Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Election Letter from the Bishops

"Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of this land in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." -- Book of Common Prayer, p. 822

On November 8 we will again be called upon to exercise our civic duty of voting for the leaders of our nation, our states, and our local communities. It is a great privilege and responsibility to vote; one not available to all people around the globe. We give thanks for all those in our country’s history who have fought for our democratic right to vote, and for those who continue to work today to ensure that such freedoms continue.

Sadly this election season has taken on a tone that is not worthy of our country’s great democratic ideals. The political rancor and mean-spiritedness shown in the campaigns has too often resulted in distorted relationships in our families, in our communities, in our church, and in our nation. We are thus reminded of the words of the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer that speak of the sinfulness in our lives and in our world:

“Question: What is sin? Answer: Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.”(BCP p. 848)

How often have the sins of racism, classism, and sexism been used by candidates to alienate sectors of the electorate from each other in vain attempts to win votes? How often have we, as communities and as individuals, been like the Pharisee in last Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 18:11) criticizing those who favor a candidate not of our liking with characterizations that are unthinking, wrong-headed, unpatriotic, and even worse? Such is not the way of our nation. Such is not the way of God. We all need to repent for the sinfulness in this election season, seeking amendment of life and a return to wholeness with God and with each other as American citizens.

And when we are on our knees seeking forgiveness for how sin has crept into our hearts this election season, let us also turn to God and pray that these remaining weeks of the election season will be marked by a return to the civility, respect, and unity that has historically characterized our American political processes. Let us pray that Election Day will be free from violence and that due process will prevail. Let us pray that there will be a peaceful transition of power following the election. And above all, let us pray that those who have been elected to lead our nation, our states, and our communities will dedicate themselves to healing the divisions and hurts that have crept into our public life. Pray that God will bring us together in justice and in peace.

Our colleague bishops in the Episcopal Dioceses of Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts, the Rt. Revs. Alan M. Gates, Gayle E. Harris and Douglas J Fisher, respectively, have called on all Episcopalians in Massachusetts to participate in a vigil of prayer for the election from noon on All Saints Sunday, Nov. 6 through noon on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8. We would like to do the same, calling all parishes and worshiping communities in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut to a similar vigil. Such vigils could be as simple as a special closing prayer or litany on Sunday, November 6;  saying Morning, Noonday, and Evening Prayer on Monday November 7; or a continuous period of prayer with individuals and/or groups praying in shifts. Resources for prayer can be found on the EpiscopaliansVote website at: and at Forward Movement’s “Season of Prayer for an Election” website at:

We invite you to connect and share your ideas with ECCT by using our diocesan hashtag #ECCT and by tagging our diocesan Twitter account @EpiscopalCT. We would love to see what you and your parish or worshiping community are doing to prepare prayerfully for the election.

Finally, we urge you to exercise your right to vote on Election Day, November 8. We have a civic duty to participate in the political processes of our nation, our states, and our local communities. Please vote prayerfully.


The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Ph.D.                        The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, D.Min.
Bishop Diocesan                                                      Bishop Suffragan 

The Problem of Bias - Towards Women, Different Races & Native Americans

I found three articles worth our attention as we attempt in this country to work on making all lives matter equally, because they don't now...

Too Sweet, Or Too Shrill? The Double Bind For Women 

Her experience is one that researchers have described as a "double bind" — a set of assumptions that get at our implicit assumptions about men, women and leadership.

"The female gender role is based on the stereotype that women are nice and kind and compassionate," says social psychologist Alice Eagly. By contrast, she says, "in a leadership role, one is expected to take charge and sometimes at least to demonstrate toughness, make tough decisions, be very assertive in bringing an organization forward, sometimes fire people for cause, etc."

So what's a woman to do? Be nice and kind and friendly, as our gender stereotypes about women require? Or be tough and decisive, as our stereotypes about leadership demand? To be one is to be seen as nice, but weak. To be the other is to be seen as competent, but unlikable.

How ‘Bias’ Went From a Psychological Observation to a Political Accusation

The most profound division may be over the nature of bias itself. Now that frank prejudice is ostensibly out of bounds, the country finds itself in murkier territory, arguing about the kind of bias that is less obvious and intentional. While some people (mostly on the left) puzzle over the lessons of studies like “Seeing Black,” others (mostly on the right) feel blamed for what they see as an imaginary problem.

Battle Over Indians’ Name and Logo Moves to the World Series

Yenyo, who is from Cleveland, was part of the protests at the 1997 World Series, in which the Indians played the Florida Marlins, and he has helped organize protests on opening day in Cleveland for the last two decades.

He said the goal was to educate fans, many of whom cherish the Indians’ name and the Chief Wahoo logo. Chief Wahoo has been around in different forms since 1947, the year before Cleveland won its last World Series. The Cleveland team itself had numerous names in its early history, including the Blues, the Bronchos and the Naps. But before the 1915 season, the club became the Indians, according to, and it has been Indians ever since.

That puts the team into the middle of a sustained and often emotional debate. Many people vigorously oppose the use of Native North American names and images as mascots and logos, saying they are demeaning and worse. The Chief Wahoo logo in particular stands out because it is a caricature.
Lots of food for thought...

Uncivil Religion

These days bring to mind the line from William Carlos Williams’ poem “To Elsie”: “The pure products of America go crazy – ” Williams was writing in the early 1920s, gazing out on a despoiled Jersey landscape, tenderly lamenting the daily grind that so many Americans faced to the point of desperation and derangement. Nearly a century later, his words echo.

Lately the national catalogue of “pure products” and their human cost has expanded. The list includes a fascination with certain runaway abstractions – a nostalgia for the 1950s, the fever dream of an armed citizenry, a creedal loyalty to market freedom or racial superiority. These body politic visions of purity go crazy.

Writer Peter Schjeldahl once said the USA is an idea that stands on three legs: “first, a set of 18th-century political documents, which we argue about continually; second, the cautionary example of the Civil War, which fates us to stick together no matter what; and, third, daily consumption of mass culture. That’s it. Everything else, however tremendous, is secondary.”

Relegated to his secondary list is religion. That demotion looks doubtful. An American civil religion, a belief that this pluralistic nation is blessed by the Creator, is a historic marker of our identity and exceptionalism. An old thought – God is watching – always did egalitarian work over here. It was a way of saying we’re all equal, and equally vouchsafed, in the economy of salvation.

The assumption of God’s providence is now under strenuous reassessment. The pressure of events – economic pessimism, gun slaughters, the rages of ideology – is rattling the confidence of many. On the big plasma screen, enchantment surrounds the powerful celebrity, as if to fill a spiritual void. Extremes of rhetoric and violence carry a dark glamour. And so the will of God gets an updated rival – the human will to power – stockpiled with firepower to enforce a perfect isolation inside the castle of individualism. Ideas that stand up for a functioning public life scatter in retreat.

American Christianity often gets defined as a religion of individualism. When that happens, little is expected of it in the arena of public solutions. The faith, however, teaches a wisdom that has consequences for political reform: an abiding affection for creation, a love of the things God has made.

What God has made is exceedingly, unnervingly diverse, and evidently it flourishes only if a balance is struck, a system of mutual courtesy. That seems to be the point of the much-repeated scriptural commands about Golden Rule, love of neighbor, and forgiveness. This group of commands isn’t there to flummox people with guilt. It arrives each moment as a practical principle.

And it applies everywhere. Golden Rule, regard for neighbor, the power of forgiveness – the world couldn’t manage without them. Daily business transactions depend on them. So does all the unglamorous work of organizing a neighborhood, launching a bond issue, or improving police-community relations. The everyday world is messy and plural. It resists our quaint impositions of ideological purity. Things go wrong when militant zeal becomes a spellbound fixation.

In his new book Putting God Second, Rabbi Donniel Hartman suggests what happens when the pure products of devotion hold sway: They lethally distort religion’s best values, and then faith is dishonored and the public is harmed. It’s possible to be so consumed with pious intoxication that one becomes morally blind to God’s will, which is always to respect what God has made. The corrective is, as Hartman provocatively puts it, to “put God first by putting God second.” Serve God by repairing the world and greeting the divine image in others. Here the theological and the political meet.

“Creation in the divine image is not merely a statement of value but one of purpose: a special charge to humanity to engage in tikkun olam, ‘repairing the world,’ grounded in the responsibility to be God’s partner in governing and managing creation,” he writes.

In its marrow, faith is a pragmatic force for sanity – people working for a humane future, feeling solid earth underneath. Politics too is about getting things done, and doing it together, after the bluster of ideology moves on to its next self-defeat, away from the hybrid surprises and graces of real life.

Uncivil Religion By Ray Waddle (Spirit and Politics: Finding Our Way 2016)

Standing Rock & the Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] The coming winter and changing attitudes on the part of some Dakota Access Pipeline project opponents and law enforcement officials near the Standing Rock Sioux Nation are changing the Episcopal Church’s ministry in that part of North Dakota.

Episcopalians spent part of Oct. 24 driving church vans around the state picking up protestors who had been arrested over the weekend. A planned camp move will put a winter protest camp close to an Episcopal church that will be able to bring even more services to campers.

The Oct. 22-23 weekend was a heated one near the proposed pipeline route. The Morton County Sheriff Department said Oct. 24 that 126 people were arrested two days earlier for “illegal protest activities” during a day of often-violent encounters with those protesting the pipeline that will run under the Standing Rock Sioux’ water supply, over its treaty lands and through some of its burial places. One person was arrested on Oct. 23, the department said, bringing the total number of arrests to 269 since the protest started Aug. 10.

Some pipeline opponents, who prefer to call themselves “protectors,” seemed to “have upped the ante and got themselves in place to block construction,” the Rev John Floberg, supervising priest of the Episcopal churches on the North Dakota side of Standing Rock, told Episcopal News Service Oct. 24. The authorities, he added, responded with what he called “overwhelming force.”

“From my side of this, the authorities have always been provocative and excessive, and the people that are doing their protection acts are getting pushed to take a harder stand that is still non-violent,” said Floberg in a telephone interview as he drove a church van to Fargo, North Dakota, about four hours to the east of the camps to collect some of the protestors who were taken there for arraignment.

On Oct. 22 Floberg and his colleagues on the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council asked federal and state officials to “de-escalate military and police provocation in and near the campsites of peaceful protest and witness of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.”

The council resolution is rooted in the Episcopal Church’s support of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in its struggle against the pipeline. That support has come from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry both in words and his presence with the protestors as well as visits by Heidi J. Kim, Episcopal Church staff officer for racial reconciliation; the Rev. Charles A. Wynder Jr., staff officer for social justice and advocacy engagement; the Rev. Heather Melton, United Thank Offering staff officer; and the UTO board.

After the violent weekend, Floberg began recruiting at least 100 ordained people for a “united clergy action,” now scheduled for Nov. 4, to show both the tribe and law-enforcement officials that clergy are standing with Standing Rock.

“It’s also for those engaged in the protest to see that clergy are bearing a witness of non-violent peaceful protest,” he said.

Clergy participants will be trained before the protests in “how to walk up to the line and not cross it.”

“What I have made very clear is that in every statement that has been made, no matter what denomination has made that statement, the solidarity is with the Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman and council,” he said. “We are going to follow their lead in whatever it is that we do. It is not a statement of solidarity with the camps; we never declared that.”

Floberg acknowledged that the camps have been criticized for their lack of unified leadership. “And people have stepped beyond the bounds of what the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has said that they wanted done and or not done, so we’re trying to reinforce the chairman’s position,” he said of the clergy action, explaining that the tribe’s position calls for protest against the pipeline along with the acknowledgement that the pipeline will be stopped through efforts in court and in other government arenas.

The nature of the camps is about to change. Floberg told ENS during the Executive Council meeting that the Sioux tribal council voted Oct. 19 to invite the campers in the Oceti Sakowin Camp to come to what is now being called Winter Camp on reservation land two miles south of the current location and near St. James’ Episcopal Church in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. When the tribe asked the Cannon Ball community to consider taking in the camp, the church hosted the meeting – and supplied supper – for residents to discuss the issue.

Read the whole story here and more here.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sunday: October 23

Most gracious God, we give you thanks for every good gift we have received through the bounty of your love. Guide us along the path of giving that binds us together and connects us with you, the Great Giver, so that in every act of mercy and justice we are acting as conduits of your love. Fill us with a sense of holy generosity, that we, as your Body of Christ, may bring the light of your eternal love into our broken world. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit, live and reign, now and forever. AMEN.

Give to the Most High as he has given to you, and as generously as you can afford. For the Lord is the one who repays, and he will repay you sevenfold. (from Sirach)

Our first reading reminds us that it is God who calls us to give. To give generously of ourselves and what we have for it is God who repays, who has given us so much. And through such giving, to reach out…

For God will listen to the poor and the prayer of one who is wronged. God will not ignore the supplication of the orphan or the widow…

Through the generosity of God, God expects us to reciprocate, to be generous not only to God but towards others too, to remember the orphan and widow, the poor, those on the margins of our society.

For God will hear the cry for justice from the orphan and widow, the cries of the poor, and God looks to us to help from the abundance we have been given. But we struggle with such help and we struggle because we live alienated from one another, as our Bishop, Ian Douglas, has talked about:

In our country, it seems that everywhere we look we are increasingly alienated from each other in ever more distorted human and political relationships… there is no lack of incivility and even hate in our society today as we scapegoat the “other,” the marginalized, the one who is different, in an attempt to alleviate our fears, our insecurities, and our sense of loss.

We hear such alienation echoed in our Gospel reading this morning: And the Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.'

Jesus short little parable this week is his commentary on humility, on how we put down others to make ourselves the righteous ones. The Pharisee does not see himself like the others.

And yet, the tax collector is the one praised and the Pharisee is not, Jesus again shakes things up and wants us to see our place as with other people. For the tax collector simply prays for God’s mercy, as a sinner. He is the one who speaks rightly.

As Jesus said, “for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

We need to practice such humility, never putting others down to build ourselves up, always looking towards God’s mercy and love. Generosity toward others and humility towards ourselves is a good start for our lives as Christians. What does this look like today?

Lewiston is an old mill town on the Androscoggin River in south-central Maine. Like many small cities in the northeast that once thrived on manufacturing, Lewiston now struggles economically. But Lewiston is re-creating itself - thanks, in large part, to its high school soccer team.

The Lewiston High soccer team brought home the city's first state boys soccer championship in 2015, going 17-0 and outscoring opponents 113-7. The team is ranked 22nd in the nation. But its success extends far beyond the scoreboard.

The team is made up of players from the Congo, Kenya, Turkey, Germany and Somalia. The students on the team are widely credited with building ties among this small Maine city of 36,000 and its 7,000 new residents from overseas.

In 2001, Lewiston became an unlikely destination that offered safety, affordable housing, and low-wage jobs for Somalis fleeing the horrific civil war in their homeland. Word spread from early arrivals, and the African immigrant population swelled. But the first refugees were not welcomed and struggled to establish roots. But the success - and character - of the soccer team has helped bring the communities together.

The team is defined less by its excellence than its example of unity. Building the team has been anything but easy. At first, black and white students rarely sat together during practice. But the coach, Mike McGraw, changed that dynamic by purposely placing blacks among whites and whites among blacks. "I told them, 'This is how you have to be on a team.'" Now black and white players mingle seamlessly on the field and off of it.

The goalie, one of the local players on the team said: "They're just like our brothers, our family. There's no difference." And an assistant coach believes: "The way the world should get along is the way these kids treat each other. This is the best place to be a soccer coach - anywhere."

For refugee families, Lewiston has been a new day after surviving a nightmare - and their presence has opened up a new world perspective for this old-world Maine town. [The Boston Globe, August 20, 2016; Portland Press Herald, November 7, 2015,, November 19, 2015.] also Real Sports on HBO!

The Lewiston High soccer team possesses the humility and generosity of heart of the tax collector that bridges the chasms created by such divisive attitudes: each member of the team, black and white, realizes their equality and the value of each member's gifts to the good of the team and school.

Their perspective stands - or kneels - in sharp contrast to the Pharisaic attitude of moral and cultural superiority over others. God is not just "ours"; God has not breathed his life into us solely for our own happiness and satisfaction. Humility that compels us to treat others with respect and generosity will be exalted in the kingdom of God, a reign that is realized, here and now, on our own soccer fields and schools, and marketplaces and churches and our dinner tables too.

In this season, as we remember the offerings we give to God, through what we give here at St. Peter’s and beyond, we are called to be generous and humble to help our alienated world become reconciled.

For if our lives are marked with such generosity and humility, then we will be living our lives as St. Paul said, as “ambassadors for Christ” and through such generosity in how we give and humility in how we live, we will “be drawn more deeply into God’s passion and the mission of the Church to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” Amen.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

What Are Our Values?: An interview with Carlos Correa Bernier

Carlos Correa Bernier is an American Baptist Church minister, clinical psychologist, theologian, environmental justice advocate, radio broadcaster, and director of Centro Romero, a United Church of Christ related educational center near the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the world’s busiest international land border crossing. Located on the US-Mexico border in San Diego, Centro Romero is a place of community building, ministry, education, and prayer that annually serves hundreds of passengers and immigrants. Correa Bernier teaches psychology at the CETYS Universidad in Tijuana, Mexico, and has a private counseling practice. He has a doctorate in family therapy with specialization in violent behaviors and is completing a Ph.D. in psychology of religion at Oxford University.
REFLECTIONS: Do you see a pressing challenge coming out of this historic political season?

CORREA BERNIER: The urgent question is, What are our values? That is, who are we, and who do we want to be in the future? America – its music, movies, culture, spirit – has global influence. But it seems we have forgotten how to globalize ourselves and recognize and accept our own diversity. We still have difficulty with the “other,” how to relate to the stranger, how to welcome them, how to be changed by them. We are having trouble deciding who we are as a nation in this globalized world.

REFLECTIONS: What should we be standing for?

CORREA BERNIER: I think of freedom and democracy. Those ideas are central. And many people use the words. But if we are going to celebrate those values, we must place them at the center of every single decision we make through our government. I don’t hear much about that commitment. The political mood has been to invite hate and condone physical violence. Psychologically speaking, this isn’t an embrace of freedom and democracy but an anxious attempt to assert power and control.

REFLECTIONS: US immigration history has always been turbulent. Is anti-immigration sentiment today any worse than previous decades or centuries?

CORREA BERNIER: Think about the many migrations from Europe that helped shape American history. The Irish, Italians, and others went through struggles to get settled into their own communities – then they made efforts to assimilate. It often took a generation or longer. That’s how the nation understood assimilation: The new group was given time to organize its communities and neighborhoods, then assimilation would happen from there. But something different is happening now, as new others arrive not from Europe but from elsewhere. They face a demand that they assimilate from day one. The nation’s attitude has shifted from valuing community-building to focusing on individuals. An anti-immigration viewpoint regards new immigrants not as communities, not strengthened by community structures, but as individuals who must change who they are right now if they are going to earn our respect in the US. Or they are scapegoated. It seems that modern culture’s emphasis on individualism has had an effect on our attitude toward immigration. We’ve become impatient with structures of community. We put the burden on individuals to do it alone.

REFLECTIONS: Can the churches’ good news change this climate?

CORREA BERNIER: As my good mentor Leonardo Boff says, “the church carries within itself constant tension,” since we proclaim what can never be put into practice, the utopia of the Kingdom of God and radical fraternity. I’m part of a binational base community that contains many nationalities, and we try to embody the Kingdom and practice what we teach and preach. It’s a struggle, but we are committed to it. It involves being sincere and authentic with each other, welcoming the poor, the other, while acknowledging the tensions within us. Throughout all of it, the church is in a position to experience the joy of this Kingdom, connecting our ekklesia as an institution to the struggle of folks out there, in the world. In our situation we concentrate on communal theological reflections on all the experiences that define our daily lives. Our worship time begins after this discussion together is over. What is the alternative to facing the struggle within? Compartmentalization, an all-too-familiar strategy: limiting our church exposure to Sunday between 10 a.m. and noon, then disengaging from the togetherness, and concentrating on daily isolated lives of individualism.

REFLECTIONS: What is the next move?

CORREA BERNIER: We have a choice. We can embrace a future of absolute nationalism and isolation or a future of commitment to inclusivity and social justice. I think it is crucial to ask ourselves two questions, as citizens and as churchgoers: What is it that I believe, and what am I going to do with that? These questions have a deep spiritual character, and it gets us back to that first point of our conversation, “Who are we, and who do we want to be in the future?” Our answer should inform, constantly, not only our behavior and but also our politics.

Spirit and Politics: Finding Our Way (2016) - Read it here.

Prayer for Tolerance

Dear Heavenly Father,
You created us.
All of us
You sent your beloved Son to redeem us.
All of us
You sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to us.
To comfort all of us.
Please fill our hearts with love, so that there is no room for hate.
Fill our minds with understanding, so that there is no room for fear.
Fill our eyes with wonder so that we may see only uniqueness, and not strangeness.
So that we may love, understand and enjoy our fellow brothers and sisters to your glory.
All this we ask in the name of our heavenly Brother, Jesus Christ our Lord.
(written by SUZANNE K. BECKLEY )