Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bishops' Pastoral Letter

Because I am a bit slow on the uptake these days, I give to you now--if you haven't read it already--the pastoral letter from the Bishops' meeting in North Carolina a week and a half ago...better late than never as they and inwardly digest...

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Episcopal Church meeting in Hendersonville, North Carolina, March 13-18, 2009 to the Church and our partners in mission throughout the world.

I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:11b - 13

As the House of Bishops gather at the Kanuga Camp and Conference Center for our annual Spring Retreat, we are mindful of the worsening financial crisis around us. We recognize there are no easy solutions for the problems we now face. In the United States there is a 30% reduction of overall wealth, a 26% reduction in home values and a budget deficit of unprecedented proportions. Unemployment currently hovers at over 8% and is estimated to top 10% by the end of the year. There are over 8 million homes in America that are in foreclosure. Consumer confidence is at a 50 year low.

Unparalleled corporate greed and irresponsibility, predatory lending practices, and rampant consumerism have amplified domestic and global economic injustice. The global impact is difficult to calculate, except that the poor will become poorer and our commitment to continue our work toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 is at great risk. A specter of fear creeps not only across the United States, but also across the world, sometimes causing us as a people to ignore the Gospel imperative of self-sacrifice and generosity, as we scramble for self-preservation in a culture of scarcity.

The crisis is both economic and environmental. The drought that grips Texas, parts of the American South, California, Africa and Australia, the force of hurricanes that have wreaked so much havoc in the Caribbean, Central America and the Gulf Coast, the ice storm in20Kentucky—these and other natural disasters related to climate change—result in massive joblessness, driving agricultural production costs up, and worsening global hunger. The wars nations wage over diminishing natural resources kill and debilitate not only those who fight in them, but also civilians, weakening families, and destroying the land. We as a people have failed to see this connection, compartmentalizing concerns so as to minimize them and continue to live without regard to the care of God’s creation and the stewardship of the earth’s resources that usher in a more just and peaceful world.

In this season of Lent, God calls us to repentance. We have too often been preoccupied as a Church with internal affairs and a narrow focus that has absorbed both our energy and interest and that of our Communion – to the exclusion of concern for the crisis of suffering both at home and abroad. We have often failed to speak a compelling word of commitment to economic justice. We have often failed to speak truth to power, to name the greed and consume rism that has pervaded our culture, and we have too often allowed the culture to define us instead of being formed by Gospel values.

While our commitment to the eradication of extreme poverty through the eight Millennium Development Goals moves us toward the standard of Christ’s teaching, we have nevertheless often fallen short of the transformation to which Christ calls us in our own lives in order to live more fully into the Gospel paradigm of God’s abundance for all.

Everyone is affected by the shrinking of the global economy. For some, this is a time of great loss—loss of employment, of homes, of a way of life. And for the most vulnerable, this “downturn” represents an emergency of catastrophic proportions. Like the Prodigal who comes to his senses and returns home, we as the people of God seek a new life. We recognize in this crisis an invitation into a deeper simplicity, a tightening of the belt, an expanded Lenten fast, and a broader generosity. God’s abundant mercy and forgiveness meet and embrace us, waiting to empower us through the Holy Spirit to face the coming days.

In a time of anxiety and fear the Holy Spirit invites us to hope. Anxiety, when voiced in community can be heard, blessed and transformed into energy and hope, but if ignored, swallowed or hidden, fear and anxiety can be corrosive and lead to despair. We Christians claim that joy and hope emerge for those who have the courage to endure suffering. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul goes so far as to boast of his suffering, because “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Our current crisis presents us with opportunities to learn from our brothers and sisters of faith in other parts of the20world who have long been bearers of hope in the midst of even greater economic calamity.

We can also learn from our spiritual ancestors, who found themselves in an economic and existential crisis that endured for forty years – on their journey from Egypt to Israel. While they groaned in Egypt, they murmured at Sinai – at least at first. And then after their groaning, complaining and reverting to old comforts of idol worship, they were given Grace to learn and understand what the Lord wanted to teach them.

They learned that they needed the wilderness in order to recover their nerve and put their full trust in God--and to discover their God-given uniqueness, which had been rubbed away during their captivity in Egypt. They adopted some basic rules that enabled them to live in a community of free people rather than as captives or slaves – the God given Ten Commandments. And perhaps most importantly, our spiritual ancestors discovered that the wilderness is a unique place of God’s abundance and miracle, where water gushed out of a rock and manna appeared on the desert floor – food and drink miraculously provided by God.

< class="MsoNormal" style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt; TEXT-INDENT: 0.5in; mso-layout-grid-align: none">As we go through our own wilderness, these spiritual ancestors also point the way to a deep and abiding hope. We can rediscover our uniqueness – which emerges from the conviction that our wealth is determined by what we give rather than what we own. We can re-discover manna – God’s extraordinary expression of abundance. Week by week – in congregations and communities around the world, our common manna is placed before us in the Eucharist. Ordinary gifts of bread and wine are placed on the altar, and become for us the Body and Blood of Christ, which, when we receive them, draw us ever more deeply into the Paschal mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.

As our risen Lord broke through the isolation of the disciples huddled in fear for their lives following his suffering and death, so too are we, the Body of Christ called to break through the loneliness and anxiety of this time, drawing people from their fears and isolation into the comforting embrace of God’s gathered community of hope. As disciples of the risen Christ we are given gifts for showing forth God’s gracious generosity and for finding blessing and abundance in what is hard and difficult. In this time the Holy Spirit is moving among us, sharing with us the vision of what is real and valued in God’s world. In a time such as this, Christ draws us deeper into our faith revealing to us that generosity breaks through distrust, paralysis and misinformation. Like our risen Lord, we, as his disciples are called to listen to the world’s pain and offer comfort and peace.

As we continue our Lenten journey together we place our hearts in the power of the Trinity. The God who created us is creating still and will not abandon us. The Incarnate Word, our Savior Jesus Christ, who in suffering, dying and rising for our sake, stands in solidarity with us, has promised to be with us to the end of the age. God the Holy Spirit, the very breath of God for us and in us, is our comforter, companion, inspiration and guide. In this is our hope, our joy and our peace.


Deirdre Steinberg, Communications Director

Episcopal Diocese of Oregon

11800 SW Military Lane, Portland, Oregon 97219

Direct: 971-204-4108, Mobile: 503-890-1542

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bishop of Oregon: Search Update

This is an email sent to and received by members of the Diocese of Oregon as an attempt--and a great one at that--to provide all of us in the diocese with a kind of progress report on the search for a duly elected Bishop of Oregon to take office in 2010. I share with you now that update email below...

Bishop Search Update

The Rev. Sara Fischer and the Rev. David Sweeney, Bishop Search Communications Sub-Committee

The February 27 meeting of the Bishop Search Committee began as many good gatherings begin: we shared stories with one another. Our task was to tell the group something about ourselves that group members might find surprising, and to talk about how that something informed our understanding of ministry. One person told of having been a drummer in a rock band. Another shared her experience growing up on a farm. Someone else had summered as a deck hand on a fishing trawler. Another talked about her pet snake. This sharing experience affirmed for each of us that the Bishop Search Committee is indeed representative of our diocese as a whole—a group of committed people with abundant talent, good humor, and love of our Church.

We met to review and approve each aspect of the search process: brochure, timeline (see below), application process, interview format, screening, communication, and education. We are excited about each stage of the process.

A tangible sign that the search process is truly under way will be the publication, later this month, of a brochure which is a succinct version of our diocesan profile. This brochure, detailing who we are, what we strive to do, and what kind of bishop we seek to lead us, will be mailed to every parish in the diocese, every bishop and diocesan deployment officer in the Episcopal Church, and anyone else who might come in contact with those who might be called as Bishop of Oregon. Everyone is encouraged to share this information with their neighbors and friends, and an electronic version of the brochure will be placed on our diocesan web site.

Shortly after the publication and dissemination of this brochure, a longer version of a diocesan profile will be available on a web page devoted to our search process. This longer profile will be directed toward those with an interest in detailed information about our diocese and about Oregon.

So what will happen to all those who read the brochure, the website, and express interest in being part of our journey? The screening sub-committee is still at work polishing the details of the screening process itself, to reflect the concerns and criteria offered in our Appreciative Inquiry sessions during the 2008 diocesan convention, the fall clergy conference, and the January retreat with the Transition and Standing Committees.

Once the initial screening process has been completed, the Search Committee will institute a background check for those still under consideration, and, if necessary, some may be interviewed by phone. By June, the Search Committee will identify eight semi-finalists for face-to-face visits.

An exciting by-product of the search process is the development of educational materials to be available for all parishes. Planning your fall education program? Seeking a new bishop is a great time to teach Episcopalians of all ages about how our church is organized and led. If you are interested in educational materials, contact The Rev. Deacon Nancy Crawford at or 541-343-9253. For the latest news about the search process, see

The Search Process at a Glance

March 25 Brochure distributed and placed on the web site, along with a in-depth profile of our diocese.

April 1-May 15 Application Period Open

June Visits with semi-finalists

July 24 Visits completed to semi-finalists

July 31 Final slate of four finalists forwarded to Standing Committee

August 31 Standing Committee announces final slate of four nominees

September Detailed biographical and other information available in diocesan newspaper and on web site.

October Walkabouts

November 19-21 Diocesan Convention and Election of the 10th Bishop of Oregon

February–March Transition

April 10, 2010 Consecration and Installation of the 10th Bishop of Oregon

Janice Lusk

Receptionist, Administrative Assistant & Events Registrar

Episcopal Diocese of Oregon

11800 SW Military Ln.

Portland, OR 97219


Fax: 503-636-5616

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bishop Hampton of Oregon: Remember the Holy Land

The interim bishop of Oregon, +Sandy Hampton, has once again written to us in the diocese, this time about providing help to our "family" in the Holy Land. Here is his letter that I share with you, especially those of you outside of the diocese.



A Message from Bishop Hampton

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

In her Epiphany letter to all congregations, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori asked Episcopalians to continue to praying for our sisters and brothers in the Holy Land and to support the Good Friday Offering as an opportunity to demonstrate our solidarity with Anglicans and all Christians in that troubled part of the world. The Diocese, and particularly its hospital, has been unusually stressed by the recent violence between Israel and Hamas and the needs are enormous, as you might imagine. For the past 87 years The Episcopal Church has taken up a Good Friday Offering to be sent to The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, symbolizing unity with and passionate concern for those who witness to Christ throughout the region. We all realize that we live in very uncertain times, economically for sure, but by "keeping the main thing, the main thing" as the saying goes, I'm confident that your good folks will respond to this appeal generously.

A Holy and Blessed Lent to you all.
+Sandy Hampton

Paritial DPA Forgiveness: A year of Jubilee in Oregon

Forgiveness. It comes in many forms. The wisdom of our Standing Committee and interim bishop stands like a light in the darkness of these economic times for the parishes--large and small--within this diocese, from shore to mountains, from the Columbia to the southern valleys. We thank you.

Partial DPA Debt Forgiveness Approved by Diocesan Council

From: Standing Committee, Oregon Diocesan Council

To: Members of the Diocesan Community

Date: Wednesday, March 4, 2009

At its February meeting, the Diocesan Council unanimously approved a proposal by the Standing Committee to cancel all DPA debt delinquent for the years ending on or prior to December 31, 2006. The resolution also forgave the filing of all delinquent required statements of General Purpose Income for those years. This proposal was made to act upon the Standing Committee’s designation of 2009 as a year of Jubilee (“Jubilee” is the theme of the upcoming 121 st annual diocesan convention in which a bishop diocesan will be elected).

Theologically, a jubilee year comes from the Hebrew Bible’s prescription of a year of jubilee every 50 years, a year in which liberty was proclaimed “throughout the land to all its inhabitants” (Leviticus 25: 10) through the liberation of slaves and the cancellation of debt. The modern jubilee year is a metaphor for Christians today to create, to the extent it is within our power, economic and environmental stewardship and justice and peace for the weakest in our midst.

The Diocese is acting on its beliefs in liberating its churches from a burden of debt. More than a dozen of the 75 churches in the diocese have been unable to consistently pay their mandated share of diocesan expenses. By action of the Standing Committee and the Diocesan Council, all debt more than two years old—an amount estimated at about $860,000—has been cancelled. The Diocesan Council, the policy-making body of the diocese which must approve such a measure, unanimously agreed with the Standing Committee’s proposal to cancel this debt at their February 27th meeting in Salem.

The Diocesan Council was able to act immediately on the Standing Committee’s request because it had already formed a task force to look at DPA issues, including the problem of the large amount of DPA in arrearages. The work of that task force is not completed. This specific decision covers years prior to 2007; years after that will be considered as part of the task force’s work. “Canonically, Diocesan Council has authority to cancel only DPA that has been delinquent for more than two years,” said the Rev. Jaime Sanders, the DPA task force convener. “The task force is charged with developing a fair and consistent policy for DPA shortfalls for years after 2006. We welcome, and will be looking for ways to facilitate, conversation with all interested persons in the diocese.”

During the discussion at the Diocesan Council meeting, concern was expressed about congregations that have made sacrifices to stay current on DPA or to catch up past arrearages.

Was it fair, someone wondered, to cancel debt for some congregations when others had made such sacrifices? The conversation became theological as Council members reflected on the concept of jubilee. “Jubilee isn’t about fairness, it’s about maintaining community. It’s about recognizing the different needs of people in community and sharing the resources so everyone can thrive,” said the Rev. Raggs Ragan, diocesan council member.

Some of this debt is more than ten years old. “In the judgment of the Standing Committee, this burden impairs the mission of the church at this time of global economic hardship and looking toward the future in faith and hope,” said the Rev. Shannon Leach, president of the diocesan Standing Committee. “In keeping with the biblical injunction to observe an occasional jubilee year, in which all debts are forgiven and people are given a clean slate on which to go forward, we are thrilled that our motion has been accepted by the Diocesan Council and that we can move forward into the future.

“It is the Standing Committee's hope that relieving the burden of crushing debt, under which many of our congregations have lived for many years, will free them to use the resources at their disposal to more effectively carry out the ministries they feel called to do,” he concluded.

Deirdre Steinberg

Director of Communications

Episcopal Diocese of Oregon

11800 SW Military Lane, Portland, Oregon 97219

Direct: 971-204-4108, Mobile: 503-890-1542

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Oregon's Interim Bishop pens letter to diocese, Church

February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

A Pastoral Letter

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

On Tuesday evening, we heard President Obama speak to the nation about the current economic crisis and how his administration intends to address it. I found his speech both sobering and hopeful. He suggested that it has taken us a long time to get into this “mess” and encouraged us to be patient as we seek to extricate ourselves from it. He also said there is enough blame to go around but that it is singularly unhelpful to indulge in those assessments (my summary of his thoughts). I’m reminded on this Ash Wednesday of the words of Scott Hahn, “Lent is a time when people stop accusing others and excusing ourselves.”

As you are all well aware, the national (and international) crisis is impacting our beloved church including many of you and your congregations. I have had reports from clergy that members have lost jobs, are experiencing foreclosure on their homes and have had their retirement incomes severely reduced. In addition, some congregations are cutting back on staff and reducing their DPA offering for support of the wider church’s mission and ministry. So our church situation parallels that which is going on nationally and a climate of fear seems to pervade.

As difficult as this situation is for many (and I don’t mean to minimize that in the least), we are a people of Faith. Among the dominant themes of Scripture, “Do not be afraid…Do not fear…” are major emphasis. That doesn’t mean that we piously ignore the realities of the present situation but we journey on confident that with God “All manner of things will be well” (Julian of Norwich). Illustratively, some years ago, there was a Kodak camera commercial which showed a waitress being beckoned across a beautiful field of flowers by Clark Gable (for the younger set he was a famous movie actor who starred in “Gone with the Wind”). Her comment in the commercial was something like, “I just didn’t realize how much muck I had to step in to get to him.”

These extraordinary times call for taking the long view rather than reacting quickly to the pressures of the moment. We are engaged in a marathon rather than a sprint. And the church, sometimes, is no better at marathoning than the culture, evidenced by the disastrous decisions some years ago to gut our college and university chaplaincies, thus effectively cutting off one of The Episcopal Church’s primary mission efforts. Thus all of the love, understanding, support and patience we can muster for one another at this time is important. By our baptisms we are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and suffer with those who suffer. From the largest congregation in the diocese to the smallest, we are in this together. Please know that all of us on The Diocesan Staff stand ready to lend a compassionate ear and support you in any way we can.

Bottom line: How we, the church responds to this crisis is but one way we witness to our core belief that through The Resurrection of Jesus the Christ, out of death will come new life.

May you all enjoy a Holy and Blessed Lent.

Your Brother in Christ,

Sanford "Sandy" Z. K. Hampton

Interim Bishop of Oregon