Friday, September 19, 2014

Far East Daily Blog #6

September 18, 2014 Today members of the HoB and their spouses were divided into four different groups to go on field-trip excursions to visit important functional entities of the Diocese of Taiwan. The group to which Carolyn and I were assigned boarded a bus this morning to make the 45 minute trek to St. John's University in Taipei. Let me tell you something about St. John's University. Founded in Mainland China in 1879 in Shanghai, development of the university was spearheaded by American Bishop Samuel Issac Joseph Schereshewsky who had arrived there in 1845. With colleges in the humanities, engineering, and medicine, the institution constantly grew to the point of being a major influence in Shanghai. However, with the revolution that began after WWII in 1949 the new government leaders were less than sympathetic to its founding faith-based principles. Consequently St. John’s was closed in 1952 and combined with another existing institution. During the next decade some of the staff and faculty moved to Taipei, Taiwan and envisioned a new start for the school in the Republic of China. Through the support and inspiration of Bishop James Wang, the first full fledged bishop of the Diocese of Taiwan, blueprints were drawn up, and construction was begun. With Bishop Wang’s encouragement TEC became financially involved. In 1970, just subsequent to Bishop Wang’s death, the University was reopened in Taipei. Ultimately accredited by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China (Taiwan), the University has produced graduates who have brought significant prominence to the institution. Not only do their graduates include a president of the Republic of China, but also world renown architect I.M. Pei. Last night when Republic of China President Ma Ying-jeou spoke to us he stated that one of his four major strategic goals was economic and technological development. It was obvious to all of us that St. John’s University is producing graduates who can and will help him to achieve that goal. Now thinking about what we experienced today at St. John’s it occurred to me that though this university was founded by forward-thinking leaders of the Diocese of Taiwan and TEC, over 50 years later what should be the role of the church in the education of people at this school? I believe that this question is every bit as applicable for academies in the United States as it is min the Far East. Should we be using the university as a place to form young women and men into mature Christian adults, and if so, how can we do that? Though St. John’s University has a beautiful chapel at the very center of its campus and a full-time Episcopal priest/chaplain, all of the religious formation and instruction is optional. Short of thinking that I know more about young adult ministry than the staff, faculty, and chaplain of St. John’s, is there a better way to accomplish these goals? +Jay

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Far East Daily Blog #5

September 17, 2014 Today was the "official" first day of the House of Bishops meeting in Taipei, Taiwan. As is our usual custom, we began with the opening Eucharist at which at which Presiding Bishop Katharine (Jefferts Schori) was the celebrant and preacher. Since this was the feast of Hildegard of Bingen, Abbess and Mystic (1179), Bishop Katharine's sermon was based upon the historic place of women in the church as they have increasingly been placed in positions of leadership. A central part of her message was that it was not always easy, but that women of fortitude such as Hildegard were the forerunners of those who lead today. After a photo shoot to take pictures of the bishops and spouses, and lunch, the bishops engaged in their first executive session to check in with one another. Let me describe a bit of how this is done. Every three years the bishops at the General Convention the bishops are assigned to table groups of 8-9 bishops. The bishop will stay in his/her table group for the next three years. For all purposes, this is our small group, reference group and extended family. Today in this our extended family we spent time updating one another on the professional and personal events of our lives. While certainly each six-months at these semi-annual meetings I hear stories of successes and achievements, additionally I hear expressions of heart felt statements of family needs. It is humbling, just humbling. Reflecting upon the table group, I have been asking myself a central question: Why would I, as a member of the House of Bishops, want to travel through 13 time zones and half the way around to the globe to be at this meeting? I can think of several reasons not to attend. Had I not attended this meeting my annual budget would have not been decremented for the trip. The time away would have been negated. I could have kept up better with my daily tasks such as real-time correspondence with you. So why would (Carolyn and) I make this trip? The answer is elusively simple. I needed to make this trip to fulfill my ordination vows to participate in the counsels of the church. Additionally, there is another reason, which possibly trumps the first reason. I attend these HoB meetings to represent you and to insure that always your bishops diocesan are reminded of your sacrificial service for the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ. In short, the only way these two tasks can be accomplished is through my attendance at the HoB meetings with my colleague bishops. The evening ended in grand style with a semi-formal a welcome reception hosted by the Diocese of Taiwan. Much to our great surprise, Bishop David Lai, the bishop diocesan, had invited the president of the Republic of China to be the central speaker. I had been told ahead of time that the Mayor of Taipei might be with us. However, we were somewhat stunned to have President Ma Ying-jeou with us. For reasons that many of you, especially our Armed Forces chaplains, will understand, this is a particularly sensitive time in Taiwan. Currently US Pacific Command is engaged with operational units in a huge annual exercise known as Operation Valiant Shield. It is my understanding that a major purpose of this operation is to send a message to the Peoples Republic of China that the United States stands by and will defend the Republic of China/Taiwan and its democratic principles. I have it on good authority that this region of the world, to include the Taiwanese Straights, may be the most sensitive military and political area of the world. According to the "Taipei Times" newspaper, earlier in the day President Ma had been at sea aboard a Perry-class Taiwan Navy frigate to view parts of the maritime operation components. This has been a big day for both the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church and for the Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan. +Jay

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Far East Daily Blog #4

September 16, 2014 Perhaps the highlight of this day is the opportunity Carolyn and I had to travel from Yokohama toTokyo Narita Airport aboard a Japanese fast train. It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to experience the smooth ride of a Japanese train. When we got to the airport it was a pleasure to have met up with so many of the other bishops and their spouses whom Carolyn and I had not seen for several months. The camaraderie between the members of the House of Bishops and their spouses is truly impressive. It is not that we are all in agreement with one another or even in harmonious relationships. We are very different, but those differences give us the opportunity to appreciate one another through an appreciation of our differences. Carolyn and I found that having been in this time zone for over 4 days, we had a significant advantage over most of our peers. Though we are still experiencing some of the effects of jet-lag, for the most part we can sleep when we want to sleep, and be awake and alert when we need to be awake and alert. Though usually most of us take alertness for granted, overcoming the effects of moving through 13 time zones in one day makes for a enlivened appreciation. More tomorrow. +Jay

Monday, September 15, 2014

Far East Daily Blog #3

September 15, 2014 The day began for us under clear skies at Naval Station Yokosuka. Chaplain Cam Fish and I met early and made the trek over to the ships piers where we boarded the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), the command ship for the U.S. Seventh Fleet. After a brief tour of the ship we paid a call upon the Seventh Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Robert Thomas. My greatest amazement came at the briefing he gave me on the extent of his responsibilities in the Far East: essentially from China and Taiwan to Australia and New Zealand. Though the number of ships and Sailors in the fleet is growing, it will always be a tremendous challenge to ensure freedom of the seas for that large an area. As is the case with almost every senior commander with whom I have visited during the past 4+ years, Admiral Thomas is clear that one of his greatest challenges is to keep his people mentally, physically and spiritually sharp. He and Chaplain Cam Fish emphasized to me how important the chaplains of the Fleet are when it comes to the achievement of that goal. After meeting with Admiral Thomas I had a brief visit with his Chief of Staff, Captain Jeffrey Griffin. Like his commander, Captain Griffin emphasized to me how essential it is to have chaplains who can provide very competent religious support to the men and women of the Fleet. Next, we disembarked from the ship and walked over to the offices of the Commander Navy Region Japan where we met with Chaplain Mil Li, the Regional Chaplain. Chaplain Li, a chaplain of the Evangelical Covenant Church, also gave me a good overview of the vast territory for which he is responsible. His task of providing broad religious ministry support is a significant challenge. Yet, he impressed me as a committed and capable leader who is equal to the task. Our meetings for the day concluded with a meal with a number of senior chaplains who had expressed a desire to talk with me about their concerns and my perceptions. The topic of our conversation kept coming back to the question of the quality of chaplains. The expectation is that persons like me who fulfill the role of the Ecclesiastical Endorser will give recruit and access only the best clergy to serve as military chaplains. If I had to pinpoint one take-away from this last meeting it would be that the spiritual care of the men and women of the sea services is in the hands of some very competent Chaplain Corps officers. Tomorrow is a travel day when we will go from Yokosuka, Japan to Taipei, Taiwan for the House of Bishops meeting that begins on Wednesday. More to follow. +Jay

Far East Daily Blog #2

September 14, 2014 This morning Cam and Paulette Fish, and Carolyn and I launched at 0900 in route the Ikego Navy Housing complex where I was scheduled to be the preacher for the Ikego Church. Ikego Church is a new concept Navy chapel community that meets in the combination cafeteria/auditorium of a Department of Defense School. The Navy chaplain-in-charge of the congregation is Saul Burleson. I call this a "new concept" worship service for several reasons. First of all, the service has only been in existence for 5 weeks, and this was the first Sunday that they held worship in the school. Also, the worship style is one with the form of a sacramental/liturgical polity combined with contemporary Christian music. In the service itself, I believe that most Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians would find things that are familiar and to their liking. Perhaps the outstanding part of this community is that it consisted of almost 90 people, at least 30 of whom were probably under the age of 8. I know that about the children because I gathered them together for a kid-talk time just before the sermon. Thinking about what I experienced this morning, several questions come to mind for me. As priests of the church how do we maintain our Anglican sacramental identity when we engage in worship such as this? What is the validity of the sacrament when the presider at Eucharist is a clergy person who is neither “…Ordained by Bishops of Churches in Communion with This Church” nor by “…Bishops in Churches in the Historic Succession but Not in Communion with This Church.” (Quotes are taken from Title III, Canon 10 of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church [2012]) Is the focus of our worship upon us or upon the people who we said we would serve? There are numerous other questions that could be asked, but these serve as a good starter for our contemplation. It is my intention to raise them with those of you who attend the annual Chaplain and Spouse/Partner Training Symposium that will be held this fall at San Damiano. The context and environment of our ministry is changing, and I believe we must do everything we can to stay ahead of the changes by engaging in honest and productive conversation. Tomorrow I’ll be making command calls at Naval Station Yokosuka with Chaplain Cam Fish and then having a conversation with a number of the chaplains who are assigned to commands based here. +Jay

Far East Daily Blog #1

13 September 2014 This is my first blog entry for my two-part trip to the Far East. The initial part of the trip is to Yokosuka, Japan to visit with Chaplain Cam and Paulette Fish. Recently Cam took up his duties as the U.S. 7th Fleet Chaplain. The second part of the trip will be in Taipei, Taiwan for the Fall 2014 House of Bishops meeting. On occasions Carolyn is able to travel with me. This is particularly appropriate when we will be visiting with the spouse of a chaplain. Hence, Carolyn came with me on this trip. We left Reagan National Airport on Thursday morning and traveled to Japan/Narita via Minneapolis. On Friday night the 12th of September we met up with Cam and Paulette and made the trek to our quarters at the Naval Station Yokosuka. After a 13 time zone trip, we have had spent the first part of our day today just catching up on sleep and getting our bearings at this sprawling naval base. One of the things that I have learned over the last 4 1/2 years is that one of the most efficient ways to overcome jet-lag is to have a significant amount of physical activity on the day after arrival. My "fit-bit" monitor tells me that we have walked over 22,000 steps today. We should sleep well tonight. The major event of the day was an afternoon of relaxed visit time with Cam and Paulette. One of the strong points that I re-learned today was just how much stress there is in an around the globe permanent change of station move. Cam, being assigned to an operational forward-deployed command, had to hit the decks running. As I understand it, he and Paulette arrived on a Friday, and he was at work bright and early on Monday morning. Shortly thereafter he went to sea with his command aboard the USS Blue Ridge. He has been maintaining the port-to-sea-to-port-to-sea schedule ever since. In the mean, time Paulette has been in Yokosuka setting up the household and accomplishing the many, mostly invisible tasks that our spouses perform. My take-away today is that we have some absolutely amazing priest/chaplain families. Bravo Zulu! +Jay

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bishop's Remarks to the House of Bishops

The Rt. Rev. James B. Magness To the House of Bishops Kanuga Conference Center Hendersonville, NC On March 12, 2013 Good afternoon. Jay Magness: Armed Services and Federal Ministries. I want to use the next few minutes to update you on some things I am doing and in which my small staff and I are engaged. For the benefit of those of you who are new to the House, I was elected three years ago at the spring HOB meeting in Camp Allen, IAW Article II, Sec. 7. of The Constitution of TEC: "It shall be lawful for the House of Bishops to elect a... Bishop (Suffragan) who, under the direction of the Presiding Bishop, shall be in charge of the work of those chaplains in the Armed Forces of the United States, Veterans' Administration Medical Centers, and Federal Correctional Institutions who are ordained Ministers of this Church." This is my episcopacy on federal lands in this and in foreign countries. Having been elected by the House, I make periodic reports to you on the ministry you have called me to do in support of my Priest/Chaplains who serve in the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and in the (Federal) Bureau of Prisons. In the interest of time, let me tell you a story. In the 1970s I served at one of my first parishes which was in this county of this diocese. The parish, St. Paul's, is about 15 miles north east of here. St. Paul's is surrounded by some beautiful commercial apple orchards. In the autumn each year thousands of tourists frequent the area to buy apples and see the fruit laden trees. On one warm sunny September afternoon a man and his wife from Atlanta in their long black Lincoln were driving past one of the local orchards when they saw a very peculiar sight: a farmer standing beneath an apple tree with a pig upon his shoulders which pig was eating apples off the limbs of the tree. At first the man and his wife passed by, but upon doing a double-take had to return to check out this strange sight. They pulled up beside the man with pig, rolled down the driver's side window to inquire about what the man was doing. The quick and curt reply was, "The pig was hungry." The man from Atlanta, who fashioned himself as having great knowledge of how to do things in the most efficient way, said, "Wouldn't it take a lot less time if you just put the pig on the ground and shook the tree so the ripe apples could fall within snout's reach of your hungry pig." The farmer, without so much as a slight pause said, "Time don't mean nothing to a pig." When I came into this episcopacy I reasoned that I had plenty of time to do what we needed to do to perform our highest priority task: recruiting priests and seminarians to serve as military, VA and Bureau of Prisons chaplains, but particularly military chaplains. I have since determined that time is not on our side. Recent events have demonstrated that we are in a dire need to increase our numbers of very capable and thoughtful clergy of this church to serve as chaplains within the branches of the armed forces. Why, you might ask, do we still need more clergy to serve as chaplains when we have shut down the war in Iraq and are winding down the war in Afghanistan. Though I could cite many, there is a primary reason. Even though Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan is drawing to a close, my chaplains are serving in an environment that is increasingly dominated by severely conservative to fundamentalist clergy, who are on one hand bent on expressing all of what they see as their First Amendment liberties to impose their version of the Christian faith upon everyone with whom they come into contact and also who embrace a sense of imperialistic nationalism by means of which they are eager to bless and condone almost any expression of armed warfare in any situation. In contrast, our clergy offer a very important reasoned influence to the environment. That influence is increasingly important because in all of the military services, not only are chaplains expected to provide pastoral, liturgical, and sacramental care to service members and to members of their families, also chaplains also expected to provide advisement to command leaders. When more so than ever before our military units are being employed as agents of international stabilization and diplomatic power projection, it is very important to me, and I hope to you and the people you serve, that their senior command leaders have the best moral and spiritual advise that is available to them. Last year for the first time we recruited more chaplains than we lost. Though it took us longer to change the loss trend, a trend that had been in place for the last 6 to 8 years, now we have the momentum to move forward, and I do not want to lose this momentum. This week we have talked about grief, pain and catastrophic personal loss. I can think of few environments where such loss is any greater. We need your best and most capable young priests. We need bright and young seminarians who can enter our student programs. While I am very thankful to all you who have supported this episcopacy, please continue to send us the excellent applicants. My second point is to let you know how much I appreciate your collaboration in receiving active duty military chaplains of other faith traditions through Title III, Canon 10 and enabling them to transition into the priesthood of this church. This is a crucial part of our recruiting effort. Currently we have 5 other-faith-tradition military chaplains in 5 different dioceses who are in some stage of transition into Holy Orders in The Episcopal Church. I recognize how difficult this can be for you and your Commissions on Ministry. I can and will assist you through this process. We know how the military system works and what is crucial for the soon to be priests to function in their operational environments. Call me and I will help you. You do not need to do this in isolation. Finally, very recently the Presiding Bishop received an email through the TEC web-site from the rather disgruntled spouse of a National Guard officer. Katharine passed the email on to me so I could contact the woman. To make a somewhat long story short, during her husband's second 14 month deployment to Southwest Asia she became very frustrated and hurt that she had become invisible to her parish priest as she struggled to be a working mom who was raising two small children on her own. After talking with her I got in touch with one of you, her priest's bishop, and we worked through the situation. What I found that what this young wife and mother wanted more than anything else was for someone to compassionately listen to her, both while her husband was away and after he had returned home; she did not need to be "FIXED," but to be heard. She wanted, as my former bishop Ted Gulick taught me, to carry her and her needs on my heart. In the end, this problem ended up being something we could work with and help. My take away is that some of the most invisible sacrifices in these long and tragic wars are being made by Reserve and National Guard service members and members of their families. Barry Bisner, who was for many years a National Guard chaplain, undoubtably can give you many examples of such situations. Unlike their active-duty counterparts, hometown Guard and Reserve people don't have the luxuries of being near large military installations with many family support resources. Please encourage your clergy to identify the Reserve and Guard families in their congregations and to monitor them. I know that it is important to remember that for these folk the war will not be over until long after the last round is fired and the last service member comes home. Many have experienced some horrendous sights and sounds, and have done some unthinkable things. The afterlife of their pain will endure for months and for years. Trust me, as a Vietnam veteran I know. In closing, more so than ever before I am fully aware that I can't do this without you. The work of Armed Services and Federal Ministries is a collaborative effort I do with your assistance and cooperation. Thank you for all you are doing to support the people you have asked me to serve.