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Diocesan Digest - September 7

9/7/2006
[Episcopal News Service]   
  • BETHLEHEM: New elementary school to be dedicated
  • CHICAGO: Parish continues mission with New Orleans congregation
  • KANSAS: Bishop to lead arena protest
  • MISSISSIPPI: Pass Christian churches, town helped by California neighbors
  • SAN DIEGO: San Marcos priest leaves Episcopal Church
  • SOUTHEAST FLORIDA: Almost a year after Wilma, church celebrates reopening
  • SOUTH CAROLINA: Group urges reconciliation and unity on eve of electing convention
  • VIRGINIA: Conversation continues between bishop, Truro rector-bishop


BETHLEHEM: New elementary school to be dedicated

[Source: Diocese of Bethlehem] Grace Episcopal Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania, will dedicate the new elementary program of Grace Montessori School on September 10.

The school will be the first Episcopal grade school in the Diocese of Bethlehem and the only elementary Montessori program in the Lehigh Valley.

The dedication will feature letters of commendation from Mayor Ed Pawlowski and from Bishop Paul V. Marshall of Bethlehem. "Grace Church is an important element of the revitalization of Center City," Pawlowski writes in his letter. Marshall notes that "Episcopalians have brought forth many of the finest schools and universities in the country. Grace's commitment to Montessori education is a gift to the community in just this tradition."

Representatives of the diocese, civic organizations, the arts community, philanthropic organizations, and the business community will join with parents, students, teachers, staff, and church members to celebrate the opening of the new program during Grace's regularly scheduled worship service.

In a sermon delivered on September 3, the Rev. Dr. Patrick Malloy, rector of Grace Church, praised the congregation for its unwavering commitment to downtown Allentown and the people of the neighborhood in which the church has been located for more than 140 years.

"As poverty and social ills took hold in Center City and frightened many communities of faith to abandon this neighborhood and move to the suburbs, the people of this parish made a very conscious and intentional decision to stay and make a difference," he said. "Our three corporate ministries -- the largest food pantry in northeast Pennsylvania, our AIDS Outreach, and our Montessori School -- are concrete ways we have made good on our promise: each of them making a tremendous difference in the health and rebirth of the city. The founding of our elementary school is just the latest and most logical step in our long-standing, Gospel-based commitment to urban Allentown and its people. For us, this is a direct response to what we sense God calling us to be and to do."

As the elementary program searches for a permanent home, Grace Montessori School, with financial assistance from local and national foundations and from Grace Episcopal Church, has invested approximately $100,000 to build and outfit this new classroom facility. Currently housed within the administrative wing of Grace Church, the grade school's presence at the church site across from the Baum School of Art will contribute energy and life to Center City Allentown's emerging Arts District. The Baum School will provide art education to the school's students at no cost while the school seeks an underwriter for the art program.

The school is already a factor in the revitalization of downtown Allentown. In December 2004, Grace Church dedicated the opening of the school's new state-of-the-art facility in what had been the administrative offices of a department store on the ground level of the store's parking garage. In partnership with the Allentown Parking Authority, Grace Church obtained state and local funding to construct a purpose-built school for its early childhood program. The program, which began with seven children of clients receiving food from the church's food pantry, has grown to almost 100 students.

The school is looking to develop the adjoining space in the parking garage for the elementary school, a gym, and additional early-childhood classrooms so that the organization can be unified once again in a single location.

Grace Montessori School provides scholarship assistance to approximately 30 percent of its student body, based on financial need. The school's education scholarship program has been funded by a federal Community Development Block Grant received from and administered by the City of Allentown, the Talbot Hall Foundation of the Diocese of Bethlehem, other local foundations, the National Association of Episcopal Schools, members of Grace Church, and through parent fund-raising activities. Additional money has been sought to assist families of students of the new elementary program.

The scholarship program helps Grace Montessori School broaden the diversity of its student body to include more socio-economic, racial, ethnic, religious and cultural diversity than most Montessori programs which, while typically very culturally and religiously diverse, are predominantly middle- and upper middle-class economically.


CHICAGO: Parish continues mission with New Orleans congregation

[Source: Park Ridge Herald-Advocate] St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Park Ridge, in suburban Chicago, Illinois, has provided a New Orleans-area church with approximately $20,000 worth of donations this year to help them reopen their doors to worshipers.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Lakeview opened its doors August 27, almost one year after flood waters severely damaged the building as Hurricane Katrina swept through the area.

"They have gotten the church back up and they've got the school running again too," the Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, rector of St. Mary's, told the newspaper.

St. Mary's helped raise money for repairs to St. Paul's Church and school during a Mardi Gras fund-raiser last February. Members of the congregation are also planning a trip to the Gulf Coast next spring to help rebuild homes, Kerbel said.
 
"I love the generosity of our people," Kerbel said. "It's just wonderful."


KANSAS: Bishop to lead arena protest

[Source: The Wichita Eagle] Bishop Dean E. Wolfe of Kansas has announced that he will lead a September 9 rally in support of a charity imperiled by Sedgwick County's plan for a new downtown arena.

The county plans to demolish the Episcopal Social Services building to make room for the construction of the $184 million, 15,000-seat sports and entertainment center approved by voters in 2004.

Officials of the charity say the $500,000 the county has offered for their building is not enough to buy comparable space downtown to continue their work helping the poor and the disabled.

"As a result, the people who will suffer are those who always suffer -- the poor, the homeless and those in greatest need," the Wichita Eagle quoted Bishop Dean E. Wolfe as saying in a statement emailed to the newspaper.

County officials have moved to condemn the Episcopal Social Services building and say they won't increase their offer. They said that would be unfair to other property owners in the arena zone and open a floodgate for them to challenge their offers.

Commissioner David Unruh said the county's offer was based on an independent appraisal, as were all the offers for property in the arena zone.

Diocesan spokesperson Melodie Woerman said the idea for a rally emerged in recent meetings with priests of the Southeast Kansas Convocation, a group of a dozen Episcopal churches with 3,500 members in Wichita and nearby communities.

"This is a pretty dire situation," Woerman said. "If we can bring some light to it, it probably would be a good thing."

Episcopal Social Services provides an array of assistance, including a daily free hot lunch, an employment center, and counseling for troubled teens and their families.
The charity also runs the area's only free, large-scale "representative payee" program, managing rent and bills for people with mental illness or disabilities.

"It serves the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable citizens, and in return, the city and county need to support those efforts that serve the common good," Wolfe said. Episcopal Social Services "has done its part, but the county commissioners haven't done theirs."

Church and charity officials said they're especially troubled that the county paid $915,000 to acquire a similar-size building that housed a bar less than a block from the center.

"Anyone familiar with the facts of this situation can see clearly the inequity in how ESS's building has been treated," Wolfe said. "The only fair thing is for the county to call for additional appraisals."

Unruh said the charity will get the chance to make that case when the condemnation goes to court.


MISSISSIPPI: Pass Christian churches, town helped by California neighbors

[Source: insidebayarea.com] Instead of stained glass windows, Trinity Episcopal Church in Pass Christian, Mississippi, has DuPont Tyvek HomeWrap. The industrial plastic does the job well enough, filtering the light that falls on worshippers from three sides of the chapel's upper reaches on Sunday mornings. Incandescent work lights, folding chairs and a small electronic organ now complete the Sunday-morning ambiance.

"This is our plywood cathedral," the Rev. Christopher Colby told insidebayarea.com, the website of a group of newspapers in the area surrounding San Francisco, California.

San Carlos, California, residents adopted Pass Christian after the hurricane last year and local churches have chipped in to help the Mississippi community rebuild.

Trinity's building, blown out by Hurricane Katrina a year ago, save for its ceiling and buttresses, still has a visible water line 22 feet high. No pews, hymnals or altarpieces were left behind after the storm. Even the floor was ripped away.

Established in 1849, the church once had 255 households in its congregation with about 165 people attending its Sunday services. Now, one year after the storm, about 50 households belong to the church, which draws about 90 worshippers each Sunday for one 9:00 a.m. service.

Fewer than 3,000 of Pass Christian's nearly 7,000 residents have trickled back to the Gulf Coast town, which lost all of its businesses and 80 percent of its homes when Katrina came barreling through.

Even if their house of worship was spared, churches' attendance is just a fraction of what it was before the storm. But the disaster has had its positive side, distilling attendance down to the hardiest churchgoers and knitting closer relationships between them.

"People, before, they wouldn't even give you the time of day. I mean, they weren't ever nasty to you, but they're really nice now," said Marie Fry, 58, who lost her home in the storm and has been a parishioner at Trinity for three years. "We've all kind of been reduced down to the same level and people that are left here need to help each other. And they do, they really do. It just feels more like family now."

Katherine Foster, 34, a mother of two and oceanographer at the nearby U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, said that people now linger longer at Trinity after the service. Though she has moved back into her storm-damaged home, she said the church is a good distraction for those living in more trying situations, such as government-issued trailers.

"You know that when you come here, you cannot think about it for a while," Foster said.

The church's leader for nine years, Colby, 53, recalled that there were 15 people at services the first Sunday after the storm. That number grew over the last year and he is confident it will continue to rise. He has committed to rebuilding and is planning for an even larger congregation than he had before.

But rebuilding is the hardest job he's ever undertaken.

"I've started two churches from scratch, but this is like we have to build the town from scratch, then build the church," Colby said. "I never thought I'd be in a place that was obliterated."


SAN DIEGO: San Marcos priest leaves Episcopal church

[Source: North County Times]The Rev. Eric Menees surprised his congregants at Grace Episcopal Church in San Marcos, California, on September 3 by announcing he was leaving to start a new congregation that will be aligned with a foreign diocese within the Anglican Communion.

Menees plans to lead the new church in San Marcos on September 10. Regular services at Grace Episcopal Church will continue with the Rev. Bill Lieber.

The resignation makes Grace the fourth Episcopal church in North County that has seen priests and sometimes congregants leaving the church.

The split has been felt in Fallbrook and Oceanside, where congregations voted to change the names of their churches from Episcopal to Anglican, and in Vista, where a priest quit the Episcopal Church but plans to return to the city and start an Anglican church.

The leaders and some members of a congregation in Alpine have also said they want to leave the Episcopal Church this year.

"This decision is, perhaps, the most difficult of my life and is not made out of anger or haste but ultimately out of a desire to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus and to be a man of integrity," Menees wrote to the diocese in his resignation letter, dated September 2.

Menees, who was with Grace Episcopal for seven of his 19 years as a priest, told the North County Times that he will lead the newly formed Anglican Church of the Resurrection. Without a church of its own, the congregation for now will meet at Community Christian Church, in San Marcos. Menees said he does not know how many congregants will follow him from Grace Episcopal, but said the organist, choir director, youth director and children's ministry director will join him.

The Anglican Church of the Resurrection will be under the jurisdictional authority of Archbishop Gregory Venables, Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone and Bishop of Argentina, he said.

Bishop James Mathes of San Diego told the newspaper he had tried to reach out to Menees and others unhappy with the local leadership by inviting conservative Bishop Jeffrey Steenson of the Diocese of Rio Grande (New Mexico and West Texas) to San Diego in February.

"That's an effort to try to bridge differences, and that's not been accepted."

Menees said the offer wasn't accepted because Mathes wanted to be involved in meetings with Steenson.

"How do you have a conversation with him when the bishop you're in conflict with is in the same room?" Menees said.

As for Menees' decision to leave the church, Mathes said he is hurt, but not resentful.

"It's not my job to fix the situation," he said. "It's my job to love the people, and that includes loving people who don't love me, and who might even hurt me intentionally or unintentionally. The truth is I love the people of Grace and San Marcos, and I love Eric Menees. So this is a sad day for me. I'm grieving."


SOUTH CAROLINA: Group urges reconciliation and unity on eve of electing convention

[Source: Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, Diocese of South Carolina] A group opposed to some of the stands taken by the Diocese of South Carolina and its soon-to-retire bishop, Edward L. Salmon Jr., published an open letter in a Charleston newspaper September 5 urging electors in the diocese's September episcopal election.

"The integrity of each candidate is above reproach; the ministry of each is a faithful and inspiring witness," said the letter from Episcopal Forum of South Carolina. "However, we are concerned that the new bishop be committed, without reservation, to the ordination oath signed by every new bishop to conform to the 'doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.'

"We understand that commitment to include respecting the democratic actions of the General Convention, and the elected leadership of The Episcopal Church as it is now constituted. In recent years our diocesan leadership has voiced opposition to actions of General Convention and the Church's leaders. The Diocese of South Carolina has joined fewer than 10% of all Episcopal dioceses in an alliance, The Anglican Communion Network, that threatens to lead us out of The Episcopal Church."

South Carolina is one of seven dioceses in which a bishop or Standing Committee is seeking a relationship with a primate other than the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, citing 2003 and 2006 General Convention actions. The other dioceses are Central Florida (Orlando-based), Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Springfield (Illinois), and San Joaquin (California).

The letter goes on to offer a number of "assurances" to those contemplating the election, including being able to trust "the leadership in The Episcopal Church to make a place for those who are not always in agreement with its direction" and "that Scripture is at the center of all that The Episcopal Church teaches and believes."

The letter urges the convention to practice the Church's mission of reconciliation. "Separation and alienation are the opposite of reconciliation," it says.

The full text of the letter is available at http://www.episcopalforumofsc.org/.

The three nominees announced July 27 are: the Rev. Canon Ellis English Brust, 48, chief operating officer and chaplain to the president of the American Anglican Council, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia; the Very Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, 56, rector, St. Paul's Episcopal Parish, Bakersfield, California; and the Rev. Stephen D. Wood, 42, rector, St. Andrew's Church, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.

On August 28, the South Carolina Standing Committee rejected a request by 24 clergy delegates and seven lay delegates to allow its president, the Rev. Marshall Dow Sanderson, to be added to the list of candidates.

The electing convention will meet at St. Philip's Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on September 16.

Under the canons the Episcopal Church (III.16.4(a)), a majority of the bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan Standing Committees must consent to the  ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.

The consecration is planned for February 24, 2007.

- - - - -

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA: Almost a year after Wilma, church celebrates reopening

[Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]  Parishioners of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Delray Beach, Florida, had good reason to welcome one another to the 77-year-old building on September 4: they were home again.

"We are here to celebrate our homecoming and rededication," said the Rev. William H. "Chip" Stokes during the service. "This morning we are grateful to God for being able to rebuild."

Nearly a year after Hurricane Wilma battered the church building, worshipers moved back into the old sanctuary after several months of repairs and renovations. They celebrated with a special service and a courtyard carnival.

One popular attraction: "Dunk the Reverend," with Stokes in the tank.

Wilma tore out huge portions of the church roof, leaving it vulnerable to rain. Two weeks later another storm hit, further soaking the interior.

Though services continued for nine months, church administrators closed the main building in June, parish administrator Bill Hurd told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

Since then, members have worshipped at the parish hall and at the Schofield Chapel at the nearby James L. Duncan Conference Center of the Diocese of Southeast Florida.

The church now has new roofs on all its buildings. It also boasts new carpet, painting, furnishings and plaster work. Insurance, donations and money from the building fund paid for the project, which cost more than $500,000.

"As beautiful as it is, it's only important for what takes place in it and for what it nourishes in us," said Stokes, rector for seven years and a candidate for bishop in the Diocese of Newark, during his sermon.

The first St. Paul's Episcopal Church building was constructed in the early 1900s, Hurd said. It was later destroyed during the 1928 hurricane. The existing structure was built in 1929.

"I'm not particularly attached to the building," parishioner Judy Taylor said. "It's the people and what goes on here that makes me want to be here on Sundays."


VIRGINIA: Conversation continues between bishop, Truro rector-bishop

[Source: Diocese of Virginia, ENS] Bishop Peter Lee told the Diocese of Virginia in an August 31 letter that he and the Rev. Martyn Minns are still in conversation, along with the vestry of Minns' parish and the diocesan Standing Committee, about the various jurisdictional and pastoral issues raised by Minns' consecration as a bishop in the Church of Nigeria.

Minns is the rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, and Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola has asked that he remain Truro's rector while serving as a bishop with oversight of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), originally called the Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America.

"Our discussions are continuing," Lee wrote. "And while I could wish for a more timely resolution to this situation, I am mindful that the Holy Spirit requires much of us, including patience."

Lee wrote that he is attempting to take into account the pastoral needs of Truro Church "while also considering the needs of the entire Diocese."
 
Read the full text of Lee's letter at: http://www.thediocese.net/press/pressroom.shtml

Lee had previously written to his diocese to say that the June 28 election of Minns is "an affront to the traditional, orthodox understanding of Anglican Provincial Autonomy."

Lee wrote in that letter that it would be impossible to honor Akinola's request that Minns remain rector of Truro Church.

An August 13 letter from Lee to the diocese says that a search is under way for Minns' successor and the Truro vestry has asked that Minns remain as rector until his replacement is chosen, an arrangement that would be unusual in most Episcopal congregations.

Minns was consecrated August 20 at the National Christian Centre (formerly National Ecumenical Centre) in Abuja, Nigeria, with three other bishops-elect.

The release says that CANA was established in April 2005 "as part of Church of Nigeria's response to the lingering crisis in the US Anglican Churches brought about by controversial teachings regarding human sexuality and the bible. The Convocation is expected to provide a 'safe spiritual harbour' for millions of Anglicans affected by the teachings of the Anglican branch in the US."

According to a 2003 ENS report, the original idea for a Nigerian chaplaincy in the US grew out of conversations between American bishops and Akinola following the Primates Meeting at Kanuga in North Carolina in March 2001. Akinola later toured four US dioceses -- Texas, Southern Ohio, Michigan, and Chicago -- where there are significant Nigerian immigrant populations. In April 2002, he met with the American bishops at Camp Allen in Texas for further conversations concerning his plan for the chaplaincy.

It was originally conceived as a partnership between the Episcopal Church and the Church of Nigeria, funded through a three-year commitment from the Dioceses of Texas and Southern Ohio, the Church of Nigeria, and the presiding bishop's discretionary fund.

According to the Rev. Patrick Mauney, retired director of Anglican and Global Relations for the Episcopal Church, "tens of thousands of dollars" were raised for the joint chaplaincy, but the Atlanta-based chaplain appointed to the position, the Rev. Canon Adegboyega Gordon Okunsanya, "overspent his budget" and work had to be temporarily suspended "until sufficient funds were on hand." Mauney disputed reports that Okunsanya was terminated. The Presiding Bishop's Office confirmed Mauney's recollection of the events.

Later in 2004, Akinola announced plans to establish the Nigerian convocation for "those thousands of Nigerian Anglicans who feel alienated by the actions of the Episcopal Church" in consecrating openly-gay priest Gene Robinson as a diocesan bishop. Non-Nigerians, he said, would be "absolutely free to join. The convocation is a non-geographic diocese."

At that time, the Archbishop of Canterbury's office said Archbishop Rowan Williams had not approved those plans to establish any non-geographic Nigerian diocese, independent of Episcopal Church structures, on American soil.

Both the October 2004 Windsor Report (paragraph 155) and the March 2005 Dromantine Communiqué (paragraph 15) call for an end to "cross-boundary interventions" by bishops.