Japanese Anglicans and ecumenical groups welcome UN nuclear weapon ban treaty

[Anglican Communion News Service] Religious leaders in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, are welcoming the entry into force of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty is a multilateral legally binding instrument for nuclear disarmament in two decades. It was approved by 122 nations at the U.N. General Assembly in 2017 and came into force on Jan. 22 after Honduras became the 50th nation to ratify it.

The world’s main nuclear powers – the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and France – have not signed the accord, and neither has Japan, the only country to have endured the use of nuclear weapons against it. Japan’s Christian Council says it “regrets” the lack of support from the Japanese government.

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Source: Episcopal News

National Cathedral tolls bell for 500,000 who died of COVID-19 in United States

[Episcopal News Service] Washington National Cathedral on Feb. 22 tolled its bell 500 times, once for every 1,000 people who have died from COVID-19 in the United States. As the cathedral marks the death toll topping a half million this week, millions of people are receiving vaccinations against the coronavirus.

Daily vaccinations peaked at 1.7 million Americans a week ago, but that pace slowed after a winter storm battered much of the country, according The New York Times. President Joe Biden has set a goal of vaccinating 1.5 million people a day in the race to curb the virus’ spread. About 44 million have received at least the first dose of one of the COVID-19 vaccines.

National Cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of Washington in the nation’s capital, has tolled its bell each time an additional 100,000 coronavirus deaths have been reported. The livestream of this week’s bell tolling also included prayers of mourning from interfaith leaders.

“This gesture cannot replace the lives lost, but we hope it will help each American mourn the toll of this pandemic,” the cathedral said.

The cathedral also has launched a memorial project for COVID-19 victims. Survivors can submit the names of loved ones who have died, and the latest submissions will be read during virtual prayer services each week.

Source: Episcopal News

New York’s Absalom Jones celebration highlights parallels between his times and ours

[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of New York held a celebratory virtual service on Feb. 20 as part of its ongoing commemoration of Absalom Jones, the first Black priest in The Episcopal Church, whose feast day is Feb. 13. The service featured performances of music and poetry and remarks from Vice President of the House of Deputies Byron Rushing and New York Bishop Andrew Dietsche.

The morning prayer service was organized by the diocese’s Absalom Jones Celebration Committee, which hosted a panel discussion on Feb. 10 about Jones’ role as an essential worker during the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, yellow fever epidemic of 1793. The committee is also coordinating a mutual aid project in honor of Jones.

Watched live by hundreds of viewers, the Feb. 20 service virtually replicated the service that typically takes place at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

“This annual event is one of the most festive and glorious things we do each year in our diocese,” Dietsche said, “and particularly now, after this very profound year of entering into a new chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement and our ongoing struggle for justice and righteousness in our church and world, it is all the more important that we remember those who have come before us, whose courage and faith and whose fidelity to the Gospel forged new paths for African Americans in the church and in the world.”

Music brought a festive air to the service, with performances by the Diocesan Festival Choir; jazz musician Jay Hoggard; and Broadway actors Tina Fabrique, Larry Marshall and Michael James Leslie. For the canticle, Poet Gold – the former poet laureate of Dutchess County, New York – performed her poem “Common Ground,” with its repeated plea: “Do not abandon the idea of common ground.”

The multicultural fabric of the diocese was in display, with the prayers of the people offered in eight languages, and a confession of sin articulated by youth members of Grace Church/La Gracia in White Plains in their own words.

Portrait of Absalom Jones by Philadelphia artist Raphaelle Peale in 1810.

In his sermon, Rushing – an activist and historian who served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1983 to 2018 – placed the story of Absalom Jones’ life in context, encouraging Episcopalians and Americans to include stories like his in the tapestry of American history. Too often, Rushing said, the stories of people of color and Indigenous people have been ignored or intentionally erased from accounts of the American story.

“When we lose our memory, we lose the ability to know both where and when we are,” Rushing said.

Jones’ life embodies the complexity of the African American experience. Born a slave in Delaware, Jones taught himself to read, purchased the freedom of his wife, Mary, and later purchased his own freedom. He became a lay minister at a Methodist Episcopal Church, where he helped establish the Free African Society to aid in emancipating slaves and caring for those in need. Refusing to worship in a segregated church building, Jones established his own church, the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia. At 56, he became the first Black Episcopal priest.

“We Episcopalians are privileged to have in our calendar Absalom Jones, a great Christian born into slavery that we can remember,” Rushing said. “This recognition is a gift to the church from Black Episcopalians who did not ignore the life of this founder of the first independent congregation of Africans in The Episcopal Church.”

Byron Rushing delivers the keynote speech at the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s 80th anniversary commemoration at the Center for Reconciliation in Providence, Rhode Island, on Nov. 10, 2019. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

With a nod to recent debates about the way slavery and systemic racism have been presented in American history, Rushing said the celebration of Jones offers an opportunity to understand the full reality of race in America through a personal narrative.

“Our original story as Americans cannot be accurately told without telling the story of slavery,” he said. “We can learn about enslavement and emancipation and liberation not only in general academic terms, but in the actual lives and experiences of men and women, girls and boys of African descent – stories like this.”

The diocese’s mutual aid project honors Jones’ charitable work with the Free African Society, which included extraordinary efforts to care for the sick and dying during the 1793 yellow fever epidemic. Jones and others nursed the sick, removed corpses, dug graves and buried the dead. With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, the diocese is encouraging congregations to work with local nonprofits to meet their specific needs, raising funds to buy supplies in bulk. For more information, visit absalomjones.dioceseny.org.

Such work does not undo the centuries of pain that people of color have experienced in America – Rushing noted that “it will not be until 2111 that people of African descent will have been free as long as they have been enslaved in the United States” – but it is the work that Christians are called to do, especially in the midst of the crises America faces, Rushing said.

“The resurrection did not erase the crucifixion,” he said. “The power of death was overcome, but it was not made like it never happened. God gives us good news because there is bad news.”

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

Source: Episcopal News

Presiding Bishop’s PSA for the COVID-19 vaccine


[Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations] The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations has developed a toolkit for individuals, congregations, and ministries to facilitate and promote COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the United States. This toolkit promotes the ongoing work that parishes and dioceses have already been doing, shares best practices, and offers ideas for ways that communities can help U.S.- based Episcopalians to facilitate vaccination, overcome vaccine hesitancy, and find information from state and local officials. Churches and church leaders (lay and ordained) can serve as an important trusted bridge between public health officials and communities.

In his public service announcement encouraging vaccination, the presiding bishop says, “This vaccine can prevent the COVID-19 virus. It can help you. It can help those who you love. It can help us all. The Bible says you should love your neighbor as yourself. And getting this vaccine, as well as wearing your face mask, and keeping social distanced, and out of crowds, these are some simple and real ways that we can love our neighbor as ourselves. To love our neighbor, and while you’re at it to love yourself.”

“As a part of our work beyond the church walls, Episcopalians around the U.S. partner with the government all the time to help address problems in our communities, and combatting COVID-19 is no exception,” said the Rev. C.K. Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church. “We can not only encourage our fellow Episcopalians to get vaccinated to help us return to normal, but churches can ask their local health departments how they can best serve their community in vaccine distribution.”

The toolkit includes 10 actions churches can take to help get everyone vaccinated and resources from the U.S. government on vaccine rollout including links to every state and territory’s vaccine resources page, information on overcoming vaccine hesitancy, and even sample messaging.

This toolkit will be updated as new information and plans become available. The Office of Government Relations also continues to advocate for U.S. support in delivering vaccines to countries being sidelined from vaccine distribution channels. To stay up to date on these efforts, sign up for updates from The Episcopal Public Policy Network.

Episcopalians are already doing great work in this area, and the Office of Government Relations wants to hear about it! Share your stories of engaging the COVID-19 vaccine rollout by writing us at The Episcopal Public Policy Network.

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Source: Episcopal News

Fort Worth loses fight for church properties as US Supreme Court declines to hear diocese’s case

[Episcopal News Service] The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 22 declined to hear the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth’s appeal of a state court ruling, leaving more than $100 million of diocesan property in the hands of a breakaway group and potentially forcing five of the diocese’s congregations to vacate their buildings.

Fort Worth Provisional Bishop Scott Mayer acknowledged “disappointment” that the nation’s highest court let stand the Supreme Court of Texas’ May 2020 ruling against his diocese. Mayer met with clergy and lay leaders of the diocese by Zoom to discuss next steps now that the legal case is drawing to a close.

“I ask for your prayers and urge us all to stay focused on the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and on our mission and ministries in the days ahead,” Mayer said in a Feb. 22 written statement. He encouraged Episcopalians to focus on “the important goal of continuing our worship of God and our ministries in this diocese of the Church in as uninterrupted a manner as possible.”

The Episcopal Church partnered with the Diocese of Fort Worth throughout the litigation process. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a statement on Feb. 22 expressing support for Episcopalians the in Fort Worth diocese.

“On behalf of your family who is The Episcopal Church, I want you to know that while we cannot know your pain and hardship, we stand with you in sorrow and disappointment,” Curry said. “You have been so constant and faithful in your witness to our Lord Jesus Christ and his way of love.”

Episcopalians who worship at St. Stephen’s in Wichita Falls, Texas, are among those who may be forced to look for new worshipping spaces after the resolution of the court case over diocesan property. Photo: Episcopal Church of Wichita Falls

In 2008, a majority of clergy and lay leaders in the Diocese of Fort Worth voted to leave The Episcopal Church and join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone over doctrinal differences on topics like same-sex marriage and the ordination of women. The breakaway group now is part of the Anglican Church in North America, or ACNA. The split resulted in two Fort Worth-based dioceses claiming the same name and pursuing dueling claims for church properties.

The diocese that is still affiliated with The Episcopal Church fought in court to retain possession of the disputed property. It lost in the trial court in 2015, but in 2018, a state Court of Appeals reversed the earlier decision and ruled in the diocese’s favor. That appellate ruling, however, was overturned by the Supreme Court of Texas two years later.

“When we began this litigation in 2009, we did so as heir and steward of the legacy of generations of faithful Episcopalians,” Mayer said on Feb. 22 after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene. “In the wake of this decision we remain committed to preaching the Gospel as we celebrate the sacraments, care for those in need, and strive for justice and peace. Let us move forward together with grace and love, guided by the Holy Spirit.”

Mayer has served as Fort Worth’s provisional bishop since being elected in May 2015 at a special convention. He also serves as bishop of the Diocese of Northwest Texas.

All Saints' in Fort Worth

The congregation of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, Texas, is one of five that could be forced out of their buildings after the Diocese of Fort Worth lost a legal fight with a breakaway group. Photo: All Saints’ Episcopal Church, via video

The Fort Worth diocese now has 14 congregations, including eight that chose to find new worshipping locations after the breakaway group claimed ownership of church buildings. One of those congregations began meeting in a theater. Another built a new church. The diocese also has developed one brand new congregation since the split.

“They have found places to thrive, but they had to start over with nothing,” Katie Sherrod, the Diocese of Fort Worth’s communications director, told Episcopal News Service.

The other five congregations, however, fought to remain in their former church buildings and now could face eviction by the ACNA group. They are four congregations in Fort Worth – St. Christopher’s, St. Luke’s in the Meadow, St. Elisabeth’s & Christ the King, and All Saints’ – and one congregation, St. Stephen’s, in Wichita Falls.

Sherrod said the legal case now goes back to the trial court judge to determine how his order will be carried out. Church leaders don’t expect the five congregations will need to relocate for at least 30 days, but regarding the court case, “this is effectively the end of the road.”

The diocese had been planning for this possibility, that some of its congregations would need to find new locations, though after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, the immediate focus is on providing pastoral care and showing support for the affected congregations, Sherrod said.

“Right now, I think our folks are just trying to deal with the shock of this decision not to hear our case,” she said.

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

Source: Episcopal News

Date set for the installation of the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem

The Coadjutor Bishop of Jerusalem, Hosam Naoum, will be installed as the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem on Thursday 13 May

Source: Anglican News

Young Anglicans urged to register for global environment event

Call for Anglican young people to participate in pre-COP26 “Youth 4 Climate: Driving Ambition” global environmental event in Milan, Italy

Source: Anglican News

Ecumenical leaders commemorate Coptic Contemporary Martyrs

Archbishop Justin Welby and Pope Francis joined Pope Tawadros II and Archbishop Angaelos to commemorate Contemporary Martyrs Day

Source: Anglican News

Japanese Anglicans and ecumenical groups welcome UN nuclear weapon ban treaty

Religious leaders in Hiroshima and Nagasaki urge Japanese government to support Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Source: Anglican News