Bishop Lane shares his trip to the Diocese of Alaska

Bishops of the Episcopal Church gathered for a week in the Diocese of Alaska earlier this month.

Bishop Lane’s video offers a glimpse into their visit, including a blessing of the landscape of a former gold mine, a visit to St. Jude’s, North Pole, and singing in a huge pot of moose head soup where bishops and spouses were welcomed by the local community.

At the close of the meeting, Bishops offered a word to the Church. They wrote, in part, “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.” Read it all here.

Check out additional coverage from Episcopal News Service.

Bishops of Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Ohio, and West Virginia write to senators about the Graham-Cassidy bill

September 24, 2017

The Hon. Lisa Murkowski and the Hon. Dan Sullivan, Senators for Alaska
The Hon. John McCain and the Hon. Jeff Flake, Senators for Arizona
The Hon. Susan Collins and the Hon. Angus King, Senators for Maine
The Hon. Sherrod Brown and the Hon. Rob Portman, Senators for Ohio
The Hon. Joe Manchin and the Hon. Shelley Moore Capito, Senators for West Virginia

 Dear Senators:

 We, the leaders of the Episcopal Church dioceses in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Ohio, and West Virginia, write to you as we gather in Fairbanks, Alaska, for one of our two annual meetings of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church. We feel compelled to lift our voices together to urge you to vote against the passage of the Graham-Cassidy Bill. 

You have seen the recent report from Avalere Health on the impact this bill would have on federal healthcare spending over the next nine years. A cut of $215 billion in spending would result, across our five states alone, in a reduction of $23 billion by 2026. After 2026, when the block grants are cut, it would leave our hospitals and providers and, most importantly, the people they serve in a healthcare free fall, just as baby boomers create the largest demand for healthcare our country will have ever experienced.

The provisions of Graham-Cassidy that eliminate Medicaid expansion and reduce subsidies for lower income people give us further cause to urge you to vote against it. Our Baptismal Covenant calls us to respect the dignity of every human being. It is our responsibility to challenge you, our elected leaders, to work toward justice and equality for the welfare of all people, not only those who can afford health insurance.

The news that this bill may come to a vote as early as next week is deeply disturbing to us. A piece of legislation that, in light of its specific provisions, is likely to affect the healthcare of millions of Americans for decades to come, deserves the full consideration of the Senate Health Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Passage of this bill without the benefit of a full Congressional Budget Office assessment does a disservice of the highest magnitude to the American people. The provisions in Graham-Cassidy that would require each state essentially to re-invent its healthcare system are guaranteed to raise the cost of healthcare for the average consumer. Additionally, the lack of guarantees for essential health benefits such as maternity care and substance abuse treatment casts a blind eye on deeper problems that face many people in the states where we minister, particularly the challenges of rural obstetrical care and the rapidly worsening opioid crisis. 

We urge you, Senators, in the spirit of fairness and proper process, to stand up against a bill that would cause such disruption and chaos to healthcare for millions of our citizens, especially the most vulnerable among us. As Christians and as faith leaders in our respective states, we ask that you stand firm on the democratic process that serves us all. Access to such healthcare is crucial to maintaining the social safety net that allows our communities to flourish. 

Your votes and voices are critical in ensuring that any Senate bill has a full hearing and offers an opportunity for robust debate, to the worthy end that we improve on the Affordable Care Act and responsibly reform healthcare in this country.

Please be assured that all of you, in addition to your colleagues, remain in our prayers as you engage in the important work of leading our nation. May each of you be graced with the wisdom and strength to serve all Americans. 

Thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns.

Respectfully and gratefully,

The Rt. Rev. Mark Lattime, Bishop of Alaska
The Rt. Rev. Kirk Smith, Bishop of Arizona
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Bishop of Maine
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Bishop of Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal, Bishop of Southern Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Michael Klusmeyer, Bishop of West Virginia

______
The letter as a PDF

Bishop Stephen Lane calls for successor

printable version here
jump to the letter from the Standing Committee

August 24, 2017

Dear Friends in Christ,

After lengthy conversation and prayer and in consultation with the Standing Committee, I today call for the election of a Bishop Diocesan to be the Tenth Bishop of Maine. (A Bishop Diocesan succeeds the seated bishop immediately upon consecration.)

My wife, Gretchen, and I have been gathering information about Episcopal transition since late last fall. With that knowledge and with the advice of the Presiding Bishop’s Office of Pastoral Development, I have decided to retire from my position as Bishop in June of 2019. I will then be 70 years old. The 22 months between now and then give us ample time to discern, elect, and transition to the next bishop.

Accompanying this announcement is a letter from the Standing Committee outlining the discernment and transition process. The Standing Committee met with Bishop Clay Matthews of the Office of Pastoral Development late in May and has been preparing a transition plan ever since. At our upcoming 2017 Diocesan Convention, the Standing Committee will present a resolution concerning discernment and transition, and the proposed Diocesan Council budget will include monies for discernment and transition. Details will be found in the pre-Convention materials that will be circulated in September.

Serving as your bishop is the greatest joy of my life in the Church, and I look forward to continuing that service for the next two years. The work of following Jesus goes on even as we make preparations for our diocesan future, and I will remain fully engaged as your bishop until the moment I pass the crozier to my successor. There will be time for farewells as part of the transition process.

This announcement* initiates a long and careful process. I invite all Maine Episcopalians to take part, through prayer and discernment, and by continuing the faithful work and worship that are going on all over the diocese.  I ask your prayers, and promise you mine, as we make this journey together.

Faithfully,

Bishop Steve

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine

*Each congregation will receive a copy of both letters by mail.

 

From the Standing Committee

printable version here

Dear Ones:   

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)   

As the old Byrds’ song goes, we are turning to a new season of collaborative ministry in the Diocese of Maine. While we look ahead to the future, our daily work with Bishop Lane continues as we follow Christ in our communities.

What’s Next:
With Bishop Lane’s call for the election of a diocesan bishop, your Standing Committee has already begun planning for the election of the Tenth Bishop of Maine in 2019. Under the guidance of the Office for Pastoral Development of the Episcopal Church, we have called the Rev. Canon Rick Callaway as our search consultant to shepherd us throughout the entire process, using best practices that are well-established throughout the Episcopal Church. Diocesan leaders are committed to listening and responding to diverse voices across Maine and to making this a prayerful process. We invite each of you to participate in this process through prayer, listening, and conversation. As we move along, we promise to communicate regularly, within the bounds of confidentiality, all that unfolds by the grace of God.

Here’s a draft timeline of what will happen:

September-October 2017
The Standing Committee will publish a resolution, also known as the enabling legislation, in the Convention booklet and present it to the 2017 Convention. This will establish the canonical authority needed to conduct a bishop search and election.

Late October-November 2017
The Standing Committee will seek nominations, appoint, and announce members of two Committees:

  • The Discernment Committee will survey the diocese, create a diocesan online profile, receive nominations, screen/interview nominees, and present a slate of qualified bishop candidates to the Standing Committee by November 2018.
  • The Transition Committee will manage the details of the candidates’ walkabouts, the bishop election, and the ordination/consecration in 2019. They will also actively support Bishop Lane, the bishop-elect, and their families with their transitions.
  • The Standing Committee will also call a Transition Chaplain to act as a spiritual guide to the process, committees, and diocesan staff. Bishop Lane and Gretchen will have their own chaplain.

December 1-2, 2017
Members of the Discernment, Transition, and Standing Committees will meet with our consultant and chaplain for an overnight retreat to begin the planning and collaboration process.

January-April 2018
The Discernment Committee surveys the diocese. Diocesan profile/website completed and shared widely.

May-Sept 2018
The Discernment Committee conducts formal search process. Nominees are screened and interviewed.

October 2018
The Bishop nominees participate in a retreat in Maine with the Discernment Committee and consultant.

November 2018
A slate of bishop nominees is presented to the Standing Committee, accepted, and announced. Nominations by petition are sought by a process defined in the enabling legislation.

December 2018
The petition nominees are added to the slate upon successful completion of background checks.

January 2019
Walkabouts and interviews in Maine with all nominees.

February 2019
A Special Convention to elect the Tenth Bishop of Maine (with a planned snow date).

Spring 2019
A time of transition for Bishop-elect and family. Diocesan leadership solidify letter of agreement. Farewell celebration with Bishop Steve and Gretchen.

Early Summer 2019
The Ordination and Consecration of the Tenth Bishop of Maine (date determined by the Presiding Bishop).

Canonically, the Standing Committee is entrusted with overseeing an orderly election and transition. As followers of Jesus, we believe that all orders of ministry: the laity, deacons, priests, and bishops are one within the Body of Christ by virtue of our baptism. Through the variety of our prayers and experience across the Diocese, we trust that the Holy Spirit will guide and inspire us through these seasons of endings and beginnings.

Meanwhile, we continue to share our diverse gifts created by God’s abundant love. Your Standing Committee invites you to keep our Diocese, Bishop Lane and Gretchen, and our next bishop in your daily prayers as we enter this season of growing in our life together.

All shall be well.

Maria+

The Rev. Maria J. Hoecker, President
The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine

An open letter to Maine Episcopalians in the wake of Charlottesville

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Over the past weekend, as white supremacists marched and rioted in Charlottesville, VA – spouting hate about Jews, blacks, immigrants, and just about anyone who is not white and male – the world once again witnessed America’s unresolved conflicts over race. To many longtime participants in the quest for racial justice, it felt as if we had lost 50 years, that we hadn’t advanced much since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: white supremacy has no place in the Christian Church or American culture. Race is an artificial concept to begin with, a mere adaptive biological response to the environment, not a distinguishing characteristic of human beings. Culture is real; race is not. Moreover, white supremacy is a corruption of our fundamental beliefs as Christians: that all of us are created in the image of God and, in Christ, are brothers and sisters. Our equality before God allows for no exceptions. Our equal dignity as human beings requires, as a minimum, our mutual respect.

I was certified as an anti-racism trainer by The Episcopal Church in the mid-1980s and was involved, as many of you were, in decades of anti-racism training. In the Diocese of Rochester, I believe we held perhaps two to three events a year for a long time. I think the training helped with individual awareness and understanding, but it failed to get at the underlying causes: the ways political and economic systems favor white people and, perhaps, more substantially, the notion that there isn’t enough to go around and that everything people of color get means a loss for white people. In the back of all our minds is the fear that there won’t be enough for me.

Bishops United Against Gun Violence, of which I am a member, offered a conference this past spring called “Unholy Trinity: The Intersection of Racism, Poverty and Gun Violence.” The conference explored the ways these three blights interact and reinforce one another. The victims of gun violence are often poor. The perpetrators of gun violence are also often poor – people on the outs seeking to keep others from getting what they believe is theirs. The end of this nightmare will require the dismantling of racist systems, the development of moral courage by white folks, attention to education and employment for all people, investment in housing and healthcare, and strict licensing and training for the use of handguns.

There will be no quick fix here, just a long, slow journey by people of faith and good will. White supremacy, white racism, is a cultural problem that white people must solve. It’s about how a white-dominated system uses power. A solution begins with self-examination about the ways white folks benefit from and participate in racist systems. It continues with learning how all of us can respect and support one another and how we can be allies of people of color, immigrants, and other victims of racism. It invites all of us to speak up on behalf of victims, to counter the words of hate with words of love and respect. It requires us to keep after our governments to do the right thing and to take steps to address poverty, education, employment, and health care. It roots us in the truth that God is with us and will never abandon us. We Americans will never prosper as a people if only some of us have education and employment; if only some of us have hope.

I commit, as your bishop, to strengthening our training in multicultural awareness and to help congregations strengthen their relationships with both Wabanaki people and New Mainers. I will continue to work with the Maine Episcopal Network for Justice and to keep these matters before our state and federal legislators. I invite you to make your own efforts, in your communities, to reinvigorate your relationships with people of color and to make common cause against hate.

This is a matter of adaptive change, of cultural change. And we understand that leaders alone cannot change our systems. It is up to each of us and all of us to stand “true to our God, true to our native land.”*

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Episcopal Bishop of Maine

* from Lift Every Voice and Sing

Jesus would have none of it

Most summer Sundays, Bishop Steve Lane may be found visiting one of the 18 summer chapels along the coast of Maine. On August 6 he gathered with the people of Holy Trinity on Peaks Island for the Feast of the Transfiguration.

In his sermon he had this, in part, to say:

If the events on Mt Tabor have any truth in them at all, then Jesus of Nazareth is revealed as holding the power of God: the light of truth, the well of forgiveness, and the sword of justice. In him the fulness of God resides; the God who created the universe from nothing and sustains it with his Spirit; the God who gives each of us the ability to be transfigured and transformed into the likeness of Christ.

Yet this power is not simply to be admired and worshiped. It is to be used for the benefit of others. And here, I think, is the sticking point for the disciples and for us. The disciples believed that closeness to such power should benefit them, should give them some exceptional place and status, should lift them up. They wanted to sit at the right hand of power, to be the viziers of omnipotence.

But Jesus would have none of it. He would not let Peter build a shrine. He would not let them stay on the mountain. He did not encourage them to share what they had seen. He went down the mountain and used his power to heal a young boy. And he taught his disciples that the greatest among them should be as a little child.

Read it all here.

the core of our life is following Jesus

Bishop Stephen Lane of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine offered these remarks at Spring Training 2017 on April 29, at St. Paul’s Church in Brunswick. More than 130 Maine Episcopalians gathered for a day of learning, sharing, and worshipping together. The 20 workshops offered focussed on spiritual growth, church leadership, community engagement, and other topics around the theme, “Leading as a Christian, Rooted in Jesus.”

“The pursuit of justice is a direct outgrowth of one’s relationship with Jesus. A decline in formation has led to a decline in advocacy for the poor and the stranger. Without a life-giving relationship with Jesus, most of us are simply not willing to take the risks that the pursuit of social justice demands.”

– Bishop Steve Lane

the cross demonstrates the depth of God’s love

On Tuesday, April 11, Bishop Stephen Lane, gathered with the clergy of the Diocese of Maine, offered this sermon at the annual Renewal of Vows and Chrism Eucharist at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland.

In his sermon he had this, in part, to say:

‘But we preach is Christ crucified, a stumbling block for the Jews and folly to the Gentiles.’ What Paul is talking about is a new way of relating in which the differences of race, class, sex, religion and culture are subsumed into our union with God and one another in Christ. Good news, yes, but oh, how we cherish the differences! How we want our identities, our understandings, to predominate! The notion that God loves us all, that Christ died for us all, that our message is meant to be good news for all people, is simply more than we want or comprehend. And yet it is the path of life, not only for them, but for us.

Read it all here.

Reflections on Sanctuary: Guidance for Maine Churches

Reflections on Sanctuary: Guidance for Maine churches
By the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Episcopal Bishop of Maine
April 7, 2017

pdf version

In the Anglican tradition, a sanctuary is the area immediately surrounding the altar. It it a holy space because it is here, at the altar, presbyters offer the Holy Eucharist to the people of God. The term, of course, goes back much further. The “holy of holies” in Solomon’s temple was known as the sanctuary, the place where the Ark of the Covenant resided. In both cases, the sacred status imbued the space with a sense of refuge and safety.

From the time of Constantine to the late Middle Ages across much of Europe, houses of worship afforded protection to those accused of crimes or debt. Indeed, English law recognized the church as a place of sanctuary from arrest from the fourth to the seventeenth centuries. Because the United States has never recognized such protection, the notion of churches offering immunity holds no legal sway beyond respect for the tradition.

However, sanctuary is our word. Sanctum means “holy” in Latin, from the same root we use to derive the word saint. Our churches should strive to be places of sanctuary – of safety, protection, support, and care – for all people, places of sanctuary from racism or any rhetoric that spews hatred or intolerance.

Over the past few months, in the wake of the travel bans and the uncertainty and fear they have elicited, I have been contacted by a number of Maine churches whose clergy and members are anxious to learn what and to what extent they can assist our neighbors who are fearful for their futures in Maine due to their legal status as refugees or asylum seekers.

Below I will attempt to offer definitions, guidance, and resources to assist members of our congregations in the good work of discerning the extent to which they will engage is “welcoming the stranger” to their communities. I think this discernment is important for each congregation to consider at both the parish and Vestry or Bishop’s Committee level and regardless of whether or not you are located in an area where New Mainers are settling. This is a conversation for all of us to enter fully and meaningfully.

DEFINITIONS

Some definitions might be a good place to start. I look no further than to

Signs available at www.welcomeyourneighbors.org/order-signs

those offered by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) at www.unrefugees.org.

Who is a refugee?
“A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries. Refugees legally enter the United States in search of freedom, peace, and opportunity for themselves and their families.”

Before they enter the United States, those who are granted refugee status have been subjected by a lengthy and thorough security process by the UNHCR and the US Department of State. The federal government contracts with agencies – often faith-based organizations such as Episcopal Migration Ministries – in each state to handle the resettlement of refugee families. In our state, Catholic Charities of Maine is the only agency that resettles refugees for the federal government. They offer orientation, employment, and cultural adjustment, and many other services to those refugees assigned to Maine. In recent years, Catholic Charities has resettled refugees from more than 30 countries. In 2016 they resettled 642 recently arrived refugees in Maine.

Who is an asylum seeker?
“When people flee their own country and seek sanctuary in another country, they apply for asylum – the right to be recognized as a refugee and receive legal protection and material assistance. An asylum seeker must demonstrate that his or her fear of persecution in his or her home country is well-founded.”

Asylum seekers often arrive in the US on a legal visa. Once they overstay that visa, they are no longer authorized to remain in the US. If they are fearful to return to their home country due to war, violence, or instability, they may apply to the US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) for asylum. Currently there are about 300 pending asylum cases in Maine, and the wait for an interview with the South Portland office of USCIS can be many years because only 30 interviews are offered each year. Six months after applying for asylum, an asylum seeker may be granted a work permit in order to be legally employed while waiting for an interview. Asylum seekers do not have access to resettlement services provided to those who have secured refugee status.

WAYS FOR CHURCHES TO OFFER SANCTUARY

  • Offer support, a safe gathering place, friendship and mentoring relationships to refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Offer preaching and teaching to members of the congregation that upholds our Baptismal Covenant and Gospel mandates: seeking and serving Christ in all persons, respecting the dignity of every human being, loving our neighbors as ourselves, welcoming the stranger.
  • Offer membership in all aspects of the life of the congregation: worship, service, formation, education, music, outreach.
  • Cooperate to the minimum extent required by law if immigration or enforcement officials seek to enter church buildings to check papers, question, or detain people participating in our worship or activities of the church community. It would be a violation of the law to prevent an immigration agent with a warrant listing the name of an individual and signed by a federal judge from entering your church.
  • Volunteer, as a church community or as individual members, with community agencies that serve refugees and asylum seekers, donate money and resources, engage in advocacy in the public sphere.

A recent survey by the New Mainers Task Force of Maine Episcopalians showed that there are many needs within New Mainer communities and many ways to support and assist them.

Needs identified by the New Mainer communities include:

English instruction, housing deposits, disability support, friendship/mentoring, meeting space, assistance with professional/educational credentialing, utilities, food, clothing, employment, transportation, household items, furniture, computers/cell phones.

Organization to support:

Catholic Charities of Maine https://www.ccmaine.org/refugee-immigration-services

Immigration Legal Aid Project ILAP www.ilapmaine.org

*Hopeful Links – support for unaccompanied minors in Maine – Contact Lucky Hollander at lucky.hollander@gmail.com

*Trinity Jubilee Center in Lewiston www.trinityjubileecenter.org

*Tree Street Youth – services for children in Lewiston – www.treestreetyouth.org

*St. Elizabeth’s Essentials Pantry based at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland http://stlukesportland.org/pages/general/st-elizabeths

*St. Mark’s Outreach Ministries – a range of programs that serve people in Augusta including newly arrived families from Iraq and other war-torn countries http://twoonine.org/ministries/

*Compassionate Housing Initiative in Yarmouth, offering temporary housing for newly arrived Mainers, http://www.uuyarmouth.org/justicework-refugees.php

Mano en Mano – supporting migrant agricultural workers in Washington County http://www.manomaine.org/  

*recent awardee of a grant from one of the following diocesan funding sources: New Initiative Fund, Domestic Poverty Grants, Bishop’s Discretionary Fund,

News stories and online resources

http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/12/churches-discuss-becoming-sanctuaries-for-undocumented-immigrants/

http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/03/29/512072151/sanctuary-churches-who-controls-the-story

http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2017/02/01/episcopal-church-stands-with-refugees-immigrants-and-the-undocumented/  

http://www.dailynews.com/social-affairs/20170318/how-some-churches-are-preparing-to-offer-literal-sanctuary-to-fight-trumps-policies  

http://religionnews.com/2017/03/19/analysis-new-sanctuary-movement/ 

https://www.nhepiscopalnews.org/blog/2017/4/4/guest-blog-the-greatest-commandment-is-never-easy

Welcome signs in three languages for free linked at “Welcome Your Neighbor” Facebook page or https://www.welcomeyourneighbors.org/order-signs  

The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles – Task Force on Sanctuary’s website, Sacred Resistance
http://www.lasacredresistance.org

Resources from Episcopal Migration Ministries

http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2017/04/04/trumps-immigration-policies-force-reduction-of-episcopal-churchs-refugee-resettlement-network/

https://vimeo.com/39648553   — Video about allies

http://www.episcopalmigrationministries.org/learn_more/resources_for_churches.aspx  

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Can-we-count-on-you-.html?soid=1120909577537&aid=093UjOeVLq8   (liturgical resources and more)

PDF of powerpoint on EMM shared at the House of Bishops https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/19179943/HoB%20Presentation%20-%20EMM%20-%20Distributed.pdf   

Remember who you are

On March 5, Bishop Stephen Lane marked the first Sunday in Lent together with the people of Grace Church in Bath. In his sermon he had this, in part, to say:

The temptation we face in this time – in every time – is to abandon our identity and to make ourselves over, to try to create an identity that seems more suitable to the age we’re living in. But we can’t really do that. We can’t make ourselves alone. We will always do that as part of some group. Ubuntu. And when we forget whose we are, when we forget that we were embraced in baptism as God’s beloved, then we risk falling far from the path that gives us life, that makes us whole.

Read it all here.