House of Deputies


President Jennings delivered these remarks to Executive Council on June 9 at the beginning of a meeting held in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Good morning. I’m glad to be here with you in the Diocese of Puerto Rico. It’s been nearly ten years since Executive Council convened in Province IX, and although this meeting has been planned for some time, it’s fortunate that we are here both to share the excitement about the ordination and consecration of Rafael Morales as bishop next month and to learn more about the debt crisis that is burdening the lives of so many people here. I am grateful for the hospitality of everyone who is making our visit possible.

I am also glad to be with all of you because it is a very difficult time in the United States to be a Christian committed to justice and peace among all people and the dignity of every person, and it is good to be together in the midst of that difficulty. In April, Bishop Ed and I attended a conference in Chicago sponsored by Bishops United Against Gun Violence called “Unholy Trinity:  the Intersection of Racism, Poverty, and Gun Violence.” While I was there, I moderated a panel discussion with three extraordinary leaders who helped me to see even more clearly the church’s historic and contemporary complicity with white supremacy and anti-black ideology. Tomorrow morning, Bishop Ed, who was one of the conference’s leaders, is going to lead us in a discussion about this unholy trinty, and I will be glad to reflect with all of you on what is required of us in these difficult times.

At the conference, my friend the bishop of Newark, Bishop Mark Beckwith, said, “Since the November elections, many of us feel as though the house is on fire and we have only one bucket of water. And we are asking ourselves, where do we pour that bucket?” We studied Bible passages like the difficult passages from 2 Kings and 2 Samuel that we tackled at the Unholy Trinity conference, and we know from those and others that God commands us to welcome the alien in our midst, to care for creation, and to stand with the oppressed in the face of violence and injustice. And then we turn on the news and know that we have to speak, we have to act. But as they say, life comes at you fast.

So, right now, I’m imagining that I have three buckets of water. Here’s what I’m doing with them:

Bucket one is the Stand With Refugees Campaign taking place next week. Thanks to the work of the Office of Government Relations and Episcopal Migration Ministries, we Episcopalians have the opportunity to advocate for the fiscal year 2018 federal budget to include funding for refugee protection, assistance, and resettlement. Here’s what Lacy Broemel from OGR wrote in the action alert recently posted on the Episcopal Public Policy Network website. “During the worst human displacement crisis in history, the time is now to urge Congress to allocate funds to assist the most vulnerable displaced persons and to support increasing refugee resettlement admissions to at least 75,000 refugees.” There are more than 21 million refugees in our world today, so resettling 75,000 of them is a pretty modest commitment.

Bucket two:  The Texas Legislature. Some of you will remember that the Presiding Bishop and I wrote a letter to Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus objecting to the proposed “bathroom bill” that the Texas Senate, but not the House, passed in its last legislative session. The bill became a source of political struggle, as you’ll know if you’ve been following the news from Austin in recent weeks. Just a few days ago, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called the legislature back for a special session beginning July 18 and said that he wants a bathroom bill, which would discriminate against transgender people, to be passed. I’m paying close attention, the presiding bishop and the executive secretary are paying attention, to this situation and to the legal challenges that are already arising to Texas State Bill 4, which threatens law enforcement officials with stiff penalties if they fail to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The bill also allows police officers—even campus police--to question people about immigration status during arrests or even traffic stops. We are watching the situation very closely with an eye to ensuring the safety and dignity of everyone traveling to General Convention next summer. 

Bucket three:  Since 1979, General Convention has been on record in favor of environmental sustainability and stewardship and environmental justice. In 2015, just two years ago, we passed several environmental stewardship resolutions and commended Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change in advance of the Paris climate summit. The Episcopal Church had a very active presence, led by Bishop Marc Andrus of California, at the Paris conference. And then, last week, President Trump decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.

Since then, many cities, states, universities, and other institutions have announced that they will continue to support the Paris climate accord and abide by its goals. I hope that Episcopalians at all levels of the church will do the same, ensuring that our decades-long witness to the stewardship of God’s creation and the compatibility of science and faith remain strong and steady during this perilous time for our planet. It’s especially appropriate for us to think about this issue here while we are in Puerto Rico, which is one of the most vulnerable places on Earth to the impacts of climate change.

So, after prayer and reflection, these are the three priorities where I’m pouring my three buckets of water. During this meeting, as we pray and study and talk together, I’m looking forward to hearing about where God is leading you to pour yours.

EMMLast week, Episcopal Migration Ministries, the refugee resettlement agency of the Episcopal Church, launched a fundraising campaign called Stand To Support Refugees. Funds donated will support the Episcopal Church’s ministry to refugees, which began in the nineteenth century and expanded to include refugee resettlement with the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980.

The campaign is prompted by the Trump administration’s attempts to suspend refugee resettlement entirely for 120 days and reduce by more than 50% the number of refugees scheduled to be resettled in the United States. President Trump has signed two executive orders suspending the refugee resettlement program, but both have been blocked by federal judges.

Despite the temporary rulings, federal funding for refugee resettlement has been slashed, and grants to Episcopal Migration Ministries and other refugee resettlement agencies have decreased dramatically. But the Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, says that the agency’s work will continue despite funding shortfalls.

“Episcopal Migration Ministries is committed to embracing the command of Jesus, and his definition of neighbor,” Stevenson said. “We recognize that there is little to fear from those who have themselves fled violence for fear of their lives. We respect and value the dignity of every human being. Our interest is only in being ‘neighbor’ to those who need to know peace and comfort.”

“The Stand To Support Refugees campaign will fund ministries and will lay the groundwork for a strong future,” he said.

To contribute to Stand To Support Refugees, visit Episcopal Migration Ministries online.

Apoyemos el Ministerio Episcopal de Migración y la Red Episcopal de Política Pública

Estimados Diputados: 

Como muchos de ustedes, he visto la semana pasada el desarrollo de las noticias de Washington, D.C. con creciente incredulidad y miedo para los más vulnerable entre nosotros. Los esfuerzos de la nueva administración de revocar La Ley del Cuidado de Salud a Bajo Precio sin sustitución adecuada, de hacer callar a los periodistas y activistas, y distorsionar nuestra conversación nacional con mentiras, me inquietan como americana y una persona de fe. Tengo la intención de resistir.

Me horroriza particularmente la prohibición de refugiados que el presidente Trump firmó el viernes por la tarde. Simplemente es un acto de malicia, particularmente hacia nuestras hermanas y hermanos musulmanes, y los cristianos debemos oponerla en voz alta y con fuerza. Muchos de ustedes lo están haciendo, y estoy agradecida por las declaraciones y sermones que he visto y las fotos en mi Facebook de episcopales reunidos en aeropuertos y otros sitios de protesta para expresar el compromiso de nuestra iglesia de darle la bienvenida al extranjero. Se explica este compromiso en medidas de la Convención General que datan de 1979 (la fecha más temprana del archivo digitalizado) en el sitio web de Archivos de la Iglesia Episcopal.  

Ahora mismo, más de 65 millones de personas están desplazados por guerra, conflictos y persecuciones—el número más grande desde que se tiene registro histórico. Tenemos una responsabilidad urgente y moral de acoger a los refugiados y solicitantes de asilo que tienen una necesidad extrema.

Como cristianos, debemos preocuparnos particularmente con el hecho de que la prohibición de los refugiados se centra en las personas de siete países de mayoría musulmana. El mandamiento de Dios de darle la bienvenida al desconocido y cuidar a los extranjeros es un mandato a darles la bienvenida a toda persona, independiente de su fe. Como Dios en la Biblia hebraica mandó a los judíos a darles la bienvenida a los desconocidos no judíos, nos manda a darles la bienvenida a las personas de diferentes religiones. Una prohibición de refugiados que se dirige a los musulmanes, o que les da a los cristianos una prioridad especial para reasentamiento en detrimento de otras personas perseguidas simplemente porque son cristianos, es fundamentalmente no cristiana.

Tal prohibición también es innecesaria. Los EE.UU. tienen el proceso de selección de refugiados más riguroso del mundo, involucrando el Departamento de Defensa, Departamento de Estado, Departamento de Seguridad Nacional, la Oficina de Investigación Federal, y el Centro Nacional Contra el Terrorismo. El proceso involucra controles biométricos, exámenes médicos, análisis forenses de documentos, análisis de ADN para los casos de reunificación familiar, y entrevistas personales con funcionarios altamente capacitados del Departamento de Seguridad.

Como episcopales, podemos sentirnos especialmente orgullosos de nuestra larga historia del reasentamiento de refugiados. El Ministerio Episcopal de Migración (EMM) es uno de nueve agencias de reasentamiento en los EE.UU., y desde 1988, trabajando bajo ambas administraciones republicanas y demócratas, les hemos dado la bienvenida a más de 50.000 refugiados en colaboración con diócesis, congregaciones, organizaciones comunitarias y voluntarios por todo el país. En solo el 2015, EMM facilitó el reasentamiento de casi 5.000 refugiados en 30 comunidades trabajando con agencias de colaboración locales en 26 diócesis y 22 estados.

Durante el fin de semana, conversé con el Rvdo. Canónigo Mark Stevenson, el director de EMM, y le aseguré de mis oraciones y mi ayuda para él y su equipo mientras navegan estos tiempos extraordinariamente difíciles. Recuerden por favor a la gente del Ministerio Episcopal de Migración en sus propias oraciones y aprovechen la oportunidad de aprender más sobre este ministerio importante de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Hoy día Rebecca Blachly, la directora de la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal, y su equipo iniciaron una nueva iniciativa de defensa llamada la Campaña 2x4 de Luchar para los Refugiados (2x4 Fight for Refugees Campaign). Yo voy a participar, y espero que se unan conmigo. Cuando participamos en la campaña, nos comprometemos a llamar a nuestros funcionarios electos a nivel nacional, estatal y local cuatro veces durante los próximas dos meses en nombre de refugiados. Pueden aprender más sobre la campaña y encontrar materiales en línea, y suscribirse para más alertas de abogacía de este y otros temas participando en la Red Episcopal de Política Pública.

Presumo que estaremos en contacto unos a otros en los próximos meses a medida que conocemos de maneras nuevas de abogar por las políticas de la Convención General y el testigo de la Iglesia Episcopal en el mundo. Espero trabajar juntos y estar con todos ustedes en la Convención General en el 2018.


Gay Clark Jennings

Dear Deputies:

Like many of you, in the last week I have watched the news from Washington D.C. unfold with increasing disbelief and growing fear for the most vulnerable among us. The new administration's efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a suitable replacement, silence journalists and advocates, and distort our national conversation with lies disturb me as an American and a person of faith. I intend to resist.

I am particularly horrified by the ban on refugees signed by President Trump on Friday evening. It is quite simply an act of malice, particularly toward our Muslim sisters and brothers, and Christians must oppose it loudly and with strength. Many of you are doing so, and I am grateful for the statements and sermons I have seen and the photos in my Facebook feed of Episcopalians gathered at airports and other protest sites to express our church's commitment to welcoming the stranger. You can find that commitment articulated in actions of General Convention dating back to 1979 (the earliest date at which the archive is digitized) on the website of the Archives of the Episcopal Church.

Right now, more than 65 million people are currently displaced by war, conflict and persecution--the largest number in recorded history. We have an urgent moral responsibility to receive refugees and asylum seekers who are in dire need.

As Christians, we should be particularly worried that the refugee ban targets people from seven majority-Muslim countries. God's command to welcome the stranger and care for aliens is a mandate to welcome all people, regardless of their faiths. Just as God in the Hebrew Bible commanded the Jews to welcome non-Jewish strangers, we are commanded to welcome people who practice different faiths. A refugee ban that specifically targets Muslim people, or that gives Christians special priority for resettlement above other persecuted people simply because they are Christian, is fundamentally un-Christian.

Cabinet confirmation hearings begin tomorrow

The Senate tomorrow begins confirmation hearings on President-elect Trump's cabinet nominees. This is an opportunity for Episcopalians to urge their senators to determine where the nominees stand on one of the most important humanitarian issues of our day: the resettlement of refugees in the United States.

Call your senators and ask them to pose the following questions, provided by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. The Episcopal Church is a member of the coalition, and the questions are endorsed by the Office of Government Relations:

  • The U.S. refugee resettlement program has operated for more than 40 years, always with bipartisan support. Refugees are rigorously vetted by the Department of Defense, State Department, Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and National Counter Terrorism Center. Resettlement is critical to refugees, communities that welcome them, and U.S. diplomatic efforts on regional stability, international security and the war on global terror. Will you affirm the importance of the refugee resettlement program?
  • Many U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are waiting to be reunited with an immediate family member through the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Family reunification is a fundamental human need, helps refugees integrate in their communities, and is part of U.S. obligations under the Refugee Convention. Will you affirm the importance of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, especially in the case of family reunification?
  • Do you believe that immigrants from certain nationalities or religions should be barred from the United States and/or tracked/surveilled while in the United States? If so, how would you defend this position given our country's legacy and laws regarding religious freedom, civil liberties and equal protection?

More information, including a list of Senate committees preparing for these hearings and senators' contact information can be found on the Interfaith Immigration Coalition website.

Visit the website of the Archives of the Episcopal Church to read General Convention resolutions about refugees dating back to 1979.