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South American bishops call on governments to stop deforestation

Wed, 10/02/2019 - 3:50pm

Fires burn in the Amazon rainforest. Photo: NASA via ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] A group of eight Anglican bishops from five South American countries have issued a joint statement calling for governments to urgently implement zero deforestation following devastation from fires in the Amazon.

The bishops, representing indigenous people in churches in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Perú and Uruguay, described the fires as evidence of “human pride and disobedience against God’s command to be stewards of His creation.”

Read the full article here.

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Former Anglican Communion UN rep will be Archbishop Welby’s reconciliation adviser

Wed, 10/02/2019 - 3:46pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A former Anglican Communion staff member has been appointed as the archbishop of Canterbury’s new adviser for reconciliation.

The Rev. Canon Flora Winfield will lead the archbishop’s reconciliation work, which is a core aspect of his ministry. Winfield had worked in Geneva as the Anglican Communion permanent representative to the U.N. for a number of years, before becoming the archbishop’s special representative to the Commonwealth last year.

Read the full article here.

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Diocese of Oklahoma names three nominees for bishop

Wed, 10/02/2019 - 1:56pm

[Diocese of Oklahoma] The Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma is excited to announce the nominees for the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Oklahoma. Following a yearlong search and discernment process, the Search Committee announces that the nominees are the Rev. Scott Gunn, the Rev. Greg Methvin and the Rev. Poulson C. Reed.

Gunn is currently the executive director of Forward Movement, based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Methvin is currently the rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Frisco, Texas. And the Reed is currently the rector of All Saint’s Episcopal Church and Day School in Phoenix, Arizona.

The candidates will participate in “walkabouts” from Dec 6-8 to engage with diocesan clergy and community members.  The election will take place on Dec. 14 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City, and the bishop consecration will follow on April 18.

The Rt. Rev. Edward J. Konieczny, bbishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, announced in November his intention to retire on January 1, 2021. Konieczny was elected and consecrated as the fifth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma in 2007, and at the time of his retirement will be in his 15th year as bishop.

To find more information on the candidates including CVs, essays and videos please visit the diocesan website at epiok.org/candidates and follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts to stay up on the latest news on the bishop of Oklahoma search process.

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Bishop of Barbados asks churches to address the age gap

Wed, 10/02/2019 - 1:43pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Churches need to do things differently, using social networks and technology to draw the younger generation back to church, according to the Bishop of Barbados, Michael Maxwell, who said there was a significant age gap in many congregations.

Speaking at a lunchtime lecture in St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Bridgetown, the bishop said he had seen the demographic in the church change over the years with many more mature people now attending and a gap of those aged between 15 to 25.

Read the full article here.

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Houston church’s mental health ministry now serves 800 people a week for free

Tue, 10/01/2019 - 5:16pm

Director of Clinical Services Madeline Stiers discusses one-on-one dynamics during a training event at the Hope and Healing Center and Institute on the campus of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. Photo: HHCI

[Episcopal News Service] It’s a scene familiar to many clergy: Someone walks into the church office wanting to speak to a priest, clearly in distress. Within a few minutes of conversation, it becomes clear that the person is suffering from a mental illness.

For many priests who want to help a person seeking healing but simply aren’t equipped to deal with mental illness, this experience can be agonizing – and can end with the mentally ill person feeling more dejected than before.

But at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, the scene has been rewritten.

The Hope and Healing Center and Institute is now an independent nonprofit housed on the campus of St. Martin’s. Photo: HHCI

When someone walks in needing mental health care, a priest can simply walk them next door to the Hope and Healing Center and Institute, where the person can be evaluated and receive a comprehensive array of services, all for free. And the center’s training programs are now helping clergy and church leaders around the country identify and respond to mental illness in their communities.

Since it was established by St. Martin’s in 2012, the Hope and Healing Center and Institute has grown rapidly to fill a significant portion of the unmet need for psychiatric and addiction treatment in Harris County, where the county prison is the largest mental health facility in Texas. Today, the center on the St. Martin’s campus serves over 800 people a week at no cost, in addition to the patients it refers for treatment to its network of external providers.

How did a church start such a successful and complex operation?

For starters, St. Martin’s isn’t your typical church. With over 9,500 members – including Barbara and George H.W. Bush, whose funerals were held there – it’s the largest parish in The Episcopal Church and has abundant financial resources. When the Rev. Russ Levenson became rector in 2007, he was drawn to a line in the parish profile: “We want to be known as a church that increasingly helps those broken by life’s circumstances.”

The Rev. Russ Levenson, rector of St. Martin’s. Photo: St. Martin’s Episcopal Church

“And I looked at my wife and said, ‘Now that’s something that interests me,’” Levenson told the Episcopal News Service.

St. Martin’s already had long-running mission programs serving the hungry and needy of Houston, in partnership with other Episcopal churches. But its location in a wealthy enclave of the city didn’t make sense for, say, an on-site soup kitchen. Soon after Levenson took the helm, the church bought the property next door and thought about how they might use it to serve the community.

“It doesn’t take long to be in a church to realize those issues that every church deals with: family dysfunction, aging parents, addiction, mental and emotional health care, depression,” Levenson said. “We already had several support and recovery groups on campus. … So we said, have we ever kind of put all those things together under the umbrella of the church? … What would it look like if we developed a healing agency that would bring together the facets of emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health?”

With support from big names like the Bushes, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and actor Sam Waterston of “Law & Order,” St. Martin’s raised enough money to build the Hope and Healing Center and Institute, which features treatment rooms, lecture halls, teaching laboratories and meeting spaces. Under CEO Matt Stanford – an expert in the intersection of faith and mental health – the center has expanded and is now an independent nonprofit with a staff of about 25 people, though it is still housed on the St. Martin’s campus.

With his understanding of the intertwined nature of mental, physical, spiritual and relational health, Stanford relies on an ethos of holistic healing drawn from Scripture: “And Jesus grew in wisdom [mental] and stature [physical], and in favor with God [spiritual] and man [relational].” (Luke 2:52)

“It’s exciting to see a faith community say, here’s a problem that society is desperately, desperately looking for an answer to. And we can start something and allow it to grow, and it can engage the culture and the society, both for the faith and also to relieve suffering,” Stanford told ENS.

The Hope and Healing Center and Institute offers individual treatment for severely ill patients, mental health coaching, tele-psychiatry, case management and 38 weekly support groups. People with less serious concerns can be evaluated and referred to one of the nearly 1,000 pre-screened partner providers within the Houston area. Treatment is designed to be as holistic as possible, in order to get the patient on a path to sustainable wellness; therapists, case workers and psychiatrists collaborate on the course of a patient’s treatment. And clients are encouraged to talk about their spiritual health as much as they want to.

“We’re engaging them at a level beyond just the fact that they are a set of messed-up symptoms or an illness. We’re engaging them as people. And we recognize that people have spiritual issues and they often want to talk about those,” Stanford said. “Our therapists all work with the individual from a faith perspective. The spiritual discussions and the discussions in therapy are part of the same integrated curriculum. … And so, for instance, recognizing that you have a purpose and developing a purpose in your life, along the lines of what God has for you, is just an important part of the therapeutic process.”

Too often, Levenson says, churches offer spiritual help to those suffering from mental illness without connecting them with the substantive treatment they need to get better.

“There are churches that think that all people need is spiritual health,” Levenson said. “All they need is somebody to hold their hand and pray with them. Well, that doesn’t help a person who’s seriously addicted or has a serious mental or emotional diagnosis. Yes, they need the hand of God, but, yes, they need therapeutic care! We’ve got clergy out there who are acting like they’re therapists, and they’re not. They’re not trained to do that. Frankly, I’m happy to give people Bible verses and pray with them, but that alone is not going to help somebody and sending somebody away with only that is, in my mind, irresponsible.”

CEO Matt Stanford discusses a mental health continuum of care during a training event at the Hope and Healing Center and Institute. Photo: HHCI

Aside from treating patients, the center at St. Martin’s also focuses on training and educating mental health professionals and faith leaders. Its Gateway to Hope training program addresses the problem of clergy and parishioners being unequipped to identify and address cases of mental health in their congregations.

According to the National Comorbidity Survey, nearly one-quarter of people who are looking for help with a mental health condition will go to a clergy member first, more often than psychiatrists or general practitioners. Gateway to Hope trains clergy and parishioners to recognize and respond appropriately, embracing their role as the front lines of the mental health treatment system.

People in faith communities need “to know how to properly introduce that person into the mental health system,” says center board chairman Lee Hogan, “to recognize whether or not this is someone who’s a danger to themselves that day or whether it’s someone who needs counseling or whether it’s someone who needs a support group. And so where do you send them? The overwhelming majority of priests and ministers and rabbis and imams and so forth simply don’t have the ability and the training to recognize the symptoms.”

But now many in the Houston area and beyond do. In 2018, 950 people received the Gateway to Hope training. Demand has grown for the program. Recently, Stanford traveled to Hawaii and trained 350 people across 40 different churches, and previously he trained 400 Lutheran pastors in Indiana. The Hope and Healing Center and Institute is making many of the materials available online and hopes to spread the curriculum even further, but for now, it is primarily focused on improving access to care in the Houston area.

“When you stand in our building,” Stanford said, “and you face the sanctuary, which is to the west, we’re a ministry of St. Martin’s. And when you turn around, and you face out to the city, we are a mental health and training center that impacts all of Harris County.”

“This is an opportunity for the church to be, as it was in its beginning days – you know, the church was the hospital in the early days,” Levenson said. “And this is a chance for the church to fulfill part of its initial mission, to be a healing agent.”

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

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Shannon MacVean-Brown ordained and consecrated as bishop of Vermont

Tue, 10/01/2019 - 2:44pm

Shannon MacVean-Brown, the eleventh bishop of Vermont, receives the crozier from Thomas C. Ely, the tenth bishop of Vermont. Photo: Greg Merhar

[Episcopal Diocese of Vermont] The Rt. Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown is now the 1,122nd bishop of The Episcopal Church and the first African-American to serve as Bishop of Vermont. Her Sept. 28 ordination and consecration was witnessed live by approximately 900 people at Ira Allen Chapel and overflow seating areas on the University of Vermont campus in Burlington, not including those who watched live online.

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry served as chief consecrator. Among the co-consecrating bishops were the Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, tenth bishop of Vermont; the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, bishop of Indianapolis; the Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, bishop suffragan of Massachusetts; the Rt. Rev. Chilton Knudsen, eighth bishop of Maine and assisting bishop of Washington; and the Rt. Rev. Stewart Wood, ninth bishop of Michigan.

MacVean-Brown was accompanied by her husband Phil, daughters Annalise and Indira, and family and friends from all over the country.

The guest preacher was MacVean-Brown’s father, the Rev. Canon Ronald Spann, a retired priest who serves as assisting priest and director of the Spirituality Center at Christ Episcopal Church in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. In his sermon, Spann expounded on the biblical passage Romans 8:30, declaring, “Those whom God called, God also justified; and those whom God justified, God also glorified.”

“The designer turned ceramicist was a married grad student in art education who didn’t believe she was qualified for a seminary career,” he said, as he explained how MacVean-Brown’s lived experiences culminated in her faith becoming her full-time work.

Spann also mentioned the historical significance of MacVean-Brown’s election as an African-American bishop in Vermont, referring to the Rt. Rev. John Henry Hopkins, the first Episcopal bishop of Vermont, who in 1861 authored a book defending slavery and criticizing abolitionists.

“And in walks number 11,” he said matter-of-factly, garnering cheers and a standing ovation.

“And isn’t it marvelous that number 11 follows number 10, whose own presiding bishop calls him a man of courage and a man of wisdom,” Spann said of the now retired bishop Thomas C. Ely, eliciting more cheers and another standing ovation.

The three-and-a-half-hour service featured a mix of hymns, classical music, and gospel selections performed by Inora Brass, the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir, Cameo Baroque, Church of the Messiah Gospel Choir, and a Diocesan Massed Choir composed of singers from around the diocese.

The hymn at the retiring procession, “God Beyond All Human Praises,” held special significance as a selection commissioned for the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Mary Adelia McLeod in 1993 as the ninth bishop of Vermont and the first woman to serve as bishop of the Vermont diocese.

MacVean-Brown was formally seated at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Burlington on Sept. 29. The guest preacher was the Very Rev. Miguelina Howell, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut. The service was recorded and will be made available on the diocese’s website.

The Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, also known locally as The Episcopal Church in Vermont, is made up of more than 6,100 members in 45 congregations across Vermont.

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Anglican Church in Nigeria elects next primate

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 3:45pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba, bishop of Gombe, has been elected as the next primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, to succeed Archbishop Nicholas Okoh in March.

Ndukuba was elected this week by the Episcopal Synod during the province’s Standing Committee meeting in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Asaba.

Read the full article here.

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Archbishop elected for Anglican Church in South East Asia

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 3:42pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An indigenous bishop from Sabah in Malaysia Sabah Bishop Melter J. Tais has been elected as the next Archbishop of South East Asia. and will take up his new role in February. Tais will follow Archbishop Ng Moon Hing and will lead the province for the next four years.

Delegates from the four dioceses of Kuching, Sabah, Singapore and West Malaysia gathered for an Extraordinary Synod this week to elect the next archbishop and to discuss the establishment of new dioceses in West Malaysia.

Read the full article here.

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South Sudan archbishop prays for forgiveness with government, opposition leaders

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 3:34pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] At a national prayer breakfast organized on Sept. 19 by the South Sudan Council of Churches, Archbishop of South Sudan Justin Badi Arama preached what he described as “a message of love” to the church leaders, senior government officials and members of the opposition who all attended the event at the Presidential Palace in Juba.

“In a special way we are asking God to forgive us the leaders and citizens of South Sudan. It is time for renewal and purification. South Sudan needs purification to move forward. South Sudan needs all its citizens to forgive each other.”

Read the full article here.

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Episcopal leaders condemn Trump administration’s moves to ‘further dismantle’ refugee program

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 1:14pm

Syrian refugee Ahmad al Aboud and his family members, on their way to be resettled in the United States as part of a refugee admissions program, walk to board their plane in Amman, Jordan, in 2016. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church condemned the Trump administration’s decision, announced Sept. 26, to further slash the number of refugees to be resettled in the United States to a historic low of just 18,000 – a move that threatens to cripple the ability of Episcopal Migration Ministries and other agencies to maintain the United States’ decades-old policy of welcoming those in need from around the world.

“There are millions of displaced persons around the world. The United States has a solemn obligation to do its part to aid this problem by showing generosity to refugees. Security and compassion are not mutually exclusive,” said the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church.

Robertson’s comment was issued Sept. 27 as part of an Episcopal Church statement on the issue that invoked Jesus’ command to “welcome the stranger” and Episcopalians’ baptismal commitment to “respect the dignity of every human being.”

Reducing the cap on refugees – by nearly half from 30,000 in the current fiscal year, far below the 95,000 average over the program’s 40 years – will “further dismantle the refugee resettlement program,” the church said. “Those fleeing persecution have a particular claim on our attention and concern as they seek a life of dignity and peace in the face of oppression.”

Visit https://t.co/lzO2axTpCz for The Episcopal Church Statement on the White House Decision to Reduce the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. @emmrefugees #SupportRefugees #RefugeesWelcome #TheEpiscopalChurch https://t.co/kny68iEyJB

— The EPPN (@TheEPPN) September 27, 2019

In the statement, church leaders also “strongly condemn the decision to allow states and localities to reject refugees.” On the same day that his administration announced it was slashing the resettlement program, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that directed the federal government to “resettle refugees only in those jurisdictions in which both the state and local governments have consented to receive refugees.”

The changes to the refugee resettlement program are the latest developments in the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to limit and reduce both legal and illegal immigration into the United States, a policy platform that was a central part of his 2016 campaign.

It remains to be seen what long-term effects these changes will have on the nine agencies, including EMM, that have contracts with the U.S. State Department to facilitate the government’s resettlement program at the local level. The Trump administration still hasn’t said whether all or some of those agencies’ contracts will be renewed in the coming fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

Last year, the agencies did not learn all their contracts had been renewed until the end of November, nearly two months after the start of the fiscal year.

Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) lives the call of welcome by supporting refugees, immigrants, and the communities that embrace them as they walk together in The Episcopal Church’s movement to create loving, liberating, and life-giving relationships rooted in compassion.

— EMM (@EMMRefugees) September 27, 2019

The refugee resettlement ceiling, set by the president’s administration, is the maximum number of refugees who will be welcomed into the country for the year, though the actual number could be even lower. The Trump administration’s decision to reduce the ceiling had been hinted at for months, with reports over the summer suggesting that administration officials were considering cutting the number to zero.

The U.S. Department of Defense, in the past, has defended the resettlement program, citing the example of Iraqi refugees who were resettled in the United States after assisting the American military in Iraq.

For most of the past two decades, the cap has remained between 70,000 and 90,000. Under President Barack Obama, with the Syrian refugee crisis prominent in headlines, it was raised as high as 110,000 for the 2017 fiscal year.

Northern Indiana Bishop Douglas Sparks meets Sept. 24 with Indiana Sen. Todd Young on Capitol Hill in Washington. Photo: Office of Government Relations, via Twitter

As the cap has been steadily reduced under Trump, EMM’s resettlement affiliates have dwindled from 31 in 26 dioceses to just 13 affiliates in 11 dioceses. The ongoing uncertainty poses additional challenges for EMM and the other eight agencies, which include Church World Service and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“This decision will substantially hamper the vital work of Episcopal Migration Ministries to show the love of Christ to some of the most vulnerable people in the world,” said Robertson, who just this week had joined five Episcopal bishops in meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill in support of EMM and the refugee resettlement program.

“I’m really disappointed by the actions of those that have control over this decision,” West Virginia Mike Klusmeyer, one of those five bishops, told Episcopal News Service on Sept. 27. “This will dismantle many of the agencies around the country … and will cause great harm.”

Church World Service warned that the Trump administration’s decision “effectively dismantles the U.S. resettlement program.” It also criticized Trump’s executive order, calling it a “refugee ban.”

“With one final blow, the Trump administration has snuffed out Lady Liberty’s torch and ended our nation’s legacy of compassion and welcome,” Church World Service President John McCullough said in a written statement. “The darkness of this day will extend for years, if not decades, to come.”

The purpose of the United States’ refugee resettlement program has been to join other nations around the world in helping to alleviate the plight of refugees fleeing war, persecution and other hardships in their home countries. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, estimates there are nearly 26 million such refugees worldwide who are unable to return to their homes.

About 300,000 refugees are now living in the United States, according to UNHCR. This year, more than half of the new arrivals were refugees from Africa, mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Refugees from Afghanistan, Burma and Ukraine also make up a large portion of this year’s resettlement total. https://www.wrapsnet.org/admissions-and-arrivals/

“Communities wholeheartedly value the opportunity to welcome refugees,” The Episcopal Church said in its statement on the administration’s actions. “Allowing states and localities to ban resettlement robs them of the myriad of benefits refugees bring wherever they go. It sends the wrong message to turn our backs on refugees who could enrich, strengthen, and revitalize our cities and towns.”

The church’s Office of Government Relations, which advocates on behalf of the church in Washington, issued an action alert asking members of its Episcopal Public Policy Network to let lawmakers know they support welcoming refugees. https://www.episcopalchurch.org/OGR/action-alerts?vvsrc=%2fcampaigns%2f68674%2frespond

ACTION ALERT: Restore the US Refugee Admissions Program
The Trump admin announced it will admit a mere 18,000 refugees to the US in FY2020. This substantial reduction will debilitate the bipartisan refugee resettlement program: https://t.co/WiZpuLKa9a #RefugeesWelcome pic.twitter.com/muZh5C3LRg

— The EPPN (@TheEPPN) September 27, 2019

Episcopalians also are encouraged to support EMM directly by making a donation. https://episcopalmigrationministries.org/donate-now/

“We urge Congress, and all people of goodwill, to make their voices heard in opposition to this decision,” the church’s Sept. 27 statement said. “Since its founding as a nation the United States has stood as a beacon of hope for countless endangered members of God’s family. There is still room at the table for more of these precious children of God.”

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

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New bishop for Church in Wales gives House of Bishops equal balance of men and women

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 6:33pm

The archbishop announces the bishop-elect of Monmouth, Cherry Vann, archdeacon of Rochdale. Photo: Church in Wales

[Anglican Communion News Service] One of the first women to be ordained a priest in the Church of England has been elected as the new bishop of Monmouth for the Church in Wales.

Archdeacon Cherry Vann will become the 11th bishop of Monmouth and one of three female bishops in the Church in Wales. It is thought her appointment will make the Church in Wales the first Anglican province to have an equal number of male and female bishops in its House of Bishops.

Read the full article here.

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Deacon whose ancestors were enslaved by her Baltimore church’s founding rector helps parish face its past

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 6:14pm

The Rev. Natalie Conway, deacon at Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore, and Steve Howard, a parishioner, pour holy water into the ground near the slave quarters at the Hampton estate in Towson, Maryland, where Howard’s ancestors held Conway’s ancestors as slaves, on Aug. 18, 2019. Photo courtesy of Memorial Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] Though a number of Episcopal churches have worked to acknowledge and repent for their congregations’ historic involvement with white supremacy or slavery, it’s rarely as personal as it is for the Rev. Natalie Conway and Steve Howard of Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore.

Conway, a deacon serving the parish, discovered last year through a family member’s genealogical research that their ancestors were slaves owned by the family of the man who founded the church in 1860, The Baltimore Sun reports.

It got even more personal when she realized that Howard, a parishioner she had known for years, was descended from that slave-owning family.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Why should I stay at a place that enslaved my ancestors?’” Conway told the Sun.

But she did stay, and the result has been a transformative process of reckoning and healing for the mostly white church. Over the past several weeks, the parish has held a series of services and events that have examined its long history of promoting racism – which lasted into the 1960s – and sought to bring the community together in a spirit of atonement and forgiveness.

The Rev. Grey Maggiano, who has made racial reconciliation a priority during his three years as Memorial’s rector, was as surprised as Conway was to learn of the church’s painful history.

“When the truth came to light, the Rev. Conway was shocked. And so were the rest of us,” Maggiano wrote in a letter to the congregation. “Frankly, as a church we did not know what uncovering this historical tie would mean, for Natalie, for Memorial, for any of us. However, we knew it was incumbent on us to share the truth, and prayerfully engage with it.”

That engagement took the form of a pilgrimage to the historic Hampton plantation in Towson, Maryland, a grand estate that was once owned by the family of the Rev. Charles Ridgley Howard, the founding rector of Memorial and a Confederate sympathizer. When Howard was buried there in 1862, there were more than 400 slaves on the property, including the Cromwell family, the Rev. Conway’s ancestors.

More than 50 members of Memorial and the nearby Church of St. Katherine of Alexandria – a primarily African American church established as an alternative to white-only parishes like Memorial, which did not admit black members until 1969, according to the Sun – toured the Howard estate on Aug. 18.

Members of Memorial Episcopal Church and the Church of St. Katherine of Alexandria in Baltimore tour the Hampton estate in Towson, Maryland, on Aug. 18, 2019. Photo courtesy of Memorial Episcopal Church

“We saw the grandeur of the mansion and the beautifully manicured lands. We visited the graveyard where the Rev. Charles Ridgely Howard is buried. We saw paintings of his grandparents and his in-laws. We learned what happened to only some of the enslaved persons held at Hampton. We saw rooms where the Rev. Charles Ridgley Howard and his family might have slept – and in contrast where Deacon Natalie [Conway]’s family might have slept. We saw the chains used to hold people,” Maggiano wrote.

At the end of the tour, standing in a yard next to the slave quarters, the group said prayers, and holy water was consecrated. In a ceremony that Conway helped plan, she and Steve Howard – the parishioner who is descended from the Rev. Charles Ridgley Howard – poured the water into the ground together.

The act represented the “healing and restoration of relationship between two very different families, and a public symbol of who Memorial Church is today,” Maggiano wrote.

Howard told the Sun he always knew that he was descended from slave owners but had previously “kept it at an intellectual level,” and examining that history more closely felt like “a punch in the gut.” But he and other congregants said it’s also been illuminating and necessary.

“This has been a giant step forward,” he said.

During a later Sunday service, Conway and Howard led a “litany of reconciliation” in which the parish prayed for forgiveness for the sins of slavery and racism. The church posted a public apology to the families who were enslaved by its rectors. And on Sept. 15, it hosted a community conversation on the legacy of slavery in Maryland, inspired by The New York Times’ 1619 Project.

Similar efforts to recognize and heal from the history of slavery have taken place recently among Episcopal churches in the region, like a pilgrimage across Virginia’s “Slavery Trail of Tears” in August, Virginia Theological Seminary’s establishment of a slavery reparations fund and an upcoming pilgrimage to Jamestown, Virginia, where the first person of African ancestry born in the 13 British colonies was baptized. In June, the Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of the Diocese of Maryland, testified in support of a slavery reparations bill in a congressional hearing.

Memorial’s clergy and congregants will continue to have conversations about the church’s history; Maggiano told the parish that the pilgrimage to the Hampton estate was only “the beginning of something new.”

“Our church acknowledges our collective sin of slavery, and continues to work toward reconciliation through crafting new relationships, restoring things profaned, and hopefully coming back into right relationship with God as well,” he wrote.

“It’s not about shaming or blaming anyone for the past,” Conway told the Sun. “It’s about telling the truth. My ancestors and this church are one, and that story needs to be told.”

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

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Priest accused of child pornography possession will remain in jail

Wed, 09/25/2019 - 4:52pm

[Episcopal News Service] A Diocese of Western Massachusetts priest who was arrested and charged with possessing child pornography earlier this month will remain in jail as his case works its way through the federal court system.

The Rev. Gregory Lisby. Photo: Diocese of Western Massachusetts

The Rev. Gregory Lisby, appearing in a Worcester, Massachusetts, courtroom on Sept. 25, waived his right to a preliminary hearing and did not seek to be released from prison. Lisby has not yet entered a plea in the case.

For full ENS, coverage, click here.

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Faith-based organizations ‘raise ambition’ on climate emergency after UN summit

Wed, 09/25/2019 - 1:39pm

On Sept. 24 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry added his signature to a joint statement between The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church of Sweden outlining the churches’ “call to join in the care of creation.” Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] In April, the world lost a 700-year-old glacier to climate change. Oceans are warming, oxygen levels are declining as ocean acidity rises and fish are dying. At the same time, sea levels are rising and island nations are poised to disappear.

It’s alarming evidence of the climate emergency threatening all of Earth’s inhabitants.

On Sept. 24, faith-based organizations held a daylong interfaith event to address that emergency, meeting at The Salvation Army in New York’s midtown Manhattan, a half mile from United Nations headquarters and a day after world leaders met in a climate summit to discuss plans to meet the objectives laid out in the Paris agreement.

“What’s happening all over our city, all over New York right now, really all over the world, people are talking about movement,” said the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation in The Episcopal Church, during a noontime Eucharist held at the Episcopal Church Center’s Chapel of Christ the Lord.

“You’ve been talking about a movement, many of you, you’ve been stirring movement, you’ve been praying for movement. At least in The Episcopal Church, we also talk a lot about movement. In particular, we’ve been talking about a Jesus movement. We even call ourselves the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement. And we say that together, we are a community of people who are following Jesus, follow Jesus into loving, liberating and life-giving relationships with God with each other, and with the whole of creation.”

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation in The Episcopal Church, looks on during a Sept. 24 interfaith climate emergency event held at The Salvation Army in midtown Manhattan. Photo: Simon Chambers/ACT Alliance

Spellers pointed to the day’s Gospel reading, Matthew 11:25-30, suggesting that in that reading, Jesus is giving “loving advice” on how to lead a movement.

“I would invite you to even just imagine together that as we engage in a climate movement that is a part of the Jesus movement, that creation care and climate justice, for us, is not only about burden and negation, but instead about tapping into the true source, an invitation to abundance and living more like Jesus,” she said.

Episcopalians, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, United Methodists, Muslims, Buddhists and Baha’i representing some 48 organizations came together to strategize ways faith-based organizations can address climate change by filling the gaps left by governments as related to climate change and adaptation to its effects.

The event included breakout sessions to address justice, loss and damage, migration and emergency declarations as related to climate change.

The Episcopal Church has a long history of support for the environment and climate action.

“Episcopalians are members of a transnational union: We can stand up for our brothers and sisters, be they in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or our Anglican brothers and sisters across seas, and we are one with them,” said the Rev. Melanie Mullen, The Episcopal Church’s director of reconciliation, justice and creation care. “[We can use our influence] to speak to bodies of power, to talk about their burdens and where they’re vulnerable, and hold our power and our privilege and use it well for those who are most vulnerable because they’re one of us in the part of our family.”

 Speaking truth to power, however, is not reserved just for the church’s leadership; Episcopalians across the church have indicated they care for the environment through letter writing and other local campaigns aimed at calling attention to climate change and prioritizing care for creation.

“Episcopalians by far care about climate because of their faith in Jesus. [It’s] not just ancillary,” said Mullen. “And we care about people who are vulnerable. And we care about the world because of our interpretation, the Bible and of the way we read the Book of Common Prayer.”

Episcopalians, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, United Methodists, Muslims, Buddhists and Baha’i and others came together on Sept. 24 to strategize ways faith-based organizations can address climate change by filling the gaps left by governments related to climate change and adaptation to its effects. Photo: Simon Chambers/ACT Alliance

The U.N. secretary general convened a climate summit on Sept. 23, a day before the first high-level debates of the 74th session of the General Assembly meeting in New York through Sept. 30.

The 2015 Paris agreement committed states to restricting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The agreement marked the first time nations came together under common cause to arrest climate change and adapt to its effects.

“This summit was designed from the beginning to be a moment of especially governments announcing their plans to ramp up their ambition to achieve their zero carbon objectives that they have set for themselves with the Paris Agreement,” said Lynnaia Main, The Episcopal Church’s representative to the United Nations. “But most governments are not meeting their targets. …. At the current target, we are well above 2 degrees. And the science, scientists agree that two degrees itself is not where we actually want to or need to be. We should be at 1.5.”

An October 2018 report release by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change further raised the alarm at the international level.

“The report said we basically have 12 years to get this right before we reach the tipping point,” said Main. “Since that report came out, the level of urgency and alarm has risen dramatically within the U.N. And as a result of that report and the realization that governments aren’t meeting their targets, the secretary general decided to hold this climate action summit to encourage governments to ramp up their ambition, so that we can try and achieve these targets.”

The Anglican Church of Canada’s National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald pointed to interfaith efforts to protect the Arctic from oil drilling as a victory for faith-based environmental advocacy during a Sept. 24 interfaith gathering in New York. MacDonald also serves as the World Council of Churches president for North America. Photo: Simon Chambers/ACT Alliance

The action that resonated worldwide, however, occurred on Sept. 20, when more than 4 million people in more than 160 countries took to the streets in a strike climate demonstration.

The climate strike built on the momentum of youth-led school walkouts inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who led the strike in New York and addressed the U.N. delegates on Sept. 23.

“The eyes of all future generations are upon you,” said Thunberg, criticizing world leaders for their “business as usual” approach to addressing climate change. “If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”

Two of the New York climate strike youth organizers spoke during the Sept. 24 interfaith event at The Salvation Army.

“World leaders are not getting it, elected officials are not getting it,” said Olivia Wohlgemuth, a 17-year-old climate activist from Brooklyn. “There are world leaders, when they speak, they talk about really progressive actions … but they don’t act.”

Wohlgemuth and Xiye Bastida, who also addressed the interfaith gathering, said the youth intentionally made the strike an intergenerational event recognizing that adults have the power to vote and have access to power in a way that youth do not. It was something Presiding Bishop Michael Curry acknowledged later that day when he suggested church leaders and church officials who are used to leading, this time are following the youth.

“We lead we’re used to we’re used to that, and this is one time when we are following,” said Curry. “We are following the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are following the God who is the author of creation and whose world this is.

“But in this particular moment, we are following our children, who have called us to account for caring for God’s world, because the inheritance that is theirs will not be there in the fullness that it needs to be there. And we are being called to account, and so now, the churches are following the children. And that is maybe the way we find ourselves stumbling into God’s future and changing it.”

Later in the evening on Sept. 24 before a reception held in his private residence, Curry added his signature to a joint statement between The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church of Sweden outlining the churches’ “call to join in the care of creation.”

“As we observe the Season of Creation, we renew the call for our churches to work together for the sake of Earth and to build collaborations wherever possible, both with other communities of faith and with diverse agents in our civil society. Now is the time for science, politics, business, culture and religion – everything that is an expression of human dignity – to address together this critical issue for our time,” read the statement.

The statement served as testament to a relationship established between the three churches; one that has carried on even as the leadership has changed.

“Climate change is a pressing critical issue for the future, and the present world,” said the Rev. Stephanie Johnson, who chairs The Episcopal Church’s Task Force on Creation Care & Environmental Racism, following the signing. “And that regardless of how we move forward in politics, that the church itself will continue being the prophetic voice to change the world and be part of God’s creation.”

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

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Bishop of the Bahamas calls hurricane a ‘national tragedy’

Wed, 09/25/2019 - 10:51am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The impact of Hurricane Dorian on the Bahamas has been worse than imagined, according to the Bishop of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, Laish Boyd.

In a pastoral letter about how his diocese had been affected, he said: “This is a national tragedy which grieves and devastates all of us… The damage has been catastrophic. The human impact has been heart-breaking. The relationship between people and the sea in the Bahamas is intimate. Many people make their living from fishing. This hurricane has seen a friend become an enemy.”

Read the full article here.

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Bishops meet with federal lawmakers to advocate for Episcopal Migration Ministries, refugees

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 6:20pm

Maine Bishop Thomas Brown, from left, West Virginia Bishop Mike Klusmeyer, Northern Indiana Bishop Douglas Sparks and Rio Grande Bishop Michael Hunn gather Sept. 24 in Washington for a series of Capitol Hill meetings with lawmakers about the federal refugee resettlement program. Lexington Bishop Mark Van Koevering, not pictured, also joined them. Photo: Office of Government Relations

[Episcopal News Service] Five Episcopal bishops traveled to Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 24 for meetings with senators and representatives from their dioceses to advocate for preserving the U.S. government’s refugee resettlement program at a time when the Trump administration is considering cutting the program further.

The bishops represent a diverse group of dioceses. Rio Grande Bishop Michael Hunn’s diocese touches 40 percent of the U.S. border with Mexico, and the group also included Maine Bishop Thomas Brown, West Virginia Bishop Mike Klusmeyer, Northern Indiana Bishop Douglas Sparks and Bishop Mark Van Koevering from the Diocese of Lexington in Kentucky.

They were accompanied by staff members from The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, which organized the visits. They met with both Republicans and Democrats. And their appeals carried the weight of the church’s decades of experience resettling refugees in the United States through Episcopal Migration Ministries, or EMM.

“This is certainly not a partisan issue, from my standpoint,” Hunn told Episcopal News Service after concluding his meetings. “It’s a moral issue of how we care for the stranger among us.”

Thank you @RepDebHaaland for meeting with Bishop Michael Hunn from the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande on the critical need for refugee resettlement! #EpiscopalAdvocacy pic.twitter.com/yuyK7M2QuJ

— The EPPN (@TheEPPN) September 24, 2019

Hunn, whose diocese encompasses New Mexico and the westernmost region of Texas, met personally with New Mexico Reps. Deb Haaland and and Xochitl Torres Small, both Democrats, and with someone from the office of Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican. Sparks told ENS he met with Indiana’s two senators, Mike Braun and Todd Young, both Republicans, as well as three representatives from districts in his diocese.

“This is where God’s called me to be,” Sparks said after the meetings. “And anything I can do to support them to address this important program of resettling refugees I stand ready to do so.”

This morning Bishop Doug Sparks of @EDofNIN connected with @SenatorBraun and @SenToddYoung on Capitol Hill to discuss advocating for refugees and refugee resettlement #EpiscopalAdvocacy pic.twitter.com/68F0j2mwhN

— The EPPN (@TheEPPN) September 24, 2019

EMM is one of nine agencies with contracts with the U.S. State Department to resettle refugees fleeing war, persecution and other hardships in their home countries. The Episcopal agency has resettled more than 95,000 refugees since the 1980s, providing a range of services for these families upon their arrival in the United States, including English language and cultural orientation classes, employment services, school enrollment and initial assistance with housing and transportation.

The number of refugees allowed into the United States each year is based on a ceiling set each year by the president’s administration. Under President Barack Obama, that ceiling rose as high as 110,000 in the 2017 fiscal year, but President Donald Trump’s administration has reduced the number to just 30,000 for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, 2019.

The administration has not yet announced a new refugee resettlement ceiling, but reports have suggested Trump and his advisers are considering sharper cuts – possibly even dropping the cap on refugees to zero.

EMM once oversaw 31 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses, but now that number is down to 13 affiliates in 11 dioceses. The ongoing uncertainty over future resettlement levels poses additional challenges for EMM and the other eight agencies.

“At a time when refugee admissions to the United States are under constant threat, it is more important than ever that we raise our collective voices and advocate for a robust resettlement program,” said Kendall Martin, EMM’s communications manager, in an email to ENS. “The Episcopal bishops advocating for the refugee admissions program honor the rich legacy of Episcopal Migration Ministries and provide a critical witness by living our mandate delivered by Jesus himself to ‘welcome the stranger.’”

Thank you @RepCarolMiller for meeting with Bishop Klusmeyer of the Diocese of West Virginia and Canon C.K. Robertson today! pic.twitter.com/0Wy0ZP93Yb

— The EPPN (@TheEPPN) September 24, 2019

The five bishops in Washington to advocate for EMM and the refugee resettlement program gathered in the morning for a briefing, in which Office of Government Relations staff members outlined talking points that invoked church policy positions as determined by General Convention resolutions. The bishops also received biographical information about the lawmakers they were meeting.

For some, this was their first time taking The Episcopal Church’s advocacy directly to federal lawmakers, though Brown said he has some experience doing the same at the state level.

“One of the things that’s true in smaller states is that the people that serve in public policy, whether it’s at the statehouse or in Washington, are a little more accessible,” Brown said. He met earlier in the day with Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, and Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat. After speaking with ENS, he planned to meet with Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat.

Brown identified two main topics he and the other bishops sought to discuss with the lawmakers: EMM’s long history of facilitating the refugee resettlement program and the church’s concerns about the cuts in the number of refugees allowed in the country.

He and the other bishops stressed that there is bipartisan support for refugee resettlement, and Brown praised the work of the Office of Government Relations to elevate such issues in the eyes of lawmakers.

“The Office of Government Relations has done such a beautiful job of preparing us,” Brown said. “I’m so impressed with the care that this office is doing to tell the story of faith to our policy makers.”

The day’s Capitol Hill visits come seven months after the office worked in February with another group of bishops, representing Bishops United Against Gun Violence, in scheduling a series of Capitol Hill visits in support of gun safety legislation.

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

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After theft of historic bell, South Dakota congregation grateful for replacement from closed church

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 4:42pm

Utility workers help lower the bell from Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Gregory, South Dakota, so it can be transferred to Norris, where St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s bell was stolen in January 2018. Photo: Rosebud Indian Mission

[Episcopal News Service] The theft of a century-old church bell has been a disheartening blow to the congregation at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church just north of Norris, South Dakota. The bell, a beloved fixture of the local community, was discovered missing in early January 2018, and it has never been found or returned.

Another South Dakota congregation, about 100 miles to the east, has been struggling with a different kind of loss: the closure of its church. The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Gregory, South Dakota, shut its doors for good on Christmas Day 2018, and church leaders began offering furnishings from the Church of the Incarnation to other churches in the region.

Among those furnishings: a bell, hanging more than 25 feet up in the church’s steeple.

The two churches are both part of the Rosebud Indian Mission, which ministers to a region that includes the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Now, church leaders and worshipers from across the Rosebud Episcopal Mission are celebrating the gift of Incarnation’s old bell to the congregation in Norris, where it will become a next-best-case replacement for St. Paul’s stolen bell.

“The bell hasn’t been rung in about 10 years,” the Rev. Annie Henninger said in a blog post. She serves the congregations on the Rosebud Indian Mission’s eastern half. “I’m really sad to see the church close, but it is so good to have parts from the church go elsewhere.”

The Rev. Lauren Stanley, who is assigned to the mission’s western congregations, including St. Paul’s, traveled with members of that congregation to Gregory on Sept. 20 to claim the bell. Given its high perch and substantial weight, they received assistance from utility workers from Rosebud Electric Cooperative. The workers removed the bell from the steeple and lowered it into the back of Stanley’s pickup truck.

“I am so impressed by everyone who came out today,” Stanley said in the mission’s blog post, which noted that this bell is cast steel, as opposed to the stolen bell’s iron and brass. “It won’t be the same bell, or even the same bell tone … but it will ring all the same, and I’m confident it will bring joy to all the ancestors.”

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church just north of Norris, South Dakota, was founded in 1890, and its bell could be nearly as old. Decades ago it was used to summon worshipers to St. Paul’s for the monthly service and a community gathering, which would stretch over multiple days. Photo: Lauren Stanley, via Facebook.

St. Paul’s was founded in 1890, and the bell was thought to be nearly as old. Decades ago, it was used to summon worshipers for the congregation’s monthly services, and it rang to notify local residents of major news. The thieves who took the bell also toppled the small wooden tower that housed it next to the small church building, located on tribal land just outside the boundaries of the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

Stanley tried publicizing the theft to generate information that might lead to the bell’s discovery, and the congregation offered forgiveness to whoever took it, asking for its prompt return. No one came forward.

Instead, the congregation at St. Paul’s is thankful for the opportunity to receive Incarnation’s bell, which Stanley said is larger and heavier than the old bell. A new tower will be built to house the transferred bell at a nearby mission chapel in Norris. The bell is in storage in the community of Mission until the tower is ready.

Stanley added that her goal is to have it in place in time for a memorial in November for an elder, Emmaline Eagle Bear, who died late last year.

“I want Emmaline and all the ancestors to hear this new bell ringing all the way to heaven,” she said in the mission’s blog post.

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

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Priest takes the Gospel to the streets of rural Ontario

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 2:42pm

“They bring the agenda to the table, not me; I’m just a presence,” the Rev. Stephen Martin says. “Ninety-five per cent of the time, when conversations come about faith and faith issues, they bring it up—not me.” Photo: Contributed via Anglican Journal

[Anglican Journal] A priest in the Anglican Church of Canada is reaching out to the unchurched by giving services from the back of his SUV in the parking lots of southern Ontario.

Since June 2018, the Rev. Stephen Martin, part-time incumbent of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, Stratford, and missioner for the Diocese of Huron, has been delivering Church on the Street — a program intended to bring church to people where they are. Twice a week, Martin hits the road and visits communities across the diocese in his specially equipped Ford Explorer — a sort of mobile chapel. He pulls into roadside coffee shops and makes his presence known, talking with anyone who wants to about God — or about anything at all — and even performing services.

“I carry my communion stuff with me,” he says. “I can actually put a table into my trailer hitch so I can sit back and make it what we call ‘tailgate church.’”

He also sometimes refers to it as “St. Timothy’s of Hortons.”

Read the full article here.

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‘God’s bringing us into wholeness’: LGBTQ Episcopalians who witnessed the Stonewall uprising share their stories

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 4:20pm

The Stonewall Inn on Pride weekend in 2016, the day after President Barack Obama designated it the Stonewall National Monument. Photo: Rhododendrites via Creative Commons

[Episcopal News Service] In the summer of 1969, homosexuality was still classified as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association, sodomy was a felony in 49 states, there had never been an openly queer elected official in the United States and there were divisions in The Episcopal Church about whether homosexuality was sinful.

Fifty years later, same-sex marriage is legal across the country, queer politicians serve in both houses of Congress, a gay man is running for president and The Episcopal Church has gay and lesbian bishops. The radical shift in American society’s acceptance of queer people started with a jolt on June 28, 1969, when patrons at the Stonewall Inn, a queer bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, rioted in response to a police raid. At the time, these raids were common; the city was determined to shut down the bars and simply serving alcohol to homosexuals was prohibited.

The Stonewall Inn in 1969. Photo: Diana Davies via New York Public Library

Although The Episcopal Church has long been a champion of LGBTQ rights and many in the church during the 1960s were ahead of their time in accepting homosexuality, the church did not explicitly express support for gay people until 1976 and did not ordain openly gay people until 1994.

In light of the 50th anniversary of the riots this summer, the Episcopal News Service spoke to three queer Episcopalians who witnessed the Stonewall uprising and asked them what it was like, how things have changed and how it affected their faith.

The Rev. John Moody, now 93, was a priest at Trinity Church Wall Street, running a popular arts programming series, at the time of the riots. Frank Tedeschi, now 74, was a graduate student at Columbia University attending the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, two blocks from Stonewall, and later had a career in The Episcopal Church’s Office of Communication and Church Publishing, Inc. Phyllis Jenkins, now 89, was a psychiatric nurse practitioner teaching at Lehman College who attended St. Luke’s later in life and has lived in the same apartment in Greenwich Village for 60 years.

These interviews have been condensed for clarity and concision.

Had you been to Stonewall before the riots?

Phyllis Jenkins in the early 1970s. Photo courtesy of Phyllis Jenkins

Phyllis Jenkins: I didn’t hang out in Stonewall because it was a boys’ bar (laughs). And they had girls’ bars! But I was known there, yeah.

John Moody: I’d been to Stonewall, but not often. It wasn’t a bar I went to. It was a younger group. When I moved to the city, I was 44 already.

Frank Tedeschi: I was not there the first night of the riots. I was there two nights before. I was in the Stonewall with a friend whom I knew from graduate school, Arnold Willens. … We knew, and I think my friend Arnold maybe even said, you know, we’ve got to be careful we don’t get raided, something like that. I remember coming up from Grand Street three nights later and somebody said, “They raided the Stonewall last night.”

Had you experienced raids before?

PJ: Oh, yeah. Sure. I remember, there was a bar – I think it was on Eighth Street, I think its name was Mary’s. And there used to be dancing in there. And [when the police came] they’d flash the lights and then you’d change partners; you would choose an opposite-sex partner. For some reason, they went after mostly the boys. They’d give women a warning sort of thing, and off you would go, if you kept your mouth shut. There was an unwritten rule that you had to have on two or three pieces of clothing that identified with your birth sex – you couldn’t be in drag, in other words, in a bar. I most frequently wore – back in those days I was wearing men’s clothes. Not just tailored clothes, but men’s clothes. So yeah, I would get hassled about that.

What was your experience at Stonewall like?

PJ: I went out from home to pick up a Times. And as I approached Christopher Street, I saw a, for lack of a better word, melee. And I am not keen on crowds, but I circulated around the edges. And when I found out what was happening, then I joined. I didn’t stay too long because it was after midnight, and I had to work the next day.

The Rev. John Moody in the early 1970s. Photo courtesy of Trinity Church Wall Street

JM: That night, I was getting off a bus in Greenwich Village. I was out on Fire Island and came in on Saturday night because I had Sunday duty. And I looked up – it was only about a half a block from Stonewall. I looked up the street and the lights were all on there, so I knew something was going on. And it was only after, the next day, that I found out what was happening. I went over there several times during the next couple of weeks when there were demonstrations every night. Different groups would have occasions to protest, and so I went up and would talk to people. You would talk about the situation in gay bars, how people felt about their own freedom to go there without police interference. Once it was over, the couple of weeks and riots and whatnot, that kind of a reaction by the police – going into a bar and checking ages and stuff like that – that was called off. So, the atmosphere was much more relaxed.

FT: There was a sense of illicit-ness, outside-the-norm experience, if not behavior, to be in a place like Stonewall. Because everybody, I realize now as I look back, was – whether he or she realized it or not – had an alert mechanism there. What to do if the cops come or whatever. Just up the street … there was a bar, I think it may have been called the Hornet or something like that. And it was, and still is, a very long room, long and narrow. My friend took me there as well. He pointed me to the back. He said, “Let’s go look at this.” And there was a trellis, and it was dark, and we walked back. And it was full of men… They were – the music was quiet and slow and they were dancing, cheek to cheek, as partners. And I can remember that to this day. And this was just up the street from Stonewall. And I don’t think they were ever raided because I think Stonewall paved the way. But just seeing same-sex couples dancing romantically was an eye-opener for me. And I’m telling you this because that experience is just as emblazoned on my memory as Stonewall. But when we were there, we all had our alert mechanisms on. Don’t have your back to the door.

Did you realize it was a historic moment at the time?

JM: Oh, I think afterward. But yes, you did realize it was a historic moment. Because the police were confronted. And it wasn’t long after that the mayor decided that they would not do that anymore.

PJ: Yes, I did. I didn’t know how big, but I knew that we were making history. I did know that.

FT: Oh, no, not at all. That’s one thing I have reflected upon in this anniversary year. I said to myself, “Jeez, who’d have thunk?”

Were you out then?

JM: I was not what you would call “out.” My boss knew I was gay, but there was no connection with the church as such. Soon after that there was Integrity, which started to meet over at St. Luke’s Church on Hudson. So, I wouldn’t say that I was out, no. I mean, I would go to bars; I wanted to meet people. I wanted to do something about my own sexuality. … I realized celibacy was not a calling for me. And I wanted to, if I could, I wanted to meet someone. And in those days, the way you met someone was at a bar. I didn’t feel as though it would be appropriate to come out at that time because the separation of sexuality and the church – and particularly priesthood – was so officially separate at that time, that I didn’t feel as though that would be appropriate. By the grace of God, somehow I felt alright about being gay, and by that I mean my own spiritual realization was such that this was who I was. So, the church was not supportive at that time. Spiritually I felt all right with it. I remember being at a bar once and a young man asking me what I did. I said I was a priest. And he said, “Well, how can you possibly be here?” I said, “Well, what is that really saying about sexuality? If I didn’t feel all right about being here, I wouldn’t be here.” But there was such a feeling of cultural oppression in that time, that people felt very bad about themselves that they were gay.

PJ: Uh… 99.5 percent (laughs). Yeah. I felt that I did not like to discuss my sexuality with people – to be accepted. You know, I didn’t go around asking people what they did and they shouldn’t go around asking me what I did. But yeah, I was never one to hide, but I was never one to throw it in your face either. Especially after I started going back to school. My livelihood depended on the establishment.

FT: Yes and no and no and yes. It’s what one chooses. Everyone was welcome at St. Luke’s, and I know other churches as well. But sexuality wasn’t talked about. Certainly not homiletically. Now, of course, it’s quite a different story.

Did your experience witnessing the start of the gay liberation movement impact your faith at all?

JM: Oh, absolutely. Oh sure. Yeah. By the grace of God, I believe God wanted to bring me into wholeness with the person I am and the person He loves. And that fed right into and was really strengthened by the gay liberation movement. But the gay liberation movement so often was angry at the church. Angry at their own self division. And I think it’s the healing of that, in God’s bringing us into wholeness, that will enable us to work for the kind of justice in the world that Jesus calls us to.

PJ: It probably did. I didn’t think of it at that time, but it probably did because I became more aware of other faiths, for one thing. By the time I got to be a preteen, I was annoyed with church in general, religion in general. There was no place for women, blacks or whatever. And my belief faltered, so I just stopped going. And that lasted for 44 years. But I wanted to get my first great-grandchild baptized. … St. Luke’s was around the corner. And I’d been in the church a little, but I went in one day on my way home from work. That was 33 years ago. It’s an easy place to get involved and I like what their mission is. I like what they do.

FT: Back then, my own faith journey and experience of Sunday morning was kind of a different chapter, separate. And I think in my own psychospiritual development over the past half-century, I’m a much more integrated person than I was and so many other young gay men my age were in those days. We were in our 20s. I was 24 at the raid and I’m now 74. … But I realized that, you know, gay men my age, at that time, we’re accustomed to being below the radar, keeping our heads down, if you will. …  I look back and realize that if you’re used to being in the shadows, or subject to name-calling or persecution, you kept a low profile. When those courageous groups of people “…, hell no,” I realize now through the lens of history and of my own life is they were pioneers, they were indeed role models. They said no, no more. And again, from this distance, a half-century later, I respect them for that and I thank them for it.

Has the church overcome its hostility toward the LGBTQ community?

JM: I don’t think it has everywhere. I think in, for instance, my own parish, Trinity Wall Street, yes. I think they’ve overcome that. But whether all the membership has or not, I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think officially, it has overcome it. There are gay and lesbian married priests. And they seem to be accepted. But whether people themselves accept gayness, I’m not sure.

PJ: I think the Diocese of New York has, to a large extent, but not all dioceses are the same. And our diocese is not the same all the way through. But of all of the organized religions, the mainstream religions I know of, I think that The Episcopal Church has the best stance. Publicly, at least, anyway.

FT: Well, you use words like “the church” – what was I reading about the bishop of Albany and other bishops and other congregations who say “no, this is not OK.” … There’s still dissent, there’s still disagreement. And I think we would be shortsighted if we did not admit and acknowledge that.

Should the church be doing more to affirm and protect queer people?

JM: Well, I’d like to see the church really live its inclusivity, where there are no others, we are all one in God! And we as Christians need to share this with all the great leaders and mystical believers in all the major faiths. And the more we’re able to do that, the more I think we see the power of Jesus at work in the world. And I think our presiding bishop is doing that in his gospel of Love. That’s what it’s about!

FT: I think the church has been very good witness for the past 20 years and more. But if we were to do anything more, or in addition, it would be, I think, educationally. … I guess maybe what I mean by education is if there can be more and more opportunity for dialogue.

Is there a particular social issue experiencing a turning point today that you think is analogous to the Stonewall uprising?

JM: Oh, I think so. I think we’re finally realizing the depth and breadth and scope of racial prejudice, because of our history of slavery. This is the kind of turning point for that, I think. … I think we have a lot of digging to do on that one.

PJ: No, not really. The last time I really felt a huge involvement was during the plague – during the AIDS epidemic. I worked with people living with HIV and that was the last time I felt that there was that much involvement by more than a small group of people.

PJ: I believe in youth, I believe the youth will be our savior. And we need to concentrate on doing what we can with and for them. And so anything that focuses on young people, I’m for it – particularly young people of color and gay or both.

FT: No, other than the fact that the acknowledgment of same-sex relationships, including matrimony, is not shrinking. It’s doing exactly the opposite. It’s growing. And it’s bearing witness, and it’s causing great joy – and increasing discomfort among those who don’t agree with it.

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

The post ‘God’s bringing us into wholeness’: LGBTQ Episcopalians who witnessed the Stonewall uprising share their stories appeared first on Episcopal News Service.

Rabbi guides Christian leaders on mission to study Jewish history, destruction in Poland

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 3:22pm

Rabbi Yehiel Poupko leads the Christian Mission to Poland through Auschwitz on the second to the last day of the mission. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] The dead are buried in books.

At Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland that came to symbolize the Holocaust, the Book of Names memorializes 4.2 million known victims in oversized books displayed in Block 27, a red-brick former barrack, as part of a permanent exhibit honoring the dead.

All told, the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews and untold millions of Soviet prisoners of war and Soviet citizens, Roma, Polish resisters and non-Jewish Poles, Serbs, German political prisoners and resistance activists, disabled people, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses before World War II’s end in September 1945.

“If you cannot bring someone to a proper burial, you bury them in a book,” said Rabbi Yehiel Poupko. Here, Poupko searches The Book of Names and finds 800 Poupkos listed. The 6 ½ foot-high Book of Names memorializes 4.2 million known Jewish victims of the Holocaust and is part of a permanent exhibit at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The state museum and memorial opened on the site of the former death camps in 1947. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“Not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims,” said Rabbi Yehiel Poupko, a Judaic scholar at the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. “The act of coming here is an act of honor and respect. To forget is to erase memory … whoever remembers is fighting against erasure.”

In August, Poupko led a weeklong Christian Leadership Mission to Poland, making overnight stays in Warsaw, Lublin and Krakow, exploring the history and destruction of European Jewry in Poland.

Jews arrived in Polin, meaning “rest here” or “here you may dwell” in Hebrew, in the Middle Ages. Religious tolerance and Jews’ social autonomy made Poland home to one of the largest, most significant Jewish communities in the world. In 1939, 3.5 million Jews lived in Poland, a third of Europe’s 9.5 million Jews.

After World War I, however, rising Polish nationalism, pogroms, discriminatory laws and growing anti-Semitism made the country, just east of Germany and west of what was then the Soviet Union, a hostile place for Jews.

“The narrative of the destruction of European Jewry is not as well-known and experienced as it could be in North America,” said the Very Rev. Dominic Barrington, dean of St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Chicago, one of several Episcopalians on the Poland trip.

The Christian Mission to Poland included Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Congregationalist and other faith leaders and scholars. This post is outside the Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The mission’s group formed out of a friendship between Poupko and Barrington. Methodists, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Evangelicals, scholars – including an Islamic scholar – a Reform rabbi and other Jewish United Fund staff also joined the weeklong mission.

“I’m honored, as a member of The Episcopal Church, that we’ve been able to work with Rabbi Poupko and initiate this extraordinary trip, which has been transformative for all of us who have taken part in it,” said Barrington in a conversation with Episcopal News Service on a bus traveling from Warsaw to Treblinka, the site of a former Nazi death camp located in a forest northeast of the capital.

When Barrington arrived in Chicago in 2015 as dean of St. James, Poupko was the first religious leader to welcome him and offer a lunch invitation; the new dean, who previously had served a parish in Kettering, England, 90 miles north of London, accepted with some trepidation. In England, he said, to encounter Jewish voices in interfaith dialogue is uncommon, as the Jewish population is very small (0.48 percent of the United Kingdom’s total population) and in fact Barrington had not encountered Jews in an interfaith context.

“I never met a rabbi in 20 years of ordained ministry in England, and that’s not atypical,” he said.

For Barrington, living in the United States – where Jews are only about 1.8 percent of the population, but every city has a Jewish presence — has been an interesting journey of discovery.

“He [Poupko] talked to me about how interfaith dialogue happened in a unique way in the United States, and very particularly, in his opinion, in Chicago, and that it was possible to have robust conversations that could be grounded in real friendship,” said Barrington. “And I’m not sure I believed him at first, but I discovered that that’s profoundly true. And I have learned a vast amount from him.”

For years, Barrington has led Christian pilgrimages to Israel and Palestine, his work supporting Christian communities. It was his work in the Middle East, he said, that made him “leery” to meet with an Orthodox rabbi.

“In very broad terms, I would say that Britain and probably most of Western Europe is instinctively pro-Palestinian rather than pro-Israeli in terms of the current situation of the conflict, and manifest in the United States it’s the other way around. So, I’ve had a huge learning experience, in terms of things that I thought I knew and understood,” he said. “I’ve learnt in much deeper ways what anti-Semitism is about, and I’ve also learnt that to be a friend to Palestinians, in particular perhaps to Palestinian Christians, it can be very helpful to have some Jewish friends.”

Every three years when The Episcopal Church holds its General Convention, the Israeli-Palestinian

conflict ignites passionate debate. 

But for Barrington, it was the 2016 film “Denial,” a portrayal of Irving v. Lipstadt, that helped him understand the real impact of the Holocaust on the Jewish people. “Denial” dramatizes how American historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote the 1993 book “Denying the Holocaust,” which named British writer David Irving as a Holocaust denier. In 1996, Irving sued Lipstadt for libel in Britain, where in her defense she was forced to prove the fact of the Holocaust. The court ruled in Lipstadt’s favor in 2000.

The Very Rev. Dominic Barrington, dean of St. James Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois, offers a reading from the Lamentations of Jeremiah (1: 1-7) during a stop at Umschlagplatz, a place where Jews were gathered for deportation to concentration and extermination camps inside what was the Warsaw ghetto. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“As I watched this saga about how the Holocaust had to be proved in evidential terms in an English court, I suddenly realized that my own perception of my integrity was in question,” he said. “If I didn’t get on with it and come and see these places … the moment I had that realization, that I should go to Auschwitz, it was also abundantly plain to me that there was only one set of eyes through which I wanted to view it. And I got home, and I emailed Yehiel and said, ‘I’ve woken up to something, and I need to ask you a favor.’ And this is the result.”

It was the first time for Poupko, who for years has worked to build relationships with Christians and who has made many overseas missions to Eastern and Central Europe, to lead a Christian mission.

“The essence of a relationship is to know the other person as they know themselves,” said Poupko, as to the mission’s importance. “I think [when] these people, who are good Christians and good friends of the Jewish people, get to know us deeper, this helps people understand who we are. Secondly, I hope it inspires them. Because everyone needs to be inspired and reinvigorated to deal with the tribe of folded arms. We know how to deal with bad people; it’s very simple. You’ve got to stop them, right? We know how to deal with evil. You gotta stop it. That’s not the problem. The real problem is how to inspire people who have joined the tribe of folded arms.”

The city of Lublin can be seen beyond the fence of Majdanek, a German concentration camp built on what then was then the outskirts of the city, though the camp was still visible to Lublin’s citizens. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

For the Episcopalians — Barrington, Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel, retired Northern California Bishop Barry Beisner and the Rev. James Harlan, all of whom have led numerous Christians pilgrimages to Israel and Palestine — traveling to Poland and studying Jewish history in Europe where Jews once thrived and where Nazis sought to destroy them went beyond the history books.

“I think, for me, the Holocaust became more, even more than just the staggering numbers of people who suffered and died; that’s staggering enough. But I came to see this rich, beautiful culture, this whole tradition of Judaism that had grown up here, and basically no longer is,” said Harlan, rector of The Church of Bethesda-by-the Sea in Palm Beach, Florida, while standing in Old Town Krakow’s main square.

“And I realized that the Holocaust was more hateful than even just killing. It was even worse than that,” he said. “And I think, to see, to be able to come here and see it through the eyes of some wonderful Jewish friends, to learn the richness and the beauty of the whole Jewish tradition that grew up here, made visiting the Holocaust sights more painful, more poignant, and yet more hopeful as well.

“I think, as I lead groups, I hope to find ways to do what we did here, which is to listen to one another, to share the stories of our traditions, of our histories of our peoples. To find the common ground that we have is simply in our humanity, but also in our love of God and our faith.”

The Christian Mission to Poland’s second day begins with a stop at a remaining portion of the Warsaw ghetto wall, which is sandwiched between apartment buildings in a residential neighborhood. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Germany suffered immense losses in World War I: more than 7 million soldiers dead, widespread starvation, and economic devastation made worse by the Treaty of Versailles’s terms demanding billions of dollars in reparations to Britain and France.

“The Germans felt that the Versailles Treaty was the dolchsto Blegende stab in the back,” said Poupko. It was followed by a depression, weakness in the Weimar Republic’s democracy, civic chaos, communist agitation, the Prussian old guard seeking stability. “These were complex and real and very painful phenomena which the Nazi Germans explained in a simple way, a unified field theory: ‘Why are we in all this trouble? The Jews.’”

Jews as scapegoats, anti-Jewish propaganda, anti-Semitism and Christian anti-Semitism, persecution, killings and pogroms long predated the 20th century and the Holocaust; it can be traced to Biblical times and the Jews’ expulsion from Israel, through ancient Greece and Rome, the Middle Ages and into the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Still, it’s the Holocaust and the murder of 6 million Jews that continues to live in contemporary imagination.

The mission trip began in Warsaw with a tour of the Jewish ghetto and a cemetery, where many of the dead “died in their beds,” before the Nazis’ killing started. It made stops in Treblinka, Tykocin, Lublin, Kazimierz, Auschwitz-Birkenau and ended in the Krakow ghetto.

The mission’s stops mirrored the Nazi’s systematic extermination plan, which took place in three phases: Beginning in 1939, 80,000 people, including babies and the handicapped, were “euthanized.” Then came Operation Reinhard, when extermination camps were introduced, and 2 million people were murdered. Later, the Nazis ramped up the machine.

The Nazi slogan “arbeti macht frei” or “work makes you free” hangs over the entrance to Auschwitz. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

They constructed Auschwitz in 1940 on 12 acres at the site of a former military base. In 1944, when they knew they had lost the war, the Nazis built Birkenau on 360 acres in a hurried attempt to kill as many Jews as possible before the end. Many of those murdered there were Hungarians who had previously avoided deportation.

“Auschwitz came to symbolize the Holocaust when in reality 4.5 million Jews had already been murdered,” said Poupko.

“Three hundred thousand Jews survived: 50,000 underground, 250,000 in the Soviet Union. They came back in ’45 and ’46,” said Poupko. “And there was a wave of anti-Semitism. By 1952, the 300,000, we’re down to about 50- or 60,000; those 50- to 60,000 were reduced by 10- or 15,000 in ’58, and ’68 by another 30,000 because of anti-Semitism. And in ’68 there was an anti-Zionist campaign following the [1967] Six Day War. Jews were just not welcomed, and we were thrown out.

“Jewish history has passed this place by,” he said.

Beisner, retired bishop of Northern California, appreciated Poupko’s wisdom and teachings.

The Giesa Street Cemetery located in what was the Warsaw ghetto is maintained by Warsaw’s Jewish community. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“It’s been a fantastic insight into what he calls ‘Ashkenazic civilization.’ This was the heart of much of Jewish life and expression for a very long time … that civilization has been largely destroyed, but it is a basis for contemporary Judaism,” he said. “This is not just a museum tour, as it were; this is also a way to better understand roots and foundations of what is around us and happening now in Judaism — and that’s something I’m very hungry for — and to increase my knowledge and experience and my capacity for friendship.”

Rickel, bishop of Olympia, had previously met Poupko in Israel, where the rabbi has greeted Episcopalians on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He told ENS that visiting Poland contextualized the Holocaust and challenged some misguided information.

“It’s much like any pilgrimage… when I’ve gone to the Holy Land, I’ve always said, ‘everybody’s got to come’; I’ve gotten so much into that. I don’t ordain people unless they go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land because I think you have to see it and touch it and walk it if you’re going to teach it,” said Rickel, who blogged about the mission. “What he’s done with this is show the same from a Jewish perspective. I just think it’s a Christian one too; that we were definitely part of this in many, many ways, and we are still part of it. We still have a lot of work to do.

“I’m going back with this, almost like I did when I went to the Holy Land, this fervor to get people to come here and do what we did; maybe even bring some back here. Because I think that really does make us live differently.”

Not only did the Nazis seek to erase the Jews, they also sought to divorce Christianity from Judaism.

It was the Nazis who created anti-Christian anti-Semitism, said Poupko.

“What the Nazi Germans tried to do was to erase the Jewishness of Jesus, the origins of Jesus from the flesh of the Jewish people, the rootedness of the New Testament in the Hebrew Bible, and they wanted to marry racism to Christianity, asserting that Christianity is a uniquely Aryan phenomenon with no connection to Judaism,” he said.

Hilter built on the work of mid-19th century German scholars who sought to establish that “Jesus was still the source of salvation, but he was not a Jew,” said the Rev. Jay Phelan, president emeritus and dean of North Park Theological Seminary and a pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church.

The scholars’ effort was part of an effort to establish that Greek culture had more influence on Christianity than Judaism, “looking for the essence of Christianity outside Judaism,” he said.

“So, when Hitler goes after Jesus, as a Jew, he was working out of conversations that had been going on for a while in anti-Semitic circles,” said Phelan. That purification of Christianity went further, he said, as both scholars and Hilter sought to purge German society of anything that encouraged resistance to the state.

“Their understanding of relationship between the citizens and the state is that the citizen is there to serve the needs of the state,” said Phelan. “And then there are states that understand that the state is there in some sense to serve the needs of the citizen. And obviously, you know, it’s a little bit of both, but in the case of Hitler the individual is there to serve the needs of the state.”

Railroad tracks lead to the gates at Birkenau; once inside the gates, the tracks end. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

For the Rev. David Lyle, a Lutheran pastor, visiting Auschwitz and the other death camps made him mindful of his denomination’s heritage and brought him back to the 16th century and Martin Luther.

“For me, the Lutheran understanding of the Gospel is about peace and love, mercy, grace, freedom,” said Lyle, senior pastor at Grace Lutheran Church and School in Lake Forest, Illinois. “But [Martin] Luther also, especially toward the end of his life, wrote very anti-Semitic writings, most clearly in a little treatise called ‘On the Jews and Their Lies,’ in which he advocated for the burning of Jewish homes and synagogues, and that they shouldn’t have laws protecting them, and even alluded in a direction of killing, although he didn’t openly advocate for that.”

Many Lutherans aren’t aware of Luther’s anti-Semitism, and some attribute it to poor health later in life. “But I think as Lutherans, we need to be much more aware of it and much more honest about the reality of those writings and the legacy they’ve had, particularly in Germany,” Lyle said.

“There’s a sense in which the railway lines to Auschwitz and other places went through the theological and ideological tradition of Wittenberg,” he said. “And so for me it’s very important, as I continue to claim myself as a Lutheran, to be aware of all of what that communicates, and not just the pieces of it that I’m comfortable with, or that I enjoy, that speak to me. And since I want to continue to identify myself as Lutheran, that means repentance: That means an honest acknowledgement of what Luther said and wrote, and it means that to be Lutheran is to not just ignore that, or try to move past it, but acknowledge it and repent of it for the sake of relationship with others.”

Rabbi Yehiel Poupko talks with the Very Rev. Dominic Barrington, dean of St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois, and Bishop of Olympia Greg Rickel, foreground, during a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

For Stephen Ray Jr., president of the Chicago Theological Seminary, studying the Holocaust and how “othering” happens has helped him better understand African Americans’ experience in the United States. “It helped me understand the black experience in ways that I had not been able to understand before, in ways I could experience but didn’t understand,” said Ray while walking along the railroad tracks leading to the gate and out of Birkenau.

Understanding othering and the black experience, visiting Holocaust sites and gaining further insight are important to Ray as a Christian theologian.

“First and most important is my deep sense that we have a responsibility to not only our faith, but for those who come after us, to give them guidance in terms of how to live the faith in such a way that it does not bring dishonor to God,” said Ray. Unfortunately, he said, Christianity sometimes has been used to justify injustice. The two preeminent examples he cites are the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the Holocaust.

“And so,” he said, “if there was a way that I could use those, in my teaching, primarily, to help create a new Christian imagination, then it might be possible to pass along a faith that God will not regret that we held.”

— Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service. In August, she accompanied the Christian mission to Poland.

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