A Statement on the Supreme Court Decision Dobbs v Jackson

The news today from the Supreme Court is not unexpected, but it is very hard for many. While the issue of abortion has been understood by Episcopalians as a moral decision, often left to the individual, the Episcopal Church is “unequivocally” pro-access to abortion and health care services. This decision will make that access impossible for some Americans.

As for our state, the Rhode Island Attorney General has released a statement that he intends to defend the state’s present Reproductive Privacy Act:

“I want to reassure Rhode Islanders that the right to an abortion remains protected here in Rhode Island. In 2019, Rhode Island codified Roe v. Wade and its progeny under our state’s Reproductive Privacy Act, ensuring that Rhode Island will not return to the days of illegal and unsafe abortions that endanger lives and create criminal liability for physicians.

“My Office has successfully defended our Reproductive Privacy Act from a legal challenge before and we stand ready to defend it in the future.”

I commend all of the Presiding Bishop’s statement on the decision to you, particularly these two paragraphs:

The Episcopal Church maintains that access to equitable health care, including reproductive health care and reproductive procedures, is “an integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being” (2018-D032). The church holds that “reproductive health procedures should be treated as all other medical procedures, and not singled out or omitted by or because of gender.” (2018-D032). The Episcopal Church sustains its “unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions [about the termination of pregnancy] and to act upon them.” (2018-D032). As stated in the 1994 Act of Convention, the church also opposes any “executive or judicial action to abridge the right of a woman to reach an informed decision…or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision.” (1994-A054).

The court’s decision eliminates federal protections for abortion and leaves the regulation of abortion to the states. The impact will be particularly acute for those who are impoverished or lack consistent access to health care services. As Episcopalians, we pray for those who may be harmed by this decision, especially for women and other people who need these reproductive services. We pray for the poor and vulnerable who may not have other options for access. We urge you to make your voice heard in the way you feel called but always to do so peacefully and with respect and love of neighbor.

In all things, I am mindful of St. Paul’s admonition that we will read this weekend that the Christians are to love one another and so witness to the truth of the Gospel to the World.

Finally, the Presiding Bishop’s office has sent a notice to the bishops that they have received an alert that there is credible evidence of violence planned against churches and clergy who are outspoken advocates of abortion access. Please be especially alert in the coming days to anything that causes you concern and do not hesitate to contact local law enforcement if you need to do so. Please also let me or my staff know of any such concerns that you might have.

We pray for one another in this moment. We pray for those for whom this is hard news, and for those for whom it is welcome news. We pray in particular for those who will be most directly impacted by this decision across this country.

In the service of the Gospel;

+Nicholas

St Stephen’s Church, Vestavia Hills AL

Overnight, we learned of a mass shooting event at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Alabama. As I write this, two people were killed, an 84 year old man and a 75 year old woman, by a 71 year man who occasionally attended the church.
This is horrible news, and it feels so much closer to home, as the images and story seem so familiar to us as Episcopalians. It was a typical weeknight event at a typical congregation, and it went so terribly wrong. And yet, these sorts of shootings have become a typical experience for us in America. By the time I sat down to write this to you, I had trouble finding the news report online. It wasn’t featured anywhere.
We have been asked by the congregation, and their clergy, by their bishop and our Presiding Bishop to pray for them. I ask you to join me in this, particularly this weekend. Prayers alone are not enough, but we should feel some comfort in knowing that there is work being done at the Federal and State level to try to make these events less likely. Next week, Governor McKee will be signing three bills that represent common-sense reforms here in Rhode Island, and a bipartisan group of Senators in Washington DC have indicated they have an agreement in principle to take action in Congress. Pray for those who have been hurt and give thanks for those who are working to protect us all; first responders, activists and legislators.
Working with the RI Sheriff’s department, we have run two recent training sessions on active shooter response in churches. There are some specific things that we can do. If your congregation wasn’t represented at either of the last two trainings, and would like to participate, please let Joannie Collins, a member of my staff, know. (Joan.Collins@episcopalri.org). A quick summary of basic principles taught in the training are found here.
Let us pray:
Almighty and merciful God, whose only Son came to preach peace to the nations: Hear us, we beseech You, and comfort us with Your steady Hand, as we come before You this [day/night] in the wake of unspeakable violence. In a world that seems hopeless, help us to remember that our hope rests always in You, and in the resurrection of Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
+Nicholas

First Creation Care Grant Awarded

Creation Care Grant Awarded to All Saints, Providence

The Creation Care Ministry of the Diocese is pleased to announce the first award given from the Creation Care Mini-grant Program.

All Saints, Providence, has received a $1500 grant to create an inviting urban oasis for reflection and the healing of God’s creation. The deadline for applications has been extended to July 15. 2022.

This is an example of a project valuable in itself and a model for others to employ.

Other applications eligible for $500 to $1500 mini-grants include projects around:

  • Food security and access to locally produced food (i.e. the creation of community gardens and or farm shares on church owned lands, obtaining permits/equipment needed to host farmers markets on church owned lands, obtaining permits/equipment needed to prepare community meals in church facilities).
  • Energy efficiency (i.e. efficiency audits of church owned facilities, insulation/weather-proofing of church owned facilities, replacement of church owned energy intensive equipment).
  • Climate resiliency (i.e. rain gardens for stormwater management on church owned property, flood risk reduction strategies/retrofits for church owned property and facilities, generators and/or heating equipment to support community charging stations, warming stations, etc. on church owned property).
  • Environmental Stewardship (i.e. community/green space clean ups including Christian fellowship components, organic waste recycling at churches, invasive/exotic removal on church owned property, planting native plants and grasses on church owned property).
  • Environmental Outreach and Education (i.e. curriculum development focused on environmental education and stewardship for faith-based communities, development and/or hosting environmental focused programming for faith-based communities).
  • Theological reflection on Creation Care (i.e. development of creation care focused lessons for adult and youth formation classes).

Applications and supporting materials should be submitted via the EDRI Grants Portal at https://episcopalri.wufoo.com/forms/z13vscqg1fbjbvd/ . Questions about the Mini-Grants can be answered by emailing creationcareedri@gmail.com.

Prayer Vigil in reaction to gun violence

Join us on May 31, 2022 at 7pm in front of the Cathedral of St John as we pray for the victims of gun violence and the strength to create solutions.

Notice of a prayer vigil scheduled for May 31 at the Cathedral.
Prayer Vigil in reaction to mass shootings. May 31 2022.

A Message from the Bishop

There’s an old dictum in Anglican Moral Theology; “Circumstances alter cases.” When we’re trying to work out the right thing to do in a moment of moral quandary, we can’t just use a single principle to come to a decision. It’s one thing if a multi-billionaire steals a loaf of bread from a neighborhood bakery. It’s another thing, in our thinking, if it’s a starving child who steals the bread.

This week there has been a leak regarding a potential decision and the associated reasoning behind it concerning the legality of Abortion services in the United States. We don’t know yet the final opinion or the decision, but what has been published has created deep concern for many and hope for others. We in the Episcopal Church are not of one mind about this question. We do though have a published and nuanced position, one initially issued by General Convention in 1967, prior to the Roe v Wade decision, and which was reaffirmed in 1976, and returned to subsequently. You can find more information here: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/ogr/summary-of-general-convention-resolutions-on-abortion-and-womens-reproductive-health/

Our position lays out the instances in which the broader Episcopal Church believes that abortion is not a moral choice and lays out instances when it is the less bad choice of two difficult options. To be clear, it is guidance for decision making. It is not binding on our individual consciences. We rarely do that as a denomination; it’s something that sets us apart from others.

The 1976 statement ends with strong language: “the Episcopal Church expresses its unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter and to act upon them.” What we expect of members of the Church is one thing and how we live in a larger pluralistic society is another. That needs to be a part of our consideration should the Supreme Court rule that Roe v Wade was a mistake.

The news comes unexpectedly, and this isn’t something many of us were prepared to hear. It is already raising emotions and opening old wounds. I ask you to be ready to hear people who disagree with you, and to be ready to love those who reject what you believe. The conflict is real and deep. That’s given and there’s not much we can do about that. What we can do is manage how we respond to the conflict which has unexpectedly added to the torn fabric of our social life.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

A Community Memorial Observance of Yom Hashoah will be held on April 27 at 7:00 pm, in Memorial Park at 13 S. Main St in Providence. All are invited.

Chrism Mass Sermon

Our thanks to the Rev. Canon Dena Cleaver-Bartholomew for preaching the sermon at this year’s Chrism Mass and Renewal of Vows. The text of her sermon may be found here.

Juliette M. Mudrak Fund

This fund was established in 1989 by a bequest from the estate of Juliette M. Mudrak “for the purpose of carrying on the work of the Diocesan Mission for the Deaf”. Therefore, the funds can be used for any purpose that can be construed as ministry to hearing impaired persons.

As a restricted fund, however, it is important that any expenditure from it be documented in such a way as to justify its purpose. This fund has been mainly used to support “hearing loop devices” in the Churches. However, the fund can also support hearing aids for canonically resident non-retired clergy which is not covered by their health insurance. If you have a need for such a grant, please complete a grant application on the Diocesan website at episcopalri.org, search for Grants & Loans for Churches and attach supporting materials with your application. If you have any questions please contact Joan DeCelles, Finance Director at joan@episcopalri.org or she can be reached at 401-274-4500 ext. 229. Your request will be reviewed by the Grants & Loans Team.

Annual distribution from the Juliette M. Mudrak Fund must not exceed the amount of the dividends produced annually.

Prayer Vigil

Bishop Knisely will give an invocation at the Prayer Vigil for Ukraine to be held on Saturday, March 26 at 4 pm, at the State House. Please join in praying for the Ukrainian people.