July 2017 Convocation Newsletter
The Convocation of Episcopal Churches of Europe has long been on the front line of the Episcopal Church’s mission with refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa, reflected in our Vision 2012 Commitment to Ministry beyond our walls. At its meeting on September 12, members of the Bishop's Council of Advice passed a resolution calling on the churches of the Convocation to redouble efforts to support the needs of refugees and displaced persons finding their way to our communities.
The children of Abraham have ever been reminded to care for the widow and orphan and the sojourner in their midst, who were the refugees and homeless of the time. Jesus charged his followers to care for the least of these and proclaim the near presence of the Reign of God – in other words, feed the hungry, water the thirsty, house the homeless, heal the sick, and liberate the captives. We cannot ignore the massive human suffering in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, nor in Asia and the Americas.
[St. Paul's Rome] Every day, hundreds of men and boys make their way to our church, descending the steps that lead into the crypt, and looking for answers and assistance in the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center. Once inside, guests may receive a nutritious breakfast, have a chance to rest in a safe place, access a supply closet with clothing items and basic necessities, and play foosball, ping pong, or chess. Many guests take advantage of services and programs like language classes (Italian, French, and English), navigation assistance (where an experienced refugee guest helps new arrivals “navigate” the various immigration, medical and legal appointments required for integration, or access the services of psychotherapists, who help guests cope with what has often been a chaotic and traumatic journey between their countries of origin and Rome. We receive daily anywhere from 100-225 guests in the JNRC, depending on the season. A growing number of dedicated volunteers give of their time and talent to help ease the burdens that accompany each guest.
I am a former Sanctuary seeker. It’s something I don’t usually write or speak about very often. It’s not that I am embarrassed about my sanctuary seeking past or lack deep gratitude to the country that received me – I am and always will be grateful to this country for its compassionate heart and generosity of spirit. Having spent 41 years of my life in this country - more than in the country of my birth, I have become more than what I once was – a sanctuary seeker from a country torn apart by a brutal dictator, driven by power, greed and regional ambition. Idi Amin was religiously delusional and he treated people as pawns in his political ambitions with a complete disregard to the rule of law.
Scripture says that God is endlessly involved in active, intimate love with us. According to the psalmist, God formed us in the womb and knows our every thought before we speak; we could fly to the uttermost parts of the universe, and God would still be with us. God spoke through Jeremiah: "I alone know the plans I have for you; plans for your well-being..." If God is indeed so closely involved with our lives, more intimate than a mother with her unborn child, the idea of "seeking" God seems paradoxical. Yet Scripture affirms our search for the Holy One who is even closer to us than we are to ourselves. We are created, Paul says, for the very purpose of seeking God. "If you seek me with all your heart," God says through Jeremiah, "I will let you find me."
What is your understanding of sacred space? Is it merely a spot conducive to relaxation and rest? Is the sacredness of a space dependent upon how much you enjoy your time there? Is there any difference between the sacredness found in cabin get-a-ways and golf-course greens, and that which is to fundamentally define the church? Our life with God has become so individualized in contemporary society that I wonder if we downplay the understanding that church is the house of God. Truth be told, when talking about sacred space, does ‘church’ even enter our minds?
Texas Governor Rick Perry opined a few days ago  that, had moviegoers in Lafayette, Louisiana, been allowed to bring their guns into the theater, they could have stopped John Russell Houser when he opened fire on July 23, 2015. The mentally ill like Houser should not have been able to get a gun, Perry said — the laws were not enforced.
Nearly every classical religious tradition begins with an affirmation of the sacredness of creation. This is not surprising. Ancient peoples were captivated by the beauty, grandeur and complexity of the natural world. They told stories of how the world began and how humans came to inhabit it. Our own biblical tradition affirms that the world that God has created is good: ‘God saw everything that he had made, and indeed it was very good.’
Has The Episcopal Church changed its doctrine of marriage? Reading various statements during and after the 78th General Convention, it would seem that once again, that church based in America and present in sixteen other countries is threatening the fragile unity of the Anglican Communion by leaving behind the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). If that is straining the bonds of our Communion, it is not purely an American issue, by any means. Our church is in the same position as the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church of Ireland, the Church of Wales, the Church of Canada, the Church of Australia, the Church of Southern Africa, the Church of Brazil, the Church of Mexico, and the Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia. Why is The Episcopal Church singled out?
[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] Several hours after being elected as the Episcopal Church’s 27th – and first African-American – presiding bishop-elect, Michael Curry fielded a range of media questions with characteristic humility and humor June 27 and said he intends to build on the good work of his predecessor “because that’s the way the Spirit works.” Current Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori introduced Curry at a crowded press conference at the Hilton Hotel in Salt Lake City, saying the House of Bishops handed him “a major mandate” with the historic landslide victory.