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Interfaith voices demanding changes to immigration policy make a difference in Washington

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 12:58pm

Migrant families from Mexico, fleeing from violence, listen to officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection before entering the United States to apply for asylum at Paso del Norte international border crossing bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on June 20. Photo: Jose Luis Gonzalez/REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service – Washington, D.C.] Phones are ringing off the hook at congressional offices on Capitol Hill with Americans demanding migrant children be reunited with their parents, and for an end to the Trump administration’s immigration policy of separating families at the Southwest border, according to legislators.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“Calls coming in to Capitol Hill are at an all-time high from Democrats and Republicans, the business community,” U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat and Roman Catholic from Massachusetts, told those gathered June 21 at a 12-plus-hour prayer vigil for family unity at the Simpson Memorial Chapel on Capitol Hill.

“This [family separation] can’t be the face of who we are, so I appreciate you being here, I appreciate your prayers, I appreciate your activism,” McGovern said. “I’ve always felt that faith is more than just ritual, it’s action; and you all have powerful voices, and this is a time to use them for the sake of these kids, for the sake of these parents and for the sake of this country.”

The Episcopal Church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations hosted the prayer vigil in United Methodist Building’s chapel, where its office is on Maryland Avenue N.E. Of the Congressmen invited, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, a Presbyterian and a Democrat from Delaware; McGovern and two other Democrats, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Methodist from South Carolina, and U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, a Baptist from Pennsylvania, all dropped in and offered comments. The day began with a bipartisan 8 a.m. Morning Prayer in the Capitol Building, a monthly event hosted by the Office of Government Relations. The vigil ended with Compline in Simpson Chapel.

Western New York Bishop William Franklin preached during Morning Prayer about the role of the first Presiding Bishop William White, the first chaplain to the continental Congress. He saw two authorities for Christians – the Bible and belief in scripture, and reason.

“We are called by scripture to be compassionate, and reason compels us to see that the administration’s policies do not make us safer or more secure, and that it is possible to have a just and humane immigration policy,” said Rebecca Linder Blachly, director of the Office of Government Relations.

At least 150 people attended the vigil in Washington and 20,000 people tuned in on Facebook Live.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, Western New York Bishop William Franklin and Rebecca Linder Blachly, director of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, during a 12-hour-plus vigil held at the Simpson Memorial Chapel on June 21. Photo: Alan Yarborough

“We are moved and energized by the passion and the compassion we are seeing. We are committed to praying and to acting and to stopping this outrage,” said Blachly. “From a political standpoint, we have seen that politicians from both parties have spoken out against this cruelty – we know that the trauma inflicted on children spans to the next generation.”

While people of all faiths dropped in and out of the chapel for prayers, stories, testimony, hymns and fellowship, the House of Representatives convened across the street to vote on two immigration bills.

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, a Democrat from Pennsylvania. Photo: Alan Yarborough

“Unfortunately, we are voting on what I call ‘deportation bills’ not ‘immigration bills.’ today and it still doesn’t solve the problem,” said Evans of Pennsylvania, who came by after the first vote.

“It [the legislation] doesn’t do anything about the immediate problem in terms of the separation of the children and families that the president talked about yesterday, let alone it doesn’t do anything about the DREAMers’ long-term citizenship,” said Evans, in an interview with Episcopal News Service outside the chapel.

Two bills came up for vote in the House on June 21. The first, a hard-line bill, failed. House Republicans delayed the vote on a compromise bill that would provide young, undocumented immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” a path to citizenship; and allow families to be detained together.

Still, the compromise bill doesn’t provide a permanent fix for the at least 3.6 million Dreamers, or undocumented immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as minors and who are protected from deportation the 2012 immigration policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“The pathway to citizenship in the compromise bill, however, is tied to the funding for border enforcement and the wall. If a future Congress revokes the border funding appropriated in the bill, the pathway to citizenship would be revoked,” said Lacy Broemel, the church’s refugee and immigration policy advisor.

Since the summer of 2014 when unaccompanied minors began arriving at the border in unprecedented numbers, every summer brings another humanitarian crisis. “This summer it is a disastrous situation that is happening because they are separating children from their parents,” said Eva Maria Torres, president of Dreamers’ Moms of Virginia, who came to the United States from Mexico in 2006.

Every day, Torres, who was the last to speak at the chapel, said, she hears stories from mothers separated from their children, either because they left them behind with family in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, three of the most violent countries on earth, so they could send money back home. She also hears the anxieties of undocumented mothers who fear deportation and being separated from their U.S.-born children; and, now the stories, images and cries of children and mothers being separated at the border.

The administration’s zero-tolerance policy and the stories, images and cries of children and mothers being separated at the border, have created new fears and anxieties.

The women take risks and face danger to protect their children and are being separated from those they came to protect, she said: “The images have made me reflect, how much more are we going to allow to happen … as a faith community that believes in God, and know and count on God’s protection, I find myself asking what actions is God asking of us, calling us to do? Now is the time to take action. The immigrant community is taking a lot of risks but not just Latinos its immigrants of all nationalities.”

Torres implored American citizens to speak up.

“You, those who are citizens, you have the power to make a change and do something,” she said.
“Let’s be proactive so that we don’t repent later the situation or actions that have taken place. The support that is needed is not a handout, that’s not what the community needs today. As citizens I’d ask you to be empowered to talk to those in power.”

It’s not just migrants on the move fleeing Central America, worldwide an unprecedented 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes; 24.5 million of them are refugees, half younger than 18. For more than a century, the Episcopal Church has welcomed refugees and advocated for immigration policies that protect families, offer a path to citizenship and respect the dignity of every human being. Some of this work happens behind the scenes; other times, it is carried out in public statements, advocacy and public witness.

It was the phone calls, letters and emails that forced the president’s hand, not anything that happened in the halls of Congress, the legislators agreed.

Under intense public pressure, President Donald J. Trump on June 20 reversed course and signed an executive order meant to keep children and parents together for an indefinite detention period. Still, it’s unclear how the administration would implement the policy and it said the more than 2,000 children already separated from their parents would not be “grandfathered in.” The president’s executive order created confusion in the capital and at the border.

Later that evening in a Duluth, Minnesota-rally, the president had returned to his fear-based rhetoric, doubling down on his travel ban and his plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

For Clyburn, of South Carolina, watching the news unfold on television and in newspapers has made him think back to the time when French historian Alexis de Tocqueville traveled across the United States first to study its prisons but eventually in search of America’s greatness. De Tocqueville searched the halls of government and the countryside, and eventually found it in the churches, during the time of slavery, no less, he said.

“He saw in the people he worshipped with a certain amount of goodness and he said in talking about that experience that ‘America is great because America is good.’ And if America ever ceased ‘to be good, America will cease to be great,’” said Clyburn. “What we are seeing today is ill-advised policy, not law, but policy. It’s a loss, if it ever existed, of goodness. We cannot as people of faith sit idly by and ignore this.”

Since October 2017 through the end of May, Customs and Border Control agents have detained more than 252,000 people – 32,371 unaccompanied minors and 59,113 families. In early April, the Trump administration implemented it’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy aimed at prosecuting migrants crossing the border illegally and separating them from their children; 2,322 children have been taken from their parents, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The policy was meant to deter other families – many fleeing violence in Central America – from attempting to request asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Never in his wildest dreams did the Rev. Grey Maggiano, rector of Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland, and a former State Department employee who worked on prison reform in Afghanistan, think he’d see mothers and children kept in detention centers in the United States. It wasn’t unusual in Afghanistan to see boys fleeing sexual violence, girls seeking protection from child marriage and mothers escaping domestic violence and their children held in detention centers for their protection, but still it was under horrible circumstances and had a traumatizing effect on everyone.

“It’s like a bad dream … seeing all the things you never thought would happen here,” said Maggiano, outside the chapel after addressing those present. “Seeing what’s possible in our country coming to fruition in real time.”

When Carper, the senator from Delaware spoke earlier in the day, he talked about the violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle and a brother and sister’s story. The brother was forced to join a gang and his initiation included raping his sister. Rather than let that happen, their parents helped them leave and they landed in Delaware.

“There is hope in Honduras, Guatemala El Salvador, there’s hope in those countries in the Northern Triangle, but there’s a lot of misery and we are complicit in their misery,” he said, referring to Americans’ appetite for drugs.

The humanitarian crisis at the Southwest border has drawn international condemnation, bipartisan criticism and outrage from American citizens and religious leaders, particularly following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ and other members of the Trump administration’s use of scripture to defend its family separation policy.

“I’m just so profoundly disappointed with this government and I’m so profoundly disappointed, not only with the president, but with my colleagues who are going along with this,” said McGovern. “I just don’t know how people can do this. I worry we are losing our humanity and when we hear biblical versus being invoked to justify this, you know, I’ll be honest with you, I just want to scream. We keep on saying this is not who we are, we’ve got to prove it.”

Trump made curbing immigration a centerpiece of his campaign and his administration. Within days of taking office, Trump signed three executive orders cutting funding to so-called sanctuary cities, calling for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and suspending the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries. Trump also made a significant reduction to the nation’s refugee resettlement program; setting the number of refugees allowed to enter the country in 2018 at 45,000; less than half the 110,000 admitted in 2017.

“… our country has been in the midst of a great, profound moral debate over keeping families together. Whether children should be separated from their mothers and from their families while there appears to be some sense of resolution about that immediate issue, the broader concerns about detaining families continue. The ways that we implement our immigration concerns, the ways that we secure our borders, need not be separated from our compassion and our human decency,” said Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in a video promoting the June 21 vigil.

For more on this issue from Episcopal News Service, click here. To join the Episcopal Public Policy Network click here and to Take Action, click here.

— Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of the Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.

Justice Select Committee hears New Zealand bishops’ concern over proposed euthanasia law

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 11:41am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishops in New Zealand opposed to the legalization of medically assisted suicide and euthanasia have cited examples from Europe to warn that “safeguards” imposed when the law is first changed could later be loosened. The seven diocesan bishops in New Zealand are all opposed to the End of Life Choice Bill, which has been introduced by parliamentarian David Seymour. This week, Bishop Richard Randerson made an oral submission to the Parliament’s justice select committee on behalf of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia’s Tikanga Pakeha.

Read the entire article here.

Archbishop of York lays foundation stone for new priory at Whitby

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 11:24am

[Anglican Communion News Service] There has been a monastic community in the North Yorkshire coastal town of Whitby since at least AD 657. The monastery is famous as the venue of the crucial Synod that bought together the different strands of Christianity in the Saxon kingdom of Northumbria to agree the date of Easter, amongst other things. The decision to adopt the Roman calculation over the Celtic formula was eventually adopted across Britain. The original monastery now lies in ruins, but this week Archbishop of York John Sentamu laid the foundation stone for a new priory in the town.

Read the entire article here.

Diocese of Kansas announces candidates for bishop

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 10:15am

[Episcopal Diocese  of Kansas] The Council of Trustees, acting as the canonical Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas, presents to the diocese two priests as candidates for the 10th bishop of the diocese:

  • The Rev. Martha N. Macgill, Diocese of Maryland
  • The Rev. Helen Svoboda-Barber, Diocese of North Carolina

Nominees may be added by a petition process that closes at 5 p.m. CDT on June 30, 2018.

Members of the diocese will have the chance to meet the candidates in walkabouts scheduled in the diocese for Oct. 2-5; the schedule of events is online.

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

Here are brief introductions to the candidates; more information about them is on the bishop search website.

The Rev. Martha N. Macgill

Rector, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Cumberland, Maryland

The Rev. Martha N. Macgill was baptized and confirmed at Christ Church, Alexandria, Virginia, where she sang for several years in the junior choir. She attended St. Agnes Episcopal School in Alexandria for 12 years, where she graduated in 1976 as valedictorian.

She attended Davidson College, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude. After attending University of Virginia Law School and New York University Law School, she practiced law in Connecticut and as a clerk at the United States Tax Court in Washington, D.C.

Martha entered the ordination process in the Diocese of Virginia from St. Paul’s, Alexandria, in 1990. She attended Virginia Theological Seminary, where she graduated with honors in 1995. She was ordained to the diaconate in June 1995 by the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee at All Saints, Richmond.

She served as an assistant rector at St. Stephen’s, Richmond, where she was ordained to the priesthood in January 1996.

In 1997, she and her family moved to the Diocese of Christ the King, South Africa, where she became priest-in-charge of St. Francis, Walkerville. In August 2000, she returned to the United States to become rector of Memorial Church in Baltimore, Maryland., until May of 2014.

In the Diocese of Maryland, she has served as chair of the Commission on Ministry. She was a mentor to the new Episcopal Service Corps of young adults and served as a deputy to General Convention in Indianapolis in 2012. Martha now serves as rector of Emmanuel Parish in Cumberland, Maryland.

Martha is married to Bryan Kelleher. Martha and Bryan have two children: Jack, age 29, and Anna, age 26. Martha’s interests include swimming, tennis, golf, gardening and reading.

The Rev. Helen Svoboda-Barber

Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Durham, North Carolina

The Rev. Helen Svoboda-Barber grew up in Chapman, Kansas, and graduated with degrees in psychology and human development from the University of Kansas. Her Masters of Divinity degree is from the Seminary of the Southwest, and her Doctor of Ministry degree is from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, both in Austin, Texas.

Before going to seminary, Helen was a researcher at the Center for the Influences of Television on Children and was a registered representative at Twentieth Century Mutual Funds (now American Century).

Helen spent three years as curate and then canon at Grace Cathedral, Topeka; three years as assistant pastor at Holy Cross ELCA in Overland Park; 10 years as rector of Harcourt Parish in Gambier, Ohio; and has been rector of St. Luke’s in Durham, North Carolina, since 2014.

She is active in all levels of the church, including as convocation president (Kansas), diocesan Christian Education Chair (Ohio), Credentials Committee (North Carolina), Council of Advice for the President of the House of Deputies, and several-time deputy to General Convention.

She has been on the Executive Committees of the Topeka Center for Peace and Justice (Kansas), Interchurch Social Services (Ohio) and Latino Education Achievement Program (North Carolina).

She and her husband, Shawn, are parents to Charlie, 14, and Luke, 11. Helen enjoys board games, reading, weaving and needlework, and she loves time spent with her family.  

Prayer service set at Texas detention center during General Convention

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 6:40pm

[House of Deputies] Responding to calls from Episcopalians across the church to act on behalf of families seeking asylum at the southern U. S. border, a team of concerned leaders heading to General Convention has planned a prayer service outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, at about noon on Sunday, July 8.

The planning team, led by alternate Deputy Megan Castellan, rector of St. John’s Church in Ithaca, New York, is working with Grassroots Leadership — a local community organizing group in Texas that has held numerous gatherings at the Hutto Residential Center. Deputy Winnie Varghese, director of justice and reconciliation at Trinity Church Wall Street, is helping to arrange buses to the event.

“What is happening to those at our borders is monstrous,” Castellan said. “My bishop, DeDe Duncan-Probe [of Central New York] and I were discussing how we, as a church, could respond on Saturday morning. By evening, and with the help of enthusiastic Episcopalians across the church, the idea had taken shape and was moving forward.”

The detention center at 1001 Welch St. in Taylor is operated for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by CoreCivic, formerly the Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison company, and is about a 40-minute drive from the Austin Convention Center where General Convention is being held.

Varghese says Trinity Wall Street hopes to provide buses for the event that would depart from the convention center at 10:45 a.m. Organizers say participants may also drive to the detention center. Parking is available nearby.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, have arranged for a one-hour delay in Sunday’s legislative calendar to facilitate participation by bishops and deputies. The legislative session will begin at 3:15 CDT.

The event, which Curry and Jennings will attend, is open to all who are committed to praying for an end to the inhumane treatment of those seeking asylum in the United States. It has been planned not to conflict with the Bishops United Against Gun Violence event at 9:30 a.m. in Brush Square Park, near the convention center.

A former medium-security prison, the Hutto center has been the target of frequent lawsuits over issues including harsh conditions, poor food and sexually abusive guards. Originally a family detention center, the facility, since 2009, has housed only female immigrants and asylum seekers.

The planning team, which includes several clergy and parishioners of the Diocese of Texas and the Association of Episcopal Deacons, is considering follow-up advocacy activities.

La Convención General prosigue su ‘tendencia digital’ de funcionar sin papeles

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 2:53pm

Los Rdos. Joseph Harmon y John Mennell, diputados de la Diócesis de Newark, muestran sus iPads asignados en préstamo a todos los diputados y obispos para la reunión de la Convención General en Salt Lake City en 2015. Los mismas contienen una “carpeta virtual” que reemplaza electrónicamente a la mayoría de los sistemas de la Convención, hasta entonces impresos. Foto de Nina Nicholson/Diócesis de Newark.

[Episcopal News Service] Lo usual era que la Convención General llevara a cabo todas sus funciones legislativas en papel —aproximadamente 1,2 millones de hojas de papel. Ya no más.

Por segunda convención consecutiva, cuando cada diputado, diputado suplente y obispo llegue a Austin, Texas, para la 79ª. Convención General, recibirá en préstamo un iPad para usarlo como su “carpeta virtual”. Los iPads que se usarán durante la reunión del 5 al 13 de julio son más nuevos y veloces que los que la Convención General alquiló en 2015.

La última vez que los obispos y diputados usaron carpetas físicas para seguir el proceso legislativo de la Convención General fue en 2012 para la 77ª. reunión de la Convención. Foto de Julie Murray/Diócesis de Ohio Sur.

Reemplazar cada carpeta física con el sistema digital ahorrara el costo aproximado de 2.400 resmas de papel, las cuales ascienden a unas seis toneladas, más los gastos de copias. Los veteranos de la Convención recuerdan una carpeta que gradualmente se iba llenando con sus copias según progresaba la reunión, con frecuencia hasta el punto de que algunos usaban bolsas con ruedas para transportar sus carpetas. Se reservaba un tiempo en cada cámara para que los obispos y diputados actualizaran sus carpetas. Seguir el progreso de las resoluciones resultaba imposible para las personas que no asistían a la Convención. Ya no más.

Además, no sólo las funciones de la carpeta virtual se han mejorado y expandido para brindar un mayor acceso a través de la Iglesia, el sistema ha convertido a la Iglesia Episcopal y a la Convención General en un líder innovador en el terreno de monitorear legislación. Existe también la posibilidad de compartir y facilitar la arquitectura básica del sistema a otros grupos.

La carpeta virtual es una aplicación [app] que funciona en los iPads de obispos y diputados, y a la cual se puede tener acceso vía Internet. Los que carecen de un iPad de la Convención General pueden tener acceso a la versión online aquí. Esa última versión reproduce la app que funciona en los iPads y cambia junto con ella en tiempo real.

No importa cómo se accede a ella, la edición de 2015 de la Carpeta Virtual le permite a los usuarios  rastrear el desarrollo de las resoluciones de la Convención. Incluye también las agendas diarias de cada cámara, los calendarios para cada día y los diarios (una lista de mensajes intercamerales en que informan a la otra parte de las decisiones que se toman), calendarios e informes de comités . Contiene fichas para verificar las actividades actuales y las enmiendas del pleno en cada cámara.

La carpeta virtual para la 79ª. reunión de la Convención General incluye nuevas posibilidades de indagación y medios para seguir la legislación en ambas cámaras. Para pasar de una cámara a otra, o [del inglés] al español, basta hacer clic en el icono que aparece en la parte superior derecha. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS

Resumiendo, “esto es exactamente lo que los obispos y diputados están viendo en sus iPads”, dijo Twila Ríos —directora de los sistemas de información digital en la oficina de la Convención— a Episcopal News Service. Se replica en tiempo real, lo cual significa que hay una diferencia de nanosegundos entre lo que sale allí y lo que entra aquí —algo que los seres humanos no pueden registrar”.

“Lo más importante es que dentro de las restricciones presupuestarias, que es con lo que todo el mundo en la Iglesia tiene que operar, los nuevos dispositivos responden absolutamente a las interrogantes y las reacciones que hemos recibido después de la última Convención General”, dijo el Rdo. Michael Barlowe, director ejecutivo de la Convención General en una entrevista con ENS.

La edición de 2018 de la carpeta incluye estos importantes cambios:

  • Una función expandida de búsqueda de una resolución también le dará a los usuarios más información acerca del estatus de la resolución. Estarán disponibles informes sobres las decisiones respecto a cada resolución, así como información de cuando un comité o una cámara ha de considerar una resolución. Los textos de las resoluciones se actualizarán en la medida en que los comités o las cámaras les hagan cambios.
  • La única manera de saber lo que un comité legislativo estaba haciendo, consistía en encontrar el gran atril en un pasillo de la convención en el cual se anunciaba la agenda diaria de cada comité. Ese puesto seguirá funcionando en Austin, pero ahora esa información podrá buscarse en la carpeta virtual por comité, fecha o/y número de resolución. “Esperamos que funcionará muchísimo mejor que la última vez”, dijo Ríos. “También es dinámica”, añadió, explicando que cuando el presidente de un comité le informa a la Oficina de la Convención General acerca de una reunión que [el comité] quiere programar, uno de los muchos voluntarios ingresa la información en el sistema y la misma aparece inmediatamente en la carpeta virtual. Esos voluntarios también procesarán los cambios de las resoluciones en tiempo real.
  • Las comunicaciones de una cámara a la otra también se publicarán el la carpeta virtual. Además, los documentos basados en textos (diferentes de los PDFs) que se usen durante el debate o los anuncios en forma textual estarán disponibles en la carpeta.
  • La Constitución y los Cánones de la Iglesia también se incluirán en la carpeta. Los obispos y diputados con frecuencia necesitan hacer referencia a esas reglas y “es más fácil tenerlas allí mismo” que en un libro aparte o mediante el acceso a Internet, apuntó Ríos.

Versiones actuales de todas las resoluciones sometidas a la consideración de la Convención General se pueden consultar a través de la carpeta virtual. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

La carpeta virtual es la porción de cara al público de un sistema de múltiples faces conocido como el Sistema Online del Proceso Legislativo que la Oficina de la Convención General creó con la ayuda de E-accent , una empresa programadora, según explicó Ríos.

“No hay muchos programas legislativos. Existe una serie limitada de proveedores y un número limitado de clientes”, dijo ella, explicando que las entidades gubernamentales con los principales usuarios.

“Cuando saltamos a esto para 2015, no había mucho”.

La Oficina de la Convención General asumió “un gran riesgo que se vio recompensado” de hacer el cambio a los sistemas digitales en el período previo a la convención de 2015, dijo Barlowe. “Realmente inventamos esto. Nadie ha hecho nada semejante a esto en el mundo legislativo”.

E-accent “tomó nuestras ideas y creó esta cosa”, precisó él, llamando a su personal los arquitectos y a los que desarrollaron el programa los ingenieros.

La carpeta virtual y todos los otros sistemas que se combinan para hacer que la Convención funcione sin problemas exige muchísimo de ancho de banda y Barlowe dijo que el director de tecnología de la información de la Iglesia Episcopal, Darvin Darling, y su personal han ayudado a su oficina con algunos “medios innovadores [de manera] que podemos hacer más dentro del mismo ancho de banda”.

Tanto en Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, donde se reunió la Convención en 2015, como ahora en el Centro de Convenciones de Austin, el personal de apoyo técnico del edificio, dijo él “se fascinó también con lo que estábamos haciendo”.

“Es realmente un reconocimiento a la Iglesia Episcopal y a la Oficina de la Convención General que incluso en un lugar como Austin, el cual es tecnológicamente muy avanzado, los apasionados de la computación se han interesado en lo que hacemos”, dijo Barlowe, refiriéndose al evento anual de Austin South by Southwest .

La aplicación de la agenda virtual y sus sistemas conectados son también lo que Barlowe describió como un ejercicio en “programación ética”. Sus creadores no explotan a sus trabajadores y la Convención General cumple o incluso sobrepasa las reglas de privacidad estadounidenses y europeas.

“Es parte de nuestro trabajo pensar en estas cosas y actuar como uno esperaría que funcione una Iglesia, no sólo con las mínimas normas éticas, sino maximizando la manera en que manipulamos los datos  y la manera en que organizamos las cosas y el modo en que funcionamos digitalmente”, señaló.

“La esperanza a largo plazo” es que la Oficina de la Convención General pueda encontrar medios de compartir los sistemas con [las] diócesis y con otras denominaciones, apuntó Barlowe. Por ejemplo, ya ha habido conversaciones con la Iglesia Evangélica Luterana en América.

Si la Iglesia ha sido innovadora en [materia de] programas, también lleva la delantera en el tipo de equipos que la convención necesita. Cuando Ríos estaba buscando alquilar 1.200 tabletas antes de la convención de 2015 para los miembros de ambas cámaras, además del personal administrativo que las necesitaría, descubrió que era un pedido inusual. También resultó inusual  su solicitud de que los iPads tuviesen una “visualización personalizada” con las aplicaciones de la Convención General.

“Fuimos una novedad para los proveedores”, dijo ella.

En efecto, el proveedor, Meeting Tomorrow, ahora usa la idea de los iPads con “visualización personalizada” como parte de su discurso de venta. Y E-accent, que tendrá personal en la Convención General, usa su trabajo para la Iglesia Episcopal como una exhibición de su negocio.

Los sistemas, dijo Ríos, se están refinando y actualizado constantemente. “Es una labor en progreso”, afirmó.

El objetivo de esa labor es “tratar de perfeccionar los medios en que podemos proporcionar la información,  hacerla más susceptible de consultar”, explicó. “Existen limitaciones y yo siempre estoy intentando sortear las limitaciones y ayudar a hacer esto mejor, de manera que la gente pueda encontrar la información que necesita”.

La aplicación móvil de la Convención General funciona en EventMobi. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

Algunas limitaciones son económicas, y algunas son tecnológicas, dijeron ella y Barlowe. Por ejemplo, algunas personas pidieron que obispos y diputados individuales pudieran intercambiarse mensajes desde sus iPads. Añadir la infraestructura para responder a esa solicitud, “estaba más allá de nuestra capacidad económica”,  dijo él.

Otra manera digital de estar al tanto de la Convención

Una aplicación [app] gratuita de la Convención General está al alcance de cualquiera que use un teléfono inteligente o una tableta que incluya Android 4,4 o IOS 8.0 o posterior. La app contiene horarios de la Convención General, mapas, información de proveedores, órdenes de servicios religiosos diarios y otros materiales útiles. (órdenes completos del oficio eucarístico diario también se incluyen en esta app. como en el iPad, eliminando así la necesidad de imprimir diariamente cientos de folletos  para el culto).

Descargue la app. aquí o de la App Store o de Google Play, y luego ingrese el código 79GC cuando se lo pidan. La app también puede usarse en una computadora. Ese enlace se encuentra aquí.

– La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es jefa de redacción y reportera de Episcopal News Service.  Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

 

Church in Wales wins contract to train British military chaplains

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 2:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Chaplains serving U.K. military personnel will continue to be trained by the Church in Wales, after the Anglican province won a contract to provide training for the next five years. Britain’s Ministry of Defense awarded the contract to St. Padarn’s Institute, the Church in Wales’ new training institute. The Church in Wales has been training British military chaplains since 2001 but has to re-bid every five years.

Read the full article here.

Episcopal Church to host vigil in Washington to condemn Trump’s immigration policies separating families

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 6:54pm

Akemi Vargas, 8, cries as she talks about being separated from her father during an immigration family separation protest in front of the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. District Court building in Phoenix on June 18. Child welfare agencies across America make wrenching decisions every day to separate children from their parents. But those agencies have ways of minimizing the trauma that aren’t being employed by the Trump administration at the Mexican border. Photo: Ross D. Franklin/AP

[Episcopal News Service] The U.S. government is holding the youngest children – babies and toddlers – separated from their families in “tender age” shelters in south Texas. In these shelters, some children are kept in chain-link cages, their screams and cries for their parents a cacophony of terror.

On June 20, under intense political pressure, President Donald J. Trump reversed his stance and signed an order ending family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border. However, the new order will keep families together in federal custody while they await prosecution for illegal border crossings. That might violate court orders baring the government from keeping children in family detention centers for more than 20 days, and saying they must be housed in the least-restrictive setting possible.

The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy has separated 2,342 children from 2,206 parents at the US-Mexico border between May 5 and June 9, according to a June 19 report in the online news site Vox. That statistic follows an announcement last week by the Department of Homeland Security that that 1,995 children had been separated from their parents from April 19 to May 31. The policy was meant to deter other families – many fleeing violence in Central America – from attempting to request asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

On June 21, the summer solstice, the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations will hold a 12-hour prayer vigil beginning at 9 a.m. until sunset in its chapel on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to call further attention to the Trump administration’s policy. A virtual vigil will be stream live on Facebook from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time.

“We are holding this vigil to condemn family separation and to pray for all parents and children who are currently being detained. While tomorrow we will be focused on the recent separations of families at the border, we must also remember the millions of families who have been torn apart by violence and persecution in the global refugee crisis,” said Rebecca Linder Blachly, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations. “We chose to hold this vigil on June 21 – the longest day of the year – because every day that family members are separated is too long. We will join together with interfaith partners to pray together for an end to this crisis, and to ask all governments to develop humane policies towards migrants.

“We continue to encourage Episcopalians and all people of faith to call on the U.S. Congress to end harsh and harmful immigration policies and to pass bipartisan, comprehensive reform that recognizes the dignity of every person.”

To join the Episcopal Public Policy Network, click here.

Trump made curbing immigration a centerpiece of his campaign and his administration. Within days of taking office, Trump signed three executive orders cutting funding to so-called sanctuary cities, calling for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and suspending the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries.

In defense of his separation policy, in a June 19 speech to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, he said: “When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away.”

In anticipation of the executive order, Bishop of New York Andrew M.L. Dietsche issued the following statement:

“I pray that by the time this letter reaches you the hundreds and hundreds of children, including small babies, who have been taken by force from their parents and are currently detained in this country will be returning to their families. People across the political spectrum and faith communities in America are joining in heartbroken and outraged opposition to what may well be the cruelest and least defensible policy decision by an American president and administration in our memory,” he said.

“The recordings and photographs of the children are almost impossible for any caring person to apprehend. I left New York late last week to baptize my youngest grandchild, and as we watched my daughter’s happy, carefree children in their safe home she turned to me and said, ‘I can’t follow this news story. I can’t even open the articles.’ Because it does violence to our eyes and ears, and assault and battery to our hearts. It strikes terror. And it is racist. And it is systematic child abuse.”

The June 21 vigil follows on the annual international observance of World Refugee Day June 20, which is intended to raise awareness to the violence and persecution of refugees worldwide.

Worldwide, an unprecedented 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes; 24.5 million of them are refugees, half younger than 18. For more than a century, the Episcopal Church has welcomed refugees and has advocated for immigration policies that protect families, offer a path to citizenship and respect the dignity of every human being. Some of this work happens behind the scenes, other times its done in public statements, advocacy and public witness.

On June 19, Washington Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde joined dozens of other female faith leaders outside of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters to pray together and speak out against the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the borders.

“As women of faith, we speak on behalf of mothers and fathers, men and women. We speak on behalf of all Americans who are horrified at the way that migrant families are being forcibly separated at our borders,” she said. “These adults and children have already been traumatized by life-threatening violence in their own countries, and they have made the dangerous journey to our borders in hope of refuge. Yet then when they arrive to the United States, in our name, they are forced apart–the most devastating trauma imaginable for young children and parents.

“I speak today as a disciple of Jesus Christ, who taught us, by his example, to welcome children when they come to us, to welcome, not detain them. He taught us that however we treat the least among us–those most vulnerable and in need of care–is how we treat Christ himself,” she continued.

“Our nation’s immigration policies have been devastating for children for a very long time. The level of cruelty rises with each new policy, thus far without sufficient outrage among the American people to compel our elected officials to change course.”

Unaccompanied minors and families from Central America began arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in record numbers in 2014. The numbers later dropped off, but there’s a new surge happening now at the Southwest border where Customs and Border Control agents have detained more than 252,000 people – 32,371 unaccompanied minors and 59,113 families – over the last eight months. There are some 11,000 unaccompanied minors in federal custody.

The humanitarian crisis at the Southwest border has drawn international condemnation, bipartisan criticism, outrage from American citizens and religious leaders, particularly following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ and other members of the Trump administrations’ use of scripture to defend its family separation policy.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry signed onto an interfaith statement calling for an end to the Trump administration’s immigration policies. And the presiding bishop has talked about immigration and Jesus’s call to welcome the stranger in mainstream media, including on MSNBC’s AM Joy and The Last Word and has been interviewed in various newspapers.

Bishops throughout the church have criticized the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

“It’s not being political to say America shouldn’t be in the business of breaking up families, it’s Christian. It’s not being political to say America shouldn’t be putting children in kennel style cages, it’s Christian,” said Atlanta Bishop Robert C. Wright, in a June 19 statement.

“It’s not political to say that causing children’s tears and mothers’ fear is the best use of our nations might, it’s Christian. It’s not being political to remember that both Republican and Democratic Presidents previously chose not to separate families while enforcing immigration policy” he said.

“Not being political to remind the U.S. Attorney General that quoting the Book of Romans is fine but, ‘…as you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.’ is probably a more apt guidance for this situation.”

Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely issued the following statement on June 19.

“The Trump administration’s new policy of separating children from their asylum-seeking parents is morally wrong, not in keeping with the teachings of Christianity or other world religions, and should stop.

“Jesus, reiterating the witness of Hebrew and Christian scriptures, calls on us to treat others as we would want to be treated. Jesus commands us to love our neighbor. Christians are called, with many others, to welcome the stranger in our midst. Jesus tells us in St. Matthew’s Gospel (18:4-6), that whoever welcomes a child, welcomes him. And whoever causes harm to such a one is in grave moral danger.

I join my voice with other faith and community leaders around this state and this country in calling for the current family separation policy to end immediately and for children to be reunited with their parents as their lawful application for asylum proceeds.”

And from Texas.

“Families are the bedrock of American society, and our government has the discretion to ensure that young children are not separated from their mothers and fathers and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma. Separating babies from their mothers is not only unconscionable, it is immoral,” said Texas Bishop Andrew C. Doyle, in June 14 statement.

“Superior orders will not be an ethical defense for the legacy of pain being inflicted upon these children or the violence to families being woven into the fabric of our future. These actions do irreparable harm, are not proportional to the crime, betray our covenant with God in both the Old and New Testaments, subvert American family values, and are patently inhumane.”

-Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of the Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at lwilson@episcopalchurch.org. 

Anglicans worldwide work to provide support, care for refugees

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 2:44pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] June 20 is World Refugee Day, when the world is called to remember the millions of individuals fleeing their countries as refugees and the millions more internally displaced people stranded within their country with no home to go to.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby released a statement calling on the church to lift up these millions of people in their prayers, and he reflected on ministry to refugees that he had seen on his travels.

“My heart continues to break for over 68 million men, women and children who have risked their lives to escape conflict, violence and oppression,” he said. “In my prayers I also remember the extraordinary welcome and support for refugees that I have seen during visits to Sudan, Uganda, Jordan and other countries. In your prayers today, please take some time to remember what it means that God came to us in the vulnerability of a child whose life was in danger.”

Read the full article here.

Jerusalem archbishop calls for reconciliation among Anglicans

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 2:35pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani has stressed the need for reconciliation amongst Anglicans. Speaking to delegates at the Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON, being held in the city, Dawani spoke of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem’s work of reconciliation in the Holy Land and emphasized the importance of the Church being one. This message was featured in a homily delivered at an evensong in St George’s Cathedral on June 17 attended by some 200 of the GAFCON participants.

Read the full article here.

Episcopalians, world religious leaders confront climate disruption

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 8:50am

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew releasing a kestrel. Photo: Robert A. Jonas

[Episcopal News Service] Earlier this month, leaders of the Eastern church and the Western church, representing billions of people worldwide, spoke with one voice about the moral urgency of confronting the climate crisis.

“A civilization is defined and judged by our respect for the dignity of humanity and the integrity of nature,” declared the head of the Orthodox Church, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in his keynote address for an international symposium held June 5-8 in Greece. “Toward a Green Attica: Preserving the Planet and Protecting Its People” was the ninth international, inter-disciplinary, and inter-religious symposium that the patriarch has convened since 1991 to highlight the spiritual basis of ecological care and to strengthen collaboration across disciplines in the quest to build a just and habitable world.

Two hundred leaders in a variety of fields – science, economics, theology, public policy, journalism, business, human rights and social justice activism – attended the symposium, which gathered initially in Athens and then moved to the islands of Spetses and Hydra.  Participants studied the latest findings of climate science, explored strategic actions toward sustainability and resilience, and renewed their commitment to push for the economic and societal changes that must take place if we are to avert social and ecological chaos and widespread suffering. (For program and participants, visit here.)

The Rt. Rev. Nicholas Holtam, bishop of Salisbury, represented the archbishop of Canterbury and affirmed the commitment of the Anglican Consultative Council to address the climate crisis (e.g. Resolution 16.08: Response to Global Climate Change).  As the Church of England states on its website,  “We believe that responding to climate change is an essential part of our responsibility to safeguard God’s creation.” From Sept. 1 to Oct. 4, Anglicans will unite with Christians around the world to care for God’s creation in a “Season of Creation.” (Excellent materials for “Creation Season” worship, study, and prayer are available from the Anglican Communion Environmental Network and elsewhere here; a guide to celebrating 2018 “Season of Creation” is available here.)

Peter Cardinal Turkson, a Ghanaian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who worked closely with Pope Francis in developing the papal encyclical, Laudato Si, represented the pope at the symposium.  Turkson read a statement from Pope Francis that included these lines: “It is not just the homes of vulnerable people around the world that are crumbling, as can be seen in the world’s growing exodus of climate migrants and environmental refugees. As I sought to point out in my Encyclical Laudato Si’, we may well be condemning future generations to a common home left in ruins. Today we must honestly ask ourselves a basic question: ‘What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?’” (The entire statement can be found here.)

One of the most powerful, disturbing and illuminating lectures was given by Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned professor of economics and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Sachs gave a one-hour overview of the history of economics that included a blistering critique of corporate capitalism and its veneration of greed, by which “Nature is utterly sacrificed for profit.”  (A professional videographer recorded the speech, but until that video becomes available, you can watch a basic recording here).

Professor Hans Joachim Schellnuber, director of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact, gave a hair-raising presentation on the precarious health of “the vital organs of the planet,” such as the Gulf Stream, coral reefs, alpine glaciers, the Amazon rainforest, and West Antarctic Ice Sheet (a recent study shows that Antarctica’s ice loss has tripled in a decade; if that continues, we are in serious trouble).  Citing a 2017 article in the journal Science, “A roadmap for rapid decarbonization,” Schellnuber contended that we could halve carbon emissions every decade – “but we have to want to do it.”

Other speakers likewise underscored the urgent need to galvanize our vision, will, and moral courage as we confront the climate crisis, which poses an existential threat to civilization.

Both Jeffrey Sachs and Cardinal Turkson left the symposium early to make a trip to Rome. Pope Francis had taken the unprecedented step of inviting the world’s top fossil fuel executives – including the chairman of Exxon Mobil, the chief executive of the Italian energy giant Eni, and the chief executive of BP – along with money managers of major financial institutions, to meet with him in a two-day, closed-door conference at the Vatican. Sachs and Turkson joined the meeting to add their perspectives.

“There is no time to lose,” the pope told the participants. He appealed to them “to be the core of a group of leaders who envision the global energy transition in a way that will take into account all the peoples of the earth, as well as future generations and all species and ecosystems.”

Thus, in one extraordinary week, Christian churches, both East and West, called for robust action to address climate disruption.

The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, bishop of California and leader of the presiding bishop’s delegation to U.N. Climate Summits, commented: “The moment is dire, and also is our (humanity’s) moment of greatest possibility. St. Irenaeus called a human fully alive the glory of God. Now, 1,300 years later we may understand that for humanity to act as one for the good of the Earth is yet a greater expression of God’s glory.”

Looking back on the symposium, Andrus was thankful for its “great spirit of respect and mutuality. Rather than lobbying to enlist people to each cause, there was a celebration of what each person is doing to heal the Earth, and a seeking to support each person on their path, to make connections. A good example of this to me was the tremendous joy we all felt as the Ecumenical Patriarch released two kestrels that had been nursed back to health by an Athenian woman whose ministry is protecting and healing endangered birds.”

Another Episcopal participant, Sheila Moore Andrus, a biologist and an active climate champion from the Diocese of California, expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet new climate activists and connect with individuals she has long respected – including the Rev. Fletcher Harper, who, she said, “is currently working on a project similar to one I am working on for the Diocese of California: a web-based tool that can help people decrease their carbon footprint and aggregate those choices by church and diocesan Community.  The conference gave Fletcher, Marc and me a chance to explore ways to promote such a tool among interfaith groups, and all this in settings filled with inspiring talks and sacred indoor/outdoor spaces.”

The Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith, concluded: “The fact that it was searingly hot during the symposium made the point about the need for action as powerfully as any of the speakers.  This September, the multi-faith service at Grace Cathedral at the start of the Global Climate Action Summit gives everyone a chance – whether in person or on the live-stream – to commit to living the change in our own diet, transportation and home energy use that’s needed for a non-scorched, sustainable future.”

– The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas serves as Missioner for Creation Care, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ. She maintains a Website: RevivingCreation.org.

Grant boosts effort to rebuild New Zealand’s Christchurch Cathedral

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 11:00am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church Property Trustees of the New Zealand Diocese of Christchurch have received a grant equivalent to about $4 million toward the rebuilding of Christchurch Cathedral.

The building was all but destroyed in a devastating earthquake in 2011. In September 2017, the Diocesan Synod voted instead to reinstate the cathedral as part of a funding package with local and national government. The new grant is from the Lottery Significant Project’s Fund.

Read the full article here.

Major grant awarded help more bishops attend Lambeth Conference 2020

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 12:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The organizers of the 2020 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops have received a major boost with the announcement that Allchurches Trust – owners of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group – have made a £750,000 grant, worth about $1 million, to help more bishops attend the conference. Every active bishop in the Anglican Communion will be invited to the Lambeth Conference; but the costs of attending can be prohibitive for bishops from developing countries.

Read the full article here.

Third Global Anglican Future Conference underway in Jerusalem

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 12:37pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The third Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON, has begun in Jerusalem. Organizers say 2,000 people are taking part. The ecumenical gathering attracts a large number of Anglicans.

The event includes Bible studies, group work and plenary sessions. The list of speakers includes a number of Anglican primates: Archbishop Laurent Mbanda from Rwanda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali from Uganda and Archbishop Nicholas Okoh from Nigeria, as well as Bishop Héctor Zavala from the Anglican Church of South America’s Diocese of Chile.

Read the full article here.

Two become one in this Virginia Episcopal mission

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 12:14pm

St. Gabriel’s parishioner and volunteer teacher Luz Margery Quiceno-Spencer leads an Educating with Love class for children, teaching them how to read and write in Spanish, which they speak at home while learning English reading and writing at school. Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series profiling the Episcopal Church’s recent work planting new churches and other faith communities. Other stories about recipients of grants from the Episcopal Church’s Genesis Advisory Group on Church Planting can be found here.

[Episcopal News Service] A Puerto Rican corporate entrepreneur-turned-priest wasn’t the obvious answer for a failing church with no permanent home in Leesburg, Virginia, where attendance had dwindled to 20 people.

English is the Rev. Daniel Vélez-Rivera’s second language, and St. Gabriel’s was an Episcopal church where English was the first, and for the most part only, language spoken by its Anglo congregation.

Yet, the congregation’s unlikely choice has been a catalyst for growth and ministry expansion. An expert in start-ups as a lay person and a church-planting priest after being ordained 12 years ago, Vélez-Rivera’s efforts have drawn 98 people to Sunday services since he arrived in 2012. The church has been a flurry of activity — with challenges and rewards — bolstered by its first New Church Start grant of $100,000 awarded during the 2013-2015 budget cycle, followed by a recent $75,000 renewal grant in the current triennium, Vélez-Rivera said.

Today, the priest leads a single congregation with two Sunday services: one in English, the other in Spanish. Membership is about 50-50 of the two populations, he said.

“Serving God’s children is messy. It’s not just liturgy and services. Starting churches the way Peter and Paul did, it’s not easy; it’s not comfortable,” Vélez-Rivera told Episcopal News Service. “It might fail, it might not flourish, but you have to try — like start-ups.”

The Rev. Daniel Vélez-Rivera leads a Eucharist at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Leesburg, Virginia, a mission church with one congregation and a service in English and one in Spanish. Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church

Leesburg is in Loudoun County, one of the wealthiest, fastest-growing counties in the United States with an annual median income of $125,672, according to a 2016 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s a Washington, D.C., commuter city where the Latino population is burgeoning as a result of that growing economy — filling jobs in construction, landscaping and farming — but they can’t afford living there.

In a county where almost one-quarter of its population is foreign-born, St. Gabriel’s had to look outside of itself to minister to the new people in town. It was the key to survival.

That’s pretty much the point of these grants.

Resolution D005 and Resolution A012, approved by General Convention in July 2015, called for the new and continued funding of church plants and Mission Enterprise Zones.

Mission Enterprise Zones are designated geographic areas, congregations or dioceses with a mission focused on serving under-represented groups, such as young people, poor and less-educated people, people of color, and those who never, or hardly ever, attend church.

In the children’s classes of the Educando con Amor program, part of St. Gabriel’s social justice ministry, young students learn skills to improve their bilingual abilities in speaking, reading and writing to improve their college and career prospects. Photo: Eva Maria Torres Herrera

As a single congregation in which two languages are spoken, St. Gabriel’s is a study in contrasts that complement each other: It is both the planting of a Latino congregation, and the restart of an Anglo congregation founded by the Rev. Jeunee Cunningham in 2002-2003 as a mission plant and daughter church of St. James Episcopal Church in Leesburg. Membership dwindled after Cunningham left.

When Vélez-Rivera arrived to be vicar of St. Gabriel’s in 2012, it was almost like he needed to plant a whole new church with the remaining members.

The priest had some tough lessons ahead, despite his business experience in start-ups. Sunday attendance dropped from 20 to 15 people in those early days. He listened to concerns and logistical issues that people expressed and worked on growing the English-speaking congregation first. Then, Vélez-Rivera spent time getting to know the Latino community better, at grocery stores, soccer games and festivals, in order to make his face familiar and learn about people’s needs.

On his first Spanish-language Easter service, only one person showed up.

“I cried on the way home. It was so hard. They said the place was hard to find. That’s when I stopped, full-stop, to think,” Vélez-Rivera said. He turned to the parent church of St. James and was offered their space on Sunday afternoons.

On Sundays, the English service is at 10 a.m. in a middle school, and the Spanish service is at 3 p.m. at Saint James, followed by a meal and Bible study. Once a month from June to October, members from both services unite for a joint, bilingual service outdoors at Chapel in the Woods. The family of a St. James parishioner honored her will and gifted to St. Gabriel’s almost 12 acres of land, where the chapel is located. The outdoor altar and benches are made from the land’s timber, milled by the family.

Once zoning and other administrative issues are figured out, Vélez-Rivera has plans to build a permanent St. Gabriel’s structure for everyone to meet and worship. And by everyone, he means the community at large. “I’m so psyched,” he said.

It’s an example of how the old guard is welcoming and blending with the new.

“One of the primary learnings from St. Gabriel’s is that kind of work is lonely work for any leader, especially for an outspoken, Puerto Rican, prophetic leader like Daniel,” said the Rev. Tom Brackett, the Episcopal Church’s manager for church planting and mission development. “He has struggled to bring along an aging congregation and engage them in ministry with people unlike themselves, and he has done it beautifully.”

St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church members gather for the 2017 annual parish retreat at Shrine Mont, the Diocese of Virginia’s camp and conference center. Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church

Bob and Lisa Cusack have been members of St. Gabriel’s for 14 years, watching membership dwindle and then gradually transform into something new and grow. The older, Anglo members and newer Latino members mingle at special services, such as the Easter service and Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. At the annual St. Gabriel’s retreat at Shrine Mont in the Shenandoah Valley, they unite at meals, bonfires and hikes.

Communication isn’t much of a problem, they say, because there’s always someone around who can help translate if necessary, especially the children. To collaborate better, they recently added two people from the 3 p.m. service to the vestry, said Bob Cusack, also the senior warden. Longtime parishioner and volunteer music director Peter Schweitzer takes a leading role in the music for the English service and participates in the music as a choir member and flautist at the Spanish service.

“When you’re a church that’s lived out of a box for 14 years, you become a very tight-knit community. Everybody contributes,” Bob Cusack told ENS. He and his wife laughed. “And there’s a lot of food, which needs no language. It’s very relaxed. Everybody’s just trying to learn from everybody else. It’s a good learning experience.”

Lisa Cusack, who teaches Sunday school, agreed: “We share our faith, and that’s the most important thing, and that brings us together.”

The goal is to be as welcoming and accessible to all people as possible, Vélez-Rivera said.

At a recent barbecue fundraiser with music and games, tickets were sold on a sliding scale depending how much the person could afford. The same goes for the children’s summer camp fees. When school has an extended break, St. Gabriel’s sends food home for schoolchildren who qualify for the free and reduced lunch programs in collaboration with Backpack Buddies and Loudoun Hunger Relief.

Children are taught to celebrate their cultural heritage, one of the ways that the Rev. Daniel Vélez-Rivera, gathers into the church family parishioners whose first language is Spanish. Photo courtesy of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church

“We are serving the people that other churches don’t serve: the marginalized, the poor, the Latinos, not the traditional Episcopalians you think of when you think of the Episcopal Church,” Vélez-Rivera said. “My goal is for more churches to be all inclusive. Many churches are more clubby, and I’m not a club person. We’re a church.”

St. Gabriel’s growth in the last few years is not just because of the ability to worship in Spanish, but because parishioners can receive pastoral care and support for issues affecting their everyday lives, said Aisha Huertas, director of mission, outreach and diversity for the Diocese of Virginia.

“More and more churches should follow the example of congregations like St. Gabriel’s by creating and nurturing congregations that do not ignore the language, cultural diversity and challenges of the communities that surround them, but rather live into God’s call to love our neighbor,” Huertas told ENS. “It is hard to show our neighbors a Jesus kind of love, if we do not meet them where they are.”

Where are they? Crowded in apartment complexes. To solve transportation issues and provide the comfort of home turf, St. Gabriel’s was granted access to one of these apartment building’s community rooms to operate Educando con Amor, or Educating with Love, part of the church’s social justice ministry.

In that program, Eva María Torres Herrera teaches the U.S.-born, English-speaking children of immigrants how to read and write in Spanish so they can become fully bilingual. That way, they’ll be able to get into better colleges and be more marketable for better jobs.

Maria Diaz, a student of St. Gabriel’s Educando con Amor adult ESL program, plays the ball toss game in which the catcher has to say something in English. Photo: Eva Maria Torres Herrera

Sarah Ali Svoboda is the director of Educando con Amor’s adult ESL (English as a Second Language) program, teaching practical life skills literacy in English. She helps each adult with his or her goals, whether it’s tailoring a resume toward management positions, helping someone shop at the grocery store, explaining what to say at a bank, or using role-play to practice sharing symptoms with a doctor and making a medical appointments by phone. One language-learning technique that reduces anxiety is a ball-toss game, in which whoever catches the ball has to say something in English.

“It’s a safe space where no one is going to ask them for papers, and they can learn English without feeling embarrassed,” Svoboda said. “There are no handouts. It’s really about giving them skills so they can help themselves, get jobs and thrive in this country.”

Huertas said she believes that these efforts of radical welcome, justice, and love will prompt growth in the Episcopal Church as a whole.

“The makeup of the United States is changing and we, as a church, must be willing to change in ways that will address the needs of people today,” Huertas said.

“Most importantly, this work is living into God’s dream for human kind, that we will all live together in harmony — even if living in harmony means dealing with the discomfort of doing things unlike ‘we’ve always done them.’”

— Amy Sowder is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. She can be reached at AmySowder.com.

General Convention continues ‘virtual trend’ of going paperless

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 5:33pm

Diocese of Newark Deputies the Rev. Joseph Harmon and the Rev. John Mennell show off the loaner iPads assigned to all deputies and bishops for the Salt Lake City meeting of General Convention in 2015. They contain a “Virtual Binder,” electronically replacing most of convention’s until then-traditional paper systems. Photo: Nina Nicholson/Diocese of Newark

[Episcopal News Service] It used to be that General Convention conducted all of its legislative business on paper – approximately 1.2 million pieces of paper in 2012. No more.

For the second convention running, when each deputy, alternate deputy and bishop arrives in Austin, Texas, for the 79th General Convention, they will get a loaner iPad to use as their “Virtual Binder.” The iPads being used during the July 5-13 gathering are newer and faster than the ones the General Convention office rented in 2015.

The last time bishops and deputies used actual binders to keep track of General Convention legislative action was in 2012 for the 77th meeting of convention. Photo: Julie Murray/Diocese of Southern Ohio

Replacing each actual binder with the digital system will save the cost of those estimated 2,400 reams of paper, which amounted to about six tons, plus the copying costs. Convention veterans recall an actual binder that they gradually filled with their copies as the gathering progressed, often to the point where some used wheeled bags to transport their binders. “Click time” was set aside in each house for bishops and deputies to update their binders. Tracking the progress of resolutions was impossible for people who did not attend convention. No more.

Moreover, not only have the Virtual Binder’s functions been improved and expanded for greater access across the church, the system has made the Episcopal Church and the General Convention an innovative leader in the business of legislation tracking. There is also the prospect of sharing and licensing the system’s basic architecture to other groups.

The Virtual Binder is an app that runs on the bishops’ and deputies’ iPads, and can be accessed online. Those without a General Convention iPad can access the online version here. That latter version mirrors the app running on the iPads and changes along with it in real time.

No matter how it is accessed, the 2015 edition of the Virtual Binder enables users to track the progress of convention resolutions. It also includes each house’s daily agendas, calendars for each day and journals (a list of messages sent between the houses informing the other of actions taken), committee calendars and reports. It contains tabs for checking on current action and floor amendments in each house.

The virtual binder for the 79th meeting of General Convention features new search possibilities and ways to track legislation in both houses. To switch between houses, or to Spanish, click the gear icon at upper right. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

All in all, “this is exactly what the bishops and deputies are seeing on their iPads,” Twila Rios, manager of digital information systems in the convention office, told Episcopal News Service. “It’s replicated in real time which means there’s nanoseconds difference between what’s out there and what’s in here – something that human beings can’t register.”

“The most important thing is that within the budget constraints, which is what everybody in the church has to operate on, the new features are all in response to the questions and the feedback we received after the last General Convention,” said the Rev. Michael Barlowe, executive officer of the General Convention in an interview with ENS.

The 2018 edition of the binder includes these major changes:

  • An expanded resolutions search function will also give users more information about a resolution’s status. Reports of committee actions on each resolution will be available, as will postings of when a committee or a house is due to consider a resolution. Resolution texts will be updated as committees or houses make changes.
  • It used to be the that only way to know what a legislative committee was doing was to find the large stand in a convention hallway on which each committee’s daily agenda was posted. That stand will still operate in Austin but now such information will be searchable on the Virtual Binder by committee, date and/or resolution number. “We hope that this will make a lot better than it was last time,” Rios said. “It’s also dynamic,” she added, explaining that when a committee chair tells the General Convention Office about a meeting it wants scheduled, one of many volunteers enters the information into the system and it shows up immediately in the Virtual Binder. Those volunteers also will process resolution changes in real time.
  • Communications from one house to the other will also be posted to the Virtual Binder. In addition, text-based documents (as opposed to PDFs) being used during debate or announcements in text form will be available in the binder.
  • The church’s Constitution and Canons are also included in the binder. Bishops and deputies often need to reference those rules and “it’s easier to have it right there” than via a separate book or through internet access, Rios said.

Current versions of every resolutions to be considered by General Convention are available via the virtual binder. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The Virtual Binder is the public-facing portion of a multilayered system known as the Legislative Processing Online System that the General Convention Office developed with the help of E-accent, a software developer, according to Rios.

“There’s not a lot of legislative software out there. There’s a limited set of vendors and a limited number of customers,” she said, explaining that government entities are the main users.

“When we jumped into it prior to 2015, there wasn’t much out there.”

The General Convention Office took “a high risk that paid off” to make the switch to digital systems in the run-up to the 2015 convention, Barlowe said. “We actually invented this. No one had done anything like this in the legislative world.”

E-accent “took our ideas and created this thing,” he said, calling his staff the architects and the software developer the engineers.

The Virtual Binder and all of the other systems that mesh to make convention run smoothly require a lot of bandwidth and Barlowe said the Episcopal Church’s director of information technology, Darvin Darling, and his staff have helped his office with some “innovative ways that we can do more within the same bandwidth.”

Both at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City where convention met in 2015 and now at the Austin Convention Center, the buildings’ technical-support people, he said, “were fascinated by what we were doing, too.”

“That’s a really tip of the hat to the Episcopal Church and the General Convention Office is that even in a place like Austin which is pretty cutting-edge technologically, techies are interested in what we’re doing,” Barlowe said, referring to Austin’s annual South by Southwest event.

The Virtual Binder app and its connected systems are also what Barlowe described as an exercise in “ethical software.” Its developers don’t exploit their workers and that the General Convention meets or exceed with U.S. and European privacy rules.

“It’s part of our job to think through those things and to act as you’d except a church to operate, not just at the minimal ethical standards, but maximize the way that we treat data and the way we organize things and the way that we operate digitally,” he said.

“The longer term hope” is that the General Convention Office can find ways to share the systems with dioceses and other denominations, Barlowe said. There have already been conversations with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, for instance.

If the church has been an innovator in software, it has also led the market in the type of hardware convention needs. When Rios was looking to rent 1,200 tablets prior to the 2015 convention for the members of both houses plus the other administrative people who would need them, she discovered it was an unusual request. Also unusual was her request that the iPads be “custom imaged” with the General Convention’s apps.

“We were a new thing to the vendors,” she said.

In fact, the vendor, Meeting Tomorrow, now uses the idea of “custom imaged” iPads as part of its sales pitch. And E-accent, which will have staffers at General Convention, uses its work for the Episcopal Church to showcase its business.

The systems, Rios said, are constantly being refined and update. “It’s a work in progress,” she said.

The aim of that work is “trying to improve the ways that we can provide the information, make it more searchable,” she said. “There’s limitations and I’m always trying to find ways around the limitations and help to make this better, so people can find the information that they need.”

The General Convention mobile app runs on EventMobi. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Some limitations are financial, and some are technological, she and Barlowe said. For instance, some people asked for the ability for individual bishops and deputies to message each other from their iPads. Adding the infrastructure to meet that request “it was beyond our financial capacity,” he said.

Another digital way to follow convention

A free General Convention app is available for anyone using a smartphone or tablet running Android 4.4 or IOS 8.0 or later. The app contains General Convention schedules, maps, vendor information, daily orders of worship services and other useful materials. (Complete orders of service for convention’s daily Eucharists are also included on both the iPads, thus eliminating the need to print hundreds of worship booklets daily.)

Download the app here or from the App Store or Google Play, and then enter the code 79GC when prompted. The app can also be used on a computer. That link is here.

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

Bishop appoints new missioner for returning congregations

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 12:20pm

The Rev. Willis Coyne

[The Episcopal Church in South Carolina] Bishop Skip Adams has appointed the Rev. William Coyne as the new missioner for returning congregations for The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, a new diocesan staff position created to assist parishes and missions that are returning to The Episcopal Church.

“This new ministry is a way for our diocese to manifest good care of God’s people, live out our Diocesan Vision,and always seek the goals of reconciliation and unity in Christ during this important time of transition,” Adams said.

As missioner, Coyne will report directly to the bishop, while developing teams and support systems around the diocese for the successful return of churches to The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, which is the diocese of the Episcopal Church in eastern South Carolina.

“Bill Coyne brings great gifts to this position, both in his education and abilities and in his many years of experience at the parish and diocesan levels,” the bishop said. “His passion for congregational vitality and service to God’s people will be a great blessing to everyone who will be working with him in the months ahead.”

“What does a 21st-century mission-focused congregation look like in the Episcopal Church in South Carolina?” Coyne said. “That is my priority question as we begin this transition time together.”

Read ‘A Word from the New Missioner’ here

At least 28 parishes in the region are returning to The Episcopal Church in South Carolina under a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling in August 2017 in a lawsuit filed by a breakaway group. Prior to 2012, all the parishes were operating as Episcopal churches in the then-unified Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

The transition moved into a new phase on June 11, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the decision. The 1st Circuit Court of Common Pleas is now responsible for implementing the final ruling, a process which may take several months.

Coyne will be the chief diocesan contact person for every returning parish and mission, meeting with their leaders and identifying what is needed for an orderly return to The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. He also will help them with assessing their clergy and staff needs, determining their financial position, and setting up their governance and bylaws in accordance with church law.

One initial goal is for every congregation to be able to continue to worship on Sunday mornings without interruption through the transition period.

Coyne has served in The Episcopal Church in South Carolina since August 2015, when he was called as interim rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Charleston. He led that parish for two years through their successful call of a new rector last summer. In August 2017 he was named priest-in-charge of The East Cooper Episcopal Church, and will continue in that role alongside his new responsibilities.

Before coming to Charleston, he served for 15 years as archdeacon of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, where he was responsible for congregational development for 65 congregations. After retiring from that ministry in 2013, Coyne served in two interim positions in Western Massachusetts before he and his wife Janet moved to Charleston. The Coynes have three grown children and five grandchildren.

Fr. Coyne can be reached at wcoyne@episcopalchurchsc.org or 843-614-0679.

La Iglesia y líderes interreligiosos le piden al gobierno de EE.UU. que le ponga fin a su política migratoria que divide familias

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 9:57am

People hold signs to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order to detain children crossing the southern U.S. border and separating families outside of City Hall in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 7, 2018. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon – RC111056BF20

[Episcopal News Service] A mediados de mayo, un hondureño que cruzó la frontera de México con Estados Unidos en el sureste de Texas con su esposa y su hijo de 3 años se suicidó en un centro de detención, donde luego de solicitar asilo, los agentes fronterizos le dijeron que lo separarían de su familia.

Las separaciones de familia no sólo están ocurriendo en la frontera, las redadas están teniendo lugar en todo el país. A principios de junino, en Seattle, Washington, 206 inmigrantes indocumentados arrestados en la frontera y retenidos por el Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas de EE.UU.—174 de ellos mujeres, y al menos la mitad de ellas madres— fueron trasladados a un centro de detención cerca del aeropuerto. En algún momento de este traslado, a las madres las separaron de sus hijos. A algunas no les dieron la oportunidad de despedirse y podían oír a sus hijos gritar en un cuarto cercano; algunas no saben el paradero de sus hijos. La mayoría, aunque no todas, de las mujeres huían de las bandas y la violencia doméstica en El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras, tres de los países más violentos del mundo.

Menores solos y familias provenientes de América Central comenzaron a llegar a la frontera México-americana en cifras récord en 2014. Estas cifras disminuyeron posteriormente, pero hay un nuevo auge ahora en la frontera sudoccidental donde los agentes de Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas han detenido a más de 252.000 personas  —32.371 menores no acompañados y 59.371 familias— en los últimos ocho meses. Hay unos 11.000 menores no acompañados en detención federal.

El 11 de junio, Jeff Sessions, el secretario de Justicia de EE.UU., esclareció la política migratoria del gobierno de Trump al decir  que las violencias de las bandas armada y la violencia doméstica no eran fundamentos para la obtención de asilo, revocando así un precedente establecido en 2016 por la Junta Federal de Apelaciones de Inmigración del Departamento de Justicia.

A principios de abril, Sessions anunció que cualquiera que fuera detenido cruzando la frontera o intentando cruzarla ilegalmente estaría sujeto a un proceso penal. Luego, el 7 de mayo, durante un discurso en San Diego, Sessions aclaró la política de cero tolerancia, afirmando que incluye la separación de niños y padres.

“Los inmigrantes deben presentar una solicitud legal antes de entrar en nuestro país”, dijo Sessions. “Los ciudadanos de otros países no pueden violar nuestras leyes o reescribirlas por nosotros. Las personas de todo el mundo no tienen ningún derecho a exigir ingreso [en nuestro país] en violación de nuestra soberanía”.

Para llevar a cabo el cumplimiento de las nuevas normas, Sessions envío a 35 fiscales al Suroeste y trasladó 18 jueces de inmigración a la frontera.

El 6 de junio, un juez federal en San Diego rehusó desestimar una demanda presentada por la Unión Americana de Libertades Civiles que se oponía a la política migratoria del gobierno de Trump diciendo que la separación de las familias violaba la cláusula del debido proceso de la Constitución. Sin embargo, el juez sí desestimó otra demanda que argüía que la práctica viola las leyes de asilo.

Entrar o intentar entrar en Estados Unidos ilegalmente y solicitar asilo no es la misma cosa.

Conforme al derecho internacional, las personas que huyen de la violencia y la persecución tienen el derecho de solicitar asilo. La Iglesia Episcopal tiene una política de larga data que afirma el derecho universal de solicitar asilo; reconoce la necesidad de proteger a las personas vulnerables.

La semana pasada, el obispo primado Michael Curry firmó una declaración ecuménica e interreligiosa que expresaba preocupación por una reciente política del gobierno de EE.UU. “que exigía una aplicación más estricta de las leyes federales de inmigración”. Una política, dicen los firmantes, que probablemente dará lugar a un aumento en las separaciones de familias.

“En verdad aprecié que el obispo Curry firmara la declaración… lamentando la separación de las familias a partir de criterios religiosos” dijo la veterana activista de inmigración Sarah Lawton, que preside el Comité de Justicia Social y Política Internacional de la Convención General y es diputada laica por la Diócesis de California. “Aprecio que él reconozca que nosotros, como cristianos, como episcopales, respetamos a la familia como uno de los pilares fundamentales de la sociedad y lo reconocemos en nuestros propios sacramentos”.

Que Estados Unidos implante una política punitiva de separación de familias en la frontera —tomando a los niños y no diciéndoles a sus padres, en algunos casos, adonde van, no permitiéndoles que se despidan— para desalentar a los que solicitan asilo es [algo] inimaginable, afirmó ella, en una llamada telefónica con Episcopal News Service.

“Es tan cruel, realmente depravado. No necesitan hacer eso… Conforme al derecho internacional, ellos tienen el derecho de hacer una solicitud de asilo”, dijo Lawton. “Deberíamos estar todos al teléfono —o en las calles— llamando a nuestros legisladores. La política de EE.UU. ha estado en crisis durante mucho tiempo; eso se ha intensificado bajo Trump y se ha tornado más racista. La Administración busca presas fáciles, familias que están inscritas [en los sistemas de rastreo del gobierno] Es un terror que desciende sobre las familias. Como Iglesia, es nuestro deber proteger la dignidad de todo ser humano”.

Las historias de padres y madres separados de sus hijos en la frontera son sumamente perturbadoras, dijo —en un correo electrónico a ENS— Lacy Broemel, analista de la política migratoria y de refugiados de la Iglesia Episcopal que opera desde la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales [de la Iglesia] en Washington, D.C.

“La Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales insta a los episcopales a que se dirijan a sus representantes del Congreso y les pidan que el gobierno ponga fin a esta política lesiva de separar familias en la frontera. Nuestra oficina comparte la declaración del Obispo Primado con miembros del Congreso y se reúne con ellos para hacerles presente la profunda preocupación de la Iglesia Episcopal respecto a esta práctica y aboga mediante el proceso de partidas [presupuestarias] a que se opongan a la asignación de fondos adicionales a los centros de detención”, afirmó ella.

“Además, seguimos abogando por cambios en mayor escala en nuestras políticas migratorias, tales como la ciudadanía para los “soñadores”[Dreamers] y otras personas indocumentadas en EE.UU., la puesta en práctica de políticas humanas y razonables en nuestra frontera, y abordar la violencia y la pobreza de estas familias que huyen de sus países de origen”, dijo Broemel.

En su 79ª. Convención General en julio en Austin, Texas, la Iglesia Episcopal contemplará una legislación que refuerce sus posiciones sobre los refugiados, inmigración y migración, incluida la Resolución D009, que examina los principios cristianos para responder a la migración humana (la Convención General de 2015 aprobó varias resoluciones que fortalecían su posición sobre la migración y los refugiados).

La Convención se ocupará no sólo de responder a la crisis migratoria actual, sino que también adoptará una estrategia de respuesta a largo plazo en Estados Unidos, así como en lugares tales como la República Dominicana, donde los migrantes haitianos con frecuencia son víctimas de abuso, y en zonas donde el cambio climático amenaza con desplazar a comunidades enteras.

“La Iglesia Episcopal tiene un largo y bien documentado historial de batallar a favor de una reforma migratoria global así como de [brindarles] ayuda humanitaria a los refugiados”, dijo la Rvdma. Anne Hodges-Copple, obispa sufragánea de la Diócesis de Carolina del Norte. “El interés y la energía para esta labor no hace más que crecer mientras nuestras comunidades locales están siendo continuamente bendecidas con nuevos vecinos de otros países. Los relatos de familia rotas y sufriendo debido al inoperante sistema migratorio actual son las historias de familias que conocemos del trabajo, la escuela y la iglesia.

“Cinco resoluciones sobre la reforma migratoria se han presentado hasta ahora ante el Comité de Justicia Social y Política de EE.UU.. Esperamos más presentaciones que aborden la política del Departamento de Justicia de separar a los hijos de sus padres. Esta es una significativa desviación de décadas de anteriores gobiernos demócratas y republicanos que desafía cualquier definición usualmente aceptada de valores de la familia”, afirmó ella. “Un gran don de la Convención General es nuestro proceso de resoluciones como un modo de escuchar, hablar y aprender de una variedad de voces y de discernir devotamente una posición y un llamado a la acción bíblica y teológicamente fundamentados”.

A principios de este mes, Rebecca Linder Blachly, directora de la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales, firmó una declaración interreligiosa que lamentaba la separación de las familias e instaba a los líderes nacionales a proteger la unidad familiar.

Las iglesias y las comunidades religiosas tienen un derecho constitucional a presentarle peticiones al gobierno.  La cláusula del establecimiento de la Primera Enmienda no les prohíbe a las iglesias reunirse con funcionarios electos ni informarles o abogar cerca de ellos con el objetivo de crear leyes en consonancia con los valores de las iglesias. A través de la historia de EE.UU., las comunidades religiosas se han comprometido políticamente con problemas de su tiempo: desde la abolición hasta la reforma migratoria pasando por los derechos civiles.

La Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales – ubicada en el barrio Capitol Hill [donde se encuentra el Congreso]— lleva a cabo la agenda de la Iglesia basada en valores no partidaristas. Cada tres años, la Convención General de la Iglesia se reúne para conducir los asuntos relacionados con la Iglesia y debatir y aprobar una legislación que abarca desde revisiones del Libro de Oración Común hasta resoluciones en apoyo de una reforma de la justicia penal y migratoria. Los episcopales pueden unirse a la Red Episcopal de Política Pública para llegar a participar de esta labor.

Para escribirle a sus funcionarios electos y pedirles que defiendan el acceso al asilo, haga clic aquí.

En mayo, la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales presentó un seminario en la red [webinar] sobre políticas migratorias y defensa social titulado “Amando a tu prójimo: acciones consecuentes sobre la inmigración”. Haga clic aquí para verlo.

— Lynette Wilson es reportera y jefa de redacción de Episcopal News Service. Puede dirigirse a ella en lwilson@episcopalchurch.org. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Cape Town Archbishop welcomes easing of restrictions on sexual violence prosecutions

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 1:43pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishop of Cape Town has welcomed a decision by South Africa’s Constitutional Court which will make it easier for victims of sexual violence to seek justice. A statute of limitation in South Africa prevented prosecutions for sexual offences other than rape, if the alleged offence occurred more than 20 years earlier. The Constitutional Court struck down that law, saying it was inconsistent with the country’s constitution.

Read the entire article here.

Extending the Table pursues Christian ministries as means to build relationships in community

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 1:22pm

The Rev. Jane Johnson, left, and Bobbie Joy Amann, the lead missioner of Beloved Community’s Mission Action Team, enjoy a conversation with Jeffrey, a regular at the Saturday breakfasts. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series profiling the Episcopal Church’s recent work planting new churches and other faith communities. Other stories about recipients of grants from the Episcopal Church’s Genesis Advisory Group on Church Planting can be found here.

[Episcopal News Service] The door of the downtown storefront in this central Wisconsin college town opened into a spacious retreat, a warm gathering place with couches, chairs and tables and one that, every Saturday, offers a modest breakfast.

On this Saturday, a man in a red hooded sweatshirt was the first through the front door promptly at 9 a.m. He made his way first to the coffee, only later wandering over to the Episcopalian and Lutheran volunteers who were serving ham, cheesy potatoes, banana bread and other homemade items.

Another man in stocking hat and coat plopped down on a chair looking weary. “More sick than hungry,” the man said. The Rev. Jane Johnson pulled up her own chair close to sit and talk with him as the rest of the room began to fill with conversation over food.

This weekly community meal for people who are chronically homeless or living on the economic margins is one component of a ministry known as Extending the Table, which has received key support from a $20,000 Mission Enterprise Zone grant from the Episcopal Church. Meals are central to the ministry but only as a means to the underlying goal of building new relationships.

“It’s living out your faith,” Valerie Le Grande, one of the church volunteers, said during Episcopal News Service’s visit to the breakfast. “Because I think we are called to help the poor and the underprivileged.”

“And those who just need a friend,” fellow volunteer Diane Rice said as she prepared to serve food to about a dozen or more people.

Valerie Le Grande serves food to some of the visitors to the weekly community meal organized by Intercession Episcopal Church and Redeemer Lutheran Church, which worship together as Beloved Community in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The ministry is ecumenical because the congregation itself is ecumenical. Johnson is rector of Intercession Episcopal Church and pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church through a partnership they call Beloved Community, involving a shared worship space in Stevens Point, a small city of about 27,000 people. They also collaborate on the Mission Action Team spearheading Extending the Table, which is taking church into the community in innovative ways.

“The challenge that we decided we have is, we don’t know how to build connections with people who are not like us,” Johnson said.

The four groups that Extending the Table aims to connect with are people living on the economic margins, the transgender community, college students and young people.

“This is a good example of the sorts of new ministries that we’re looking to start across the Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Michael Michie, staff officer for church planting infrastructure. “For a lot of people, crossing the threshold of an established church can be hugely intimidating. … So, having a creative, highly relational ministry that really seeks to bring these people in and connect with us, it’s just the kind of thing that we’re so excited about.”

Even before those efforts received the backing of an Episcopal Church grant, Intercession had reached out to the transgender community through a support group called Just As I Am, led by Intercession member Bobbie Joy Amann.

Amann, who now serves as the lead missioner of the Mission Action Team, is transgender and knew some of the therapists in Stevens Point who work with the transgender community, so she began spreading the word about creating a church-based group offering support and socializing.

The LGBTQ community “in the past has been very, very suspicious of Christianity, at least the way it has been misrepresented,” Amann said, so it was important to first build trust and not go in with a religious agenda.

The church began hosting the meetings about two years ago, sometimes drawing 15 to 20 people. Amann thinks the participants were impressed by congregation members’ willingness to listen with acceptance and offer silent witnesses to their experiences.

Members of the Just As I Am group still meet socially around town and remain connected to the church, though the regular church meetings have since ended.

Extending the Table also has organized monthly community dinners at the church for the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at the University of Stevens Point, which helps the church build relationships with both the LGBTQ community and college students. The most recent dinner was May 10 and featured pizza and conversation and “just being present to them in a way they’re probably not used to having Christians be with them,” Amann said.

That is the approach the Mission Action Team is taking with all the communities that are part of Extending the Table.

“It’s putting wings to our gospel and being the hands and arms and feet of Christ,” Amann said.

The weekly meal for people who are chronically homeless or living on the economic margins is one component of a ministry known as Extending the Table, which has received key support from a $20,000 Mission Enterprise Zone grant from the Episcopal Church. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The efforts underway at Intercession coincide with an openness to ministry experimentation and reflection encouraged by Diocese of Fond du Lac Bishop Matthew Gunter, who created the diocesan Commission on Congregational Vitality about three years ago.

The commission, of which Johnson is a member, is working with all congregations in the diocese to assess their strengths and challenges to develop plans for making them more visible in the community. And those plans are not intended to simply get more people into the church on Sunday.

“We’ve been encouraging congregations to think hard about what they can do in their own context,” Gunter told ENS.

Extending the Table has been a leading example. “The way they did that fit very much into the mindset of what can we do to engage mission differently,” he said.

One catalyst for the Extending the Table was the deliberations over Intercession’s building. It was in serious need of repair, and although fixing the building to remain in the congregation’s historic location would have been feasible, the congregation began discerning whether that was really how God was calling them to use their time and money.

Cathy Cowling, another member of the Commission on Congregational Vitality, was asked to help facilitate those discussions, and she told ENS that Intercession didn’t make the decision to move lightly.

“Is the church the building, or is the church the people gathered there and doing ministry? And they said the church is more than the building,” Cowling said.

Intersession already had a growing relationship with Redeemer Lutheran Church, an Evangelical Lutheran Church of America congregation. Johnson had been leading a regular Wednesday night meal and Christian education session involving members of the two congregations. With Intercession assessing its location options and with Redeemer searching for a new pastor, the two churches reached an agreement to share Johnson as rector-pastor and to allow Intercession to move into and share Redeemer’s church building starting last August.

“A lot of folks get fixated on the fact we left our building,” Johnson said, but a church is more than the building. “Do we save the building? Or do we save the church? And we just decided that if our focus continued to be on do we save the building, we’re not going to be able to move into this way of mission that God is calling us to.”

The Saturday breakfasts grew out of an earlier ministry to homeless people staying in a winter warming center housed in Intercession’s parish hall and run by an organization called Evergreen Community Initiatives. That warming center, with a capacity of a dozen people, opened in November 2016.

The church started offering meals to the warming center residents some Saturdays, and when the warming center closed for the season in April 2017, Intercession decided to continue the meals every Saturday morning at a centrally located park in Stevens Point.

The Extending the Table breakfasts are held every Saturday morning at Franciscans Downtown in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Then last fall, the breakfasts moved to its current location in Franciscan Downtown, a kind of day center for the homeless and economically disadvantaged run by a Franciscan order.

“How is Mother Jane?” a man named Jeffrey said to Johnson shortly after arriving at breakfast. Jeffrey is a Saturday morning regular and a former resident of the warming center at Intercession.

“I’m well, thank you,” Johnson said.

Most of the people who come are chronically homeless or people dependent on government assistance to get by. Jeffrey, who declined to provide his last name to a reporter, is 67 and gets by on Social Security checks and selling items at flea markets in the summer months, when he lives out of his car. He and the others who gather here Saturday mornings can take advantage of well-established feeding services provided by other organizations in Stevens Point. The goal of Extending the Table was not to replicate those organizations’ work.

“The whole point isn’t really to serve food,” Johnson told ENS. “The whole point is to build relationships and community.” It’s about “just rethinking what it means to be the body of Christ, and that we need to be in ministry with one another.”

The Mission Action Team follows an open-ended but deliberate cycle: Listen, discern, experiment, reflect, repeat. It’s a template that can be followed by congregations across the church.

“What we’re learning, we’re intent on sharing that with the larger church,” said Michie, the staff officer for church planting infrastructure. Congregations like the one in Stevens Point are “kind of pioneering the way for what the Episcopal Church will look like in the next generation.”

Church members Diane and Harry Rice greet and offer food to guests at the community meal. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

God’s presence is felt every Saturday at Franciscans Downtown, where on this morning the meal was followed by a memorial service for John Jankowski, a beloved regular who died the month before.

“The best way to describe John was, we all have our own idiosyncrasies, tendencies and peculiarities, and his peculiarities were peculiar,” Jeffrey said.

As for Jeffrey, he said he once taught math and economics to high school students. Now he likes to spend his summers in Wisconsin’s Northwoods, or wherever else life takes him. He said he has no family, though it was clear he had made connections among the people at the breakfast.

“You do have family,” Johnson told him. “I’m your family.”

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

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