Getting into the meaning of affirming relationship-based social justice

lovethyneighborasthyselfGreetings, Friends!

Well, we’re back on schedule!  Thank you to all who have faithfully followed the blog on our Facebook page even without the Friday Morning Grind. I know that there’s still much to say about refugee resettlement and the Dakota Access Pipeline, let’s get back to some talk on resolutions since that is our primary focus. Please continue to check our Facebook page for postings from Episcopal Migration Ministries and the Stand with Standing Rock efforts.

If you’ll recall, we began presenting the resolutions that Covenant 5 asked congregations to consider in their resolution passed at our Diocesan Convention last October. This week my committee has researched some possible approaches to meet Resolution A096: Affirm Relationship-Based Social Justice (from the 78th General Convention). Here’s the full text of the resolution:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 78th General Convention affirm the many justice ministries of service and advocacy throughout The Episcopal Church, ministries that are grounded in the Baptismal Covenant and that were initiated by General Conventions, dioceses, congregations, and other Episcopal organizations; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention affirm and encourage the use of various methods to discern, develop, and sustain justice ministries, such as Asset-Based Community Development, needs surveys, and community organizing; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention affirm and encourage the formation of partnerships between congregations and well-established community organizing groups in their local contexts in order to be trained in the practice of community organizing and sustained by those partnerships that they may do justice ministry more effectively and efficiently; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention acknowledge that one of the greatest challenges of our time and culture is the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the sin of economic injustice that pervades our society; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention challenge all Episcopalians to hear in a bold way the call of both Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi to befriend and be with the poor, and that we come to know that the future vitality of The Episcopal Church is grounded in our mutually affirming relationships with our brothers and sisters who are poor; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention encourage all Episcopal congregations to establish relationship-based, social-justice ministries through which relationships are developed between those who serve and those who are served, resulting in shared and transformational experiences and in a greater commitment to work for justice on all sides of the socio-economic divide; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention encourage churches and dioceses to discover and partner with local experts such as Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), Direct Action and Research Training (DART), Gamaliel Foundation, Asset Based Community Development, People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO), and other local formulations of interfaith or cross cultural organizations that use relationships to structure their transformative work; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention ask Episcopal groups that are participating in relationship-based social justice to share their experiences with the broader Church through social media, the internet, and official communication channels, so that other groups can learn from their successes, challenges, and insights.

This is a long and possibly intimidating resolution on first reading. Here is some resolution reading advice:

First, take it apart.  Initially, let each “resolve” stand on its own.  For example, it we read the first resolve, there’s nothing a congregation can act upon – although expressing gratitude to those local and diocesan agencies that work to bring justice might be one way of fulfilling this resolve.  So, read to find the resolves that suggest action items.

2dayBecome informed.  Before trying to start something new, find out what’s happening in your community.  Learn about the issues from your local news sources.  What are the experts saying?  Maybe the first thing to suggest to your congregation or group of friends might be a book study so everyone has the same background information and is well-informed about the issue.  For example, I was listening to Michigan Radio one day and heard Jack Lessenberry recommend a book that he thinks everyone should read:  $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer.  I ordered it right away and then learned that Luke Shaefer is the husband of our own Rev. Susie Shaefer.  This hooked me even more and is providing an important foundation for understanding the day-to-day situation of the very poor in our communities.  I decided that this would be the book that my book club will be reading and discussing for February.  Who knows what might come from our discussion?

Next, know your resources.  Consider your congregation.  Are there any people that might already have a passion for one of these resolves?  Can you partner with local agencies or other congregations in your community to accomplish the work?  That kind of cooperation really build relationship-based advocacy as you work together for a common goal.

Okay then, let’s look at this long resolution.  The first few resolves are all “affirm” and “acknowledge” so let’s go to the fifth resolve which challenges us to do something.  Joyce Munro, a member of Resolution Review, prepared this for you:

Resolved, That this Convention challenge all Episcopalians to hear in a bold way the call of both Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi to befriend and be with the poor, and that we come to know that the future vitality of The Episcopal Church is grounded in our mutually affirming relationships with our brothers and sisters who are poor.

Economic segregation in this country is very thorough, making it difficult for us recognize and interact with the poor, including the working poor, among us. Congregations and individuals have many avenues for donating funds to assist the poor; this allows us to salve our consciences but keeps us at a distance from our brothers and sisters who are poor. In order to “befriend and be with the poor” and “enter into mutually affirming relationships” with them as Jesus calls us to do, we need to take steps that will break down this separation.change-the-world

Congregations can study Rev. Stephanie Spellers’ book Radical Welcome: Embracing God, the Other, and the Spirit of Transformation to develop practices to welcome and include others in their worship communities. A helpful study guide to the book is available at–embracing-god-the-other/bookstudyguide_participantsguide.pdf. This approach can work to help members of a congregation reach out across the barriers of attitudes and fear to welcome and form mutually affirming relationships from which all can benefit.

Individuals can participate in programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters to use the power of personal relationships to mentor children and adolescents ( You can become a literacy tutor, working in a one-on-one relationship with an adult. Contact your local public library or organizations like Reading Works in Detroit ( to find volunteer opportunities near you. Through such experiences, volunteers make strong relationships with those they tutor, hear their stories, and discover further ways that we can all be of help.

welcome-matMichigan Radio WUOM has been running a series of reports called “State of Opportunity” which is “a multi-year reporting and community engagement project focused on how poverty affects children in Michigan on the special problems of the poor.” Go to the website   ( to learn of the special struggles poor families face in doing everyday tasks that many of us have the resources to complete easily. Look for special opportunities where a congregation or individuals can offer assistance. For example, learn that getting treatment for asthma is difficult for children in poverty or that fees for participation in public school sports teams keeps poor students, especially girls, from playing sports at school ( A congregation or group of individuals from a congregation can contact local public schools, find ways to pay these fees for students who otherwise would not be able to participate, and then show up for the students’ games perhaps even volunteering to transport the students’ parents to the games, thus building genuine relationships with these families.

There are many ways we can break the distance that keep us separate from the poor. Finding ways to establish genuine relationships by befriending and being with the poor benefits all.

Another member of Resolution Review, Paul Castelli, researched some of the local experts mentioned in the seventh resolve:

Resolved, That this Convention encourage churches and dioceses to discover and partner with local experts such as Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), Direct Action and Research Training (DART), Gamaliel Foundation, Asset Based Community Development, People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO), and other local formulations of interfaith or cross cultural organizations that use relationships to structure their transformative work.

Some high school friends have been involved with MOSES, working on advocacy and organizing for mass transit in metro-Detroit.  The organization’s foci are economic dignity, healthy and sustainable communities, education for all, transparency and accountability, and transportation equity.

MOSES (Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength) is a metro-Detroit Gamaliel affiliate.

DRIVE is the Detroit Regional Interfaith Voice for Equity based out of the Harriet Tubman Center in Detroit.  They focus on community organizing through congregations and focus on Asset Based Community Development.  They provide training for individuals and organizations to utilize their methods of community organization through one-on-ones and listening sessions, etc.

On mass transit, there is also the Motor City Freedom Riders (  A former classmate told me that they do engage in one-on-ones in a similar format to that which we saw in the DRIVE presentation at Diocesan Convention.

Finally, Michigan United ( appears to be the largest community organizing initiative in the state. Unlike MOSES and DRIVE, which are regional, Michigan United is a state-wide organization. They are essentially an umbrella group.  Below is a list of their member organizations:

  • Latin Americans for Social & Economic Development
    (LA SED)-Detroit
  • ACCESS- Dearborn
  • AFSCME Council 25 – Detroit
  • American Citizens for Justice – Detroit
  • APIA-Vote Michigan
  • Boston Edison Neighborhood Association-Detroit
  • Centro Vida
  • Common Cause
  • Communications Workers 4004-Detroit
  • Communications Workers of America 4001-Detroit
  • Detroit Action Commonwealth-Detroit
  • El Nacimiento-Detroit
  • Evangelica Misionera de Kalamazoo-Kalamazoo
  • Evangelical Lutheran Synod of SE MI-Detroit
  • First United Methodist of Kalamazoo-Kalamazoo
  • Greater Mt. Tabor Missionary Baptist Church-Detroit
  • Holy Angels – Sturgis
  • Immaculate Conception Church-Hartford
  • Jesus Es El Camino-Hartford
  • La Rosita Market
  • La Vina Church-Sturgis
  • Marygrove Neighborhood Association-Detroit
  • Metro AME Zion-Detroit
  • Michigan Nurses Association
  • Michigan Unitarian Universalist Federation
  • Mid-Michigan immigration coalition
  • Portage Chapel Hill UMC – Kalamazoo
  • Pride Area Community Council
  • San Felipe de Jesus-Fennville
  • Second Grace Methodist Church-Detroit
  • SEIU-Detroit
  • SEIU Local 1
  • Senegalese Community Association
  • South Asian American Voices for Justice (SAAVI)-Troy
  • Catherine of Siena-Kalamazoo
  • Joseph Catholic Church-Kalamazoo
  • Thomas Aquinas Church voting Detroit
  • Supermercado La Tuna
  • UAW International -Detroit
  • UAW Local 2093 CAP Council-Three Rivers
  • UNITE – HERE Local 24-Detroit
  • United Auto Workers Local 600-Dearborn
  • United Food and Commercial Workers 876
  • United Methodist SE MI Conference Social Justice Office

Thanks to Joyce and Paul, I think you have a great beginning for adopting this resolution as a congregational initiative.  And, you’ve also got some helpful tips for finding just the right resolution for your congregation.

This work is about so much more than merely meeting the requirements of a resolution.  It’s all about establishing relationships with our neighbors so that we can work together for justice and dignity.

Let us pray…

O God, holy and just, you long for a nation that follows the way of righteousness and peace: We pray for our land and people that we may follow you faithfully and live according to your mission on this earth to bring justice and dignity for all people.  Deliver us from greed of gain, from all prejudice and ill-will, and from all causes of injustice and inequity.  Inspire us to a love of all our neighbors and true concern for one another’s welfare that we work together with one heart and will to secure quality of opportunity for all.  Amen.

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

In support of LGBT rights in Africa

rainbow-crossGreetings, Friends!

Getting back into the swing of responsibilities after the holidays is not easy for me this year.  To be honest, I feel like I am still reeling from the results of the November elections and as January 20th gets closer, my anxiety level seems to be rising.  I’ve given up reading many news sources online because too much becomes overwhelming quickly.  And, I have avoided reading the comments because of the nasty, hateful words that are thrown around as though they have no impact at all.  What has become of civility (that’s a rhetorical question – I’m afraid I know the answer)?   If I try to put my finger on why I am feeling so concerned and anxious, I think it’s because I feel powerless and am unsure about just what I can do to make a difference.

Apparently, I’m not alone.  After expressing my concerns to a friend, she told me that the number of people seeking therapy since the election has increased.  I can’t speak to that statistic – there seems to be differing opinions when I check sources online – but when “googling” Trump and anxiety, a huge list of articles appears!  Even before the election, The Atlantic shared an article back in May acknowledging that anecdotal evidence indicates that anxiety increases at every election season but this particular election cycle has seen an unprecedented increase:

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, aspires to implement policies far more extreme than the ordinary candidate’s. He talks of launching a trade war with China, deporting millions of immigrants, and enacting a total ban on Muslim immigration. Either through sky-high prices or constrained religious rights, his plans would dramatically alter the lives of far more Americans—in a far more sweeping way—than the proposals of Clinton, Obama, Romney, or McCain.

You can find the whole article here –

believe-out-loudOne of the groups that is particularly concerned about the results of this year’s election is our LGBTQ friends.  The hard-earned fight for equality seems to be on the line with the conservative agenda that could mean an attempt to repeal the marriage equality law passed in 2015.  In addition, we’ve all heard reports of harassment and violence against gays following the election.  Regardless of your politics, this denial of respect and dignity goes against all that we promised as Episcopalians just this past Sunday when we reaffirmed our Baptismal Covenant.

One of the resolutions that Covenant 5 asked congregations in our diocese to consider at Convention last year is A051 Support LGBT African Advocacy which was adopted at the 2015 General Convention:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church recognize and commend the unconditional love and support that families, communities, scholars, and activists have shown to their Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) sisters and brothers in Africa who are at risk of violence, discrimination, and imprisonment; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church affirm the following redemptive words in the statement of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in the Dromantine Communique (2005) that: “The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship;” and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church encourage parishes and dioceses, especially those with companion relationships with Anglicans in Africa, as well as advocacy groups, to build relationships with and learn from Anglican African scholars who are already offering Biblical interpretations that affirm the dignity and humanity of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex people; and be it further

Resolved, That the Office of Global Partnerships, Justice, and Advocacy Ministries , the Office of the Presiding Bishop;, and other relevant church-wide offices be directed to work in partnership with African Anglicans who publicly oppose laws that criminalize homosexuality and incite violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex people; and be it further

Resolved, That The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church direct the Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns or other appropriate body as designated by Executive Council to compile, for church-wide reference and use, a listing of information and resources developed by African Anglican leaders and organizations working to curb anti-gay and anti-transgender violence, discrimination, and marginalization; and be it further

Resolved, That The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church encourage parishes and dioceses to offer prayers for the safety of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex sisters and brothers, their families and communities, and for the scholars and activists who tirelessly work on their behalf.


If you have followed the news from recent General Conventions and reports from the Anglican Communion, you are aware that there is no sanctioned inclusion of the LGBT community is many parts of Africa.  In fact, many face lengthy prison sentences for expressing their love in addition to a lack of welcome in the Church.  I’m not aware of any of our congregations that have a partnering relationship with a church in Africa so I have no first-hand knowledge to share but the third resolve in this resolution does ask that we become more informed and consider establishing relationships with our brothers and sisters in Africa.  I asked a friend in the diocese for help finding a resource and he shared the blog “Erasing 76 Crimes” which focuses on the human toll of 76+ countries’ anti-LGBT laws and the struggle to repeal them –

Many of our congregations are already Welcoming and Affirming so you all have experience in offering a safe and inclusive sacred space.  For those of us attending churches that have not yet officially addressed this issue, I have tried to find resources to help all of us begin this process.  Our diocese has a list of links for LGBTQ advocacy that you can find here –

One resource that looks particularly helpful is the “Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit” from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources –

If you are looking for an understanding of what the Bible has to say about sexuality, check out the Chicago Consultations page “Sexuality and Scripture” –

integrityYesterday, when I led my Bible study, we discussed what it means to be a witness.  It’s not enough to see something; a witness has to be willing to say something as well.  We agreed that being a witness can require courage because there’s often a risk involved.  This Sunday’s Gospel will tell of John’s witness to Jesus’ Baptism that he proclaimed to Andrew who, in turn, called his brother Simon Peter. We know what John’s witness ultimately cost him but he determined that risk was worth it.  We, too, are witnesses of God’s love through Jesus.  Are we willing to take the risk to stand up for our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community should the newly-elected officials attempt to restrict their rights?  Will we be their voice?

Let us pray  (Please note, this prayer is edited from “Erasing 76 Crimes,” written for the LGBT community is Africa) –

Jesus, our brother in solitude, who knows the sexual violation of stripping, flogging and torture for crimes against God and the State: be close to your LGBT children in prison this night and may they know the consolation of your never-ending love and the hope of victory beyond whatever we may endure.

Jesus, condemned and killed by zealots of religious certainty and political expediency, forgive your church for its collusion with civil powers who have sent us to a slow death in these prisons, and continue to protect us from your followers.

Console all mothers and families who have lost loves ones because of their sexual orientation and help us to eradicate this unnecessary future destruction of human lives and potential.

You consoled your son Jesus in prison on the night before he died for all our sins, grant grace and courage to all parents of LGBT people who bear the stigma of their children’s sexual orientation. Be with those whose family has abandoned them and left them alone in prison.

Blessed John the Baptist, who spoke the truth and prepared the way of God’s kingdom of love and forgiveness, watch over the LGBT prophets of our own day who call their governments and leaders to justice and become victims of political corruption and vice.

Apostle Paul in chains, betrayed by the mother church in Jerusalem and extorted for years by the prison system of the Roman Empire, forgive the collusion of us, the fruit of your sacrifice to proclaim a gospel of inclusion, to the imperial exclusive values of the state.

Apostle Peter, patron saint of all who deny what is good and true, guide your church to seek the truth about what we say and do to LGBT people and not deny them their right to love and be the way God made them to be.

Blessed Cosmos and Damian, who shared a prison cell and a martyr’s death, watch over all who are dehumanized and assassinated simply for whom they love.

Blessed Veronica, who wiped the face of Jesus on his road from prison to the cross, watch over the safety of straight allies who step out on the road with us, risking their own safety and popularity.

Blessed Thecla, though a girl, wanted to be a boy and do the work of her friend, St. Paul, watch over all you children who challenge gender conformity, especially those who are transgender. Help us to see the image of God, both male and female in ALL who we see.

Blessed be the name of the Holy Prophet Mohammed, who calls us all into wholeness with God and one another, watch over your little ones in prison who have been abandoned by the families and their faith community simply for being gay. Teach us the Divine Compassion once again.

Blessed Martin Luther King, preacher of justice and dignity for all who are enslaved, watch over all who preach in God’s name and give us that dream where there will be no LGBT people in prison simply for being true to themselves.

Blessed Nelson Mandela, who languished in a prison cell yet freed a nation and brought us into reconciliation and peace, teach us LGBT prisoners and all who cry with us, not to be bitter to the church leaders and politicians who, in ignorance, keep us in these cells.

Blessed LGBT martyrs, Harvey, David and Eric, you know the suffering and the ultimate sacrifice for a society that you could only imagine, inspire us to continue your visions for a world without homophobia that imprisons, extorts, tortures and assassinates.

In communion with all the saints, angels and archangels, martyrs and the forgotten ones who have looked to you in hope, free us all from whatever enslaves us, that we may become the children you have created us to be and this is our prayer with all LGBT prisoners throughout the world this day – simply free us to love you and one another in the ways you are revealing to each one of us.  AMEN.

(The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle) .

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle is founder and president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which works for LGBT rights and against AIDS by empowering grassroots organizations in many countries. An Episcopal priest from Ireland and the United States, he has expertise in developing coalitions of religious and secular organizations to provide health and human services in the United States and in Uganda, particularly focused on HIV issues. Ogle was in Cameroon at the invitation of the LGBT rights group Camfaids.

— The Rev. Judith Schellhammer is chair of the diocesan Resolution Review Committee.


Diocesan workshops coming in February; also, a story of resurrection in Texas

waters-of-reconciliationA Happy New Year and a Blessed Epiphany to You All, Dear Friends!

It is my fervent prayer that 2017 is a year in which we see the Jesus Movement alive and actively impacting the lives of our communities and our nation to bring protection and relief from injustice and oppression. This can only happen if we are committed to doing the work!

As you may remember Bishop Gibbs has been leading the diocese through “the Waters of Reconciliation” in our Diocesan Convention and Ministry Fairs over the last two years.  Recognizing the fears and concerns we see post-election in our nation, this focus could not have come at a more appropriate time. The work of learning how we might demonstrate love for all our neighbors will continue in our Household through your choice of a Saturday workshop on either February 4th or February 25th (The location of these events will be announced soon). The diocese is working with Visions, Inc., whose goal “is to be a catalyst for a more equitable world where differences are values and used for the benefit of all”.  From their website ( Visions, Inc. sees their mission as a call to:

  • To equip individuals, organizations, and communities with the tools needed to thrive in a diverse world.

  • To remove structural and cultural barriers that prevent full and equitable participation.

  • To help create environments where differences are recognized, understood, appreciated, and utilized for the benefit of all.

We will realize this mission by implementing a time-tested, insight-driven training and consulting model that will empower our clients to become catalysts for change and effectively engage all people in the deep, challenging, and rewarding work of authentic inclusion, personally and within their organizations and communities.

I am looking forward to the opportunity to see many of you there while we learn new ways to bring understanding to our own communities.

episcopal-diocese-of-fort-worthThis morning I read a wonderful story of resurrection which is also a statement of reconciliation for a diocese and its neighbors. You might remember that the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth chose to leave The Episcopal Church in November 2008 and align themselves with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. While the bishop and his colleagues left, many members remained committed to The Episcopal Church.  Katharine Jefferts-Schori, as Presiding Bishop at the time, insured that an “open arms” policy would be in place should any decide to return. In the meantime, a steering committee was established to reconstitute the diocese for the remaining Episcopalians.

The good news is that the Holy Spirit continued to work and resurrection for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is a reality! Episcopal News Service (ENS) reported on the “reorganization of the Diocese of Fort Worth” noting that the result of their hard work is more of a resurrection than even a resuscitation!  While reinventing the church in that place, they find that they have even reinvented themselves (

“We‘re not trying to rebuild an old church,” says Fort Worth Bishop Provisional J. Scott Mayer, who is also the bishop of the Diocese of Northwest Texas. “We are trying to participate in resurrection to become a new body.”

Some of the changes have included new worship venues for congregations including a theater, a strip mall and a building that originally was the Episcopal Mission of the Ascension in 1889 but in recent days has served as a mattress factory and a wedding chapel before returning to its original purpose. And new ministries are being born in this exciting climate. One example is the new 4 Saints Food Pantry to bring relief in the apparent food desert on the east side of Fort Worth. This new venture received a Mission Enterprise Zone grant to buy the equipment required for a licensed food pantry. The four “Saints” partnering in this ministry are St. Luke’s in the Meadow, Fort Worth; St. Alban’s, Arlington; St. Martin’s, Keller-Southlake; and St. Stephen’s, Hurst.4saints-food-pantry-960x350

As we see church attendance declining in many areas, it is exciting and promising to see a 19.3% increase in church attendance and an 11.9% operating revenue increase since the split. These numbers represent a lot more than dollars and cents; they represent new members of the Jesus Movement!  We often speak of new life being born from death like seeds needing to be buried deep in the ground before life can emerge. The resurrection of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is an example that we can observe as we rejoice in the results of their faithfulness and commitment.  For me, this brings hope that the work we do together for reconciliation and renewal will also bring about new life. I hope you’ll join me!

ENS will be telling the stories of some of the congregations in Fort Worth in upcoming articles.  Here’s a link to the first – St Alban’s Episcopal Church, Arlington, TX –

And here’s the video story of their reinvention:

Let us pray –

God of surprises,
you call us
from the narrowness of our traditions
to new ways of being church,
from the captivities of our culture to
creative witness for justice,
from the smallness of our horizons
to the bigness of your vision.

Clear the way in us, your people,
that we might call others to freedom
and renewed faith.

Jesus, wounded healer,
you call us
from preoccupation with our own histories and hurts
to daily tasks of peacemaking,
from privilege and protocol
to partnership and pilgrimage,
from isolation and insularity
to inclusive community.

Clear the way in us, your people,
That we might call others to
wholeness and integrity.

Holy, transforming Spirit,
you call us
from fear to faithfulness,
from clutter to clarity,
from a desire to control to deeper trust,
from the refusal to love to a readiness to risk.

Clear the way in us, your people,
that we might all know the beauty and power
and danger of the gospel.

—Gwyn Cashmore and Joan Puls, From One Race the Human Race: Racial Justice Sunday 2003, published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland: Churches Commission for Racial Justice, London.

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

Mary and Joseph’s search for safety, shelter similar to today’s refugees

holy-family-as-rerugeesA Blessed Christmas to you, my friends!

As I ponder what these last few days before the Nativity might have meant for Mary and Joseph, I can’t help but see the connection between their journey to Bethlehem and flight to Egypt with the travels of so many refugee families searching for a new, safe home.  I remember well, despite all the years that have passed, the strong desire I had to create a “nest” for my new baby toward the end of my pregnancies.  I loved the attention I got from my OB/GYN doctor and all my friends who were eager to offer their support.  I know that Mary didn’t have a baby registry set up with Amazon and likely there were no baby showers providing all her newborn’s needs but I can imagine that she was longing for a safe, warm and clean bed and the local midwife’s attentions when her time came.  Joseph, as a carpenter, very likely didn’t have much experience with the women’s work of labor and delivery.  And then, just when the new family might have felt a bit secure, God reveals the danger that they are in should they remain in Bethlehem so off they flee to a new, safe home where they will be strangers, refugees in this new land.  In so many human ways, they were on their own in this endeavor much like the refugees who are longing to come to a country of safety but where everything will be new to them – new languages, new customs, a whole new life.

As I consider these thoughts and what I want to write to you this week, I feel I owe you an apology.  Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) has been posting weekly videos during Advent and I haven’t shared them with you – not for lack of desire but out of a lack of attention. I am so sorry.  This week’s video message is given by the Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, Director of EMM:

Canon Mark reminds us:

When we reach out to help a refugee, we experience God’s promise of peace for the world. When we walk alongside a family that has run from death we cannot help but bathe in divine grace. When we bring a child to this land of hope we come to know the depth of our faith. When we give a refugee a new place of belonging, God’s will is fulfilled.

The other three videos can be found here –  Even though I am late getting these to you, the good news is that it’s not too late to share in the work of supporting refugee resettlement.  There is still so much to do!

If you’re like me, you’ve been watching with some concern as our President-Elect names those who will make up his cabinet and advisors.  For me, many of these individuals do not seem to share the same perspective on issues that I hold dear.  We all have heard the rhetoric about immigration, sanctuary cities and refugee resettlement.  Now is the time we have to speak the truth to our family, our friends, and our community – including our wider, social media community.  EMM sent an email this week that reminded me of the urgency:

In the aftermath of the election, it has become even more important to communicate the powerful and amazing ways refugees enhance and strengthen our communities.

We encourage you to utilize this messaging toolkit from

Welcoming Refugees designed to help those who work with or on behalf of recent refugees deliver strong messages that will encourage both community leaders and policy makers to take action on behalf of refugees in their area.

Key components of this Reframing Refugees Toolkit include:

  • The Power of Reframing
  • Assessment of Your Audience
  • Winning Message Themes
  • Storytelling Tools
  • Examples and Samples
  • Tools and Resources

Here’s the link to the Toolkit –

APTOPIX Mideast SyriaIn previous blogs, I shared the vetting process for refugees yet, despite that, I still hear from those who believe that refugees can merely get on a plane and come without significant background checks.  As we know, this is not the case but clearly we still need to inform others.  And, as EMM points out, the specifics of our involvement has changed since the election.  We know the details of the resettlement process so we can continue to share the story on social media as we try to refute the false news that has seemed so prevalent lately.  Each of us has a wide circle of friends.  Imagine if each of our friends shared the story with their circle of friends.

Are you still wondering what else you can do to support refugees?  EMM posted an article this morning that tells the story of what one group has done motivated by all the tragic news and heartbreaking images coming from the siege of Aleppo.  The parents of Near North Montessori School in Chicago is trying to raise $8000 to help a refugee family settle in their city:

“There’s such a feeling of people wanting to help right now,” Shawn Michael, whose four children attend Near North Montessori, told me. “It’s impossible to watch the news and not feel like you have to take some kind of action.”

The parents are working with RefugeeOne, a resettlement organization founded in 1982 to assist refugees become independent and self-supporting members of their communities.  You can read the full story of these parents’ efforts here –

And you can find more information about RefugeeOne here –

What is more representative of this holy season than to help find a safe home for a displaced family?  Others are working on similar projects and you can read about these on EMM’s Facebook page:  Tell us your stories, too!

I live in Hillsdale.  Sometimes I feel as though I have no opportunity to get involved in this important work because I live so far from the communities in which resettlement is happening.  When these feelings come, I remember that I do have a voice – and a blog – and a computer on which I can write letters to those who have the power to make changes allowing us to welcome more refugee families.  You also have resources.  Let’s work together so that these families find that there is a warm welcome and “a room in the inn” for them, especially at Christmas.

a-christmas-without-any-jews-arabs-africans-refugees-and-unwed-mothersLet us pray –

Compassionate God, make your loving presence felt to refugees and migrants, torn from home, family and everything familiar. Warm, especially, the hearts of the young, the old, and the most vulnerable among them. Help them know that you accompany them as you accompanied Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their exile to Egypt. Lead refugees and migrants to a new home and a new hope, as you led the Holy Family to their new home in Nazareth. Open our hearts to receive them as our sisters and brothers in whose face we see your son, Jesus. Amen.


Wishing you joy for Christmas and a New Year of peace.

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

The messy imperfection that makes Christmas so special


Greetings, Friends!

How are you all doing during this Advent?  Are you, like me, struggling to remember the spirit of this season amidst all of our culture’s hustle and bustle and expectations that we create the perfect holiday gatherings, joyful Christmas letters, and amazing gift-giving experiences?  As much as I know that this season is so much more than this, I get caught up in all of it – and this year somehow seems far more challenging with news of Aleppo and Mosul, the Dakota Access Pipeline, concerns about refugee welcome, and the appointments to the president-elect’s cabinet. I keep looking for Jesus in unexpected places but I am having trouble focusing.

Last night, my congregation held a Blue Christmas Service.  The weather was “frightful” so not many were there but the words that the Rev. Diana Walworth shared speak to my heart.  She reminded us that the first nativity was no Norman Rockwell snow globe:

Mary was incredibly young, a mere child herself.  She was unmarried – in the pangs of labor – in a town far from home where no one would even give her a room in which to give birth.  She ended up in a stable – not scented with pine or cinnamon – but with animal manure!  She wrapped her baby, not in a baby powder scented soft blue blanket, but in bands of cloth, possibly a feed sack made of itchy burlap. She laid him down in a pile of prickly, lice and flea-infested hay and straw in a less than hygienic feeding trough.  There was no beautiful music playing – only the noises from the animals mulling about.  There were no sparkling colored lights hanging around the stable – only the light from the moon and the stars, and possibly a candle.

She reminded us that, no matter how lovely the snow globe or custom nativity we place on our mantles, they are not the reality of that night – nor of the years that followed.  Diana continued:nativity-snow-globe

In sanitizing the Christmas scene, they have removed the comfort from the Good News!  The comfort comes in the smelly pile of manure!  Manure is real!  Manure is life giving! Manure encourages growth!  A manure-scented stable is where our VERY real God chose to enter our human world….

We find comfort in the fact that God didn’t just enter the human world in a smelly, dirty situation and then move on to something better.  Jesus lived, and worked, and spread the love of God, and experienced the same real, manure-filled situations that bring all of us here tonight!

Jesus lived in a world with leaders like Herod, Pilate and Caiaphas, a world full of as much political corruption and terror as we have with our government and Putin and ISIS.

The Holy Family fled their own country and became refugees, not unlike the families from the Middle East or the Mexican immigrants Judith passionately writes about in her blog.

Jesus may have not suffered from mental illness but his family and friends were often convinced he did!  Jesus suffered the wrongful imprisonment and murder of his cousin John… the death of his friend Lazarus… and the betrayal and suicide of his friend Judas.

Society ridiculed and belittled him for choosing friends who were looked down upon… children, women, the sick, the poor – much in the same way people are bullied for being black or gay or Muslim or whatever way in which they are different.

When things got tough for Jesus, his own close-knit band of brothers deserted him, some even denying they ever knew him.

Jesus was tortured, convicted unjustly, and killed in front of his mother and friends, very much like the people we hear about on the news each night.

God, in and through Jesus, has truly experienced humanity, in all its joy and sadness, and beauty and darkness, and well, manure.  God knows EXACTLY what we are going through and is ready and willing to share our burden and offer us the comfort we so desperately need.

I wanted to share that with you, my friends, because I take great comfort in remembering that God came to us knowing exactly what was happening and how messy and smelly our world would be.  But that’s not the end of the story.  Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Christmas message provides the ending:

From Isaiah Chapter 9:

For unto us a child is born,
unto us a Son is given;
and the government shall be upon His shoulder;
and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

These words of Isaiah are often seen as words that foretell and foreshadow the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary. The truth is, these words befit Him because this child changed the world. This child changes lives. This child changes us.

I remember when our oldest daughter was a baby. My wife and I were young. We were footloose and fancy-free.  It was just the two of us newlyweds, so if we wanted to go out to eat dinner, we went out to eat dinner. If we decided to go to a movie at the last minute, we just went.  We actually felt like we had money back then.  And we did have a little bit of discretionary income. We could pretty much do what we wanted to do, within reason, and we didn’t have to think too much about the consequences or impact of a spontaneous decision and what we had to do to make that happen.

And then, all of a sudden, this little, innocent human being, a little child, came into our lives, and literally gained control over our entire world. Before we could do anything else we had to think about, “Who’s going to keep the baby?” or “Is this a good time for us to go without the baby?”  We soon learned that we were not in control of our lives anymore.  Even our sleeping patterns became very different. We would stay awake when the baby was awake and we went to sleep when the baby went to sleep. Literally this child began to control our lives and the child didn’t even know she was doing it. And then we had a second one she did the exact same thing. And I’ve since learned that that’s what babies do.  When they arrive they take over!  And their parents begin to develop their lives around this child. To mold their entire lives around this precious needy baby.

Isaiah wrote, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given . . . and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  This child who was born of Mary changes everything. This child born in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes changes how we live. This child born to the sound of angels singing Gloria in excelcis Deo — this child to whom the wise ones came from afar bearing gifts — this child, changed the way the entire world works.

And this Jesus, born into a world torn by strife and hatred and division and pain and poverty, this child is born anew wherever men and women say, “I’ll follow Him. I’ll follow Him as my Savior. I’ll follow Him as my Lord.”

When this child grew up, He said His reason for coming, again quoting Isaiah, from the 61st chapter, he said,

The spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach Good News to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, the recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty all those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

This child, when He grew up, came to show us the way to live lives of love, lives of compassion, lives of goodness, lives of kindness, lives of justice. This child came to show us how to change the world. So this Christmas, make room for him to change us.  This Christmas help us change the world.  And make a new commitment, to go out from this day, to let this Christmas Day, be the first day of a new world.

God bless you. God keep you. Have a blessed Christmas.  A Happy New Year.  And go on out and change the world!

God came.  And God comes still.  God comes to change us and to change the world.  That’s the purpose behind this blog – hopefully to give all of us tools and resources to go out and make the changes.  To stand with those who stand alone.  To speak for those who have no voice.  To work for those who have no power or authority.

In light of Advent – and my need for some de-stressing and self-care – I wanted to give you those words this week and, because I am passionate about the many needs around us, let me share a recent request from Standing Rock.  This message came Wednesday, December 14th to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church Facebook page, from John Floberg, Episcopal priest to the people on the North Dakota side of Standing Rock:john-floberg

Many people are asking me what they can do next on behalf of Standing Rock. While the DAPL Pipeline may be particular to Standing Rock, the issues of Tribal Sovereignty and the respect for Treaty Obligations are not unique. What has begun on Standing Rock, that seems to have swept through our Church, needs to find its incarnation in all of our dioceses/congregations.

This forum is maybe the broadest forum available to get to our Dioceses and possibly then to our congregations. I am asking that each of our congregations recognize the Indigenous Nation and their Tribal Territory in the Christmas Bulletin.

That recognition that could be worded something like this: “St. John’s Episcopal, worshipping within the Territorial Lands of the ____________ Tribal Nation.” Remember, some of the Nations were removed from their Territorial Land and may not reside there any longer.

If your congregation is near one that was relocated you might write: “St. John’s Episcopal, neighbors of the _______________ Nation whose Territorial Lands are in the State of ________________.”

There is a high likelihood that the Doxology has been translated into their language. If you are able to print that Doxology in that bulletin (many languages use the common English alphabet). Send Christmas Greetings to the Tribal Chair/Council and Faith Communities in those Nations. To honor a Tribe by recognizing that you are in their ancestral territory and to acknowledge their language is likely the very next best thing that can be done by Episcopalians.

I went to my local resource – a good friend at the college – and learned that the Potawatomi were relocated from the region where St Michael’s and All Angels, Cambridge Junction is now located.  I was unable to find the doxology in Potawatomi but my friend shared a link where I could find the Gospel of Matthew.  I think this verse might be appropriate in a Christmas bulletin:

1:23 PInI! she’shksi kIncuko ku’okwIsIcI otI okishInkanawan Ime’niun; i ie’i KshmIne’to kuwice’okonan e’kItok.

Which is:

23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

It’s a little thing, for sure, but it is something we can do that might change our focus and serve as a reminder that most of us, in fact, were like Mary and Joseph – refugees to a land not our own.  Maybe even a little change of focus will help us to see Jesus more clearly at his coming!

Let us pray as our Savior taught us –

6:9. OtIsI ktashI matumawa; Nosnan e’in shpumuk kishkok, ke’cne’ntakwuk ktIshnukaswun, 9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
6:10 Kto kumau’wun kupie’mkIt. Nocma kte’ne’ntumwun knomkIt shotI kik, ke’cwa shpumuk kishkok. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
6:11. MishInak otI nkom e’kishkiwuk e’tso kishkuk, e’shwisIniak. 11 Give us this day our daily bread.
6:12 Ipi pone’ntumwIshnak mIsnukInanIn ninanke’ e’shpone’nmukIt me’citotmoiImIt, mIsnumoiumke’shiIk. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
6:13 Ipi ke’ko shonIshikak ke’tshI kwcItipe’nmukoiak, otapInIshnak caye’k me’anuk; kin ktupe’ntan okumauwun, ipi kshke’ e’wsuwun, ipi iw kcIne’ntakwsuwIn kakuk. E’me’n. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council

A possibly-temporary win at Standing Rock; also, gender empowerment of women

women-4Greetings, Friends!

Before I talk about this week’s resolution, let me share the most recent news from Standing Rock.  Last Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would not grant the easement for the final section of the DAPL (the section that would complete the line in this region crossing Lake Oahe at the Missouri River) and would be investigating other potential routes.  As you can imagine, there was much rejoicing at this news.  The joy was later tempered by Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners’ announcement that they would continue with the original route regardless on the Corps’ decision ( We also know that our President-Elect has supported the Dakota Access Pipeline in the past and is an investor in Energy Transfers Partners.  Mr Trump is expected to review the project after he takes office.  In the meantime, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II, has asked the water protectors to leave the camp, according to CBS News: “I understand the fear that they have that this is just a small victory and it’s not over yet. But it’s over right now” (  With the blizzard conditions at the camp and impassable roads leading in and out of the camp, there is concern for the safety and health of the water protectors staying there.

Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a letter on December 5th on the news from Standing Rock –

If you haven’t “liked” the Facebook page Episcopalians STAND with Standing Rock, let me suggest that you do it now so that you can continue to get the most recent news on this topic:

women-2On to our resolution for this week from the list that Covenant 5 gave us in October: A049 Make Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women a Focus of Foreign and Church Aid

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 78th General Convention commend giving priority to the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women, including transgender individuals, by using the following principles as appropriate standards for distribution of foreign aid by the United States, and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention recommends that any proposed economic aid will increase economic capacity, using methods such as global trade and financial and investment agreements, and will include the direct involvement of and capacity building for women; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention recommends that any proposed aid for health care will require a goal of universal coverage, ensuring access without discrimination for women, girls and transgender individuals to all types of services offered, without imposing financial hardship on the patient; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention recommends that any proposed aid for agriculture or aquaculture will facilitate the participation of women in these programs; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention recommends that any proposed aid responding to financial or economic crises or natural disasters and their aftermaths will include steps to minimize negative impacts on gender equality and empowerment of women, providing opportunities for women’s employment, and access to essential services and social protection systems for women’s and girls’ and other vulnerable and disadvantaged persons’ human rights; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention recommends that any proposed aid for environmental and climate-change issues will promote full and equal participation of women at all levels of decision making regarding the use of such aid; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention commend the same principles of achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women, including transgender individuals, to dioceses and  congregations throughout the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society as a criterion for engagement in domestic and international projects, whether through direct aid or involvement of personnel.

women-3Most of the resolves of this resolution deal specifically with funding of particular global projects and, while that might seem unrelated to our personal work in the Diocese of Michigan, we all help to fund many agencies and corporations through our investments and purchasing power.  One way we can participate actively in supporting women and girls is by choosing investments that honor these commitments.  It might take a little more work on our part to investigate where our money is going but it is possible to get the information either from your fund manager or your financial planner if you have one.

We can also be responsible shoppers by supporting companies like Thistle Farm, Homeboys Industries and Bead for Life which specifically empower women through their businesses.  With Christmas right around the corner, check out these websites for your gift ideas:

At our Diocesan Convention in October, Victoria Bell of Ann Arbor opened the discussion of “Who is My Neighbor?” by sharing her experience as a representative for The Episcopal Church at this year’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.  The above resolution is based on some of the agreements set out in the report on the 58th UN Commission on the Status of Women (2014).  Miss Bell was gracious to share her words with us:

Thank you, Bishop Gibbs, and thanks everyone, for your kind invitation to provide a brief report of my experiences to this convention! I’d like to recognize and acknowledge two other women here today – The Rev. Areeta Bridgemohan, who was an Episcopal delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 2009, and Rebecca Rosen, who has been named to serve in 2017.  All three of us were encouraged and inspired to apply for this honor by Canterbury House, your campus ministry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is an annual two-week convention that brings UN Member States, UN entities and nongovernmental organizations together to focus on a chosen theme relating to global empowerment and equality for women and girls. The 2016 session, held in March, focused on drafting agreed conclusions for member states linking the empowerment of women and girls to the UN Sustainable Development Goals created in 2015 (replacing the UN Millennium Development Goals). There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals including clean water and sanitation, quality education, and climate action to name only a few. The Episcopal Church is one of the entities with delegate status at UNCSW and The Church had opportunities open for 20 church members from dioceses and parishes from North America to apply. I was privileged to be the only delegate from Michigan and the only delegate from Province V selected to attend.

The commission not only had UN and member state-sponsored sessions, but also featured many NGO produced presentations, discussions and expert panels focusing on reviewing the status of previous UNCSW conclusions regarding the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls

The non-governmental organizations invited to the commission include nonprofit groups, religious institutions, and other public or voluntary organizations that operate either as attendees or delegates. Delegates are able to consult with UN entities and member states in addition to attending the sessions and presentations.

Being a member of the Episcopal delegation was exciting and interesting in so many ways, I could easily share with you for hours!  Needless to say, it was a privilege to meet, network and share ideas and experience with the different delegates, attendees and speakers from around the world. I cannot overstate how much I treasure the depth of critical conversation and passion I was a part of with so many inspirational people.

My favorite memories by far are the moments of advocacy that I experienced with the other members of the Episcopal delegation – whether intentionally or by unplanned coincidence! Our delegation was able to meet with UN Member state delegations from several countries including the US. We were able to present and discuss The Episcopal Church’s statements and positions on the topics being debated by member states as they drafted their agreed conclusions. Several member state actors we met with expressed their gratitude for many of the inclusive and feminist stances of the Episcopal Church on issues of equality and empowerment of women and girls. They were very happy to have present a large group of Christians with liberal and forward-thinking attitudes toward women’s issues as a counterbalance to the many conservative Christian organizations also represented. They were glad to have our support for their own advocacy as the agreed conclusions were debated by member states in closed session.

I want to be sure here to express my thanks to  Bishop Gibbs, once again; also to Christ Church, Dearborn, the parish I grew up in, and its Rector, the Rev. Terri Pilarski, and to many of you here today who contributed to the cost of my trip to New York to attend the Commission. I’m deeply grateful to all of you, and to Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, who was kind enough to select me to attend.  I’m also grateful to Canterbury House, which was an essential and supportive part of my personal and spiritual life when I was going to school at the University of Michigan.

Today, I work in Ann Arbor as a social worker in an emergency shelter advocating for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and this year’s Commission theme spoke deeply to who I am and the necessary feminist work that I do with survivors every day. There is so much that needs to be done as we continue to work to empower and include all who have been disadvantaged and to dismantle the specific barriers and violence faced by women and girls both in America and around the world. Now more than ever, I know that I am called to feminist advocacy and hope to devote my personal and professional life to that goal. I believe that God calls each of us to participate and to continue to lead in our homes, our congregations and our dioceses. I pray that God continues to be with me and with us in this mission. Thank you, again, to each of you for your time and support!

You can find more information about the work of the Commission at their webpage –

women.pngIn my hunting for resources today, I also came across a great resource for you and your congregation to enter into “31 Days of Prayer for Women’s Empowerment” from Christian Churches Together, a partnership of some thirty-eight different churches and ministries, including The Episcopal Church.  While their event took place in 2016, the resource could still be used for thirty-one days anytime:  To close, I’m borrowing one of their prayers.

Let us pray –


Almighty and Loving God,

We pray for our sisters all over the world oppressed by domestic violence and gender subjugation from East Africa to the Eastern Caribbean to East St. Louis, Illinois. Help those who at this very moment are being physically abused, emotionally damaged and economically deprived.  Grant them release from the cruelty and inhumane treatment that steal their human dignity and joy. Deliver justice to those who have been brutalized. We lift up the women in Haiti, Mozambique, the Congo, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi who are not only dealing with poverty and a lack of health resources, but also endure abuse from the men they love, and rape by heartless strangers. For the millions of black, brown and white women who hide their bruised bodies and wounded spirits from family and friends, smiling in public but crying in private, Lord, we pray for release and healing.  God, we raise our voices in protest against the evils that compromise your daughters. Lord, we implore you, let the world take notice and decry the marginalization and oppression of women everywhere. Let governments institute and enforce laws that bring an end to female victimization and rape. Touch the hearts of abusers and restore them to their full humanity.  It is in the name of the risen Lord that we pray.  Amen.

(Elaine McCollins Flake, Co-Pastor, Greater Allen Cathedral, Jamaica, New York)

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


Episcopal Migration Ministries stands with Standing Rock protesters

The Oceti Sakowin camp is seen in a snow storm during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.SGreetings, friends!

I led this morning’s Bible study on the gospel text for this Sunday (2nd Advent) from Matthew in which John the Baptist confronts the Pharisees and Sadducees with “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”  Not exactly the way to win friends, I imagine.  But the point I wanted to make was that John was a prophet and we all need prophets in our lives to steer us in the right direction and get us back on track.  We need those voices who are willing to identify where things are wrong so that we can begin the work of making them right.  Prophets are never the “nice guy” but rather the one that gets under our skin and irritates us to action.  Oh, how we need to hear these prophetic voices today!

I have heard the voices of prophets in our midst lately so while we have been exploring the resolutions adopted at our Diocesan Convention in the last two blogs, there are two other issues that are in need of our attention this week: opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline and support for the water protectors at Standing Rock, and the work of Episcopal Migration Ministries in refugee resettlement.  I hope you have been following these stories and, perhaps, have already added your voice and support to these concerns.  If not, here’s some information to help you speak out for justice.

If you’ve been following the news from North Dakota, you are aware that winter has set in at the camps with blizzard conditions recently.  Despite the dangers to the people there, police and security have used water cannons, concussion grenades and rubber bullets against the water protectors.  A recent post on social media read:

People are likely to start dying at Standing Rock– if they aren’t already. The Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council released this statement:
“The physicians and tribal healers with the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council call for the immediate cessation of use of water cannons on people who are outdoors in 28F ambient weather with no means of active rewarming in these conditions. As medical professionals, we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions.”
Not to mention continuous mass tear gas, rubber bullets, as well as stinger grenades and LRAND (Long Range Acoustic Device) for 3 hours. Law enforcement also shot down three media drones and targeted journalists with less lethal rounds.

National Lawyers Guild legal observers on the frontlines have confirmed that multiple people were unconscious and bleeding after being shot in the head with rubber bullets. One elder went into cardiac arrest at the frontlines but medics administered CPR and were able to resuscitate him. The camp’s medical staff and facilities are overwhelmed and the local community of Cannonball has opened their school gymnasium for emergency relief.

ND Office of Governor Dalrymple: 701-328-2200
Tie up the fax line too: 701.328.2205
Morton County Sheriff’s Department:
701-328-8118 & 701-667-3330.
ND National Guard: Main Number: 701-333-2000
Public Affairs Officer: 701-333-2007
Call often, please.

standingrock-snowLast Friday, November 25, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would be shutting down the camps where the water protectors have been staying on December 5th but since then they have backed down from a forced evacuation.  However, on Monday of this week, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple issued an evacuation notice due to the harsh weather conditions.  His office said that they will not forcibly remove anyone and “are seeking a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location.”

This coming weekend, some 2,000 US military veterans plan to mobilize in support of the water protectors wearing their uniforms.  Michael A. Wood, Jr., a Marine Corps veteran and former Baltimore police office said, “This is literally what we swore to do — to protect the citizens of America from enemies both foreign and domestic. Just because someone pretties it up with a badge and uniform doesn’t mean it isn’t violence against our people.”  The leaders of the camps are hoping that the protest will remain peaceful during the mobilization.

Recently, the media has been picking up this story but for months people have complained that the No DAPL action has not made major news sources.  Once voice that still hasn’t been heard is that of President Obama.  Supporters of Standing Rock are calling for concerned citizens to ask the President to intervene and stand with them before the new administration takes office in January.  To send your message to President Obama, please complete the form at

We need to speak out, we need to make phone calls and we need to pray.  On November 26th, thousands of people joined together on-line and at sponsored events to pray with Standing Rock.  The group Unify, which has approval from the Sioux Tribal Council, is planning two other on-line prayer events, the next one on December 4th beginning at 11:00 am ET.  You can get more information and sign up to participate here –  They also have a link to listen to the prayers from the November 26th event at that link.

support-all-refugeesAnd, while we are on the subject of resources, Rosebud Episcopal Mission, the Episcopal Church serving the Lakota people on Rosebud Indian Reservation in south-central South Dakota, has some resources on their website for offering your support to Standing Rock –

In a complete 180-degree turn around, Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) has been asking for our continued support for refugee resettlement (in the case of support for Standing Rock, we are the “refugees” offering our help).  On Giving Tuesday, November 28th, EMM asked that we demonstrate our support for refugee resettlement now by donating to them online at or by sending a check to:

Episcopal Migration Ministries

815 Second Ave.

New York, NY  10017

Even though “Giving Tuesday” has come and gone, I’m quite sure that EMM would be happy to receive your gift!

You can also speak out for refugees and here’s how:


TAKE ACTION TODAY: Tell Your Local, State, and National Leaders to Welcome Refugees
As we prepare for President-elect Donald Trump to take office in January, it is more important than ever for all of our elected officials to hear that their communities welcome refugees. Refugee resettlement saves lives, encourages other countries to keep their doors open to people needing protection, and promotes regional stability and global security. We cannot turn our backs on the refugees we have pledged to welcome. Nor can we discriminate against individuals based on where they’re from or what religion they practice. Refugee resettlement must continue to be a cornerstone of U.S. global leadership.

More than 65 million people have been persecuted and forced from their homes and are seeking safety. As a nation, we must uphold our values of generosity, hospitality and compassion. Our actions must match gravity of this displacement crisis and live up to our welcoming legacy. Please spread the word and have everyone you know share this alert!

Call your Senators and Representatives: 1-866-940-2439
Tell Them Your Community Welcomes Refugees

Please call the same number three times to be connected with your Representative and both of your Senators.

Here’s a sample of what to say:

“I am a constituent from [CITY, STATE], and I urge you to welcome refugees and support the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Resettlement is a core American legacy that extends hospitality and offers a chance for refugees to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. My community welcomes refugees and I urge you to reflect the best of our nation by supporting refugee resettlement in the United States.”

Feel free to share a personal story about the importance of refugees to you, your faith, your community, your business, etc. Let them know the specific ways that refugees benefit and are welcomed into your community, and why refugee protection is so important to you.

You can also tweet your policy makers:

“@SENATOR/REPRESENTATIVE, my community stands #WithRefugees! Show that #AmericaWelcomes by supporting U.S. refugee resettlement! #RefugeesWelcome”

Share This Message with Your State and Local Officials!
Your state and local leaders need to hear the same message. Tell them that your community welcomes refugees. To find your governor, state legislators, mayor, and local officials, click here: To tweet your state and local officials, click to find the twitter handles for your governor and state legislators.

It is more important than ever for all our nation’s lawmakers to represent the hospitality that communities across the country are demonstrating. Take action today to stand with refugees.

Share why you support refugees.  Take an “unselfie” and send it to EMM ( tagged with #SupportRefugees to share it on the EMM Facebook page.  Post it also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so that we flood social media with our message of hope.

EMM also has resources for you and congregations:

Advent Resources

During this season of preparation for the coming of the Christ child, we remember that soon after Jesus’ birth, his family was forced to flee Roman Palestine becoming refugees in Egypt….We invite you to reflect this advent on these most precious narratives of our faith and their influence in today’s refugee crisis.  What are we called to “in the name of these refugees?”

We offer these resources to invite and encourage conversation, reflection and discernment around our individual and collective calls to refugee ministry.

Do you hear the prophet’s voice calling you to right some wrongs and bring justice and hope to others?  Every prayer, every phone call and letter, every dollar we give makes a difference.  We can do this together. support-refugees

Let us pray –

Gracious and loving God, you send prophets into the world to call us to examine our lives that we might become the voice for those whose voices are not heard, the hands for those whose reach is too short, and the feet for those who are crippled by injustice and oppression.  As we wait for the revealing of Jesus at Christmas, may we not sit idle or get lost in the hustle and bustle of the way our culture prepares for this season but, instead, may we use this time of Advent to make a difference in the world around us that others would see Jesus revealed in their lives.  We ask this, O Lord, because we know you love it when we pray.  Amen.

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