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Showing items filed under “January 2018”

Holy Spirit Episcopal Church Draft Advocacy Policy

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February 4, 2018 

Dear Parishioners,

Over the past few years questions have arisen regarding advocacy in The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Parish (i.e. what advocacy, why, and how?).  The Vestry has recognized the need for continuing education and guidance: about advocacy by this Parish; how The Episcopal Church (TEC) makes decisions for our common life and ministry; and about what TEC advocates for and why.  To this end, a bulletin board was established for news from TEC in the Parish Hall; a panel discussion on advocacy in TEC was held last year; and on-going articles provided in The Paraclete newsletter about General Convention, how it functions and what decisions and guidance have come to us from that body. 

Now the Vestry would like your thoughts about a Draft Advocacy Policy they are considering for the Parish.  How will we address advocacy from the Parish as a whole?   What will guide our decision-making about any advocacy we might do together as a parish so that our clergy, staff and laity can act within those parameters?  These are the kinds of things that the draft policy addresses.

The Vestry would appreciate hearing from you.  If you would like to comment:

  • Please send an email to with Attn: Sr. Warden – Draft Advocacy Policy in the Subject line, or
  • send your written comments to Holy Spirit Episcopal Church – Attn Sr. Warden, 130 So. 6th East, Missoula, MT 59801 

Please send your comments in by no later than Sunday, March 4, 2018, so that the Vestry will have time to review them prior to their March Vestry meeting. 

Thank you for taking the time to review this draft policy and share your thoughts with us. 

Faithfully, 

John Crowley, Sr. Warden                            Tracey Gage, Jr. Warden 

On behalf of the Vestry,
Holy Spirit Episcopal Church

 

Draft Advocacy Policy
(November 2017) 

Social Concerns Committee created this document to continue the work begun in the all-parish meetings and panel around the issues of the separation of church and state and advocacy and its history in the Episcopal Church.  It sets forth a policy statement, which we present to the Vestry and Rector for review and approval, to guide our future advocacy work as a parish, that we are enjoined by the National Episcopal Church to do.  Such work does not require additional funds or special fundraising events.  

Advocacy at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church 

What is advocacy and why advocate? 

As Christians we take seriously Jesus’ example of caring for the marginalized:  those who are poor, widowed, ill, and orphaned—groups of people who lack power and influence.  Our mission at HSP states that we follow his example as we serve those in need.  As Episcopalians, the Book of Common Prayer gives shape to our mission and the life of our community.  In our baptismal covenant we vow to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving [our] neighbor as [ourself].”  And we promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”  We take Scripture seriously, recognizing our many privileges and taking to heart Jesus’ words, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.” (Luke 12:48) Service to our community and world is the core of who we are as people of faith.  We understand this service to others as a moral obligation. 

But advocacy is not direct service.  A food bank or clothing closet provides direct service.  When we ask—“Why does this child need food or clothing or social acceptance, or what circumstances came together to create this need?”--we are asking about the root causes of poverty and injustice.  And  such circumstances always involve institutions—the law, the courts, the schools, the government, the corporations.  We understand advocacy as a response to systems that either intentionally or inadvertently perpetuate the marginalization of populations who lack power and suffer injustice and poverty as a result.  As we expose these institutional root causes of injustice and inequality to sources of power and society at large, we are doing advocacy work.  Advocacy pushes beyond meeting the immediate need, and calls for system-wide change to eliminate such needs in the future. 

We believe that for advocacy to function best, it should be one component of a three-part process that includes direct service, personal reflection, and advocacy.  It is one response to the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40, “just as you did to one of the least of these, . . . you did it to me.”

How do we engage in advocacy as a parish? 

The work of advocacy can take many forms:

  • education within the parish about the nature of an institutional problem through speakers, book-studies, or panels;
  • letters of support or opposition from HSP to newspapers concerning the institutional problem, relevant legislation, or budget appropriations;
  • letters, calls, or visits by parishioners representing HSP to decision makers at the Missoula City Council, Missoula County Commissioners, Montana State Legislature, or U.S. Congress;
  • rallies, marches, and demonstrations in Missoula, Helena, or elsewhere
  • the above work done in coalition with like-minded groups or groups with experience and expertise in a specific issue. 

How do we choose which issues to advocate for? 

While members of Holy Spirit will always be welcome and encouraged to voice their own individual opinions on issues as private citizens, when they speak, write or appear as representatives of Holy Spirit Parish, it must be in conjunction with the approved advocacy work of our church.  

Filters:  There are a number of filters that can help us at Holy Spirit to narrow our vision and focus our work as a parish.

  • The Episcopal Church. The national church engages in advocacy on a wide range of topics. It can serve as the first level of filter for projects that members of the parish may be interested in pursuing. The Social Concerns Committee (SCC) or Vestry may ask—Does this project fit within the work and mission of the national church?  If it does not, does it still warrant the commitment of our parish and why?
  • The Diocese of Montana. The Diocese of Montana serves as a second filter. The SCC or Vestry may ask—Does this project fit within the work and mission of our diocese?  Likewise, if it does not fit within the scope of current diocesan work and mission, does it still warrant the commitment of our parish and why?
  • Our local parish. A third level filter is our own parish. The SCC or Vestry may ask—Does this project fit within Holy Spirit's vision and mission? Are several members of our congregation interested in this particular project and is there energy within the congregation-at-large for this work?
  • Potential Partners in Advocacy. Finally, those interested in pursuing advocacy work should continually be looking for partner groups and organizations to collaborate with for enhanced impact, if such partnerships are feasible. The SCC or Vestry may ask—Are there natural partners with whom HSP may collaborate with in this work? 

Ultimately, it is the Social Concerns Committee, the Vestry, and Rector, who decide which issues to advocate for as a parish.  HSP people wanting to advocate should first go through SCC, who will vet applicants and send the positive recommendations to Vestry and Rector for their approval.  And after an issue has been affirmed for advocacy, the SCC will work with those interested in the issue to figure out the most appropriate and effective advocacy strategies to use.  Some other questions for the SCC, Vestry, Rector, and interested groups to consider as they decide on which issues to advocate for are the following:

  • What do we consider to be a successful outcome of our advocacy work and how will we measure it? What metrics will we use?
  • What actions do we consider to be appropriate to achieve success? What actions are inappropriate?
  • Do our findings and conclusions at given points lead us to decide whether we will fail or achieve success?
  • Will our efforts at implementation be cost worthy (Was this the best way to spend the resources?) and cost effective?
  • Can we respect a diversity of viewpoints?  Engaging in advocacy on a congregational level requires that we encourage diverse opinions and reactions, and that we respect diversity of thought.  It requires that we communicate broadly about our goals, intentions and process, that we move forward slowly and deliberately, and that we create a variety of options for involvement within the advocacy work.   

In conclusion:   As written in Proverbs 31:8-9, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” The roots of our faith demand that we do no less. One of the “Five Marks of Mission,” as first laid down by the Anglican Union, is “to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.”  Embracing the work of advocacy as members of Holy Spirit Parish will provide a vital supplement to our prayers and direct service to the poor. 

 

Letter to the Episcopal Church from Presiding Bishop, President of House of Deputies

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Letter to the Episcopal Church
from Presiding Bishop, President of House of Deputies

Includes an invitation for Ash Wednesday meditation

“Our church must examine its history and come to a fuller understanding
of how it has handled or mishandled cases of sexual harassment,
exploitation and abuse through the years.”
 

[January 22, 2018] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings have written the following letter to the Episcopal Church.

January 22, 2018

Dear People of God in the Episcopal Church:

In recent weeks, compelling testimony from women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted by powerful men has turned our minds to a particularly difficult passage of holy scripture:  the story of the rape of King David’s daughter Tamar by her half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13: 1-22). It is a passage in which a conspiracy of men plots the exploitation and rape of a young woman. She is stripped of the power to speak or act, her father ignores the crime, and the fate of the rapist, not the victim, is mourned. It is a Bible story devoid of justice.

For more than two decades, African women from marginalized communities have studied this passage of scripture using a method called contextual Bible study to explore and speak about the trauma of sexual assault in their own lives. Using a manual published by the Tamar Campaign they ask, “What can the Church do to break the silence against gender-based violence?” 

It is, as the old-time preachers say, a convicting question. As our societies have been forced into fresh recognition that women in all walks of life have suffered unspoken trauma at the hands of male aggressors and harassers, we have become convinced that the Episcopal Church must work even harder to create a church that is not simply safe, but holy, humane and decent. We must commit to treating every person as a child of God, deserving of dignity and respect. We must also commit to ending the systemic sexism, misogyny and misuse of power that plague the church just as they corrupt our culture, institutions and governments.

Like our African siblings in faith, we must create contexts in which women can speak of their unspoken trauma, whether suffered within the church or elsewhere. And we must do more.

Our church must examine its history and come to a fuller understanding of how it has handled or mishandled cases of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse through the years. When facts dictate, we must confess and repent of those times when the church, its ministers or its members have been antagonistic or unresponsive to people—women, children and men—who have been sexually exploited or abused. And we must acknowledge that in our church and in our culture, the sexual exploitation of women is part of the same unjust system that also causes gender gaps in pay, promotion, health and empowerment.

We believe that each of us has a role to play in our collective repentance. And so, today, we invite you to join us in an Ash Wednesday Day of Prayer on February 14 devoted to meditating on the ways in which we in the church have failed to stand with women and other victims of abuse and harassment and to consider, as part of our Lenten disciplines, how we can redouble our work to be communities of safety that stand against the spiritual and physical violence of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Neither of us professes to have all of the wisdom necessary to change the culture of our church and the society in which it ministers, and at this summer’s General Convention, we want to hear the voice of the wider church as we determine how to proceed in both atoning for the church’s past and shaping a more just future. May we find in our deliberations opportunities to listen to one another, to be honest about our own failings and brokenness, and to discern prayerfully the ways that God is calling us to stand with Tamar in all of the places we find her—both inside the church and beyond our doors, which we have too often used to shut her out.

Faithfully,

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President of the House of Deputies

 

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