General Convention Reinforces its Creation Care Stance

General Convention addressed some 18 resolutions further strengthening its position on stewardship of the environment and creation care, sending a message of engagement to Episcopalians churchwide.

“The number of care of creation resolutions that passed General Convention 79 was remarkable and a sign of a growing, vital spirit in the Episcopal Church around creation care,” said California Bishop Marc Andrus, a member of the Environmental Stewardship and Care of Creation Committee and co-chair of the Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation, in a statement emailed to Episcopal News Service.

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General Convention Responds to the Voices and Stories of Women

The voices and stories of women played a significant role in the workings of the 79th General Convention, from a liturgy where bishops offered laments and confession for the church’s role in sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse, to Resolution D087 that allows deputies to bring infant children on the floor of the House of Deputies to feed them.

On the night of July 4, before the convention officially opened, a Liturgy of Listening featured stories from women and men who were victims of sexual misconduct perpetrated by someone in the church. Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe of the Diocese of Central New York, who planned the service, said it was designed to help set a framework for General Convention’s consideration of resolutions dealing with sexual misconduct, exploitation and gender disparity. As part of a response to that liturgy, the House of Bishops on July 8 adopted a covenant that commits them to seek changes in their dioceses to combat abuse, harassment and exploitation.

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Convention Lets Its ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ Agreeing to Give Church Full Access to Trial-Use Marriage Rites

Deputies dotted the last i and crossed the last t on July 13 with a historic resolution giving all Episcopalians the ability to be married by their priests in their home churches.

Resolution B012 had gone from the House of Deputies to the bishops and back to the deputies on its road to approval. Deputies overwhelmingly approved a heavily amended version of the resolution on July 9, and the House of Bishops added a technical amendment two days later that does not change B012’s goal of giving full access to two trial-use marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples approved by the 2015 meeting of General Convention (via Resolution A054).

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Grain, Bread, Community: 750lb Mobile Stone Mill in Convention’s Exhibit Hall Turns Ancient Grains into Flour for Communion Bread

The reasons why bread baked from ancient grains are so much better for the body, and the Body of Christ, are simply that “these are the same grains that Jesus ate,” said the Rev. Elizabeth DeRuff, an agricultural chaplain with the Episcopal Church and founder of Honoré Farm and Mill. “This bread is lifegiving.”

These are the grains attendees to the 79thGeneral Convention in Austin, Texas, are receiving at Eucharist each day. 

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General Convention Moves One Step Closer Toward Sacramental Marriage Equality

The House of Deputies overwhelmingly endorsed a heavily amended resolution July 9 aimed at ensuring that all Episcopalians can be married by their priests in their home churches.

Resolution B012, a carefully crafted compromise that its final proposers hope will be accepted by both houses of convention, gives full access to two trial-use marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples approved by the 2015 meeting of General Convention (via Resolution A054).

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Bishops Lament and Confess the Church’s Role in Sexual Harassment, Exploitation and Abuse

In a hushed worship space in the Austin Convention Center late in the afternoon of July 4, bishops of the Episcopal Church stood and collectively offered laments and confession for the church’s role in sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse in a service called a “Liturgy of Listening.”

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Interfaith Voices Demanding Changes to Immigration Policy Make a Difference in Washington

Phones are ringing off the hook at congressional offices on Capitol Hill as Americans call 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.

“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.”

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Episcopalians Join the Poor People’s Campaign Rally, March on Washington

Thousands of people, including at least 100 Episcopalians, from across the country representing social justice organizations, churches and faith-based initiatives gathered on June 23 in Washington, D.C., for the Poor People’s Campaign rally and march. For three-and-a-half hours on the National Mall, speakers — the majority of them living on the front lines of poverty — shared their personal stories relating to systemic racism, environmental degradation and other poverty indicators. Following the rally, attendees took to the street and marched to the Capitol chanting slogans like, “This Is What Democracy Looks Like” and “The People United Will Not Be Divided.”

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General Convention Continues ‘Virtual Trend’ of Going Paperless

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, each deputy, alternate deputy and bishop, upon arrival in Austin, Texas, for the 79th General Convention, will get a loaner iPad to use as a “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.

Replacing each actual binder with the digital system will save the cost of the 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.

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Extending the Table Pursues Christian Ministries as Means to Build Relationships in Community

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…

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.

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Congregations’ Pet Ministries Offer Support to Pet Owners and Their Four-Legged Companions

Lord God made them all, the creatures of the world great and small, and God’s smaller creatures are getting a helping hand from the numerous Episcopal congregations around the country with pet outreach in their lineup of parish ministries.

In Roswell, New Mexico, there’s the Four Paws Pet Pantry, a ministry of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. In Danvers, Massachusetts, All Saints Episcopal Church calls its ministry Perfect Paws, with services ranging from pet food drives to a therapy dog program in local schools. And St. Paul’s Church By-the-Lake in Chicago, Illinois, has a monthly food pantry called AniMeals that doubles as a basic pet clinic, with local veterinarians donating their time.

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Church, Interfaith Leaders Call for US Government to End its Immigration Policy Separating Families

In mid-May, a Honduran man who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into southeast Texas with his wife and 3-year-old son committed suicide at a detention center, where after requesting asylum, border agents told him he’d be separated from his family.

Family separations aren’t just happening at the border, roundups are happening nationwide. In early June, in Seattle, Washington, 206 undocumented immigrants apprehended at the border and held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody – 174 of the women, at least half of them mothers – were transferred to a detention facility near the airport. Somewhere along their journey, the mothers were separated from their children. Some weren’t given the chance to say goodbye and could hear their children screaming in a nearby room; some don’t know their children’s whereabouts. Most, though not all, of the women fled ongoing gang and domestic violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, three of the most violent countries in the world.

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General Convention Adopts New Approach to Israel-Palestine Issues Promoting Open Debate

A group of bishops and deputies who were asked to find a way to navigate the often-thorny discussions of Episcopal Church policy toward Israel and Palestine has announced its recommendations for fostering open and productive debate on those issues at General Convention this July.

Five bishops and five members of the House of Deputies served on the Israel and Palestine Working Group, which was formed last year by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president. Curry and Jennings have accepted the working group’s three core recommendations, according to an email to members of the two houses sent May 31 by the Rev. Michael Barlowe, General Convention’s executive officer.

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Charlottesville Congregation’s Food Education Ministry Grows into its Social Justice Mission

The food ministry at Trinity Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, starts in the church’s garden. Volunteers till the soil. They weed and water the raised beds. They harvest the produce when it’s ready, their work sessions filled with fellowship and concluding in prayer.

The ministry, called Bread & Roses, then brings that fresh produce into the church’s commercially certified kitchen, where it becomes a learning tool in cooking classes that teach lessons in nutrition and healthy cooking techniques.

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Episcopalians Again Help Flood-Ravaged Maryland Town Recover

Episcopalians in Ellicott City, Maryland, were cleaning up their homes and businesses on May 29, while helping their neighbors do the same and offering them shelter after torrential rain two days before sent a destructive flash flood through the town’s downtown.

“St. Peter’s responded by showing up for our neighbors. Thanks to generous donations from the wider community, hot food, bottled water, hot coffee, sandwiches, phone chargers, and even a grill for cooking hamburgers and hot dogs arrived! Sara Beth [Dukes, a church neighbor] arrived to offer trauma release acupuncture for those who wanted it. We listened, we offered shoulders to cry on, and we distributed tools and equipment to help our neighbors.”

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Refugee Cultures to Take Center Stage in Festival at National Cathedral led by Grassroots Group

An upcoming outdoor festival on the grounds of Washington National Cathedral will celebrate refugees and their contributions to American culture, cuisine and communities.

The One Journey Festival, to be held June 2, is the most prominent product yet of an initiative that has grown out of the work of a small group of Episcopalians at a congregation in Virginia who were concerned about the increasingly negative depictions of the refugees coming to this country.

 

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Episcopalians Help Muslims Break their Daily Fast at Interfaith Iftar Dinners During Ramadan

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan started last week, and Episcopal congregations across the country have been encouraged to participate in an interfaith outpouring of support, including by hosting or joining the dinners at which Muslims break their daily fast.

The meals, called iftars, are served every evening after sundown during Ramadan, which started this year on May 16. Iftars often are festive community gatherings, sometimes held in homes, sometimes in mosques – and sometimes in Christian churches, in an effort to bridge divides across faith traditions.

St. James Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio, is preparing to host its 15th annual iftar, and the meals have become so popular that the church has to take reservations and cap attendance at 150. Lead organizer Janet Bailey called the meal the church’s gift to its Muslim neighbors, “to let them know that we care and that we’re not afraid and that this is a safe environment for them.”

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Royal Wedding Preacher Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Shares his Love of Jesus with the World

When millions of people around the world tuned in to witness and celebrate the royal wedding of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle, they were also treated to one of the most dynamic preachers the happy couple could have chosen for their nuptials.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the African-American leader of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, spoke passionately for 13 minutes about the power of love.

“The late Dr. Martin Luther King once said, and I quote: ‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love, and when we do that we will make of this old world a new world. For love is the only way.’

“There’s power in love. Do not underestimate it,” the presiding bishop said. “Anyone who has ever fallen in love, knows what I mean. But think about love in any form or experience of it. It actually feels good to be loved, and to express love. There is something right about it. And there’s a reason.

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Episcopalians in Food Ministry Worry Vulnerable Immigrants Aren’t Being Fed Because of Detention Fears

It’s a problem with no clear solution. Immigrants with pending U.S. applications for legal residence or citizenship fear a possible new regulation that could mean they’ll hurt their chances toward those residency goals if they use government nutrition programs to help feed their eligible family members, thus possibly tearing their families apart.

One thing is obvious, however, some food-ministering Episcopalians say: Politics aside, feeding the hungry is a Christian duty.

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Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to Preach at Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

 Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will preach at next weekend’s wedding of Prince Henry of Wales – more informally referred to as Prince Harry – and the U.S. actress Meghan Markle, Kensington Palace announced May 12. Prince Harry, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth and sixth in line to the throne, will marry Markle at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle next Saturday, May 19 in a service conducted by the Dean of Windsor, David Conner. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will officiate.

The invitation from the couple to Curry to preach at the service is a departure from tradition for British royal weddings. While previous royal weddings have involved clergy from other Christian churches saying prayers for the couple, sermons are usually given by senior Church of England clergy. The service will be televised around the world, and it is likely that the presiding bishop, who refers to himself as the CEO of the Episcopal Church – the chief evangelism officer – won’t resist the opportunity to talk about what he calls the Jesus Movement.

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Bilingual Eucharist to be Celebrated in Waters of the Rio Grande at One-Day Texas Border Crossing Party

When the tiny border community of Lajitas, Texas, celebrates Holy Eucharist on May 12, the Rev. Paul Moore will consecrate the bread and wine standing in the middle of the Rio Grande, with water soaking the bottom of his vestments and without a clear sense of whether his feet are planted on the American side or the Mexican side.

This is the second year that Moore, an Episcopal priest from Silver City, New Mexico, will preside over a Eucharist in the river as part of the Voices From Both Sides celebration, an annual event that serves as a kind of community reunion for people from both sides of the border.

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Police Officer-Turned-Antiques Dealer Discovers Heart for Prison Ministry

For 20 years, Jon Felz helped send people to prison as a New York police officer. Today, he’s volunteering his time to help those behind bars as a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark’s Prison Ministry.

“I have over 1,200 felony arrests,” he said. “But when you lock somebody up, you spend three hours with them processing them, and then you rarely see them again unless the case goes to trial. Ninety percent of the cases don’t go to trial. You don’t get to focus on them as human beings.”

But Felz’s faith journey has lent him new perspective and purpose. Now an antiques dealer and certified appraiser, Felz led an “Antiques Roadshow”-style event on April 21 at the Episcopal Church of St. James in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, to raise money for the diocese’s programs for inmates and their families. Looking ahead, he hopes to join ministry members in leading Bible studies for inmates.

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River of Life Pilgrimage Broadens to Three, Shorter New England Canoe Trips in Second Year

The paddle-carrying Episcopalians who created a church on the water for 40 days last summer are gearing up again to become pilgrims on the River of Life, this time with three shorter canoe and kayak trips in New England.

“The 40-day one was an enormous undertaking and something we couldn’t keep going every year,” said the Rev. Stephen Blackmer of Church of the Woods in Canterbury, New Hampshire. “We’re hoping and expecting that we’ll be continuing to do … more bite-size trips.”

When Blackmer says “bite-size,” he still envisions immersive natural experiences filled with fellowship, prayer and prayerful silence, as well as overnight stays in churches and at campgrounds. Last year’s Connecticut River pilgrimage has been shortened to nine days in July, with three segments for would-be worshipers to join and ending in western Massachusetts. The Diocese of Rhode Island also is hosting two weekend trips, one in May and the other in September.

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Pop Music’s Beyoncé Inspires Eucharist at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco

Sometimes controversial, often empowering, pop culture icon Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s music, lyrics and life have inspired faith leaders to organize an alternative church service April 25 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

At Beyoncé Mass, churchgoers can learn about the formation of the wild (or not-so wild?) idea that this celebrated singer’s lyrics can be tied to biblical messages.

It’s a Wednesday evening service created by The Vine for faith seekers and fans to sing their Beyoncé favorites and “discover how her art opens a window into the lives of the marginalized and forgotten, particularly black women,” the cathedral’s event announcement says. Launched in March 2017, The Vine is both a service and an offer of community for city folks and spiritual seekers through contemporary worship with great music on Wednesday nights, or small “Grace Groups” throughout the city, according to the website.

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New Interactive Website Aims to Help Episcopalians Navigate Church’s Clergy Discipline Procedures

The Episcopal Church’s decades-long process of refining its clergy discipline process will take a big logistical step forward this summer when an interactive website debuts. The site was developed with the hope of bringing a common understanding of the rules and helping clergy avoid getting into trouble and injuring others in the first place.

The website is in the beta testing phase, and members of the church’s Executive Council have been invited to join that process. It is scheduled to debut during General Convention in July. The site is designed to help Episcopalians navigate the church’s Title IV clergy disciplinary process (those canons can be found beginning on page 131 of the church’s Constitution and Canons here).

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Wisconsin Church’s Rain Barrel Sale Highlights Outreach Plans Emphasizing Creation Care

You might say Trinity Episcopal Church in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, is offering creation care by the barrel.

The congregation, thanks in part to a Stewardship of Creation grant from the Episcopal Church, distributed 30 rain barrels on April 21 to residents of this small city in mostly rural southwest Wisconsin. Its rain barrel workshop kicked off a weeklong program of Earth Day events on the theme “Water Is Life.”

The Rev. John Floberg, Episcopal missioner on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, will speak later this week in Mineral Point about the Episcopal Church’s opposition last year to part of the Dakota Access Pipeline. And Trinity’s $10,000 grant also will be used to create raised garden beds and a separate rain garden on church grounds, as well as to produce a children’s education program on environmental issues.

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Episcopal Church Joins Call for End to Gaza Violence and Measures to Protect Palestinians

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who visited Gaza City days before protests began along the fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel, has added the Episcopal Church’s name to a joint statement protesting Israel’s deadly response to the violence.

The 15 denominations and Christian agencies say that they “cannot be silent” as Gazans have been killed or injured during the first two weeks of protests that are expected to occur until May 15. That is the day when Palestinians mark the “Nakba,” which is Arabic for “catastrophe,” and commemorates the estimated 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced off their land during the war that followed Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence from the British mandate of Palestine. That day is expected to be particularly fraught this year because it falls near the day when President Donald Trump plans to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a controversial shift in U.S. policy.

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Beloved Episcopal priest, 87, Mourned as New York Police seek his Attackers in Home Invasion

Episcopalians in the Diocese of Long Island are mourning a beloved priest, the Rev. Paul Wancura, who died this week at age 87 from injuries suffered during a home invasion last month at his home.

“The sad news of the death of Canon Wancura has touched everyone in our diocese,” Bishop Lawrence Provenzano said late April 17 in a message to the diocese. “Those who knew him well are suffering the loss of a devoted priest and friend who was quick to provide support and prayerful insight to all who sought his counsel. Those who did not know him personally are struck nonetheless by the reported cruelty and violence during a home invasion that resulted in the death of this beloved priest.”

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Diocese of Atlanta clergy, laity renew vows at Martin Luther King Jr.’s church

Clergy and laity of the Diocese of Atlanta gathered this week for their renewal of vows in the sanctuary of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his father and grandfather preached.

Diocese of Atlanta Bishop Robert C. Wright, whose diocese also includes middle and north Georgia, said he sought permission to use the site because of its connection to the civil rights movement leader and the recognition of the humanity of all Americans.

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Church Reopens in ‘Joyful Scramble,’ Heralds Reconciliation Efforts with Los Angeles Diocese

An Episcopal congregation in Southern California that had been barred from its church for three years amid a property dispute with the diocese has returned to the church with a spirit of reconciliation and hope.

Families are inundating the church with requests for baptisms and weddings, the congregation is ramping up its outreach ministries, and on April 8 worship services resumed at the Newport Beach church for the first time since 2015. What was St. James the Great is now known simply as St. James Episcopal Church.

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General Convention will Again Grapple with Same-Sex Marriage Questions

When convention authorized the liturgies in 2015, bishops and deputies said individual diocesan bishops had to approve their use.  And convention directed diocesan bishops to “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have access to these liturgies.”

General Convention’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage has since monitored the use of the trial liturgies and is aware of concern about unequal access to the trial use liturgies. Its Blue Book Report, released April 3, says it found that eight diocesan bishops in the church’s 101 domestic dioceses have not authorized the trial liturgies…The task force is proposing that convention require bishops in authority to “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have reasonable and convenient access to these trial rites.

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Presiding Bishop to Join Ecumenical Partners Speaking at April 4 Rally in Washington 

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will be one of the featured speakers at the National Council of Churches (NCC) rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC on April 4.

Named A.C.T. to End Racism Rally, the purpose of the rally, being held on the 50thanniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is to launch the NCC initiative to end racism.  The A.C.T. to End Racism Rally is the starting point of a multi-year effort by NCC to remove racism from the nation’s social fabric and bring the country together

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