27 June 2007

Deacons told to explore new opportunities for ministry

Presiding Bishop offers keynote address at biennial conference of U.S. and Canadian deacons
By Kim Forman, June 26, 2007

[Episcopal News Service] Deacons are called to be the "nags of the church," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the biennial Conference of the North American Association for the Diaconate (NAAD) on June 22 at their meeting in Seattle. Reflecting the Conference theme, "Being There, Mission for a New Millennium," she encouraged the assembled deacons to explore new opportunities for ministry.

The three-day Conference opened June 21 with an evening address by Bishop Vincent Warner of the host Diocese of Olympia, and included seven workshops on topics such as the deacon in the liturgy, prison ministry, health ministry, community organizing, the Millennium Development Goals, and the practice of wellness. There were also a number of opportunities for corporate worship, including a Eucharist at St. Mark's Cathedral with Olympia Bishop Suffragan Nedi Rivera as celebrant.

Jefferts Schori's keynote address to the biennial conference drew a capacity crowd of local guests and some 220 deacons from across the United States and Canada to the campus of Seattle University.

In introducing the Presiding Bishop, Deacon Susanne Watson Epting, executive director of NAAD, noted that Jefferts Schori, before her election, had said that if people wanted to think about new church starts, they should talk to deacons because "deacons know where the church is needed."

Commenting on the theme of "Being There," Epting noted that "when we put the emphasis on 'there,' it's often where deacons are: in places of need; in places outside the church's walls; in places where others forget that people should be defined not only by their needs, but by their gifts."

"As we look toward a third-millennium church and a renewed sense of mission," Jefferts Schori said, "I want to ask you deacons, and the rest of the church, about new ways in which deacons could be sent out."

Reminding them of their ordination vows, she said deacons are called to serve the poor, weak, sick, the lonely and those who have no other helpers and to interpret the needs and hopes of the world to the church.

The ministry of deacons, she explained, is one of urgency about the starving and homeless and also about "the full humanity and dignity of those in all sorts of prisons, whether legal ones, nursing homes or hospices, as well as the prisons we build through prejudice about race, gender, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, national origin and so many others."

Jefferts Schori asked the deacons to think about service to people "captive to a consumerist society" or "caught up in the rat race of jobs or shopping or keeping up with the neighbors" and about "forming communities of faith and transformation among co-workers or fellow commuters or soccer parents."

"Where is the good news going unheard?" she asked. "Who are the hungry in spirit? Whose needs and concerns and hopes are not being addressed?"

The church is recovering the ancient ministry of deacons focused on service connected to the ministry of a bishop "despite the fact that some dioceses have not yet or not fully embraced the ministry of deacons," she said. "But I want to push us to see those ministries as far more interconnected than we have tended to see them in the past."

The church in this millennium will be less tied to buildings than in the past, she predicted, because young people hunger for a spirituality of practice rather than a spirituality of place.

Deacons may have to convert the rest of the church to recognize the need for recruiting, training and assigning younger deacons to work with the younger generation, she said. "We need to begin to see those gifts in teen-agers. You know the kinds of gifts necessary and I challenge you to start looking among the youngsters you meet."

"Deacons should not only be middle-aged, silver-haired, retired or independently wealthy," she told a room filled with many of those traits, drawing laughter and applause.

The Presiding Bishop offered the deacons a five-point model of mission developed by the Anglican Consultative Council, the Anglican Communion's main legislative body. That model, she said, has been "around for about 20 years, but [is] little known in the Episcopal Church."

It includes: (1) To proclaim the good news of the kingdom; (2) To teach, baptize and nurture new believers; (3) To respond to human need by loving service; (4) To seek to transform unjust structures of society; and (5) To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth."

Calling them "the elements of God's mission in which we participate," Jefferts Schori offered examples of each. Some deacons are working on environmental issues, she said "nudging and prodding and nagging the rest of the world to wake up to the suffering implicit in our lack of care for creation, but there is abundant opportunity for more ministry there."

Concluding 45 minutes of formal remarks, Jefferts Schori asked "Now what do you want to talk about?" which sparked an animated conversation with the deacons.

The first question was about her reference to deacons nagging and how that could be done on the local "grass roots level."

"If half of the dioceses of the church are represented here, as I am told," she said, "you represent a critical mass and person-by-person you can make a difference, you can change things."

Walking around the room with a hand-held microphone for more than an hour, Jefferts Schori responded to more than 30 other questions and comments on church canons, education standards, scholarships, networking, pensions and conflict.

"Despite the headlines you read," she said, only about 45 churches out of 7,600 have left the Episcopal Church for alternate jurisdictions within the Anglican Communion.

"Yes, we have conflict," she said. "Yes we have always had conflict in the church."
She listed past disputes between Gentiles and Jews in the early church and over slavery, native Americans and other minorities, over the place of women and children in the church, "but we have much more in common and we need to reach out to each other and build on that."

When a delegate asked how deacons could work with priests or bishops who don't recognize and use their skills and gifts, Jefferts Schori quipped, "Sometimes it's much easier to ask forgiveness than permission."

Several delegates thanked the Presiding Bishop for attending their conference and voiced appreciation for her insights and support.

Kent McCall of Kansas City said Jefferts Schori "appreciates deacons and what we do, and there are lots of people who don't. She is very intellectual, wise and charismatic. Now we know why she was elected."

Emily Morales, a priest from Puerto Rico, said, "I was very impressed with her wisdom in dealing with the issues" and for Jefferts Schori's support of a school opening there in August with 11 deacon candidates.

Three deacons ordained last December in Los Angeles -- Margaret McCauley, Walter Johnson and Christine Nevarez -- talked about the Presiding Bishop's encouragement "to go beyond our comfort zone and work for change" for ethnic minorities and youth.

"I especially liked what she said about always being hopeful and filled with unlimited possibility if we can think outside the box," Johnson said.

An important feature of the Conference was the June 22 presentation of the awards for the "Recognition of Diaconal Ministry in the Tradition of St. Stephen." Begun in 1995, these awards are given to no more than one deacon from any diocese, who must be endorsed by the diocesan bishop. A total of 25 deacons received this prestigious award in 2007.

At the same ceremony, the Bishop George Clinton Harris Award for outstanding service was presented posthumously to Northern Michigan Bishop Jim Kelsey, and was accepted by Deacon Tina Maki of the diocese, who was also a Stephen Award recipient. Begun in 2001, Kelsey was the fourth recipient of this award. Kelsey, bishop representative on the NAAD Board, died in an auto accident June 3 while returning from a parish visitation. The Bishop George Clinton Harris Award had been planned before his death.

At the NAAD Business meeting, elections to the board, completed earlier by mail ballot, were confirmed by the membership. Deacon Barbara Bishop from the Diocese of Chicago, NAAD's vice president/president elect for the past two years, was elected president. Tina Campbell of Northern California and Pam Nesbitt of Pennsylvania were elected as new members of the NAAD board. Bishop J. Michael Garrison of the Diocese of Western New York, was elected to fill the bishop slot on the board. The Ven. Jim Upton, a former board member and former Archdeacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas, died on June 17 at his home in Newton, Kansas, following his re-election to the board. He was the third significant NAAD leader to die in recent months.

Br. Justus Van Houten SSF, who was president of NAAD from 1995-97, died suddenly in Papua New Guinea last year.

Dutton Morehouse, editor of the NAAD quarterly "Diakoneo," said attendance at this conference was 100 more than any in recent memory. The next conference will be held in 2010 but no location has been selected.

-- The Rev. Kim Forman is a retired Episcopal priest and freelance journalist in the Diocese of Olympia.
Copyright © 2007 Episcopal Life Online

My Note: This is similar to what Bishop Thomas Breidenthal told us at our Deacons' Retreat -- we were to be subversive and a thorn in the side of the parishes where we serve as well as the diocese. Our calling is to let neither become complacent.

This is Jesus...We Gotta Talk About This Christian Soldier Thing

In this day when we are all consumed with sex, there are things going on in the world that we should be concentrating on. . .

June 27, 2007 at 07:07:24
This is Jesus... We Gotta Talk About This Christian Soldier Thing.
by Dennis Diehl

Ok, this is Jesus, we gotta talk!

"ONITSHA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Christian youths burned the corpses of Muslims on Thursday on the streets of Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria, the city worst hit by religious riots that have killed at least 146 people across the country in five days.
Christian mobs, seeking revenge for the killings of Christians in the north, attacked Muslims with machetes, set fire to them, destroyed their houses and torched mosques in two days of violence in Onitsha, where 93 people died.

"We are very happy that this thing is happening so that the north will learn their lesson," said Anthony Umai, a motorcycle taxi rider, standing close to where Christian youths had piled up the corpses of 10 Muslims and were burning them."

Guys! Guys! This Christian soldier thing has to stop before everyone gets killed in Jesus name amen! There is no such thing as a Christian Soldier. It's a bad song and it should never have been written. I don't want Christians marching onward anymore. They are giving me a very bad name and creeping everyone on the planet out! Please, you gotta stop "Marching as to war", and no where, even in that hymn does any Christian get to pile up the dead and burn them! It's just an analogy.

Please, put down the "with the cross of Jesus" and let's rethink some of the great stuff I wrote that somewhat goes against what you seem to be up to. Put the Cross down and let's march ahead with say...oh, food! Yes, let's bring people food! Or how about "with the hugs of Jesus, going on before?" That works great. Let's change the words.

"Onward all us nice guys, walking not like thugs With some food from Jesus, and a bunch of hugs. Jesus, he just loves you, wants you to be free. Forward with the fooooooood, here's a hug for thee.

Onward Christian nice guys, making not a fuss With some food from Jesus and some hugs from us.

Onward then you nice guys, boy we like you too Here, how can we help you, do what you can do? We are here to love you, help you all we can. Let's just build some pla-ay ground, someone bring some sand.

Onward Christian nice guys, here's some food for you Gosh we're just so haaaappy, thanks for all you do."

Something like that. Anything but what you're singin!
Hey remember when I said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy?" Can we just wallow in that one for a bit before you go out again tonight?
Please, I'm not the royal Master marching against my foes. I don't do foes anymore! Put the damn cross thing down now! Wow, am I having a bad day up here reading about you guys! My Father is just looking at me like "do something," but you guys have to do it on your own or you won't learn anything from me. They are not the foe! No one is the foe! Foe St. Pete sake, stop!!!

Please, do not "like a mighty army, moves the Church of God anymore either. You're giving us all a really bad name. Atheist's and agnostics are having a field day with this stuff. It's ok if you don't "tread where the saints of trod." They did way too much treading where I never wanted them to tread and way too many people got squished when I never intended that!

Oh and please stop with the "we are not divided, all one body weeeeeeeeeeee" stuff. You haven't agreed on one thing since the day started singing that song. You're killing me along with anyone that evidently that gets in your Christian way. You're all divided an you know it. Satan hightailed it up here real fast and has been laughing his ass off at me all day over this stuff. You're not "one in hope and doctrine" and for God's sake, sorry Dad, you're certainly not "one in chariteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee." I wish you were. You're not a happy throng. You're a crazy one! I don't want anyone to blend their voices with yours in any triumph song. We're not trying to win anything here. I don't need you to win for me. I'm not playing!

So please guys, let's stop marching as to war and like a mighty armying! They are just people...PEOPLE. They have families, they want to feel safe, they need a place to live and a job to keep them going. You're all the same! Jeeeeeeeez, don't worry I can take my own name in vain if I want to, this is really bad stuff!
Rodney! Where is Rodney King? Rodney you tell 'em. "Can't we all just get along? Excellent Rodney! That's the whole point of what I was getting at! Gabriel, put what Rodney just said into the next Sermon on the Mount update. And be sure to give him full credit!

Oh I'm so upset. Satan, bring me a beer, I gotta catch my breath. Cancel my calls for the day. Gosh, save me from my own followers.

In Me...Your Friend,
Jesus-Prince of Peace

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Dennis_Diehl

Dennis Diehl is a former pastor of 26 years, who outgrew the Literalism of Fundamentalism. He writes about Pastoral and Church abuse and is available to speak on such topics or be helpful to any church suffering under abusive religion or pastors.

Copyright © OpEdNews, 2002-2007

26 June 2007

June Graduations Beg The Question: What Is Our Future?
by Joan Chittister

It’s happening everywhere, I know. But I learned last week not to take it for granted. In fact, it may well be our major problem and it is hiding in plain sight.With a measure of curiosity short of nostalgia but greater than personal interest, I found myself watching a series of local high school graduations on the public service channel last week. Why I paused — and stayed — on that particular channel, I’ll never know. But I’m glad it happened.

It was, in fact, a veritable “taste of America” moment that I haven’t seen too often since I left the scholastic world years ago. The graduates were combed, washed, heeled and proper. No goon show kids here. They wore their mortarboards flat and undecorated. Their gowns were pressed and glowing. Their smiles were broad, proud, satisfied.

One group of these graduates was from a collegiate prep school; the other from a local comprehensive high school that stresses technical proficiency and professional skills. Both groups were attentive, well mannered and, as teachers love to say, “a credit to their schools.” If such a display of achievement and conduct has any meaning to it at all, it must indicate that our schools are putting out young adults who will fit into this society well, who will surely succeed in life as we have shaped it for them.

But that is exactly what made the whole scene so uncomfortable, even troubling.

According to researcher Christopher Swanson using data collected in 2003 and released June 6 by the national daily, USA Today, this country graduates only 69.6 percent of the four million students admitted to its high schools yearly.

What’s worse, he points out, the largest school districts in the United States graduate even less than that of every potential graduation class every year. Three of them — Detroit, Baltimore and New York City — graduate fewer than 40 percent of the pupils they enroll in ninth grade. Eleven other urban school districts, the same research reports, have on-time graduation rates lower than 50 percent; they include Milwaukee, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, Denver and Houston.

There are those who dispute the figures, of course. Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute argues that Swanson’s numbers fail to take into account the number of students held back in order to complete state exit exams or to take advanced work. Whether they actually ever do that or not he does not report, but he does insist that U.S. high schools graduate at least 80 percent of a four year student body. On the other hand, the New York Post reported May 22 that Mayor Bloomberg was ecstatic to be able to announce that New York City graduation rates had reached 60 percent this year.

Whatever the precise national figures, the question this year’s graduation videos raised in me remains: Where are the rest of the graduates? Where are the one million students we lose every year who do not get diplomas, who do not graduate, who are not prepared for any kind of higher education or professional advancement? What do they look like? What do they read? How do they vote? What issues concern them? What are they going to do in life? And what does that have to do with the rest of us?

There are lots of things to worry about in this world. If you have any kind of insight at all you know that the Middle East can blow sky high at any moment. “The first battle of World War III,” some called the invasion of Iraq and who would deny that tag with any degree of confidence now.

And the war in Iraq gets worse by the day. Did we really “liberate” these people or did we simply unleash the factors within that country that had been held in check by Saddam Hussein for years and that are free now to destabilize the entire Middle East?

Is war the only way forward in this tinder-box world? And if not, who is there who will develop a better way?

The immigration situation is no small issue now, as well. Is the question of undocumented aliens only a new kind of indentured servitude? Are illegal workers simply one more population of people held hostage to an economic system that pays them little for their service and keeps them hidden in a system that uses them but refuses to recognize them.

The loss of the middle class, the increasing number of families falling below the poverty line, the lack of universal health insurance, the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to other countries are all domestic matters that signal a change in the quality of life in the United States. What will life look like in a few short years for those who are not the mega rich?

And most of all, in what way will the 7,000 students who drop out of school in the major cities of the United States every day of the school year influence any of those answers?

Maybe instead of spending more money on weapons, more money on walls designed to seal our borders, more money on high tech spying and technological Big Brother houses, we should spend more money on teachers, more money on schools, more money on day care and Head Start programs, more money on tutors, more money on organized inner city youth programs, more money on adult training centers, more money on subsidized higher education.

Then, maybe we wouldn’t have to worry so much about our borders. Then maybe we wouldn’t have to complain so much that we have to struggle to understand our computer technicians because they’re all in India now. Then maybe U.S. culture would become as desirable to the rest of the world as U.S. money is. Then maybe we’d really have a culture worth sharing with the rest of the world instead of the daily reruns of “Dallas” and the menu of masochistic murder stories that are our hallmark around the world now.

It looks to me as if our enemies are not so much from outside of us as from within. What we have ignored for the sake of military superiority — the education of a population capable of bettering the rest of the world as well as ourselves — is costing us dearly now.

From where I stand it seems as if history may indeed repeat itself. Especially when we’re not looking. Ask the Romans.

A Benedictine Sister of Erie, Joan Chittister is a best-selling author and well-known international lecturer on topics of justice, peace, human rights, women’s issues, and contemporary spirituality in the Church and in society. She presently serves as the co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner organization of the United Nations, facilitating a worldwide network of women peace builders, especially in the Middle East.

Published on Tuesday, June 26, 2007 by The National Catholic Reporter
© 2007 The National Catholic Reporter

25 June 2007

And Who Wins?

Compliments of www.cartoonchurch.com

This comes from the blog That We All May Be One, by Bishop Christopher Epting, TEC's ecumenical officer:

Deacons, Mission, and New Church Starts

It’s a joy for me to be an observer at the annual conference of the North American Association for the Diaconate meeting at the beautiful Seattle University here in the Pacific Northwest. A couple of hundred participants were addressed this morning by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on the topic of mission.

Those who persist in believing that the Presiding Bishop (or the Episcopal Church) now defines the mission of the Church exclusively in terms of the Millennium Development Goals will be pleased to know that her framework for today’s presentation were the Five Marks of Mission defined by the Anglican Consultative Council. (Google “Five Marks of Mission” to see them listed).

I think I was most struck by the PB’s challenge to the deacons (and the Church) to be about the mission of this 3rd Millennium Church in new ways. For example, rather than deciding on “new church starts” by demographic analyses, income predictions, even ethnicity, how about having deacons (and others) tell us where the gospel most needs to be heard and establish new communities of faith there!

Young people, she correctly pointed out, are less concerned about a “spirituality of place” and more interested in a “spirituality of practice.” New church starts and indeed the Church of the future may be less concerned with buildings and more concerned with incarnating God’s mission.

I’ve been following the so-called “emergent church” movement lately and that certainly seems to be among the distinctive characteristics of these young people. In any case, as a longtime supporter of the diaconate, I was energized by the thought of these devoted deacons — who are in their ordination vows pledged to “interpret the needs of the world to the Church” — providing much-needed guidance to bishops and dioceses seriously interested in planting new churches which can actually be communities engaged in “restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

Posted by deniray mueller 25 June 2007