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Episcopal Bishops Expand Carbon Footprint in Alaska

Episcopal Bishops Expand Carbon Footprint in Alaska
Alaska Diocese ASA dropped by double digit -18.8% - the largest double-digit drop in TEC
Fate of diocese hangs in the balance with Indigenous groups rejecting gay marriage

By David W. Virtue, DD
Sept. 25, 2017

The Episcopal Church's bishops gathered in Alaska this week, expanding their carbon footprint even as they embrace environmental justice. This is the first House of Bishops meeting hosted by the Diocese of Alaska. Bishop Mark Lattime played host to some 115 bishops, some accompanied by spouses.

This is the second time the HOB has embraced their inner environmental selves and pushed their carbon footprint. The last time was an overseas jaunt to Taiwan, where the diocese was so small many of the bishops didn't know what to do with themselves a lot of the time.

This trip to Alaska was billed as a focus on indigenous culture as well as environmental justice.

There is profound irony about the choice of location.

Recent statistics reveal the Alaska diocese had dropped by a whopping 18.8% - the only domestic diocese that had an ASA double-digit percentage loss!

The reason for the attendance decline coincides with new ACNA parishes in Fairbanks and Anchorage!

One wonders if Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was aware of that.

In a blurb about his diocese writes, Bishop Lattime wrote; "Here, at The EDGE of a New Millennium, we are at the threshold of Evangelism and Discipleship through Gospel Engagement. We come together as a Diocese to focus on the Gospel and to see what God is calling us to do as individuals, as communities of faith, as a Diocese and as a "National" church." The diocese claims 50 Episcopal congregations spread across the entire state of Alaska.

This is hardly the language of inclusion and diversity, but it does get dangerously close to Curry's beloved community notions encased in the Jesus Movement.

The bishops pledged support for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in a sign (see above) that they held up. The sign was displayed from a bridge in Fairbanks on Sept. 23, during one of several events and trips planned on the themes of creation care and environmental justice. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Two Native elders, Will Mayo and Steve Ginnis, joined Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in welcoming the bishops in a diocese that is predominantly Native American. Mayo is a past president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference. Ginnis is the executive director of the Fairbanks Native Association.

The Episcopal Diocese of Alaska was established in 1895. It has the largest geographical reach of any diocese in the Episcopal Church, with approximately 7,000 members spread across 50 congregations.

Mark MacDonald became the first National Indigenous Bishop under the Anglican Church of Canada. He was formerly assistant bishop in Navajoland (2007--2009). He holds dual citizenship.

But the ACoC's struggle over same-sex marriage has seriously upset Native American and indigenous Anglicans because they hold traditional views of marriage that are at odds with the ACoC, which has drunk deeply of the waters of pansexuality, aided and abetted by its primate, Fred Hiltz, who would like his Church to fully embrace homosexual marriage and the full range of LGBTQI sexualities.

July's vote on same-sex marriage at General Synod led Indigenous Anglicans to "proceed towards self-determination with urgency," pronounced the Anglican Church of Canada's three Indigenous bishops.

General Synod voted this summer to provisionally approve changes to the marriage canon, which would allow same-sex marriages. The proposed changes must pass a second reading, slated for the next General Synod in 2019, before they can take effect.

However, National Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald; Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh; and Bishop Adam Halkett, of Missinipi, released a joint statement saying the July vote did not speak for all Indigenous peoples, adding they had consulted "broadly and deeply" with many. The statement voiced displeasure both with the decision and the process by which it was made, and expressed desire for a more self-determined Indigenous Anglican community in Canada.

"We do not agree with the decision and believe that it puts our communities in a difficult place with regards to our relation and community with the Anglican Church of Canada," the bishops said. Gay Marriage was first touted as an issue of colonial oppression, but later reports have made the issue theological in nature.

As a result, the bishops said they will proceed towards self-determination with all urgency.

This puts the Diocese of Alaska in a quandary. If the indigenous groups which make up 90% or more of the diocese reject pansexuality in both the Episcopal Church and the ACoC and they withdraw as a separate indigenous body, this could split the diocese.

In nearly every country of the world where indigenous groups have been Christianized, they have upheld traditional views of marriage. (Polygamy has been soundly rejected by African Anglican dioceses). This is the case in Canada, and could prove a serious thorn in the side of the empty talks of reconciliation that Archbishop Fred Hiltz loves to preach to African Anglicans, even as a simmering split lurks in his own Church.


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