Episcopal Church Executive Council: opening remarks from the Presiding Bishop

October 9, 2020

 

The following is a transcript of the opening remarks of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, currently meeting virtually through October 12.

 

Executive Council

October 9, 2020

Opening Remarks

 

In the United States we are in the midst of an election season. A time of heightened tensions. A time when our past, in a variety of ways, is haunting the reality of our present. Whether it is about race and racism, whether it is about the polarization that often has roots in divisions that have been part of American society for a long time, it's not only about race, but class and who's in and who's out, and who feels left out.

The first chapter of John's Gospel, the coming of Jesus of Nazareth into this world, his teachings, his manner of life, his way of love is pictured poetically in these words:

In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

Th[at] light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

That light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not, cannot, and will not overcome it.

Matthew's Gospel picks up the same witness in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, 6, and 7, which at one time in the history of the church served as the catechism for what it meant to follow Jesus. And in that Sermon on the Mount, which begins with the Beatitudes: blessed are the poor in spirit, and blessed are the poor, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the compassionate, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who hunger and thirst that God's righteousness, God's justice might prevail in all the Earth. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you.

In the context of those teachings, Matthew records teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus saying of this way of love and those who would dare to follow him in living them:

You are the light of the world. A city [that is] built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel [basket], but on the lamp stand [that it might give] light to [the whole house]. In the same way let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

We must in this moment, maybe in this darkening hour, now is the time to let your light shine. Moments of darkness are not the time to hide the light under a bushel, rather when it is darkness, that is precisely the time when the light must shine the brightest.

Whether it is the moment of the killing of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor, or the moment of the attempted killing of two law enforcement officers in California, or just yesterday the moment of a plot to kidnap and kill the governor of Michigan. My God, have we lost our minds?

When it is darkness, when it is darkest and it feels like it's all gone crazy, that is when Auden's words "that it seems as if the center is not holding," that is precisely the time when the light must shine. But it's salutary to remember Dr. King's wise admonition, that darkness cannot cast out darkness, only light can do that. Just as hatred cannot cast out hatred, only love, only love can do that.

Now is not the time my dear, my beloved Episcopal Church. I know we're God's shy children. That's who we are, that's okay. I may not be that shy, but that's a part of our charism. And that's all right. That's who we are. But now is not the time to hide this light under the bushel, now is the time to lift up this light, this light of the way of love is light that we've gotten from Jesus, and let it shine even, and in spite of, whatever may happen around us.

Now is the time when Thomas Cranmer's Advent collect, rings true,

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the

armor of light.

Now, now in the time of this mortal life, in which your son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility, the Episcopal Church please let this light shine.

But I got to tell you something, I'm seeing. Just as Anne Kitch was talking about that light on that leaf, there are shards, there are rays of light around. There is light. Do not be deceived by the darkness. It is real, but it is not ultimate. There is light. I'm seeing it in our churches. I'm seeing people doing all sorts of things that, whether they thought about it this way or not, that lets this light shine. They're organizing prayer networks, doing things on Zoom around this election and around this time. Things are happening all over the church. Just read, just go on Facebook and ignore what the trolls have put on there, just look at what Episcopal churches and people are doing.

There's light, but it's not just our churches, I'm seeing it ecumenically. And it's not just Christian folk. I'm seeing folk of goodwill of all religions, and all stripes and types, people of human decency who say, "We can't keep going on like this." There's light all around, do not let the darkness deceive you into thinking it is more powerful than it is. It is not.

Oh, Anne was right because she said, "Oh, I love that passage in Peter, 'Oh the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.'" Well, we want the devil to be hungry, because he's not going to find anybody to devour, because there's enough light around. We're not giving in to lies, and to evil, and to wrong, and injustice, and to bigotry, and violence; but we will not cast out the darkness by more darkness. Only light can do that. And there is light around.

Let me suggest a couple of ways we can let that light shine even in this time of darkness.

From October 2[7]th through November 4th, which encompasses election day, Forward Movement Publications and our Office of Government Relations are organizing a season of prayer, a novena, which is a nine-day period of intentional prayer for a specific intention, a time of prayer for an election.

If you go to the Forward Movement website, you'll find resources there, a prayer for each day, from October 27th to November 4th. These prayers will also be posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. You can sign-up if you want to get them in your email.

Don't underestimate the power of prayer.

On the 1st of November, will be a national service of prayer at our Washington National Cathedral. It will be an ecumenical and interfaith service. It will be an opportunity to bring together the prayers and the hopes of people throughout this country, and people around the world: November 1st. And then from November 1st until November 5th, there's going to be a prayer hotline, a joint project with Try Tank at Virginia Theological Seminary, General Theological Seminary, and members of our staff working together to create this prayer hotline.

Two hundred volunteers, both English and Spanish speakers, have been vetted and trained to staff the hotline. Oh, we can let this light shine in congregations all over this church, dioceses all over this church. We need to pray, pray, pray, pray; praying like the woman in that parable, driving the Lord crazy. Pray, just pester the Lord, tell him I said so, because prayer matters. And it does something.

Additionally, there are efforts already underway to support clergy and lay leaders who are providing pastoral presence in a variety of contexts. A webinar for clergy and lay leaders who wish to be a pastoral presence at the polls, as people are voting, not to be a partisan presence, but a pastoral presence is planned; details will be announced soon.

Training webinars focused on training Episcopal leaders to be a peaceful, prayerful presence in the midst of direct action and protests are also available. The Reconciliation and Justice Team working with Ethnic Ministries offered their first training earlier this week; others are scheduled for the weeks ahead.

On the Office of Government Relations' website, you'll find resources related to civic engagement, the Vote Faithfully Election Engagement toolkit, a Sermons That Work election series of bulletin inserts, From Pew to the Public Square resource offering guidance on moral discernment and decision making for social and community change, as well as a call for poll worker recruitment.

This election, there is significant concern of a lack of poll workers due to the high risk of COVID-19 and the history of poll workers predominately coming from older persons who are at higher risk. We are encouraging those in lower risk categories to consider becoming a poll worker.

I know clergy and others are struggling with what to say and how to say it in these divided times. I want to call your attention to three resources:

From our Office of Government Relations, Make Me an Instrument of Peace: A Guide to Civil Discourse. This interactive, five session curriculum and guide offers hope that by using the tool of civil discourse, we can find new ways to love our neighbor. We need this. If you don't believe me, did you see the first presidential debate? We need this resource.

Bishop Mark Beckwith, and a number of other Episcopalians have been very involved in the Braver Angels Initiative, in the program called With Malice Toward None. It's designed to bring people, red and blue, people who disagree, together to share our common humanity, to find ways to talk together and live together, to kneel before each other, and to stand with our integrities, and yet to kneel as fellow children of God.

And lastly, the Diocese of Indianapolis may have given us all something we can all do, it's called Light, Pray, Vote. It's very simple, what you see on the screen is the logo they've created, and that's on their website, the Diocese of Indianapolis, Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, and her team, they have just done something really... they've given us all a gift. Go to their website, and go because today, what you see on the screen is already there. But on Monday, they'll have one that you can download and customize for your parish or your diocese, or whatever. It's something that we can all do, and it's not complicated. It's not complex, but it matters, light, pray and vote.

So, why not light a candle? Whether electric or the real candles in our windows at Christmas, why not light a candle? It's in our tradition to light candles, it's in the tradition of Hanukkah to light candles. So why not in this time of election light a candle while it's dark, and cast away the darkness? Light and pray and vote. The light matters, it's real.

I think often, of my slave ancestors for whom darkness was a way of life. Imagine. I can't even imagine being taken and separated from my children and my family. I mean, being taken away from everybody that made Michael, Michael. I can't imagine being carted off to someplace I never knew, packed in the holds of ships with other people, also captives, who spoke different languages; we couldn't even understand each other.

I can't imagine being taken to new lands, and feeling like a motherless child a long, long way from home. That feels about as dark as it can get. And yet those who were made so captive are the ones who taught us to sing, "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine." And if they could do it, we can do it.

(Singing.)

This light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine

This light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine

This light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

God love you. God bless you. Amen.

 

Presiding Bishop calls for prayer for President and First Lady

October 2, 2020

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has issued the following statement:

During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic I continue to pray for all affected by this virus in any way.

At this particular moment I ask that all Episcopalians also pray for the President and First Lady, and all in the White House or Government who have been infected by this virus.

O God of heavenly powers, by the might of your command you drive away from our bodies all sickness and all infirmity: Be present in your goodness with your children, the President and First Lady, and all in the White House or Government who have been infected by this virus, that their weakness may be banished and their strength restored; and that, their health being renewed, they may bless your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

- For Recovery from Sickness, Book of Common Prayer, p. 458

 

Presiding Bishop's Statement on the death of Justice Ginsburg

September 19, 2020


Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has issued the following statement:

The late John Fitzgerald Kennedy once said, "while on earth God's work must truly be our own."

The sacred cause of liberty and justice, dignity and equality decreed by God and meant for all has been advanced because while on earth Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made God's work her own. Because of her the ancient words of the prophet Micah to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God have found fulfillment. May we follow in her footprints. May she rest in the arms of the God who is love and the author of true justice.

Rest In Peace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Shalom.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

 

Presiding Bishop Curry's Word to the Church: What Did Jesus Do?

September 16, 2020

The following is a Word to the Church from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and is also the text of his sermon at The Episcopal Church House of Bishops, which met virtually September 16, 2020.

A WORD TO THE CHURCH

September 16, 2020

The Right Reverend Michael B. Curry

What Did Jesus Do?

 

 

 

 

 

And now in the name of our loving, liberating and life-giving God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

This November, the people of the United States will elect a president and many others to public office. This election occurs in a time of global pandemic, a time when there is hardship, sickness, suffering and death. But this election also occurs in a time of great divisions. Divisions that are deep, dangerous, and potentially injurious to democracy. So what is the role of the church in the context of an election being held in a time such as this? What is our role as individual followers of Jesus Christ committed to his way of love in such a time as this?

 

Allow me to offer a text from the Acts of the Apostles. The introduction to the Acts from the first chapter. Luke writes, "In the first book," referring to the Gospel of Luke:

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up into heaven.

 

"In the first book . . . I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught." All that he did, all that he taught.

In a powerful sermon preached at the July meeting of the House of Bishops, Bishop Scott Hayashi of Utah said something that might be helpful to us. He made mention of the little acronym, what would Jesus . . . WWJD, What Would Jesus Do? And he said that can be a helpful way of discerning what we might be being called to do at any given time. But he offered another alternative. He said, "What would happen if we began to ask the question, not what would Jesus do, but what did Jesus do? What did he do? What did he teach? What do Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us that Jesus did and taught?" I want to suggest that addressing that question, "What did Jesus do?" and summoning the Spirit to help us apply it to our lives and to our times may mean the difference between the church simply being another religious institution that exists for its own sake and the church being a Jesus movement that courageously follows the way of Jesus and his love, not for its sake, but for the sake of the world that Christ gave his life for and rose from the dead in.

 

As you know, The Episcopal Church does not endorse, support, or oppose political candidates for elective office. And there is good reason for that. First, in the United States, tax exempt, religious, and charitable organizations are by law prohibited from such endorsement, support, or opposition to candidates. This does not prohibit churches from engaging in voter education, voter registration, helping people get to the polls to vote, or even advocating for issues of public policy reflective of the tenants of our faith. And every citizen, including those of us who are members of the church have our rights and responsibilities as well.

 

Secondly, there are good and faithful followers of Jesus Christ who are Episcopalian. Some are Republican, some are Democrat, some are independents, some liberal, some centrist, some conservative. And just as we must respect the right of every citizen to cast his or her own vote according to the dictates of their conscience, so we must do so in the church, the body of Jesus Christ. And that is how it should be. The Bible says we have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, not one political party. But it's important to remember that partisan neutrality does not mean moral neutrality. Partisan neutrality, bidden to us by human civil law does not mean moral neutrality, because we are bidden to obey the royal law of almighty God. And this may be where our text helps us.

"In the first book Theophilus, I wrote all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until he was taken up into heaven." When Luke says, "The first book," he's referring to the Gospel, but notice what he does so skillfully. Ancient tradition says that Luke was a physician. And we know that this Luke was the author of both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles and tradition says he was a physician. You can see elements of that throughout both books. But in this text, Luke the physician sounds more like Luke the lawyer. In this text, Luke is suggesting that the Jesus we see in the Gospel, what he did and what he taught, is precedent. It is the precedent for how those who would follow him will act and live in their days and in their times. Just as precedents are critical to the law, the precedent of Jesus is critical to the life of those who would follow him in the first century or in the 21st century.

When Jesus says that the entire law and will of God is summed up in the words, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself," that's precedent. When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan about somebody, who as that old song says, "If I can help somebody along the way, then my living will not be in vain." When he tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, of somebody who helps somebody else even though they were a different religious tradition, even though they were of a different ethnic group, even though they may have differed in their politics, differed in their worldview, differed in virtually everything except the fact that they inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Even with all of those differences he helped him because that person, that man was a human child of God created in the image of God. Jesus says, "Now, who was neighbor to the man?" This is what loving your neighbor looks like. And then Jesus says, "Go and do likewise." That's precedent.

 

When, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "blessed are the poor and the poor in spirit"; "blessed are those who are compassionate and merciful"; "blessed are the peacemakers"; "blessed are those who hunger and thirst and labor for God's righteous justice to be done on the earth for all"; "do unto others, as you would have them do unto you"; "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who despitefully use you"; my sisters, my brothers, my siblings, that is the precedent for what it means to follow in the way of Jesus in the first century or the 21st century.

Saint Paul heard and knew these teachings of Jesus. And he summarized their meaning. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, all spoke of this as the nonviolent way of love.

 

The task of the church in the first century or 21st century is to live by the precedent, to bear witness to the precedent and lift up the values of the precedent of Jesus in our time. Because as the book of Hebrews says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." What would Jesus do?

So what can we do? Well, we can vote as individuals. We can vote, and we can help others to register and to get to the polls and cast their vote. We can encourage others to vote as their conscience leads them. And I know someone is probably thinking, that's true but what does that have to do with Jesus Christ?

 

What does voting have to do with the Gospel? What does voting have to do with being a Christian? An election for public office is not a popularity contest between two or more people. It's a contest of ideas about how to shape the future of a community, nation and maybe even a world. It's a contest, a debate, a discernment of moral values and their relationship to public policy. Voting is an act of moral agency. It is an act of moral discernment and decision. It is how a community or a nation decides how the moral values that it holds and shares shape public policy and the lives of people. The children of God. It is salutary to remember that partisan neutrality does not mean moral neutrality.

The vote is so sacred and important for all people, regardless of your religious tradition or your politics or your nationality. The vote, as an act of moral humanity, is so important that people have given their lives for it. If you don't believe Michael Curry, ask the people of Belarus right now. Ask the American martyrs who sacrificed, gave their lives, gave that last full measure of devotion so that people might have the right to vote. Ask Michael Schwerner, ask James Chaney, ask Andrew Goodman in Mississippi, ask the martyrs of Selma, of Viola Liuzzo, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Jonathan Daniels.

America's soldiers have fought to defend freedom. Many of them have given their lives. And many of them live with wounds and the scars of war. And one of the freedoms they defended was the freedom, the right, and the responsibility of the vote.

 

John Lewis in his last published writing before his death said, and I quote, "The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent that you have in a democratic society," end quote. There actually is in the New Testament an example of this model of living for followers of Jesus. You'll find it in the writings of St. Paul in the 12th, 13th, and 14th chapters of Romans. I don't mean to suggest that Paul voted, he didn't. He was a Roman citizen, but he lived not in the time of the Roman Republic, but in the time of the Roman Empire. But Paul in Romans 13 specifically identified the teachings of Jesus with how he would live his life in both civil society and in Christian community.

 

In the 13th chapter of Romans, he speaks about the role of government. And then he quickly shifts from speaking about the role of government to the role of the citizen. And then the role of the Christian, who is a disciple in the empire. He says, "You have to pay taxes to whom taxes are due, and an honor to whom honor is due." And then he says, "But owe no one anything except to love one another. For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." The commandments, you shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not covet; and in any other commandment, are summed up in this word, love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

 

Partisan neutrality is not the same as moral neutrality. It was not in the first century and it is not today. The royal law of love is the fulfillment of the law and the will of God. It is the ultimate standard, norm and guide for following the way of Jesus in any society, in any time. With grace to aid and conscience to guide, each of us must discern and decide what love of neighbor looks like in our lives, in our actions, in our personal relationships and in our social and public witness. What did Jesus do?

The vote is vitally important, but it's not enough. The wounds and the divisions in American society are so deep that even an election by itself cannot heal them. The murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others has exposed the death-dealing depth of racism and white supremacy deeply embedded in the soil and in the soul of America. We can't go on like this.

 

Just this past weekend, two deputy sheriffs in Compton, California were deliberately shot as they sat on duty in their car. And then a group of people tried to block the entrance to the hospital where they were being taken, shouting, "Let them die." Those two sheriffs are children of God. George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor are children of God. We cannot go on this way.

 

In 1858, as divisions in this nation over slavery, born of racism, would lead to a civil war, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech warning the nation quoting the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, who said, "A house divided against itself, cannot stand." I am not suggesting that we are on the verge of a civil war, but we must not underestimate the danger of the divisions that we are in. These divisions are dangerous, injurious to democracy itself. We must, and I believe we can, find a better way.

I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, because I believe he has shown us that better way. I believe that the way of unselfish sacrificial love can show us the way of repentance, the way to repair the breach. The way of reconciliation that ultimately can lead us to the beloved community, but it's not easy. And this is long distance work. There are no quick fixes because the wounds are so deep, but we need not feel enslaved by fate. We are not people of fate. We are people of faith in the God who raised Jesus from the dead. Nothing can defeat God or stop God's cause of love. The way will not be easy, but we can do this.

 

I've included some links to resources that may be helpful to you:

One is an online curriculum titled, "Make Me an Instrument of Peace: A Guide to Civil Discourse," prepared by our Office of Government Relations.

Another is titled, "Learn, Pray, Act: Resources for Responding to Racist Violence," curated by our staff for racial reconciliation and justice and the Office of Government Relations.

Another contains Resources from the Center for Racial Healing and the Diocese of Atlanta

And another contains resources titled, "With Malice Toward None," an ecumenical nonpartisan program designed for churches and faith communities and groups of all kinds to provide a way of understanding and healing for those on any side of the political spectrum, both before and after the November elections.

 

On March 10th, 2016, then presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The rally was disrupted by protestors, which happened around the country to both Trump and Clinton campaigns. Eventually law enforcement officials led the protesters out. As they did a 79-year-old Trump supporter named John McGraw, who is white, jumped out from the crowd and punched Rakeem Jones, one of the protesters who is black. Punched him in the face. Afterward McGraw said, and I quote, "He deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don't know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization" end quote.

McGraw was arrested and charged with assault. Months later, the two men met again, this time in court. McGraw pleaded no contest, apologized and was sentenced to 12 months' probation. Afterward, the two men faced each other and shook hands. McGraw said, and I quote, "If I met you in the street and the same thing occurred, I would have said, 'Go home. One of us will get hurt. That's what I would have said. But we are caught up in a political mess today, you and me, we've got to heal our country.'" Sometime after that, at the request of Rakeem Jones, John McGraw and Rakeem Jones went out and ate lunch together. There is the sign of hope. They went to lunch together.

There's an old spiritual created and sung by slaves of antebellum America that said,

I'm going to come to the welcoming table one of these days.

I'm going to eat at the welcoming table one of these days.

I'm going to drink milk and honey at the welcoming table one of these days.

I'm going to cross the River Jordan one of these days.

I'm going to eat.

We're going to eat at the welcoming table one of these days.

We can, we will, we must learn to eat at that welcoming table. Jesus has shown us the way, it is the way of unselfish, sacrificial love. And that way can make room for us all.

So walk together, children. Don't you get weary because there's a great camp meeting in the promised land. Amen.

Resources:

"Make Me an Instrument of Peace: A Guide to Civil Discourse," online curriculum from the Office of Government Relations

"Learn, Pray, Act: Resources for Responding to Racist Violence," curated by Episcopal Church staff for Racial Reconciliation and Justice and the Office of Government Relations

Resources from the Center for Racial Healing and the Diocese of Atlanta

"With Malice Toward None," a program designed for churches and groups to provide a way for understanding and healing for all sides of our political divisions for both before and after the November election

 

6.19.20 The Episcopal Church Encourages Support of the Dream Act

The Episcopal Church has long advocated for legislation that protects Dreamers and offers a pathway to citizenship. Through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that allows those brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country without fear of deportation, nearly 800,000 Dreamers have come forward, passed background checks, and been granted permission to live and work legally in the U.S. Ending DACA in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic would be detrimental to the health and safety of families and communities around the country.

"At this time, the Dream Act is pending before the Congress of the United States," said Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry. "I'm asking you as Episcopalians, as people of good will and faith, to write and call members of Congress who represent you to support this Dream Act."

 

The Episcopal Church Encourages Support of the Dream Act | Episcopal Church

 

 

 

For more than a decade, The Episcopal Church has called for a pathway to citizenship for immigrant young people. As the U.S. and other countries are continuing to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, so many are being called to work on the front lines, including Dreamers. It is more critical than ever for Congress to pass legislation to protect this vulnerable group working and living in the U.S. and to allow these members of our communities, many with U.S. citizen children and family members, to remain in the country without fear of deportation.

"As the prophet said in the Hebrew scriptures, 'What does the lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.' The Dream Act can actually help us to do that in our time," said Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry.

Respond to Bishop Curry's call to action by writing Congress through the Episcopal Public Policy Network's easy to use action alert system.

 

About the Office of Government Relations:

The Office of Government Relations represents the policy priorities of The Episcopal Church to the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. We aim to shape and influence policy and legislation on critical issues, highlighting the voices and experiences of Episcopalians and Anglicans globally. All policy positions are based on General Convention and Executive Council resolutions, the legislative and governing bodies of the Church.

 

About Episcopal Migration Ministries:

Episcopal Migration Ministries, in addition to its long-standing work in refugee resettlement, is The Episcopal Church's ministry network for collaboration, education, and advocacy about migration. To directly support EMM, visit their website or text 'EMM' to 41444 (standard messaging and data may rates apply).

 

Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31: 8-9

 

Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations

VISIT US

1.202.547.7300


The Episcopal Church invites participation in Good News Gardens

Join the movement to Plant, Pray, & Proclaim!

[June 12, 2020] What can people do in this moment? One new and sacrificial act of love is to commit to  planting more, praying more, and proclaiming more, in order to share the loving, liberating, and life-giving Good News of God's love with all people.

Plant:  Commit to planting  more than under average circumstances in order to share the bounty.

Pray:  Commit to pray  daily for  the church and the world to form loving, liberating, life-giving relationships with all of creation  through the better use of the land – personally and communally.

Proclaim:  Commit to  proclaiming the love of God  through  word and example by  sharing Good News Garden  commitments,  statuses,  and stories  via  social media channels, personal testimonies  and by using the hashtag #GoodNewsGardens.

Committing to the Good News Garden Movement is a way to join Jesus and his way of love. Participants will receive support in the following ways:

Monthly newsletters with practical links on growing and sharing the bounty, bible studies and prayers, and additional videos, podcasts, and resources

Community Support via the Agrarian Ministries of the Episcopal Church Facebook Group

Good News Garden webinars and open office hours from Creation Care and Evangelism

Digital Graphics that you can use on social media, your website, and to print yard signs.

Sign up for the Good News Gardens here.

More information about Good News Gardens here.

On the web:

The Episcopal Church invites participation in Good News Gardens


[June 9, 2020]

The following is a transcript of the opening remarks of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, currently meeting virtually through June 11.

Executive Council

June 8, 2020 Opening Remarks

In the context in which we find ourselves, allow me to offer some opening remarks. Before I do that I want to say a word of thanks to Secretary Barlowe and the General Convention Office. Members of Council may note this is a massive undertaking to be able to enable us to meet this way. We are blessed and privileged to have a team such as this, to do this, and on your behalf I thank them and thank God for them.

Allow me also to offer a text. It comes from Isaiah Chapter 40:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up on wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint.

When the cameras are gone, when public attention has moved elsewhere, we must not be distracted. The work goes on. The struggle continues. God is still God. And we must keep the faith. I am profoundly grateful and thankful for the continued witness, not only of Episcopalians, but people of all faiths and people of goodwill and decency in this time in which we live. But I have to say I am particularly thankful for the people of this Episcopal Church, many of whom, bishops, clergy, and lay people who have gone on to witness to Jesus and his way of love in public protests, in political actions, and willingness to stand and speak when it might be more convenient and comfortable to remain silent.

I want to note in particular the people of the Dioceses of Georgia and Atlanta in light of Ahmaud Arbery's death. The people of the Diocese of Kentucky, and the particular quiet courage of Bishop Terry White in light of Breonna Taylor's death. The people of the Diocese of Minnesota in light of George Floyd's death. The people of Washington, the Diocese of Washington and St. John's Church in particular, Bishop Mariann Budde. She reminds me of the courage of Queen Esther. The people of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, and many of our dioceses that ENS and others have covered how they have borne witness to Jesus, his teachings, his example, his spirit, and his way of love in our personal relationships, our interpersonal relationships, in our social and in our political. I want to thank God for them.

But it is important to remember the cameras will go away. Public attention will go elsewhere. And we must not be distracted. God is still God. The work must go on. The struggle must continue. And we must keep the faith. These words from Isaiah 40, if I've got the context correct, come from a moment when the people of God had been set free. Abraham Lincoln of the ancient world, otherwise known as Cyrus of Persia, set the Jewish people free from their captivity in Babylon. And they were then free, if you will, to go home. Like that biography of Nelson Mandela, it was a long walk to freedom. And many gave up. Many didn't leave Babylon and just stayed. And a smaller number stayed the course and went on that long walk to freedom.

Freedom's walk is always a long, arduous walk, fraught with setbacks, filled with hardship. It is that walk like Jesus walking the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows. It is that walk, like those who walked at Selma. It is that walk of those who had to walk the Trail of Tears. It is the walk of those who have stayed and stood for the freedom of any human child of God from any kind of captivity that would hold them down. It is a long walk to freedom, but we must remember they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up on wings like eagles. They will run and not be weary. And more importantly, they will walk and not faint. When the cameras are gone, and the attention has moved elsewhere, God is still God and our work goes on. The struggle continues. And sisters and brothers and siblings, we must keep the faith.

At our General Convention in 2015, we kind of had sort of a covenant renewal, if you will, sort of like Joshua in Joshua 24, when all the tribes of Israel were gathered at the river entering the promised land. It was a covenant renewal to work that this church has engaged in for years, the work of racial justice and reconciliation. We recommitted in some deeper ways to that work. And we said we're not going to quit. We're going to stay the course. We likewise made a commitment to the work of evangelism, a particular way of lifting up Jesus of Nazareth, his teachings, his example, and his spirit as the way and the face of what it is to be a Christian. We said we were going to do that work and continue to do that work. And even in addition to that, knowing that our arms are short, and our hands are small, we made a commitment to do everything we can to save God's creation, to save this world. We made a commitment to that being the shape for all of us together embodying a Jesus movement in our time, that would dare to lift up Jesus of Nazareth as the face of what it is to be a Christian, what it is to follow in the way of God's love.

But in our time, we have seen false representations of Christianity and Christian nationalism on display for all the world to see. We have seen the blatant face of brutality, of the brutality of racism that is very often far more subtle, and pernicious, and systemic, and institutional. But we have seen its brutal face. We have seen fundamental challenges to the ideals of freedom, justice, and human equality that are foundational ideals of the United States. In spite of the fact that the United States has not always lived up to it, the ideals were there. We have seen fundamental challenges to the democratic fabric of American society, something I never thought I would live to see. We have seen a ruthless virus, a plague in the land, sickness and death and hardship visited to one degree or another on all of us, but particularly on the most vulnerable among us. And it has exposed inequities and moral wrongs that shouldn't be in our land or in our world. We have seen increased danger to the very earth itself. And the failure of the nations, including this one that I love, to stand up for our mother the earth. Thank God there's a little girl in Scandinavia who is willing to stand up. When the cameras are gone, when public attention has gone elsewhere, God will still be God, and we must not be distracted. The work goes on, the struggle continues, and we must keep the faith.

Earlier this week, I was being interviewed and I've forgotten who the interviewer was, and they caught me off guard with a question I hadn't actually anticipated. The interviewer said, "In light of all of this in, in light of the fact that, that George Floyd was a black man just like Barack Obama, one was president of the United States and one was killed by an officer of the United States. In light of that horrible paradox of our reality, what gives you hope?" And for a second, I didn't have an answer except that I remember my grandma used to say, "God will always have a witness. God will always have a witness."

And I've seen a few witnesses. I've seen witnesses in those protestors. Most of them peaceful, non-violent, exercising their constitutional right for freedom of assembly and to give voice to their concerns. I've seen them. But more than that, we've protested before. This is not the first time there have been... There were protests after Ferguson. There were protests after Eric Garner. There were protests after Trayvon Martin. There've been protests before. But something's different about this one. This time it's not just black folk and a few white folk protesting. This time it is the rainbow children of God. This time they are black and white and Anglo and Latino. It's amazing. They're gay, they're straight. They're Mitt Romney, a Republican. This is something different going on. And that gives me hope. God's got a witness and it is a multiethnic, it is e pluribus unum. It is the rainbow children of God coming together to bear witness that we don't want to be like this anymore. We want a better world. We want a better America. Let the true America rise up. Let America really be America. One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice, not for some, but for all.

But even if the crowds and protestors weren't there, even when the cameras have gone away, even when the public attention has moved elsewhere, God will still be God, and our work goes on. Our struggle continues. And we will not quit. We will, like Simon of Cyrene in the New Testament, who when Jesus fell under the weight of the cross, picked up that cross, followed him, and carried the cross.

Amen.


June 9, 2020

The following are the opening remarks of President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings at the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, currently meeting virtually through June 11.

Executive Council 

June 8, 2020 

Opening Remarks

Good morning. I'm glad to be with you all this morning and I want to to welcome, for the first time, people from across the Episcopal Church via live stream on YouTube.

Twice in recent years, I have traveled to Cape Coast, Ghana, and both times, I visited Cape Coast Castle, where thousands of enslaved Africans were held and then forced to board ships bound across the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps you know about this fort, which was home to an Anglican church built directly above the dungeons where enslaved African men were held. The women were held on the other side of the fort, closer to the sleeping quarters of the white men who enslaved them.

At this moment in the United States, when people across the nation are rising up against racial injustice, police brutality and systemic racism, we must not turn away from this deeply painful history, our history. There in that fort, our church literally stood on the bodies of enslaved black men, and white people on both sides of the ocean who proclaimed our faith profited mightily, building fortunes that have benefitted our church for centuries.[1]

Especially now, we must not turn away from that Anglican church built over the slave dungeon. It is an egregious symbol of what happens when a predominantly white institution like ours values its proximity to power and wealth more than it values the gospel. In our case, what has happened is centuries of institutional complicity in slavery, in Jim Crow, in mass incarceration, and the economic and social practices of systemic racism.

Too often, we are too proud that eleven presidents have been Episcopalians, that presidents and members of Congress and Supreme Court justices worship at our churches, and that we bury them with pomp and circumstance when they die. We are proud that, in Episcopal pews across the country, you can find civic leaders and business tycoons and media superstars. We still like our access to power and wealth.

Now, there are many places in the church where the great wealth to which we have access is being used for great good. And we are justifiably proud that our history also includes prophets like Absalom Jones, Pauli Murray, Thurgood Marshall, and the martyr Jonathan Daniels. But in recent years, our identity as the church of the establishment has sometimes hindered our collective willingness to speak the truth about racist, xenophobic, anti-democratic policies and actions and the brutal policing and enforcement actions and practices that undergird them. Like the Anglicans who worshipped at Cape Coast Castle, we have helped normalize oppression and racism and the people who enforce it, because we have been too comfortable with our relationship to temporal power.

Last week, we published on the House of Deputies website an essay by Dr. Reuben Varghese, a member of the Task Force of the Theology of Social Justice Advocacy, created by General Convention Resolution 2018-A056. Reuben is also a member of St. John's, Georgetown in the Diocese of Washington. In this essay, Reuben says that too often, white Episcopalians behave as if our baptismal promises—which all concern ways to dismantle systemic and institutional racism—are a choice, not a mandate.

"The question for us," he writes, "is how we as members of the Episcopal Church help each other to strive for justice, not making it optional to do something to help dismantle systemic and institutional racism."

"Lamentations are part of our tradition," he continues. "God has heard this lamentation from the oppressed over millennia: 'How long, Lord, how long?' I am changing this," he writes, "to 'How long, white Episcopalians, how long?' That is, how long before white Episcopalians take on the emotional labor of those oppressed by white supremacy in the church and outside of it because it is your bound and right duty as part of the baptismal covenant, as baptized persons. There are many who are weary, including me. So I ask again: 'How long, white Episcopalians, how long?'" Thank you, Reuben.

It has been a long time since Anglicans worshipped in that church built atop the slave dungeon. Let us not take our eyes off it until we have repented of the evil done there, and countless other places much closer to home, on our behalf. There is nothing more important than this on our Executive Council agenda.

[1] Resolution 2006-A123 has guided important work, particularly in the Diocese of New York, in coming to terms with the economic legacy of slavery that benefits us to this day.

 

The Presiding Bishop Curry A Word From the Church

5.30.20 When the Cameras are Gone, We Will Still Be Here

 

"Our long-term commitment to racial justice and reconciliation is embedded in our identity as baptized followers of Jesus. We will still be doing it when the news cameras are long gone."

In the midst of COVID-19 and the pressure cooker of a society in turmoil, a Minnesota man named George Floyd was brutally killed. His basic human dignity was stripped by someone charged to protect our common humanity.

Perhaps the deeper pain is the fact that this was not an isolated incident. It happened to Breonna Taylor on March 13 in Kentucky. It happened to Ahmaud Arbery on February 23 in Georgia. Racial terror in this form occurred when I was a teenager growing up black in Buffalo, New York. It extends back to the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955 and well before that. It's not just our present or our history. It is part of the fabric of American life.

But we need not be paralyzed by our past or our present. We are not slaves to fate but people of faith. Our long-term commitment to racial justice and reconciliation is embedded in our identity as baptized followers of Jesus. We will still be doing it when the news cameras are long gone.

That work of racial reconciliation and justice – what we know as Becoming Beloved Community – is happening across our Episcopal Church. It is happening in Minnesota and in the Dioceses of Kentucky, Georgia and Atlanta, across America and around the world. That mission matters now more than ever, and it is work that belongs to all of us.

It must go on when racist violence and police brutality are no longer front-page news. It must go on when the work is not fashionable, and the way seems hard, and we feel utterly alone. It is the difficult labor of picking up the cross of Jesus like Simon of Cyrene, and carrying it until no one – no matter their color, no matter their class, no matter their caste – until no child of God is degraded and disrespected by anybody. That is God's dream, this is our work, and we shall not cease until God's dream is realized.

Is this hopelessly naïve? No, the vision of God's dream is no idealistic utopia. It is our only real hope. And, St. Paul says, "hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5). Real love is the dogged commitment to live my life in the most unselfish, even sacrificial ways; to love God, love my neighbor, love the earth and truly love myself. Perhaps most difficult in times like this, it is even love for my enemy. That is why we cannot condone violence. Violence against any person – conducted by some police officers or by some protesters – is violence against a child of God created in God's image. No, as followers of Christ, we do not condone violence.

Neither do we condone our nation's collective, complicit silence in the face of injustice and violent death. The anger of so many on our streets is born out of the accumulated frustration that so few seem to care when another black, brown or native life is snuffed out.

But there is another way. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, a broken man lay on the side of the road. The religious leaders who passed were largely indifferent. Only the Samaritan saw the wounded stranger and acted. He provided medical care and housing. He made provision for this stranger's well-being. He helped and healed a fellow child of God.

Love, as Jesus teaches, is action like this as well as attitude. It seeks the good, the well-being, and the welfare of others as well as one's self. That way of real love is the only way there is.

Accompanying this statement is a card describing ways to practice the Way of Love in the midst of pandemic, uncertainty and loss. In addition, you will find online a set of resources to help Episcopalians to LEARN, PRAY & ACT in response to racist violence and police brutality. That resource set includes faithful tools for listening to and learning from communities too often ignored or suppressed, for incorporating God's vision of justice into your personal and community prayer life, and for positively and constructively engaging in advocacy and public witness.

Opening and changing hearts does not happen overnight. The Christian race is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Our prayers and our work for justice, healing and truth-telling must be unceasing. Let us recommit ourselves to following in the footsteps of Jesus, the way that leads to healing, justice and love.

 

4.29.20 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's Word to the Church: What Would Love Do?

 

 

In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, we are now at another one of those threshold moments when important and significant decisions must be made on all levels of our global community for the good and the well-being of the entire human family. In this moment, I would ask you to allow me to share with you a Word to the Church: What Would Love Do? (Companion resources available here.)

A Word to the Church

The Easter Season A.D. 2020

--------------------

"What Would Love Do?"

Jesus calls us; o'er the tumult

of our life's wild, restless sea,

day by day his clear voice soundeth,

saying, "Christian, follow me"

Text of Hymn 549, verse 1 – Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-95), alt.

Throughout the Book of Common Prayer there are rubrics, those small or italicized words that don't always catch our eye, that provide direction and guidance for how a liturgy or service is to be conducted. Rubrics tell us what must be done and what may be done. They limit us and they give us freedom. They require us to exercise our judgment. And when we are at our best, we exercise this judgment under God's rubric of love.

Jesus tells us things like: Love your enemies; Bless those who curse you; Do unto others as you would have them do unto you; As you did to the least of these who are members of my family you have done to me; Father, forgive; Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength. This is the first and great commandment and the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that the way of unselfish, sacrificial love – love that seeks the good and the well-being of others as well as the self – that love is the rubric of the Christian life.

This rubric of love is seen no more clearly than in the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel according to John.

When [the disciples] had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me." (John 21:15-19)

The death of Jesus had left his followers disoriented, uncertain, and confused, afraid of what they knew and anxious about what they did not know. Thinking that the movement was probably dead, the disciples went back to what they knew. They tried to go back to normal. They went fishing.

They fished all night but didn't catch a thing. Normal would not return. When the morning came, Jesus showed up on the beach, alive, risen from the dead. He asked them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered, "No." Then he told them to cast the net on the other side of the boat. They did and caught more fish than they could handle. And then, Jesus invited them to breakfast.

After having fed his disciples, Jesus turned to Peter and three times asked him, "Do you love me?" Three times Peter said, "Yes." And Jesus said, "Feed my lambs," "Tend my sheep," "Feed my sheep." In this, Jesus told Peter what love looks like. Love God by loving your neighbors, all of them. Love your enemies. Feed the hungry. Bless folk. Forgive them. And be gentle with yourself. Follow me. You may make mistakes, you may not do it perfectly. But whatever you do, do it with love. The truth is, Jesus gave Peter a rubric for the new normal – God's rubric of love.

Today, like Peter and the disciples, we must discern a new normal. COVID-19 has left us disoriented, uncertain, and confused, afraid of what we know and anxious about what we do not know. Our old normal has been upended, and we hunger for its return.

I do not say this from a lofty perch. I get it. There is a big part of me that wants to go back to January 2020 when I had never heard of COVID-19, and when I only thought of "Contagion" as a movie. Looking back through what I know are glasses darkened by loss, I find myself remembering January 2020 as a "golden age."

But of course, January 2020 wasn't perfect, not even close. And anyway, I can't go back. None of us can go back. We must move forward. But we don't know for sure what the new normal will be. Fortunately, God's rubric of love shows us the way.

In her book The Dream of God the late Verna Dozier, who was a mentor to me, wrote:

Kingdom of God thinking calls us to risk. We always see through a glass darkly, and that is what faith is about. I will live by the best I can discern today. Tomorrow I may find out I was wrong. Since I do not live by being right, I am not destroyed by being wrong. The God revealed in Jesus, whom I call the Christ, is a God whose forgiveness goes ahead of me, and whose love sustains me and the whole created world. That God bursts all the definitions of our small minds, all the limitations of our timid efforts, all the boundaries of our institutions. [1]

Kingdom of God thinking is already happening. God's rubric of love is already in action. I've been watching bishops, priests, deacons, and lay people of our church following Jesus in the practices that make up his way of love and doing things we never imagined. The creativity and the risk-taking – done with love – is amazing.

We've been trying, making mistakes, learning, regrouping, trying anew. I've seen it. Holy Week and Easter happened in ways that none of us dreamed possible. I've quietly read Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline online with you. I've seen soup kitchens, pantries, and other feeding ministries carefully doing their work in safe and healthy ways. Zoom coffee hours, bible studies, and small discipleship groups. I've seen this church stand for the moral primacy of love. I've seen it, even when public health concerns supersede all other considerations, including in-person worship. That is moral courage. Who knows, but that love may demand more of us. But fear not, just remember what the old slaves use to say, walk together, children, and don't you get weary, because there is a great camp meeting in the Promised Land. Oh, I've seen us do what we never thought we would or could do, because we dared to do what Jesus tells us all to do.

As our seasons of life in the COVID-19 world continue to turn, we are called to continue to be creative, to risk, to love. We are called to ask, What would unselfish, sacrificial love do?

What would love do? Love is the community praying together, in ways old and new. Love finds a path in this new normal to build church communities around being in relationship with God. Love supports Christians in spiritual practices. Prayer, meditation, study. Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest.

What would love do? Love calls us to care for our neighbors, for our enemies. Love calls us to attend to those in prison, to those who are homeless, to those in poverty, to children, to immigrants and refugees. Love calls us to be in relationship with those with whom we disagree.

What would love do? Love calls us to be gentle with ourselves, to forgive our own mistakes, to take seriously the Sabbath. Love calls us to be in love with God, to cultivate a loving relationship with God, to spend time with God, to be still and know that God is God.

Jesus says, Simon, son of John, do you love me?

Jesus says, Michael, son of Dorothy and Kenneth, do you love me?

Jesus says, Do you love me?

Jesus says, Follow me, and take the risk to live the question, What would love do?

This, my friends, is God's rubric of love. This, my friends, is God's very way of life.

In our joys and in our sorrows,

days of toil and hours of ease,

still he calls, in cares and pleasures,

"Christian, love me more than these."

Jesus calls us! By thy mercies,

Savior, may we hear thy call,

give our hearts to thine obedience,

serve and love thee best of all.

Text of Hymn 549, verses 4 and 5 – Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-95), alt.

God love you. God bless you. And may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.

Amen.

+Michael

The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

[1] The Dream of God, Verna Dozier, Cowley Publications (1991), Seabury Classics (2006)

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