God Counts Those Men Discount


August 20, 2017

Pastor Mark Bradshaw

 

“It is not fair to take from the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

 

I think we can safely assume that our Lord is tired.

John had lost his head, and now Jesus has lost his cool.

And who can blame him, everytime he tries to get away for some quiet someone sees him, and before long there is a crowd pressing in.

 

The people are desperate and in need and Jesus is full of compassion and God has made it evident that through Jesus healing flows. Then one day Jesus decides he needs to get up and go, head to the coast and outside of the borders of Israel where he can enjoy that sweet Mediterranean breeze, put his feet in the sand and watch the sunset. Perhaps Jesus was feeling overwhelmed, weary under the weight of it all. The more people he healed the more aware he became of how many were still in need. For every lost sheep that our Good Shepherd carried back into the fold there seemed to be two new wolves, ready to devour. And so Jesus, feeling hemmed in, goes on a retreat. Jesus decides to practice a little self care, hoping for a certain level of anonymity. Yet, and notice this, whereas Jesus was seeking to find refreshment and renewal outside of his borders geographically, God sends someone to Jesus who is outside of his ethnic and social borders in order to get him back on track. To put it bluntly, God sends his Son a woman to set him straight… to expand his borders… to increase his imagination… to broaden his perspective.

 

In the television industry, it really has become a type of art to recap the previous episodes of a season, often in only 1-2 minutes, as a means of bringing the viewer up to speed. The current episode plays a specific role within the overall story and the reason for the opening recap is to refresh the audience’s memory as to how it relates to a few specific strands within the overall story line.  

 

Now, at first glance it is surprising that this morning’s Gospel made it past the final edits. Any of you wish this was a deleted scene, clearly out of character for Jesus?  And yet, as we may be standing here scratching our heads the observant disciple will discover that there is a trail of breadcrumbs that has been left for us to follow.

 

So here it is, our opening recap:

Jesus appointed how many disciples?

The women with the bleeding infirmary, who reached out and touched the hems of Jesus’ robe and was healed – how many years had she been sick?

That happened while Jesus was on his way to heal a young girl who was how many years old?

Okay, are you picking up what Matthew is shoveling? So, why 12?

  • 12 tribes of Israel.

So, in our Gospel this morning we heard Jesus’ words, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

 

And right after Jesus learns of John’s death he goes away to try and be alone and the crowds follow, he teaches them and then does not want to send them away hungry. With five loaves and two fishes how many people are fed? And here is the bonus question – how many basketfuls are left over?

Are we getting the point yet with 12?

 

Now, perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to think of the 12 basketfuls of broken pieces as the crumbs that were leftover, one for each tribe. I am picking up on a theme of abundance.

 

Okay, one last theme in our episode intro, this would have been our Gospel reading from last week – and I don’t know about you but I was more than happy to have Abbey veer off from the lectionary and give us her message! Yet, in the story of Jesus walking on water, summoning Peter to come and walk with him, I would have the cameras zoom in on Peter sinking as Jesus extends a hand and says, my paraphrase, “Man, you have such little faith!”

 

Okay, who is still with me? Did I lose anyone?

 

Jesus sets off for the coast, outside of Israel, he is tired and I imagine the Pharisees have really gotten under his skin, and then she shows up. A Canaanite, that godless group of people who inhabited the land before Israel came in and conquered it. A Canaanite woman, nonetheless, and she is desperate. Her daughter is tormented by a demon and she begins crying out for Jesus’ attention. “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. Jesus just ignores her. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”  Lord, just send her away.

 

Last week Abbey shared with us a profound poem by the Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray. Much of what I am about to share I gleaned from an article in the New Yorker written in April of this year. Pauli Murray, born in 1910, was ahead of her time. She sat in the wrong seat on the bus, participated in nonviolent demonstrations, and advocated for the equal treatment of all persons several decades before the civil rights movement. She began her life as an orphan and culminated it by becoming the first African American woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest. In high school, she was the only black among 4,000 students. She applied to the University of North Carolina and was denied admission because she had the wrong color of skin. Later she was denied admission to Harvard Law because she had the wrong gender.

 

While studying at Howard University Pauli was no longer excluded for the color of her skin but rather due to the fact that she had the unfortunate condition of being born a woman. She was the only woman among faculty and students and on the first day of class her professor was all too eager to humiliate her by remarking that he could think of no reason why a woman would desire to attend Law school. Thus, not only did Pauli resolve to become the top student in her class, which she was, but she also grew in her determination to end what she termed Jane Crow.

 

While at Howard a class discussion arose on how to best end Jim Crow. Plessy vs. Ferguson, the case that upheld segregation, used the phrase “separate but equal.” The class conversation was focused on the term “equal” and the men scoffed when Pauli dared to question the term “separate.” She proceeded to bet her professor $10 that within 25 years Plessy vs. Ferguson would be overturned, Pauli was right. But her law-school professor, Spottswood Robinson, would come to owe Pauli much more than $10. Pauli would go on to argue in her final law school paper that segregation violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution. Years later Spottswood Robinson remembered Pauli’s paper and presented it to Thurgood Marshall and the remainder of his colleagues, the same group who successfully argued Brown vs. the Board of Education.  

 

Now, I would like to propose that Spottswood Robinson and Jesus of Nazareth both share something revolutionary in common. It is not that they both devoted themselves to the cause of justice, nor that they both were committed to advocating for those who society had discounted. Rather, what was revolutionary about these men, and worthy of emulation, is that they both were willing to eat crow. They both were willing to not only admit, but seemingly revel in the fact that a woman had set them straight.

 

Stepping back into our Gospel, up until this point we have grown accustomed to Jesus being the one who stumps the religious leaders, but in our Gospel this morning it this unnamed Canaanite woman who stumps Jesus. “It is not fair to take from the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” “Yes Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.” She does not play the victim, she does not need to make Jesus into the villain. Rather, she takes what Jesus gives her and uses it to stump him. She gets creative.  – Jesus, isn’t it God’s table, and isn’t God a God of abundance? Jesus, your reference point is this group of children and you are wondering if there is going to be enough for them. My reference point is the merciful God who created us all, and all I need is a crumb from God’s table and my daughter will be made well. Jesus, isn’t your God bigger than that? And, move over Peter, Jesus looks at this woman and says, “Wow, how great is your faith.”

 

Back in that classroom at Howard University, as those young black men were debating what it means to be treated as equals, the one thing seemingly all men in power held in common, black and white, was that women were not equals. And if it has become hauntingly clear in the recent weeks that we have so much more to overcome for racial equality, let us equally remember how much more we must overcome for gender equality.

 

And just how many people were fed? Was it 5,000? Matthew makes a point of saying “5,000 besides women and children.” So, who was it that decided the women and the children did not count? If 15-20,000 children of God ate and were filled on that afternoon, who decided it was only the men who count? It wasn’t God.

 

God counts those the world counts out.

God counts those who men discount.

We can count on that.

 

Episcopal leaders react to guilty verdicts in killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia

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Reaction to verdict in Arbery killing

People react outside the Glynn County Courthouse after the jury reached a guilty verdict Nov. 24 in the trial three white men accused of killing Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] Three white men on Nov. 24 were found guilty of murder in the February 2020 killing of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery, a case that has been at the center of a broader reckoning with racial injustice in the United States.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Episcopal leaders in Georgia issued statements in response to the verdicts, invoking the church’s ongoing efforts to support racial healing and social justice advocacy.

“Any verdict arrives too late to offer true justice in this case. Ahmaud Arbery is dead, and the court cannot return him to his family. Nonetheless, this moment is an important one,” Georgia Bishop Frank Logue and Atlanta Bishop Rob Wright said in a joint statement released with Bishop Kevin Strickland of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “We hope not just for good to overcome evil, but for God to redeem even the worst tragedies and the gravest injustices. While the court has acted, the work of healing and justice remains.”

Curry echoed those points in his statement after the verdict: “While nothing will return Ahmaud Arbery to his loved ones, our justice system has held three men accountable for hunting down and killing a Black man who did nothing but go for a run in a predominately white neighborhood, and I give thanks for this outcome. My prayers are with Arbery’s family as they continue to grieve his loss.

“Even so, our work as followers of Jesus, as a church, and as a nation, continues.”

Protests erupted nationwide and globally in late May 2020 after the killing of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Those protests also focused on other recent killings of African Americans by police officers and white vigilantes, including Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia, and Breonna Taylor, who was killed in her Louisville, Kentucky, home in March 2020 by police executing a search warrant.

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, was convicted by a jury on April 20, 2021, on three counts of murder and manslaughter. He was sentenced two months later to 22 1/2 years in prison.

In Louisville, the U.S. Justice Department is investigating the police department’s practices after Taylor’s killing. The department’s internal investigation concluded that the two officers whose gunshots killed Taylor should never have fired their weapons.

On Nov. 24, the Glynn County jury convicted Gregory McMichael; his son, Travis McMichael; and a neighbor, William Bryan, on several counts, including murder, in the death of 25-year-old Arbery. Gregory McMichael, a former investigator for the local prosecutor’s office, told police that they had chased Arbery in a pickup truck and shot him after suspecting him of being tied to recent break-ins in the area.

“We cannot rest until these modern embodiments of terror against any human child of God are no more,” Curry said in his statement. “We must labor on for racial healing and reconciliation in each of our hearts — and in our society. We must reimagine and advocate against systems, laws, and policies that encourage vigilantism and diminish human life, because all people should be treated with the dignity, love, and respect that is due children of God.”

Much of the scrutiny on the Arbery case focused on how long it took authorities to charge the suspects. The three defendants weren’t arrested until early May, more than two months after the killing, when cellphone video surfaced appearing to show Travis McMichael shoot Arbery with a shotgun. Bryan, who had joined the McMichaels in confronting Arbery, recorded the shooting with his phone camera.

“The three men who are now convicted of crimes were initially shielded from facing their accusers in court,” Logue, Wright and Strickland said in their written statement. “Until we can bring equity to the system that initially protected them, the rest of us will not have done what we can to create the just society for which we long.

“Our country has not dealt with the racism built into the system at its founding and perpetuated until this day. Living into our faith means addressing directly any sin we see in our lives and in our communities. Divisions around the human-made concept of race are an offense against our faith which teaches that all people are made in God’s image and likeness. Jesus taught us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Through his parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus made it clear that all are our neighbors. Any racial divide breaks the heart of God.”

Last month, local Episcopal leaders were part of an interfaith group of about 75 clergy members from Glynn County who began regularly appearing outside the courthouse, starting with jury selection on Oct. 18. They continued to gather in small groups outside the building during the trial in a ministry of prayer and to promote peace and unity.

In their post-verdict message, the bishops from Georgia praised the Glynn County clergy members: “Their clarion call for justice after the video surfaced was critical in getting attention to this case. They followed this call by engaging in candid conversations that drew them together even as other forces could have deepened divisions.”

Upon hearing the news Nov. 24 that the verdicts were about to be read, several of those clergy members gathered outside the courthouse to pray, including the Rev. DeWayne Cope, rector of the nearby St. Athanasius’ Episcopal Church in Brunswick. Various groups of people were huddled there around cellphones to watch video of the trial’s outcome.

“You could hear shouting and cheering. They started chanting [Arbery’s] name,” Cope told ENS by phone later in the afternoon. “But there were also tears that were shed as well. People were just thankful a decision was reached, and for those gathered outside the courtroom a majority of those have been in support of Ahmaud Arbery’s family.”

It was a moment of release, Cope said, after weeks of anxiety that had been building during the jury selection and trial.

Cope added that he feels mixed emotions now that the trial is over. “There’s a little bit of happiness; for so many seeking justice, that was rendered today, yes.” But faith leaders still face the long-term work of healing a community that “is still fractured,” he said, and “there are other families involved that are still broken”: both the Arbery family and the families of his killers.

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

Navajoland’s feeding ministry resumes for winter, with fixings for families’ Thanksgiving meals

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Leon Sampson

Genevieve White and her son, Ryan, volunteer at Good Shepherd Mission in Fort Defiance, Arizona, to fill boxes of food for delivery to Navajo Nation residents as part of a feeding ministry of the Episcopal Church in Navajoland. Photo: Leon Sampson

[Episcopal News Service] Last year, the Episcopal Church in Navajoland launched an emergency feeding ministry to help families weather the turbulent early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. After a summer 2021 hiatus, the ministry is resuming – just in time for Thanksgiving.

Episcopal leaders serving the Navajo Nation gathered with volunteers Nov. 18 at the mission’s headquarters in Farmington, New Mexico, to sort a final shipment of food items and load them onto trucks to take to Navajoland’s three regions. The food then was divided further into individual portions for distribution to about 300 families last weekend and this week.

Among the items: turkey, potatoes, dressing and pie for the families’ Thanksgiving dinners on Nov. 25.

“This is really about getting the food and resources to those who need the most,” the Rev. Joe Hubbard, vicar at St. Christopher’s Mission in Bluff, Utah, told Episcopal News Service. Elders and families with small children are among the ministry’s priorities. The Thanksgiving week deliveries contain enough food for families to “get them through the holidays, and we’ll have another distribution in December,” in time for Christmas, Hubbard said.

Navajoland leaders had conducted similar monthly food distributions for about a year, starting in May 2020. More than 3,800 boxes of food, as well as clothing, hygiene items and toys, were provided to families in 25 communities, including more than 1,650 children, according to a Navajoland summary. Those deliveries were put on hold in May 2021 “in hopes to save some money to help families during the holiday season,” G.J. Gordy, Navajoland’s communications director, told ENS.

The winter months often are the most economically difficult for Navajo families, Gordy said, because the growing season is over and families face the added cost of buying firewood or propane to heat their homes. With the feeding ministry resuming, “we’re hoping to continue this for the next six months.”Leon Sampson

The Rev. Leon Sampson helps load a trailer with food on Nov. 18 to be boxed and delivered to Navajo Nation residents. Photo: G.J. Gordy

The deliveries this week were made possible in part by donations of nonperishable foods from the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known widely as the Mormon church. Other food was purchased directly from wholesaler Sysco, with help from the monetary donations that Navajoland continues to receive from around The Episcopal Church.

“We have been blessed with just an outflowing of love from the wider church, with donations that have allowed us to purchase the food,” Navajoland Bishop David Bailey told ENS. “There’s not enough words to say thanks.”

That financial support was especially welcome in the months after the March 2020 start of the pandemic, when the rate of COVID-19 transmission on the Navajo Nation reservation was among the highest in the United States. More than 1,500 Navajo Nation residents have died during the pandemic. Daily cases have risen again this fall, though not as high as last winter, and 58% of residents are now vaccinated.

“So many people have lost loved ones and friends and family members to this virus,” Hubbard said. “We’re seeing that this virus is not going away.”

The reservation covers more than 27,000 square miles in the Four Corners region of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. More than 30% of households lack running water, and many of the 175,000 residents live below the poverty line in isolated villages far from the nearest grocery store.

The Episcopal Church created the Navajoland Area Mission in 1978 by carving out sections of the dioceses of Rio Grande, Arizona and Utah, in an effort to unify the language, culture and families of the region. The churchwide triennial budget now includes a $1 million block grant to support Navajoland.

“The Episcopal Church Office of Development continues to partner with the Episcopal Church in Navajoland to support fundraising efforts for core operations and essential ministries,” Cecilia Malm, the office’s associate director, told ENS by email. “Development staff provide professional consultation in areas such as annual giving, major gifts and endowment fundraising and encourage support for Navajoland through social media and other communications channels.”

Episcopalians interested in supporting Navajoland’s ministries can donate online.

For the week of Thanksgiving, the food assembled by Navajoland leaders was divided to feed about 100 families in each of the mission’s regions. All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Farmington was used as the operation’s Nov. 18 staging ground, and food for the San Juan region in New Mexico was distributed from there on Nov. 21. A no-contact process was established, with volunteers placing boxes in the backs of recipients’ vehicles due to the region’s elevated COVID-19 case count.

The boxes included a mix of canned goods and other nonperishable items, as well as fresh produce and meat. “We really wanted to make sure people had turkey and fixings for Thanksgiving,” the Rev. Jack Chase, the priest serving the region, told ENS.

Chase praised Gordy’s work in coordinating the food distribution. “She really is the engine behind it all, the one who makes it happen,” he said.

In Navajoland’s southeast region, based in Fort Defiance, Arizona, the Rev. Leon Sampson and volunteers finished packing and delivering boxes of food to far-flung families on Nov. 22.https://www.facebook.com/v2.3/plugins/post.php?app_id=249643311490&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fx%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter%2F%3Fversion%3D46%23cb%3Df3328b5e03ee548%26domain%3Dwww.episcopalnewsservice.org%26is_canvas%3Dfalse%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.episcopalnewsservice.org%252Ff56ff27b551c98%26relation%3Dparent.parent&container_width=728&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fpermalink.php%3Fstory_fbid%3D6453461318061677%26id%3D100001936191757&locale=en_US&sdk=joey&width= https://www.facebook.com/v2.3/plugins/post.php?app_id=249643311490&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fx%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter%2F%3Fversion%3D46%23cb%3Df22b3852db1c234%26domain%3Dwww.episcopalnewsservice.org%26is_canvas%3Dfalse%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.episcopalnewsservice.org%252Ff56ff27b551c98%26relation%3Dparent.parent&container_width=728&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fcathlenap%2Fposts%2F10223754083572899&locale=en_US&sdk=joey&width=

“It’s not that we’re expecting them to come to church, to be Episcopalians,” Sampson told ENS. “We’re showing them that God is still in the midst of them.” Sampson also planned to cook turkey dinners for delivery on Thanksgiving to about five families who do not have the means to cook the meals themselves.

Many families in the Utah region, in and around Bluff, lack fresh water plumbing and are receiving gallons of drinking water with their food boxes. Hubbard, church volunteers and a 10-member crew from AmeriCorps worked together to deliver nearly 300 boxes of food, or four boxes per family, on Nov. 19 and 21 to the Utah communities served by St. Mary’s in the Moonlight Church in Oljato and St. John the Baptizer Church in Montezuma Creek. Among the nonperishable items were staples like rice, dried beans, flour and sugar. More boxes are being distributed this week.

Going forward, the distributed boxes will contain about enough food to assist families for two weeks, Gordy said. Navajoland also is raising money to help Navajo Nation families pay to heat their homes during the winter.

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

For Albany Episcopalians, marriage equality is a small step toward full LGBTQ+ inclusion

Posted by on 8:06 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on For Albany Episcopalians, marriage equality is a small step toward full LGBTQ+ inclusion

Members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Albany, New York, march in a Pride parade. Photo: St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] Although there is now a path to marriage for same-sex couples in the Diocese of Albany, some members of the diocese say theological differences, distrust and a sense of disconnect from the larger Episcopal Church linger, and that the diocese still has a long way to go before LGBTQ+ people are fully included.

The diocese’s standing committee announced on Nov. 1 that it would comply with churchwide marriage canons, ending its distinction as the only remaining U.S. diocese to ban same-sex marriage outright. In the short term, the standing committee brought the diocese into compliance with Resolution B012, the 2018 General Convention compromise measure that allows same-sex couples to marry where it is legal, regardless of the diocese’s or the bishop’s official position. B012 contains a provision for another bishop to provide oversight for same-sex marriages if the diocesan bishop opposes them.

Still, the diocese’s canon forbidding same-sex marriage and a canon requiring priests to be either in a heterosexual marriage or celibate remain on the books for now.

“The standing committee has not opened the door” to marriage equality, said Louis Bannister, a member of the Cathedral of All Saints in Albany who serves as a lay leader on the cathedral’s chapter (similar to a vestry). “They’ve unlocked the door, but they’ve left it closed.”

The diocese had been scheduled to vote on whether to change the marriage and ordination canons at its convention in October. However, delegates voted 126 to 116 for a procedural amendment that said no canonical changes could be made during an online meeting. Four new standing committee members were elected at the meeting.

In its Nov. 1 announcement, the standing committee – which has served as the diocese’s ecclesiastical authority since the resignation of former Bishop William Love – said that “as a body” it is theologically opposed to same-sex marriage, as Love was. Love was the only bishop who refused to implement B012, and a disciplinary panel determined in October 2020 that his refusal violated church canon law and his ordination vows. Love resigned in February of this year rather than face further disciplinary action, and he joined the Anglican Church in North America.

In order to comply with B012 until the election of the next diocesan bishop, the committee directed clergy who plan to celebrate same-sex marriages to consult with Assisting Bishop Michael Smith and work out an arrangement. In August, the committee had called Smith to serve the diocese until Love’s successor is elected.

Smith, previously bishop of the Diocese of North Dakota, was one of eight bishops who refused to allow same-sex couples to marry using trial rites approved in 2015 by the 78th General Convention. In 2018, he agreed to implement B012 in North Dakota by designating pastoral oversight to another bishop. Smith retired as diocesan bishop there in May 2019.

The Albany diocese started its profile and search process for the next diocesan bishop in June, and it is expected to take about 18 months.

It is unclear what prompted the standing committee to issue its Nov. 1 announcement. Smith, the standing committee, and diocesan officers have not answered questions from Episcopal News Service. Members of the diocese whom ENS spoke to said they aren’t clear on how the alternative pastoral oversight process would work – whether Smith would provide the oversight himself or arrange for a bishop outside the diocese to do so, or whether any oversight is necessary, since bishops typically do not intervene in marriages unless either spouse has previously been divorced. The Rev. Glen Michaels, priest-in-charge of five churches known as the Adirondack Mission, said he wrote to Smith asking what the process would be and had not received a response.

Some members of the diocese are frustrated that the standing committee didn’t go further toward full inclusion, while others hope the announcement is a first step toward reconciliation.

“The statement is less than we would have wanted, but nevertheless shows change, I think in the right direction,” said the Rev. Jane Brady-Close, interim rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Albany, which is open about being an LGBTQ-welcoming congregation. She said she was “blindsided” by the announcement. “A lot of these issues that are so significant that they take generations of people working on them. … Moses never entered the promised land.”

“There’s some frustration and there are still some questions about the process,” said Barbara Wisnom, senior warden at St. Andrew’s, which has had pastoral oversight from bishops outside the diocese since 2012, with the understanding that it will still abide by diocesan canons. “Are they trying to make it harder? Do we have to have a bishop come in from outside? … We’re kind of in limbo.”

“There is great distrust for the standing committee. There’s just a lot of distrust, period,” Bannister said.

The next time the diocese will be able to consider the resolutions on marriage and ordination is at its next in-person diocesan convention, scheduled for June. Since the resolutions were tabled and the standing committee’s announcement did not pertain to the ban on ordaining non-celibate gay people, it is still in effect. Churchwide canons prohibit discrimination in access to the discernment process based on sex, marital or family status, sexual orientation and gender identity, among other categories.

“I’m disappointed that the diocese has not taken up the issue of ordination,” Brady-Close said. “How big is your vision of God? And is God not entitled to call whomever God chooses to call? And who are we to interfere with that?”

Wisnom says she and others who have been involved in the long struggle for marriage equality in the diocese will continue to push for equality in ordination. She is an organizer of the informal group Concerned Episcopalians, formerly Albany Via Media, which has advocated for compromise solutions to LGBTQ+ issues since 2003. She said the group has over 20 people representing at least six congregations, and they will advocate for the resolutions at the June convention.

“We’re not protesting. We’re not carrying flags. We’re trying to play by the rules,” Wisnom said.

She and other members of the diocese said they want to see the diocese reengage with The Episcopal Church.

“I don’t want anyone to think that this is all about gay marriage,” Wisnom said. “That’s the presenting issue. The Diocese of Albany has cut themselves off from the national church. We get no information about commissions on race relations, on climate change. Our larger hope is that our next bishop is someone that the conservatives could be OK with and would start to repair relationships or reinitiate relationships with the national church because we really are isolated.”

Keith St. John, a member of the Cathedral of All Saints and of Concerned Episcopalians, said he is uneasy by language in the standing committee’s letter supporting the adoption of the Anglican Communion Covenant, a framework for managing differences within the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church has not taken a position on the covenant, which has been accepted by some churches and rejected by others.

“That said, I’m heartened to see the standing committee finally comport with the actions of the 79th General Convention,” said St. John, who also serves on the profile and search committee for the next diocesan bishop.

No one ENS spoke to was aware of any same-sex couples who were planning to get married in the diocese. Some gay members had already gotten married in other dioceses or in a civil ceremony – or left the diocese altogether.

“My husband and I waited 10 years for things to change and gave up in frustration,” said Roland LaScala, former senior warden at St. Andrew’s, who married his husband in June in a civil ceremony at a farm.

“Many [couples] across the diocese have stopped holding their breath and simply chose to leave the church,” St. John said. “I hope and pray that they will see their way back to the church and find renewed comfort and purpose, even in the Diocese of Albany.”

One couple from the Cathedral of All Saints got married in the Diocese of Vermont, and brought the cathedral’s processional cross and thurible for the ceremony, which a number of parishioners attended, Bannister told ENS.

“We were able to do everything except host the wedding of two of our own people,” he said.

Though gay Episcopalians who have stayed in the diocese are no longer banned from getting married in their own churches, some said it doesn’t erase the pain of exclusion.

“I grew up active in the church. I grew up believing that I was a child of God because that is what the church taught me before I knew what my sexual orientation was going to be,” Bannister said. “My outrage is because, in this diocese, I’m not a child of God; I’m part of a problem.”

When LGBTQ+ parishioners are suffering, the whole parish suffers with them, Brady-Close said – but their endurance is also a source of inspiration.

“It’s been a hardship for St. Andrew’s – for our members as a whole, not merely for our gay and lesbian members, and that we have a significant number testifies to their faith and their spiritual maturity. It would be so easy to just say, ‘I’m out of here.’ … Their tenacity and their humility is just a great inspiration for others.”

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, Barbara Wisnom’s name was misspelled.

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

Bishop, blacksmithing crew melt guns for garden tools in Swords to Plowshares demonstration

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Curry and Budde

Bishop Jim Curry, right, retired bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Connecticut, guides Washington Bishop Mariann Budde in hammering and shaping the metal of a former gun into a garden tool on Capitol Hill. Photo: David Deutsch

[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev. Jim Curry answered his phone Nov. 15 while driving his Toyota Highlander south down Interstate 95 toward Washington, D.C., with two colleagues on board. The vehicle was towing a trailer loaded with their essential cargo: a traditional blacksmithing forge.

Curry, a founding member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, and his Connecticut-based crew were on their way to appear the next day on Capitol Hill to demonstrate how they melt down guns and turn them into gardening tools. The nonprofit he co-founded in 2017, Swords to Plowshares Northeast, is centered on the process.

The organization takes its name from a passage from Isaiah 2:4 – “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” Swords to Plowshares promotes gun safety with a visual, tangible ministry that Curry says is both practical and symbolic.

“When we started evangelizing and talking to police departments and communities around the country and we could show them the actual transformation, these weapons of death into instruments of life, it’s just been an amazing process,” Curry told Episcopal News Service. “People really get it.”Curry heats metal

Bishop Jim Curry heats the metal of a former gun in the mobile forge used by the nonprofit Swords to Plowshares Northeast in its demonstrations. Photo: David Deutsch

Curry retired in 2014 as bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Connecticut. He now serves as chief blacksmith for Swords to Plowshares, demonstrating his skills with a hammer and anvil at gun buyback events across the Northeast. He’s helped the nonprofit destroy about 800 guns in four years. More were melted down Nov. 16 when Curry and the blacksmithing crew fired up the forge during the noon hour outside the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, about a block and a half from the U.S. Capitol.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both Democrats from Connecticut, attended the demonstration and participated in part of the process of melting and reshaping the former weapons. Washington Bishop Marianne Budde also joined them.

The organization’s ministry is deeply rooted in Connecticut, where lawmakers and Episcopal leaders were moved to action on gun reforms by the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, which left 20 students and six educators dead. Curry recalls responding to the scene of the shooting that day with Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas and Bishop Suffragan Laura Ahrens.

“Quite frankly, you don’t live through that without your lives changing,” Curry said.

In the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, the Connecticut bishops joined with bishops in other dioceses that were grieving mass shootings and formed Bishops United Against Gun Violence. The network, with more than 100 member bishops, now is a leading churchwide voice of advocacy for gun safety legislation and common sense precautions, like gun locks and safes. The bishops also memorialize the victims of gun violence and offer prayers and pastoral care to survivors.

In Washington, The Episcopal Church’s advocacy is led by the Office of Government Relations, which has pushed this year for passage of legislation that would strengthen and expand background checks for gun purchases. The House passed two such bills this year, but they have since stalled in the Senate. “A majority of Americans recognize the urgent need for gun reform,” the Office of Government Relations said in an action alert to its Episcopal Public Policy Network.

The agency’s advocacy follows Episcopal policy positions established by General Convention in resolutions dating to 1976 that call for legislation to address the problem of gun violence.Final tool

Bishop Jim Curry shows one of the finished tools created from surrendered weapons as part of the Swords to Plowshares demonstration Nov. 16 in Washington, D.C. Photo: David Deutsch

Raising awareness of those positions is one goal of Swords to Plowshares, and the demonstration on Nov. 16 in Washington was arranged to draw the attention of lawmakers, news outlets and passersby on Capitol Hill.

“The biblical promise of swords being turned into plowshares was reenacted today. Our hope is that we can all help to build a more peaceful world,” Lindsey Warburton, a policy analyst with the Office of Government Relations, said in an emailed statement to ENS. “We are glad to support Swords to Plowshares, the work of Bishops United against Gun Violence, and advocacy to the U.S. government to ensure our communities do not suffer any more from gun violence.”

The mobile blacksmithing forge that Curry and his team use is fired by propane, and their blacksmithing tools include hammers, tongs, chisels and anvils. They take the barrels of rifles, pistols and shotguns and heat them in the forge and then reshape the malleable metal into hand tools. Trowels, shaped from shotgun barrels, are relatively easy, Curry told ENS. It takes 10 to 15 minutes to get the rough shape. Revolvers and rifles typically are made from heavier metals, which take more time to mold, he said. The blacksmiths then grind the metal to complete the tool.

The idea for Swords to Plowshares was inspired by a Mennonite blacksmithing ministry in Colorado called RAWtools. Its motto: “Disarm hearts. Forge peace. Cultivate justice.” After hearing about RAWtools’ efforts to collect surrendered weapons and melt them down, Curry went to apprentice with them.

Taking what he learned, Curry and the team now partner with police agencies and other local groups to organize gun buybacks, at which guns can be surrendered with no questions asked, in exchange for cash or other compensation. After the weapons are transformed into gardening tools, Swords to Plowshares donates them to community gardens.

The method and the message are closely intertwined, Curry said, and this transformation that ends the guns’ existence can be emotionally powerful for observers. At a recent session in Massachusetts, “as the gardeners saw us making tools and received tools from us, they were just in tears,” Curry said. “The larger message is, as a society we don’t have to be bound by violence.”

Curry acknowledged that the organization can only melt down guns that are surrendered, leaving plenty of guns out of the organization’s reach in a country where 40% of adults live in a household with a gun.

He emphasized that 60% of the 40,000 gun deaths each year in the United States are not homicides but suicides. “Those suicides are because unsecured guns are available to people at moments of crisis. Buybacks get those guns out of homes,” Curry said.

He also lamented the hundreds of people wounded or killed in the U.S. annually in accidental shootings by children; guns also are prime targets for thefts from homes, especially in suburban communities. In response, Swords to Plowshares works with its community partners to encourage gun owners to obtain locks and safes to secure their firearms.

“If people can rethink their need to have unsecured guns in their house, then we’re really changing the understanding of the place of guns in our lives,” he said.Tools displayed

From left, Bishop Jim Curry, Steve Yanovsky and Pina Violano, co-founders of Swords to Plowshares Northeast, hold up some of the garden tools they created from former guns during a demonstration of the process on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo: David Deutsch

Destroying guns is the most direct way Swords to Plowshares fulfills its mission. The garden tools that were created Nov. 16 on Capitol Hill mostly came from metal obtained in gun buybacks held in the Connecticut communities of New Haven, Guilford and Hamden, Curry said, and they eventually will be put in the hands of gardeners.

That process conveys “a real sense of transformation,” he said. “That’s what gives hope.”

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

Convention 2021 election results

Posted by on 8:07 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Convention 2021 election results

[Episcopal Diocese of Low Angeles] Elections were held at Diocesan Convention 2021, with delegates and clergy voting both in person and via the internet at the Diocese of Los Angeles’ first-ever hybrid convention, meeting on Nov. 13 in Riverside.

Officers elected are:

Director, Canterbury Irvine
*Joyce Swaving

Director, Canterbury USC
*Catherine Wagar

Canterbury Westwood
*Artur Grigorian

Commission on Ministry (clergy)
The Rev. Kay Sylvester

Commission on Ministry (lay)
*Wendy Edwards

Director, Corporation of the Diocese (clergy)
*The Rev. Michael Corrigan

Director, Corporation of the Diocese (lay)
*Ravi Verma
*Marc Weniger

Member, Diocesan Council (clergy)
The Rev. William Wallace

Member, Diocesan Council (lay)
Ken Higginbotham

Trustee, Diocesan Investment Trust
*Andy Tomat

Trustee, Hillsides
*The Rev. Ed Sniecienski

Board member, Holy Family Services
*The Rev. Nathan Biornstad

Secretary of Convention
*Canon Steven Nishibayashi

Member, Standing Committee (clergy)
The Rev. Lester Mackenzie

Member, Standing Committee (lay)
*Rose Hayden-Smith

A full report on Diocesan Convention will be posted on Monday, Nov. 15.

* Candidate ran unopposed and was elected by acclamation. In the case of lay member of the Corporation of the Diocese, two candidates were nominated and two were to be elected.

‘Code red’: Melissa McCarthy, Episcopal Church delegation focus on ‘loss and damage’ at UN climate conference

Posted by on 8:04 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ‘Code red’: Melissa McCarthy, Episcopal Church delegation focus on ‘loss and damage’ at UN climate conference

Canon Melissa McCarthy moderates an online discussion among COP26 delegates from The Episcopal Church and interested Episcopalians on Nov. 11. Photo: Screenshot

[The Episcopal News] Los Angeles Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy spent a week meeting virtually with national leaders like John Kerry, former U.S. senator and current special presidential envoy for climate, and with global activists, as part of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s delegation to the United Nations Climate Change conference, also known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland.

“Hearing remarks from leaders of nations is amazing. We especially appreciated Prime Minister Mia Mottley from Barbados,” said McCarthy, who rose each morning at 2 a.m. (9 a.m. Glasgow time) to prepare for the sessions, and who is slated to lead a newly created diocesan task force on climate change.

Mottley “stands up and says, ‘Folks, it’s code red. You in the northern climate can be in denial, but for the rest of us, it’s code red.”

The contrast was striking when celebrated British broadcaster Sir David Attenborough addressed the gathering with a hopeful message. Mottley’s response was: “You think there’s hope, but let me tell you what’s really happening,” McCarthy recalled.

“There is this tension between hope and reality, and as Greta Thunberg said, ‘blah, blah, blah,’” she said. “There’s a lot of talk of people saying, ‘yeah we need to do this. We have science, we have technology, we have everything we need to keep the planet from warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius, but we lack the will to make it happen. Largely, I believe, it is incumbent on bigger and wealthier nations like the United States to make it happen.”

The first COP (Conference of the Parties) gathering was held in Berlin, Germany in 1995, according to Wikipedia. The meetings are held yearly, to assess progress in dealing with climate change and, beginning in the mid-1990s, to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol to establish legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. From 2011 to 2015 the meetings were used to negotiate the Paris Agreement as part of the Durban platform, which created a general path towards climate action. COP27 is planned for 2022 in Egypt.

Loss and Damage, the workstream McCarthy and other delegates focused on, was organized under the general conference topic of “resilience and adaptation.” There are two types of loss and damage: extreme weather events, like floods and hurricanes, which happen very quickly and cause terrible damage; and slow-onset events like rising sea levels, desertification, or droughts that happen slowly over time, McCarthy said.

“Those are the two ways this area between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are being most affected by climate change, and Loss and Damage is trying to figure out how to help that,” she said. The tropics include the Equator and parts of North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The tropics account for 36 percent of the Earth’s landmass and are home to about a third of the world’s people.

Other delegations meeting concurrently focused on areas associated with capacity building, climate finance, climate technology, education and youth, gender, land use, mitigation, and science.

Marc Andrus

The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, bishop of the Diocese of California, chaired The Episcopal Church delegation’s workstream on Loss and Damage, of which McCarthy was a member.

“Back in 2015, when we ventured into the COP work in Paris, was the first time I heard the term ‘loss and damage’ and I had no context for it at that time,” he said during a Nov. 11 online meeting of delegates facilitated by McCarthy.

“But I met an Anglican archdeacon. He lived on an atoll, a small island in the archipelago of the Marshall Islands. There had been two villages on the island, and one had already been lost to rising water, sea levels. That was shocking to me, but then he went on to say what that meant. Lives were not lost, but the cultural life, the context was lost.”

Because of the rising waters, people moved to other places and the fabric of the community was lost, Andrus recalled. “Then he went further and said, the Anglican church was still standing above water. But what had been covered was the cemetery where everyone’s beloved ancestors were buried. So no one could visit and pray at the graves of their mothers and their fathers and their grandparents and their ancestors.”

The enormity of what loss and damages means began to sink in, he said. Loss and damage “is now visited many places in The Episcopal Church, the Caribbean Islands, coastal areas in Central and South America, Louisiana and Alaska. All these places are experiencing already loss and damage, having to move away from where their families, their people, have lived for hundreds of years.”

He added: “This team, of the Presiding Bishop’s delegation, is going to present compellingly important material on what loss and damage means and why. This COP26 … going on so far away in Glasgow is so important for so many people on the earth and for us, too, because we are interconnected.”

Los Angeles Bishop Diocesan John Harvey Taylor, during the session facilitated by McCarthy, asked about “opportunities to build relationships and then create opportunities for joint advocacy between those experiencing loss and damage in the developing world and victims in the developed world of climate change.”

McCarthy and others said the church’s tradition of storytelling uniquely qualifies Episcopalians to engage this work.

“The Episcopal Church is uniquely poised to do this,” McCarthy said. “We have so many churches in so many countries and we also have a relationship to government sectors and private business in a pretty unique way. We’re doing some of that already, but I’m hopeful that the Episcopal Church can really do more in the future.”

Destinee Bates, a delegation member from St. Ambrose Church in Raleigh, in the Diocese of North Carolina, agreed, adding that besides mainstream media coverage of well-known activists like Greta Thunberg, “We have to start lifting up the lesser-known voices, and we can do that.”

In a subsequent closing ceremony, Bates noted that it is time for “the church body to ask itself; are we willing to be complicit in the continued destruction of God’s creation? The answer is no.”

Barbadian Prime Minister Mottley offered a concrete metaphor for this destruction: “The way things are currently set up, it’s as if you’re driving down the street minding your own business and out of nowhere someone comes and hits the side of your car,” McCarthy recalled. “They’re at fault, but you’re the one who has to pay for all the repairs.”

She added: “Wealthy nations, largely in the northern hemisphere, are responsible for over half of the emissions that lead to the degradation of our planet and climate, while most of these small countries are on the negative side of carbon emissions. They’re not the ones causing climate change, but they are the ones most affected by it, and are least able to recover.

“So, the challenge is, how do we set up a system whereby these smaller, more vulnerable countries, who haven’t contributed to the problem aren’t made to pay for their own recovery?”

A chart showing the proportions of climate damage among wealthy and other nations is here.

As she anticipates starting the work of a diocesan task force, McCarthy said she wants Angelenos to realize the disparities between those who were at the table and those whose voices went unheard at the conference.

“I am grateful for the over 100,000 people [who were] protesting in Glasgow,” she said. “That’s really important, that way all these world leaders are held accountable. And, at the same time, that’s not the whole story. There is a lot going on that is really quite amazing and positive.”

For example, “I am not a finance person, but it became clear to me that there has got to be a shift in climate finance,” she said; “where people invest and what ends up being the best place to invest financially. I don’t think we’re there yet, but it’s inevitable that we will be, at some point.”

She hopes Southland Episcopalians will educate themselves on the dangers of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius global warming mark because, “once we go over it, we’re looking at extinction down the road.”

She added: “I want people to hear that global warming and climate change are real, and they’re big and to pay attention to the ways the church can participate and make a difference.”

And, to take politics out of the equation: ““Loss and damage is to climate change what reparations is to racial justice. It needs to be understood as a humanitarian issue because people will be dying. People will be moving. We’ll be seeing more climate-related migration.”

Bishop Bruce remembers ‘bloopers and blessings’ as convention bids her a warm farewell

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Flanked by Deacons Margaret McCauley and Dominique Piper (at left) and Archdeacon Laura Siriani (at right), Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce blesses the congregation at the end of the convention Eucharist – her last as bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Los Angeles. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

[The Episcopal News] As she prepares to take on a new role Dec. 1 as bishop provisional of the Diocese of West Missouri, Diane M. Jardine Bruce bid a heartfelt and funny farewell at convention to the diocese she has served since May 2010 as bishop suffragan. At times she paused to overcome tears, but also regaled convention with a final “joke of the day.”

Her colleagues in leadership, Bishop Diocesan John Harvey Taylor and Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy, praised her pastoral skill, financial acumen, sense of humor, and kindness.

Diane Jardine Bruce gives her final convention address as bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Los Angeles. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

In lighthearted but warm remarks, Taylor described Bruce as “a pastor who always comforts, with a spirit that always enlivens, a prophet who calls us to account, an innovator in imagining new ways to do mission and ministry, a team builder whose legacy will live among us as she heads East.”

This is not “adios but au revoir. We will see this amazing Episcopalian again,” he added.

Bruce will maintain her home in Irvine during her time in West Missouri. In her new ministry, she will oversee the Diocese of West Missouri – comprised of 9,000 Episcopalians in 47 congregations – for a period of two to three years until the diocese elects a bishop diocesan. Her tenure follows the Sept. 14 resignation of West Missouri’s Bishop Diocesan Martin Scott Field. Episcopal News articles about her role in her new diocese, based in Kansas City, are here and here.

Bruce regaled convention attendees with “blooper” memories of unexpected wardrobe malfunctions, beginning with a miter shoved over her eyes at her May 15, 2010, consecration and an unintended extensive collection of cinctures “borrowed” from churches around the diocese. She recalled such gastronomic delights as spam musubi at St. Mary’s, Mariposa (Los Angeles); homemade baklava at St. John’s Costa Mesa; pupusas at Trinity, Melrose; and fried chicken night at a restaurant near St. Paul’s Commons.

At times, she got lost – once, getting off the freeway in Anaheim to return to her Irvine home to retrieve a forgotten purse, she got stuck in the line for Disneyland parking. On another occasion, slipping out a secret door to wash her hands before Eucharist at one church, she couldn’t find her way back. “I searched and searched! The clock was ticking. I ended up having to go all the way out of the church, around the building and come up the main aisle and, yes, people were waiting and wondering what had happened to me!”

Members of the diocesan Altar Guild present Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce with a stole as a parting gift. Photo: John Taylor

She found serving with program groups on stewardship, assisting with finances and partnering with New Community ministries amounted to blessings “too numerous to count,” she said.

Bruce thanked the “absolutely top-drawer diocesan staff,” including their extremely able leaders, Taylor and McCarthy, and the diocese’s clergy and laity. The leadership and dedication of all involved in New Community ministries “has taught me volumes about the challenges they face as people of color in this diocese this country and this world,” she said. “They are the best of the best in The Episcopal Church. No other diocese is better than ours in this work and because of all their dedication and hard work, that’s a blessing for us all.”

There was gratitude: “Thank you for electing me, for trusting me, for teaching and walking with me all of these 11-1/2 years,” she said tearfully.

And words of advice: “The Diocese of Los Angeles has a very bright future ahead. Work together. Work collaboratively; be serious when you need to be but never take yourselves so seriously that you can’t laugh at the bloopers you make, because we all make them.

“Take time to recognize the blessings as well, they are all around us, every day. Hold them close to your hearts, because in those days we all have when doing mission and ministry in your context seems too difficult or impossible, holding the blessings close and remembering them gives you the strength to see and move beyond any obstacle in your way.”

Bruce ended her address with a characteristic joke of the day that brought convention attendees to their feet with laughter, applause, gratitude and joy: “Who was the best female financier in the Bible? Pharoah’s daughter; she went down to the bank of the Nile and drew out a little prophet.”

Canon Melissa McCarthy announces that a room in the diocesan retreat center where Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce often stayed during her tenure, will be renamed in her honor and furnished with an icon of the Virgin Mary – and a book of jokes. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

Taylor presented Bruce with a dozen gift cards for various Kansas City barbecue restaurants. McCarthy announced that the Martha of Bethany retreat center room at St. Paul’s Commons – where Bruce frequently stayed overnight rather than commute from Irvine – has been dedicated in Bruce’s honor, and will be furnished with an image of Mary, mother of Jesus and – appropriately – a book of jokes.

The delegation from St. Clement’s Church, San Clemente, where Bruce was rector before her 2009 election as bishop suffragan, paid tribute to her stewardship skills by presenting Taylor and Bruce with a $75,000 check, its first donation to the new diocesan capital campaign. The Rev. Patrick Crerar, Bruce’s successor, told the convention that her vision and leadership made their generosity possible. (See the main convention story for more.)

At Taylor’s invitation, Bruce celebrated the closing Eucharist and closed the convention with a final, emotional blessing: The wisdom of God, the love of God, and the grace of God strengthen you to be Christ’s hands and heart in this world, in the name of the Holy Trinity. Amen.

‘Truth and Love’ abound as convention passes historic balanced budget, pays tribute to late Bishop Bruno, bids farewell to Bishop Bruce

Posted by on 7:56 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ‘Truth and Love’ abound as convention passes historic balanced budget, pays tribute to late Bishop Bruno, bids farewell to Bishop Bruce

The “triad” that has led the Diocese of Los Angeles since John Harvey Taylor (center) became bishop diocesan in December 2018 presides at convention for the last time as Bishop Diane M. Jardine Bruce (at right) prepares to take a new position as bishop provisional of the Kansas City-based Diocese of West Missouri. Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy is at left. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

[The Episcopal News] Several hundred clergy and lay delegates gathered at the Riverside Convention Center Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, while hundreds of others participated online from churches and homes in the first hybrid annual meeting of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

Martha Duron reads from Genesis, translating the text into Lakota, during the opening prayers at Diocesan Convention. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

The “Truth and Love”-themed 126th such gathering was bittersweet, as delegates approved a historic $4.25 million balanced mission share fund budget and several justice-related resolutions but also bid a fond farewell to Bishop Suffragan Diane M. Jardine Bruce. She begins serving Dec. 1 as bishop provisional of the Diocese of West Missouri.

The proceedings opened with an acknowledgment that the convention center is located “on unceded land of the Cahuilla, Gabrieleno, Serrano, Luise’o, Chemehuevi, and Mohave tribes. Had treaties made with the U.S. Senate been honored, according to a statement read by Bruce, “tribes would possess more than 7.5 million acres of land in the state, but today California tribes own about 7% of their unratified treaty territory.”

“We are honored to add our blessings today to the land that was and is held sacred by the Indigenous peoples who called it home,” Bruce concluded.

Bishop John Harvey Taylor delivers his convention address. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

Bishop Diocesan John Harvey Taylor’s address to convention highlighted “Amazing Episcopalians,” from Bruce to U.S. Rep. Katie Porter of Orange County to the late Bishop J. Jon Bruno, along with a host of churches and ministries across the diocese that throughout the pandemic have continued to offer food, housing, showers, clothing, and other essentials to those in need.

The Episcopal Church is a voice for justice in the world, he said. “Notwithstanding its own unaccounted-for sins, our church proclaims the orthodoxy of the risen Christ twinned with an insistence on the plural face of God, representing all God’s children across all divisions of difference, privilege and prejudice. This is our truth and love.

“Think about the light we shine! To those who would sacrifice our democracy in this country because they fear our plural future, let us show the loving, beautiful, tender face of the plural Christ. To those who won’t lay down their privilege because they’re afraid they’ll lose out, let us show the abundance of our community and the Eucharistic table.

“Since the world has never needed our church more than it does today, I refuse to participate in the prevailing pessimism about our future. But when I’m tempted by worry and care – and all of us are, from time to time – I just remember, every day, that I get to work with amazing Episcopalians!”

Invoking the familiar three-legged-stool metaphor, Taylor discussed efforts to achieve financial stability for the diocese, including a balanced budget, expanding the Corporation of the Diocese’s role with mission congregations, and  “Everlasting Transformation: The Generation to Generation Capital Campaign.”

A video of Taylor’s address is here.

Bishop John Harvey Taylor presents Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce with a set of gift cards to various Kansas City barbecue restaurants – which will come in handy as she begins a new ministry there as bishop provisional of the Diocese of West Missouri. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

Tributes to Bishop Bruno, farewells to Bishop Bruce

Amid standing ovations, Taylor paid tribute to Bruno, who died in April 2021, and to Bruce as “the holy of holy of amazing Episcopalians.”

Taylor described Bruce as “a pastor who always comforts, with a spirit that always enlivens, a prophet who calls us to account, an innovator in imagining new ways to do mission and ministry, a team builder whose legacy will live among us as she heads East.”

More about the convention’s tributes to Bruce, as well as her farewell address, is here. A video is here.

Bruno’s ministry was summed up in a word, “the almighty Yes,” Taylor told the gathering. “Yes to a child welcomed at the altar, yes to a colleague needing help, to a priest-to-be stymied in another diocese, yes both to Israelis and Palestinians; yes to a mayor wanting a word of advice or prayer; yes to an unconscious patient in the ICU whose family knew that if one whispered voice could get through, it would be Jon Bruno’s; yes to those who heard the Holy Spirit’s invitation to our inevitable future as a pluralistic, multicultural, multi-lingual church; yes to the Spirit’s demand for equity in all orders and sacraments for our LGBTQ+ siblings.”

Taylor had invited Mary Bruno to join convention, and read aloud a greeting from her:

“Bishop Jon and I could fill a book with memories and stories of being there to work out the issues of our church with you,” she wrote.” Jon’s death in April is still so fresh and I know you understand that I still am in a time of healing. COVID did not allow us to celebrate his life to the fullest and you are kind to have invited me to be with you.

“I know, you know, how much Jon loved this diocese and even more, all of its people. His heart was large and embracing. He fought the battles to make a place for everyone at the table. Dear friends, thank you for loving Jon and loving me, and for your outpouring of love to the Bruno family. You will always be in our hearts and prayers and, as he would always say, ‘remember, you are his beloved.’”

The necrology video shown during the Eucharist also lingered on photos of Bruno taken throughout his tenure as sixth bishop of the diocese.

Diocesan Treasurer Andy Tomat presents the balanced 2022 budget to convention. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

3-legged stool: a sure financial foundation

Convention delegates approved 345-12 a balanced 2022 budget, “which is to say it is balanced across all departments and ministries without burning any capital from Corp Sole or the Corporation of the Diocese,” Taylor said. Details of the budget may be found here.

Additionally, Corporation of the Diocese members “are imagining all the ways we can help missions and parishes thrive, all the ways we can relieve the burden of financial anxiety, freeing your hearts and hands for mission and ministry, whether helping you leverage your real estate or make the most of the entrepreneurial wisdom of Episcopal Enterprises,” he said.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, interim dean of Bloy House, introduced “Everlasting Transformation: The Generation to Generation Capital Campaign,” which has already raised about $5.3 million of its $40 million goal, with an additional $1.2 million in the process of being documented, is available on the diocesan website here. A campaign brochure (available here) was presented for the first time at the convention.

Interim Dean Gary Hall of Bloy House introduces the new diocesan capital campaign, “Everlasting Transformation: The Generation to Generation Campaign.” Photo: Janet Kawamoto

The campaign would create three major endowment funds: the diocesan operating fund; aiding ministry to neighbors in need; and cultivating future congregational leadership and congregational partnerships.

In response to Hall’s introduction, the Rev. Patrick Crerar paid tribute to Bruce, his predecessor as rector of St. Clement’s Church, while presenting the bishops with a $75,000 check as part of the San Clemente congregation’s $250,000 commitment to the capital campaign.

“We stand on the shoulders of one who, when she was at St. Clement’s, established a culture that helped us to understand we are part of the Body of Christ,” Crerar said. “She had vision to see 10, 20, 30 years into the future of what this parish would need and we benefit from that leadership and give thanks.”

Taylor also noted that throughout the pandemic, the diocesan emergency fund disbursed about $300,000, enabling 37 grants to assist churches and ministries in need.

Volunteer treasurer Canon Andy Tomat, who presented the budget to convention, said a successful capital campaign is critical to ensure future financial stability “because several current income streams will end soon, a number of critical diocesan staff hires have been deferred and no money was provided for mission growth.”

After her address, Nichols poses with Richard Parker and Stephen Parker, sons of Margaret Parker, and Stephen’s wife Kim. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

Resolutions; other convention business

Mary Nichols, an environmental attorney and climate change activist and convention’s Margaret Parker lecturer, brought greetings from Glasgow, where she had attended the United Nations COP26 conference. McCarthy, who had also served as one of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s delegates to the conference, introduced Nichols as “the queen of green.” (See related story here. A video of Nichols’ lecture is here.)

Camp Stevens Director Kathy Wilder also addressed delegates, visitors and guests. She said that although Camp Stevens had experienced extreme revenue loss during the pandemic, the Julian-based ministry nonetheless was able to continue to function, and to provide housing and health care benefits for and to maintain its staff, through diocesan and other support.

Kathy Wilder, director of Camp Stevens, reports on how the camp weathered the COVID-19 lockdown, which caused all 2020 summer sessions to be cancelled and 2021 sessions to be run at a reduced capacity. She announced that “Camp Stevens Sundy” will be March 13, 2022. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

During the pandemic the camp staff held weekly online singalongs, produced a series of outdoor educational classes for school partners, hosted a gathering for seniors at St. Margaret’s in San Juan Capistrano, served 267 campers over 5 weeks during the summer, partnered with Sage Mountain Farms to provide fresh vegetables to some 40 families over a six-week period, and engaged in antiracism work. The camp has also hosted a state COVID testing site.

Wilder added that March 13, 2022, will be Camp Stevens Day, and asked congregations to designate plate offerings that day for the campership fund. The camp, a shared ministry of the dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego, will celebrate its 70th anniversary next year, she said.

In other business, delegates elected candidates for diocesan committees and offices (see election results here); recognized retiring clergy; and reaffirmed a companion relationship with the Diocese of Jerusalem.

Deacon Guy Leemhuis speaks in favor of a resolution calling for the diocese to commemorate Juneteenth (June 19) each year. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

Delegates approved a resolution asking General Convention to add Massachusetts Suffragan Bishop Barbara Clementine Harris to The Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints, also known as Lesser Feasts and Fasts. They also adopted a resolution establishing Juneteenth as a diocesan observance beginning June 19, 2022.

The Rev. Guy Leemhuis addressed convention in support of both resolutions, which were presented by the H. Belfield Hannibal Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians. He noted Harris’s advocacy for the LGBTQ community, as well as her legacy as the first woman and first African American woman consecrated a bishop in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Juneteenth, recently named a federal holiday, celebrates the end of slavery in 1863, although it took two and a half years more, until June 19, 1865, for slavery to end in Texas. At a time of the nation’s racial reckoning and heightened unrest, the symbolic date of freedom for African Americans, carries an even deeper and more lasting meaning, Leemhuis said.

The resolution also directs the Los Angeles deputation to General Convention to begin working toward inclusion of the holiday in Lesser Feasts and Fasts. The 80th General Convention, the triennial gathering of member Episcopal churches from 17 nations, was postponed, to July 7-14, 2022, in Baltimore, Maryland.

“The Diocese of Los Angeles is a trailblazer for truth and love, because that’s what we’re about,” Leemhuis said.

Delegates take part in noonday prayer at convention. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

Church in a time of pandemic

If truth and love are themes for convention, “welcome and safety” are themes for the upcoming holiday season, as numbers of COVID-19 infections creep up in some counties, Taylor told delegates.

“Get vaccinations and boosters, preach to people to wear our masks when required, and then let’s deck the halls and say prayers and sing songs and without worry and fear welcome back those Christmas Eve-only neighbors we’ve missed.”

Taylor also named Canon Richard Zevnik as chancellor and as vice-chancellors Jeffrey Baker, Nancy White and Canon Julie Dean Larsen; Canon for Common Life Bob Williams as archivist; and Canon Andy Tomat as volunteer treasurer.

Archdeacon Laura Siriani delivers the sermon at the convention Eucharist. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

Archdeacon Laura Siriani preached at the service of Eucharist that concluded convention. Deacons are drawn to the margins, to the ever-widening gaps where the vulnerable and needy have been pushed, she said. “Deacons are called there to listen and grieve with those who are most at risk; and then, we advocate for justice at city council meetings, the state house, and Congress,” she said.

She issued a charge to convention: “The Spirit knows us. The Spirit knows that everyone here understands how to reveal the heart of Christ in the world. That is an invitation. Join us, knowing that this invitation comes with a warning label: Every time we enter the gap, our hearts will be broken. We will see things we did not know exited and our hearts are expanded, as we grow and see as the spirit sees. Imagine it. Come with us. We will show you the way.”

A video of Siriani’s sermon is here.

A convention photo gallery is here.

The 127th annual meeting is planned for Nov. 11 – 12, 2022 at the Riverside Convention Center.

More convention coverage

Convention 2021 election results

Bishop Bruce remembers ‘bloopers and blessings’ as convention bids her a warm farewell

The end may be near, but radical change can save the earth, says climate activist Mary Nichols in Margaret Parker Lecture

Convention 2021 photo gallery

Videos

Mary Nichols | Margaret Parker Lecture, introduced by the Rev. Canon Melissa McCarthy

Diocesan Convention Eucharist Sermon | The Venerable Laura Siriani, Archdeacon

Diocesan Convention Bishop’s Address | The Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor

Diocesan Convention Bishop’s Address | The Rt. Rev. Diane M. Jardine Bruce

Truth and Love Diocesan Convention 2021

Posted by on 9:07 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Truth and Love Diocesan Convention 2021

Questions about Convention? Need to speak to the Registrar? Join the Zoom here: https://zoom.us/s/89937852515 – password is 123

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Our Bishop Diocesan, the Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor, has announced the theme of this year’s Convention is drawn from Paul’s letter to the church and the apostle’s admonition to speak the truth in love. “… [S]peaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:14)

Diocesan Convention will be at the Riverside Convention Center on Saturday, November 13, with an option to join virtually by Zoom webinar, and will be livestreamed on the diocesan Facebook page and YouTube channel.

We encourage delegates who cannot or choose not to be vaccinated to attend virtually. Masks are required for in-person attendance. Delegates participating virtually must register for the Zoom webinar.

Call to Order will be at 9:00 a.m. and we will conclude with Holy Eucharist at the end of the day. We anticipate adjourning Convention at 5 or 6:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon.


CONVENTION BOOKLETINFO FOR VIRTUAL DELEGATES

Getting Prepared for Convention

ATTENDANCE

Convention 2021 will be a one-day hybrid event. Masks are required for in-person attendance and RCC staff will be doing temperature checks at the door. Masks, wipes, and hand sanitizer will be available onsite.

We encourage delegates who cannot or choose not to be vaccinated to attend virtually. Delegates participating virtually must register for the Zoom webinar.

ASL interpretation will be available for deaf and hard of hearing guests in-person. Spanish translation will be provided in-person and on the Zoom webinar.

SCHEDULE & AGENDA

Registration will open early on Saturday morning. Currently we anticipate starting the business session at about 9:00 a.m. and concluding with Holy Eucharist at 5:00 p.m. There will be Exhibit Hall breaks and a lunch break. Convention will be livestreamed on the diocesan Facebook page and YouTube channel.

CONVENTION BOOKLET WITH AGENDA

CHILDCARE & YOUTH VOLUNTEERS

We will have childcare providers onsite to care for children ages 0-8 during Convention in a breakout room adjacent to the main Meeting Hall. Toys, activities, snacks, and meals will be provided. There is no charge for childcare but donations are appreciated. Click here to pre-register for childcare at Convention.

For more information on “Camp Convention” or to sign up as a youth volunteer at Convention, please visit edlayouth.org/diocon or additional information on these programs.

MEALS

Coffee and concessions will be available for purchase inside the Convention Center on Saturday morning.

VOTING

In-person: Voting delegates that are attending Convention in person will be assigned a voting device at Registration.

Virtual: If you are attending virtually, you will need a smartphone, tablet, computer, or other web-connected device to vote. Click here to learn more. Please let the Convention office know if you need assistance with this.

Resolutions: Four Resolutions have been submitted for consideration at Convention. Click here to see the full text and explanation of each Resolution.

Elective Offices: See the current slate of nominees to elective office here.ANNUAL MINISTRY REPORT FORMSUBMIT NOMINATIONS FOR ELECTIVE OFFICEPRE-REGISTER FOR CHILDCAREBUDGET INFO


Servants of the Spirit: Gifts for Ministry

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Take part in this series of twice-monthly online workshops for valuable resources, training, and discussion to strengthen our gifts for ministry.

All sessions will be recorded and livestreamed on the diocesan Facebook and YouTube. Spanish translation is provided.

Jeff Bezos is quizzed on ’emotional’ rocket ride and economics of space flight during National Cathedral event

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Jeff Bezos, left, speaks at Washington National Cathedral on Nov. 10, 2021. Photo: Jack Jenkins/Religion News Service

[Religion News Service — Washington, D.C.] Jeff Bezos was a surprise guest at a Washington National Cathedral forum on “Our Future in Space” Wednesday evening (Nov. 10), giving an interviewer the chance to grill the Amazon founder and space flight entrepreneur about extraterrestrial colonies, alien life and his own wealth.

Cathedral dean the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith opened the event, which also featured the NASA administrator and the director of national intelligence, by noting that one of the building’s stained-glass windows contains a moon rock collected during the Apollo 11 mission.

“We must be careful not to have a view of God that is too small,” Hollerith said. “I believe the great mystery that lies at the heart of existence — the God who is, we say, the very ground of our being — that God beckons us into the great mysteries of the universe, where we can discover, I believe, divine footprints wherever we go.”

A half-hour later, Adi Ignatius, editor-in-chief of Harvard Business Review, questioned Bezos, who was introduced as an “astronaut,” before the sprawling crowd about his trip to space this summer aboard a rocket built by Blue Origin, the private spaceflight company Bezos founded in 2000.

Bezos, 57, spoke of the “overview effect,” a profound and sometimes spiritual feeling experienced by many astronauts as they gaze upon the Earth from above.

“The magnitude of that experience was so much bigger than I could have ever anticipated,” he said. “It really is such a change in perspective that shows you, in a very powerful and emotional way, just how fragile this Earth is.”

Bezos argued the effect has the potential to make Blue Origin customers who purchase (the likely very expensive) tickets on the four-seat rockets “ambassadors for Earth.”

The tech titan’s 11-minute trip above the clouds was one of three inaugural private spaceflights launched this year by a trio of wealthy business owners: Bezos, Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson and Space X president Elon Musk. Musk and Bezos — the wealthiest and second wealthiest man on the planet, respectively — compete for government contracts to build vessels that can travel to the moon and beyond.

Ignatius pressed Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, as to whether the money spent on a privately funded space race could be better utilized to address more earthbound concerns.

“I’m actually spending even more money on the Bezos Earth Fund than I’m spending on space,” Bezos said, referring to his $10 billion fund designed to fight climate change. Even so, Bezos insisted humanity should “look to the future,” saying, “if we want to keep growing as a civilization, using more energy as a civilization, most of that, in the future, needs to be done off planet.”

Bezos went on to detail an “off-planet” vision that involves moving “heavy industries” and solar energy farms into space. He also promoted the idea of building massive space colonies capable of housing roughly a million people each, with the residents living in artificial gravity.

However, he was dismissive of calls to make Mars habitable for humans — a “terraforming” dream long championed by his rival Musk — describing any such effort as “very, very challenging.”

Challenging or not, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, a former U.S. senator and former space shuttle crew member, expressed his excitement about the prospect of visiting the red planet. Nelson participated in the event via a pre-taped video due to an unexpected scheduling conflict: a delayed launch of four astronauts from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX rocket. (The launch, which took off right as the event concluded, was successful.)

“We’re going to the moon to learn what we need to do as humans to survive when we go millions and millions of miles out to the planet Mars,” Nelson said in reference to NASA’s new Artemis program, which aspires to put the first woman and first person of color on the moon.

Nelson, who flew on the space shuttle Columbia in 1986, also spoke of the impact of the overview effect during his time in orbit.

“I looked at the Earth as we orbited it every 90 minutes,” he said. “I did not see racial division. I did not see religious division. I did not see political division. From that perspective, looking back at our home, I saw that we were all in this together.”

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, whose office issued a preliminary assessment in June on “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” that did not rule out the existence of aliens, was asked to elaborate.

“The main issues that Congress and others have been concerned about are basically safety of flight concerns and counterintelligence issues,” she said. “But of course, there’s always the question of: Is there something else that we simply do not understand that might come (from) extraterrestrials?”

When it comes to national security concerns, however, both Haines and Nelson appeared more wary of other countries putting weapons in orbit — particularly those designed to disrupt or destroy satellites — than visitors from another planet.

“The threat is real,” Haines said. “Both China and Russia are increasingly building space into their military capabilities.”

Nelson said that Russia has continued to cooperate with the U.S. in space exploration but that China has taken a different posture.

“We’re not having that success with the Chinese government,” he said. “They’ve been secretive, nontransparent. They have not been willing to cooperate. And yes, we can have some trouble in space vis-a-vis the Chinese.”

The profound social and theological implications of finding alien life — be it on Earth or elsewhere — was the subject of the event’s final panel, in which Hollerith spoke with Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb and professor David Wilkinson of Durham University in England.

Wilkinson, who is also a Methodist minister, grappled with whether finding alien life more advanced than humans would challenge the notion common in many religious traditions that humanity has a privileged position with God.

Wilkinson argued, “You are special not because you’re the center of everything, but because you are loved — the belief that God loves us.”

“The God that I see in Jesus Christ, I think, is a God of love and grace, and that God would be loving not just to human beings, but loving to the whole of creation — the planet itself,” he said. “If there is (alien) life, intelligent or not, that would be the basis of a relationship of love.”

Hollerith said the impact of meeting aliens — like the overview effect — would “humble us as to our place within the cosmos.”

That humbling experience, Loeb argued, could change humanity for the better.

“Suppose we find the smarter kid on our block: Then the small differences between us are meaningless,” he said. “Showing off in space is an oxymoron. My hope is that once we discover intelligence out there, we will treat each other with more respect as equal members of the human species.”

This story was originally published by Religion News Service and is republished here with permission.