Anglican Church of Australia releases report on family violence

[Anglican Church of Australia] The Standing Committee of the Anglican Church of Australia has made 10 commitments to prevent and respond to intimate partner violence (IPV) after undertaking the first known Australian Church study into the prevalence of IPV within its faith community.

IPV is defined as behavior within an intimate relationship that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors. The Australian Institute of Family Studies notes IPV is the most common form of family violence used against women in Australia and takes place across all cultures and faith groups.

Convenor of the Anglican Church of Australia’s Family Violence Working Group, the Rev. Tracy Lauersen, said the church has deliberately taken the lead on a broader societal issue.

Read the entire article here.

Source: Episcopal News

Diocese of California creates Juneteenth feast day amid push to add holiday to churchwide calendar

Juneteenth memorial

Bronze figures look out from the Texas African American History Memorial on the grounds of the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas. The monument, erected in 2016, traces the history of African-Americans in Texas from the 1500’s to the present. The central portion of the memorial, by sculptor Ed Dwight, depicts the original Juneteenth in Texas in 1865. Photo: Associated Press

[Episcopal News Service] Juneteenth is recognized by most states as a secular holiday and celebrated in many American communities on June 19. This year, the Diocese of California is taking its Juneteenth commemorations a step further with its inaugural feast day worship service for the holiday, which celebrates the emancipation of American slaves.

The diocese added Juneteenth to its calendar of feasts by a vote of its convention in October. Since then, members of the regional chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians, or UBE, has worked with the diocese’s Afro-Anglican Commission to develop a Juneteenth liturgy. It will be celebrated for the first time June 19 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and livestreamed on Facebook. The diocese also will propose adding the feast day to the churchwide calendar when the 80th General Convention meets next year.

Jeanette Dinwiddie-Moore, co-chair of the UBE chapter and a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Oakland, was a leading proponent of the resolution that created the diocesan feast day, because she thinks it is important to deepen awareness of the history of slavery. Juneteenth is sometimes called the country’s second Independence Day, Dinwiddie-Moore noted, and stories of emancipation are still relevant to the challenges that people of color face in the 21st century.

“It’s also a fact that oppression and slavery in different forms still exist in the world today, and even in the United States,” she told Episcopal News Service.

Juneteenth traces its origins to Galveston, Texas, in 1865, though nearly every state now marks June 19 with a Juneteenth holiday or observance.

June 19 marks the anniversary of the day in 1865 when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced to slaves there that they had been freed. The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln had taken effect on Jan. 1, 1863, but the order had little effect in the parts of the South still controlled by the Confederacy during the Civil War. And even though the war ended in April 1865, former slaves in Texas didn’t receive news that they were free until two months later.

Celebrations of Juneteenth took on greater resonance last year, when the holiday occurred less than a month after the killing by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Cellphone video of the murder of a Black man by a white officer inspired protests against racial injustice across the country and drew attention to the historical roots of racial oppression in the United States.

Episcopalians joined in celebrating the holiday last year while highlighting the church’s continuing efforts at racial reconciliation. More events are planned for this year:

  • Episcopalians in Galveston are preparing to participate in local celebrations on June 19, marking the holiday’s origins in the city, and Grace Episcopal Church will offer a choral Evensong, emphasizing the importance of expanding historical narratives to include marginalized groups.
  • Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will speak by prerecorded video on behalf of the dioceses of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania at an online Juneteenth celebration at 11 a.m. June 18 hosted by Clarion University and the Clarion, Pennsylvania, Chamber of Commerce.
  • Washington National Cathedral will honor Juneteenth in the lighting of its west front from June 15 to 19.
  • Bishop Gayle Harris, the suffragan in the Diocese of Massachusetts, is leading an online celebration at 4:30 p.m. June 19, with registration required.
  • In Richmond, Virginia, a daylong series of activities on June 19 is planned at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and St. John’s Episcopal Church, including a worship service and participation in a March for Unity.

“It’s an important holiday,” the Rev. Mauricio Wilson told ENS. He is rector of St. Paul’s in Oakland and chair of the Diocese of California’s Afro-Anglican Commission. “Things didn’t just magically change on June 19 of that year when the news got to the then-enslaved people in Texas, but when you look back in history it marks an important date for all of us.”

Wilson was part of the group that developed the diocese’s Juneteenth liturgy, which includes prayers, hymns and suggested readings from Scripture for the day. The group chose Amos 5:18-24, Galatians 3:23-29 and Luke 4:14-21, along with Psalm 137.

California Bishop Marc Andrus, in a written message to ENS, thanked Wilson, Dinwiddie-Moore and other local Episcopal leaders for proposing the feast day and developing the liturgy for its celebration.

“Holding the first of our annual observances in Grace Cathedral locates the Juneteenth celebration in a central sacred space of our wider church,” Andrus said, “a place where the birth of the United Nations in San Francisco is memorialized, a place where the compassionate response to the AIDS crisis is also remembered. Juneteenth now takes its place with these great events.”

Nearly every state has proclaimed Juneteenth as a holiday or observance. In the past year, some also have made it a paid holiday for state employees, from New York to Washington. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was that last holiday added to the federal calendar, in 1983, and some U.S. lawmakers are stepping up their efforts to make Juneteenth a federal holiday as well.

An increasing number of employers are giving their workers the day off, and for the first time, that includes the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, the church’s corporate entity. Because June 19 falls on a Saturday, churchwide employees will receive June 18 off in observance of Juneteenth.

“Juneteenth is fundamental to our desire to be a Beloved Community,” the Rev. Geoffrey Smith, the church’s chief operations officer, said in a written statement for this story. “Proclaiming the dream of emancipation may have happened in 1863, but for those still enslaved it was an interminable wait until June 19, 1865, before it truly became reality. As we are learning the truth about racial reconciliation, we go through a process of practicing the way of love that needs to involve change.”

The Diocese of California’s Juneteenth liturgy could become a model for other dioceses – and for a possible Episcopal Church feast day.

“Over the years, I have heard many explanations for why it took from January 1 to June 19 of 1863 for news of the Emancipation Proclamation to make it to Texas. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that so many had a vested interest in covering up that the news, especially throughout the Confederacy.  In spite of that, the news got there anyway. Slaves heard the word Freedom applied to them with ‘All slaves in the rebellious states shall be henceforth, and forever, free.’ Even though the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t have the force of law, it was a sword of the Spirit. Slaves through the Confederacy escaped and joined the Union Army,” Curry told ENS in a statement.

“And though it would be years in coming, that dawning realization that freedom was for them was the beginning of the freedom movement from within that would eventually break the chains without.

“Today, the observance of Juneteenth might be a subtle awakening to the truth that even painful truths, once told, do not further enslave us to the past; rather, if we learn from them, they set us free to live a new present and a new future. And that is true for the descendants of former slaves and the descendants of former slave owners,” he said.

The Episcopal Church’s calendar of feast days includes just two secular U.S. holidays: Independence Day and Thanksgiving. No feast days are yet on the official calendar for June 19, though 20th-century educator Adelaide Teague Case would be added to that date under a plan for expanding the calendar that received first approval by General Convention in 2018.

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, or SCLM, in its report for the 80th General Convention, outlined guidelines for proposing new feasts for the churchwide calendar and the publication known as “Lesser Feasts and Fasts.” It emphasized first developing liturgies and celebrations locally before proposing them for wider use.

“History demonstrates that liturgical commemorations originate in the local community,” SCLM’s report said. “Indeed, all proposed additions to the calendar of the church ought to begin as local commemorations.”

The Diocese of California is following that process with the Juneteenth resolution approved at its diocesan convention. In addition to calling for California to establish Juneteenth as a paid holiday for state employees, the diocese pledged to “work toward the inclusion of the Juneteenth Feast Day in ‘Lesser Feasts and Fasts.’”

Wilson will be an alternate deputy representing California at the 80th General Convention in July 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. He told ENS that diocesan celebrations will bolster the case for adding Juneteenth as a churchwide feast.

“We’re trying to put it in place here, show that it can be done,” he said, and the diocese is happy to share its liturgy with others across the church who are interested in doing the same.

Dinwiddie-Moore, the UBE chapter co-chair, is looking forward to participating in the inaugural Juneteenth service at Grace Cathedral, the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of work by her and other proponents of the feast.

“I’ve spent a lot of hours on this,” she said. “I’m very happy it’s where it is today. It’s really a blessing.”

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

Source: Episcopal News

Vaccine equity and tackling climate change top Anglican leaders’ hopes for G7

[Anglican Communion News Service] Global access to COVID-19 vaccines and urgent action to tackle climate change are amongst the issues of concern to Anglican leaders from G7 countries as leaders of the seven wealthiest nations gather in Cornwall, England, for their annual summit. Speaking to the Anglican Communion News Service, Anglican leaders stressed the impact of COVID-19 on indigenous communities and also raised issues of nuclear energy, the care of refugees and the need to hear the voices of young people.

The heads of state and government from the Group of Seven (G7) – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – are meeting June 11-13 for their 47th summit. It is taking place at Tregenna Castle in Carbis Bay, Cornwall.

Read the entire article here.

Source: Episcopal News

Episcopalians stand in solidarity with Minnesota’s Anishinaabe to stop oil pipeline construction

Indigenous leaders and activists participate in a prayer on June 7 at the Mississippi headwaters on the third day of the Treaty People Gathering, an organized protest of the Line 3 pipeline, built by Enbridge Energy, in Solway, Minnesota.Photo: Nicholas Pfosi/ REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service] Earlier this week thousands of people, including Episcopalians from as far as Oregon and Washington, D.C., answered an invitation from Anishinaabe women and traveled to the headwaters of the Mississippi River – Bear Creek, as the Anishinaabe call it – to join them in their nonviolent protest to stop construction on an oil pipeline crossing treaty land in northern Minnesota where the tribe hunts, fishes and gathers wild rice.

“From the Anishinaabe side, their interpretation is that the land is given by God; it is holy land, it’s sacred land. As co-tenants of that land, they are responsible for anything and everything that happens there; it’s not theirs to own, it’s theirs to care for,” the Rev. Matthew Cobb, the Episcopal Church in Minnesota’s true north regional missioner who serves four congregations—two on the Leech Lake Reservation, one on the Red Lake Nation, and one in Bemidji, in the northern third of the state, told Episcopal News Service on June 9.

The Anishinaabe, or Ojibwe, as the Indigenous peoples in the upper Great Lakes region have been called, see themselves in covenant with nature, explained Cobb, who was invited by the Rev. Robert Two Bulls, Minnesota’s Indigenous missioner, to serve the church’s northern region. Through that covenant with nature, the Anishinaabe take care of the land and the water.

“That’s why we’re here at the Mississippi. It’s to protect the water because the water is alive and it’s got a soul; it’s got a consciousness; it’s there, it’s a being to be related to, be cared for,” said Cobb, acknowledging that he, a white man, serves but cannot fully speak for the Indigenous people he stands alongside. “It’s really important for us as nonnatives to listen when the invitation is there to come to the sacred land or come to the sacred waters that they’re protecting.”

Wild rice has for thousands of years sustained the Anishinaabe, which is why the women have invited other water protectors to join them in their opposition to Line 3, which originates Canada’s northern Alberta tar sands and carries low-grade crude oil diluted with carcinogenic chemicals to Superior, Wisconsin.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals heard arguments in March challenging the state’s Public Utilities Commission’s approval, of a $4 billion, 338-mile pipeline replacement and expansion project across northern Minnesota. Enbridge began construction in December 2020 and is halfway finished. The court’s ruling is expected as early as next week. Line 3 is one of six Enbridge pipelines crossing northern Minnesota and is the largest in the company’s history.

Cobb spoke to ENS from Camp Fire Light, so named earlier this week on the fourth day of a traditional ceremony held on Turtle Island, land the Ojibwe ceded by treaty to the U.S. government in 1855. On June 7, the Anishinaabe and their allies set up tents on untreated railroad ties on wetlands at “Gichi-Ziibi,” the Mississippi River’s headwaters that cover over 2,500 miles of inland waterway. “We’re battening down the hatches, putting nails in tents and fortifying the place,” Cobb, who has used discretionary funds from St. Bartholomew’s in Bemidji to assist the effort.

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At least 2,000 people answered the Anishinaabe’s call and attended the Treaty People Gathering, which was supported by organizations like Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, Minnesota 350 and GreenFaith, “all with the intention of supporting the leadership of Anishinaabe from leaders and elders who had put out the invitation for people to come here,” Phoebe Chatfield, The Episcopal Church’s program associate for creation care and justice, told ENS. She joined a 300-member interfaith delegation organized by Interfaith Power & Light, which with others is calling for the Biden administration to stop construction on the pipeline.

President Joe Biden in January, in an executive order aimed at protecting the environment and addressing the climate crisis, revoked an international permit that allowed Canada’s Keystone XL pipeline to cross the U.S.-Canadian border, and this week pipeline operators terminated the pipeline project.

It’s “baffling” and “lacks foresight,” said Buff Grace, an Episcopalian and Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light’s solar coordinator, “[The Public Utilities Commission] is allowing this company to put in pipelines, to keep going with this old way of doing things with fossil fuels that we know is tragic and has no future and is only going to drive us further into catastrophe.”

At a moment when attention is on drought and wildfires, when access to clean, freshwater is limited throughout the world, including in the western United States, Line 3 is the latest Indigenous-led environmental protection action pushing for clean energy and protecting water resources particularly fitting in Minnesota with its more than 10,000 lakes and a fifth of the world’s freshwater – the same fresh waters that feed the wetlands where wild rice grows. (The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has given Enbridge permission to use 4.5 billion gallons of groundwater annually.)

“As people of faith who belong to a church that has refuted the Doctrine of Discovery, this is an opportunity for us to live into that repudiation, to say…  that we no longer treat Indigenous people in some kind of inferior way, but we honor the treaties that we’ve written with Indigenous people and live up to them, which means we have to follow those treaties, which are not being followed if this pipeline is built,” Grace told ENS.

The Episcopal Church’s solidarity with the Anishinaabe is fixed in a 2018 General Convention resolution reaffirming the church’s repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and support for Indigenous peoples’ sovereignty over territorial resources. The resolution specifically noted the Leech Lake Ojibwe Band’s concerns over the Line 3 pipeline. When the Anishinaabe ceded the territory to the U.S. government in 1855, they did so with the understanding that they would maintain their rights to hunt, fish and gather wild rice on the land.

“The Episcopal Church, like so many Christian churches, has been complicit historically in the decimation of indigenous cultures and ways of life. And not only does Line 3 pose a significant threat to our environment, and to water in Minnesota and elsewhere, but it violates treaties with Indigenous peoples,” Minnesota Bishop Craig Loya told ENS. “The movement of resistance to Line 3 is being led primarily by Indigenous leaders, and that was certainly true of the events over this past weekend. Part of what we are called to do, as an act of solidarity and repentance for our past complicity, is to stand in solidarity with the Indigenous leaders, and do what we can to advocate for the federal government honoring the treaties that we have with Indigenous communities.”

The Treaty People Gathering and a June 9  gathering of faith leaders in Washington, D.C. calling for 100% clean energy came after the Biden administration on June 1 announced the suspension of oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the latest development in a long-fought political battle over whether to develop or conserve the 19.6-million-acre oil-rich coastal plain considered sacred by Alaska’s Indigenous Gwich’in, many of whom are Episcopalians.

The Episcopal Church stood in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in its claims of tribal sovereignty and the desire to protect its drinking water and culturally important lands in its fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which remains operational.

“I think what is happening with the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Enbridge 3 pipeline and Indigenous communities can be historically traced back to the Doctrine of Discovery,” the Rev. Brad Hauff, The Episcopal Church’s missioner for Indigenous ministries who lives in Minnesota, told ENS. “That is the source of colonization. That is the source of white European domination and privilege. That is the source of environmental racism and the systemic racism that has assaulted the Indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere since the 15th century. And it came out of the church. The Episcopal Church repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, but that is only the beginning of a response. We must strengthen our partnerships with Indigenous communities and stand with them when they are subjected to environmental racism and injustice.”

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At the same time that some Episcopalians are standing alongside interfaith partners in solidarity with the Anishinaabe, others are calling on the Biden administration to transition the United States away from fossil fuels to clean energy in an effort to stop climate change. The Rev. Melanie Mullen, The Episcopal Church’s director of reconciliation, justice and creation care, joined 100 faith leaders near the Capitol in Washington for the June 9 event co-sponsored by Interfaith Power & Light on June 9 in support of President Joe Biden’s call for 100% clean electricity by 2035 as part of the American Jobs Plan.

The Episcopal Church’s actions are based on General Convention and Executive Council resolutions that repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and uphold the rights of Indigenous people and that address climate change. Mullen called attention to one particular Executive Council resolution passed in 2019 endorsing and commending the church’s creation care covenant.

“The resolution lays out in a pretty sophisticated way how we as a church understand that fossil fuel use not only impacts climate change but also victimizes those who are least capable of withstanding ecological devastation,” she told ENS. This, she said, is in line with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s vision of the Jesus Movement. “We do not leave the least equipped behind. Just as we are committed to using the Carbon Tracker  – Episcopalians have a pretty sophisticated understanding of ourselves as an institution, not just our individual use, but our corporate solidarity and responsibility.

“This work with IPL today and the emerging victory in the Alaska wilderness areas and the solidarity working going on in Minnesota around the pipeline is all about peace,” Mullen said. “We are not trying to be just in solidarity with Indigenous communities, we are trying to be co-conspirators in a vision of healing and hope for God’s Earth and all of God’s people.”

-Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

 

 

Source: Episcopal News

EMM, resettlement partners look to World Refugee Day with renewed hope for US program

EMM webinar screengrab

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, bottom left, is joined June 10 on an Episcopal Migration Ministries webinar by, clockwise from upper left, EMM Director of Operations Demetrio Alvero, Larry Bartlett with the State Department’s Office of Refugee Admissions and Dr. Heval Kelli, a Syria-born cardiologist and former refugee.

[Episcopal News Service] With little more than a week until World Refugee Day, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined a June 10 panel discussion organized by Episcopal Migration Ministries, or EMM, to highlight this season of renewed hope for restoration of the United States’ refugee resettlement program.

Refugee resettlement was reduced to the lowest level in the federal program’s 40-year history under President Donald Trump, but with President Joe Biden taking office in January, his administration pledged to work with EMM and other resettlement agencies to restore a spirit of welcome to refugees fleeing war and persecution in their home countries.

“Refugees have made positive political, social and economic contributions to the United States throughout our history,” said Larry Bartlett, director of the Office of Refugee Admissions in the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Welcoming refugees “is who we are as a country. This is frankly how we came about. We’re a country of immigrants and refugees ourselves, and we shouldn’t forget that.”

Bartlett and Curry were joined on the webinar by EMM Director of Operations Demetrio Alvero and Dr. Heval Kelli, a Syria-born cardiologist who immigrated to the United States in 2001 with his family through the U.S. refugee resettlement program. EMM expects to post video of the webinar to its website next week.

Kelli described how his family established their new home in Atlanta, Georgia, with support from sponsoring members of All Saints’ Episcopal Church. It was the parishioners’ sense of humanity and their personal engagement with his family that he remembers most. A few months after his family settled in Atlanta, some of their sponsors invited the family to join them in seeing the movie “Lord of the Rings” – as many Americans were doing at the time.

“For three hours watching the movie, I really felt like a person again,” he said.

Global resettlement needs have only increased in recent years. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are nearly 26 million such refugees worldwide, and tens of millions more have been displaced within their home countries. The president sets the ceiling, or maximum number, for refugees to be resettled in the United States each year. Trump slashed that number in his term to a historic low of 15,000 this fiscal year.

Biden has said he will increase it to 125,000 – which would be one of the highest annual limits since the program was created in 1980 under President Jimmy Carter. On May 3, his administration raised the cap for the rest of this fiscal year to 62,500 and plans to increase it further in the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

“The United States is rebuilding its refugee resettlement program, to restore this beacon of hope for those fleeing persecution,” Bartlett said during the EMM webinar. “We recognize that the last four years presented great challenges, and I can assure you that we are committed to working with our resettlement partners to address their needs as we rebuild our refugee admissions program.”

EMM is one of nine agencies with contracts to facilitate resettlement on behalf of the State Department. The number of local affiliates that EMM works with dwindled from 31 to 12 under Trump. Refugee resettlement operations in the U.S. aren’t expected to return quickly to previous levels, but Alvero said EMM is working with affiliates, congregations and interfaith partners to begin accommodating more of the refugees awaiting resettlement.

“We’re now in the process of building back the program, and we hope to build it back stronger and better,” Alvero said.

The Episcopal Church first began assisting refugees in the 1930s and 1940s through the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief, supporting people from Europe fleeing the Nazis. Since the Unites States created the current refugee resettlement program in 1980, EMM has resettled about 100,000 refugees, providing a range of services for these families upon their arrival in the United States, including English language and cultural orientation classes, employment services, school enrollment and initial assistance with housing and transportation.

Now, with World Refugee Day to be celebrated on June 20, EMM has scheduled a virtual prayer vigil that evening to offer solidarity and support for refugees worldwide.

Curry affirmed that solidarity and support during the webinar and thanked EMM for its work on behalf of The Episcopal Church.

“You all are remarkable. You have been faithful in hard times and in good times,” Curry said. He invoked references to God’s command to welcome the stranger in Scripture across faith traditions. “The truth is, welcoming the stranger, whether refugee, asylum-seeker or immigrant … is something we can all do.”

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

Source: Episcopal News

Canadian bishop inhibited from ministry as disciplinary case begins

[Anglican Journal] Bishop Lincoln McKoen of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Territory of the People has been formally inhibited from ministry following unspecified allegations that will now be subject to disciplinary proceedings by the provincial synod.

On June 1, Primate Linda Nicholls publicly shared that Archbishop Lynne McNaughton, metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and Yukon, had decided to inhibit McKoen from his duties as diocesan bishop effective immediately.

In a letter to the territory, McNaughton — describing what she called a “difficult decision” —cited the Anglican Church of Canada’s 2001 adoption of the document “A Call to Human Dignity” and the related commitment by Council of General Synod to ensure “those who hold positions of trust or power in the church do not take advantage of, or abuse, that trust or power.”

“The Territory of the People and the Anglican Church of Canada have a strictly enforced, zero tolerance policy in regard to misconduct,” McNaughton said in a subsequent media release, adding that McKoen will be “inhibited from functioning in any ministry role until the matter of allegations about him has been resolved.” The metropolitan plans to work with senior clergy to appoint an administrator for the territory for the months ahead.

Nicholls said she was “painfully aware of the impact this action will have on the Territory and parishes and I can assure you that the pastoral needs of the community will be a priority for the church over the coming months.”

Source: Episcopal News

After a Brooklyn Episcopalian died of COVID-19 in prison, his priest’s call for reform got personal

The Rev. Steven Paulikas gives the invocation at the opening of the New York Senate session on Feb. 24, 2020, reading the Collect for Prisons and Correctional Institutions in the Book of Common Prayer. Photo: New York Senate

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Steven Paulikas, rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, New York, was already involved with criminal justice reform efforts before one of his parishioners was sent to prison. Maintaining his pastoral relationship with the man, Paulikas saw firsthand the harsh realities of New York state’s prison system. But COVID-19 – and the state’s failure to prevent its spread in prisons – turned the man’s 2-year sentence into a death sentence. He died of the virus at age 68, about a month and a half into the pandemic, after telling Paulikas he was scared that prison staff were bringing the virus into the facility.

Disturbed by the state’s apparent disregard for the lives of his parishioner and other inmates, Paulikas sought answers from government officials – and a sense of accountability for their failure. Getting none, he wrote an opinion essay published by The New York Times on May 31, which criticized the state’s treatment of prisoners. The essay has been praised by many advocates of prison reform, such as Piper Kerman, author of “Orange Is the New Black.”

The Rev. Steven Paulikas. Photo: All Saints’ Episcopal Church

“When the state deprives people of their freedom, it also assumes responsibility for their safety,” Paulikas wrote. “I don’t want to live in a society that is comfortable locking away so many of its members, yet treats their lives with indifference. I can no longer stand a status quo in which someone like my parishioner loses his life for no good reason.”

Paulikas talked with Episcopal News Service about his parishioner’s life and death and why prison reform is a moral imperative for Christians. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and brevity. The parishioner was convicted of a sex crime involving a minor, so his name is not being used to protect the victim’s privacy.

Episcopal News Service: How long had you known him?

PAULIKAS: Since I came to the church; I’ve been here 10 years this week.

ENS: How did it impact the parish when he was convicted?

PAULIKAS: For reasons of pastoral sensitivity, and also because this person never wanted the parish to know where he was, I and the other people who knew what had happened did not share what happened to him. So he just kind of was no longer around. Most of all, I wanted to protect the privacy both of my parishioner and of the victim of his crime. Many people didn’t know even though he was incarcerated; people knew he had died because we made that announcement and we had a liturgy over Zoom shortly after he died, which was heartbreaking.

ENS: What was your experience with criminal justice reform before this?

PAULIKAS: I don’t consider myself an activist or an organizer. I got involved in criminal justice reform in New York state because of an extremely talented and influential rabbi in our community, Rabbi Rachel Timoner, who’s the head rabbi at Congregation Beth Elohim here in Park Slope. At the time, we were working on overturning cash bail in New York state, which is a horrible justice issue, and eventually legislation passed the New York Legislature in 2020 to eliminate cash bail. Gov. Cuomo used his executive powers later that year to overturn it, which was just this horrible thing. So that sort of activated me, and then learning more and more about the injustices in the criminal justice system made it very clear to me that the Gospel is just so clearly calling us to advocate for criminal justice reform.

ENS: Why is it important for Episcopalians to be involved in this work?

PAULIKAS: Sometimes Episcopalians can have a self-concept of being advocates from the side or the outside, but this actually happened to an Episcopalian. An Episcopalian died of COVID in prison. It’s our community, and it touches so many people’s lives – not just incarcerated Episcopalians but Episcopalians who work as correctional officers and law enforcement officers and public defenders and prosecutors. We all have our own ministries, many of which touch on the criminal justice system, and pretty much anyone who is thinking about it or looking at it understands that it’s a broken system, and that people are suffering. I am so grateful to fellow Episcopalians and Christians who are working to reform the system, and I know from what I’ve seen that it’s urgent and it’s necessary. There is such moral clarity about it. There are so many issues that the Gospel calls us to act on, but this one, criminal justice reform and reform of the prison system, is just so clearly something that God is calling us to work on. So many Episcopalians are working on it already. I have, through my own experience, understood how important it is, and I hope that more Episcopalians will join us in whatever way they can.

Criminal justice reform was one of the central demands of the “Protest Is Also Prayer” event organized by the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York on June 6, 2020. Photo: Cathedral of St. John the Divine

ENS: What prompted you to speak out so publicly about your parishioner’s death?

PAULIKAS: I wanted to tell the story of my parishioner because he couldn’t, and to show that this is something that is active and moving in our church. I will guarantee you that if Episcopalians led the way among all Christians in the United States, from mainline Protestants to evangelicals to Roman Catholics, and we all united on this issue, the system would change overnight. If we made our elected officials responsive to our moral calls, the system absolutely would change and people’s lives would change. Because right now, people’s lives are being destroyed, and it happens disproportionately to people who do not have economic resources and also to people of color.

I learned that he died in May of 2020. I officiated his funeral over Zoom, and I just kept thinking about it. And I watched as the governor was on television every day talking about what a great job the state was doing in fighting COVID, and I knew that my parishioner had died in prison. And there was this surreal moment that I mentioned in the piece, where the governor in a press conference talked about [state-issued] hand sanitizer. The labor was done by incarcerated people, and at the same time, hand sanitizer was not available in New York state prisons. So this sat with me like a lump in my stomach for months and months, and in February of this year, I felt called to tell this story. I just started contacting state officials and asking them – I wanted to find out what happened.

I hoped that it would put a human face on suffering that’s happening in prison. As Christians, we’re not called to solve all problems, but we are called to witness suffering and to confront the powers and principalities when we see people who are suffering. So I hope that in some measure, reading about this would have that effect of highlighting human suffering that was preventable. And of calling out those in power who were trying to cover it up.

ENS: You had some strong criticism for New York politicians in your essay, and criminal justice reform is ultimately a political issue. How would you respond to Episcopalians who think the church shouldn’t get involved in politics?

PAULIKAS: Episcopalians are elected officials on both sides of the aisle. They serve in Congress, they serve in state legislatures, they serve in governors’ offices. We’ve had many presidents who are Episcopalians. Episcopalians are having to make moral decisions all the time. And many of us are leaders in society. When we make decisions, we’re guided by Scripture and our faith and our baptismal covenant. So it’s impossible to separate our faith from our action in the public square. And, especially when we see something as concrete as unnecessary human suffering, we are called to use all of the organs of power, all the points of leverage that we have, to alleviate that suffering, and oftentimes that is engaging in the political process.

Now, in my story that I told, it just so happened that the antagonists – if you want to put it that way – are Democratic elected officials. So it’s not a partisan thing. As long as The Episcopal Church doesn’t become attached to a partisan agenda, and as long as we’re attached to moral issues, then we maintain our integrity. But we actually lose our integrity if we decide not to speak out or act about a given issue just because we’re afraid of “seeming political.” There’s no such thing. Not saying something about obvious human suffering is itself a political act.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

Source: Episcopal News

UPDATED: Online election underway for committee to nominate presiding bishop candidates

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the results of the first ballot.

[Episcopal News Service] An election is underway for the members of the committee that will select the nominees for The Episcopal Church’s next presiding bishop.

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop is made up of five lay leaders and five clergy leaders elected by the House of Deputies and five bishops elected by the House of Bishops. The committee’s members typically are elected in person at the meeting of General Convention scheduled three years before the new presiding bishop is to be elected, but because the 80th General Convention was postponed a year to 2022, this committee election is being held online.

Bishops and deputies were invited to begin voting at 8 a.m. EDT June 8, with the first ballot closing after 24 hours. The result of the first ballot were announced June 9 on the General Convention Office’s results page.

All five bishop seats were filled on the first ballot. The five elected to the committee are Indianapolis Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Atlanta Bishop Rob Wright, Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime, Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlan and West Tennessee Bishop Phoebe Roaf.

Three of the 10 deputy seats were filled on the first ballot. They are Deborah Hines, Steven Nishibayashi and the Rev. Deborah Jackson.

Each candidate must receive a majority of votes to be elected to the committee. The second ballot will open on June 15. If all seats on the committee aren’t filled by the third ballot, the nominees will the fewest votes will be dropped so that the fourth ballot will be reduced to four more than the number of vacancies to be filled. The fifth ballot, if necessary, will be further reduced.

The full slate of candidates for the committee can be found here.

“Although this process may seem complicated, it was adopted to accommodate the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves,” General Convention Secretary the Rev. Michael Barlowe said in a message to bishops and deputies, who “are spread across multiple time zones, and have varying access to the internet. This process is intended to promote fair access to voting for everyone, and to maximize participation. Your understanding is greatly appreciated.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the church’s 27th presiding bishop, will complete his third triennium in 2024, with his successor to be elected at the 81st General Convention, scheduled for July 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Source: Episcopal News

Irish organist takes on 800–hymn marathon challenge to boost parish funds

[Church of Ireland] A Dublin organist will play the entire Church Hymnal to raise funds for his parish. David O’Shea, director of music at St. Philip’s Church in Milltown Parish, will play through the Church Hymnal (fifth edition) on June 11. The Hymnathon will be livestreamed on Music at Sandford and St. Philip’s YouTube channel starting at 9:30 a.m.

Over the last 15 months, parish funds have been hit hard, and in exploring suitable alternative ways to raise income, David settled on the hymnathon, as it can easily be followed remotely. Donations are invited here.

There are 719 hymns and a total of 799 tunes in the Church Hymnal and some tunes are used several times, resulting in over 800 pieces. David will play the first verse of each hymn. He has calculated that the Hymnathon will take approximately 10 hours to complete.

Read the entire article here.

Source: Episcopal News

Washington bishop joins calls to uphold lawsuits against Trump for June 2020 melee outside St. John’s

Police rush demonstrators as they clear Lafayette Square, across from the White House, during a protest against systemic racism and police brutality in Washington, D.C., on June 1, 2020. Photo: Ken Cedeno/Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] Last year, when then-President Donald Trump strolled from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church to pose for photos holding a Bible, the June 1 photo-op drew intense condemnation, not just for its use of Scripture as a prop – as Episcopal leaders emphasized – but also because protesters were forcibly removed from Lafayette Square to clear a path for the president.

A year later, Episcopal leaders again are speaking out about the incident, joining a groundswell of Christians objecting to a motion by the Biden administration’s Justice Department to drop protester’s civil lawsuits against Trump and William Barr, his attorney general at the time of the melee. The lawyers for the Justice Department argued on June 4 that Trump and other officials are immune from lawsuits over law enforcement actions intended to protect him.

“I am deeply disappointed that the United States Department of Justice has asked a federal court to dismiss the actions brought against the government by protesters who suffered physical injuries and violations of their First Amendment rights,” Washington Bishop Mariann Budde said in a written statement issued June 7.

Budde, who responded a year ago when clergy and protesters were tear gassed outside St. John’s, one of her diocese’s churches, has joined the grassroots Christian organization Faithful America in supporting protesters’ right to sue. More than 12,000 people have signed onto Faithful America’s online petition drive.

“Donald Trump and William Barr are out of office, but the evil white supremacy and violent Christian nationalism on display when they tear gassed peaceful racial-justice protesters for a blasphemous Bible photo-op remain deep-seated forces in U.S. politics,” said the Rev. Nathan Empsall, an Episcopal priest who serves as executive director of Faithful America.

Last June 1, about 1,000 protesters had assembled outside the White House and in Lafayette Square across from St. John’s as part of the widespread demonstrations across the country against racial injustice in the days after the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

That evening, Trump addressed reporters in the White House’s Rose Garden, declaring himself both “your president of law and order” and “an ally of all peaceful protesters.” Reports indicate the protest in Lafayette Square had been peaceful, and protesters were not yet in violation of the city’s 7 p.m. curfew.

Under Barr’s order, officers from the U.S. Park Police and other assisting law enforcement agencies, outfitted in riot gear, began pushing back the protesters. At least one Episcopal priest was among those who fled the scene when police began using smoke and what eyewitnesses said was some sort of tear gas on the crowd, as well as flash-bang grenades. At least 20 priests and a group of laypeople had been ministering to protesters throughout the day as “a peaceful presence” in support of the demonstrations.

With the square cleared, Secret Service agents and White House officials then escorted Trump to St. John’s, where he was handed a Bible and posed briefly for journalists while video footage showed him giving only a cursory glance at the boarded-up church. The visit lasted about 3 minutes. Trump called some of his aides, including Barr, to pose by his side before he left to return to the White House.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was among the religious leaders who spoke out against the federal actions. Trump “used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes. This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or to heal us,” Curry said at the time.

This week, Budde repeated her criticism of the incident in her statement about the lawsuits.

“The tear gas, flash grenades and other tactics employed that day injured innocent people and led to the forcible eviction of clergy and others gathered on the grounds of one of the churches of my diocese solely to allow the former President to use images of our church and its Holy Scriptures to convey a message antithetical to the church’s teaching,” Budde said. “The rule of law means little if those injured by these egregious actions are denied the opportunity to challenge their constitutionality fully and fairly. Even a president is not above the Constitution.”

Blocking the lawsuits would “authorize brutality with impunity,” lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, said in arguing against the Justice Department’s motion.

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

Source: Episcopal News