamin’s and Hart’s nearly yearlong support for Damus and for his efforts to win release were detailed by the Washington Post in a 3,000-word feature story that appeared as the centerpiece on the cover of the newspaper’s Dec. 17 print edition. It also can be found online here.

The latest from @elisaslow: A Haitian asylum seeker had spent two years in U.S. detention until an Ohio couple tried to do something about it https://t.co/9HJUCRrUrr

— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 17, 2018

“There is no question that Mr. Damus’ access to a just process was entirely the result of Melody and Gary’s relentless advocacy on his behalf,” Ohio Bishop Mark Hollingsworth Jr. said in a written statement to Episcopal News Service. “They are a model of what is means when we vow in our Baptismal Covenant to ‘strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.’

“It is not only Ansly Damus who has benefited from their faithfulness, but each of us. They have held us and our justice system accountable for his treatment.”

Hollingsworth’s office and the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations in Washington, D.C., offered logistical support for Benjamin and Hart, who are members of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland. An Office of Government Relations staff member also helped transmit letters from Damus to his family back in Haiti.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention has frequently passed resolutions in support of immigrants, including those seeking asylum. A resolution from 2015 specifically called for “an immediate release of detained asylum seekers.”

The Post story notes the Ohio couple first heard about Damus’ case from a friend who is involved in immigrant justice issues. Hart told the Post she remembers saying simply, “We’ll do whatever we can.” That turned out to be quite a lot.

Damus, 42, was an ethics professor in Haiti whose criticism of a local politician with suspected ties to gangs resulted in threats of violence to him and his family. He chose to flee, at first to Brazil, and in 2016 he presented himself to American authorities on the Mexico border and asked for asylum, following procedures outlined by U.S. immigration law.

Federal authorities took him to a detention center in Ohio and continued to hold him, saying they considered him a flight risk. Hart and Benjamin, in addition to visiting Damus and sending Damus dozens of supportive letters, rallied others in their congregation and social circles to show he had a community willing to welcome him with open arms.

They brought 32 of those supporters with them by bus for Damus’ recent hearing in a federal courtroom in Michigan, which prompted the federal judge to remark that it was clear Damus had “a community that cared about him,” according to the Post’s report.

We are here in Ann Arbor at federal court fighting for our Haitian asylum seeker’s immediate release from Geauga County Jail. Ansly has been in a windowless cell for more than 2 years. pic.twitter.com/8IsBHNVGZl

— ACLU of Ohio (@acluohio) November 28, 2018

“I hope this shows that people in this country care about what’s happening to him,” Hart said in the Post story. “He has to believe that he’s come to the right place.”

The judge chose to delay a ruling that day on Damus’ prolonged detention, but federal authorities decided to offer a deal for Damus’ release rather than wait for a ruling, the Post reported.

Now Benjamin and Hart are Damus’ official sponsors, allowing him to live with them as he and his lawyer continue to pursue a victory on his asylum request.

“Today I am so happy,” he said on the day of his release, as Hart and Benjamin prepared to drive him home.

A Haitian asylum seeker had spent two years in U.S. detention until an Ohio couple tried to do something about it https://t.co/Wzq616hYAt pic.twitter.com/jKxuXleY9n

— Global Cleveland (@GlobalCleveland) December 18, 2018

The plight of asylum seekers has become a hot-button political issue in the United States, with the Trump administration seeking to limit the number of such immigrants allowed into the country. On Dec. 20, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would require asylum seekers at the Mexican border to wait in Mexico while their claims are under review. It wasn’t immediately clear if such a policy would apply to a case like Damus’.

“Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a news release that provides no specifics on how widespread such cases are.

The release notes that the U.S. is dealing with a backlog of more than 786,000 pending asylum claims.

President Donald Trump also was criticized last fall for using and amplifying language that demonized a migrant caravan from Central America in the runup to the congressional midterm elections. Trump’s claims that asylum seekers were invading the United States were widely seen as a misleading tactic intended to drive conservative voters to the polls – a tactic he immediately dropped after the election.

The Office of Government Relations has called on Episcopalians to raise their voices on such issues based on General Convention’s resolutions on immigration policy.

“Most of the individuals in the caravan are asylum seekers and are fleeing dangerous and unstable conditions,” the Office of Government Relations said in an October fact sheet on the Central American migrants. “The U.S. has a responsibility to respond to those seeking asylum in a humanitarian way that complies with international law. Deterring asylum seekers or turning them back is unlawful and inhumane.”

The fact sheet also says detention is “not the solution.”

“Compassion – not brutality – will help people fleeing violence now and prevent others from needing to flee,” the office said. “When someone fears for their life or the lives of their family members, cruel tactics like detention or family separation will not work. We should respond in an orderly, sensible and compassionate manner to these families.”

Damus also was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that contested the Trump administration’s detention policies. A judge ruled in July that detainees like Damus could not continue to be held arbitrarily after clearing certain hurdles in the asylum process, and the government must conduct case-by-case reviews to determine if “humanitarian parole” is warranted, according to an NPR report.

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

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Diocese of Jerusalem’s Princess Basma rehabilitation center secures international accreditation

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 12:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Diocese of Jerusalem’s rehabilitation center for children with disabilities has secured its second consecutive audit from the Joint Commission International Accreditation. The Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre, on the Mount of Olives, provides a structured program of holistic care for Palestinian children from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. In December 2015 it received its first three-year accreditation, becoming the first – and to date, the only – Palestinian rehabilitation center to receive such international accreditation. It has now completed its second audit, gaining accreditation for the next three years.

Read the full article here.

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Nigerian bishop abducted from home by gunmen

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 11:48am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of Ahoada Clement Ekpeye has been abducted from his home in Nigeria’s Rivers State by unknown gunmen. The assailants stormed the Bishop’s Court residence in the Ahoada East local government area around on Dec. 18. Deputy Superintendent Nnamdi Omoni of Rivers State Police said that officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad were leading the investigation and search for Bishop Clement.

Read the full article here.

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Nombran al Obispo Primado creador de noticias religiosas del año

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 11:00am

“Las copresentadoras del Today Show Hoda Kotb, a la izquierda, y Savannah Guthrie escuchan el 1 de noviembre al obispo primado Michael Curry hablar acerca del poder del amor. Fue una de las muchas entrevistas de prensa que Curry concedió este año. Foto de The Today Show.

[Episcopal News Service] La Iglesia Episcopal ha oído al obispo primado Michael Curry anunciar el mensaje del incondicional amor de Dios desde que fuera electo en julio de 2015. En mayo, su mensaje se hizo global y viral cuando predicó en la boda real del príncipe Harry y Meghan Markle, y ahora eso le ha ganado el título de “creador de noticias religiosas del año”.

La Asociación de Noticias de Religión dijo que el sermón de Curry había “realzado su imagen como una voz religiosa progresista”.

Eso podría entenderse. La imagen de Curry, más allá de la Iglesia Episcopal, comenzó a despegar en el momento en que se anunció su participación en la boda del 19 de mayo. Abundaron los artículos que intentaban responder a la pregunta “¿quién es Michael Curry?

Luego, él subió al ambón de la capilla de San Jorge [St. Georges], y comenzó a predicar. Según las estadísticas de los medios de prensa, 29,2 millones de personas en Estados Unidos y 18 millones en el Reino Unido vieron la boda. Y luego estuvo Twitter, donde 3,4 millones de usuarios de esa red social enviaron mensajes acerca de la boda real. Enviaron 40.000 mensajes por minuto durante el sermón de Curry, más que los 27.000 por minuto [que enviaron] durante la declaración de Harry y Meghan como marido y mujer.

Ese día, “el obispo Michael Curry” fue un “tema popular” de primera línea en Google, con una puntuación de 100 en una escala de 0 a 100 para las búsquedas diarias, y “episcopal” estuvo en el tope de las búsquedas en el [diccionario] Merriam-Webster.

La peregrinación a El Paso arroja una ‘luz de verdad’ sobre la crisis humanitaria de los migrantes en la frontera

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 10:55am

El Rdo. Paul Moore, a la derecha, que preside el ministerio de la frontera de la Diócesis de Río Grande, interpreta para el Rdo. Héctor Trejo, a la izquierda, que atiende tres iglesias anglicanas en Ciudad Juárez, México, la cual está del otro lado de la frontera de El Paso, Texas. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – El Paso, Texas] El Servicio de Inmigración y Aduana de EE.UU. entrega semanalmente dos mil personas a la hospitalidad de la Casa de la Anunciación [Annunciation House] aquí en El Paso.

Muchas de ellas son familias que han esperado su turno del otro lado de la frontera y solicitan asilo. Si la Casa de la Anunciación tuviera espacio para 2.500, serían 2.500, dijo su fundador y director, Rubén García.

Los asilados reciben alimento, cama, útiles de aseo,  un paquete de atención, acceso a una ducha y ayuda para ponerse en contacto con parientes a fin de preparar su viaje. En el transcurso de 48 horas, los instalan en autobuses o aviones para que se reúnan con miembros de sus familias en otras partes de Estados Unidos.

“La gran mayoría de la gente tiene a alguien”, dijo García.

En su mayoría, vienen de El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras; pero algunos vienen de Nicaragua, Brasil, Cuba, Venezuela, incluso hasta de la India. Algunos huyen de la violencia, algunos vienen en busca de oportunidades económicas, otros escapan de la persecución, religiosa o de otro tipo.

Unas 30 personas en representación de grandes congregaciones episcopales urbanas y suburbanas, se reunieron en Texas Sudoccidental para lo que llamaron una “Peregrinación  a El Paso”. Aquí se ven reunidos en Ciudad Juárez, junto al muro fronterizo que separa México de Estados Unidos. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

El 13 de diciembre, unas 30 personas en representación de grandes congregaciones episcopales, urbanas y suburbanas, se reunieron en Texas Sudoccidental para lo que llamaron una “Peregrinación a El Paso”. El Rdo. Gary Jones, rector de la iglesia de San Esteban [St. Stephen’s] en Richmond, Virginia, inició la peregrinación motivado por el deseo de contrarrestar una opinión que denigra a los solicitantes de asilo como narcotraficantes y violadores, cuando de hecho huyen para salvar sus vidas y en busca de medios de subsistencia.

La primera escala de la peregrinación fue la Casa de la Anunciación, donde los participantes escucharon un informe de García, que ha trabajado en la frontera durante 40 años presenciando y respondiendo a diferentes oleadas de migrantes y refugiados a lo largo de ese tiempo.

“El fenómeno de los refugiados no es un problema de El Paso, es un problema de EE.UU.”, dijo García.

“Ahora mismo, debido a la  aplicación de [la política migratoria de] EE.UU., estamos presenciando cambios que hacen la vida miserable”, afirmó. “La frontera se ha convertido en un lugar muy complicado”.

Cuando Casa de la Anunciación comenzó su ministerio hace 40 años, servía fundamentalmente a hombres que venían a Estados Unidos para el trabajo estacional, regresaban a casa para estar con sus familias y luego volvían a trabajar. En 1996, cuando el último cambio legislativo en la ley de inmigración hizo imposible entrar y salir, los hombres ya no podían regresar a sus hogares y en lugar de eso se quedaron.

“Una vez que toman la decisión de quedarse, pierden a la familia”, explicó García.

Un letrero a lo largo de la cerca fronteriza frene a la iglesia anglicana de San José en el lado de México, dice: “No somos delincuentes ni ilegales, somos obreros internacionales”. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Con el cambio de la ley migratoria de mediados de los años 90, la población indocumentada aumentó de 6 millones a 12 millones para 2004, ya que los hombres procuraban la reunificación familiar y las mujeres y los niños empezaron a llegar. En la actualidad, hay 11 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados en Estados Unidos, algunos de los cuales han estado viviendo clandestinamente de 20 a 30 años, dijo él.

A su llegada, los migrantes y solicitantes de asilo deben presentarles sus casos a agentes en los puntos de entrada designados o saltar muros y cruzar ríos para presentarles sus casos una vez arrestados a los agentes del Servicio de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza de EE.UU. o CBP (por su sigla en inglés), explicó García.

Hace un par de semanas, unos solicitantes de asilo estaban durmiendo en el puente para no perder su lugar en la cola, ya que sólo dejan entrar a 20 personas a un tiempo. Luego, en un esfuerzo por despejar el puente, el CBP comenzó a dar números que escribían con marcadores indelebles en los brazos de los solicitantes de asilo para controlar su lugar en la cola, dijo él.

De allí, los envían a los albergues de Ciudad Juárez, justo del otro lado de la frontera, para que esperen su turno.

Miguel Escobar, director ejecutivo de la Escuela de Teología Episcopal del Seminario Teológico  Unido, saluda a niños de la municipalidad de Rancho Anapra en las afueras de Ciudad Juárez. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Los peregrinos episcopales llegaron a El Paso en el preciso momento en que daban la noticia de la muerte de una niña guatemalteca de 7 años en internamiento administrativo de la Patrulla Fronteriza de EE.UU., al día siguiente de que ella, su padre y otros 161 migrantes se entregaran a los agentes luego de ingresar ilegalmente en Nuevo México. Las circunstancias de la muerte de la niña  siguen sujetas a investigación.

Para los peregrinos, sin embargo, era un patente recordatorio del peligroso viaje que enfrentan los migrantes y solicitantes de asilo, así como del anticuado sistema de inmigración de EE.UU. y de la respuesta del gobierno de Trump a la actual crisis humanitaria en la frontera sudoccidental. El gobierno ha enviado al menos 8.000 soldados a la frontera en un intento de detener la entrada. No obstante, los migrantes siguen llegando en caravanas.

“Quería ver con mis propios ojos lo que estaba pasando”, dijo el Ven. Juan Sandoval, arcediano de la Diócesis de Atlanta, un mexicoamericano de tercera generación que creció en Phoenix.

“Parecería que en lugar de soldados, deberían enviarse gente de iglesia y cooperantes, personas que pudieran ayudar”, afirmó.

El Muy Rdo. Nathan LeRud, deán de la catedral episcopal de La Trinidad en Portland, Oregón, de pie por el lado de Ciudad Juárez junto al muro que separa México y Estados Unidos en la frontera de El Paso, Texas. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Es ahí donde intervienen las iglesias. En su mayoría, la hospitalidad proviene de las iglesias de El Paso, a la vanguardia de las cuales está la Iglesia Católica Romana y la Casa de la Anunciación. Algunos solicitantes de asilo reciben asistencia jurídica de organizaciones como el Centro de Defensa del Inmigrante “Las América” [Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center] la segunda escala en el trayecto de los peregrinos.

Allí, Cristina García, que ofrece asesoría legal, explicó la complejidad de la reunificación familiar, la cual puede tomar de 20 a 30 años, dependiendo de las cuotas de EE.UU. y del país de origen, y la dificultad en ganar casos de asilo. Su agencia, dijo ella, ganó seis casos de asilo en seis años y, en un triunfo importante, siete en lo que va de año.

La crisis actual, explicó ella “es deshumanizante en todos los aspectos e ignora el derecho humanitario al acceso”. Ella dijo también que El Paso, Atlanta y el estado de Arizona son los lugares más difíciles para obtener asilo, y en el Paso, como en el resto de Estados Unidos, los jueces toman decisiones arbitrarias caso por caso.

De allí [los peregrinos] siguieron a la iglesia de San Cristóbal [St. Christopher’s], una de las cinco iglesias episcopales de El Paso y la más cercana a la frontera, que dirige el Rdo. J. J. Bernal. El Rdo. Paul Moore, que preside el Ministerio Fronterizo de la Diócesis de Río Grande, proporcionó un panorama de la situación actual en lo que se refiere a Centro América, hablando acerca del fracaso de la economía de goteo, la política exterior de EE.UU. como se ha relacionado históricamente con Centroamérica, la deportación de los miembros de las pandillas, los problemas de seguridad a través del Triángulo Norte, [y] los cárteles de las drogas, asociados a la violencia y al apetito de Estados Unidos por las drogas.

A través del Triángulo Norte de América Central, una región que incluye El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras, más de 700.000 personas han sido desplazadas por la violencia. Sin embargo, se trata de un fenómeno global que afecta ahora a una cifra récord de 68,5 millones de personas en todo el mundo.

La peregrinación siguió a una Cumbre de Ministerios de la Frontera organizada por Moore y que se tuvo lugar aquí en noviembre.

El 14 de diciembre, los peregrinos salieron para Ciudad Juárez, algunos en automóviles y otros valiéndose de accesos peatonales a lo largo de los tres puentes que conectan las dos ciudades. En Juárez, el Rdo. Héctor Trejo, que llegó hace seis meses de Chihuahua, la capital del estado de Chihuahua, los llevó en autobús a dos de las tres parroquias anglicanas.

San José, está localizada junto a la frontera en Rancho Anapra, un poblado pobre en el lado noroeste de la ciudad, un área dedicada anteriormente a la cría de ganado donde se establecieron ocupantes ilegales y que los cárteles de la droga han infiltrado.

“Debido a que aquí la gente no tiene derechos de propiedad, se convirtió en un lugar para elementos delincuenciales”, dijo Trejo. “Hay casas de seguridad, y es un centro del movimiento de narcotraficantes y tratantes de personas.

“El reto aquí es grande”, añadió, diciendo que los miembros de la comunidad acuden a él por consejo sobre cómo franquear el muro [fronterizo] porque temen por sus vidas.

De derecha a izquierda,  la Muy Rda. Kelly Brown Douglas, decana de la Escuela de Teología Episcopal del Seminario de Teología Unido; Miguel Escobar, director ejecutivo de la Escuela de Teología Episcopal, y la Rda. Winnie Varghese, directora de justicia y reconciliación en la iglesia de La Trinidad [Trinity] de Wall Street, cruzan el Puente Internacional Paso del Norte hacia El Paso, Texas. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

A diferencia de la Iglesia Católica Romana, la Diócesis Anglicana del Norte de México no cuenta con un ministerio establecido para servir a los migrantes; era algo en que los episcopales buscaban participar y algo que Trejo abordó. La realidad es tal, dijo él, que los voluntarios deben ser adecuadamente adiestrados para tratar con personas que han estado viajando por semanas y a veces por meses, personas que no se han bañado ni se han cepillado los dientes en mucho tiempo, y que han huido de situaciones traumáticas, violentas y abusivas y han encontrado lo mismo a lo largo de su viaje. No obstante, él está buscando compañeros para el ministerio y para crear una red de intervinientes a lo largo de la frontera.

Fue algo de lo que Bernal, el rector de San Cristóbal en el Paso, se ha hecho eco. La Iglesia Episcopal, dijo él, necesita articular y establecer una visión para su ministerio en la frontera.

“La Iglesia Episcopal es una voz para los que no tienen voz”, afirmó. “Aquellos de nosotros aquí en la frontera nos sentimos aislados. Necesitamos más voces activas y más recursos humanos”.

A través de su Ministerio Fronterizo, la Diócesis de Río Grande busca expandir su ministerio, dijo Moore.

Y eso, explicó él, debe asumir la forma de un ministerio en la base dirigido por los que están en el terreno mediante asociaciones basadas en el respeto mutuo, no en el patriarcado.

El último día de la peregrinación del 13 al 15 de diciembre, dos autos repletos de peregrinos partieron para Tornillo, Texas, el sitio de un campamento que se abrió para albergar a 360 menores no acompañados y que ahora alberga a 2.700. Ellos no pudieron llegar al campamento pues, tal como los agentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza les dijeron, se trata de una propiedad privada, pero lograron acercarse lo más posible y se reunieron en una cerca para orar por los niños retenidos allí: por su seguridad, por sus  afligidos padres y por su futuro.

“Me alegro realmente de que fuéramos al campamento —no lo llamaré albergue, no es un albergue—, es un campo de concentración para niños”, dijo el [Muy] Rdo. Stephen Carlsen, deán y rector de la iglesia catedral de Cristo en Indianápolis. “Sentí que necesitaba presenciar lo que estaban haciendo en nuestro nombre como estadounidenses.

“No puedo imaginar lo que sería si la frontera de EE.UU. es tu última esperanza… la manera en que las personas son [mal]tratadas y deshumanizadas. Si esta es su última esperanza, ¿de qué deben ellos huir?”

– Lynette Wilson es reportera y jefa de redacción de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

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California bishops issue call to assist Central American refugees

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 10:45am

[Episcopal Public Policy Network of California] In recent days, over 6,000 migrants have gathered at the California-Mexico border fence seeking appointments with American immigration officials to petition for asylum. With wait times projected to last for months, many are forced to live in shelters where food is scarce, and privacy is non-existent, and some become sick.

When large numbers of people cross borders to flee persecution, war, and disaster, they are considered refugees in the world’s eyes, and many nations build refugee camps or absorb migrating people, helping families to resettle and educate the children. Presently, U.S. immigration officials admit 40-100 asylum seekers into California each day, recognizing the credible fear of danger and death if migrants return to their home nations. These young families tell stories of death threats and kidnapping threats to them and their children.

As Christians during the season of Advent, we recognize the ancient echo of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, when Mary and Joseph hid the infant Jesus from the murderous Herod. We also recognize our obligation to help the oppressed and the homeless. We urge our fellow Episcopalians to appeal to government officials to speed up the processing of asylum seekers and to provide adequate shelters and legal assistance in the U.S. for recent immigrants.

We also encourage our fellow Episcopalians to work locally to provide shelter, legal aid, material support, and advocacy for asylum seekers. One way to help is to donate to organizations such as Al Otro Lado, which connects immigrants with medical and legal services, and San Diego Rapid Response Network, which provides temporary shelter and travel assistance to asylum seekers.

Let’s work together to create a more compassionate immigration system and to alleviate the suffering of our neighbors.

Episcopal Public Policy Network of California Signed in Cooperation,

The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, Bishop, Diocese of California
The Rt. Rev. Barry L. Beisner, Bishop, Diocese of Northern California
The Rt. Rev. John Taylor, Bishop, Diocese of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce, Bishop Suffragan, Diocese of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, Bishop, Diocese of El Camino Real
The Rt. Rev. David Rice, Bishop, The Diocese of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Assisting Bishop, The Diocese of San Diego

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Episcopal delegation heralds progress in addressing climate change at COP24 in Poland

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 12:31pm

COP24 President Michał Kurtyka speaks at a briefing Dec. 13 in Katowice, Poland. Photo: Episcopal Church, via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] A delegation of Episcopalians who represented Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at this month’s United Nations climate conference in Poland is heralding the conference members’ agreement on next steps toward reining in global warming – and the successful resolution of a key impasse over word choice.

The Episcopal delegation “bore witness to significant developments in international climate change policy,” the delegation’s leader, California Bishop Marc Andrus, said this week in a written statement about the conclusion of COP24, known officially as the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Nearly 200 countries met Dec. 2-14 in Katowice, Poland, with the goal of developing a framework for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which seeks to keep global warming under the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius that scientists predict is necessary to prevent a spiraling catastrophe of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and related weather extremes.

In 2016, the Episcopal Church was granted U.N. observer status, which allows members of the delegation to brief U.N. representatives on the Episcopal Church’s General Convention climate resolutions and to attend related meetings. At COP24, the delegation promoted a more ambitious goal of keeping global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Andrus said most member nations “acknowledged the need to ramp up ambitions for reducing carbon emissions, while also attending to a ‘just transition’ for the most heavily impacted countries who are also the most under-resourced for adaption.”

COP24 President Michał Kurtyka called the successful negotiations on implementing the Paris Agreement “a great achievement.”

“Our common efforts didn’t consist solely of producing texts or defending national interests,” Kurtyka said in an online statement. “We were conscious of our responsibility to people and commitment for the fate of Earth, which is our home and the home of future generations who will come after us.”

Andrus was joined for both weeks of COP24 by Lynnaia Main, the Episcopal Church’s representative to the United Nations, and Andrus’ wife, Sheila Andrus, an ecological entomologist representing the Diocese of California.

The rest of the delegation was split between the conference’s two weeks, with the first week including the Rev. Lester Mackenzie of Laguna Beach, California; Alan Yarborough, Office of Government Relations communications officer, and the Rev. Melanie Mullen, the Episcopal Church’s director of reconciliation, evangelism and creation care. For the second week, they handed off to Andrew Thompson, an environmental ethicist at Sewanee: The University of the South, and Jack Cobb, Office of Government Relations domestic and environmental policy adviser.

“Our delegation, through our meetings with negotiators, our presentations and our side events, worked tirelessly to bring our church’s own unique voice to COP24,” Andrus said. They also participated in panel discussions, conferred with ecumenical partners and joined worship and prayer services.

#COP24 Day 10: The Presiding Bishop's delegation hosted a "Spirit of Apollo 8" event, attended side events and gathered for a final dinner. Thank you to Bishop Marc and Sheila Andrus for their leadership of this COP24 team. Dziękuję, kochamy Cię! #EpiscopalClimate #EpiscopalUN. pic.twitter.com/b0WrLdC8CO

— Episcopal UN (@EpiscopalUN) December 13, 2018

One of the highlights of the delegation’s second week at COP24 was a statement it drafted to join a chorus of support among partner delegations for a climate science report by the International Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. Most COP24 member parties had sought to “welcome” the IPCC report, but that wording raised objections from the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

“The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press. “As we have made clear in the IPCC and other bodies, the United States has not endorsed the findings of the report.”

That response “was far from adequate to forward the climate action needed now,” Andrus said. He wrote an initial draft of an Episcopal delegation statement, and he and his team spent five hours revising it until it was ready to present to the U.S. delegation on Dec. 11.

The statement referenced resolutions passed by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention and invoked some of the consequences of climate change already being experienced across the church, from rising sea levels to wildfires.

“It was a clear stand based on the Episcopal Church’s policy and actions to say that words matter and that the science-based goals of a global climate agreement, which can avert the worst climate impacts, also matter,” Andrus said.

In the end, COP24 member parties adopted language that “appreciated and expressed gratitude” for the IPCC report while urging all parties to make use of its findings.

“What I hope Episcopalians will know from our small, singular experience in Katowice is that their voices matter,” Andrus said, and he encouraged anyone interested in these issues to follow the Episcopal Public Policy Network. “Advocacy is the way we express our faith in action.”

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

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Anglican Church in Japan celebrates two decades of women’s ordination

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 4:11pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church in Japan has celebrated 20 years of women’s ordination to the priesthood with an overnight retreat and celebratory Eucharist. The retreat, at the Anglican Community of Nazareth in Tokyo, was led by the Rev. Ajuko Ueda, a priest and theologian, before the Eucharist at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Tokyo. Archbishop Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu joined several bishops in the congregation for the service, which was presided over by the Rev. Atsuko Fumoto, the province’s most recently ordained female priest.

Read the full article here.

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Church of England’s first female bishop chosen for diocesan bishop role

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 4:07pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The first woman to be consecrated to the office of bishop in the Church of England, Libby Lane, is to become a diocesan bishop. Currently the suffragan bishop of Stockport in the Diocese of Chester – a role she has held since 2015 – Lane has been chosen as the next bishop of Derby. The bishop made history when she was consecrated in York Minster in January 2015. She will take up her new role after Easter 2019.

Read the full article here.

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Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Christmas message 2018

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 1:04pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] “Love came down at Christmas, because God so loved the world, that he gave,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry said in his Christmas Message 2018.

The video of the presiding bishop’s message, recorded at Bryant Park in New York, is here.

 

The text of the presiding bishop’s message follows:

 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Christmas Message 2018

In the Third Chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus says at one point, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

For years, I’ve often thought that that passage only referred to Jesus giving his life as a sacrifice on the cross. And to be sure, that is part of what it means. But some years ago I was reading a commentary by Raymond Brown, on the Gospel of John, and Professor Brown said that that passage not only speaks of Jesus willingly giving his life on the cross, but it actually speaks of Christmas, of God giving his very self, his very son to the world, not for anything God could get out of it, but for the good and the welfare and the well-being of the world. Of us.

Someone once said, in a Christmas poem, “Love came down at Christmas.”  That’s what love is.  To give, and not to count the cost.  To give, not for what one can get, but for what the other can receive. That’s what love is. God so loved the world, that he gave.

I realized recently how powerful that passage really is, when I saw an old poster from 1938.  A poster produced by the Episcopal Church at that time, to encourage Episcopalians and other Christians, and other people of faith and good will, to do whatever they could to help Jewish refugees fleeing tyranny in Europe.  To help people from all over Europe seeking refuge in America, this land of freedom. The poster depicts Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus.  They’re fleeing persecution in Palestine, as Matthew’s Gospel says. And the poster depicting Mary, Joseph, and Jesus says in the tag line, “In the name of these refugees, help all refugees.”

God so loved the world, that he gave, even to the point of risking his own son.  And in the name of those refugees, in the name of that Jesus, help all refugees, all people who suffer, anyone who’s alone, everyone who is in need.  That’s what love does.

Love came down at Christmas, because God so loved the world, that he gave.

In those days, a decree went out from the Emperor Augustus, that all the world should be registered.  Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem because he was a descendent from the House of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged, and who was expecting a child. While they were there, she gave birth to her first-born son, and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Meanwhile, in that region, there were shepherds, living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then the angel of the Lord stood above them. And the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were terrified. The angel said unto them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people. To you is born this day, in the City of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign.  You will find the child wrapped in bands of cloth, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly, there was with the angels a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to all people on earth.”

Have a blessed Christmas. Have a merry Christmas. Have a joyful Christmas.

God love you, God bless you, and may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

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