Fr. Will Wauters, vicar at Sante Fe Episcopal Church in San Antonio, TX
and his wife, Ana, showed Steven and me
an amazing night out, including a stop for a photo
with this mural at Mi Tierra, the most colorful and captivating
Mexican restaurant in Market Square.
This wall evokes “all the company of heaven,”
if you ask me, and I love that we blend right in!

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice unto God.

Ephesians 5:2

This last week in San Antonio was fruitful. I had an opportunity to spend a good bit of time with two people important to EPF — Harry Gunkel and Rev. Will Wauters. Harry is responsible for our Palestine Israel Network activities and Fr. Will is a past NEC Chairman. Both showed Steven and me amazing hospitality and graciously spent time sharing their passion for our work.
Fr. Will is currently the Vicar at Santa Fe Episcopal Church in San Antonio. We met at the church for a few hours and he shared two wishes for EPF’s future: first, that we would recommit to focusing on efforts to bring about nuclear disarmament; and second, that we would renew our energy for environmental justice. I concur, and with this note ask any and all with passion for these missions and connections to impactful organizations with which we might partner will reach out to me. We have a history of good work for these issues and can easily mobilize to make an impact again. Let me hear from you, please!
Santa Fe is one of those small, yet mighty, parishes that does a whole lot of good with very few resources. Just by way of one example, Fr. Will and the parish were responsible for identifying the fact that many of the social ills afflicting their community were caused by the lack of access to decent wages. They organized a public-private consortium and raised $6 million dollars to start a skills training project that is now self- sustaining and is responsible for raising wages and the standard of living. If you are in San Antonio, visit this inspiring parish, and see what can be done with a little thoughtful reflection and a whole lot of prayer and hard work.
San Antonio is an amazingly compassionate city. Fr. Wauters took us to see Haven for Hope, a community created for the care of the county’s homeless citizens. www.havenforhope.org. Social services and health care and other resources needed by this vulnerable population are all located on the campus, including a kennel for pets. I wish every community could replicate this model.
The podcast featuring Steven and me and missingpersonsrv finally dropped. You can listen to both parts of our interview (part one deals with collaborative law work, and part two features EPF and our life with Miranda.) Check it out at www.shilohcoleman.com or search for #purposeintheprocess @applepodcasts @spotify or @google. Thank you Shiloh Coleman, collaborative lawyer in Austin, for having us on.
Steven and me on the Shiloh Coleman “Purpose in the Process”
podcast on MLK Day.
EPF member Bill Graham in Danvers, MA sent us this lovely peace offering. Last autumn, the Danvers Middle School students participated in the annual Lions’ Peace Poster Contest. The artwork from 11-13 year olds was amazing. The theme was “Kindness Matters”. The top dozen were all displayed at the Martin Luther King day event put on by the town’s diversity committee. This art is by First Place Winner Kailey Bettencourt.

Get ready to Walk In Love in April! We are still working on details for our Columbine pilgrimage to commemorate that horrible massacre which happened twenty years ago, and to rededicate ourselves to eradicating gun violence. This will be our first Year of Action event for 2019. I hope all who are reading this and who are concerned about gun violence in our culture will try to attend (April 26-28 in Denver). Details and registration soon at https://give.classy.org/epfcolumbine.

Upcoming schedule:

I am writing this post from charming Fredericksburg, Texas. We spent the last weekend in Aggieland with family, and worshiping at St. Thomas-College Station. We enjoyed a stop in Johnson City yesterday and had a chance to remember some of what LBJ did to advance health care, civil rights, and environmental protections, and to erase poverty. We will be here for a couple of days before we head up to San Angelo.

If only I could be in all places! Our Peace Partners in Pensacola, Florida are taking a pilgrimage to Africatown March 9-10, 2019. http://bridgethegulfproject.org. If you are in the Gulf Coast area, you won’t want to miss this. Make Pilgrimage reservations with Bill Sloan, wmsloan35@gmail.com, 850-748-2314.

In March I will be in Chicago for the Palestine Israel Network Retreat from March 14-18. Here’s hoping that Punxsutawney Phil was right and the weather moderates soon!

Want a visit? Let me know!

Until next time, power to the peaceful!
Melanie
Rev. Angela M. Cortinas of St. Thomas – College Station celebrates Holy Eucharist surrounded by the children of the parish on the first Sunday of each month. It’s a holy sight to behold!
Miranda, our RV, is repaired! Thanks very much to Harry Gunkel for letting us hang out with him in San Antonio while we waited for her window to arrive.
How can we support Melanie while EPF is on the road?
  • Give to EPF
  • Offers of hospitality always welcome!
  • Suggestions of icons of social justice, landmarks or museums she must see.
  • Driveway for parking “Miranda”, her home on wheels. (Home or church parking lot welcome)
  • Offer of laundry facilities.
  • Suggestions of coffee shops, eateries, and sports bars she should visit.
  • Identify best walks and hikes in your neighborhood.
  • Invite her to church!
  • Prayers for safe travel.
  • Favorite camp sites (with dump station, preferred).
  • Visits with your pets — she is feeling deprived!
  • Home baked goodies (only if you are baking, anyway).
  • Make time to see her and introduce her around!
  • Favorite sites for photo ops.
Ron Damholt organizes the North Dallas Peace Partner’s
monthly Peace Post at “The Fig”
The Lord shall give strength to his people;

the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

Psalm 29:11

 

Our first Sunday out of the starting gate could not have been more fulfilling, or promising for EPF. I attended worship at Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration – Dallas, an EPF Peace Partner Parish. The Right Rev. Wayne Smith, overseeing Assisting Bishop for Transfiguration, Ascension and St. Paul’s, and Bishop of Missouri was preaching and baptizing. Bp. Smith confessed to being ready to retire when in 2014, Mike Brown was murdered in Ferguson, MO, and he knew that he could not step away when his community was reeling in chaos following the revelation of systemic racism in its law enforcement. Bp. Smith was a persistent presence in the streets in protest, and an important witness in solidarity. Finding a kindred spirit, he and I promised to see each other when my travels take us through Missouri later this year. “The Fig’s” rector, Rev. Casey Shobe was most welcoming and I am grateful that they are supporting our mission.

Transfiguration is host to the North Dallas Peace Partner of EPF, and this Sunday they were having their monthly “Peace Post”, where convener Ron Damholt ably empowers parishioners to write letters to elected official on issues of social justice and peace. This month, Ron provided a few paragraphs about three issues that members might choose from to address in their letters: resistance to the US funding the bombing of Yemen; ensuring that our national immigration system protects people with real needs for asylum; and increasing state funding for education in Texas, currently at historic lows. The EPF chapter provides addresses for elected officials, stamps, pens, stationery, and a comfortable spot for advocates to gather to write and talk about the issues of social justice important to them. (I was able to get a few letters written on the immigration topic while I was there.) This program can easily be replicated, and I have borrowed Ron’s written materials in case you are interested in holding periodic letter writing events in your parish. Please reach out to me, or to Ron at rdamholt@att.net and we can get you set up.

Visits like these are what I envision having in my ports of call around the country. I like a chance to connect with our Peace Partners and hear what needs they have, and to borrow from the wonderful programming that they are already engaged in so that I can share with other interested members and parishes.

 

Upcoming schedule:

I should mention that my Dallas hostess, Sherrie Abney, is a longtime member of (you guessed it!) Transfiguration. She has invited me to attend her ladies’ group meeting Tuesday afternoon to talk about EPF, which I am very pleased to do.

I will spend some time with Rev. Allison Sandlin Liles, outgoing EPF Executive Director, on Wednesday while I am still here in Dallas. I am looking forward to getting her perspective on our plans for this Year of Action, and picking her brain for ways I can be most effective in this role, including learning names of members and parishes I should plan to visit.

Steven and I leave Dallas on Saturday, January 19 for Austin, and plan to worship at St. James in the morning and St. Hildegard’s in the afternoon of the 20th. I hope to hold visiting hours at Seminary of the Southwest at some point, and to catch up with oncoming NEC member Katherine Bailey Brown. I also plan to visit with Bob Kinney while I am there. Steven and I will appear on the podcast of Austin lawyer Shiloh Coleman, talking about both EPF and my Global Collaborative Law Council tour. Reach out to me at epf@epfnational.org and get on my Austin schedule, please, or plan to just stop by to see me. I’d love to meet you!

From Austin, we plan leave for San Antonio on January 23, where we will attend a Dream Week Event, “San Antonio in the Holy Land: The Good, Bad and Ugly” at 6:30 pm on Friday, January 25, at University Presbyterian Church, with Harry Gunkel. On Sunday, January 27, we will worship at St. Paul’s where Fr. Brad Landry has invited us to attend their combined services for their annual Parish Meeting. Are you in San Antonio? Join us at either of these planned events, or let me know if I can see you for coffee or a conversation at another time. We will be there at least until January 29.

From there, we plan to head east to Houston and College Station before turning west again. Want a visit? Calendar is wide open so let me know!

Finally, I am calling this periodic update “Peace Out” in homage to my friend in Pennsylvania, Carla Higgins, who, on reading of my plans to travel the country in an RV advocating for EPF, quipped, “That gives new meaning to the term ‘Peace Out!'” Indeed.

Until next time, power to the peaceful!

Melanie

 

 

How can we support Melanie while EPF is on the road?
  • Give to EPF
  • Offers of hospitality always welcome!
  • Suggestions of icons of social justice, landmarks or museums she must see.
  • Driveway for parking “Miranda”, her home on wheels. (Home or church parking lot welcome)
  • Offer of laundry facilities.
  • Suggestions of coffee shops, eateries, and sports bars she should visit.
  • Identify best walks and hikes in your neighborhood.
  • Invite her to church!
  • Prayers for safe travel.
  • Favorite camp sites (with dump station, preferred).
  • Visits with your pets — she is feeling deprived!
  • Home baked goodies (only if you are baking, anyway).
  • Make time to see her and introduce her around!
  • Favorite sites for photo ops.

 

Happy New Year, and Merry Christmas, from EPF’s Executive Director!

At the dawn of this brand new year, I am looking out from my very familiar desk through a very familiar window, knowing that soon, all of this familiar will be left behind.  It seems odd to be starting a new adventure from my same-old, same-old spot, but it is comforting, nevertheless.  Nearly thirty years of law practice is almost wound down, and my law partners have graciously agreed to let me have this space to launch into my new work for the near term.  So, I write this first blog from the safety of my ivory tower.

What I see through the mist out my office window is a giant wooden black box around the base of a Confederate memorial which sits in Linn Park, downtown Birmingham, Alabama.   Former Birmingham Mayor William Bell had the twenty foot obstruction (ply-wooden drape) erected around the memorial in challenge to Alabama’s Memorial Preservation Act of 2017, which was passed to preserve all monuments 40 years or older from relocation, removal, alteration, renaming or “other disturbance.”  For context, this law was passed when confederate memorials began being dismantled, destroyed and moved into museums following the racially charged events of that summer in Charleston.  Of course, there is a legal challenge to the presence of the box making its way through the courts, but I mention this here for you to get some idea of what the world looks like from my perspective.  A peace ambassador from Birmingham, Alabama, predictably, has seen a lot that might inform her world view.

Today’s posting is to share my best intentions for what my work as your ED will look like in this “Year of Action” for EPF’s 80th year.

Immediate plans:  I have spent much of this week with the very capable Shannon Berndt (EPF Member Services Coordinator) here at my law offices in getting trained on the administrative chores of the ED job.  Shannon has graciously agreed to be available to me on an ongoing and virtual way for a few more weeks while I get the hang of things.  Fr. Bob Davidson, who has been doing the work of the Executive Director since Rev. Allison Sandlin Liles left to accept her call to parish ministry,  joined us this week with  the details of the expectations of the NEC for the remainder of my duties.  Following this orientation, after a send-off tomorrow from my home parish, St. Andrew’s-Birmingham — which will include a house blessing for the Leisure Travel Van that my husband, Steven, and I will be living in and working from as we travel the country — we will start driving west.  Pray for our safe travels, please, and watch social media for a chance to meet us when we are in your neighborhood.

Ongoing plans:  I’ll begin to blog regularly, and plot a course across the county for visiting with congregations and making meaningful connections.  I’ll be listening closely to find out what resources our members and chapters need from us.   I will appear where the NEC directs, including being in Chicago in March for a Palestine Israel Network retreat, in Colorado in April from the Columbine commemoration, in Arkansas this summer for an abolition of the death penalty event, in Palestine this October, and then in New England in the fall for our 80th anniversary celebration, among much else.  I’m excited about all of these activities, and can’t wait to start meeting our members and making new connections.  If you would like to make an opportunity to spend some time with me while I am near your hometown or parish, please contact me at epf@epfnational.org.

On a personal note, I’ll be in Nashville in early May for my son’s graduation from Vanderbilt, and will make time for visiting in the middle Tennessee area while I am there.   I’ll also be writing about some of the events unique to Birmingham, including the recent Thanksgiving day shooting of E. J. Bradford by Hoover police, and the aftermath and demonstrations following that tragedy, including renewed efforts at nonviolence and direct action training that I have participated in.  My hometown almost always has something provocative happening relevant to my work!

After I interviewed for this position back in November, I was given a copy of the history of EPF: “The Voice of Conscience: A Loud and Unusual Noise?  The Episcopal Peace Fellowship 1939-1989” by Nathaniel W. Pierce and Paul L. Ward.  I was stopped in my tracks when I read this paragraph, relating to the calling of the inaugural executive director of EPF in 1965:

“But first, in the EPF Newsletter for later Trinity 1965, Sayre appealed to members for help in finding a capable person to travel, organize EPF cells and interpret across the country the relevance of the Christian Gospel in terms of nonviolence and reconciliation… He would have to … have enough sense of organization to follow through on hopeful openings and not waste time repeatedly knocking on doors that have been shut and barred against him…  In militarized America, peacemaking is a ‘mission field’ and the EPF secretary will have to have the missionary’s spirit of dedication, zeal and patience.”

The Voice of Conscience, page 30.

Remarkable!  Without knowing this particular piece of EPF’s history, I had pitched myself as a possible candidate for Executive Director by telling the NEC that it would be my intention to travel around the country, visiting with parishes and youth groups, and appearing at diocesan events, recruiting new members and re-establishing ties between EPF and her longstanding peace disciples and allies.   I explained that in order to be effective doing these things, I would need the NEC’s help identifying “our tribe,” meaning finding the persons and places within the ECUSA where our message was likely to resonate.  My plan would be to develop relationships, then empower our “boots on the ground” witnesses with the resources they need to “wage peace” during these most divisive times in our country, and then help create resources as needs manifest themselves and new issues arise.  Who knew that I was not creating a new vision of the ED role — rather returning us to our well-established roots — with my imagination of what needed to be done.  I think I can fairly be described as a missionary for peace.

Until next time, power to the peaceful!

Melanie

Melanie Merkle Atha has demonstrated her dedication to advancing peace and peacemaking around the world in her roles as collaborative lawyer, collaborative practice group non-profit founder, and, most importantly, as a baptized Christian.  She will take on the responsibilities of Executive Director of EPF in January, 2019.

 

As a lawyer in private practice for nearly thirty years, Melanie discerned her call to transform her law practice from traditional litigation to collaborative conflict resolution as a member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama, an urban church which lives out its mission to share the Good News of Jesus Christ at the altar and in the street.  She has served St. Andrew’s as a vestry member, stewardship chair, Christian Education teacher, diocesan convention delegate and in various other roles.  A graduate of EfM, she is glad to have the opportunity to marry her professional skills and her spiritual gifts.

 

Melanie is excited about the challenge of leading EPF into its 80th year.  She intends to spend the year traveling the country with her husband, Steven, making connections for EPF in parishes, at diocesan events, at youth gatherings, and wherever people eager to connect with others who have a passion for social justice can be found.   If you or your group would like to schedule a visit with Melanie and learn more about EPF and how EPF can support you in your efforts to wage peace and justice, please reach out to her at epf@epfnational.org.  She is eager to start mapping out her journey of goodwill!

 

In addition to serving as ED of EPF, Melanie will also serve the Global Collaborative Law Council (“GCLC”) as its Executive Director beginning in January, 2019, as her three years of service as President of GCLC comes to an end.  Like EPF, GCLC is a peace promoting organization — it is an international collaborative law practice group dedicated to expanding the use of collaborative law to all areas of legal conflict.  Melanie hopes to serve as an effective, enthusiastic ambassador for both missions, make lots of lasting connections, and promote peace and justice as she travels through God’s magnificent creation!

 

Melanie was born and reared in rural Marengo County, Alabama.  She has a BA in political science from Birmingham-Southern College and a JD from Vanderbilt University School of Law.  She and Steven have two grown sons, Richard and Tate.

In our 80th year we have, since our founding, been formed by a commitment to the Baptismal Covenant which calls us to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself,” and to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” The Episcopal Peace Fellowship is a national organization connecting all who seek a deliberate response to injustice and violence and want to pray, study and take action for justice and peace in our communities, our church, and the world. We are called to do justice, dismantle violence, and strive to be peacemakers.

EPF is seeking an Executive Director to lead the organization (including 34 chapters) into the next phase of its continuing growth and witness.  This position will be based out of the Executive Director’s location but will require some travel and a flexible schedule. The starting salary is $35,000 based on a 30 hour a week position. EPF is open to the possibility of coupling our ED position with someone currently working in a peace and justice organization.  Pension contributions, health insurance and generous continuing education and personal leave benefits are included.

 

We are seeking someone who has learned, through their own witnessing to the Gospel of justice and peace, that to create lasting change there must be a capable leader bringing administrative and fundraising gifts to drive the work of our volunteer membership.   The Executive Director will need to focus on financial development by expanding our base of dedicated individual and congregational donors.  This position reports to a national board- but the Executive Director will have responsibility for implementing overall strategic and operational goals, program developments, expansion of memebership, and mission execution. In this exciting and highly visible role, the Executive Director will oversee, with board member support,
day-to-day operations including administration, finance, marketing and website updates, membership growth.  This position requires a unique professional willing to work at both the global and personal levels within all areas of the organization to produce and implement solid work plans and successfully engage our membership along with partner organizations and institutions.

 

We want you to describe how your education and experience has equipped you to assume the position of Executive Director. We hope to see how your background has helped other organizations develop and implement strategies that have taken those organization to the next level of growth. Administrative experience working with fiscal management and some accounting is essential. Excellent written and verbal communication skills coupled with a collaborative work style based on open and transparent communication and inclusive decision making are a must. The organization deeply values diversity and is committed to the recruitment and retention of individuals of underrepresented backgrounds. Knowledge of faith communities, particularly the Episcopal Church, would be an essential element in this position. Qualified lay and ordained individuals are welcome to apply.

 

Send your resume and cover letter to the Rev. Bob Davidson, EPF national chair, at frbobdav@msn.com (970-222-2390). All applications are due no later than October 27, 2018. Please include a cover letter with at least three references. Applicants must be willing to be interviewed in person on Saturday, November 10.

 

Additional information can be found at www.epfnational.org

Yesterday I went for a hike in the woods by my house. Immediately the stress of work and home and the world began to melt away as I traveled deeper into the woods. I was filled with new questions about these familiar woods. Who walked these woods before anyone else could remember being here? Where did those people go? And how did they leave? As I later researched, my home was probably part of the Albany Purchase in 1754 from the Iroquois, but not the Shawnee people that are also known to have lived in my region.

St. James, Cannonball

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to kick off the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Year of Action with a pilgrimage to Standing Rock, North Dakota. This trip was to coincide with the International Powwow at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. The week before our trip, lightning struck the lodge where we were meant to sleep and meet. Rather than cancel the plans, the Rev. John Floberg made some adjustments and our journey began. EPF NEC member Ellen Lindeen and her husband Rick were also on this pilgrimage.

 

EPF NEC members at Standing Stone Camp

I had a lot of mixed feelings and some anxiety on my way there. I was so excited about the powwow, but I didn’t have any idea of what to expect. How could I participate in such an event and not feel like a voyeur? What would the landscape look like? How would I feel confronted with this mountain of historic trauma?

 

DAPL Mandan, ND

I saw incredible sights and breathtaking landscapes. The site of the Dakota Access pipeline in Mandan, ND contrasted this natural beauty against the disappointing progress and installation of the pipeline. “Let the Black Snake lie” can be seen on posters and t shirts, urging people to leave the oil in the ground. The access gate itself had so many locks on the post – controlling who can come and go, but still denying access to the people that knew this a sacred ground. I also visited the site of the Standing Rock encampment, known as Sacred Stone Camp. 

 

Fancy Grass Dancers

The powwow was an exciting gathering. The theme this year was Leadership Educating the Next Generation. It was a multi-generational family event, including several dance competitions. The care and craftsmanship of the regalia was astounding. There was beautiful beadwork, feathers, and detailed seamwork on these treasured family heirlooms. The fancy grass dancers were my favorite dancers. We also took time to meet with a local teacher to learn more during this cultural immersion.

 

During the powwow, I was at an exhibit booth for St. James Episcopal Church, Cannonball, on the Standing Rock Reservation, to  hand out information regarding human trafficking – pamphlets for speaking to elementary and teenage children, and a pamphlet for adults on human trafficking. This is a problem across the country, but I fear that it is too common in our vulnerable populations. I felt like we had something helpful, even necessary to offer, along with our coffee and lollipops. This effort to give something meaningful, helped me to feel part of the powwow, and not just be a spectator.

 

St. Luke’s

Before we left for home, I attended Sunday service at Fort Yates, on the Standing Rock Reservation. It was a small, but mighty congregation – something I am quite familiar with as a small town Episcopalian. And, as I relaxed into the comfortable, familiar words, and everybody let their guard down, I began to recognize it. Trauma. Not the sudden, acute trauma of “something bad that happened that will take you awhile to recover”, but the wearying, persistent trauma that clings to you. You can find respite from it for a while to smile and laugh, but it lingers there in the background. It is also the birth of resilience, and hope and wonder. I have felt glimpses of this at the children’s hospital, especially around the NICU.

 

Cannonball, ND

This level of historical trauma, but also resilience, that exists around the Reservation is palpable. There is peace and dignity and grace. It was a lot to process and a lot take it. I came home with many more questions than answers. I had learned about the treaties when in school, but they seemed so abstract (though still not fair). To see the actual lands, and talk with people that know that their family history goes back centuries on this land, was really a gift to me. I have so much respect for all of our vulnerable populations, especially those that have such a complex relationship with the land and identity. This was a heartbreaking, hopeful and humbling journey.

 

As I contemplate this start to our Year of Action, I am moved to explore my relationship with the land, this mountain top forest where I live, and the peoples that came before me. Hopefully, I’ll find answers to the questions of who, why and how- about the peoples that came before me, but I will also strive to learn more about our shared history that surrounds me.

 

EPF has more events lined up this year. Stay tuned for more information.

 

Convention is rapidly winding down. As of press time, there are about 138 resolutions left to go! In the end, there were just over 500 resolutions brought to General Convention 79, so while a great many have been worked through, there are still quite a few to go, and not a lot of time left to do the work in. What happens when the clock runs out? Well, resolutions die and that’s the end of it.

Many of the resolutions I’ve been following since July 4th (the first day of hearings, which feels like it was so, so long ago) have had favorable outcomes. Marriage for the whole church has finally passed both houses without further amendments as of this morning, there are some trial use expansive language edits of Rite II Eucharistic Prayers A, B, and D, and support for transgender people in the church has been overwhelming. We are making strong moves when it comes to protecting women, assigned female at birth non-binary people, and others who disproportionately experience sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. This morning, more resolutions seeking to dismantle white supremacy have passed the House of Deputies.

One of the criticisms I’ve seen of General Convention is that too many people come for social justice and not enough for Jesus. I’d argue that social justice vs. Jesus is a false dichotomy, that Jesus was the first social justice activist. He spoke for the disabled, the poor, women, and other marginalized groups. As victim of the criminal justice system of a corrupt empire, Jesus welcomed another criminal to enter Paradise with him before anyone else. God has lifted up the lowly, indeed. It is because of my commitment to Jesus, to the life of speaking truth to power he led, that I felt moved to come speak my own truth to power at Convention. I am beyond grateful for the support of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and everyone who donated to my fundraising campaign to get me here. I have had an incredible experience that I will be processing for quite some time.

I hope to be writing to y’all again next time we convene, in 2021 in Baltimore.

– Rowan

I am getting ready to board a plane that takes me back to Virginia. The time spent working with EPF over the past few weeks has been life changing. I walked into this experience with very little knowledge of General Convention and I leave with hope that the church will continue to do good work. Last night we attended the final service and had the opportunity to meet PB Curry. Afterwards we all celebrated the end of our time with drinks and desserts. I believe the group of people formed for EPF’s Delegation was a special one, with each of us bringing something very different to the table yet able to bond over fighting the good fight. I look forward to continuing my work with Episcopal Peace Fellowship and am thankful for the opportunity they have given me.

July 10, 2018

One of the main issues I’ve been tracking at General Convention is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  I testified at the hearing on Israel-Palestine issues and have attended both informal talks and the formal debates on the floor.  However, I didn’t expect to find myself as emotional as I was during the debate on the floor at the House of Deputies yesterday afternoon.

I studied abroad in Israel for a year, and experienced up close the conflict that so many people view as the most intractable conflict in the world.  I also saw the oppression that the Palestinians live under on a daily basis, and it pained me constantly to not be able to do anything about it.  Perhaps the starkest moment was May 15, the day after one of the days the IDF soldiers opened fire on protesters in Gaza, killing 59 or 60 Palestinians near the border.  While there were Palestinians dying for daring to protest against Israel, everyone in Tel Aviv was at the beach.  The contrast in these moments was almost enough to overwhelm me.

So when the House of Deputies started debating whether or not the Episcopal Church should continue to be complicit in the occupation of Palestinian territories by investing in companies that profit off of the occupation, despite my lack of direct connection to either the Israelis or the Palestinians, I felt it hard to listen to some of the discussion.  I had not known how affected I was by my time in Israel until that moment.  While I’m still working through my thoughts and feelings about my year abroad, I am grateful to the convention for allowing me to confront these feelings in a way where I am able to testify to them in an effort to support these resolutions.

– Katrina Dubee

FROM ¡CUBA SI! to ¡CUBA AHORA!

From Isolation to Communion

A joint blog by Cody Maynus (Episcopal Peace Fellowship) and the Rev. Rena Turnham (Deputy, Minnesota) 

Now the whole group of those who believe were of one heart and soul…With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:32-33, NRSV)

The Deputies and Bishops gathered together in Austin, TX for the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church will have the unique and holy opportunity to engage the difficult process of reconciling Episcopalian with Episcopalian in the reunion of the Diocese of Cuba with the larger Episcopal Church. While this process has been ongoing for several years, we sit poised in 2018 to take the final and definitive step in the direction of healing, justice, and reconciliation.

In 1871 the Rt. Rev’d Henry Benjamin Whipple, first Bishop of Minnesota, landed in Havana and began a long and eventually tragic relationship with the people of God in Cuba.  This relationship became severed on October 27, 1966 when the House of Bishops voted to expel the Diocese of Cuba from the Episcopal Church in response to the Cuban Revolution.

The General Convention Committee on the Episcopal Church in Cuba has faithfully responded to the Holy Spirit and started the process of reconciliation by preparing A238: Admit Episcopal Diocese of Cuba as a Diocese of the Episcopal Church. The resolution acknowledges the painful history of forced isolation and calls us all together to move toward communion.

Our canon lawyers have argued that the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church do not permit the incorporation of an entire extra-provincial church into the life, mission, and ministry of the Episcopal Church. It is the expert opinion of our canon lawyers that “¡Cuba Si!; Cuba, yes!” is well and good, but that it must properly be “¡Cuba luego!; Cuba later!”

Introduction is possible, they opine, but only after General Convention has gone through the necessary steps to make a clear constitutional and canonical entrypoint, maintaining the decency and order which are beautiful hallmarks of our Anglican heritage.

In the midst of testimony and deliberation, however, the Committee on the Episcopal Church in Cuba has prayerfully committed itself to “¡Cuba Si!” and, more importantly, to “¡Cuba ahora!; Cuba now!”

The Episcopal Church is at a crossroads presently. We worry about the future of the institution that has been given to us, an institution which blesses us and, sometimes, an institution which binds us.  This is the case with Cuba. The Constitution and Canons of this church provide us with a container for our life together as Episcopalians. They set the parameters of our identity and work in the world. Our call is to use the Constitution and Canons for the direct purpose of God’s mission, namely “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP, 855).

As the Acts of the Apostles show us, the first Christians were “one in mind and spirit.” There was surely differences of opinion among them: whose interpretation of Jesus’ words was more accurate, who amongst them should be in leadership, where was the most need? And yet, our ancestors in faith were able to set aside their differences for the glory of Christ, the one whose life, death, resurrection, and ascension reconciles all people with one another.

Important as it truly is, we cannot rely solely on the opinion of canon lawyers. Reconciliation requires a commitment to truth, no matter how much pain it brings. History is clear: the Episcopal Church in Cuba is a diocese of this church which, through the manifold sins of imperialism, classism, and racism, has been expelled from this church.

The 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church will not vote this week to admit an entire extra-provincial church into this church. It will vote on whether or not to receive back into its fold a diocese which, through no fault of its own, has been isolated and subjected to second-class status among the people of God. History is clear: what was once one has been turned into two. Reconciliation – the process of sewing back together a frayed church ripped at the seems – cannot begin until the wounds of yesterday are treated with urgency, care, and an abiding commitment God’s vision of justice.

With the help of God, we, together, can begin the good, holy, and difficult work of bringing back into the fold the beloved people of God in Cuba…¡ahora! now!

Cody Maynus is the Community Engagement Coordinator at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Minneapolis, MN and is in formation for priesthood in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. He is a Delegate of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.

The Rev. Rena Turnham is the Deacon for Community Engagement at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Minneapolis, MN and is a member of the Cuban Ministry Commission of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. She is a Clergy Deputy from Minnesota.