Blessing and Hope

On August 11 I received a call from Cindy Dougan at the Diocesan Center concerning an unfortunate situation and our possibly assisting St. Stephen’s in Olean, NY (which is on the border of Pennsylvania, north of Bradford). Cindy received a phone call from The Rev. Kim Rossi, rector of St. Stephen’s, requesting assistance. I called to see if I could help with the situation. A person from Olean had a friend in Bradford whose daughter had died unexpectedly at Hamot Hospital in Erie and didn’t have enough funds to bring her daughter’s body back to Bradford. Kim told me that her Alms Fund was almost gone and hoped I could help. I told her I would. I contacted the mother and assured her that we would get the remaining funds to the funeral director so her daughter could come home. In conversation with the mother, Sandy, I inquired if she was going to have a service and she said not at this time.

Just when we think we have been blessed with more then we can imagine, God does what God does best, and blesses us with more. This blessing I received was not a monetary blessing but a spiritual and hope blessing. A few days later, I was asked if I would celebrate a Memorial service for Bobbie Jo Groff. I did not personally know Bobbie Jo. I only recognized who she was by Ascension, Bradford’s secretary, Chris Schaffer’s, description and knowing that Bobbie Jo came to our Thursday lunches and Second Harvest Food Bank. She was confined to a wheelchair. I only mention this for the following reason: there are those who have worked hard or who have been blessed with financial security that sometimes feel sorry for or may even look down upon people with disabilities or who are going through low economic hardship. In reality, they don’t care what anyone thinks, what they want is to be accepted just as they are. God does just that.

In preparing for the service, I asked Bobbie Jo’s mother what was she like. Her mother told me she loved to dance, she loved her family, she loved to laugh, she loved her friends, and she loved to fish. For those reasons, I knew I would have liked Bobbie Jo.
Then I asked how many people did she expect to be in attendance at the service so we could print enough bulletins. She estimated 25 to 35 so Chris printed 50.

As it got closer to the beginning of the service I was operating the handicap elevator, so I wasn’t paying much attention to how many people were coming in. When Janet Carr, a member of Ascension, and I walked into the sanctuary we were surprised by a full church – one hundred plus with some standing. This was the blessing and the hope all in one package. To see a church full of love and compassion for someone who was full of and shared her LOVE and COMPASSION.

Thank you God for the blessing and hope in humanity that I experienced on August 17 at Bobbie Jo’s celebration of new life.

The Ven. Gail Winslow is the archdeacon of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and serves at Church of the Ascension, Bradford.

Episcopal Bishops Issue A Word to the Church for the World

[September 20, 2016] The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has issued the following A Word to the Church for the World.

The video is available in English and Spanish here.
 

A Word to the Church for the World

Greetings from Detroit, a city determined to be revived.  Greetings also from the city of Flint, where we are reminded that the gift of water has for many of our brothers and sisters become contaminated.

Here we have been exhorted to set our sights beyond ourselves and to minister to the several nations where we serve and the wider world.

We lament the stark joylessness that marks our present time.  We decry angry political rhetoric which rages while fissures widen within society along racial, economic, educational, religious, cultural and generational lines.  We refuse to look away as poverty, cruelty and war force families to become migrants enduring statelessness and demonization.  We renounce the gun violence and drug addiction that steal lives and crush souls while others succumb to fear and cynicism, abandoning any sense of neighborliness.

Yet, in all this, “we do not despair” (2 Cor. 4:8.). We remember that God in Christ entered our earthly neighborhood during a time of political volatility and economic inequality.  To this current crisis we bring our faith in Jesus.  By God’s grace, we choose to see in this moment an urgent opportunity to follow Jesus into our fractured neighborhoods, the nation and the world.

Every member of the church has been “called for a time such as this.” (Esther 4:14) Let prophets tell the truth in love.  Let reconcilers move boldly into places of division and disagreement. Let evangelists inspire us to tell the story of Jesus in new and compelling ways.  Let leaders lead with courage and joy.

In the hope of the Resurrection let us all pray for God to work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish God’s purposes on earth.
 

Writing Committee
Bishop Tom Breidenthal of Southern Ohio
Bishop Mariann Budde of Washington
Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce of Los Angeles
Bishop Victor Scantlebury of Ecuador Central
Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves of El Camino Real
Bishop Alan Gates of Massachusetts
Bishop Wendell Gibbs Jr. of Michigan
Dr. Scott Bader-Saye
Bishop Prince Singh of Rochester
Bishop Robert Wright of Atlanta
Bishop Rob Hirschfield of New Hampshire

The Episcopal Church House of Bishops met September 15 to September 20 in Detroit MI (Diocese of Michigan).

‘Planting’ Hope for the Future at Buhl Day

Buhl Day (the annual Labor Day celebration held in Hermitage, PA) was a success for the diocese’s newest church plant in more ways than one.  The church’s food stand, besides being a great fundraising opportunity, brought together people from eight different congregations all over the diocese to work and reach out to the community and each other. Good food, good fun, and building relationships while helping to further the Kingdom of God – the definition of One Church at work. It was definitely a Great Day in the Kingdom!

Read on for some personal reflections on the day:

buhl-day-cover

“In the beginning of Buhl Day there is a parade that local residents are excited to attend; giving us time to prepare before the rush.  I had helped prepare for this in the two days prior, but I was getting pumped on what was to come. Eventually, after getting everything ready and seeing more people arrive to help, we got customers. The crowd did not seem as big as usual, but we had a steady amount of people buying things. It was time to roll and perform my duties, alongside others who were working diligently.

There was a fantastic amount of people there helping, so I found I could sit and actually take a break – something that I and  others that had worked at this booth on Buhl Day in the past had not experienced too often. Finally after smelling the sandwiches being prepared all morning, I enjoyed one myself.

photo-sep-05-10-47-30-amAt one point I was standing outside the booth to help direct people, and I looked at all the people inside the booth.  Seven churches and the new Episcopal church plant all gathered together for this one goal.  Everyone was at a station talking amongst themselves.  There were so many there, you could find someone to talk to.  It was good to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a while, and meet new ones throughout the NWPA diocese, including Canon Martha and Bishop Sean.  The feeling of “one church” was clearly evident.

As the day was winding down, we counted down things that were close to being sold out.  After the last kielbasa was sold, we shouted a loud “Amen” that caughtphoto-sep-05-10-14-43-am the attention of those nearby. Seeing the Bishop work in the different sections was such a pleasure, especially when he was a cashier talking to the customers.  We talked, laughed and maybe even sang and danced with others there feeling the energy flowing throughout the place.  To the bittersweet end where we tore down everything, I couldn’t have imagined things going too much better. I left feeling proud of all the accomplishments this day had made, and was glad that I was involved and witnessed something that wondrous.

In the amazement of how everything went, I think, as a new Episcopal church we are ready to tackle anything that comes our way. The support and thankfulness we felt with all the other people of the churches in the diocese is overwhelming. Together, I believe, that since we got through this, then we can get through many things our church will face. I, as well as others, are very hopeful for the future. ”  Laura Betz, Hermitage Church Plant


Pastor Jason Shank, Hermitage Church Plant

‘Courage To Follow A Call’ by Nina Palattella

Nina Palattella is a high school senior blogging about her experience as a Christian. Click here to read Nina’s previous blog posts.

Hello again and welcome to my seventh blog post! I hope that all of you are enjoying the return of spring and the Easter season. Easter is a universal time of joy in the church; although Lent was in my church a necessary and productive period of reflection, I was happy to enter into a multi-week celebration of Christ’s return that includes flowers throughout the church, loud hymns, and unapologetic use of the “alleluia.”

I have another piece of happy news to report—after much stress, research, and careful deliberation, I have decided that I will be attending the Honors College at Kent State University this fall! I made my last visit to another large research university, my second top choice, this past Thursday, and after that I felt I had all the information necessary to make my decision, and I wanted to go to Kent. I am looking forward to being a student of the Honors College and living in a dorm with other kids in that program, and I am excited to begin my studies as an English major under the direction of very competent and enthusiastic faculty. My brother will be around to help me if necessary, but we don’t expect to run into each other all the time, which is most likely a good thing.

12957437_1154559797910014_7548171173434636891_o  Earlier this month, my church had the pleasure of hosting the annual North American Conference of Cathedral Deans; as the name suggests, priests from cathedrals around the continent converge in a different location each year for a long weekend of discussion, prayer, and fellowship. The conference is not usually hosted in locations as humble as Erie, Pennsylvania (think Jerusalem and Hawaii), but the dean of my cathedral made a very convincing argument—the phrase “Rust Belt Chic” was mentioned more than once. I was not present for all the events of the conference, but our congregation was praised many times for their involvement in the entire process, including showing the deans around our (unfortunately cold) city, baking and arranging treats to be served after the Sunday service, and simply being visiting with our guests. My parents spoke repeatedly of the wide variety of friendly, interesting priests whom they had the pleasure of meeting; the deans included people from different generations, genders, races, nationalities, sexual orientations, and cultural backgrounds, reflecting the wide reaches of the bonds and acceptance of Christ, which is a wonderful aspect of the Episcopal church that has always made me proud to be a member.

12321334_564938103673208_5533117079208251553_n At the last gathering of The Vine, the Episcopal youth group in my community, we had the pleasure of having the Very Reverend Miguelina Howell come to speak to us. Rev. Howell currently serves as the dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut, and when she was installed in early 2016 she became the first Hispanic woman to be elected dean of an Episcopal church in the United States. In addition to the short PowerPoint presentation she prepared, Reverend Howell spoke about her experience growing up in the Dominican Republic as well as preaching there and in the US. She told stories about her parents, and spoke very affectionately of her father, who was not formally educated but insisted upon education for his children. She talked about a camp that helps serve the youth of Santo Domingo, which seemed very similar to the church camp that I attend except that it operates year-round, helping better the lives of children who are often very poor and disadvantaged. I admired that she has done so much great work in the country where she grew up, but followed what she felt was her call to serve in the United States. It often takes a great deal of bravery to recognize exactly what our individual call to serve might be, and it requires even more courage to follow it, but great people like Reverend Howell have shown me that it can be done.

After the conference had ended, my dean gave a sermon that tied in the theme of the conference, which focused on the perseverance of faith in times of loss and hope. Cathedrals, he said, are different from regular churches because they are at the heart of the community, both in terms of location and involvement in the lives of the people whom they serve, and the Cathedral of St. Paul is involved in its community through varied efforts such as food pantry, outreach dinners, and special events such as the conference. Christianity, cathedrals, my community and similar communities across the country—each of these has experienced its own form of loss, from declining attendance to declining populations to financial uncertainty. Change is evident in every facet of life, and occasions like this conference give us a multitude of reasons to be hopeful; they show us that our work is appreciated, worth continuing, and far from finished.

Nina Palattella, The Cathedral of St. Paul

The Rev. Tim Dyer is Kintsugi

This is the third and final installment in a three part series highlighting the stories of our three seminarians. Click here to read stories about the other two seminarians.

kintsugiKintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using lacquer and gold. The broken pieces are soldered back together with gold in the seams. The philosophy is that the pottery’s brokenness is part of its history and does not need to be hidden. Many regard the finished product as even more beautiful than the original. Something broken is remade into something stunning and useful.

The Rev. Tim Dyer considers himself a piece of Kintsugi. He has been broken both emotionally and physically and has been remade. Though he is shy about talking about his strengths, there is gold in his seams. Rightfully so, he attributes that remaking and the gold to God’s handiwork.

The story of Tim’s accident and near death is no secret [Click here to read an account by Vanessa Butler reprinted from “The Forward,” September of 2013]. Tim was literally broken in several places after a deer hit his car in November 2012. He spent 6 months in the hospital and at one point was not expected to live. He has been through a long road to recovery and in some ways is still broken: “I used to be able to bench press 450 pounds.” Being strong and physical was one of the ways Tim defined his identity before the accident. He is still relearning how to do things and is limited. Now, over three years after his accident, he can barely wield a shovel before his partially healed wrist swells up and keeps him from doing physical labor. He has struggled with losing that part of his identity.

The story of Tim’s brokenness that many don’t know is his ‘prodigal son’ experience. As a very young man Tim joined the Marines and was stationed in Spain. While there, he had a challenging relationship with his stateside girlfriend that ended up in a very emotional breakup. In response, Tim stayed drunk for two years and blamed God for his hurt. He couldn’t get leave to come home so it was easier to act like home wasn’t there and he isolated himself from his family. He was later transferred to California and, while there, started using crystal meth. When he realized it was killing him, he quit but at that point was too embarrassed to go home.

Unbeknownst to Tim, his father had been praying that Tim would return home and return to God. God answers prayers in mysterious ways sometimes. Tim got a call in 1999 that his father had a heart attack (which he survived). Tim knew it was time to come home.

Since then, God has soldered Tim’s broken pieces back together. It started with his family accepting him back without question. Tim then found his life partner, Noreen, and together they started going to church. Tim started feeling acceptance there as well and started getting involved by being a lay reader and a lay minister. Tim later figured out that the turning point for him was when he forgave himself and turned back to God: “God had forgiven me a long time before.”

16969_100564616643449_761487_nTim then started discerning a call to the priesthood and was guided in that decision by Deacon Michael Bauschard: “His dedication was an incredible example to me.” Tim officially entered the ordination process in 2007. He took local courses and, after the hiatus due to his accident, completed his bachelor’s degree in the summer of 2014. He was ordained to the transitional diaconate, surrounded by family, friends and supporters from across the diocese, in February 2015. This past June, Tim began his Masters in Divinity studies in the Church Divinity School of the Pacific’s low residence program and expects to graduate in 2019.

God has soldered Tim back physically as well. No, Tim may not be able to bench press that 450 pounds anymore, but he and Noreen are a team. What one could do before, two can now do even better. They get everything done together. Tim says that you don’t really know him completely until you get to know Noreen.

God has certainly reinforced Tim’s broken pieces with gold. Tim sees his story of brokenness as what has made him who he is. He is able to use it to relate to others. He has known what is like to be isolated from God and family and then to come back and is able to guide others through similar experiences. Tim feels called to be in relationship with people and to serve at a small local church. The way Tim identifies himself is no longer as someone with physical strength, but, rather, as a child of God. “When we place our identity in Jesus Christ we become secure because Christ is always with us.”

Tim lives out that identity through his service to others. He is a Clergy Associate for Pastoral Ministries and sees part of his ministry as helping to facilitate a different understanding of what pastoral care is about. He says, “the worship we do on Sundays is practice for what we are to take into the world and share, but we need to make sure we share that with each other too.” Tim is also the founder of the “The Children of Abraham Project,” through which he helps bring Christians, Muslims and Jews together to understand each other. Tim truly believes in living out this question from the Baptismal covenant: “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”

Tim is also grateful for all the support and love he has received from his community at the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. He is thankful for all the people who have taught him, guided him and supported him through his accident and ordination process. “Interacting with the body of Christ, my community, pushes my boundaries and forms me. I look forward to more of that.”

You can find the Rev. Tim Dyer, golden seams and all, at Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church in Warren and St. Francis Episcopal Church in Youngsville serving as a deacon. He is there giving back what has been given to him and helping to solder broken pieces back together.

Julien Goulet, Assistant to Communications and Administration, Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

An Experience of Hope

11403393_854156641327925_1203294868460555483_nThere is always a danger when comparing events which span 27 years, but….. Having the privilege of being a deputy for 10 conventions, this is one of the best for me. I sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in a very strong way through the debate, in times on and off the floor, in the hallways in the hotel. A spirit of gentleness and peace, even in the heat of debate on controversial and important issues.   My experience has been one of increasing hope as each day passes.

On Sunday I participated in the Claim It: Finding Common Ground prayer/walk event. Walking about a mile with about 1500 bishops, deputies, folks from Salt Lake City and the surrounding area, Quakers Against Violence, and hearing several powerful presentations by persons with intimate knowledge of such violence was a profound and moving experience of hope that we as a nation can comeCIylHCiUEAERW-- together to find that common ground against gun violence.

Passage of Resolutions B-009, D-005 and D-009 in the House of Deputies gives me hope that we, as a church, can respond to Presiding Bishop Katharine’s call to the Church, echoing the invitation of Jesus: Talitha cumi – Get up, little girl. These resolutions will provide funding for essential ministry for evangelism, church planting, and church redevelopment and provide us with tools to GET UP! Pray for the House of Bishops as they consider these resolutions

Today (Wednesday) we have an extremely full agenda as we look at major resolutions on the restructuring of the church for more effective mission, marriage, and the budget for the next triennium. Pray for us as we debate these important, controversial resolutions.

I have seen other small witnesses to hope that are like beautiful flowers growing through cracks in a sidewalk…. the largest number of deputies who are here for the first time, the most deputies 30 and under, an almost 50-50 ratio between male and female. The legislative committee (Evangelism and Communication) that I had the privilege to co-chair was an example of how kingdom-work can be done. Seeing deputies pushing strollers, walking with toddlers and remembering the sound of a small child’s voice ringing out above all others at the end of the Lord’s prayer during Eucharist gives me great hope for the future.

As our diocesan mission statement reminds us …WE ARE ONE CHURCH. As Bishop Sean often reminds us…IT’S A GREAT DAY IN THE KINGDOM.   Please continue to pray for your deputies, Bishop, ECW delegates and all at Convention. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you as a deputy for the 10th time.   Shalom!

The Rev. Canon Dennis Blauser, Deputy, Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

Steady, Diligent, Dedicated Faith

Brian ReidNot all faith journeys are like the Road to Damascus. Most of us do not get knocked off our horse with the blinding light of revelation. Many think that they need this kind of conversion for their faith story to be relevant. Canon Brian Reid has a different understanding. He believes that a slow and steady faith journey can lift you up. His journey is more like the road that the Good Samaritan found himself on when he helped the man beaten by robbers. The road where we do what faith demands of us without expectation of reward or blinding light revelations.

A cradle Episcopalian, Brian Reid was born in Detroit, Michigan, and took what he describes as a “bizarre” path to the priesthood, the type of path that we don’t see all too often these days. He went from high school to college and then straight to seminary and into the priesthood. He says that he knew in high school that he wanted to be a priest but this was not news to his family. “My parents said they knew from when I was little that I would be a priest.”

Brian was deeply formed by his experience in seminary at Nashotah House. He says it didn’t just give him an education, it formed him as a priest: “Nashotah made you know what a community is, how a priest is formed by and forms that community.” He felt that, in the midst of a society that was “experimenting” in the early 1970s, Nashotah grounded him in tradition. The experience of morning and evening prayer every day taught him that life does not have to have “one continuous spiritual high or one continuous spiritual low.” Slow and steady can lift you.

Within 6 months of his first assignment in an inner city church in Detroit, the rector left, essentially leaving Brian in charge. He headed up a predominantly white congregation in a predominantly black neighborhood: “I got to know all sorts of and conditions of people.” After that experience and some supply work, he found himself in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania (then known as the Diocese of Erie). “My mother grew up in DuBois and my aunt who still lived in Pennsylvania pestered the Bishop until he gave me a job.”

And this is where Canon Reid became the guru of Canons. As a young priest in the Diocese in the late 1970s, Father Reid was asked to be part of the Constitutions and Canons Committee. It was an important time for the Diocese as we were figuring out how to combine the Diocesan Council with the Board of Trustees. “Being new, I read the Canons and prepared by thinking about what we might do.” He became at his first Constitution and Canons meeting, and remains still, the Diocese’s go-to expert on the Canons. In fact, when we decided to simplify our structure after Bishop Sean’s consecration Canon Reid produced the first draft. He is humble about his expertise. Around 1980, Canon Reid, took classes at Penn State Behrend and now has the credentials to be a paralegal. “I guess I like the Law,” he says.

And the rest is an almost 40 year history of steady dedication and commitment to faith and to lifting up the people and congregations of this Diocese. Canon Reid has served at Osceola Mills, Houtzdale, Youngsville, Warren, Franklin, Brookville, Emporium, St. Mary’s, Rigeway and DuBois. He also has mentored countless students in his role teaching classes on scripture at the School for Ministry and his role on the Commission on Ministry. He has not only shaped the laws of the Diocese in his role on Constitutions and Canons but has helped guide the Diocese in his role on the Standing Committee. He even taught New Testament Greek in his time at Youngsville!

Canon Reid says that the Diocese is still struggling with the same issues it did when he first arrived, and even from when it first started in 1910, that we feel “small, poor and ignored and we struggle to become church in that context.” He says we will continue to struggle and that one of the glories of the Anglican Communion is what he calls, “Holy Plodding.” “You put one foot in front of the other.” His advice to new clergy is to “remember it is not up to you and it is not your responsibility to save the world but rather to continue plodding along with the task God has given you.”

Some of you may not know that Canon Reid is a pilot and has been since he was a teenager. He owns two planes and has flown to Vegas, Florida, the Bahamas, Northern Michigan, Colorado, Canada and Long Island to name just a few. Flying is a liberating experience for him. His philosophy about flying sounds like good advice for all of us: “You can’t be thinking about what you left on the ground. You have to attend to what you are doing.”

We are thankful for Canon Reid’s dedicated and steady attention to lifting up this Diocese.

Julien Goulet, Assistant for Communications and Administration, The Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

Fr. Rowe’s Holey Donut Ministry

14958_849088981803061_1158887782248200972_nI began my nursing home ministry as a diaconal ministry in 1998. It was to a group of people I enjoyed talking to and being around. I enjoyed my grandmother and grandfather a lot and I spent a great deal of time with them in my childhood and teen years. When my grandmother died at 93, she was the oldest active member of her church. She was always active at her church and taught Sunday School. She was a great evangelist and teacher for me.

So when I needed to find a way of expressing my call to the ministry, I began to seek a place to minister to people where there was a need I felt I could meet, and where I would not need specialized training to begin. My daughter Carrie, as a young teenager, used to ride her bicycle to visit a nursing home only about a mile away from our home, and would go to just talk to residents who “needed a visit.” I started thinking about a nursing home that I used to walk past on my way to HS. I thought about it a lot. I needed to have a place to do practical assignments as I studied with the Diocesan School for Ministry. I discussed it with my wife Pat, ad nauseam, until she finally said one day, “take your BCP and just go do it!” I did. And still do.

Many of these residents are people who have gone to church their entire lives and now are not able to go. Some are people who rarely attended church but now are facing serious health and spiritual issues, and are concerned about “what’s next” for them. Some are facing dementia of one type or another, and find comfort in experiencing regular and familiar worship in Evening Prayer. There are many who ask for prayer for healing, for family and friends, or who just want a blessing to end their day. I remember fondly two dear souls, Margaret and Betty, who wanted to attend my ordination to the diaconate in 2002. The nursing home made it possible by providing transportation and sending a nurse and an aide. They were thrilled to be there. The then Fr. Sean Rowe preached a great sermon. They were overwhelmed by Bishop Rowley’s personal greeting of them. They both lived another 5 or 6 years at the nursing home and reminisced about it a lot. They were two special people in my 15 to 20 person, ever changing congregation.

When I began this ministry, I took “genuine” donuts (from Dunkin Donuts) as this is yet another thing they miss out on in a doughnuts-634021_1280nursing home. It’s “holey food.” (They get the humor.) In 1998, when I began this ministry, I referred to these residents as older people, but now, as I approach my 68th year on this earth, I just say it’s a ministry to mature adults! They need the gospel as much as any of God’s people. It’s a great ministry and I commend it to you. There are many nursing home opportunities. And yes, I still take “genuine” Dunkin’ Donuts each week.

The Rev. Richard Rowe, who currently serves at St. John’s, Franklin

Bishop Sean and 3 other Pennsylvania Episcopal Bishops urge passage of non-discrimination bill

“Jesus commanded us to love one another, and he listed no exceptions.”

Bishops of the five Episcopal dioceses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania called on the state legislature to pass the Pennsylvania Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing, and other public accommodations.

The bishops who signed the letter are:

Bishop Clifton Daniel, 3rd, of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, which includes Philadelphia

Bishop Robert R. Gepert, of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, which includes Harrisburg

Bishop Dorsey W. M. McConnell, of the Diocese of Pittsburgh

Bishop Sean Rowe, who serves both the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, which includes Erie, and the Diocese of Bethlehem, which includes the northeastern quarter of the state

The text of the letter follows:

“As bishops of the Episcopal Church and citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we urge the state legislature to pass the Pennsylvania Non-Discrimination Act (HB/SB 300).

“The proposed law would prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing, and public accommodations such as hotel lodgings or restaurant service. It would also preserve existing protections that insure faith communities have sole discretion in determining whom to hire and whom to include in their religious rituals.

“Our support for the Non-Discrimination Act is rooted in our faith. Sacred scripture teaches us that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore must be treated with dignity and respect. As Christians, we follow a savior who spent much of his earthly ministry among the cast off and the cast out, and we are called to advocate on behalf of the vulnerable and the marginalized. Jesus commanded us to love one another, and he listed no exceptions.

“Were we not Christians, however, we would still support the Non-Discrimination Act. One does not have to profess a particular faith to understand that there is no justifiable reason to fire, evict or deny services to a citizen of our commonwealth based on considerations such as sex, race, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. It is simply unfair.

“The Episcopal Church has struggled faithfully for more than three decades to reform its own discriminatory policies and practices toward LGBT people. In that struggle we have come to understand what was already obvious to some of our fellow citizens all along: that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are gifts to our families, our friends and our communities. We are richer for their presence, and it is past time for us to acknowledge that we share a common humanity and therefore must be equal in the eyes of the law.”

Yours in Christ,

The Right Reverend Clifton Daniel, 3rd, Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania

The Right Reverend Robert R. Gepert, Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania

The Right Reverend Dorsey W. M. McConnell, Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh

The Right Reverend Sean Rowe, Bishop of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Bethlehem

justice-450209_1280