Getting the word out: The truth behind the intense vetting process

un-summit-on-refugees-copy

Greetings, friends!

What a week in the news.  I might add an explanation point to that statement but it might sound as though I’m excited about everything that’s happened – which certainly isn’t the case.  I’d really rather add a sad face emoji as punctuation.  I have been grieving over the senseless and cruel loss of innocent lives this week – and the understandable yet tragic response by increasingly angry groups.  What do these events say about the health of our society?

Another sad point for me is what I hear – or don’t hear – in the political rhetoric of this election season.  One of the candidates seems to suggest that the refugees fleeing their homeland just hop on planes and land on our doorstops without any vetting at all.  Having followed many stories from Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), I know that the vetting for any refugee wanting asylum in the US is incredibly rigorous and can take 2-4 years.  I think you all know that and I have certainly shared the intricacy of the process before.  But, my big question is: why is there no one in the media telling that story?  A good friend suggested that it’s because people aren’t really interested; they only want the sound bites and the sensational.  Explanations are just not news-worthy.  I hope she’s wrong but I am not optimistic.


emm-webcast-copyThis has been a big week in refugee advocacy.  Last week on September 14, EMM sponsored a webcast, “One United People: A Dialogue on Refugee Resettlement and Faithful Welcome.”  This event was planned as a preparation for two major events: on Monday, September 19, the United Nations General Assembly held its first-ever heads-of-state and government meeting “to address the large movements of refugees and migrants aimed at unifying countries behind a more human and coordinated approach” (Episcopal News Service), and on Tuesday, September 20th, President Obama hosted the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees.  Participating with our President were co-hosts from Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico and Sweden.  This Summit appealed to governments for increased commitments to resettle refugees.

The Episcopal News Service reported: “Of the 21.3 million refugees in the world today, 1 percent might be resettled. It’s a lottery with dismal odds.”  How do we respond to that number?  To grasp the significance, we must remember that “refugee” has a specific definition and is different than “migrant” or “asylum seeker.”  A refugee is one who is fleeing their homeland because it is no longer safe to live there.  The government cannot protect this individual, family or people group from oppressions, persecution and violence.  We’re not speaking of someone who merely thinks that the American Dream sounds like a nice idea.  One of the panelists, Abdul Saboor, on the EMM webcast said: “No one wants to leave home; the only reason people leave is if their home is on fire!”

You can find the video of the webcast at the following link.  Even though the site reads as though the program hasn’t begun yet, just enter your contact information and you’ll receive the video.  The download includes the program and the bios of each panelist – http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/webinar-registration


The Episcopal News Service (ENS) article about these events reported that “the summit comes not only at a time of record numbers of refugees, but also at a time of increased discrimination and violence against immigrants and migrants. The refugee crisis has fueled nationalist movements across Europe, where fear of terrorism and xenophobia have gripped societies and have led governments to take restrictive measures. The same is true in part of the United States where states have introduced legislation either to ban refugees from their states or to weaken the U.S. government’s resettlement program.”  The bombing in New York last weekend and other events of this week have understandably fueled the fear felt by opponents of refugee resettlement.  But we mustn’t let fear blind us to our calling as followers of Jesus.

On Wednesday, Texas threatened to pull out of the Federal refugee resettlement program from fear of terrorism.  In response to this news, the Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson, Director of EMM, made the following statement:

“Through the history of the United States, refugees have enriched our communities as creators, business owners, students, and friends. Our nation, and indeed our Church, has been enhanced by contributions from refugees that have sought safety and opportunity in this land. We know this to be true from decades of ministry walking with refugees and migrants.

 

I am deeply saddened by the violent acts in New Jersey, New York, and Minnesota. I am saddened that entire communities of refugees are being blamed for the actions of a few misguided individuals – for as Americans, as Episcopalians, and as Christians, we are called to a higher moral ground than this. And, I am also disappointed that the governor of the state of Texas has announced this day that he soon will be ending his state’s administration of the federal government’s refugee resettlement program. Fortunately, refugee service providers will work closely with local communities to ensure that a transition to another administrative service does not put refugee families at risk.

Episcopal Migration Ministries, the refugee resettlement service of The Episcopal Church, along with partners with 30 local communities across the country, serves refugees and migrants with the deep understanding that we are all children of God. This ministry is rooted in Christ’s teaching of love, compassion, and dignity for all people. We are committed to continue this work so that the God-given potential of every human being may thrive.”

“The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 19:34

We are called to a higher moral stand than this.  If the media won’t share the whole story of refugee resettlement, we must.  In case you are new to Nuts and Bolts, here’s the link for the vetting process for resettlement in the United States – https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/11/20/infographic-screening-process-refugee-entry-united-states

I was not able to watch all of the proceedings in the UN or the President’s Summit but you can find snapshots of these events at the Episcopal Migration Ministries Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/EMMRefugees/

This morning I saw a video on Facebook from a six year old to President Obama that he shared at the Summit.  After I wiped a few tears away (ok, I get kind of emotional), I decided I wanted to share it with you because Alex’s words are a reminder to all of us of the attitude we should be demonstrating.

The Presiding Bishop sent a delegation to the UN Summit on September 19th as observers and advocates of these goals:

  • Encourage campaigns and strategies to counter xenophobia and discrimination that prioritize building relationships between refugees and migrants and host communities.
  • Support resettlement as a critical component of responsibility-sharing and urge member states to increase size of existing resettlement programs or establish resettlement programs if they do not have one. Affirm target to resettle at least 10 percent of the global refugee population annually.
  • Support the right to asylum and due process for all people.
  • Affirm a whole of society approach that includes civil society and faith-based organizations.
  • Affirm the principle of “Leave No One Behind” and preferential treatment for the most vulnerable.

“All 193 U.N. member states reached consensus on the declaration to develop by 2018 a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration; ensure a more equitable sharing of responsibility for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees; to commit to protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants regardless of their status; and to commit to launching a global campaign to counter xenophobia,” reported ENS.  Lacy Broemel, TEC’s Refugee and Immigration Policy Analyst, added: “The U.N. has invited civil society into this process and as a faith-based organization, we must continue to engage with the global community to ensure the standards included in the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants are actually upheld.”

Here are the commitments made by the member nations:

  • Protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status. This includes the rights of women and girls and promoting their full, equal and meaningful participation in finding solutions.
  • Ensure that all refugee and migrant children are receiving education within a few months of arrival.
  • Prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence.
  • Support those countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants.
  • Work towards ending the practice of detaining children for the purposes of determining their migration status.
  • Strongly condemn xenophobia against refugees and migrants and support a global campaign to counter it.
  • Strengthen the positive contributions made by migrants to economic and social development in their host countries.
  • Improve the delivery of humanitarian and development assistance to those countries most affected, including through innovative multilateral financial solutions, with the goal of closing all funding gaps.
  • Implement a comprehensive refugee response, based on a new framework that sets out the responsibility of Member States, civil society partners and the UN system, whenever there is a large movement of refugees or a protracted refugee situation.
  • Find new homes for all refugees identified by UNHCR as needing resettlement; and expand the opportunities for refugees to relocate to other countries through, for example, labour mobility or education schemes.
  • Strengthen the global governance of migration by bringing the International Organization for Migration into the UN system.

You can find the full text of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (September 19, 2016) here – http://www.un.org/pga/70/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/08/HLM-on-addressing-large-movements-of-refugees-and-migrants-Draft-Declaration-5-August-2016.pdf

And here’s the link to the full ENS article on the UN Summit – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/09/19/world-leaders-adopt-a-global-migration-compact/

Friends, as tempting as it might be to want to find a comfy cave and hide from all the pain and suffering we face each day in our lives and in the media, let’s remember Whose we are and rely on the grace and strength of our Lord to speak out for justice and compassion for those who have no voice.  Abdul Saboor, at “One United People” exhorted us: “Do not to take your freedom for granted.”  Let’s tell the real story of refugee resettlement.

Let us pray –

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Prayer “Prayer for Our Country”

 

~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee

Understanding (and acting upon) suicide and its prevention

mental-health-1Greetings, Friends!

I am no expert when it comes to this topic.  I will admit this straight off.  But, it is timely and I believe we can learn from each other.  September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and, sadly, I have become more conscious of the need for addressing this tragedy this year than I’d like.  Last Thursday night, a good friend reached out to me because she knew I was a “praying person” after she received the call that her friend’s 21-year old son had killed himself.  What does one say?  Of course, I will pray – and have been – for the family and friends who don’t have answers to their questions, for the loved ones who feel guilt and shame when none ought to be felt, and for this young man who had lost all hope and couldn’t face one more day.  Only two days later, another dear friend sent the message that her daughter had attempted suicide that night.  And I prayed some more.  Last year, a student of mine was very depressed.  I didn’t know exactly how serious it was until I went to lock up her room at one of our breaks and found a note pinned to her wall that read: “Remember, you would be missed.” For years, I knew of no one whose life had been impacted by the tragedy of suicide but now…now, this is three in just one year.  Now, I am aware – and feel unprepared and mostly powerless to do anything.  And I feel such deep sadness that this is the experience of these dear young people whose whole lives seem to be before them but they can’t see or feel that right now.   As the People of God, we must become aware so that we can offer healing and hope but, first, we must know how.

I want to say something about depression first.  I hear well-meaning students and adults tell one another, “Oh, you’ll be fine” or “You just have to get over it” or, worse yet, “You think you have problems; you should see…”  This “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” mentality is all wrong.  Clinical depression is an illness much like diabetes or heart-disease.  When some of the girls in the dorm didn’t know how to react to friends with depression, I shared this video from the World Health Organization with them –

We’ve also sponsored dorm events inviting our school clinical psychologist to speak about depression, anxiety and stress.  A few years ago, some students began a campus club called “Lighthouse” to address issues of mental health.  Their student speakers have told their own stories of eating disorders, substance abuse, depression and suicide attempts.  Bringing the conversation out into the open is one step toward prevention and healing.


mental-health-3At St Mary’s-in-the-Hills Episcopal Church, Lake Orion, the congregation decided to address the pain of suicide head-on by beginning a suicide prevention outreach called Take My Hand.  The Rev. Laurel Dahill, rector of St Mary’s told me:

Take My Hand is what we call our suicide prevention outreach ministry to Lake Orion, Oxford, and surrounding communities. Here in Oakland County, we’ve had a higher-than-statistical-average for suicides for at least a generation if not longer. These suicides cross all demographic lines, and they often happen in clusters. As we develop this outreach, we’re discovering not only the many complex facets to this issue, but some major reasons why it’s so difficult to address. Primary among these seem to be the stigmas associated with this sort of death. Grief over suicide isn’t like grief over other kinds of death. The stigma of shame often dissuades the surviving family members from admitting in obituaries and common conversation that their loved one took their own life. Thus shame prevents the surviving family from expressing their grief fully, hampers attempts to heal the devastating hurt of such a loss, and perpetuates the belief that nothing can be done about this.

St. Mary’s In-The-Hills recognizes that few groups, if any in our area, are taking proactive steps to address suicide. If no one else is courageous enough to take on this demon directly, we will. Through special events and education opportunities that provide candid yet caring engagement with survivors and at-risk individuals, Take My Hand intends to shed light into this darkness. Our mission is to help bring relief the victims of suicides, and lead our whole community to a healthier state of being, where suicide is no longer considered an option.

You can find more information about this ministry on their Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/Take-My-Hand-976334339152164/


I think it’s also crucial to emphasize that mental health concerns are not “one size fits all.”  Again, my analogy with other diseases – we all know that it’s wrong to take somebody else’s medications even if they have the same illness.  Professional mental health providers are the only ones that can appropriately address specific treatment for each individual situation.  That being said, outreach programs like Take My Hand do offer valuable support and education to bring greater awareness to the mental health needs of our communities.

I asked Rev. Dahill how other congregation might consider addressing the need for support and education in their own congregations and communities.  She answered:

My advice to others who want to begin to address this in their own congregations would be to start by discerning if the congregation is able to talk about suicide candidly and reasonably.  A lot of our work was in-house – getting the people here to a place where we can discuss it without getting defensive or shutting down.  Next, decide if there is a) enough passion to pursue it as a ministry, and b) if there is enough energy to engage this as a long-term project.

One thing we discovered not long into this, is that a suicide outreach ministry is playing a very long game.  Any congregation will need to decide if it can make a time and energy commitment like this.  If not, organizations that are already doing this work might be grateful for assistance or short-term partnerships to strengthen their impact.  A parish doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.  It can do a lot just by being supportive, in whatever way they can, to a ministry elsewhere.

Some good online resources for suicide prevention awareness are –

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/science-news-about-suicide-prevention.shtml


Man and Woman profiles face opposite ways in couple problem jigsaw puzzle

Tragically, we know that the suicide rates among transgender individuals is alarmingly high.  Forty-one percent will attempt to take their life at some point compared with 4.1% of the general population.  One resource available specifically for the trans person at risk is the Trans Lifeline ((877) 565-8860).  The staff are trans individuals who can respond to suicide threats and problems of homelessness when the callers have been rejected by their home and family.  You can learn more on their website – http://www.translifeline.org/

Suicide prevention awareness is one aspect of fostering good mental health but there are others.  I know that Eric Travis, Missioner for Youth and Young Adults for the diocese, has participated in the Mental Health First Aid course sponsored by the National Council for Behavioral Health.  You can find classes in your area and more information on their helpful website – http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/

I saved the applicable resolution to the end.  At General Convention, we adopted:


C020: Ministry to People with Mental Illness and Their Families

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church calls upon dioceses, congregations, schools and other entities of the Episcopal Church to explore and adopt best practices for the vitality and increased capacity of their mission and ministry in the inclusion, support, and spiritual care for persons with mental illness and their families; and be it further

Resolved, That dioceses, congregations, schools and other entities of the Episcopal Church increase understanding about mental illness by providing educational material and training; utilizing existing programs such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, veterans groups, governmental departments of mental health, local organizations, and other programs and organizations; and sharing the information so that it is readily accessible.


The National Alliance on Mental Illness website is – http://www.nami.org/ and has many helpful articles and educational pieces that can prepare us for fostering a healthy climate in our congregations and communities.  By advocating for good mental health, we are demonstrating once again how we can “love our neighbors as ourselves.”

If you have a story to share or other good resources to offer, please get in touch with me at jschellhammer@hillsdale.edu

Let us pray –

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
 So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.  Amen.

Psalm 63:1 – 8

~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee

Examples of several food, agriculture programs of great benefit

foodGreetings, Friends!

Back-to-school time is a busy time for all of us, I’m sure, and added to the adjustment of new schedules, we have miserable heat and humidity!!  So, let me begin with a small apology:  In my role as residence director in a women’s dorm at Hillsdale College, I live in as older, un-air-conditioned building and it’s pretty toasty in here today.  My brain is fried and my motivation has melted away but I still want to bring you some thoughts to ponder. Rather than begin a new topic, I’d like to highlight a subject we all love: FOOD!

Back in August, I shared Resolution A091: Affirm Work for Food Ministries and Food Security which asks, among other things, that congregations and diocese deepen their awareness of food insecurity and health issues as well as “increase our involvement in advocacy for the development and maintenance of sustainable; equitable; culturally appropriate; and accessible food systems.”  Recently I’ve noticed that the Episcopal News Service has been running a series about church-based food supply and community agriculture centered in Seattle. I’d like to share some of their inspiring videos which just may prompt new ideas for the congregations in our Household.


From Duwamish Waterway and Mission to Seafarers Seattle –

You can read their story here –

http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/08/01/mission-to-seafarers-welcomes-strangers-with-peace-vegetables/


From St Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle and beekeeper Brian Sellers-Petersen – Abuzz about Bees.

Find the article here – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/08/29/video-abuzz-about-bees/


From St Andrew’s Episcopal Church and parishioner/volunteer gardener JB Hoover – A Growing Vision in Seattle’s Green Lake Neighborhood.

Find more details here – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/08/11/a-growing-vision-in-seattle/


From Redmond, Wash., the Rev. Jim Eichner from Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross comes the story of Food Bank Farm and their Seattle recipient Food Lifeline -“I was hungry and you gave me food”

You can read their story here – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/09/06/i-was-hungry-and-you-gave-me-food/


food-2 What struck me about all of these is that the founders were able to use their passions and think outside the box to create something that reaches the people in their communities in creative ways to meet their food needs as they share the Gospel of God’s love for everyone.  Where are your passions?  Might God be calling you and your congregation to create a new work or join with an existing ministry in your area?

Let us pray –

Lord, we know you care for each person as your valuable creation. May your people rise up to meet the needs of the hungry men, women and children in our community. Please help me to see those who are hurting around me and guide me to know the ways that I can help them. Thank you for the food you have provided me today and for your provision to others through the blessings of your people. Amen.

~ The Rev Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee

food-3

Taking an environmental stand to benefit the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation

North DakotaGreetings, Friends!

Have you ever noticed how sometimes a topic or issue comes up in your life and all of a sudden that’s all you hear about?  With a new school year upon us, I have moved back into the dorm to welcome my 49 young ladies back to campus.  Leaving my little house on the lake and the days of creating my own schedule in the summer is always bittersweet but I love my job as a residence director because I can develop relationships with some very special young women as we share a home together.  As I drove away from the house, I pondered the “cost – benefit analysis” for the work (truly a ministry) that I have chosen.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I sat down to prepare the lessons for the Wednesday morning Bible study I lead with a friend using the “Living the Good News” curriculum.  Each week we explore the lectionary readings for the coming Sunday so I was pleased, and a little surprised, to see that we’ll be reading Jesus’ teaching about “counting the cost” in our Gospel this Sunday.  Then, on the way home from the study today, I was listening to “Fresh Air” on NPR and heard Terry Gross’ interview with Larry Wilmore, comic writer and former host of “The Nightly Show.”  When asked about his advocacy for current issues of feminism, anti-racism and LGBT rights he responded (as though speaking to himself):

What are you going to do? Where are you going to stand on this? You know, Larry, you’re in front of people, where are you standing? You can’t be in the middle. You cannot afford to be without an opinion on this. You have to take a stand, so where are you going to stand? And once you declare where you’re going to stand, you’re owning that.

Taking a stand and owning your position are all part of counting the cost.  And sometimes that’s hard because it pushes us beyond our comfort zones.  (You can find the whole interview here if you’re interested – http://www.npr.org/2016/08/31/492000096/larry-wilmore-on-being-nerdy-breaking-taboos-and-the-nightly-show )

I’ve been watching social media and reading the news of the Native American tribes who are protesting the construction of a pipeline across the Missouri River in North Dakota.  According to The Episcopal News Service (ENS), the opponents say that the pipeline poses too great a threat both to the environment and to the quality of life for the people living nearby who get their drinking water from the Missouri River.  The people of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation would be especially hard hit if this goes through.  Energy Pipeline Partners, the company planning to build the pipeline, believes that the pipeline will be safe and economical for transporting oil from North Dakota oil field to the refineries and markets.

If you haven’t been following this story, by now you might be wondering about the connection to the issue of that of “counting the cost.”  Members of the Episcopal Church have been standing in solidarity with tribal members in opposition to the pipeline.  ENS reported:

“We see our obligation through the lens of our baptismal covenant, respecting the dignity of every human being,” the Rev. John Floberg said.  Floberg, canon missioner for the Episcopal Church community on the Standing Rock reservation, serves three congregations in the North Dakota part of the reservation: St. Luke’s in Fort Yates, St. James’ in Cannon Ball and Church of the Cross in Selfridge. And although he is white and not a member of the tribe, he has spent 25 years ministering here and is well aware of the historical context being applied to both the recent protests and the Episcopal involvement.

Resisting large corporate movements and the Army Corps of engineers is an expensive and exhausting challenge.  The cost in time and resources is enormous.  Many supporters have come out to be physically present blocking the construction and the numbers have grown.  Standing with representative of more than 80 Native tribes have been many from the local churches.  David Paulsen (ENS) affirms: “Local Episcopal congregations aren’t just passive observers. Some church members are on the front lines, joining in the protests or supporting the hundreds – and at times thousands – of people camped there, and the issue has influenced Sunday sermons, prayers and even the choice of liturgy.”

North Dakota 2

Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry also issued a statement on August 25 in support of the opposition:

“Water is a gift from the creator, respect it, and protect it.”  I was deeply moved by these words printed on the sign of a person standing with hundreds of others to protect the Missouri River. In the Episcopal Church, when we baptize a new follower of Jesus Christ, we pray these words over the water of baptism. “We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.” We then recall how God used water to bless his people in the Bible, from the story of creation in Genesis, the emancipation of Hebrew slaves in Exodus, to the baptism of the Lord Jesus in the River Jordan. Indeed, “Water is a gift from the creator.” To sustain it and to protect it is to “safeguard the integrity of God’s creation,” and therefore to protect human and others forms of life created by Almighty God.  That work warrants our full and prayerful support.

The people of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, standing in solidarity with hundreds of other indigenous nations and allies, are calling us anew to respect and protect this sacred gift of God, and in so doing to respect and protect God’s gift of human life. In protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, they recognize the gift of water to all of us, a gift given to us by our Creator. The Sioux remind us “mni wiconi” or “water is life.” This God-given resource courses through our mighty rivers and our human veins, working to renew and reinvigorate all of creation.

We are called to do our part to urge decision makers to recognize and honor the efforts to protect the sacred water and burial grounds threatened by the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Pipeline, if completed, would stretch over one thousand miles and transport 540,000 barrels of crude oil through hallowed North Dakota burial grounds every day. A rupture in its infrastructure could wreak untold havoc on the Sioux and catastrophically pollute the Missouri River, a sacred tributary that the Sioux people depend upon for their daily water.

I stand with the people of Standing Rock in their efforts to respect and protect the Missouri River. We know that the right to clean water is an internationally recognized human right and that all too often indigenous communities, other people of color, and our most vulnerable communities throughout the world are the ones most at risk of losing access to clean water. As we join the people of Standing Rock, we also recognize that their stand is one that joins the fight for racial justice and reconciliation with climate justice and caring for God’s creation as a matter of stewardship.

This stand of men, women and children is also an important moment in the life of indigenous people. The Sioux people’s advocacy efforts to protect the Missouri River and the sacred burial grounds threatened by the oil pipeline is truly historic.  Leaders of Standing Rock observe that it’s been over 140 years since such a unified call for respect and justice has been made. The Episcopal Church has a long record of advocating that government, corporations and other societal players respect the treaty rights of Native peoples. Standing alongside our Sioux brothers and sisters, we continue this legacy today.

The people of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation are calling us now to stand with Native peoples, not only for their sakes, but for the sake of God’s creation, for the sake of the entire human family, and for the children and generations of children yet unborn. The legendary Sioux Chief Sitting Bull reminds us: “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”  There is the urgent need of this calling.

So, while we cannot all physically stand in the Camp of Sacred Stones today, let us hold, both in spoken word and silent prayer, the aspirations of the Sioux people and urge our policymakers to protect and responsibly steward our water, the sacred gift from God that sustains us all. (http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/08/25/presiding-bishop-statement-in-support-of-the-advocacy-of-the-people-of-standing-rock-sioux-reservation/)


A statement issued by North Dakota Council of Indian Ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota Aug. 19 makes reference to resolutions passed at previous General Conventions:

  1. The North Dakota Council of Indian Ministries (NDCIM) of the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their peaceful and prayerful efforts to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL) because of its degradation of sacred sites and possible catastrophic contamination of their drinking water and irrigation projects.
  2. The NDCIM calls upon the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reverse its decision for construction of the DAPL, especially in light of the disregarded recommendations of three federal agencies (the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation) for further study and investigation of environmental impact. Furthermore, the rejection of the original plans for construction north of Bismarck due to potential dangers to their drinking water is an obvious example of environmental racism.
  3. The NDCIM calls upon the appropriate governmental authorities to re-open State Highway 1806. Not only is this closure an unnecessary inconvenience to Standing Rock residents, but it has effectively resulted in an economic sanction against the Standing Rock Nation.
  4. There are Native American veterans and non-Native veterans alike that served in the Armed Forces historically and to the present day to protect the US and all citizens.  Their valiant efforts should never be forgotten and based on that we support the efforts of government to government (sovereign tribal nations, states, and federal government) relations to resolve the DAPL crisis in a peaceful, expedient manner that is beneficial to all.
  5. Given resolutions of recent General Conventions of The Episcopal Church (TEC), including but not limited to the Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery (2009-DO35), the expression of Solidaritywith Indigenous People (2012-A131), the call to protect IndigenousPeoples’ Sacred Sites (2012-A132), and opposition to EnvironmentalRacism (2000-D005), the NDCIM calls upon the Presiding Bishop and the Office of Government Relations of TEC to advocate for us.
  6. The NDCIM requests the Diocesan Council to allocate 10% of the value of our Bakken royalties for 2016 for outreach efforts to the NO DAPL and Sacred Stone camps.
  7. The NDCIM invites other Episcopalians and people of good will to join us in these efforts.

The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith, Bishop (Potawatomi)

Robert F. Fox, NDCIM Chair (Sahnish)


North Dakota 3We can take a stand with our brothers and sisters in North Dakota.  ENS shared some ideas in their article that came out as a result of Bishop Curry’s statement: “Organizers have indicated that they are in urgent need of portable toilets and roll-off trash containers. Their expenses include food that is prepared on site, health care and gasoline to reach the remote site, which has been made harder to reach by a law-enforcement roadblock set up on the main highway. Local parishes and congregations are providing material and spiritual resources to support to the protesters, and are in turn supported by the diocese.”  Financial donations can be made to the diocese by clicking on the “donate” button on their webpage (http://www.ndepiscopal.org/) and reference your donation as “Standing Rock” or “NODAPL.”   You can also mail a donation to The Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota, 3600 25th St. South, Fargo, ND 58104 and use the same reference notation in the memo line.

You can also offer your support by speaking out:

  • Contact your Congressional representatives and senators to ask them to request the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers do a complete environmental assessment that looks at the full implications of the pipeline that includes impact to the reservation and honors the treaty obligations (the people of Standing Rock are challenging the adequacy of process and content of the Corps’ environmental assessment issued in July.
  • Ask the Army Corps of Engineers directly to do a complete environmental assessment that looks at the full implications of the pipeline that includes impact to the reservation and honors the treaty obligations; and
  • Contact the U.S. Department of Justice and ask officials to monitor the nature and use of police and possible military equipment during the standoff.

And share the story on social media.  The protests have been peaceful yet the media has not always given that impression (read the “real story” in the ENS article here – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/08/26/episcopalians-invited-to-support-anti-pipeline-protesters-join-advocacy/)


When we live out the promises we made in our Baptism we are “counting the cost” of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  Let’s join our brothers and sisters to protect our planet and respect the dignity of every human being while we work for justice for all.

Let us pray –

Give us hearts to understand;

Never to take from creation’s beauty more than we give;

never to destroy wantonly for the furtherance of greed;

Never to deny to give our hands for the building of earth’s beauty;

never to take from her what we cannot use.

 

Give us hearts to understand

That to destroy earth’s music is to create confusion;

that to wreck her appearance is to blind us to beauty;

That to callously pollute her fragrance is to make a house of stench;

that as we care for her she will care for us.

 

We have forgotten who we are.

We have sought only our own security.

We have exploited simply for our own ends.

We have distorted our knowledge.

We have abused our power.

Great Spirit, whose dry lands thirst,

Help us to find the way to refresh your lands.

 

Great Spirit, whose waters are choked with debris and pollution,

help us to find the way to cleanse your waters.

Great Spirit, whose beautiful earth grows ugly with misuse,

help us to find the way to restore beauty to your handiwork.

Great Spirit, whose creatures are being destroyed,

help us to find a way to replenish them.

 

Great Spirit, whose gifts to us are being lost in selfishness and corruption,

help us to find the way to restore our humanity.

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind,

whose breath gives life to the world, hear me;

I need your strength and wisdom.

May I walk in Beauty.

Amen.

~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair Resolution Review Committee

 

The importance of being prepared for (the inevitable) emergencies

flooding 2 Greetings, Friends!

I’ve been doing some thinking (always dangerous, right?!) as I’ve listened to the news of the flooding in Louisiana. So many people have lost so much; it’s hard for me to fathom how one recovers from such a tragedy. The reports that I continue to hear project that the clean-up and recovery process will take years but, in the meantime, what do people do?  Where does one go? What about all the piles of paper that fill our filing cabinets demanding attention and storage? What about the photos and heirlooms that can’t be replaced?  I imagine myself in the situation and wonder where I would begin. Now, I know that God doesn’t give grace to face tragedies in advance so I’m sure that, should this happen, God’s grace would be more than sufficient to guide me through whatever “deep waters” I was facing. However, God has not left us powerless and without the brains to prepare for the consequences of life in uncertain times.

That leads me to this week’s two-part theme: 1. A discussion of how we might support the relief efforts in Louisiana and 2. How we might be prepared for the time a disaster happens within our diocese.  So, let’s begin –

flooding

The record 30 inches of rain which fell in Louisiana resulting in massive flooding has affected more than 40,000 homes in both the Diocese of Louisiana and that of Western Louisiana.  On August 15, I read a Pastoral Letter by The Rt. Rev. Morris Thompson, Jr, Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana addressing the flooding:.  He wrote:


Dear friends,

In the wake of the flooding in the Baton Rouge area, I wanted to touch base with you to let you know where we stand as a diocese.  Over the weekend, I was in regular contact with many of our congregations and clergy.  As you know, the severity and speed of this storm caught all of us by surprise.

On Saturday, we sent out an alert on our new Alert Media network through Episcopal Relief and Development. We are one of the “test dioceses” for this system.  Through this, we were able to quickly ascertain if anyone was in immediate flooding danger.  We also used it as an opportunity to gather all of the clergy in a conference call that was conducted this morning.  We were very pleased with the effectiveness of this system and had almost 100% participation of our clergy/parishes across the diocese.

As far as flooding, this is where we stand: St. Francis, Denham Springs received 2-4 feet of water. Robert Bishop, the senior warden, emailed us this morning to report that they were able to get to the church to assess the damage.  The other affected property is Episcopal High School. This morning I received an email stating that Hugh McIntosh was taking a boat to the property. As of yesterday, there was water in the gym, the Lower School and possibly the Penniman building.  We will have further details after his visit.  We are still unsure of the status of the former Holy Spirit property. Amazingly, neither St. Augustine’s, Baton Rouge or St. Patrick’s, Zachary flooded.  The Senior Warden in Zachary reported that the water rose to within an inch of the front door and then receded. Several of our clergy had to evacuate their homes. The extent of flooding is still being evaluated.  I have assigned a clergy contact to each of them to coordinate and assist with their needs.

Canon Manning and Deacon Elaine Clements are working alongside me to coordinate relief efforts through ERD as well as communicating with the parishes to match need with relief assistance.  We have verbal assurance of immediate short-term funding from ERD for $20,000.  This will be a significant help to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable victims. I have also asked Fr. Mark Holland to serve as a relief coordinator for the Baton Rouge area.  In the days and weeks to come we will be moving from emergency relief to long-term disaster recovery and assistance. I will be in touch with you as we move through this process. Our friends in other dioceses have already reached out to offer their assistance.

At the bottom of this letter I have included important contact information for donations, relief and assistance.

Please contact the diocese if you need any other assistance.

I leave you with a prayer from Holy Women, Holy Men (Church Publishing, 2009):

Compassionate God, whose Son Jesus wept at the grave his friend Lazarus:  Draw near to us in this time of sorrow and anguish, comfort those who mourn, strengthen those who are weary, encourage those in despair, and lead us all to fullnesss of life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Savor and Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Peace,

The Rt. Rev. Morris K. Thompson, Jr.
Bishop of the Diocese of LouisianaFlood-damage


Bishop Thompson included links to helpful resources which highlighted where to send financial donations (Bishop’s Discretionary Fund: please make checks payable to The Bishop’s Professional Fund earmarked 2016 Flood Relief at Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, 1623 Seventh St., New Orleans, LA 70115) as well as suggested items that individuals and families need:

  • Gift cards to local stores
  • Unopened toiletries and hygiene products
  • diapers and other baby supplies, individually packaged
  • bedding-new, preferably packaged
  • phone chargers-all types
  • First Aid supplies

Donations can also be made to the following agencies to assist those in shelters:

In the time since the letter from Bishop Thompson was shared, Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) has set up a link to receive donations on their website: http://www.episcopalrelief.org/   Episcopal News Service reported:

“The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana has many strong lay and clergy leaders at both the congregational and diocesan level with extensive disaster response experience and connections,” said Katie Mears, director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s U.S. Disaster Program. “This experience allows for streamlined processes and wisdom about how to best serve the needs of their neighbors, both in the short-term, but especially in the weeks, months and years to come.”

Which leads me right to my next topic:  Are we ready as individuals, congregations, and diocese should a disaster strike in our area?  The Rev. Deacon Glenn Morrison, our diocesan Disaster Preparedness and Response Coordinator, has been working for the last three years to motivate us to complete disaster preparedness plans and our asset map information.  When I spoke to Glenn yesterday, he reported that fewer than 10 congregations have filed their disaster plan with him.  Glenn finds that when he speaks to congregations everyone seems motivated to work on their plan initially but the distractions of our busy lives and the seemingly remote possibility of a disaster get in the way as soon as he leaves.  Let’s encourage one another to make preparedness a priority for our families and congregations! disaster-planning-are-you-ready

Glenn shared the Preparedness Planning Guide for Congregations and Parishes (comprehensive version) which you can access here – (insert link for guide)  Episcopal Relief and Development has a library of helpful resources for assistance in completing the guide and Glenn will also be happy to help any congregation that asks.  You can find ERD’s resources here – http://www.episcopalrelief.org/press-and-resources/resource-library

Asset Mapping is also an important resource should a disaster strike.  A quick search on the map for congregations and ministries that are prepared to meet specific needs can save valuable time in the midst of a crisis.  Our Household has been encouraging every congregation to participate in this Church-wide project.  Has your congregation completed your part?  You can read more about our diocese’s asset mapping here – http://www.edomi.org/share-your-churchs-resources-with-the-episcopal-asset-map/

Let’s work together to prepare EDOMI using our God-given gifts and abilities for whatever comes our way!

Let us pray –

O God, our times are in your hand.  In the midst of uncertainty lead us by your never-failing grace as we seek to be agents of healing and hope.  Walk with us through difficult times; watch over us in danger; and give to us a spirit of love and compassion for those who suffer and mourn.  And finally remind us that you have promised never to leave us so that even in the valley of the shadow of death your love may be felt, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  AMEN.

— The Rev. Lyndon Harris, from the Episcopal Diocese of New York disaster preparedness plan

~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee

The Scouting experience: An incredible learning opportunity

Inkster-Breakfast-300x225

A community breakfast at St. Clement’s, Inkster.

Greetings, friends!

Some of my favorite memories from my childhood center on my experiences in Scouting.  I loved being part of the group and relished working on badges together.  I was proud of my uniform and the values it represented.  And I loved the enthusiastic volunteers who served as leaders for our troop.  I believe I developed some of my leadership and service skills through their modeling and example.  Well, there must be many others like me who found their scouting experiences to be worthwhile because we passed a resolution at General Convention last summer congratulating the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for 100 years of work with American youth:


C037: Sponsoring and Supporting Scouting Units

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention congratulate the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for over 100 years of fine work with American youth, teaching leadership, cooperation, teamwork, and ethics in a non-sectarian program emphasizing outdoor and life skills, a program which has reached millions of boys; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention commend the BSA for its recent change to a non-discriminatory membership policy, welcoming all youth to be scouts, irrespective of their sexual orientation, a change consistent with Resolution C031 adopted by the 73rd General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention recommend that vestries and clergy in charge of congregations sponsor or continue to sponsor scouting units (packs, troops, posts and crews), especially those units recently displaced by decisions from other denominations to cease sponsoring scouting units as a consequence of the BSA’s recent change to a non­discriminatory membership policy concerning sexual orientation; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention urge that parishes strongly consider, at the time they charter or renew the registration of their Boy Scout unit, communicating to the Boy Scout Council and to the public that The Episcopal Church strongly disagrees with the BSA’s policy of discriminating against qualified adult leaders based on sexual orientation; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention encourage qualified adults to volunteer as leaders, and otherwise to support the BSA work with youth in their communities; and engage in educational programs within their churches to inform members and others about these nondiscrimination issues; and be it further

Resolved, That insofar as the 77th General Convention affirmed our full inclusion, support, and love for our brothers and sisters in the transgender community at all levels of church leadership and membership, the Episcopal Church is eager to work with the BSA in hopes of making the great benefits and life-long lessons of scouting available to all; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention directs that the Office of General Convention send a copy of this resolution to the BSA’s National Office and the National Executive Board of the Boys Scouts, and to seek discussions to alter its membership policy for adult leaders which discriminates against qualified adults based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.


boy scouts inkster 3But the resolution isn’t merely about applauding their success.  There is more to be done!  Personally, I didn’t know of any congregations that still sponsored scouting units but Canon Jo Ann Hardy did.  Last year, the Rev. Ellis Clifton of St Clement’s, Inkster, worked with others in the community to establish a partnership between the City of Inkster and the Boy Scouts to foster life and leadership skills for the youth in their neighborhoods.  Here’s an article written in September, 2015, by Jacqueline Wright that appeared on the BSA Michigan Crossroads Council webpage:

On September 3rd, the City of Inkster and the Boy Scouts of America solidified a partnership to re-engage the community with our mission: to prepare young people for life. The cultivation breakfast took place at St. Clements’s Episcopal Church in Inkster, and was attended by prominent community leaders dedicated to making a difference.

“The opportunity for Boy Scouts of America to partner with the City of Inkster will be the spark to change urban communities and act as a solution to end youth and gang violence, said Brandon Brice of the Boy Scouts of America.

Building a better relationship with community leaders allows the Boy Scouts the ability to introduce more kids in the Inkster community to our Boy Scout programming that focuses on character development, leadership skills, and helps to instill lifelong values.

No stranger to Boy Scouts, newly appointed Police Chief William Riley, who is also a Boy Scout Alumnus, understands the values the Boy Scout doctrine brings to the city and he believes this partnership will encourage more young people to become civically mined adults. The Rev. Ellis Clifton of St. Clement’s Church said, “Scouting will help save lives and be a catalyst for bringing fathers and sons together.”

We are looking forward to maximizing this partnership to its fullest potential as every child deserves to experience Scouting regardless of their economic condition.

And here’s a follow-up report published on their website in April, 2016:

Scouting teaches young men and women life skills that they can’t get anywhere. A bold statement, but a big impact. Aside from life-long friendships developed from peer to peer camaraderie, it is the preparedness for life that yields to be the greatest influence Scouting can bring to a young child. These character building attributes are what the Police Chief of Inkster, William Riley aspired to bring back to Inkster!

Boy Scouts of America has been absent from the city of Inkster for more than 30 years. But, for the past six months, Inkster’s Police Chief William Riley and newly-elected board member for Great Lakes Field Service Council has been laying the foundation to bring back the Scouting program. A program he believes positively shaped his early childhood and the youth in Selma, Alabama while he served as Police Chief prior to his current position. Engaging youth in their impressionable years will help to reduce the rising tension between the police department and the community it serves. We are proud to have Troop 1717 chartered by St Clement’s Episcopal Church as part of the Boy Scout organization that holds a Pack, Troop and Venturing crew!

I asked Rev. Clifton to tell me a bit about his experience with this endeavor and this is some of his reply:


St Clement's boy scouts reps with bishopScouting re-emerged in Inkster and at St. Clement’s after a 24 year absence.  It was a welcomed return to see troop 1717 restart.  (In 1967, I was a scout at St. Clement’s troop 1717.)

We started out recruiting for a Cub Scout pack and discovered that the older boys wanted scouting too.  The girls soon felt left out so now we have a CREW (female boy scouts) group too. This coming year, we hope to expand into the Westwood Public Schools to offer scouting activities at Daly, Thorne, and Tomlinson Schools, too.

The scouts made their public debut at a public safety forum co-sponsored by the Police Chief William Riley and our judge, the Honorable Sabrina Johnson.  Since then, our Boy Scouts have participated in 2 Inkster clean-up days (organized by Councilwoman Sandra Watley), distributed “get out to vote” information to the community, and helped to build the St. Clement’s float in the Memorial Day Parade (we won first prize!!).  Our Cub Scouts marched in that same parade.

We have somewhat incorporated the scouts into our RISE Initiative as the values promoted by scouting are compatible with those taught in the Rising Star Initiative (RISE), The Episcopal Church’s program designed to break the school-to-prison pipeline” by providing a wholesome, positive environment for learning.   (http://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/document/rising-stars-experience-rise-positive-alternative-school-prison-pipeline )  For that reason, seven of the scouts accompanied our representatives to the Mid-West Regional meeting of the Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE) in April 2016.  They were an outstanding presence and their participation was noteworthy.

Where we are now:

Twelve members of our Boy Scouts/Crew attended the week long residential camp from July 24th through July 30th.  This camping experience was held at the historic D-Bar-A Scout Ranch in Metamora, Michigan.  Some came back with merit badges for archery, sharp-shooting, as well as badges in other areas.  We have approximately 70 elementary school age children (both boys and girls) registered for the three-day summer day camp from August 16-18.  These camping experiences come from the vision of Police Chief Riley and are very similar to the scout/police/city/community collaboration he had while he was Chief of Police in Selma, Alabama.  Our efforts are a collaborative effort of the Scouting Council, the Inkster police, and St. Clement’s church.

Growing edges:  We have not had the adult volunteer response for which we had hoped. Recently, we met with the Mayor, the Honorable Byron Nolan, to discuss the possibility of getting other civic groups to assist with our efforts.   At our recent Summer Youth Explosion (another collaboration between St. Clement’s and Brothers and Sisters United), we were introduced to the adopt-a-grandparent organization that has expressed an interest in assisting with the Cub Scouts and Crew.  We desperately seek the involvement of the community so that this is not solely perceived as a St. Clement’s “thing” but rather a community effort to save our young people.


Hats off to Rev. Clifton and the fine, collaborative work the people of St Clement’s are doing with the community for the benefit of all their youth!!  I had the pleasure of speaking with Rev. Clifton as I prepared this post and heard the pride in his voice as he told me of one young scout who has successfully returned to school, another who has participated in the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council and one more who, despite some learning challenges, regularly serves as an acolyte for St. Clement’s.

Sponsoring a scout troop is one way to respond to this resolution from General Convention and certainly within reach of most of our congregations but there are others, too.  Last July, the Boy Scouts Executive Committee voted to lift a ban on openly gay adults in scouting leadership (http://www.wsj.com/articles/boy-scouts-to-vote-on-ending-ban-on-gay-adults-1438016457 )  As one might expect, this controversial decision on their part was met with both support and criticism (much of it coming from religious organizations that sponsor scout troops).  We must continue to speak out in support of full-inclusion without discrimination so that all youth and adults can experience the benefits of the scouting experience.

Let us pray –

A Prayer for Young Persons

God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than ways of the world and following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

(from Rising Stars Experience, a Rites of Passage Initiative for Young People http://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/rise_rising_stars_experience.pdf )

~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee

Important facts, plus a call to action, regarding refugees

Greetings, Friends!

Since writing last week’s blog addressing food security in our diocese, I’ve heard from others whose congregations are participating in some form of action to meet the needs of their community.  I’d love to highlight these congregations so I will need some information from you about what’s happening: the program, how it started, your goals, and how it’s going.  Also, please send a few photos that we can share.  Sometimes all it takes to get others involved is to see what someone else is doing.  Please, let me hear from you!

I’d like to begin this week’s blog with a big “thank you” to Allison Duvall of Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) for keeping us well-informed about refugee resettlement and how we can make a difference!  She recently shared a call to participate in a webinar on July 29th sponsored by the Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) designed to bring all of us up-to-date on refugee resettlement in the US now and prepare us for what’s coming in the future.  Here’s a link to the audio of that webinar so you can listen, as well – https://recordings.join.me/uvvxL0PhUUytQBIkY-YxPQ


RefugeesI learned that there are 2 important events coming up.  The first is the UN Refugee Summit on September 19th which will be followed on September 20th by the President’s Refugee Summit on September 20th.   The UN Summit is the first time that the General Assembly is hosting a program for Heads of State and government leadership addressing the movement of refugees and migrants.  Their goal is to bring countries together in a more humane and coordinated plan.

President Obama, in cooperation with co-hosts from Germany, Canada, Ethiopia, Jordan, Mexico, Sweden and the UN Secretary General, has pledged to work to advance the objectives of the summit through direct action as well as through encouraging robust action by other UN member states.  Key impact areas to be addressed include education, employment and endorsement.  To address these, the President’s Summit has three main goals:

  • To generate a 30% increase in financing for global humanitarian appeals going from $10 billion in 2015 to $13 billion for 2016
  • To double the number of resettlement slots and alternative legal pathways available to refugees and to increase the number of countries accepting refugees
  • To increase the number of refugees in schools worldwide by one million and the number of refugees granted the legal right to work by one million.

Refugee Development CenterOn June 30th, the White House issued a Call to Action for the private sector to make new, measurable and significant commitments that will have a durable impact on refugees.  You can find the Call to Action here – https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/30/fact-sheet-white-house-launches-call-action-private-sector-engagement  The Call to Action also identifies private sector partners that have already committed to humanitarian support for refugees including Accenture Federal Services, AIRBNB, Chobani, Coursera, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, IBM, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Linkedin, Mastercard, Microsoft, TripAdvisor, UPS, and Western Union.  You can read the specifics of each company’s involvement on the Call to Action page.

The webinar presented 3 action items for us before the President’s Summit:

  1. An Advocacy Postcard to be delivered to each member of Congress on their first day back in session. As soon as the cards are available, perhaps one person from your congregation can print them, have them signed and returned to 110 Maryland Ave, NE, Suite 110, Washington DC, 20002 by August 31st.
  2. A faith leaders sign-on letter on refugees to be sent by August 31sthttps://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeYAoNFTgKNn76PUcHgCmGMH80AFBIXKQ-u4m6Zk4qs0vwtNw/viewform
  3. An on-line petition created by World Relief for any individual to sign in support of refugees – http://www.worldrelief.org/refugee-summit

refugees 2Between now and September, Congress is considering funding measures for the next fiscal year (2017) which would keep money for refugees at the 2016 level.  President Obama has promised to raise the number of refugees being resettled next year to 100,000 from the 85,000 in 2016.  To meet this goal and adequately welcome and support those arriving, the budget will have to be increased.  Without raising these funds, refugee families will suffer as well as the communities that welcome them.  Call your Members of Congress and go in to visit them while they are at home in their districts to ask for this increased support.  Episcopal Public Policy Network has posted a shout out for our calls to Congress on this issue.  Please take a moment and offer your support here – http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/episcopal/RefugeeAdvocacy?platform=hootsuite

To help in your calls and visits, RCUSA has prepared a Toolkit to make the task easier – http://www.rcusa.org/uploads/images/RCUSA%20FY17%20Appropriations%20Toolkit_07.28.16.pdf

refugee funding


Before I close, I want to share a link to a segment I heard on Michigan Radio’s program “State of Opportunity” this morning.  Reporter April Van Buren spoke of refugee resettlement in Michigan – especially in Ingham County where more refugees are resettled than in any other county in Michigan.  Lansing’s Refugee Development Center (http://www.refugeedevelopmentcenter.org/) provides year-round services including English classes, after-school programs and access to a social worker.  They also host a summer camp called GLOBE (Gaining Learning Opportunities through Better English).  Some of the young adults in the camp participated in the Newcomers New Ideas Youth Pitch Competition where they presented their entrepreneurial prowess.  Michigan’s refugees are ex cited to become vital members of their communities.  Please take a few moments to listen to the broadcast – http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/why-investing-refugees-pays

As I learn more, I will certainly keep you informed.  Here are some other helpful sites that have resources and other up-to-date information –

http://dcrally4refugees.org/

http://www.refugeesarewelcome.org/about-us/

http://www.rcusa.org/

Let us pray –

Gracious and loving Lord, you have, indeed, made of one blood all the peoples of this world.  Forgive us for the many times we forget this and act selfishly and unjustly toward those we don’t know.  Help us to remain focused on the building of your Kingdom by loving all our neighbors as we love you.  Give us the grace we need to welcome newcomers to our shores and see them as our brothers and sisters also made in your image, and give us courage to speak out in their support to those who have power.  All this we ask in the precious name of Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.

~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee