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.

PLEASE CALL THE FOLLOWING AGENCIES NOW:
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 https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

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 – https://praywithstandingrock.com/home  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 – https://rosebudepiscopalmission.org/

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 http://www.episcopalmigrationministries.org/ 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: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. 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 (kmartin@episcopalchurch.org) 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

 

Standing Rock issues continue; also, human trafficking concerns elsewhere

stop-humnan-gtrafficking-2Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends!

How are you all doing?  Honestly, I don’t know what to say to you all about how I’m feeling. But, this I know: despite my fears and worries about where we are as a nation and where we’re headed, I have much for which to be thankful and I need to take a break from the woebegone mood that has surrounded me and rejoice in all the good that I have in my life. Then, from this renewed perspective, I can step out and work to bring safety and comfort to those around me. My prayer for you, dear friends, is that you have had a chance to take stock of your many blessings and that you are ready to get back to work for love’s sake.

Last week, we began a look at the many options we have for fulfilling the resolution brought to us by Covenant 5 at our Diocesan Convention.  We’ll continue that this week and add a little extra detail to give you even more to consider.

This next resolution on Covenant 5’s list is:


A029 Protect Human Trafficking Victims on Indian Reservations in Montana and North Dakota

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 78th General Convention calls for the protection of all victims of human trafficking, particularly women and children, by providing necessary attention to their physical, psychological, and social needs using approaches that respect victims’ rights and integrity; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention urges members of The Episcopal Church to support legislation, and engage in action to promote the recovery and reintegration into society of victims of human trafficking; providing a safe, dignified, and sustainable way for trafficking victims to reintegrate into society and lead a normalized life; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention affirm the continued participation of The Episcopal Church with groups of the United Nations dealing with human-trafficking issues, particularly, though not exclusively, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, for the purposes of education, advocacy, and collaborative partnerships, and be it further

Resolved, That the Executive Council Coordinating Committee on Resolution 2012-D042, established in February 2014 be continued in the 2015-2018 Triennium “to assure the effective, thorough, and collaborative implementation of the policies adopted by the 77th General Convention and referred to multiple bodies,” such as the Executive Council Committee on the Status of Women and the Executive Council Committee on Indigenous Ministries; and be it further

Resolved, That this collaborative effort provide resources for every diocese to conduct an educational campaign to make the public aware of the impact of human trafficking on Indigenous and immigrant peoples, both worldwide and within the dioceses of The Episcopal Church, such as Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana and North Dakota, and to inspire action by individuals, congregations and dioceses to protect victims of human trafficking; and be it further

Resolved, That bishops and provinces be encouraged to report such actions to Executive Council.


While not specifically related to this resolution, North Dakota has been in the news a lot lately because of the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline – and the news from there has been tragic this last week. The Episcopal Church stands with the people of Standing Rock to protect their water supply and their sacred lands. Right now, continued construction is on hold after the Army Corps of Engineers determined that “additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation’s dispossessions of lands, the importance of Lake Oahe to the tribe, our government-to-government relationship, and the statute governing easements through government property.”

Despite the halt in construction, the water protectors were victims of aggressive action by police and security forces on Monday. According to eye-witness reports and live-streaming videos, police fired water cannons, rubber bullets and concussion grenades at the crowds protesting on the bridge. One young woman was seriously hurt:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 22nd, 2016 at 9:00am CST

For Press Conference information contact medichealercouncil@gmail.com

Prepared by Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council at the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance Camps

On November 21st as a direct result of the violent police response at Standing Rock towards unarmed people opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 21 year old woman from New York City, Sophia Wilansky, was severely injured when a concussion grenade thrown by police hit her left arm and exploded. Sophia was heading to bring water to the unarmed people who were being attacked for several hours by Morton County Sheriff forces. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has stated that she was injured by a purported propane explosion that the Sheriff’s Department claimed the unarmed people created. These statements are refuted by Sophia’s testimony, by several eye-witnesses who watched police intentionally throw concussion grenades at unarmed people, by the lack of charring of flesh at the wound site and by the grenade pieces that have been removed from her arm in surgery and will be saved for legal proceedings.

Sophia was safely taken out of North Dakota for emergent surgery and is currently in stable condition. Below is her statement as conveyed by her father, lawyer Wayne Wilansky.

“At around 4:30am after the police hit the bridge with water cannons and rubber bullets and pepper spray they lobbed a number of concussion grenades which are not supposed to be thrown at people directly at protesters or protectors as they want to be called. A grenade exploded right as it hit Sophia in the left forearm taking most of the undersurface of her left arm with it. Both her radial and ulnar artery were completely destroyed. Her radius was shattered and a large piece of it is missing. Her medial nerve is missing a large section as well.  All of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away. The police did not do this by accident – it was an intentional act of throwing it directly at her. Additionally police were shooting people in face and groin intending to do the most possible damage. Sophia will have surgery again tomorrow as bit by bit they try to rebuild a somewhat functioning arm and hand. The first surgery took a vein from her leg which they have implanted in her arm to take the place of the missing arteries. She will need multiple surgeries to try to gain some functional use of the arm and hand. She will be, every day for the foreseeable future, fearful of losing her arm and hand. There are no words to describe the pain of watching my daughter cry and say she was sorry for the pain she caused me and my wife. I died a thousand deaths today and will continue to do so for quite some time. I am left without the right words to describe the anguish of watching her look at her now alien arm and hand.”

A fund set up by friends and verified to help with Sophia’s recovery is set up here:

https://www.gofundme.com/30aezxs

The Standing Rock Medic Healer Council deplores the ongoing use of violence by the state of North Dakota to address the concerns of the thousands of people peacefully assembled at Standing Rock to insist on the right to clean healthy drinking water.

Water is Life, Mni Wiconi

Signed,

Linda Black Elk, PhD, Ethnobotanist, Sitting Bull College

Michael Knudsen, MPH candidate, Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council

Noah Morris, EMT

Amelia Massucco, RN

John Andrews, RN

Kristina Golden, EMT, herbalist

Sebastian Rodriguez, RN

Rosemary Fister, RN, MNPHN, DNP Candidate

Rupa Marya, MD, DoNoHarm Coalition, University of California – San Francisco

David Kingfisher, MD, JD, Wichita State University

Jesse Lopez, MD, Heartland Surgical Care

Kalama O Ka Aina Niheu, MD, Aha Aloha Aina

Howard Ehrman, MD, MPH, University of Illinois – Chicago

Geeta Maker-Clark, MD, University of Chicago

Elizabeth Friedman, MD

Vanessa Bolin, ALS Paramedic

Contact: Michael Knudsen, Medic Coordinator and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe ethno-botanist Linda Black Elk, PhD – medichealercouncil@gmail.com


Our phone calls and emails of support are still needed.  The Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) makes it easy to reach your legislators.  Just fill in the required information and EPPN will send your letter to the right people.  Here’s the link – http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/app/write-a-letter?3&engagementId=249413

The situation at Standing Rock may seem very different than the concerns raised by this resolution; however, there is a link in the history of how our government has treated the native peoples.  Moving tribal groups to land which cannot support their historically agrarian and hunting lifestyles has led to extreme hardship.  Then, as soon as we realize that these lands have resources needed for our own consumption, we bring in mining and pipeline construction and manage to claim the land for our use.  Employment opportunities increase during these periods of corporate development until oil prices drop or mining becomes unprofitable resulting in rampant unemployment.  The land is then ruined for further farming and the animal population has dwindled.  Once again, corporate interests are trying to take precedence over the rights of Native Americans to their lands – the lands on which we forced them to live.  This scenario is precisely the connection between Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline and Resolution A029.stop_human_trafficking

When I first read the resolution we’re presenting this week, I knew nothing about the problem of sex-trafficking in Native communities.  One quick Google search brought up a host of articles speaking to this concern.  According to an article in Business Insider, the widespread use of methamphetamines – more than twice the rate of meth use in any other ethnicity in our country – has led to a crisis in the Native American community.  Tribal leader Floyd Azure of the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana reported: “We’re in crisis mode.  We have mothers giving their children away for sexual favors for drugs. We have teenagers and young girls giving away sexual favors for drugs.”  The article added: “Drug debt is a forceful driver of trafficking, and dealers threaten users to pay up by any means,” said Sgt. Grant Snyder, a trafficking investigator with the Minneapolis Police Department. “Maybe it’s your 12-year-old daughter, maybe it’s your 5-year-old daughter,” he said.  http://www.businessinsider.com/r-fueled-by-drugs-sex-trafficking-reaches-crisis-on-native-american-reservation-2016-5

For you and me, this may seem so hard to fathom and that’s why this resolution is so important.  We need to put aside our own privilege and see how we can reach out to help.  First, as always, we must become educated.  From the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center’s Tribal Insights Brief (Spring 2016), I learned that “the selling of North America’s [I]ndigenous women and children for sexual purposes has been an ongoing practice since the colonial era. There is evidence that early British surveyors and settlers viewed Native women’s sexual and reproductive freedom as proof of their ‘innate’ impurity, and that many assumed the right to kidnap, rape, and prostitute Native women and girls without consequence” (Pierce, A. and Koepplinger, S. (2011). New language, old problem: Sex trafficking of American Indian women and children. Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. Retrieved from: http://www.vawnet.org).  This brief explores the problem providing definitions and background and suggests ways of identifying and supporting victims as well as suggesting actions that the native communities can do but we can adapt for our own communities.  http://www.ncai.org/policy-research-center/research-data/prc-publications/TraffickingBrief.pdf


stop-human-traffickingAnother resource I discovered is The Human Trafficking Search website which lists practical actions for you and your congregation: http://www.humantraffickingsearch.net/take-action/   With the season of Christmas shopping upon us, here are some things from that site that you might consider as you shop:

  • Demand Slave-Free Goods:Even if you never come face-to-face with a slave, your shirt may very well have been sewn by one. Be an informed consumer who refuses to directly or indirectly exploit others. Be willing to change your habits of consumption to better reflect your values even if this requires a slight increase in the cost for a product or service. Listed are some resources to aid you in making conscientious choices about what you are buying:
  • My Slavery Footprint: Similar to your Ecological footprint, the Slavery Footprint allows you to measure the extent to which your consumption is connected to slavery and trafficking.
  • FairtradeUSA: Fair Trade mitigates the use of trafficking through fair business practices and certification of goods so you know that what you are buying is just that—Fair.
  • Free2Work: Provides reports on products and rankings of companies based on their relation to trafficking. Reports span various industries.
  • Products of Slavery: An interactive website that shows where and what products are produced using child labor or forced labor.
  • GoodWeave: Works to end child labor in the carpet industry by assessing and certifying fair practices. GoodWeave also produces rugs and provides education and opportunities to formerly trafficked and at-risk children.
  • Purchase from businesses that work with or are run by Former Trafficked Persons: In addition to making purchases that are slavery-free, former trafficked persons have also started numerous business to support themselves and to support the anti-trafficking movement. Purchasing items made by these individuals will allow them to rebuild their lives and further support the anti-trafficking movement. One example is Sari Bari, which provides employment opportunities for formerly exploited women.

This resolution is specifically targeting the Native American but we can’t overlook the problems in our own communities.  In June, 2016, the Detroit Free Press reported: “The FBI in Michigan worked 220 sex trafficking, or forced prostitution, cases last year. Michigan cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center — there were 62 through the first three months of 2016 — have increased each year since 2012. Law enforcement officials said it’s likely most prostitutes are forced” (http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/06/02/sex-trafficking-michigan-ireland/85290032/).  The article reminds us that we can help put a stop to this by encouraging public awareness and by being attentive.  Here’s another great “if you see something, say something” opportunity.  Please take the time to read the Free Press article.


And one more resource from the National Catholic Reporter – http://globalsistersreport.org/news/trafficking/human-trafficking-us-sisters-networks-and-ministries-break-cycle-one-life-time

As we give thanks this weekend, let us remember those for whom thanksgiving is a dream of better lives and the freedom to truly live.

Let us pray –

O GOD, our words cannot express

what our minds can barely comprehend and our hearts

feel when we hear of children and adults deceived

and transported to unknown places for purposes of

sexual exploitation and forced labor because of human greed.

 

Our hearts are saddened and our spirits angry that

their dignity and rights are being transgressed through

threats, deception and force. We cry out against the

degrading practice of trafficking and pray for it to

end.

 

Strengthen the fragile-spirited and broken-hearted.

Make real your promises to fill these our sisters and

brothers with a love that is tender and good and send

the exploiters away empty-handed.

Give us the wisdom and courage to stand in solidarity with them,

that together we will find ways to the

freedom that is your gift to all of us. Amen.

The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee

Getting through post-election concerns; plus, a look at mass incarcerations

convention-2016-2Dear Friends –

It’s a week after Election Day and I confess I do not feel much better than I did last Wednesday morning.  In fact, in some ways, I feel worse.  My initial concerns were for all the groups of people that our president-elect had denigrated during the campaign: Muslims, Mexicans, women, LGBTQ, immigrants, etc.  I am still fearful for their safety especially after learning of the vandalism and attacks that have occurred since the election.  Listening to the news and reading various articles and opinion pieces, I am now also concerned for those that elected this man believing that he would be able to make big changes quickly in employment opportunities, bringing back both the steel and coal industries, start building “the wall” on our border, and repealing Obamacare completely as soon as he takes office.  Experts in industry, economics, and government are now describing how some of these campaign promises are not likely or even possible.

The take away for me: it’s time we act.  We cannot sit silently and try to wait our four years watching from the sidelines.  As member of the Jesus Movement, we must protect all those who are facing ever-increasing oppression and prejudice.  The work we do together as a Household is one place we can to begin to stand in opposition to the forces we see around us.  Now, you might chuckle a bit when I say this but I see a connection here with some of the resolutions we passed at our convention (Yes, I guess, I’ve been doing this long enough that I see connections with resolutions everywhere!).  At our recent Diocesan Convention, we approved a resolution presented by Covenant 5 urging each congregation to select a social justice resolution from those passed at General Convention in 2015.  By working out the details of these resolutions in our congregations, we are acting to protect the vulnerable and marginalized locally.

In the upcoming weeks, I will be presenting each of the resolutions from General Convention that were suggested in the recent resolution from our convention with some information and background to help in your decision-making process.  Think of the amazing work we can accomplish as a diocese if we all do our share!


Resolution:  Enactment of General Convention 2015 Resolutions

Originator: The Rev. Ellis Clifton on behalf of Covenant 5

Resolved, That the 182nd Convention of the Diocese of Michigan encourages every congregation to advance one or more of the following resolutions adopted by General Convention 2015:

stop-mass-incarceration-nowA011  Recommit to Criminal Justice Reform Study and Advocacy
A029  Protect Human Trafficking Victims on Indian Reservations in Montana and North Dakota
A049  Make Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women a Focus of Foreign and Church Aid
A051  Support LGBT African Advocacy
A091  Affirm Work for Food Ministries and Food Security
A092  Affirm Support for Government Entitlements
A093  Evaluate Defense Spending
A094  Support Income Tax Parity
A096  Affirm Relationship-Based Social Justice
A170  Develop and Continue Food System Advocacy
A182  Using Education, Community Dialogue and Internal Audit to Respond to All Forms of Racial Injustice
A183  Recommended Book Study of the Triennium: “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander (2010/2012)
B005  Quality Public Education for All
B008  Support Handgun Purchaser Licensing
B013  Peacemaking Through Political Action
B018  Support for Sudan and South Sudan
C005  Decreasing Gun Violence
C013  Facilitate Dialogue on Climate Change and Divestment Strategy
C014  Commend Charter for Compassion
C018  Pursue Justice, Peace and Security in the Holy Land
C020  Ministry to People with Mental Illness and Their Families
C045  Environmentally Responsible Investing
C048  Increase the Minimum Wage
D015  Encouraging Advocacy for Hunger Relief
D028  Oppose Conversion Therapy
D030  Establish Parental Leave Policy
D032  Disability Advocacy in Criminal Justice Work of The Episcopal Church
D034  Affirmation and Support of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990
D041  Advocacy and Prayer for Syria
D057  Re-Commitment to the Spirit of Sanctuary
D068  Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline
D069  Birthright Citizenship
D073  Supporting Home and Community Based Services
D074  Temporary Protective Status for Immigrants at Risk
D077  Uniting Families
D079  Education for Undocumented Families

the texts of which may be found at https://extranet.generalconvention.org/staff/files/download/15664; and be it further

Resolved, That each congregation communicate to Covenant 5 through the Covenant 5 website (www.covenant5.org) or email address (Cov5@comcast.net) on or before May 1, 2017, of its choice(s) of (a) General Convention resolution(s) that it will pursue or, if a congregation determines not to choose a resolution, it communicate to Covenant 5 that decision on or before said date; and be it further

Resolved, That congregations which engage in this endeavor are invited to report their work by June 30, 2017, to Covenant 5 (Cov5@comcast.net); and be it further

Resolved, That Covenant 5 will compile for diocesan distribution the parish action reports that it receives and that congregations which advance one or more General Convention 2015 resolutions will receive diocesan-wide recognition.


Here’s the first one from General Convention –

school-prison-pipeline-e1422455413196A011 Recommit to Criminal Justice Reform Study and Advocacy

Topic: Criminal Justice

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 78th General Convention acknowledges that implicit racial bias and racial profiling result in a criminal justice system that disproportionately incarcerates people of color damaging individuals, families, and communities; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention challenges The Episcopal Church at every level to commit mindfully and intentionally to dismantling our current mass incarceration system; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention urges the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church and the Office of Governmental Relations of The Episcopal Church to advocate publicly for changes in Federal policies that perpetuate the mass incarceration system; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention encourage each congregation and Diocese to undertake at least one specific initiative aimed at addressing the destructive consequences of the mass incarceration system.

ban-the-boxThese initiatives include such possibilities as:

  1. Advocating for alternatives to incarceration for those who are addicted, and increased funding for treatment programs;
  2. Advocating for alternatives to incarceration for those who are mentally ill, and increased funding for treatment programs;
  3. Advocating for protection of the civil rights and provision of appropriate support and accommodation for people with disabilities who are arrested and incarcerated;
  4. Advocating for funding for job training and apprentice programs for those who are at risk of incarceration and those who are formerly released from prison;
  5. Working with local businesses to create pathways to living wage jobs for formerly incarcerated people;
  6. Establishing mentoring and accompaniment programs for those leaving prison;
  7. Advocating for the repeal of mandatory-minimum sentences for nonviolent offenses;
  8. Calling for the abolition of the sentencing disparity between crack-cocaine and powder-cocaine offenses and, as an intermediate step, urging the U.S. Congress, in accordance with the recommendation of the U.S.
  9. Sentencing Commission, to make retroactive the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which reduces the disparity in sentencing from previous levels;
  10. Advocating to eliminate “three strikes” sentencing protocols;
  11. Joining local “Ban the Box” campaigns to remove questions about arrest records in on-line and written job application forms;
  12. Opposing the creation of “for profit” prisons and immigration detention centers, and, where they exist, organizing against guaranteed nightly numbers of prisoners and detainees, and advocate for access to education and rehabilitation programs for those being incarcerated or detained;
  13. Reforming monetary bail bond systems, which rely upon often-unlicensed and unregulated bail bond agents and on conditioning release from pre-trial incarceration solely on the ability to pay;
  14. Advocating for immediate return of the right to vote for those who have served their sentences and left prison; and
  15. Calling for the exploration and creation of restorative justice programs to transform juvenile justice systems; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention request that each Diocese report back to the 79th General Convention on the initiatives engaged at congregational and Diocesan levels.


The fourth resolve of this resolution is where we can be the most helpful.  How well does your congregation understand the problem of mass incarceration?  The first action I might suggest would be to do some educating to bring everyone up to speed.  At last year’s Ministry Fair, Resolution Review presented a workshop that was designed to be like a book club discussion of Michelle Alexander’s best seller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In an Age of Colorblindness.  Selecting the book as a congregational book study would be a great beginning (and it would actually fulfill one of the other suggested resolutions, too!).  A study guide is also available if you are uncertain about good questions for a discussion.

If you are in a congregation like mine, some of these topics seem pretty far from our personal day-to-day experience but that’s not so for everyone in our diocese.  Do some networking to find others who might come and speak during coffee hour.  Do you know anyone doing prison ministry?  If you ask around, I’m quite sure there are some “experts” in our Household who would love to help.  Some of the good people at Church of the Incarnation in Ann Arbor have knowledge and experience with this issue.  One of their members, Mary King, is Director of the Michigan Council for Crime and Delinquency (MCCD).  To become better informed, you might subscribe to their monthly newsletter which you can do on their website: http://miccd.org.  The Rev. Joe Summers suggested also checking out the Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration (MI-CEMI) – http://miccd.org/mi-cemi/ – a new initiative of MCCD.  Their website features resources for both juvenile justice and adult criminal justice issues that might help you and your congregation decide exactly how and where to get involved.  I also found a very helpful resource from the Christian Community Development Association for hosting a “solidarity event.”  While it was designed for 2015, many of the ideas are certainly transferrable and still relevant for today – http://www.ccda.org/storage/documents/2015_Events/Locked_in_Solidarity/locked%20in%20solidarity%20toolkit%202015.pdf

We have our work cut out for us but we can do this together!

Let us pray –

O God, as Christ lives in us, we are welcomed into your reign of mercy and forgiveness. Grant hope and strength to those who are in prison, those who have been released from prison, and the families that miss them and welcome them. We pray also for our elected officials, that they might seek a more just and humane approach to imprisonment and rehabilitation. And grant us courage and compassion as we seek to end the injustice that keep people from living full and productive lives. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

(from Bread for the World – http://www.rocwisconsin.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/The-Bible-and-Mass-Incarceration.pdf)

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

A first-hand account of the ongoing actions at Standing Rock

standing-rock-5Greetings, Friends!

What a week it’s been.  The election and its results have sapped much of my energy and I would be happy to go hunting for a quiet cave again.  Regardless of the way we each voted, I’m sure my sentiment is shared by many of you.  The last 18 months have been exhausting politically so I’m sure we’re all ready for a break; I just don’t think we can afford to take one yet.  We still have work to do.

I’ll be honest.  When I woke up Wednesday morning, I didn’t even want to get out of bed – and I hadn’t stayed up to watch the returns.  I lay in bed and looked at some of the Facebook posts from my friends and my heart sank as I read of their fears and sorrow over the result.  It’s one thing to be disappointed about the loss of your candidate; it’s a whole other thing to be afraid for your safety and that of those you love.  I wanted to pull the quilt over my head and forget about it all.  But, then I remembered, I am a faith leader in my community.  We are all ministers of the Gospel!  If we’re not there with other faith leaders, who will be there to come alongside and comfort those hurting and sorrowful?  God is still God and God’s promises are still real and true.  So I got up and invited any of my friends who needed a safe place to talk to meet me at a coffee shop that evening.  If no one came, I’d have a cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet.

My friends and colleagues did come.  And we talked and shared our fears, our sorrow and our desire to help.  One of my friends read a letter he received from a colleague at another college.  This man wrote something like this: “I am of the demographics that elected our new President-Elect: a white, middle-aged, heterosexual male.  Most of my friends, family and colleagues are LGBTQ, Muslim, Latinx, women and African American.  I did not vote for him.  I want you to know that I understand you are fearful.  I will stand with you.  I will stand in front of you.  I will speak for you.  I will protect you.  I love you.  This, I promise.”  In this time, regardless of how we voted, we must stand together for all of our brothers and sisters.  This is what we promised last week as we reaffirmed our Baptismal Covenant on All Saints’ Day.  All means all.

Last week I wrote about those who were going to stand with our Native brothers and sisters to protect the sacred lands and water supply at Standing Rock, North Dakota.  One of our own EDOMI family members was there, Jean-Pierre Seguin, a seminary student at Virginia Theological Seminary.  I asked JP to share some of his experience with us:


jp-at-standing-rock-5Faith at Standing Rock:

A Reflection on the Interfaith Prayer Vigil in Support of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation

Last Wednesday I traveled to Standing Rock, North Dakota with six classmates from Virginia Theological Seminary for a day of peaceful, prayerful, and nonviolent protest in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and all the indigenous water protectors opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at the place where the Cannon Ball and Missouri Rivers converge. We joined more than five hundred fellow clergy and laypeople from twenty different denominations and faiths who traveled from across the country for the action. On Thursday morning we gathered at the sacred fire at the heart of the Oceti Sakowin camp that has burned since April. People pray, talk, dance, and sing at this sacred circle. As we entered the camp, a Sioux woman led a group in a traditional water ceremony. Once we assembled, representatives of all denominations present that had renounced the fifteenth-century Doctrine of Discovery gave copies of the document to indigenous elders to burn. The document justified European colonization of the Americas, and we pledged to honor and support indigenous people instead.

We were ceremonially smudged with smoke from the document as we marched from the camp north to the bridge where a week earlier armed state, local, and private pipeline security forces brutally attacked peaceful water protectors camping and praying in the path of the pipeline. We stood across the Cannon Ball River from the militarized police forces defending the pipeline that threatens the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, its sacred waters, and all who live downstream. The pipeline was originally routed near the majority-white state capital of Bismarck, but regulators moved it south due to water contamination concerns.jp-at-standing-rock-2

We came to bear witness, speak against the project, and pray for justice and peace. The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism and Reconciliation, led us in singing “Wade in the Water.” People of many faiths spoke in support of the Sioux and their allies, standing up for their spiritual, moral, and legal right to clean water. During our event, militarized police aimed snipers at the assembled clergy from the hills and repeatedly buzzed us with a helicopter. We ended the action by passing the peace in a large circle in the sacred hills by the river.

The indigenous water protectors’ nonviolent resistance is rooted in prayer. Greg, a Sioux elder, told me that the camp needs prayers and people. For those unable to travel there, this site (http://www.standingrocksolidaritynetwork.org/about.html) created by camp residents in consultation with elders offers ways to support Standing Rock.

Please reflect on water and its central role in our scriptures and in our baptism. Pray over our baptismal covenant (BCP pg. 304) and reflect on our thanksgiving over the water at baptism (BCP pg. 306). Acknowledge the gift of the holy body of water known as the Great Lakes that surrounds Michigan and the countless lakes and rivers where we live, work, and rest. Find out who has access to clean water around you and who doesn’t. Pray and work for Flint, Detroit, Standing Rock, and all communities whose access to clean water is threatened. Honor and care for this sacred gift from God. Thank you.

Jean-Pierre Sequin

November 6, 2016

jp-at-standing-rock-4


You can learn more about last week’s gathering at Standing Rock in this article from Episcopal News Service – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/11/04/peaceful-prayerful-nonviolent-stand-of-solidarity-with-the-standing-rock-sioux/

We have also received a call to stand with another group this week.  Allison Duvall, Manager for Church Relations and Engagement at Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) sent the following letter asking for our support for refugee resettlement:


Dear Friends,

Right now, it is absolutely critical that we work together to ensure we live up to our values of welcome, serving refugees and all newcomers and setting everyone up to succeed in safety.

Refugees are an investment in our future, so please join us on Tuesday, Nov 15 at 4pm ET to learn how you can help.

Please save the date for a webinar co-hosted by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition and Refugees Welcome partners to learn how you can help ensure U.S. communities have the resources they need to help refugees integrate and thrive.

What: Responding to Refugee Crisis & Funding Shortfall in U.S. Resettlement

When: Tuesday, November 15 at 4pm ET

Where: Join here: https://join.me/faith4immigration

Register: Click here to RSVP

Right now, we are facing the largest displacement crisis in recorded history. To respond with true leadership, it is critical that the United States responds with compassion, hospitality, and welcome. Congress needs to hear that our communities around the country stand ready to welcome refugees who are looking for the chance to find safety and rebuild their lives. As Congress must pass a spending package by December 9, now is the time for interfaith partners to speak up to ensure any spending measure robustly funds programs to welcome and integrate refugees.

Join us on Tuesday, November 15 at 4pm ET to learn how you can help. All faith communities are needed to act in a united way in the midst of this critical moment for refugee resettlement and funding.

Please share this invitation across your networks and encourage them to take action! Feel free to email Meredith Owen at mowen@cwsglobal.org with any questions.

Peace,

Allison Duvall

Manager for Church Relations and Engagement


We all remember what our President-Elect has said about refugees in the past so it is vital that we take this time to speak out for them before he comes to office.  Please make time to participate in the webinar and then reach out to your members of Congress in support of refugee resettlement.

Bishop Gibbs’ post-election letter is a good reminder of “where we go from here:”

Some folks are angry. Many feel hurt, afraid and betrayed. Others are struggling with what to say – how to explain – to children, grandchildren, or friends in countries around the world about the results of the 2016 presidential election. Clearly, there are folks who are joyful; people who feel gratified, confident and maybe even vindicated. Others are excitedly sharing with their progeny that the democratic process works.

The gift of our free society is that we reinforce the inevitability that there will be winners and losers every time we go to the ballot box. The difference this time is that the rhetoric of the campaign was particularly ugly and divisive.   The tenor of the now completed election cycle cannot be condoned.  It is time to move beyond it.

Michelle Obama said, “our motto is: when they go low, we go high”. She and President Obama understand that our children and our grandchildren are watching us. My own grandparents used to put it this way; “little pictures have big ears,” meaning that what adults say/do is heard/absorbed by the younger generation. Thus, our leadership matters! What we say and do, matters! How we respond in adversity and in blessing will witness to those who must lead in the future. While another of the gifts of our free society is the right to protest, let our protests be tools to promote justice for all and not weapons that further divide. The protesters who gather in cities across our nation remind us of our strength as a community, as well as the fragility of our humanity. We must cautiously and intentionally seek to separate the right to peaceful and lawful protest from our anger and upset, and, ashamedly for some, our susceptibility to be drawn into violent acts when we feel unheard.

In the church, we have a set of guiding principles to help us remember the correct path forward. The baptismal covenant asks: “will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself”; and, “will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”  We respond to each question: “I will, with God’s help.”

Politicians and their promises are not our holy grail! Our savior is the loving Christ. In Christ, we are called to seek, support and respect justice, peace and the inherent human dignity of all. That was our call before the election; that is our call immediately following the election; that is our call tomorrow and beyond.

My friends, we all must get beyond our grief and our elations. We must work together in Christ for the sake of one another. We must come to embrace the motto of our First Family: “when they go low, we go high.”

Be a positive witness for good for the next generations and know that you do not walk alone: you walk with Jesus.

Blessings,

+Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr.

Bishop


We have work to do.  This is no time to hide away.  Today, Veterans’ Day, as we remember those who have stood courageously for our freedom, let us stand.  Let us stand together to protect, to speak, to love.  Let us promise.

Let us pray –

Today mourning and celebration commingle.
Jubilation and heartache are juxtaposed
In neighborhoods where lawns proclaimed
Support for different candidates, on Facebook walls
And Twitter streams where clashing viewpoints meet.

Grant us awareness of each others’ hopes and fears
Even across the great divides of red state and blue state,
Urban and rural. Open us to each others’ needs.
Purify our hearts so that those who rejoice do not gloat
And those who grieve do not despair.

Strengthen our ability to be kind to one another
And to ourselves. Awaken in us the yearning
To build a more perfect union. Let us roll up our sleeves
Whether today we feel exultation or sorrow, and together
Shape a nation of welcome and compassion.

Let ours be a land where no one need fear abuse
Or retribution, where every diversity is celebrated,
Where those who are most vulnerable are protected.
May bigotry and violence vanish like smoke.
May compassion prevail from sea to shining sea.  Amen.

By Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

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

The reasons we must stand today with the Sioux people, Standing Rock

Native Americans march to the site of a sacred burial ground that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), near the encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the oil pipeline slated to cross the nearby Missouri River, September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Protestors were attacked by dogs and sprayed with an eye and respiratory irritant yesterday when they arrived at the site to protest after learning of the bulldozing work. / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Greetings, Friends!

If you are one of my friends on Facebook, you might have thought I traveled to North Dakota this week.  I wish.  With over 1.5 million others, I “checked in” at Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with the protectors of water and sacred lands in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.  While I’m only there in spirit, I do have some friends who made the trip and I am praying for their safety and that of the thousands who are meeting there on Wednesday and Thursday this week.  Our response on Facebook happened because of a rumor that the Morton County Sherriff’s Department was monitoring Facebook to determine how many people were at the camps to protect the land and water in protest of the pipeline.  The rumor, as with many rumors, turned out to be false but it seems to me that with over a million-and-a-half responding, the DAPL ought to take this seriously.  Here’s an article about the “check in” response – http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/01/500268879/more-than-a-million-check-in-on-facebook-to-support-the-standing-rock-sioux?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social

Why is this important to me?  I’m glad you asked.  First, and these are not in order of any priority, are two important words: White Privilege.  I am embarrassed to admit that these words had little meaning to me for far too many years.  I’m hoping that I am more sensitive to appropriate thoughts and words now but I’m also pretty sure that I still err.  Last year, the pre-convention workshop gave us the chance to strong some privilege beads, one bead for every privilege we experienced – gender, race, socioeconomic class, education, home ownership, etc.  What an amazing visual reminder of my own identity and the life I have come to take for granted!  My string of beads was significantly longer than many others.  I had never seen it laid out so clearly before.  I’m not talking about “white guilt” here; honestly, I don’t know what to do with that yet.  I can’t change the family in which I was born, or the town where I grew up, or the experiences I had as a child.  But I can change the way I look at life now!  Originally the DAPL was to be routed close to Bismarck, ND, the state’s capital, but citizens there successfully raised concerns that a spill could contaminate the city’s drinking water.  A new route was selected that borders the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation near the Missouri River to land that was taken from the tribe in 1958 without permission (see The New Yorker article linked below).  If I am called to “strive for justice and peace for all people and respect the dignity of every human being,” I have to question why the pipeline is okay near Native American water supplies and not the citizens of Bismarck.  Read the full article from The New Yorker here – http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/a-pipeline-fight-and-americas-dark-past

And another helpful article here – http://www.businessinsider.com/north-dakota-access-pipeline-protest-drinking-water-2016-10


Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California shared his response in a blog dated October 31, 2016:

Standing With Standing Rock

Ten years ago, very shortly after Sheila and I had moved to California, I was talking with the great theologian, activist and educator Ruby Sales about the second Pilgrimage for Peace and a forum appearance for Ruby at Grace Cathedral. As we talked on the telephone, Ruby in Georgia and I in San Francisco, we both came to a place in the conversation where we spoke similar words at the same moment – “The people remembered last in all justice conversations are indigenous people.” Indigenous people are often an afterthought.

This week, responding to a call from the Rev. John Floberg, Episcopal Missioner at the Standing Rock Reservation of the Sioux People, hundreds of Episcopalians from all over the Church are gathering at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest in North Dakota, in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (and all the Sioux, who have come together over this protest).

All over the world, indigenous people live in daily peril. For instance, many of the undocumented immigrants we call ‘Latinos’ have a first language that is not Spanish or English, but is a tribal language, and they are often environmental and political refugees. The reason indigenous people are the objects of persecution all over the world is because they have maintained both a wisdom and an integral connection to the Earth.

The dominant culture of the world – characterized by over-consumption and living off extractive industrial processes that depend on the objectification of people, other species and the planet itself – is imperiling the health of the Earth. May this pilgrimage to Standing Rock be not a one-off event, but a turning. Instead of marginalizing indigenous people let us learn to turn to them as sisters and brothers who have maintained family wisdom for us all.

At this moment some dozen of us from the Diocese of California are going to Standing Rock in the week of All Saints’ Day. I’m proud of and grateful to this amazing diocese that over and over again stands with the vulnerable. As bishop of this diocese, it will be my intent in the days that follow our journey to tending and honoring all our relations.

(http://bishopmarc.typepad.com/blog/2016/10/standing-with-standing-rock.html)


Since America was born as a nation, we have a history of taking lands from those here before us as though, in some way, we could possibly have the right to these.  I recall quite vividly the idea of this dominance being taught in my elementary education because, of course, we were bringing civilization to these native peoples.  I am of the generation that was entertained by TV shows of the wild, wild West and easily bought that world view, not that we were inherently better in my mind but that we had so much to offer.  But I was a child then.  I’m not any longer.  Bishop Andrus and Ruby Sales are right: indigenous peoples are to often the last to be considered.

I also think there another kind of privilege at work here: religious privilege.  I can well imagine the uproar if this pipeline were planned to disrupt the land belonging to a Christian church or cemetery but to dig through the burial grounds and sacred lands of our Native American sisters and brothers somehow is different?  I’d really like to know how.  According to a CNN interview with Faith Spotted Eagle, a “Grandmother” from the Yankton Sioux Reservation of South Dakota, “…understanding what these grounds look like, what desecration means, requires wisdom most of us don’t have.”  We would never consider building a pipeline through Arlington National Cemetery because “…you don’t disturb people that have been put to rest,” she says.  The interview continues:

But it turns out, leaving burial sites alone is about more than simple respect. Protection prayers — those that ensure the deceased will not be disturbed on their “walk to the spirit world” — are recited over relatives who are buried. If spirits linger, like they might in the case of violent deaths, and are then interrupted, “They’re not going to be able to find their way. They’ll still roam on this land,” Spotted Eagle says.

As I write during this year’s triduum of All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Soul’s Day, this perspective seems particularly meaningful and relevant.  You can read the whole interview – http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/01/us/standing-rock-sioux-sacred-land-dakota-pipeline/


dakota-access-protest-samiI stand with Standing Rock because we are called to care for the gift of this beautiful Earth that God has given us.  The Five Marks of Mission of the Episcopal Church remind us that the “Mission of Church is the Mission of the Christ” and to that end we are to “strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”  We are all aware of pipelines that fail with devastating effects for the land and waterways they contaminate.  We likely remember the Kalamazoo River oil spill that occurred on July 25, 2010, when a 40-foot segment of Enbridge’s pipeline ruptured spilling in excess of 1 million gallons of heavy crude oil into Talmadge Creek which flows into the Kalamazoo River.  At Standing Rock, where the pipeline runs so close to the Missouri River, a rupture would contaminate the only source of drinking water for over 10,000 people on the Standing Rock Reservation and neighboring communities.

“Water is Life.”  This is the slogan of many who are working to protect this land.  In Michigan – and especially here in our Diocese and the Diocese of Eastern Michigan, we should be particularly aware of the significance of clean, fresh drinking water after the horrendous lead contamination in Flint’s water.  Ensuring access to clean water is a basic human rights issue.  For this reason, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, has recently heard appeals for Standing Rock.  According to NBCNEWS: “Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II addressed the 49-member Council in a brief two-minute testimony where he called ‘upon all parties to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline’” (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/standing-rock-sioux-takes-pipeline-fight-un-human-rights-council-n651381)

On October 28, The Episcopal Church issued a call for all Episcopalians to “stand in solidarity and witness with those protecting water on the Standing Rock Sioux Nation” on November 3rd.  The Rev. John Floberg, Executive Council member and Missioner to the Episcopal Churches of Standing Rock, wrote:

In recent days, the repressive power of the state has increased: armed riot police are guarding ongoing pipeline construction, increased arrests and repression of non-violent prayerful action. At the same time, Oceti Sakowin water protectors have reclaimed land never relinquished by treaty directly in the path of the pipeline and established a new camp.  Our duty as people of faith and clergy could not be clearer: to stand on the side of the oppressed and to pray for God’s mercy in these challenging times.


Presiding Bishop Michael Curry also issued a statement on August 25th in support of the people of Standing Rock:

“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.

+Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church


Maybe you and I can’t be in North Dakota today but we don’t have to be silent.  The Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) has prepared a letter for our representatives and all we have to do is fill in our information so that it gets to the right people – http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/app/write-a-letter?3&engagementId=249413

We can stand in prayer with the people of Standing Rock and all those who have journeyed to North Dakota in solidarity including some 300 of our Episcopal brothers and sisters.  Presiding Bishop Curry shared this video on Wednesday asking us to pray at noon on Thursday, November 3rd wherever we are:

http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/11/02/presiding-bishop-calls-for-prayer-for-standing-rock-sioux-nation/

Will you stand with me for our brothers and sisters in Standing Rock?

Let us pray…

Oh Great Spirit Father, who sits on high beyond the heavens,
Creator of all life below, please hear my spiritual prayer.
For I seek guidance in a world where few can lay claim to eternal peace.

Grant me the vision to see beyond tomorrow’s horizon, yet still
accept my daily trials, that must and will be faced to survive.
Give me the strength to rise each day and breathe the breath of life that you have provided for me.

Touch my spiritual soul, so that I may use every moment to spread your sacred message of love and peace for all mankind.
I ask only the privilege to speak my native tongue, and learn
the ways of my people, from generations of old.

Help me to understand and accept that we are of one body, and
God, as each spirit flows, from one to another in a sacred hoop.
Let the trails that bore my ancestors blood and tears, and the
chains that bound their freedom serve as reminders to all,
of our hate and savagery against one another, and ensure its
trust that we as a people choose never to repeat such ignorance.

Grant Mother Earth the strength to endure all injustices that have
been placed upon her, and cleanse her red clay body to renew her
growth for new generations to thrive. Shelter, clothe, and feed
the masses, for all owe you their daily prayers.

Embrace my mind and grant me the wisdom to seek and receive
my ancestral birthright.

Guide my feet down the passage of forgiveness, of those who have severed my tribal ties, and help me to bind them once more.
Teach this child, oh Great One, the true lesson of life, its sacred
message of love, to spread freely beyond self, and among my
brothers and sisters throughout the duration of my earthly existence.

May your morning sun awaken this weary body, and your night
moon allow it to meditate and rest.

May your spirit continue to heal and instill within me the meaning of this spiritual prayer, and trust that I use it to serve you well.

A Choctaw Prayer

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

 

‘Who is my neighbor?’ A great question, in light of our recent convention

who-is-my-neighbor-title

Greetings, Friends!

Another Convention is in the books – and what a great Convention it was!  If you were looking forward to a day-and-a-half of business meetings with contentious discussions and debate, you might have been disappointed because we had a day-and-a-half of engaging conversations, enlightening presentations and productive work together as a Household of people eager to go deeper into what it means to be followers of Jesus.  For me, getting together with a couple hundred of my closest friends is one of the highlights of my year and even better when we can sit down over a common mission and learn together.

edo_0048As you all likely know, our theme continues to be “Waters of Reconciliation” with this year’s focus on “Who is my neighbor?” from Jesus’ encounter with the lawyer who asked: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25 – 37).  Jesus illustrates his answer with the parable of the “Good Samaritan.”  Our presentations and group discussions began by looking at our global neighbors in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  Next we learned about neighbors in our diocese by learning about the work of various local social service agencies.  You can see some of the videos of these presentations here –

Our last presentation asked us to look within our own communities to see where and how we each can become good neighbors.  The work is not finished!  Stay-tuned for some exciting conversations and training sessions that will happen in February 2017!

Of course, we did address some action items brought to our Household in the form of resolutions.  The Committee on Constitutions and Canons presented some changes to the wording of Canons governing Deans and Deaneries to make provision for deans to serve two consecutive three-year terms allowing for greater continuity and to reduce the required number of deaneries in the diocese from ten to eight as a reflection of the changing needs of our congregations.  The Committee on Reference presented two resolutions:


Resolution 1:  Enactment of General Convention 2015 Resolutions

Resolved, That the 182nd Convention of the Diocese of Michigan encourages every congregation to advance one or more of the following resolutions adopted by General Convention 2015:

A011  Recommit to Criminal Justice Reform Study and Advocacy
A029  Protect Human Trafficking Victims on Indian Reservations in Montana and North Dakota
A049  Make Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women a Focus of Foreign and Church Aid
A051  Support LGBT African Advocacy
A091  Affirm Work for Food Ministries and Food Security
A092  Affirm Support for Government Entitlements
A093  Evaluate Defense Spending
A094  Support Income Tax Parity
A096  Affirm Relationship-Based Social Justice
A170  Develop and Continue Food System Advocacy
A182  Using Education, Community Dialogue and Internal Audit to Respond to All Forms of Racial Injustice
A183  Recommended Book Study of the Triennium: “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander (2010/2012)
B005  Quality Public Education for All
B008  Support Handgun Purchaser Licensing
B013  Peacemaking Through Political Action
B018  Support for Sudan and South Sudan
C005  Decreasing Gun Violence
C013  Facilitate Dialogue on Climate Change and Divestment Strategy
C014  Commend Charter for Compassion
C018  Pursue Justice, Peace and Security in the Holy Land
C020  Ministry to People with Mental Illness and Their Families
C045  Environmentally Responsible Investing
C048  Increase the Minimum Wage
D015  Encouraging Advocacy for Hunger Relief
D028  Oppose Conversion Therapy
D030  Establish Parental Leave Policy
D032  Disability Advocacy in Criminal Justice Work of The Episcopal Church
D034  Affirmation and Support of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990
D041  Advocacy and Prayer for Syria
D057  Re-Commitment to the Spirit of Sanctuary
D068  Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline
D069  Birthright Citizenship
D073  Supporting Home and Community Based Services
D074  Temporary Protective Status for Immigrants at Risk
D077  Uniting Families
D079  Education for Undocumented Families

the texts of which may be found at https://extranet.generalconvention.org/staff/files/download/15664; and be it further

Resolved, That each congregation communicate to Covenant 5 through the Covenant 5 website (www.covenant5.org) or email address (Cov5@comcast.net) on or before May 1, 2017, of its choice(s) of (a) General Convention resolution(s) that it will pursue or, if a congregation determines not to choose a resolution, it communicate to Covenant 5 that decision on or before said date; and be it further

Resolved, That congregations which engage in this endeavor are invited to report their work by June 30, 2017, to Covenant 5 (Cov5@comcast.net); and be it further

Resolved, That Covenant 5 will compile for diocesan distribution the parish action reports that it receives and that congregations which advance one or more General Convention 2015 resolutions will receive diocesan-wide recognition.

In the upcoming weeks, I will be sharing some details about the above named resolutions so that you and your congregation can find the ones that speak to your passions.  In the meantime, head on over to Covenant 5’s website for more information – www.covenant5.org


Resolution 2:   God is Not a Republican.  Or a Democrat.

Resolved, That the 182nd  Convention of the Diocese of Michigan, in this Presidential year, joins our Presiding Bishop and Primate in urging our brothers and sisters of faith to vote on November 8; and be it further

Resolved, That we encourage those brothers and sisters to keep in mind the full scope of our duty and obligation as people of God:

  1. Casting one’s ballot is not a one-issue decision; life is complicated, citizenship is complicated, and our faith enters our decisions in all fields;
  2. Jesus calls us, and, through Jesus, God calls us, to be peacemakers;
  3. Through the charge to Adam, God has made us the stewards of God’s environment; eventually, we will be judged on how we carried out that stewardship;
  4. The entirety of the Scriptures emphasize caring for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized; that emphasis constitutes an important responsibility, to which we attach great weight;

and be it further

Resolved, That as we discern how to vote, we reject the American Triumphalist attitude that God is on the side of the United States; that particular response answers the wrong question; the question is not, “Is God on our side?”  The question is, “Are we on God’s side?”

This resolution reflects the message of our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry –


Speaking of the upcoming election, there are many resources available for spending time in prayer for our country and the election process.  Forward Movement is calling all Episcopalians to a 30-day prayer journey for this election – A Season of Prayer: for an Election .

Each day offers a special intention and a collect.  There are also bulletin inserts for your congregation to use on their site.  St Andrews in Ann Arbor is hosting an Election Eve Prayer Vigil from 7 pm to 7 am beginning on November 7th and continuing through the night until Election Day morning, November 8th.  The Church will remain open all night and there will be hourly offerings for group prayer as well as time for silent reflection.  For more information, call the church at (734) 663-0518.

We also passed the budget for 2017 and the draft budget for 2018.  You can find details of the budget here – http://www.edomi.org/edomi/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/2017-budget-packet-30-day-mailing.pdf

Mark October 27 and 28, 2017, on your calendars for next year’s 183rd Convention which will be held at the Suburban Collection Diamond Center and Hyatt Place Hotel in Novi.

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, p 820)

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

Thinking about ‘who is my neighbor’ as we take part in Diocesan Convention

convention-2016Greetings, Friends!

“Who is my neighbor?”  Here we are, the day before our Diocesan Convention where we will be exploring this question together and this verse pops up in today’s lectionary readings.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Jesus reminds us in Matthew’s Gospel that we understand the words of the Law and the Prophets through the lens of “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’…” (Matthew 22:37 – 39, NRSV).  These words are truly all we need to know how to live as part of the Jesus Movement!  The trouble comes in determining how we are to love.  What does this love look like?  And, who exactly are we to love?  Here’s where we often find our differences of opinion; it’s where we can let the answers become political rather than responses of compassionate openness and welcome.  I’m so glad we will be engaging in more conversations at Convention because I believe we can learn best in dialogue with those we respect and love as brothers and sisters.

Once again, our friends at Episcopal Migration Ministries shared a great article about our Syrian neighbors on their Facebook page that I think is worth sharing here.  In reading it, we get a glimpse of the importance of being an advocate – one who comes alongside – and a friend to those who come empty-handed to a new land.  When Maryam and her family arrived in the US from Syria, they had nothing – not even a common language to share their hopes and fears with their hosts.  Before coming to the US, the family spent three years in a Jordanian refugee camp after fleeing their homeland.  Even in the camp, this family suffered when their young sons were frequently beaten by others leaving their son Ibrahim with scars on his legs and arms. 2031

As soon as they arrived in their new hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, they were greeted by two new friends, Kate McCaffrey, an anthropology professor at Montclair State University, and former Rutgers professor Melina Macall.  “We are facing a global refugee crisis and we felt that very little was happening,” McCaffrey said. “We turned to our synagogue to forge an alternate path.”

For Maryam and her family who are Muslims, this was a surprise:

“In Syria, I lived surrounded by my family and in-laws, who share the same faith,” she said. “I never thought I’d have Jewish friends.”  McCaffrey said there is like-mindedness between the Jewish community and the Muslim community, because both have congregants who have sought refuge from war, and both live out the tenants of their faith.  “Part of religion is to welcome the stranger,” she said. “We felt that would be a good ground for starting something.”

The family’s transition has not been simple.  They started with a $7.000 reimbursement required to cover their air travel to the US.  That’s a pretty big expense when a family has no employment and only receives $975 per person for 90 days from the federal government to help them get started.  McCaffrey and Macall decided they could help and did a crowd-sourcing campaign in hope of receiving the $7,000 in 7 days.  To their amazement, they reached their goal in 72 hours! 2034

Twenty-eight hundred dollars per person doesn’t go far when you’re trying to set up a home, buy clothes for growing children, and feed a family.  Maryam’s husband Fadel, a welder by trade, has been unable to find employment although he continues to try.  Maryam is ready and willing to find a job, too.  “We need a steady job. It’s true we don’t speak the language, but our English will get better as we keep working,” she said through a translator. “But the most important thing is to stand by my kids so they can continue going to school.”

You can read the whole story here as well as watch the CNN video of the interview – http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/18/us/syrian-refugees-new-jersey-camerota/index.html

The Episcopal News Service (ENS) reported on the efforts of one diocese to meet not only the physical and emotional needs of their refugee community but also the spiritual needs of their neighbors.  In Dallas, the Rev. Samira Izadi Page, who is an Episcopal priest and director of Gateway of Grace, a ministry for refugees providing housing, education and friendship, is especially prepared to address their spiritual concerns.  ENS writes that Page “is a former Muslim who fled Iran nearly 20 years ago with nothing but the clothes on her back, making her particularly authentic in leading refugees to Christ.”

A group of refugees from many different countries sits in a circle reading and discussing Bible verses in Farsi, Arabic and English as they enjoy lunch together.  Some of the women are wearing their traditional clothing while others wear t-shirts you’d expect to see on a hot summer day in Dallas.  Their children play happily together in an adjoining room.

According to ENS:

The Bible Study is one snapshot of many that illustrates what evangelism looks like in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. With the consecration last year of Bishop George Sumner, a new emphasis has been placed on how best to know Christ and make Him known. The focus includes determining best practices, and creating an Order of Evangelists to be spearheaded by Carrie Boren Headington, who is the diocesan evangelist. “The aim is to have a representative at each parish serving as a catalyst for missional living,” Headington said. “Each church is a local outpost for the Kingdom of God strategically placed to be a witness to its neighbors. Each member of the congregation is an ambassador in their daily lives drawing those around them to follow Jesus.”

monkimage-phpAs we here in Michigan attempt to live into our roles as members of the Jesus Movement sharing the “Good News of God in Christ” by word and example, we are God’s evangelists – even though that “E” word seems to make us a bit nervous.  Each of us is called to discern how God wants us to serve in this role but God does want each of us – and it’s something we have covenanted with God through our Baptism.  I thought about this as I read that full article from the Diocese of Dallas.  We acknowledge that, as a Church, our attempts at proselytization in the past have not always been implemented with love and grace.  There is, indeed, a balance needed in respecting and honoring the culture and beliefs of our neighbors while desiring to share the love of God through Jesus with them.  I think this is why we can’t merely take the one Baptismal Covenant to proclaim the Good News apart from the other, “striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being.”  It’s all a part of knowing how to truly love our neighbors and loving God with everything we have.

The article on The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas webpage says it well:

The best way to do this is to proclaim the Gospel and earnestly share our own faith stories with others, said Headington who recently received a national appointment as Missioner Evangelist for the Episcopal Church. “As St. Teresa of Avilla said,’ ‘we are the hands and feet of Jesus,’ and we are His mouthpiece.”

Love and listen. “You have to listen to people. In evangelism for decades it was thought that you should take a Bible and thump people on the head with it. That’s the opposite of what Christ did. You love them and listen,” Martin said. “You help people discern from the Holy Spirit.”

Here’s the full article – http://edod.org/resources/articles/what-is-evangelism-today/

So, as we come together to discuss “Who is My Neighbor?” we can look eagerly to how the answer will impact our lives and the lives of those in our families, our communities and our world.  Let’s “love and listen” to each other as we share our stories at Convention and when we return back home.  I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

Let us pray –

Lord,

We are called to love God,
to love God with every part of our being,
every part of our lives.

That same God also calls us to love our neighbor:
friends, relations, acquaintances, strangers.
Not just love a bit, but love in abundance.

So Lord,
help us to love and help us to change the world.

Lord, bring justice to the oppressed:
oppressed by enemies, by governments, by economics,
particularly the refugees within our communities and those desiring to come.
Show us how to help bring your justice to this world.

Lord, give food to the hungry:
the hungry nations, the hungry in our own towns,
particularly those who have no home to call their own.
Help us to appreciate what we have got, and help those who have less.

Lord, set the prisoners free:
those imprisoned by unjust powers, those imprisoned by guilt or shame.
Give us the wisdom to appreciate each situation
and to bring your liberty to the bound.

Lord, open the eyes of the blind:
blind to light, blind to the truth, blind to your wonder.
Lead us as we seek to bring new light where there is only darkness.

Lord, lift up those who are bowed down:
the ill, the sad, the bereaved, the troubled, the lonely.
Give us the skills to help share burdens and raise spirits
and give us the desire to always be there.

We are called by you to serve each other
and we are not entirely ready.
We are called to serve you
and we come uncertainly
but we come because you call.
And we lay our lives down and say,
take all that we are and use it for your service.

Amen.

(adapted from Rod Belt, “DramatisDei”)

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