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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
July 10, 2018
Within the past few days here a lot has happened. On Saturday morning I testified three times on policy regarding migrant children and their families. These issues are the primary reason I am here. Later in the day a few of us attended the Revival Worship. It was a great service and those of who attended agreed that the translator at that service deserved a medal for keeping up with PB Curry. Afterwards, the group of us bonded over tacos and promptly went to bed.
Monday the delegation assisted with the Bishops Against Gun Violence rally before going to the T. Don Hutto Detention Center. The event brought out many mixed emotions for us. For me, it felt like a call to action and a reminder to continue working with the many students within my classroom who may be facing deportation. Later in the evening, a few of us went to the Integrity Eucharist where we had the honor of meeting Presiding Bishop Michael Curry before the service.
Yesterday, I spent a significant portion of the day at the EPF booth. There were several interesting speakers.
July 8, 2018
Or at least I think it’s day four. It’s hard to tell. While I have in fact been outside (between the Austin Theological Seminary, where we’re staying and the Convention Center and two hotels committees are meeting in) and seen the sun, time has started to behave oddly. I’ve had to ask someone what day it was twice today alone. Everyone, and I mean everyone here (even the pigeon standing in for the Holy Spirit in the House of Deputies) is exhausted. Personally, I think it’s the good kind.
I have spent the last four days testifying up and down different committees on a number of different resolutions. I’ve spent the most time with Committee 13, the special committee to hear resolutions about BCP revision related issues, where I have been speaking to the need for inclusive/expansive language in our Common Prayer. When I think about a prayerbook revision that includes that kind of language, I am not thinking about removal of everything we have now (what many of those whom are against A068 fear), throwing our rich and beautiful tradition out the window, but of adding more of the richness of our Scriptural tradition as it speaks about God and humanity to our prayed theology. I have testified at a number of hearings on issues relating to transgender people and their welcome in the Church, queer/same-sex marriage rites, and disability issues. Speaking from my own experiences, I have also been a vocal presence in hearings on issues of the systemic gender-based violence perpetuated against women, trans women, and assigned female at birth non-binary people.
While prayerbook revision seems to be the only issues people are talking about today (it passed the House of Deputies, we shall see what happens next in the House of Bishops), I hope that the many other resolutions and issues I testified about do not get lost in the shuffle. I’m looking forward to continuing to track the resolutions I have personally spoken to, as well resolutions related to other peace and justice issues my amazing colleagues have spoken to as well.
July 5, 2018
Today was the first “official” day of Convention, despite the fact that we’ve been here three days now. I’m still learning my way around how Convention works — namely, how to pace my activities so I don’t find myself exhausted at four pm with things left to do.
Still, it’s an amazing experience so far. I’ve testified on gun violence as a public health issue, heard testimonies on support for the Iran nuclear deal and the Episcopal presence at the UN, and attended a panel on race in the communion. The sheer volume of things to do and issues to discuss can get overwhelming at times, but they can also be extremely fulfilling, so it’s difficult to not want to go to all of them. It’s easy to overreach, and more difficult to hold back knowing that it’s also important to take time for yourself to just process and to be. I’m looking forward to testifying tomorrow on Israel-Palestine resolutions, and to the rest of Convention — more updates to come soon!