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New Hampshire churches’ immigrant ‘Solidarity Walk’ expands to include segments in 4 states

Mon, 08/19/2019 - 3:57pm

Participants in the 2018 Solidarity Walk for Immigrant Justice make their way from Manchester, New Hampshire, to Dover, tracing the path immigrants take when they are detained by federal authorities and held in the Strafford County jail. Photo: David Price

[Episcopal News Service] A faith-based march to a jail that holds immigrant detainees in Dover, New Hampshire, has grown in its second year to include walkers – and cyclists – from four states who are calling on government agencies to treat the immigrants in their communities with dignity and compassion.

The Solidarity Walk for Immigrant Justice, scheduled for this week, will culminate Aug. 24 in a prayer vigil outside the Strafford County Department of Corrections, one of the few facilities in New England with a federal contract to hold immigrant detainees. As with the inaugural Solidarity Walk in August 2018, participants this year will trek some or all of the distance to the jail by choosing one or more daylong segments.

About 100 people participated in last year’s prayer vigil at the jail. “It was a great start,” said the Rev. Jason Wells, an Episcopal priest and executive director of the New Hampshire Council of Churches, which coordinates the Solidarity Walk. “It caught a lot of people’s imaginations. It got them inspired.”

He estimated that participation will at least double this year, now that interfaith advocacy groups in Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont are organizing their own segments. The four groups will converge by midday Aug. 24 for lunch in Madbury, New Hampshire, before continuing to the jail.

The group from Massachusetts already is on its way. The Essex County Community Organization is coordinating the Massachusetts segments, stretched over six days so walkers can cover the 76 miles in time for the vigil in Dover. https://www.eccoaction.org/solidarity-pilgrimage It embarked Aug. 19 after a kickoff rally outside the federal building in Boston.

Another group is being organized by Vermont Interfaith Action. It leaves the Unitarian Church of Montpelier on Aug. 21 and has more ground to cover than any of the other groups, so participants will head out on bicycles instead of on foot. Estimated distance: 160 miles over four days.

The shortest walk is the one organized by Maine’s Kittery Advocates for All.  It starts early Aug. 24 in South Berwick, just across the Salmon Falls River from New Hampshire, and it will cover the 15 miles to Dover in about five hours of walking.

Participants from New Hampshire will walk up to 36 miles over four days, starting Aug. 21 at the federal courthouse in Concord.

One of the goals of the inaugural Solidarity Walk for Immigrant Justice was to draw attention to immigration issues in upper New England at a time when much of the focus politically had been on the United States’ southern border. This year, tensions remain high in southern states, with the Trump administration tightening its regulation of border crossings while facing criticism for its treatment of immigrant families being held in detention.

Wells noted that while large-scale immigration enforcement raids in Mississippi drew national headlines this month, smaller raids have extended north to New Hampshire. More than two dozen people lacking immigration documentation were taken into custody in the past month in the Lebanon and Littleton areas.

The New Hampshire Council of Churches, which includes the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, has been active on a number of immigration fronts, Wells said, including pressing the state’s federal lawmakers to decrease “federal funding for the deportation machine.” And with New Hampshire set to hold the nation’s first presidential primary in February, people of faith are asking candidates on the campaign trail how they would stop what they see as harmful enforcement policies.

Member churches are particularly alarmed by separation of families during deportation proceedings, and Wells said that threat has been amplified by the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era policy also known as DACA that protected about 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

DACA recipients are now being used as bargaining chips in legislative negotiations, Wells said, which “treats real human lives without the dignity that we would extend to everyone else.”

The Strafford County jail in Dover, New Hampshire, is one of more than 200 prisons and jails that hold federal immigration detainees and the one such facility in the state. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Such topics are expected to be part of the conversation during evening gatherings this week at the end of each segment of the Solidarity Walk. Participants will close each day at host churches, which will offer potluck suppers and a place for multi-day walkers to stay overnight.

On the final day, members of the public are invited to join the four-state group of walkers and cyclists at 4 p.m. for the prayer vigil at the Strafford County jail. A leader from the advocacy group Faith in Action is expected to lead a litany of lament for individuals and families harmed through immigration enforcement actions.

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

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St. Louis parish that left Roman Catholic Church in serious talks to join Episcopal Diocese of Missouri

Fri, 08/16/2019 - 4:54pm

[Diocese of Missouri] After years of discussion and discernment, we may soon have word about a possible union between St. Stanislaus Kostka Polish Catholic Parish and the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri.

In a survey of parishioners conducted Sunday, Aug. 11, 58% of St. Stanislaus’ members said they are in favor of affiliating with our diocese. That survey has led to continued discussions between St. Stanislaus and The Episcopal Church, with an update on the situation expected at any time.

The Rev. Marek Bozek and Bishop Wayne Smith at St. Stanislaus Kostka Polish Catholic Parish in St. Louis, Mo., on Aug. 4, 2019. Photo: Diocese of Missouri

“There’s a natural attraction, a natural gravity to your model of being Catholic — it’s so natural,” said the Rev. Marek Bozek, pastor at St. Stanislaus. Fr. Bozek describes his parish’s members as “progressive traditionalists.” He says they are very traditional when it comes to liturgy, but also believe in the full inclusion of everyone at every possible level of the church.

“Many marginalized Roman Catholics have found a home at St. Stanislaus. They really are of kindred spirit,” said Bishop Wayne Smith, who welcomes the possibility of a union.

St. Stanislaus broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in 2005 following authority disputes with the Archdiocese of St. Louis. A legal settlement in 2013 allowed St. Stanislaus to become an independent Catholic church and affirmed the parish’s ownership of its church building and property in St. Louis’ Carr Square neighborhood.

Although they welcomed independence, the parish began seeking affiliation with other churches to be connected to a wider community and, as Fr. Bozek says, a priest needs a bishop. Fr. Bozek and Bishop Smith began discussing a possible union in 2013. Bishop Smith issued a letter to the diocese at that time:

“On the face of it, the Diocese and St. Stanislaus have many things in common — in sacramental practices, in Catholic identity, in commitment to the marginalized, in having cherished heritages.”

The letter goes on to explain The Episcopal Church’s existing connection to St. Stanislaus through the Union of Utrecht, of which both churches are in full communion:

“The Union of Utrecht consists of churches in 10 European nations with about one half-million members in all and, like the [Anglican] Communion, it preserves the historic episcopate and recognizes the seven sacraments of the Western church. It recognizes the three Catholic orders of ministry. The Union regards The Episcopal Church of the Anglican Communion as its representative in the United States.”

Since those initial discussions six years ago, members of St. Stanislaus have considered all their options, including unions with other churches. Bishop Smith said he felt it was important to give the parish time and space to make their own decision.

Bishop Smith met with Fr. Bozek and lay leaders of the parish earlier this month — before their survey — to answer questions. He assured members their parish would be able to maintain their own traditions or incorporate those of The Episcopal Church, if they so choose. (Canon I.16 of The Episcopal Church provides for a parish to come into affiliation with one of its dioceses and yet retain its own liturgical practices and rites.) Under the union, our bishop would make regular visitations, provide oversight for the congregation and clergy, and assist any members seeking ordination.

“I’m so very grateful to Bishop Smith in his position. He’s been so gracious to us,” Fr. Bozek said. “He’s going out of his way to make sure we can keep our identity as a Polish Catholic church. I truly appreciate his efforts.”

Bishop Smith has notified the Diocesan Standing Committee, Bishop Mike Klusmeyer of West Virginia (liaison to the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference) and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry about this possible union. For the affiliation to be official, Bishop Smith would make an application to Presiding Bishop Curry on behalf of St. Stanislaus to request permission for the union.

Whether St. Stanislaus officially affiliates with the diocese or not, the parish will be playing a major role in our near future by hosting the ordination and consecration of our 11th bishop on April 25, 2020. The Transition Committee chose their sacred space for the event because of its size, accessibility and inclusiveness to all. The church shares grounds with the Polish Heritage Center, which will host a celebration reception following the service.

Please send any comments, questions or concerns about this possible union to communications@diocesemo.org.

Janis Greenbaum is the Diocese of Missouri’s director of communications.

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Churches urged to join in World Day of Prayer for Creation

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 5:09pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Green Anglicans are urging churches to join in the World Creation Day of Prayer on Sunday, Sept. 1. The day marks the start of an annual celebration of prayer and action to protect creation called the Season of Creation.

The season, which begins on Sept. 1 and runs through the Feast Day of St. Francis on Oct. 4, is set to be celebrated by tens of thousands of Christians around the world. Volunteers organize a range of events and activities in their own communities, from prayer services to litter cleanups or advocacy actions.

Read the full article here.

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RIP: Edward Alonza Holmes Jr., founder of church’s Overseas Development Office

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 4:56pm

Edward Alonza Holmes Jr. (June 6, 1925 – August 12, 2019)

Edward Alonza Holmes Jr. packed adventure and good works into his 94 years of life. Born June 6, 1925, in rural Washington County, Georgia, he was the oldest of a family of three boys and two girls. He did well in school and athletics, all while helping with all the various chores on the family farm. After he completed high school, he became a naval aviator and trained as a dive bomber pilot during World War II. His passion for flying remained with him throughout his life and extended to restoring an old Aerocoupe — his favorite aircraft — which he flew for years.

After the war he completed his undergraduate degree at Mercer University and then earned a divinity degree and a Ph.D. in history from Emory University.

He became a chaplain in the Naval Reserves and served until his retirement as a commander in 1972. Up until the last decade of his life, he remained an enthusiastic pilot.

Ed’s career reflected his interest in serving and helping make the world a better place. He was an ordained Baptist minister, a professor at Stetson University, a dean at Emory University, a soccer coach and referee, a Peace Corps regional director in Nigeria, and the founder of the Overseas Development Office of the Episcopal Church,which helped establish libraries, hospitals and refugee programs in many areas of Africa. In Liberia, he was the dean of a private university and creator of a rural farming development program, and a grants administrator for the International Foundation.

Ed loved doing things that made the world a better place and worked well into his 80s. He traveled all over the world, meeting and encouraging people, and helped fund projects in health, education, and humanitarian assistance.

Thailand, the Amazon River basin, Vietnam, Sudan, Kenya, Liberia, the Philippines and many other developing areas benefited from his work, which brought hospitals, schools, clean running water and other resources they needed.

He had an undying interest in the happenings in the worlds of science, history and human affairs and was an avid reader of books, periodicals and magazines that expanded on his voracious appetite for knowledge. Ed was also a lifelong athlete who loved competing in track and field events, especially high jump, shot put, discus, and hurdles. Inducted into the Emory University Sports Hall of Fame, he continued attaining records and wins in masters events worldwide up into his 80s.

He was the proud and loving patriarch of a large family. He leaves behind his beloved wife, Shirley Miller Holmes, and children, Jane Holmes Bass (Leon), Margaret Holmes Bryant (Bill), Graham Holmes (Rebekah), and Shirley Kathryn Woods (Tim); as well as stepchildren Frances Page Glascoe, Charlotte Rorech (Paul), and David Page, along with numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren. Edward was preceded in death by two sons, Edward A. (Skip) Holmes III and Douglas M. Holmes.

A memorial service will be held at Whispering Pines Retirement Community, 7501 Lead Mine Road, Raleigh, NC 27615. The date and time of the service are still to be determined.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center (https://splcenter.org).

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Welby backs proposal for Holocaust memorial beside London’s Houses of Parliament

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 3:14pm

Archbishop Justin Welby at Auschwitz in 2017. Photo: Lambeth Palace

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishop of Canterbury has given his support to plans for a Holocaust memorial and museum next to the Palace of Westminster in central London.

Archbishop Justin Welby is among other senior faith leaders to back the proposal to build a series of bronze structures in Victoria Tower Gardens, alongside the Thames River and the Palace of Westminster.

The plans include an underground learning center to commemorate the millions killed by the Nazis during the Second World War.

Read the full article here.

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Appeal launched to help restore historic cathedral in Mauritius

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 1:20pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The bishop of Mauritius and former primate of the Anglican Church of the Indian Ocean, Archbishop Ian Ernest, has helped launch an appeal to restore the Cathedral of St. James, the mother church of the Diocese of Mauritius, which has been closed for the past year.

The Archbishop, who will take up his new role as the director of the Anglican Centre in Rome later this year, said: “The cathedral has been used as a place of prayer since 1832. Today we have the opportunity to give a second birth to this holy place, which is part of the national heritage of Port Louis. We pray God’s help is with us to discover the generosity within us, so that together future generations are able to discover the diligence with which we have taken care of this holy place, which belongs to all of us.”

The appeal aims to raise funds towards the restoration of the 160-year-old building, which has gradually been falling into disrepair with damage to its roofs and internal structures.

Read the full article here.

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Nominations sought for women’s advocates to attend UN event in 2020

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 1:14pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The search is on for women from across the Anglican Communion to attend the 64th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), to be held in New York next March.

Each year the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, invites primates to nominate women to represent the Anglican Communion at the event. The annual meeting of the CSW draws 9,000 women and men from all the regions of the world to the U.N.’s New York headquarters, with delegates representing and advocating for an estimated 3.7 billion women and girls worldwide.

Read the full article here.

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Youth officer’s advocacy helps Scottish churches tackle rural poverty

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 1:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A youth officer from the Scottish Episcopal Church has been helping rural churches take practical steps to tackle child poverty in their communities.

Ley-Anne Forsyth, 29, who works part time for the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness, in addition to working for a social housing provider, has been a powerful advocate visiting churches and challenging church leaders about tackling injustices in their communities.

“I’ve been a youth officer for the past five or six years and the reason I do that is because young people need a voice,” she said. “I was a young person in a church who needed a voice once, and I was given it by our youth chaplain. It is a really important thing that young people are heard and are influencing our decisions because it’s their world we’re leaving behind.”

Read the full article here.

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Milwaukee bishop announces plans to retire in 2020

Wed, 08/14/2019 - 9:49am

[Diocese of Milwaukee] Milwaukee Bishop Steven Andrew Miller announced his plans to retire in November 2020 in an Aug. 14 letter to the diocese. 

Dear Friends in Christ,

Some years ago when Cindy and I were replacing the roof on our home in Racine, one of our neighbors came by and asked if there was a problem with the roof or was it “just time.” We responded it was “just time.” This phrase has now become part of our family vocabulary. That conversation came to me as I prepared to write this letter to you.

After over thirty-five years of ordained ministry and almost sixteen years as your bishop, it has become clear to me that it is time for me to retire and pass the crozier on to the 12th bishop of Milwaukee. Last night, the Standing Committee, Chancellor and I met with the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley of the Office of Pastoral Development to inform them of my intention to retire in November of 2020 and to begin the process of electing the next bishop of this Diocese.

I have felt a multitude of emotions as I considered these plans, but gratitude for our work and life together in my 16 years as your bishop is first and foremost. I have loved being your bishop and serving Christ with and among you. Our diocese has made a distinctive commitment to forming young persons for ordained ministry and giving them the opportunity to lead, as evidenced by the fact that we have the second-youngest average age of priests in the Episcopal Church. Moreover, thanks to the joint venture with LZ Developers at St. Francis House, our campus ministries at UW-Madison and around the Diocese are on a sure financial footing.

We have also reformed the way that we as a diocese come together to do the work that God has given us to do. Our governance is more representative and transparent than ever, and by making some difficult choices, we’ve lowered the percentage that parishes pay into the diocesan budget and the percentage of the diocesan budget that comes from these assessments. And through some difficult years in the life of our church, our diocese has remained united—not of one mind on all the issues of the day, but united in Christ nonetheless.

With my impending retirement, you have an opportunity, from a position of stability, to face the future. I pray that God will bless you with wisdom and courage, and that the Holy Spirit will lead you in discerning the role our diocese is called to play in the lives of our members, our communities and our church.

In the months I have remaining with you, Cindy, the girls and I hope to have the opportunity to say good-bye to many of you in person. Please be assured that you are in my prayers and that I will carry you all in my heart wherever God calls me to go.

Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
11th Bishop of Milwaukee

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Anglican Journal launches digital magazine ‘Epiphanies’

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 1:38pm

[Anglican Journal] Anglicans looking for in-depth stories and diverse perspectives on complex subjects have a new place to look: Epiphanies, a digital magazine produced by the Anglican Journal team.

The summer issue of Epiphanies, published Aug. 12, focuses on crisis within creation. This first issue offers in-depth reporting on the theology of beeschurch greeningclimate change in the North and food security in Newfoundland and Labrador. It also features reflections by Primate Linda NichollsNational Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Mark MacDonald, and the Rev. Vivian Seegers.

Read the full article.

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ELCA Churchwide Assembly calls sexism and patriarchy sins, condemns white supremacy

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 11:55am

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, far left, addresses the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Aug. 8, 2019. Photo: Emily McFarlan Miller/Religion News Service

[Religion News Service] A new social statement from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America labels patriarchy and sexism as sins and acknowledges the church’s complicity in them.

The social statement — titled “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Call to Action” — was approved by the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly with 97 percent of the vote Friday morning (Aug. 9) on the last full day of the denomination’s triennial meeting at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee.

Afterward, the assembly rose in a standing ovation and sang “Canticle of the Turning,” with the lyrics, “Wipe away all tears,/ For the dawn draws near,/ And the world is about to turn.”

And the Rev. April Larson, the first woman bishop in the ELCA, spoke about the changes she has seen in the church in the 50 years since Lutherans began ordaining women in the United States.

“What a time. What a day for me to be here with you, and I’m so thankful to God and to our wonderful church,” Larson said.

“We are changing. We are being made new. God is busy with us.”

The social statement, which focuses on issues related to justice for women, is seven years in the making.

When the task force that created it started its work, “women’s justice issues were not dominant news,” said Bishop Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld of the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin.

That changed in recent years, as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have drawn attention to sexism and violence toward women, said Thomas-Breitfeld, who co-chaired the task force on women and justice.

“It seems that our work flourished in the sweet spot of the shifting societal awareness,” she said.

For the mainline Lutheran denomination, social statements like the one on women and justice are teaching and policy documents that provide a framework for members to think about and discuss social issues.

This is the 13th social statement adopted by the ELCA. Others include topics like race, ethnicity and culture; caring for creation; and human sexuality.

The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly called for the denomination to write the latest statement, said Mary Streufert, director of the ELCA’s Justice for Women program.

“The thoughtful foresight of the church to precede #MeToo — it’s quite stunning to know that there is this proactive work as opposed to reactive work,” Streufert said.

She said the statement offers an alternative way for the country to see Christianity’s view of women. That’s needed, she said, at a time when “the predominant Christian way to talk about gender puts men and women in a hierarchy.”

A specially created task force consulted with experts both inside and outside the church about topics related to justice for women. Task force members also listened to fellow Lutherans about what they hoped the statement would express, Streufert said.

Most of the feedback the task force received was positive, according to the director.

She said that at least one retiring bishop told her, “I’ve been waiting all my life for the church to say something like this.”

And task force member Bethany Fayard of the Southeastern Synod said she heard from a number of teens at an ELCA youth gathering about their experiences of bullying and sexual assault.

“Many came back multiple times because they felt like we were listening and that this church stands with them,” Fayard said.

“This social statement is a declaration by the ELCA that we stand with all women. Here I stand. Let us stand together.”

Fayard identified herself as a survivor of sexual assault in a different denomination. But it’s not just survivors of gender-based violence who are harmed by patriarchy, she said.

“For too long, women and girls haven’t been able to see God’s reflection in ourselves,” she said.

Serving on the task force challenged some of the preconceived notions held by William Rodriguez of the Florida-Bahamas Synod, he said.

Rodriguez — who teaches ethics, Christian ethics, theories of justice, Africana philosophy and philosophy of religion at Bethune-Cookman University — said his eyes were opened to some of the ways men interact with women that he never had thought about.

That includes telling women to smile or complimenting women’s appearances — things men don’t say to other men, he said.

He also began to notice little ways he treated his son and daughter differently.

“Through the process, I learned so much,” Rodriguez said.

Thomas-Breitfeld, the bishop who co-chaired the task force, said task force members drew from a biblical understanding that God desires “abundant life for all.”

“From the beginning, we wanted to signal that this issue is not only about women. The reason for this work was about all of us,” she said.

The statement on women and justice isn’t meant to sit on a shelf, Thomas-Breitfeld said.

It calls on the ELCA to act to end gender-based violence, to encourage women and girls to pursue ministry and leadership roles in their congregations, to use “gender-inclusive and expansive” language for God and to address inequities in pay and hiring both inside and outside the church.

“We are not able to make the world perfect, but, my siblings, we are called to serve the world in love, including through implementing resolutions that keep us accountable as a church together,” Thomas-Breitfeld said.

With more than 3.3 million baptized members, the ELCA is one of the largest Protestant Christian denominations in the United States. Its churchwide assembly includes 927 voting members from more than 9,100 congregations across the U.S. and the Caribbean.

Other actions that were approved by the Churchwide Assembly as of Friday morning include:

  • A resolution declaring the ELCA a sanctuary denomination — the first denomination in North America to do so, according to Living Lutheran.
  • A resolution condemning white supremacy, specifically calling out language that uses words like “invasion” in reference to immigrants or people of color and naming violent rhetoric in the name of Christian nationalism as “idolatry.”
  • A resolution commemorating June 17 as a “day of repentance in the ELCA for the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9,” who were murdered during a Bible study at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., by a white supremacist who was a member of an ELCA congregation. Two of the victims — the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the Rev. Daniel Simmons — also had attended an ELCA seminary.
  • A “Declaration of Inter-Religious Commitment” approved in front of a large group of ecumenical and interreligious guests — something, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said, “we are not seeing enough of in our country.”
  • A “Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent” that included a confession of the church’s complicity in slavery, named racism as a sin, acknowledged the institutional racism that continues within the denomination and vowed to repent and work for racial justice.
  • And the re-election of Eaton — the first female presiding bishop of the ELCA and now the first to be reelected on the first ballot, according to the denomination.

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Disability advocates call for inclusive action by UN for refugees

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 5:26pm

Migrants waiting to cross the border between Greece and Macedonia carry a woman in a wheelchair in a camp near the village of Idomeni, Greece, in March 2016. Photo: Marko Djurica / Reuters via ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] Church disability advocates from various countries have called for further action from the United Nations to protect people with disabilities in areas of conflict.

Eighteen leaders from the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (WCC-EDAN), met in Beirut, Lebanon, in July, to address concerns in the region and to evaluate the strategic plan.

Executive secretary for the WCC-EDAN Anjeline Okola Charles said all delegates saw firsthand the difficulties facing those with disabilities in refugee camps and zones of conflict in the Middle East.

Read the entire article here.

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Episcopal diocese joins Mississippi churches offering support for families affected by raids

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 5:08pm

Federal authorities conduct a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement worksite enforcement operation in Canton, Mississippi, on Aug. 7. Photo: Immigration and Customs Enforcement

[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of Mississippi is mobilizing Episcopalians in the state to assist families affected by federal immigration raids this week as Bishop Brian Seage joined other religious leaders in condemning the raids, in which nearly 700 workers were taken into custody at seven Mississippi chicken processing plants.

A joint statement signed by Seage and four Catholic, Methodist and Lutheran bishops in Mississippi called on the Trump administration to end immigration enforcement tactics that they say are spreading fear in local communities and threatening to cause “unacceptable suffering” for families and children.

“Within any [political] disagreement we should all be held together by our baptismal promises,” the bishops said. As followers of Christ, “we are his body and, therefore, called to act in love as a unified community for our churches, and for the common good of our local communities and nation. … Of course, we are committed to a just and compassionate reform to our nation’s immigration system, but there is an urgent and critical need at this time to avoid a worsening crisis.”

Seage also spoke briefly at an immigrant rights rally Aug. 8 in Jackson and issued a written statement that raised specific concerns about the effects of the raids on families living in Mississippi.

“We don’t know how many children have been affected at this time, but I am asking for churches and individuals willing to help with caring for the children to contact local officials,” Seage said in his online statement. “Likewise, we are exploring avenues through which support, financial and otherwise, may be extended.”

Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeted several plants in central Mississippi on Aug. 7 that were suspected of employing workers who lacked proper immigration documentation. The raids were said to be the largest conducted so far under President Donald Trump, whose hardline approach to immigration has been a cornerstone of his campaign and presidency.

The Department of Justice announced the day after the raids that 300 of those detained already had been released.

“That’s not enough,” Seage said at the rally in Jackson (starting at about the 36:00 mark here). “And it won’t be enough until all those families are reunited – and likewise, [until] others who dare to have the American dream and dare to go to work can go to work and not worry whether or not they will be coming home at night.”

Seage told the crowd he was horrified by the news of the raids. “Horrified to imagine children being separated from their parents,” he said. “And children coming home to an empty house.”

Federal authorities said they took precautions so children were not left without a parent’s care due to the raids. A Justice Department statement said those detained “were asked when they arrived at the processing center whether they had any children who were at school or child care and needed to be picked up,” and cellphones were provided to help them make arrangements for child care as needed, according to the Justice Department. The department said some parents were released to ensure “all children were with at least one of the parents.”

But some of the families were “traumatized,” Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jackson told the Jesuit magazine America. His diocese’s Catholic Charities is among the agencies reaching out to those families now to offer assistance.

“This is a man-made disaster,” Kopacz said, noting also that the raids happened on the first day of school in these communities. “These folks are our neighbors. They’re not criminals, the vast majority of them. They’re hardworking people.”

Family separations under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies sparked intense controversy last year, prompting federal officials to back down from those measures, though conditions at detention facilities on the southern border remain a contentious issue.

The Episcopal Church, at its General Convention in July 2018, passed a resolution decrying and urging a halt to “the implementation and intensification of inhumane and unjust immigration policies and practices such as detaining and separating children from parents.” It was adopted after more than 1,000 bishops, deputies and other Episcopalians participated in a prayer vigil held outside an immigrant detention facility near the convention center in Austin, Texas.

Another resolution approved last year affirmed the church’s support for “respecting the dignity of immigrants” through immigration policies and reforms.

More recently, church leaders expressed alarm in June when the Trump administration threatened a large-scale roundup of immigrants facing deportation orders in 10 cities. Those threats mostly fizzled.

“We are called as people of faith to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being,” Seage said at the Aug. 8 rally in Jackson.

Seage, in his follow-up statement, asked members of his diocese to contact the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services if they know of a child affected by the raid who is in need of care. That agency put out its own statement saying it was ready to assist children whose parents were detained.

Federal authorities did not alert the state to any child care needs, but the state agency began preparing an emergency response after learning about the raids through local news reports.

“We have foster homes that have been carefully inspected and licensed, and foster caregivers who have been well trained and have passed criminal background checks,” Child Protective Services spokeswoman Lea Anne Brandon said in a news release. “We know we can provide safe and secure placements and trauma-informed temporary care for these children – but we have not been asked to do so.”

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

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Maori trip to South Dakota reservation highlights unity of indigenous Anglicans

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 5:04pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] To mark International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on Aug. 9, Anglican Communion News Service spoke with Isaac Beach, a youth representative on the Anglican Consultative Council from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Beach is a Maori of Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Rangitihi decent. He is is Kaikarakia (prayer leader) at Saint Luke’s in Paki Paki, a village on Aotearoa, New Zealand’s North Island.

“Recently, six indigenous youth from my diocese visited Pine Ridge Reservation in the Diocese of South Dakota, where we spent two weeks in cultural exchange and indigenous mission with the Red Shirt community of Lakota-Oglala Nation,” Beach said. “I strongly believe exposing our young people to international experiences through indigenous exchange is critical to informing how they can live a Christ-centered life. It is a wonderful tool for intentional discipleship.”

Read the full story here.

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ELCA declares itself a ‘sanctuary church body,’ marches to ICE building in Milwaukee

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 5:11pm

Hundreds of attendees at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly march to the ICE building in Milwaukee for a prayer vigil in support of migrant children and their families on Aug. 7, 2019. Photo: Emily McFarlan Miller/RNS

[Religion News Service – Milwaukee] More than 500 years ago, a monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses outlining his grievances with the Roman Catholic Church to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany.

On Aug. 7, members of the mainline Protestant denomination bearing Luther’s name taped 9.5 theses — expressing their concern for immigrants and refugees — to the door of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Milwaukee.

The action was part of a prayer vigil for migrant children and their families during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly this week at Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Center.

It took place on the same day the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America declared itself a “sanctuary church body,” signaling its support for immigrants.

Both came in response to President Trump’s policies at the United States border with Mexico and his pledge to deport millions.

“It just keeps getting worse and worse in terms of unaccompanied children, separated families, detention centers that are just horrific, and so what we wanted to say as a church body, as the Lutheran church, we wanted to now act with our feet and take action,” said Evelyn Soto Straw, director of unit operations and programs for the ELCA’s Domestic Mission.

More than 570 voting members of the churchwide assembly signed up to participate in the prayer vigil at the ICE building. They were joined by staff from the ELCA and its AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities)  ministry, as well as members of the Greater Milwaukee Synod, the New Sanctuary Movement and Voces de la Frontera, a local grassroots organization.

The group marched nearly a mile from the Wisconsin Center to the ICE building, carrying signs with messages like “We put the protest back in Protestant” and chanting “This is what the love of God looks like.”

There, Bishop Paul Erickson of the Greater Milwaukee Synod opened the vigil in prayer to “Jesus Christ, immigrant and savior.”

“Marching is fun, words are great, but action makes a difference,” Erickson told the crowd gathered in the street.

The Rev. Erin Clausen of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod said she joined the vigil as a pastor, a mother and a spouse. Christians are supposed to bring the good news to everyone — “especially to those who are hurting and fearful,” Clausen said.

She thinks of the children separated from their families and of what she would want others to do if that were her child, and her heart breaks, she said.

Clausen marched alongside Iván Pérez, who is lead organizer and trainer on the Metropolitan Chicago Synod’s Antiracism Team.

Pérez, who is Puerto Rican, said his faith gives him boldness to speak out in support of immigrants.

He was “very happy and proud” of the ELCA after the vigil, he said as he marched back to the Wisconsin Center with the group.

Hundreds of attendees at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly march to the ICE building in Milwaukee for a prayer vigil in support of migrant children and their families on Aug. 7, 2019. Photo: Emily McFarlan Miller/RNS

The ELCA Churchwide Assembly — the primary decision-making body of the ELCA — meets through Saturday.

With more than 3.3 million baptized members, the ELCA is one of the largest Protestant Christian denominations in the United States. Its churchwide assembly includes 927 voting members from more than 9,100 congregations across the U.S. and the Caribbean.

The assembly is considering several immigration-related resolutions this week.

On Wednesday afternoon, after the lunchtime vigil, it passed a resolution declaring the ELCA a “sanctuary church body.” That term was proposed by Christopher Vergara, a voting member from the Metro New York Synod.

“We continue to do God’s work with our hands in language the world understands,” Vergara said.

Other measures approved so far this week by the assembly include a resolution recommitting to “being an advocate and justice seeker for immigrants,” advocating for Temporary Protected Status extensions and reaffirming its work with AMMPARO and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service to call for immigration policies and practices that keep families together.

Another resolution, calling on congregations, synods and other church organizations to speak out against the “inhumane policies of harassment, detention and deportation implemented by the U.S. government,” also passed.

Next, the assembly will consider a resolution requesting ELCA staff develop a plan for additional tools providing education and discernment “specifically directed to political rhetoric and the accurate portrayal of migrants and refugees.”

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RIP: Robert Stevens, founding director Dominican Development Group

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 11:45am

[Diocese of Southwest Florida] Robert “Bob” Stevens, the founding director of the Dominican Development Group, died July 29, 2019, at age 76.

“We have lost in the Diocese of Southwest Florida a great saintly asset in the life and mission purpose of Dr. Bob Stevens,” said Bishop Dabney Smith, in a statement. “His sudden death is a shock and great sadness for many, both in this diocese and particularly in the Diocese of the Dominican Republic.”

Read the full obituary here.

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Clergy protest outside Mitch McConnell’s office, demand action on gun violence

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 4:19pm

Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde of Washington, D.C. speaks to a crowd protesting outside Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office in Washington on Aug. 6. Photo: Jack Jenkins/Religion News Service

[Religion News Service] A group of clergy protested outside Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office on Tuesday (Aug 6), calling on the Republican Senate majority leader to take action to address gun violence in the wake of two mass shootings over the weekend.

The band of around two-dozen faith leaders, who called themselves the Coalition of Concerned Clergy, prayed and challenged what they said was the Senate’s inaction on the issue of gun violence.

Helping lead the event was the Rev. Rob Schenck, who serves as president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, a nonprofit organization that addresses social issues from a Christian perspective. He listed a number of possible policies lawmakers could pass to address gun violence, such as universal background checks or “extreme vetting” for citizens wishing to purchase an assault rifle, but stressed the issue is a moral one.

“As a Christian … we are required to rescue those who are perishing, to come to their aid, and the Bible says if you fail to do it God will hold you to account,” Schenck, who is also a founding signer of an evangelical Christian pledge to take action on gun violence, told Religion News Service. “That’s our message to the senator today. Maybe he fears the NRA more than God. He shouldn’t.”

Also in attendance was Bishop Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C. A longtime advocate for gun violence prevention, Budde said Congress could pass a number of laws to prevent future bloodshed.

“I am among those who believe weapons of war don’t belong in the hands of civilians,” she said. “We’ve just been lulled into this sense of false helplessness that I find to be one of the greatest manifestations of sin that we need to fight against.”

Speaking to the crowd a few minutes later, Budde compared the scourge of gun violence to the rash of lynchings in America’s past, expressing hope that future generations will recollect mass shootings with disdain and disbelief.

“We will look back on these days and wonder how it was that we could have been so collectively aligned to such a needless proliferation of weapons meant to take human life,” she said.

As they stood outside McConnell’s office, faith leaders read the names of those recently felled during mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

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Elizabeth Eaton re-elected presiding bishop of the ELCA

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 4:09pm

[Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — Milwaukee] The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton was re-elected presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or ELCA, on Aug. 6 at the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. On the first ballot, 897 votes were cast and 670 votes were needed for election. Eaton received 725 votes, which is 81.19% of the vote.

Eaton is the first ELCA presiding bishop to win re-election on the first ballot. She was elected to a first term as presiding bishop at the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh.

The first ballot for presiding bishop was cast during the first plenary Aug. 5. The vote was declared invalid because of an unconstitutional early vote on the amendments to the bylaws of the ELCA constitution. This included an amendment that gave the ELCA Church Council the right of vote at a churchwide assembly, which included the election of the presiding bishop.

“Thank you, Vice President Horne. And thank you to all of you, and thank you to the voting member who rightly brought to our attention that we were not following our own procedures,” said Eaton, addressing the assembly after the election results were announced. “The law is in place for a reason, but I’m really happy for the gospel part right now.”

“We’re church, church first,” Eaton said, recalling the first of the four emphases she introduced after her election in 2013. “Our lives are not only supported but our lives are surrounded, and our lives have their basis and meaning in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And especially as we experience that in our lives and are changed by that in word and sacrament. That’s where we get any authority or certainly any integrity to do works of love and justice, because we’re church.”

The 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly is meeting Aug. 5-10 at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. The assembly – the highest legislative body of the ELCA – will participate in plenary discussions to decide how to go about God’s work as a church. The assembly will also spend time in worship and Bible study.

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Bishops United repudiates Christian nationalism, systemic racism

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 3:40pm

[Bishops United Against Gun Violence] Since last weekend, three young white men—all American citizens, all in legal possession of assault rifles—have murdered more than 30 people in cold blood. Most of the precious children of God who are dead and injured are people of color.

When gun violence makes headlines, politicians supported by the National Rifle Association are quick to call white shooters “mentally ill,” while characterizing black and brown shooters as “criminals” and insisting that guns are not the problem. They choose to remain loyal to the gun lobby and its campaign contributions while denying the incontrovertible evidence that more guns mean more deaths.

Common sense measures like universal background checks, assault weapons bans, handgun purchaser licensing, and restrictions on gun ownership by domestic abusers point the way toward sane gun policy that is well within any sensible interpretation of the Second Amendment. They are necessary and long overdue, but they are not sufficient.

This latest sickening cluster of mass shootings has thrust into the headlines the deadly mix of white supremacy and gun violence that is coming to define our era of American history. Anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise and our government holds asylum-seekers on our southern border in inhumane conditions. The president of the United States uses racist tropes and inflammatory language to incite crowds against people of color, refugees and immigrants; and hate crime reports have increased for three consecutive years. The hatred and fury that drives mass shootings can also be turned inward, where it fuels the invisible and growing death toll of gun suicides.

As Christians, we must work actively to dismantle the systemic racism that is part of our country’s founding narrative and that continues to fuel mass shootings and urban gun violence today. We must insist that both our fellow Christians and our elected leaders repudiate white supremacy and white nationalism and embrace humane immigration policies that follow God’s command and the Biblical imperative to welcome the stranger in our midst. And we must refuse to participate in scapegoating people with mental illness, a ploy too often used to distract from the urgent yet simple need to enact common sense gun safety measures.

Seven years ago yesterday, six people were murdered by a white supremacist at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. That massacre, one of two events that galvanized the creation of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, (the other was the shooting at Sandy Hook in Connecticut) brought us together across our differences to demonstrate that we believe in a God of life in the face of death. Today we are weary of witnessing the slaughter gripping our country. But we are no less determined to continue speaking, even when it seems our words make no difference; to continue praying in order to gather our strength to act; and to follow Jesus in speaking truth, especially when it seems that truth is out of season.

Bishops United Against Gun Violence is a network of nearly 100 Episcopal Church bishops working to curtail the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. Learn more at bishopsagainstgunviolence.org and follow Episcopalians United Against Gun Violence on Facebook.

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