A Word to the Church from the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] The Episcopal Church House of Bishops, meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska (Diocese of Alaska) approved and presented the following Word to the Church, in English and Spanish.


A Word to the Church from The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops
Gathered in Fairbanks, Alaska, September 21-26, 2017

The bishops of The Episcopal Church came to Alaska to listen to the earth and its peoples as an act of prayer, solidarity and witness. We came because:

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2). God is the Lord of all the earth and of all people; we are one family, the family of God.
“You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are … members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). The residents of interior Alaska whom we met are not strangers; they are members of the same household of faith.
• People have “become hard of hearing, and shut their eyes so that they won’t see with their eyes or hear with their ears or understand with their minds, and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15). We are blind and deaf to the groaning of the earth and its peoples; we are learning the art of prayerful listening.

What does listening to the earth and its people mean? For us bishops, it meant:
• Getting out and walking the land, standing beside the rivers, sitting beside people whose livelihood depends on that land. We had to slow down and live at the pace of the stories we heard. We had to trust that listening is prayer.
• Recognizing that struggles for justice are connected. Racism, the economy, violence of every kind, and the environment are interrelated. We have seen this reality not only in the Arctic, but also at Standing Rock in the Dakotas, in the recent hurricanes, in Flint, Michigan, Charlottesville, Virginia, and in the violence perpetuated against people of color and vulnerable populations anywhere.
• Understanding that listening is deeply connected to healing. In many healing stories in the gospels, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” That is, he listened first and then acted.

What did we hear?
• “The weather is really different today,” one leader told us. “Now spring comes earlier, and fall lasts longer. This is threatening our lives because the permafrost is melting and destabilizing the rivers. We depend on the rivers.”
• The land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where the caribou birth their calves is called the “sacred place where life begins,” so sacred the Gwich’in People do not set foot there. “Drilling here,” people said, “is like digging beneath the National Cathedral.”
• After shopping together, a native Episcopalian told one of us how hard it is to even secure food. “We can’t get good food here. We have to drive to Fairbanks. It is a two-hour trip each way.”

What we bishops saw and heard in Alaska is dramatic, but it is not unique. Stories like these can be heard in each of the nations where The Episcopal Church is present. They can be heard in our own communities. We invite you to join us, your bishops, and those people already engaged in this work, in taking time to listen to people in your dioceses and neighborhoods. Look for the connections among race, violence of every kind, economic disparity, and the environment. Then, after reflecting in prayer and engaging with scripture, partner with people in common commitment to the healing of God’s world.

God calls us to listen to each other with increased attention. It is only with unstopped ears and open eyes that our hearts and lives will be changed. It is through the reconciling love of God in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that we and the earth itself will be healed.

A Prayer for Our Time and for the Earth

Dear God, Creator of the earth, this sacred home we share;
Give us new eyes to see the beauty all around and to protect the wonders of creation.
Give us new arms to embrace the strangers among us and to know them as family.
Give us new ears to hear and understand those who live off the land
and to hear and understand those who extract its resources.
Give us new hearts to recognize the brokenness in our communities
and to heal the wounds we have inflicted.
Give us new hands to serve the earth and its people
and to shape beloved community.
For you are the One who seeks the lost,
binds our wounds and sets us free,
and it is in the name of Jesus the Christ we pray.
Amen.

Resources are here.


La Cámara de los Obispos de la Iglesia Episcopal, reunidos en Fairbanks, Alaska (Diócesis de Alaska) aprobó y presentó la siguiente Palabra a la Iglesia.

Una Palabra a la Iglesia de la Cámara de los Obispos de la Iglesia Episcopal

Reunida en Fairbanks, Alaska del 21 al 26 de septiembre de 2017

Los obispos de la Iglesia Episcopal vinieron a Alaska para escuchar a la tierra y a sus gentes como un acto de oración, solidaridad y testimonio. Venimos porque:
”La tierra es del Señor y todo lo que está en ella, el mundo, y los que viven en ella; porque él la fundó en los mares y la estableció en los ríos” (Salmo 24:1-2) Dios es el Señor de toda la tierra y de toda la gente; somos una familia, la familia de Dios.

• “Ya no eres más desconocido o extranjero, porque eres… miembro de la familia de Dios” (Efesios 2:19). Los residentes del interior de Alaska a quienes conocimos no son desconocidos; ellos son miembros de la misma casa de fe.

• Las personas “se han hecho duras y no escuchan y cierran sus ojos para no tener que ver con sus ojos o escuchar con sus oídos o entender con sus mentes y cambian sus corazones y vidas para que pueda sanarlos” (Mateo 13: 14-15). Estamos ciegos y sordos a los gemidos de la tierra y a sus gentes; estamos aprendiendo el arte de escuchar en oración.

¿Qué significa escuchar a la tierra y a sus gentes? Para nosotros los obispos significa:
• Salir y caminar en la tierra, pararse al lado de los ríos, sentarse junto a la gente cuyo sustento depende de esta tierra. Tuvimos que aflojar el paso y vivir al ritmo de las historias que oímos. Tuvimos que confiar en que escuchar es rezar.
• Reconociendo que las luchas por la justicia están conectadas. El racismo, la economía, la violencia de todo tipo y el medio ambiente están interrelacionados. Hemos visto esta realidad no solo en el Ártico sino también en Standing Rock en las Dakotas, en los huracanes recientes, en Flint en Michigan, en Charlottesville en Virginia y en la violencia perpetuada contra las personas de color y las poblaciones más vulnerables en todos lados.
• Entendiendo que escuchar está profundamente conectado a la sanación. En muchas historias de saneamiento en la biblia, Jesús preguntó, “¿Qué quieres que yo haga por ti?” Eso es, él escuchó primero y luego actuó.

¿Qué escuchamos?
• Un líder nos dijo “el clima es realmente distinto hoy”. “Ahora la primavera llega más pronto y el otoño dura más. Esto amenaza nuestras vidas porque el permafrost se está derritiendo y desestabilizando los ríos. Nosotros dependemos de los ríos”.
• La tierra en el  Refugio Nacional Ártico de Vida Silvestre donde el caribú pare sus crías y se llama el “sitio sagrado donde la vida comienza”, es tan sagrado que el pueblo Gwich’in no pone un pie ahí. “Perforar aquí”, dijo la gente, “es como perforar debajo de la Catedral Nacional”.
• Después de comprar juntos, un episcopal nativo le dijo a uno de nosotros lo difícil que es  conseguir alimentos. “No podemos conseguir buenos alimentos aquí. Tenemos que manejar hasta Fairbanks. Es un viaje de dos horas de ida y vuelta”.

Lo que nosotros los obispos vimos y oímos en Alaska es dramático; pero no es único. Historias como estas pueden escucharse en cada una de las naciones donde se encuentra la Iglesia Episcopal. Pueden ser escuchadas en nuestras propias comunidades. Los invitamos a que se unan a nosotros, sus obispos, y a esas personas que ya están comprometidos con este trabajo, tomando tiempo para escuchar a las personas en sus diócesis y barrios. Busquen las conexiones entre la raza, la violencia de todo tipo, la disparidad económica y el medio ambiente. Luego después de reflexionar en oración y abordando las escrituras, asóciense con personas con el compromiso común de sanar el mundo de Dios.

Dios nos llama a escucharnos unos a otros con mayor atención. Es solo con oídos destapados y ojos abiertos cuando nuestras vidas y corazones cambiarán. Es a través del amor reconciliador de Dios en Jesús y el poder del Espíritu Santo cuando nosotros y la tierra misma seremos sanados.

Una Oración para Nuestros Tiempos y para la Tierra

Querido Dios, Creador de la tierra, este hogar sagrado que compartimos;
Danos ojos nuevos para ver la belleza que nos rodea y para proteger las maravillas de la creación.
Danos brazos nuevos para abrazar a los desconocidos entre nosotros y para conocerlos como familia.
Danos nuevos oídos para escuchar y entender a aquellos que viven de la tierra
y para oír y entender a aquellos que extraen sus recursos.
Danos corazones nuevos para reconocer los quebrantamiento en nuestras comunidades
y para sanar las heridas que hemos causado.
Danos nuevas manos para servir la tierra y sus gentes
y para moldear nuestra querida comunidad.
Porque eres el Único que busca a los perdidos,
venda nuestras heridas y nos dejas libres,
y en el nombre de Jesucristo oramos.
Amén.

Los recursos se encuentran aquí.

Comments

  1. P.J. Cabbiness says:

    I will listen to the creator and not make an idol of his created work and I certainly will not heed the Marxist message as set forth above.

  2. Doug Desper says:

    “…..in the violence perpetuated against people of color and vulnerable populations anywhere.”

    One could rephrase and leave this statement at simply “senseless violence and disregard for life”.

    Buried without much attention in the national news (VERY noticeably) is the weekend story of Emanuel Kidega Samson (formerly of Sudan) who attacked the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee on Sunday. From reports the congregation is predominantly White/Anglo but other races and ethnic groups are frequent worshipers. Samson shot seven people while they were at church. Melanie Smith was the eighth victim and was shot in the head and then in her face wherein she later died from her wounds.

    We have heard our leaders announce resolve to challenge racism and prejudice by saying “Because of Ferguson we must ….”, “Because of Charleston we must….”, “Because of Charlottesville we must….”.

    However, Burnette Chapel will not have an activist campaign or slogan emerge from their tragedy. This is the blindspot of the current identity politics. That Burnette Chapel is not newsworthy is revealing. It doesn’t fit the media and activist narratives of “who and why”.

    Will anyone “go there” and strip the racial, ethnic, sociological, and philosophical quantifiers of worthiness while speaking about tragedy and injustice and simply say that “Because of Burnette Chapel we must reject hatred and disregard of life in all of its forms”?

  3. Richard Basta says:

    I don’t see the connection between the Alaska experience and other news events. Other than humans are involved. It seems like they just threw that other stuff in. The average Episcopal in the pew needs this missive translated from episcobabble into plain English.

  4. Kenneth Knapp says:

    I think we need to be kind. The new numbers are out on church decline and they are desperately grasping at straws and trying to get us worked up about something that will make them look relevant. If we were in their position we would likely be doing the same thing. We need to hold them in love and in our prayers.

  5. Jawaharlal Prasad says:

    I am not sure if the “Word to the Church” is a Marxist message. In many countries, those in economic power have not respected the values espoused by tribal / indigenous / vulnerable people. If there was any it was only on paper meaning that any agreements made were rarely kept. Some churches provided the moral / ethical arguments needed by those in economic power to justify what they were doing. The arguments were often based on faulty reading of the Bible or scriptural writings. Even lands considered to be sacred by tribal / indigenous / vulnerable people were confiscated sometimes violently. Even those living on land for many centuries thru’ legal maneuvering are classified as illegals and denied privileges that are due to any citizen.
    God’s creation should be respected; resources extracted should be done so without causing undue damage to people and environment. It is time to heal and address issues that divide us to promote reconciliation and harmony.

  6. The Rev. Deborah M. Warner says:

    I am deeply grateful for the faithful attention that the House of Bishops paid to the interconnection between environmental degradation, violence, racism and economic justice
    in their most recent Letter to the Church issued from Alaska this month. As they so eloquently
    expressed, this interconnection shows the intricate intimacy of the created order.

    As people of faith, we are called to serve the whole creation as stewards of the earth, sky and seas
    as well as all life.

    Having attended the public sessions of the COP 21 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris 2015, and meeting indigenous people from across the globe, I was humbled by the stories and faithfulness of so many in settings that grow out living in the midst of rising seas and warming terrain.

    To read the Letter of the House of Bishops is to hear an intentional pastoral response to the most critical moral issue facing the entire planet.

  7. Christine Caines says:

    I am a fifth generation resident of Cape Cod who was raised to appreciate the earth as God made it. In fact my great grandfather did not attend church when my great grandmother brought me and my sister on Sundays. Instead he went into the woods and prayed and sang hymns. He called it his “church of trees and water” (there was a stream nearby). Those same woods are now two shopping malls across from each other. So sometimes, when I’m home, I go to the beach to pray. The waves of the Atlantic which no one can take from me. Then, on a lark, I went parasailing. Oh, what joy, to be up in the blue sky..thanking
    God.

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