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Executive Council ponders, debates next triennial General Convention budget

Sat, 10/21/2017 - 8:41pm

Oklahoma Bishop Ed Konieczny speaks during a break in the Executive Council meeting Oct. 19 with Tess Judge (center), chair of council’s Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission, and committee member the Rev. Mally Lloyd. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council came face to face with the realities of the 2019-21 triennial budget during its fall meeting and pledged to share the burden of eventually bringing a balanced budget to 2018 meeting of General Convention.

There is an $8 million deficit in the current “working draft” of a budget which will eventually need the approval of the 2018 meeting of General Convention, the Rev. Mally Lloyd, a member of council’s Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission told the council. The gap between anticipated revenue and the spending asked for by the churchwide staff and council’s joint standing committees stood at just more than $12 million when FFM began its work at this meeting.

The gap comes even as anticipated income is nearly $3.7 million higher than that expected the 2016-18 triennial budget. Major sources of income include dioceses, an investment income draw, income from renting out space in the Church Center in Manhattan and a planned “annual appeal” beginning in 2018.

Expenses for 2019-21 assume a 3 percent increase in staff salaries over three years and a 9 percent increase in staff health insurance costs.

Lloyd led the council through the working draft, answered questions and heard pleas from some members to restore cuts already made. She acknowledged that council members all have line items that “are close to your heart” but she urged them to “think about the ministry of the whole and the work of the whole.”

“We’re trying to juggle and balance all these different areas to make one whole reflection of the values, the theology and the love of the Episcopal Church,” she said.

The budget is based on an anticipated $128.7 million in revenue, including $86.7 million in mandatory assessment payments of 15 percent of dioceses’ annual income. However, the current draft anticipates that some dioceses will get full or partial waivers of those payments, up to a “maximum possible” $6.8 million, according to Lloyd. The diocesan payments amount also assumes  .5 percent growth in those dioceses’ annual operating income. Thus, the likely diocesan contribution is pegged at $79.9 million.

Mally Lloyd leads the #Episcopal Church’s Executive Council through a discussion of the current draft of the 2018-2021 budget #excoun pic.twitter.com/YZsTJjGj1j

— Frank Logue (@franklogue) October 21, 2017

The Episcopal Church’s three-year budget is funded primarily by pledges from the church’s 109 dioceses and three regional areas. Each year’s annual giving in the three-year budget is based on a diocese’s income two years earlier, minus $150,000. For the 2016-18 budget, dioceses were asked to give 18 percent in 2016, 16.5 percent in 2017 and 15 percent in 2018.

Diocesan commitments for 2016 and 2017 are here.

Not all dioceses pay the full asking for a variety of reasons. Fifty-six dioceses committed to paying the full asking or more in 2017.

At the 2015 meeting of General Convention, bishops and deputies made the current voluntary diocesan budgetary asking system mandatory for the 2019-21 budget cycle, effective Jan. 1, 2019. Without getting a waiver, a diocese that does not pay the full assessment will be unable to get grants or loans from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

(The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business, and carries out mission.)

Lloyd said additional income could be gleaned by increasing the percentage amount assessed to dioceses from the anticipated 15 percent to 16 percent. A 1 percent hike would bring in an additional roughly $5.8 million, she said. The council could press to have more dioceses pay the full assessment, regardless of the amount, she added.

The working draft also includes a $4.6 million contingency fund, which General Convention’s  Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) requested to help it deal with unexpected convention resolutions that request funding. As much as $1.5 million of that fund could go toward the costs of convention’s possible decision to begin to revise the Book of Common Prayer. Lloyd said the contingency fund could be reduced.

She warned that the budget could not count on drawing money from the church’s short-term reserves, which she termed “dangerously low” at $2.3 million. That fund ought to have $9.5 million, Lloyd said.

Evangelism advocates on council call for reconsideration

The Rev. Susan Brown Snook, chair of council’s Joint Standing Committee on Local Ministry and Mission, told council that money for evangelism would be cut by 41 percent in this version of the budget. At the same time, the presiding bishop’s office budget would increase by 49 percent and governance costs would go up by 39 percent, she said.

Snook sponsored Resolution D005 at General Convention in 2015 to set up a church-planting network and fellow council member, the Rev. Frank Logue convinced that same meeting of convention to add $2.8 million to the 2016-2018 budget for evangelism work.

That latter allocation was funded from an additional .6 percent draw on investment income, making the current draw 5.67 percent. The church’s investment committee has asked that the next budget use a 4.5 percent draw, a request that Lloyd said FFM decided it could not honor without creating an even bigger deficit. The current working draft sets the draw at 5 percent.

In the working draft, money for evangelism would go from the $5.9 million allocated in the 2016-18 budget to $3.5 million. Money for racial justice and reconciliation would remain roughly the same at $9.4 million and the creation care budget would go from $650,000 to $740,000.

Evangelism efforts account for 2.6 percent of total expenses and cost for the church’s stated three current priorities of evangelism, racial justice and reconciliation and creation care account for less than 10 percent of the budget, Snook said.

“We do no need to be a church in decline anymore,” she said. “We need to be a church that goes out boldly.”

The Very Rev. Brian Baker, a FFM member, argued that the church’s recent effort to plant new churches is working. “This is the first time in my 27 years as a priest that the Episcopal Church is finally doing evangelism. We are planting new churches,” he said, noting that more than 50 new ministries had recently been started. “We got this seed money of a few million dollars to see if we could do it and we’re doing it.”

The church planting efforts approved by the 2015 convention are “one of the solutions to the dire statistics that we’re always faced with,” Baker said. “I’m asking all of the other committees to look at your budgets and see how can we support this piece of what the Episcopal Church has been trying to solve for so long.”

Council then met in executive session to discuss the draft for nearly an hour.

“That executive session was really important, helpful, forward-thinking, a positive, honest conversation that can help us move forward,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said when council reconvened. “We’ve got decisions to make but we are going to make good decisions and we’re going to make them together. This council made a commitment that we’re all in this together.”

Curry said he told council members during their closed session that Jesus fed the 5,000 because “they all worked together and everybody ate, and that’s the attitude [with which] we’re going into this budget.”

He stressed that the current version is an unfinished working document. “So, when it goes out there, you almost have to label it: ‘This is the innards of the sausage,’ ” he said.

General Convention Executive Officer the Rev. Michael Barlowe, left, and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies and Executive Council vice chair, listen as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry makes a point during a news conference held after the Executive Council concluded its Oct. 18-21 meeting. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Curry noted during a news conference after the meeting ended that FFM had already managed to add back about $300,000 into evangelism programs, acknowledging that the move “doesn’t get it up to the previous level.” He also said that there is more evangelism work funded in the budget “than what is just technically there under evangelism” line items.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies and Executive Council vice chair, noted that the current version of the budget adds $800,000 to the presiding bishop office budget for the bishop of the Navajoland Area Mission to relieve that person of some fund-raising obligations and so that more attention can be paid to building up the church in that area.

General Convention Executive Officer the Rev. Michael Barlowe suggested that a move council took on Oct. 21, while not slotted into the 2019-21 budget, was an example of the council’s investment in evangelism.

Council agreed to aid the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin by forgiving $6.8 million in loans and accrued interest. In return, the diocese will pay the DFMS $1 million by the end of the year; fund the cost of remaining property litigation along with all costs of repair, lease termination and maintenance of recovered properties, including the costs of selling any of them; and fully pay the costs of having a bishop. The diocese also agreed to begin paying its full assessment in 2019.

It has been nearly 10 years since the then-leaders of Central California Valley diocese voted to disaffiliate with the Episcopal Church over the ordination of women and gay clergy and issues of biblical authority. Barlowe said the church first tried to reconcile with the people who left and later turned to litigation to recover church property.

Council member Russ Randle, while earlier presenting the loan forgiveness resolution, said Episcopalians “faithfully persevered” through what turned out to be nearly a decade of eventually successful property litigation. There are now 25 properties that will be sold and 21 “viable” congregations, he said, but the latter are struggling financially. There are two paid full-time clergy in the diocese, along with retired clergy and clergy who work full-time but earn part-time salaries. Randle called the loan forgiveness a “significant investment in this diocese.”

Next budget steps

As Curry and FFM members stressed, the budget is far from final. PB&F convened on the evening of Oct. 21 at the Maritime Institute Conference Center, where council has been meeting, to discuss the working draft and the budget process.

Soon after PB&F’s meeting concludes on Oct. 23, FFM will release the working draft budget to the church along with a narrative to explain its assumptions and construction. It will be posted on the General Convention Office’s website.

FFM will revise the budget based on comments from council members, PB&F and the wider church, and have a final draft budget ready for council’s consideration during its Jan. 22-24, 2017 meeting.

According to the joint rules of General Convention (II.10.c.ii), council must give its draft budget to PB&F no less than four months before the start of General Convention (essentially by February of convention year). PB&F will meet next from Feb. 5-7, 2017, to begin work on that draft budget.

PB&F uses the draft budget and any legislation passed by or being considered by General Convention to create a final budget proposal. That budget must be presented to a joint session of the houses of Bishops and Deputies no later than the third day before convention’s scheduled adjournment. According to the draft convention schedule, that presentation is set to take place at 10:30 p.m. CDT on July 11.

The two houses then debate and vote on the budget separately. Both houses must approve the same version of the budget, which takes effect at the beginning of 2018.

Executive Council crafts annual budgets out of the spending plan that General Convention passes as the triennial budget. Typically, council adjusts each of the three annual budgets based on changing income and expenses. Council did just that on Oct. 21, adjusting the 2018 part of the 2016-2018 triennial budget to reflect an increase in expenses of about $3 million and increased income of about the same amount.

 

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry blesses Pastor Stephen Herr during what was his last Executive Council meeting as the representative from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Herr had just received a certificate of appreciation from the General Convention. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

A summary of resolutions council passed at this meeting is here.

Some council members tweeted from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1). The council comprises 38 members – 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons, and 12 laypeople) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one layperson) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies. In addition, the vice president of the House of Deputies, secretary, chief operating officer, treasurer and chief financial officer have seats and voice but no vote.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

A summary of Executive Council resolutions

Sat, 10/21/2017 - 7:09pm

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] During its Oct. 18-21 meeting here the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council adopted multiple resolutions that are summarized below.

Executive Council
Accept Audit Committee’s recommendation and approve appointment of Grant Thornton, LLP, to audit the consolidated financial statements of council and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (the name under which the Episcopal Church in incorporated) for years ending Dec. 31, 2017-2019 (EC003).

Advocacy and Networking for Mission
Amend previously passed Resolution AN029 to have third resolve read: “Executive Council calls for an end to the discrimination of individuals with opioid addiction and recognizes that prior discrimination of people with drug addiction has had profound impacts on incarceration, particularly of persons of color.” (AN29a).

Authorize a senior secured line of credit to St. Augustine’s University of $1 million, secured by a deed of trust of certain parcels with a combined appraised value of at least $2.5 million (AN30).

Extend additional $50,000 grant in 2017 to Voorhees College for emergency repair of the college library roof (AN031).

Approve grants recommended by the Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation (AN032).

Affirm the need for voters to be represented fairly and equitably, and commit to representation for all Americans in the legislative bodies of the United States; affirm that “one-person-one-vote” means that the votes of people of all races and ethnicities are fairly represented, counted, and accounted for; commit to advocating to ensure fair districting and representation; commit to opposing any form of partisan gerrymandering that has the same effect of racial gerrymandering; commit to advocating against any form of political district mapping that has the effect of diluting the votes of people of color at the statewide and national level (AN033).

Finances for Mission
Establish Trust Fund 1160, Anglican Church of Mexico, as investment account for Anglican Church of Mexico, San Angel, Mexico City, Mexico (FFM083).

Establish Trust Fund 1161, Holy Trinity School of Haiti, as investment account for the Diocese of Haiti, Petion-Ville, Haiti (FFM084).

Set 2018 dividend rate for the DFMS trust fund portfolios available to support the operating budget of DFMS at $1.06 per share based on 5.0% the average year-end market values of the portfolio for the five years ending 2016; set 2018 dividend rate for 2018 for trust funds in the DFMS endowment portfolio that are not available to support the operating budget of DFMS be set at $1.06 per share based on 5.0% the average year-end market values of the portfolio for the five years ending 2016 (FFM085).

Use up to $349,170 of income distributed from Trust Fund 809 during 2017 for educational and theological programs (including continuing education and individual scholarships) as recommended by the Commission on Theological Education for Latin America and the Caribbean (CETALC) at its meeting in Mexico City, Mexico, July 31-Aug. 5, 2017 (FFM086).

Grant $50,000 in increments to be agreed commencing in 2018 to Li-Tim Oi Chinese Ministries in the Diocese of Los Angeles (FFM087).

Adopt revised official travel guidelines for the DFMS (FFM088).

Designate 2018 housing allowances clergy employees of the DFMS (FMM089).

Establish Trust Fund 1162 as investment account for Anamchara Fellowship in Newark, Delaware (FFM091).

Approve the revised 2018 budget for the Episcopal Church (FFM092).

Authorize $119,035 be distributed from Trust Funds of Class 26 be distributed to the Episcopal Church of Liberia for Cuttington University in Suacoco (FFM093).

Beginning with annual appeal by the Office of Development in 2018, receipts from annual appeals are applied to projects already allocated within the DFMS operating budget (FFM094).

Governance and Administration for Mission
Amend Articles VII and VIII of council by-laws to provide for attendance and reporting by the chief legal officer (GAM012).

DFMS to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid family leave (PFL) once fully implemented;  provide employees with a general description of their PFL rights, and in the event of any conflict between this policy and applicable law, employees will be afforded all rights required by law; policy not be construed to confer any express or implied contractual relationship or rights to any employee not expressly provided for by PFL (GAM013).

Governance and Administration for Mission and Finances for Mission
Adopt Leasing Policy and Procedure 2017 to maximize the contribution of its primary real estate asset to the mission and function of DFMS; no plans under consideration for the sale and removal of DFMS from Church Center and because DFMS is unlikely to occupy the entire New York building (GAM_FFM02).

Agree to terms to conclude all outstanding principal ($6,175,000) and accrued interest on all loans extended by the DFMS to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin from 2008 through Dec. 31, 2016; terms include expressing profound appreciation for the steadfastness and perseverance of the people, clergy and loyal congregations of Diocese of San Joaquin through over a decade of legal turmoil, disruption and dispossession from their church homes, and uncertainty, now largely resolved; diocese shall pay $1 million to DFMS by Dec. 31, 2017; diocese shall bear all future costs of litigation, future support of the episcopate, and all costs of repair, lease termination and maintenance of recovered properties, including surplus properties being prepared for sale, as well as all future costs associated with any such sales; diocese shall pay its full assessment to the Episcopal Church beginning in calendar year 2019 (GAM_FFM003).

Local Mission and Ministry
Approves grants recommended by the D005 Advisory Group on Church Planting (LMM012).

World Mission
Ratify the election and re-election of board members for Episcopal Relief and Development (WM027).

Approve 2018 United Thank Offering Grant Focus and Criteria (WM028).

Burundi’s faith leaders renew commitment to peace and reconciliation

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 12:39pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Twelve years after Burundi’s brutal civil war, which resulted in the deaths of more than 300,000 people, the country’s faith leaders have called on the international community to “re-establish good diplomatic relationships” with their government. The call came in a communiqué signed by the Anglican primate of Burundi, Archbishop Martin Nyaboho and the bishop of Bujumbura, Eraste Bigirimana, alongside 18 other faith leaders. It was issued after two days of talks in Arusha, in neighboring Tanzania, on sustaining peace in Burundi, sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the United Nations Office on Genocide Protection and the Responsibility to Protect.

Read the entire article here.

Three Malawians to receive Province of Central Africa’s highest lay honor

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 12:34pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Three women from the Diocese of the Upper Shire in Malawi are to receive the Order of the Epiphany – the highest lay honor of the Anglican Church of Central Africa. The awards will be presented Oct. 21 at a large service at the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul in Mangochi.

Read the full article here.

Episcopalians’ ‘widow’s mite’ is doing mighty work in recent disaster relief

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 5:57pm

Episcopalians are knitted together in a “great chain of strength and assets” inside and outside the church that is responding to recent disasters, Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development senior vice president of programs, tells the Executive Council Oct. 19. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Episcopal Church’s roadmap of the Jesus Movement has been guiding Episcopalians in their response to the chain of disasters that have struck the world in the last two months.

“You can see it in that we have various departments of the presiding bishop’s staff, the companion dioceses, Church Insurance, ourselves [at Episcopal Relief & Development], diaspora Episcopalians, friends and good people of faith all working together,” Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development senior vice president of programs, told the Executive Council Oct. 19.

Nelson gave council members an overview of the kinds of work Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting by way of what she called “this great chain of strength and assets” that is enabling Episcopalians to “do much more than we can do alone.” That work includes such efforts as setting up online tools for effected Episcopalians to communicate with each other and keep track of work done and help needed. The organization is also supporting such efforts helping to supply water, tarps, solar batteries, pastoral care, and connecting with other relief and government agencies.

“You can see glimmers of the Jesus Movement when clergy are speaking up at government meetings,” she said, explaining that those clergy members were advocating for their communities. “You can see it in how homeless people are living on church property in the Florida Keys. You can see it in the pastoral care that is being given to the thousands who have lost everything. You can see it in how we are texting and talking and trying to figure out how best to be of support.”

Since early August, Episcopal Relief & Development has been responding, in partnership with local Episcopalians and Anglicans, and other relief agencies, to the effects of:

  • severe flooding in the Indian state of West Bengal after heavy rains in July and August.
  • Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm near Rockport, Texas, on the barrier islands beyond Corpus Christi on Aug. 25, and then moved northwest to flood the greater Houston area.
  • Hurricane Irma, which pulverized parts of the Leeward Islands as a Category 5 on Sept. 5-6, and then moved north to hit Florida and Georgia.
  • a magnitude 1 earthquake that caused major damage Sept. 19 in central Mexico, including in Mexico City, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Morelos and Puebla.
  • Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 hurricane that tore through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Sept. 20.
  • wildfires in Northern California that erupted the night of Oct. 8 and are still raging.

“I have been here 18 years and I have never seen anything like this,” Nelson said of her work with Episcopal Relief & Development. “We’re here living in extraordinary times and I think they require extraordinary response from us.”

“We are a widow’s mite,” Nelson acknowledged. “The money we have – and it’s still coming in and everyone’s doing their best – will be nowhere near what is needed. We are the widow’s mite so we really need to think carefully about where that mite goes and how to leverage our relations, how we network into other resources and not think ourselves as the only resource to our churches.”

Nelson urged patience as more and more Episcopalians want to come to hard-hit areas and lend a hand. Those areas will be ready to receive volunteers at various times, based on the situation on the ground. “No one is quite up to it yet,” she said.

Right now, there is a major need for pilots and planes able to fly into areas where air-traffic control systems are not functioning. “We’re looking for clear, leverage-able ways to get supplies into islands that we can trust,” she said.

Nelson also urged Episcopalians to keep their wicks trimmed and their go-bags ready. “I’m really serious,” she said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen next year or tomorrow or with winter storms or whatever. So, think of ourselves and your family, your church, your diocese – how you will stay in touch with each other, how you [could] be [living] by yourself for at least two weeks.

“There is no cavalry. We need to be really mindful of each other.”

#excoun member Jabriel Ballentine tells critical role of #episcopal Diocese of Alabama staying contact w/Virgin Islands in #hurricaneIrma pic.twitter.com/23nc9fuJSF

— Frank Logue (@franklogue) October 19, 2017

Council member the Rev. Jabriel Ballentine tearfully described how Nelson and other Episcopal Relief & Development staff members supported him after Hurricane Irma as he tried to learn the fate of his parents who live in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he was born.

“It was three days, I didn’t know if my parents were alive,” he said, but people from Episcopal Relief & Development kept him company during that time. Ballentine’s mother, Rosalie, is a member of the group’s board and is also the Episcopal Church’s lay member of the Anglican Consultative Council.

“Thank you so much for what you all do,” Ballentine said. “I’ve noticed that it’s a mite but, it’s a mighty mite. And we need more of those.”

Ballantine also asked for the council’s help in remembering that “we’re American – we’re supposed to be anyway – please, we’re Episcopalians, don’t let us be forgotten”

The Rev. John Floberg, council member from North Dakota and supervising priest for three Episcopal congregations at Standing Rock Sioux Nation, received an emotional response from council when he stood and explained to the members how people at powwows honor dancers whose artistry they value. “They put money down at the feet of the dancer,” he said. “That’s what I am about to do.”

Floberg walked to the middle of council’s meeting room, bent down and put money on the floor in front of the podium where Nelson was speaking. His colleagues applauded and followed his example as Nelson continued to answer questions.

During a report from #Episcopal Relief & Development report to #excoun Council Members gave money to support #erd https://t.co/UlCja7Jocx pic.twitter.com/9DCn5AqNbz

— Frank Logue (@franklogue) October 19, 2017

The rest of the meeting

Council’s Oct. 18-21 meeting is taking place at the Maritime Institute Conference Center. Committee meetings will take up most of Oct. 20 and, on Oct. 21, the committees will each report to the full body, proposing resolutions for the full body to consider.

Some council members are tweeting from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1). The council comprises 38 members – 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons, and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies. In addition, the vice president of the House of Deputies, secretary, chief operating officer, treasurer and chief financial officer have seat and voice but no vote.

Previous ENS coverage is here.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

Nashotah House announces passing of beloved professor

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 4:46pm

[Nashotah House Theological Seminary – Nashotah, Wisconsin] It is with great sadness that Nashotah House Theological Seminary announces the passing of the Rev. Daniel A. Westberg, a professor of ethics and moral theology. Westberg died Oct. 18, in a boating accident on Upper Nashotah Lake.

The Rev. Dr. Daniel A. Westberg. Photo: Nashotah House

A faculty member at Nashotah House since 2000, Westberg was a leading scholar in the area of moral theology. Westberg grew up in Japan, where his parents were missionaries with the Evangelical Covenant Church. While in graduate school in Toronto, Canada, he became an Anglican and experienced a call to ordained ministry. After seminary training and ordination in 1978, he served in the Diocese of Toronto for 10 years, in both rural and city parishes. After the death of his first wife, Lynne, Westberg married Lisa and moved the family temporarily to Oxford, England, where he studied at Oxford University with Oliver O’Donovan and Herbert McCabe and wrote a dissertation on Thomas Aquinas and the virtue of prudence.

From 1990 to 1998, Westberg taught ethics at the University of Virginia, followed by an interim year teaching theology at a seminary in Canada. Since his appointment to the Nashotah House faculty in 2000, Westberg had been the seminary’s professor of ethics and moral theology. His publications include the following books: “Right Practical Reason: Action, Aristotle and Prudence in Aquinas” (Oxford UP, 1994), “Preaching the Lectionary” (3rd ed.; Liturgical Press, 2006) in collaboration with the late Reginald Fuller, and “Renewing Moral Theology: Christian Ethics as Action, Character and Grace” (InterVarsity Press, 2015). He also published extensively in journals such as The Anglican Theological Review, The Thomist and New Blackfriars, as well as several short articles in The New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology (InterVarsity Press, 1995).

“The Rev. Dr. Daniel Westberg was a faithful priest of the Diocese of Milwaukee whose gifts as a teacher were a blessing to us all. Our hearts and prayers go out to his wife Lisa, their family and the community of Nashotah House at this sad time. We pray that Dan will go from strength to strength in God’s perfect kingdom,” stated the Rt. Rev. Steven A. Miller, bishop of Milwaukee. 

Westberg is survived by his wife, Lisa, his father, a brother and three sisters, four adult children and three grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending. On the morning of Oct. 19,  Garwood Anderson, acting dean of Nashotah House, gave a homily on the occasion of Westberg’s passing.

Founded in 1842, Nashotah House is a seminary serving the Episcopal Church, Anglican Communion and other ecumenical partners.

British Columbia parishes grapple with summer wildfires’ aftermath

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 4:44pm

The following is the conclusion of a two-part story detailing the experience and aftermath of the B.C. summer wildfires from an Anglican perspective. You can read the first part here.

[Anglican Church of Canada] Though the height of the summer wildfire season in British Columbia may have passed, the efforts of communities to rebuild in its wake remain ongoing.

Anglicans residing within the Territory of the People have been on the front lines of devastation caused by the fires. Driving out to St. Luke’s Anglican Church in the Chilcoten area, the Rev. Kris Dobyns witnessed the scope of the damage firsthand.

“It was awful driving out there,” Dobyns said. “You could just see the burned trees on both sides … You could see maybe a chimney and a fire place, and the whole house just burned to ashes.

“We saw a place where there were six or seven cars just completely burned out … just devastating. It’s going to take years to recover.”

All residents in the area were affected by the large amounts of smoke that billowed into the air over a protracted period. The poor air quality could reach dangerous levels for weeks at a time, putting at particular risk those with respiratory health issues.

Meanwhile, the effect on livestock threatened the livelihood of ranchers, with many of the 35,000 cattle in fire-affected regions remaining unaccounted for.

“A lot of our folks who are ranchers are of course devastated,” episcopal commissary Ken Gray said.

“They’ve lost fencing, they’ve lost animals, they’ve lost grazing land, they’ve lost forest cover … In terms of the area the territory covers … the effect on ranchers and the effect on the forest industry is huge.

“That’s going to affect local economies, and it’s going to affect parish fiscal stability as well.”

In Kamloops, where Gray serves as dean of St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, the city has experienced a significant increase in homelessness. Many have been displaced from their home communities, and Anglicans active in shelter ministry are expecting an increase in demand. Some workers have opted not to return, prompting a labour shortage in communities such as Williams Lake and Cache Creek.

The economic repercussions of the fires are prominent in the mind of the Rev. Jim White, a retired Anglican priest and non-Indigenous pastoral elder who sometimes provides ministry to the First Nations community in Lytton, as well as at an ecumenical parish in Logan Lake.

“My biggest concern right now is the number of small businesses that are going to survive the next year,” White said. He offered the example of Cache Creek Golf Course, which recently closed because not enough people could reach the golf course to provide the necessary revenue for it to stay in business.

“I am somewhat pessimistic that the businesses that are in existence today will be here a year from now,” he added.

In response, local Anglicans are making a push for residents to “buy local” in order to support small businesses in the area.

Community solidarity

At the peak of the fire, residents worked together to help each other out wherever they could. During the month of July, White’s son putting in 1,300 hours of volunteer hours as a volunteer firefighter along with his crew.

At another point, when the town of Ashcroft lost utilities, including electricity and phone service, his neighbour used a portable generator and extension cord to help people recharge their mobile phones.

“It’s things you don’t think of,” White said.

The Rev. Clara Plamondon brings prayer shawls from the Diocese of British Columbia during a visit to St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Kamloops, B.C. Photo by Rae Long

In the wake of the fire, affected communities have worked together to rebuild and persevere. The decreasing level of wildfires since summer has in its own way helped restore a greater sense of normalcy for residents.

“Anxiety levels are significantly reduced,” Gray said. “Air quality has significantly improved. Really, especially in the smaller communities, folks are getting back on their feet.”

Nevertheless, the emotional toll has affected many residents and prompted the creation of mutual support groups. In Williams Lake and 100 Mile House, Dobyns and her husband Keith have attended meetings as part of the 2017 Wildfire Recovery Mental Health Working Group, with pastors’ fellowships in both towns working to address mental health issues amidst the recovery.

Anglicans in other parts of the country have also come together in a variety of ways to provide aid for communities impacted by the wildfires. Gray said the Territory of the People has received donations totalling more than $35,000 from individuals and organizations such as the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, with the money being sent to clergy for use in their discretionary funds to help individuals resettle and rebuild.

A moving symbolic gesture came when Dobyns attended the recent provincial synod executive council as a delegate and saw more than 70 prayer shawls brought by a priest from Vancouver Island, whose parish had decided to make the shawls to help support the Territory of the People during the fires.

Taking six of the prayer shawls back to the cathedral, Dobyns distributed them at a joint annual worship service and potluck for the 100 Mile House and Williams Lake parishes. The shawls were received so enthusiastically that she planned to return and pick up more.

“People were so moved to receive those … It is so comforting to know that people have been praying for you, and to wrap yourself in what feels like a blanket of prayers,” Dobyns said.

‘New normal’

With the continued exacerbation of wildfire seasons due to climate change, B.C. communities are pondering how they might minimize further wildfire damage in the years to come.

Later this fall, St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kamloops will host a meeting of community leaders and care providers to examine lessons from this year’s fires and how they might incorporate them moving forward.

“Something like this is going to be the new normal, and we’re wondering what we can do now to ensure an effective and appropriate response next year,” Gray said.

“Both in Prince George and Kamloops, I think the community response was extremely good,” he added. “Folks mobilized very quickly and very effectively. But we’re going to have to organize not just for this year, but … for the foreseeable future. I think that’s worth noting.”

From Alaska to Zululand, Anglicans act ecumenically in the Season of Creation

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 2:23pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans around the world have taken part in a wide variety of events to mark this year’s Season of Creation, an ecumenical focus on the environment that ran from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4. The Season of Creation was originally proposed by the Ecumenical Patriarch to run from the Orthodox Church’s World Day of Prayer for Creation and ending on the Feast of St Francis. The idea was endorsed by the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2012; it was backed by Pope Francis in 2015.

Read the entire article here.

Anglicans and other Christian leaders demand action on climate change

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 2:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Five Anglican archbishops have joined other Christian leaders in calling for governments to implement the promises they made at the Paris Climate Change talks. Political leaders from 197 nations will gather in Bonn, Germany, in November for the next phase of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23); and the Christian leaders are urging them to “keep the promises they made in the Paris Agreement, to restore the natural balance.”

Read the entire article here.

EPPN: Defend Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 1:31pm

[Episcopal Public Policy Network policy alert] In the next year, the Secretary of Homeland Security must decide whether or not to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to approximately 320,000 individuals. TPS is a temporary immigration status provided to nationals of certain countries experiencing environmental disasters or armed conflict. TPS is granted when returning home – via departure or deportation – would place those nationals at risk, or if the foreign government’s ability to absorb the return of its nationals is compromised. TPS has been a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of individuals already in the United States when problems in a home country suddenly make return untenable.

Take Action to Protect TPS for 18 Months or As Long as Conditions Exist

Countries with current TPS designations include South Sudan, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, Syria, Nepal, Yemen and Somalia. The administration terminated TPS for Sudan last month. TPS holders receive protection from deportation and work authorization to support themselves while they remain in the U.S. Over the years, as conditions in their home countries have not improved, many TPS beneficiaries have stayed, with legal permission, and built lives in the U.S. Sending TPS beneficiaries back to the unstable conditions in their home countries presents grave concerns for families, our local economies, and the stability of receiving countries.

Policy passed by The Episcopal Church’s General Convention advocates for the designation of TPS for all immigrants fleeing for refuge from violence, environmental disaster, economic devastation, cultural abuse or other forms of abuse.

Use the Interfaith Toolkit to Defend TPS

Removal of Robert E. Lee from church’s name was just start of healing for Virginia congregation

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 5:52pm

Grace Episcopal Church’s new name is seen in a banner in front of the church in Lexington, Virginia, though a more official sign is still in the process of being replaced. Photo: Doug Cumming

[Episcopal News Service] Grace Episcopal Church in Lexington, Virginia, has begun growing into its new name. Its website homepage is updated.  The stationery is new. And perhaps more consequentially, the annual stewardship appeal has been sent to members under the new church name.

A month ago, the vestry voted to remove Robert E. Lee from the name of the church he once attended, changing it from R.E. Memorial Church back to its previous Grace. That move ended two years of sometimes tense debate over the Confederate general’s legacy, both as a prominent member of the congregation’s past and a symbol of racial hatred in contemporary America.

At least one couple has formally left the congregation in protest of the name change. At the same time, the congregation faces a change in leadership: The Rev. Tom Crittenden announced this month he plans to step down as rector after Nov. 5.

Despite the recent upheaval, some parish leaders who had disagreed over whether to remain as R.E. Lee Memorial now express a mutual desire to move forward together as Grace Episcopal.

“There’s still some hurt feelings, but [the congregation] seems to be pulling together,” senior warden Woody Sadler told Episcopal News Service this week by phone.

Sadler had long opposed the name change and voted against it Sept. 18, partly because the vestry hadn’t polled the full congregation.

The vestry’s 7-5 vote adopted a change recommended in April by a Discovery and Discernment Committee of vestry members and parishioners. A more recent and direct catalyst for the Lexington vestry’s decision was the Aug. 14 violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Hate groups had gathered in Charlottesville to “unite the right” in support of a Lee statue that the city had slated for removal. Clashes with anti-racism counter-protesters left one of the counter-protesters dead.

Doug Cumming, one of the Lexington vestry members who supported removal of Lee from the church’s name, said he thinks resolving that issue last month has put the congregation on the path to spiritual renewal.

“We’re coming back together. We’re now in a period of real healing and reconciliation,” Cumming said in an interview with ENS, and he already senses that people who had shied away from the church during the debate over the name have started returning to Sunday services.

The changes have been difficult, though, for those who felt the congregation’s identity was closely tied to Lee.

“I think it just hurts some people so much to see the name changing and to see things happening so fast,” Cumming said.

As fast as change is coming, it is hardly complete. The website that advertises services at Grace Episcopal Church is still hosted on the domain releechurch.org. A new domain is in the works, Cumming said.

The sign in front of R.E. Lee Memorial Church in Lexington, Virginia. Photo: Doug Cumming

Grace is the name on the outdoor sign listing worship times and on a banner advertising an upcoming bazaar. But the main sign out front has not yet been replaced and still welcomes passersby to “R.E. Lee Memorial Church.” Cumming, as chair of the church’s History Committee, presented the lowest bid on a replacement sign to the vestry at its most recent meeting, Oct. 16. The cost will be $930.

Sadler said he signed off on that expense the following day. The new sign should be installed in a few weeks.

Deeper change in the congregation may take time and require more than a new name and sign. Crittenden is personally well liked, Cumming said, but his resignation reflected the congregation’s desire for new leadership as it looks to the future. Its Discovery and Discernment Committee’s report identified “a loss of confidence in the ability of the current rector to lead the parish forward.”

Diocese of Southwest Virginia Bishop Mark Bourlakas met with the congregation, vestry and Crittenden in the months leading up to Crittenden’s decision to resign, and Bourlakas plans to attend the November vestry meeting to discuss calling an interim rector while Grace recruits someone new to the role permanently.

The Discovery and Discernment Committee also singled out the vestry as part of the leadership “vacuum” in the congregation, including but not limited to its role in the debate over the church’s name. The committee recommended the vestry focus on coordinating its vision, mission and long-range planning and communicate better with parishioners.

The vestry will have several new faces leading those efforts starting in January. The congregation on Oct. 15 elected five new vestry members to the 12-member body, out of 10 people who were interested in serving, an unusually high number, Cumming said. (He was one of the vestry members who chose not to return when their terms expire at the end of this year.)

The new vestry members appear to support the name change, Cumming said, but it is more difficult to gauge the change’s effect on the larger congregation. Cumming sensed increased attendance since the name change, due to the return of families who had stopped attending. Sadler, on the other hand, said he hadn’t noticed Sunday attendance swell in the past month.

The Oct. 15 service was well attended, but it also was unique: The congregation combined its 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. services for a special joint service that will be repeated every three months.

“There’s a lot of reconciliation and healing that has to go on,” said Bourlakas, who had encouraged changing the church name. He told ENS he is pleased by the progress. “People seem to be trying to work together. I know it hasn’t pleased everybody but there seems to be some acceptance and voices for moving forward.”

Cumming, despite voting to remove Lee from the church name, doesn’t think the church is erasing history. His committee is discussing other ways of highlighting Lee’s historic role.

While serving in Lexington as president of Washington College, later renamed Washington and Lee University, the former Confederate general spent the last five years of his life, until his death in 1870, helping the struggling congregation survive. There is no record, however, of why the congregation chose to rename the church for Lee in 1903.

One suggestion received by the History Committee was to rename the parish hall after Lee, but Cumming said the committee also is looking for ways to highlight other historical figures’ ties to the church.

An interpretative historical marker might include info on Lee, but also on Jonathan Daniels, a civil rights worker who was killed in 1965 while saving the life of a black teenage girl. Daniels attended R.E. Lee Memorial Church while a student at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. He was class valedictorian when he graduated in 1961.

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

What would happen if Episcopalians and their church put Jesus at the center – really?

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 5:32pm

Diocese of Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen presides at Holy Eucharist on Oct. 18 as the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council opens its Oct. 18-21 meeting. The Rev. Geof Smith, the Episcopal Church’s chief operating officer and a deacon, assisted during the service. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] It would seem obvious that Episcopalians have Jesus at the center of their lives and that the Episcopal Church centers on Jesus. Yet, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry challenged the church’s Executive Council Oct. 18 to deeply reflect on whether the church and its members are truly answering the call of Christ during these times of challenges from outside and inside the church.

Curry’s remarks came during the opening session of council’s Oct. 18-21 meeting. The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies and Executive Council vice chair, joined him in that challenge. Council spent nearly 90 minutes listening to and discussing Curry’s challenge. The members and staff will continue that work Oct. 19, albeit from a different angle, in a session Jennings will lead on council committee reorganization.

Curry acknowledged that recently released data from the 2016 parochial reports from each congregation and diocese show that membership in the Episcopal Church continues to decline. The pace has slowed some, he said, but the trajectory remains downward. There were 6,473 domestic parishes and missions in 2016 compared with 6,510 in 2015. The number of baptized members who were active in 2016 was 1,745,156, compared with 1,779,335 in 2015.

If it doesn’t look like Jesus, it’s not Christianity. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry #episcopal #excoun pic.twitter.com/vWXppeMPaq

— Frank Logue (@franklogue) October 18, 2017

While it may be tempting to despair and search for ways to return to a church that Episcopalians believe existed in the past, Curry said, he believes that if the church concentrates on making and forming disciples who truly live the way of Jesus “we won’t have time to worry about Average Sunday Attendance; that will take care of itself.”

“If we continue to navel gaze, then we won’t survive, and probably shouldn’t,” he said. “If our concern is being the church of the 1950s, maintaining an institutional reality for the sake of the institution, maybe we don’t need to continue.”

But, if Episcopalians are concerned about keeping Jesus at the center of their lives, then “that’s church that has a reason to exist and will have a future.”

The presiding bishop asked the council to consider the story told in Acts 16:6-10, known as the Macedonian Call. Paul, “having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia,” according to the passage, has a vision one night of a man pleading with him to come help him and his friends in Macedonia. Once there, Paul meets and converts Lydia, her household and many others, and plants many churches, on what is now known as his second missionary journey.

Curry insisted that the Episcopal Church might be experiencing its own Macedonian Call. The attendance data he cited is “either a cause for despair or a call to go to Macedonia.” The despair comes from feeling as if the church is blocked from resuscitating “the church we thought we once were.”

“Macedonia” needs Episcopalians, he said, in a time when “there are voices in our culture that masquerade as Christians.” However, those voices “do not even show basic humanitarian concern and care,” much less echoing Jesus’s message of love and forgiveness.

House of Deputies Vice President Byron Rushing makes a point Oct. 18 as council members and others discuss ways to ensure that Jesus is always at the center of their lives and of the church. Council member Russ Randle and Barbara Miles, chairwoman of the Joint Standing Commission on Program, Budget and Finance are among those listening. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“I really believe that the way of Jesus, the way that is gracious, kind, loving, just, good – that way and that Jesus – is what the world is hungry for and God help us, we’re getting a Macedonian Call.”

When Episcopalians answer that call, they will be a church reoriented around the gospel in the way, as in most congregations, the gospel is processed into the midst of the people and they turn to face the person who proclaims it, the presiding bishop said.

Curry acknowledged that his description of the world in need of authentic Christianity was an echo of what Jennings evoked for the council in her remarks earlier in the session. Jennings reviewed a litany of what she has said is a “difficult season for Christians in the United States who are committed to doing justice, protecting God’s creation and safeguarding the dignity of every human being.”

President House of Deputies of the #episcopal church @gaycjen shares how governance done well supports witness & mission #excoun pic.twitter.com/AYr8HToSaP

— Frank Logue (@franklogue) October 18, 2017

“The situation feels unstable, and to many Americans, it is downright frightening,” Jennings said.

“I am encouraged that many Christians, and many of you here this morning, are mobilizing to resist the onslaught of policies and pronouncements – and tweets – that run counter to our gospel values and our vision of the kingdom of God,” she said. “People of faith have played important roles in opposing several unsuccessful attempts to take health care away from millions of Americans, and we are also committed to defeating the current attempt to deport hundreds of thousands of young ‘dreamers’ who were brought to this country without documentation as children.”

Jennings anchored that advocacy in the public policy actions taken by the General Convention, and she praised the support of the Office of Government Relations in Washington D.C., for helping mobilize the Episcopal Church, especially when legislative remedies are sought.

“We are working hard; the issues come at us fast these days. But we are organized, we are mobilizing more quickly than in the past, and we are resisting for the sake of the most vulnerable people in our communities and our congregations,” she said.

Episcopalians must “counter an impoverished and vindictive interpretation of our faith with what my friend here calls the loving, liberating and life-giving message of the Jesus Movement,” Jennings said, referring to Curry.

Given the gravity of what Jennings described, she admitted that council might think it odd when, on Oct. 19, she leads a session on the group’s committee structure.

“Now, I realize that the kingdom of God is not like a committee meeting, or at least I hope not,” she said. “But the work we do here to fulfill our canonical responsibility – which is to provide board-level oversight and direction to the work of the DFMS as defined by General Convention – makes it possible for the rest of the church do its work. In our tradition, governance does not stand in opposition to mission or even detract from mission. Governance, done efficiently, transparently and collaboratively, makes mission and witness, prophetic witness, possible.”

The rest of the meeting

After the opening plenary on Oct. 18, council spent the rest of the day and the morning of Oct. 19 meeting in its five committees. Later on Oct. 19, council members will get an update on the recent work of Episcopal Relief & Development, and they will have the Jennings-led discussion on possible ways to reorganize their work on council. Committee meetings will also take up most of Oct. 20 and, on Oct. 21, the committees will each report to the full body, proposing resolutions for the full body to consider.

The Oct. 18-21 meeting is taking place at the Maritime Institute Conference Center.

Some council members are tweeting from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1). The council comprises 38 members – 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons, and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies. In addition, the vice president of the House of Deputies, secretary, chief operating officer, treasurer and chief financial officer have seats and voice but no vote.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

U.K. Christians and Jews celebrate 75 years of interfaith relations

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 12:04pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, has used a speech to the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) to talk about how people encounter what he termed “the other.” Respect for the other was needed for people of distinct faiths to engage in encounters with one another, he said. And he argued that today’s mass migrations were once again bringing people together who might not otherwise have met, saying: “Neutral territory and public space have become contested once again in ways that are all too familiar to Jewish people in history and today.”

Read the entire article here.

New primate and leadership team for Church of North India

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 11:59am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The bishop of Jabalpur, Prem Singh, has been elected as the new moderator and Anglican primate of the united Church of North India. The church’s recent synod also elected a new deputy moderator: Bishop Probal Kanto Dutta of the Diocese of Durgapur. A new treasurer, Jayant Agarwal, was also elected. Alwan Masih will continue in his role as general secretary.

Read the entire article here.

The crisis continues for Puerto Rico, and so do efforts toward relief, and then, recovery

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 4:39pm

A message written on top of a building is seen from the air during recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria near Humacao, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 11. Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal clergy and congregation members are resuming church services and school classes when they can and how they can, despite the vast devastation in Puerto Rico almost a month after Hurricane Maria swept through Sept. 20.

It was the strongest storm the island has faced since before the Great Depression, a Category 4 hurricane that spewed up to 40 inches of rain in some places in one day, whereas Houston, Texas, saw 32 inches in three days from Hurricane Harvey in late August, according to the Weather Channel and the National Hurricane Center.

Almost a month after Maria, Puerto Ricans are still in crisis mode.

Forty-five deaths have been reported so far related to the storm, and residents in the northern part of the island have no clean water to drink so they are drinking contaminated water in nearby rivers, according to Episcopal Relief & Development. About 90 percent of the island was still without electricity as of Oct. 11, three weeks after Maria hit. In comparison, 22 percent of the homes and businesses on the Virgin Islands are without power from Maria.

“The lives of so many people have been turned upside down,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s senior vice president of programs in the latest Hurricane Maria report. “This is a humanitarian crisis that will affect many people in the years to come.”

A wooden cross is seen on the door of a home damaged by Hurricane Maria near the municipality of Morovis, outside San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 10. Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Coordinating donations with local agencies to get basic supplies to those who most need it is a logistics challenge that Episcopal Relief & Development is working on daily, along with many others. Volunteers are organizing shipments of water and food to residents of Maricao, Ponce and other remote areas. The organization is planning on supplying water-purification systems to those isolated communities.

Communication is still dicey and is expected to remain that way for several more months. Satellite phones are helping diocesan members communicate with each other, church partners, emergency services and communities.

Social media has been the most reliable way to communicate. The Episcopal Cathedral School in San Juan closed like most institutions, and parents didn’t have to pay September fees. The K-12 school reopened for classes Oct. 10 and restarted its after-school program Oct. 16. Like most places, the school still has no electrical power, so students are advised to bring, if they can, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, bottled water and insect repellent spray. They are allowed to wear Bermuda-style pants and sleeveless shirts and won’t have any tests for the time being and limited homework.

Also on Oct. 16, the school counselor announced that college admission deadlines have been extended for both Puerto Rico and mainland U.S. colleges. “I hope that this serves as a means of reassurance that we will continue to have a successful academic year,” said Karen Santiago Garcia, guidance counselor.

On Oct. 15, the Rt. Rev. Rafael Morales Maldonado, bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Rico, celebrated Holy Eucharist at Misión San Gabriel Arcángel in Humacao on the east side of the island.

Puerto Rico Bishop Rafael Morales Maldonado leads church members in an Oct. 15 celebration of Holy Eucharist at Misión San Gabriel Arcángel in Humacao on the east side of the island. Photo: Bishop Rafael Morales Maldonado via Facebook

“We cry and laugh together. We discovered the strength of the Lord in our new project to lift and build,” Morales said in a Facebook post, as translated by the social media site.

The bishop has been working with Xavier Castellanos, the Episcopal Relief & Development representative who’s onsite to lend his expertise, to mobilize church partners as they continue to assess the needs of different areas of the island, and to especially send help and food to the more remote mountainous regions. The organization sent emergency support in advance of Hurricane Maria in order to help the diocese provide assistance quickly.

Meanwhile, back in the continental United States, people with family and friends in Puerto Rico are still worrying about them.

The Rev. Gladys Rodriguez of Church of the Incarnation in Oviedo, Florida, has been able to speak only briefly a few times with her husband, Victor Rivera Gonzalez, who is in Puerto Rico. They have homes in both places, and before the storm, she’d travel back and forth. Their house in the Guaynabo area of the island is made of cement and held up well, but their roof is damaged. Gonzalez had stocked up on water and was able to share it with neighbors. “He has been eating canned food. He has no electricity. There is no communication with the center of the island,” Rodriguez said in an email.

One of Rodriguez’s church members in Florida lost contact with a relative in Ponce who needed cash, food, water and medicines. Eventually, that relative found someone to drive through the hazardous roads to help her. “Everyone is in desperate need for cash, water, electricity, food and medicines,” Rodriguez said. When air travel becomes easier, probably by the end of October, her husband plans to fly to her in Oviedo.

Lynn Hendricks, president of the National Altar Guild Association based in Birmingham, Alabama, built Eucharist kits for Puerto Rico. One of her fellow church members planned to fly his plane to the island to deliver generators, water and other supplies for the relief effort and offered to take the kits along.

“He said transportation is a problem on the island, and he was being met so wasn’t sure if he would be able to deliver them personally, but he would see the diocese was contacted and told where they could pick them up if he wasn’t able to hand deliver them,” Hendricks said in an email to Episcopal News Service.

Misión San Gabriel Arcángel in Humacao, southeast of San Juan and near the eastern coast, hosted services for Episcopalians on Oct. 15. Photo: the Rt. Rev. Rafael Morales Maldonado via Facebook

The Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche, bishop of New York, held a service for the victims of natural disasters in the Caribbean and Mexico on Oct. 7, at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. The hurricane that ravaged Puerto Rico was, sadly, one the latest in a series of natural disasters that have, in just over a month, visited “unspeakable ruin upon Texas, Florida, the Caribbean (especially the Virgin Islands and Cuba), Mexico, and now Puerto Rico,” Dietsche said in his advance announcement of the service.

“Countless people in our diocese have been personally affected by these storms. Indeed, members of my own staff have lived through harrowing days in the last week waiting for word from missing family members,” he said. “I know that they represent thousands of New Yorkers who have carried the same fears for those they love.”

People can help by donating to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Hurricane Relief Fund, which will help partners reach the vulnerable communities devastated by the recent tropical storms.

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is also a journalist and editor based in New York City. Reach her at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com.

Anglicans reflect on summer’s devastating wildfires in British Columbia

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 2:43pm

Fire rages in the distance behind the historic Anglican church of St. John at the Latin Gate, located on the Ashcroft Reserve, during the peak of the British Columbia wildfire season in July. Photo: Anglican Church of Canada

[Anglican Church of Canada] This summer’s wildfire season was the worst-ever recorded in British Columbia’s history. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, hundreds of buildings were destroyed, and much of the province’s livestock was put at risk. As of Sept. 28, more than 100 wildfires were still burning across the province.

Much of the devastation impacted Anglicans residing within the Territory of the People. For some, the threat of the encroaching fires forced the evacuation of friends and neighbours, while others were made to flee and leave their own homes. At the height of the evacuations, many Anglican clergy and lay people provided assistance and pastoral care to evacuees.

“One way or another, every single parish in our territory was affected,” said the Very Rev. Ken Gray, currently serving as episcopal commissary during the sabbatical of Bishop Barbara Andrews.

Experience of evacuated parishes

In certain parishes, particularly 100 Mile House, Alexis Creek, and Williams Lake, residents were evacuated as the fire threatened buildings and parishioners’ homes. Meanwhile, major centres such as Kamloops and Prince George took in large numbers of evacuees.

The Revs. Kris and Keith Dobyns—who share positions serving St. Timothy’s Anglican Church in 100 Mile House and St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Williams Lake, as well as St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Alexis Creek—were among those those evacuated in July. Days after the fires began near their home in 100 Mile House, Kris received a warning from fire volunteers going door-to-door that she might have to leave.

“About 45 minutes before the evacuation, all of this black smoke started billowing in … I live downtown, and it looked pretty ominous,” she recalled. “My neighbours were out and they all decided to leave. They had ash falling in their backyards.”

Making the decision to evacuate, Dobyns packed and left a note with her name and phone number on her front door. She stayed with parishioners just outside the evacuation zone on a Sunday night before leaving early Monday morning. After meeting up with Keith, who had been away visiting their grandson in Ontario, they drove to stay with their son and his family in Abbotsford, B.C.

Two weeks later, officials re-opened 100 Mile for residents to return, and the couple returned home. But when fire threatened the surrounding areas of Elephant Hill and Canim Lake, Kris ended up leaving for Abbotsford for a few more days on the advice of Bishop Andrews.

“It was just so smoky and there had been more evacuations on both sides of us,” Dobyns said. “Our bishop was visiting to provide pastoral care and all these other evacuations had happened, and she looked at me and said, ‘You need a break.’”

During that time, members of the Canim Lake Band were themselves evacuated following a lightning strike and ended up in 100 Mile.

Partnering with the Stemete7uw’I Friendship Centre—which is located next to St. Timothy’s—to help care for evacuees, Anglicans joined band members for a potluck attended by Bishop Andrews, during which they brought food and other items such as clothing.

“We have a free store at our church that can be opened at any point,” Dobyns said. “So we opened that up for people who needed clothing or blankets, because they had just had to leave in the middle of the night with no warning.”

Providing care to evacuees

In larger urban centres where many of those evacuated ended up, Anglican clergy were on the frontlines of helping evacuees.

The Rev. Isabel Healy-Morrow, regional dean for Kamloop-South Rivers, spent time at two areas set up by authorities to receive people evacuated from their homes in communities such as 100 Mile House, Clinton, Ashcroft, and Cache Creek. One was the Kamloops Powwow Grounds, where a cluster of tents and travel trailers had sprung up.

“I would go down and sit and visit with families, drink coffee with them, play with the children, and give them someone to vent their anxieties to,” Healy-Morrow said. “Those in the ranching industry were consumed with anxiety about their livestock.”

With a background in farming and ranching, Healy-Morrow was able to converse with fleeing ranchers about the evacuation of cattle and other livestock. Many horses were evacuated and taken to the Kamloops Exhibition Grounds and nearby farms.

For the evacuated people themselves, many had left quickly and been compelled to leave behind essentials such as prescriptions and clean clothing. At a second, indoor reception area, the Interior Community Savings Arena, hundreds of cots were set up, while provincial Emergency Social Services provided food, clothing, toiletries, and other benefits.

At the arena, Healy-Morrow encountered a group of First Nations elders from the coastal community of Bella Coola, who were unable to home after a Vancouver conference due to the Hanceville wildfire blocking the road from Williams Lake.

“There was no indication as to when it might be safe to travel,” she recalled. “I was able to provide a pastoral presence, hug people, [and] hand out water and snacks and pamphlets showing the location of St. Paul’s Cathedral, where evacuees were welcome to drop in and rest, pray, or talk.”

Healy-Morrow also visited evacuees who had been admitted to the emergency room at Royal Inland Hospital after experiencing cardiac and breathing issues, due to the cumulative effects of stress and poor air quality resulting from smoke, ash, and particulate matter—a particular health risk for those suffering from conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“They were glad of a smile, a hug, someone to sit by their bed and talk, pray if requested, and bring them coffee and snacks,” she said.

“The pastoral presence of the clergy was appreciated by the evacuees, and it was clear that a smile and a hug went a long way to those who were frantic with anxiety over the possible loss of their homes and assets.”

Though the wildfires have subsided since their summer peak, residents in affected communities now find themselves dealing with the aftermath of the destruction.

ThisI is the first installment of a two-part story detailing the experience and aftermath of the B.C. summer wildfires from an Anglican perspective. Visit the Anglican Church of Canada website later this week for the conclusion.

Communiqué from the Council of the Church in East Asia bishop’s meeting

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 2:33pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] From Oct. 11 to 16, twenty-eight Anglican archbishops and bishops of the Council of the Church in East Asia, including the Obispo Maximo of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, met in Yangon, Myanmar, with the theme “Living and Sharing Jesus-Shaped Life” from Colossians 2:6, hosted by the Rev. Stephen Than Myint Oo, archbishop and primate of the Church of the Province of Myanmar. Joining them were their spouses and clergy who are members of the executive committee of the council. The delegates were from Japan, Myanmar, Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan and Australia.

Read the entire story here.

Church of England anti-slavery initiative wins government backing

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 2:24pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May has given her backing to the Church of England’s new anti-slavery program. The Clewer Initiative was launched Oct. 17, at Lambeth Palace, the London home and headquarters of the archbishop of Canterbury. “Modern slavery is a barbaric crime which destroys the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our society,” May said. “I value the work that the Clewer Initiative will be doing to enable the Church of England dioceses and wider church networks to develop strategies to tackle modem slavery.”

Read the entire story here.

Former bishop of Chester implicated in abuse allegations

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 2:17pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Cheshire Constabulary – the regional police force with responsibility for the area of the Church of England’s diocese of Chester – has published a report detailing abuse allegations against Bishop Hubert Whitsey, the former bishop of Chester. Bishop Whitsey died in 1987. Today, the police said that if he was still alive, he would have been formally spoken to in relation to 10 of the 13 separate allegations made against him. Police inquiries began after the diocese of Chester passed concerns to the police.

Read the entire article here.

Atlanta bishop joins honor guard for fallen Green Beret

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 11:45am

From right, Episcopal Lay Chaplain Barbara Pendergrast, Atlanta Bishop Robert C. Wright and Episcopal Chaplain the Rev. Donna S. Mote join an honor guard Oct. 16 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to greet the remains of Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio. Photo: Diocese of Atlanta

[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] Bishop Robert C. Wright on Oct. 16 joined Episcopal chaplains the Rev. Donna S. Mote and Barbara Pendergrast at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to welcome the remains of Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio.

Johnson is one of four U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers killed Oct. 4 in Niger when a joint U.S.-Nigerien patrol was attacked.

Wright, who was at the airport on a previously scheduled visit, said he was honored to be part of the ceremony, an ongoing welcome for deceased service members regularly conducted by a volunteer group of Delta Airlines employees accompanied by airport chaplains.

“Even Jesus marveled at the discipline and dedication of those who wear a uniform,” said Wright, who served for five years in the U.S. Navy. “We owe our servicemen and women much more than occasional moments of silence and our prayers.”

The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta is part of the Interfaith Airport Chaplaincy (IAC) at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) that was founded in 1980 and, throughout the intervening years, has provided interreligious emotional and spiritual care to passengers and employees at the world’s busiest airport. In 2016, 104 million passengers traveled through ATL, an average of more than 275,000 daily. ATL is also the largest single site of employment in Georgia with over 63,000 employees.

Laypeople of the Diocese of Atlanta were among the original chaplains of the IAC. Mote was assigned as Episcopal chaplain to ATL by Wright in November 2013. Since January 2014, Pendergrast, a board-certified chaplain endorsed by the Episcopal Church, has volunteered with the IAC.

At the invitation of Delta Airlines, Mote and Pendergrast, along with three other IAC chaplains, accompany military remains as they terminate in or transit through ATL on Delta. On average, Delta handles two service members’ remains daily in Atlanta. The chaplains bear witness to the dignified transfer of the remains and accompany the official military escorts throughout their time at the airport.

The Delta Honor Guard renders honors to the fallen who pass through ATL under the direction of Coordinator Brian J. McConnell Sr. a 35-year veteran of Delta who has overseen the Honor Guard for 12 years and handled the remains of some 6,000 U.S. military personnel. The Delta Honor Guard members are volunteers from work areas across the company; most of them are veterans, have a child or sibling currently serving, or both.

— Don Plummer is media and community relations director for the Diocese of Atlanta and attends St. Teresa’s Episcopal Church in Acworth, Georgia.

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