Gun Violence, Sin, and Regulation
A Teaching for the Church
The Rt. Rev. Matthew Gunter
Bishop of Fond du Lac/Bishop Provisional of Eau Claire
Gun violence has become a public health issue in the United States unparalleled in any other democratic, industrialized nation. This is not just about politics; it is a moral issue. We are regular shocked, if no longer surprised by mass murders. Gun violence in our cities and elsewhere has become so common as to hardly make the news. Guns are now the leading cause of death for American children. They are common cause of fatal accidents in homes and a common means of suicide. Sadly, the list goes on and on.
The Anglican Tradition has not been a pacifist tradition. It has allowed that, under certain circumstances, “It is lawful for Christian men [and women], at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars" (Articles of Religion XXXVII). This has been the majority position of most of the Christian Church generally for most of its history. But it is also the case, even with that, that there is in the Church’s teaching a deep ambivalence about the use of violence, the passions in the human heart that lead to violence, and the passions that violence enflames.
The Church’s ambivalence about violence is rooted in the life and teaching of Jesus and the witness of the New Testament.
The Birth Narratives that we remember every Christmas serve as a prologue and summary of the Gospel. In Luke 1:78-79, Zechariah prophesies of Jesus that he will “guide our feet into the way of peace.” When the angels appear to the shepherds proclaiming glad tidings of great joy at the coming of a savior, they sing of peace on earth as part of what salvation is about (Luke 2:14). At his death on the cross, Jesus prayed forgiveness for his killers and those who taunted him as he hung dying (Luke 23:34).
Between the bookends of his birth and death, Jesus, in his words and actions, demonstrated a consistent pattern. There is the clear command in the Sermon on the Mount to not resist evil and to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43), and to perfectly show mercy to the evil and the good so that we might be children of our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:45-48). The warning against anger (Matthew 5:21-22) fits the pattern. Beyond the Sermon, Jesus expresses grief over Jerusalem for its refusal to pursue the way of peace (Luke 19:42). He declares that his peace is different from this world’s (John 14:27). He rebukes his disciples for desiring to exact retribution on the Samaritans who did not welcome him (Luke 9:55), a verse made even more telling in the King James Version in which Jesus adds, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” He emphatically rebukes Peter for drawing a weapon to defend Jesus and perhaps himself (Matthew 26:52). And at the last, Jesus refuses to defend himself with the “twelve legions of angels” that were ready at hand for his defense (Matthew 26:53). From the beginning to the end and in-between Jesus demonstrates a consistent pattern of peacefulness and rejection of violence, certainly lethal violence, even in self-defense.
Jesus calls his would-be disciples to deny themselves, take up the cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24) patterning our lives after his. He left us an example, so that we should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21) and “walk in love as he loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1). He calls them to be peacemakers (Mathew 5:9), sharing in his ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Following Jesus puts us at odds with the pattern of this world with its selfishness, violence, vengeance, and self/group-preservation. That is the pattern of the world to which we are warned not to conform in Romans 12:2. Romans 12 goes on to describe a community patterning its life on Jesus, including these echoes of Jesus, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” and, “Repay no one evil for evil, etc.” (Romans 12:17-21). This is a thread that runs through the New Testament, most explicitly in passages like 1 Thessalonians 5:15, 1 Peter 2:20-25, 1 Peter 3:9-12, Hebrews 12:14, and James 3:18.
This witness of the New Testament, along with the assurance that Death had been defeated in the death and resurrection of Jesus, led the earliest Christians to embrace a commitment to nonviolence as the best way to “follow in his steps.” That attitude began to change some after the formal conversion of the Roman Empire. But only somewhat. There was a growing acceptance that government officials, including soldiers, might be authorized under specific conditions to use force and violence. But violence on a personal level was still considered sinful. St. Ambrose (340-397), Bishop of Milan, wrote,
I do not think that a Christian, a just and a wise man, ought to save his own life by the death of another; just as when he meets with an armed robber he cannot return his blows, lest in defending his life he should stain his love toward his neighbor. The verdict on this is plain and clear in the books of the Gospel, “Put up thy sword, for everyone that taketh the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matthew 26: 52). What robber is more hateful than the persecutor who came to kill Christ? But Christ would not be defended from the wounds of the persecutor, for He willed to heal all by His wounds. (On the Duties of the Clergy)
St. Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo, is the most influential theologian in Christian history. He allowed that violence can be exercised faithfully by those to whom authority to do so is delegated by the government on behalf of the community, i.e., the courts, police, and the military. But that was only true for the one to whom authority was delegated. He concludes that to kill without that authority can only be murder (The City of God, I.21). He also wrote,
As to killing others in order to defend one's own life, I do not approve of this, unless one happens to be a soldier or public functionary acting, not for himself, but in defense of others or of the city in which he resides, if he acts according to the commission lawfully given him, and in the manner becoming his office. (Letter 47, To Publicola, sec. 5)
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was the most influential theologian of the Middle Ages. Going further than the witness of Jesus, he allows that using force in self-defense is permissible. But that should be done without the intent to kill.
But as it is unlawful to take a man's life, except for the public authority acting for the common good, as stated above (Article 3), it is not lawful for a man to intend killing a man in self-defense, except for such as have public authority, who while intending to kill a man in self-defense, refer this to the public good, as in the case of a soldier fighting against the foe, and in the minister of the judge struggling with robbers, although even these sin if they be moved by private animosity. (cf. Summa Theologia, II-II, 64,7)
The great Reformer, John Calvin’s teaching significantly influenced early Anglicanism. In his commentary on Matthew 26:52 and elsewhere, he defends the right of magistrates to wield the sword. He also allows that a civilian might use violence to protect his or her property. But he imposes this stringent caveat,
And yet it is not the mere goodness of the cause that acquits the conscience from guilt, unless there be also pure affection. So then, in order that a man may properly and lawfully defend himself, he must first lay aside excessive wrath, and hatred, and desire of revenge, and all irregular sallies of passion, that nothing tempestuous may mingle with the defense. As this is of rare occurrence, or rather, as it scarcely ever happens, Christ properly reminds his people of the general rule, that they should entirely abstain from using the sword [and the gun]. (Commentary on Matthew 26:52)
So, for Calvin, an ordinary person/civilian might, in theory, resort to violence. But in practice, given the almost impossible requirement of dispassion for it to be just and not murder, Christians desiring to follow Christ should “entirely abstain from using the sword [and the gun].”
The Church discerned, given our broken and sinful humanity, that under certain prescribed and circumscribed circumstances, a degree of violence as a last resort might be necessary and therefore just. But that violence is reserved for those trained and authorized to exercise it under the law, with discipline and dispassion. We are grateful for their service. Even so, that use of violence is a concession to tragic human reality shaped by Sin and not something – for Christians, anyway – to bless, revel in, or glorify. And it is not something for individuals and civilians to take upon themselves.
Sin & Unregulated Passions
In referring to “irregular sallies of passion,” Calvin was following Jesus who warned against the passions of the heart that lead to sin (cf Mark 7:21-23). In the New Testament and the Christian tradition, sin is not just about breaking rules, it is rooted in unregulated passions that disturb our inner peace and prevent us from living the peace of Christ.. According to Titus 3:3, being “slaves to various passions and pleasures” means “passing our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one another.” And when Paul lists the works of the flesh that are opposed to the Spirit, along with “fornication, impurity, and licentiousness,” he also lists “idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21). In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus particularly warned against indulging in the passion of anger which he said is related to murder.
And so, self-control and regulating our passions is a recurrent theme in the New Testament and the early Church. It is rooted in Jesus’ declaration that self-denial is a basic requirement for being among his followers (Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). It is listed as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). The early Church continued recognizing the centrality of self-control to the Christian way.
Christianity asserts that each human person is created in the image of God and therefore sacred, beautiful, beloved of God, and of infinite value. But we are also all caught in the interrelated web of Sin. Even the most committed and faithful of us continues, this side of the kingdom of God, to be susceptible to the radical, pervasive reality of sin and uncontrolled passions that draw us from the love of God and our neighbor.
Our sinfulness infects us deep down in our hearts and distorts our imaginations. Thus, it infects even our best intentions. As Paul writes, “I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand” (Romans 7:21). This is true even for followers of Jesus. It is true even if we are as sure as we can be that our cause is just. Our hearts are still prone to selfishness, envy, greed, deceit (not least, self-deceit), anger, hatred, desire for revenge, and violence. Our hearts. My heart. Your heart. Not just the “bad” guys. Not just criminals. Not just the people we do not like. If we believe in sin at all, we believe it is radical, pervasive, and universal. There are no “good” guys. Even the best of us is prone to losing control and being a bad guy under stress and duress. We should therefore be distrustful of ourselves and our motives. And, as Calvin points out, we should distrust our ability to engage in violence righteously given our irregular sallies of passion.
We are a society in which we all have been encouraged to give free reign to every passion. We are all rather undisciplined and given to unregulated sallies of passion. This is a set up for trouble. We should not be surprised by the unprecedented levels of gun violence in this country and the resulting heartache and grief. If we take sin seriously, not least our own sinfulness and the sinfulness of those who are like us, we should not be surprised that a society flooded with guns is drowning in violence.
Christians, Weapons, and Regulation
The Second Amendment of the Constitution asserts that, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Just what that means in the context of the whole of the amendment has been a subject of debate. In 2008, the Supreme Court settled some of that debate for the time being when it decided District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the court held for the first time that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to gun ownership. Specifically, it held that the amendment protected an individual right to keep a usable handgun at home.
But that does not settle the question for Christians. The Constitution is a remarkable document that continues to guide the United States. But it is not inspired scripture. Christians must make a distinction between what is legal and what is faithful and moral. Regardless of particular laws allowing for it, it is hard to take Jesus, the Christian tradition, and the radical reality of sin seriously and to justify civilian disciples of Jesus owning weapons designed for war and the killing of human beings – created in the image of God. It is harder still to justify carrying such weapons in public where one might be tempted to give into sinful passions and fear and potentially kill someone. We ought not to put ourselves or others in the position of being tempted to murder intentionally or unintentionally.
District of Columbia v. Heller did not rule out all regulating of firearms. According to those involved in writing the decision, Heller “merely established the constitutional baseline that the government may not disarm citizens in their homes.” They go on,
The opinion expressly recognized “presumptively lawful” regulations such as “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms,” as well as bans on carrying weapons in “sensitive places,” like schools, and it noted with approval the “historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’” Heller also recognized the immense public interest in “prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill.” (John Bash and Kate Shaw, ‘We Clerked for Justices Scalia and Stevens. America Is Getting Heller Wrong.’, The New York Times, May 31, 2022)
That leaves quite a bit of room for us as a society to pursue reasonable measures to address our epidemic of gun violence. Regulating guns is not the only thing necessary to address this epidemic. Addressing other issues like mental health, poverty, racism, and more effective policing are also necessary. We also need to re-evaluate our infatuation with the notion of “good” violence
The community has a stake in finding ways to assure that our common life is safe and good for everyone. We are not just a collection of individuals insisting on our own rights without regard for how the accumulation of our choices effect the whole and shape the society in which we live. No individual freedom is absolute, including the freedom to own weapons. Because we recognize the reality of sin, we have various laws and regulations to govern our common life. There are reasonable, common sense gun safety measures which polls consistently show enjoy the support of gun owners and non-gun owners alike that do not compromise responsible civilian gun ownership.
Gun violence has become a public health issue as well as a moral issue in the United States unparalleled in any other democratic, industrialized nation. Doing nothing to address that is irresponsible. As Jeremiah told those in exile in Babylon to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” For the sake of the welfare of this nation and our souls, let us pray for the grace to regulate ourselves, let us be peacemakers following in the footsteps of Jesus, and let us urge our elected officials (magistrates) to make sure that guns are well regulated to better address our epidemic of violence.
This year, for the first time in two years, many high schools will return to in-person celebrations of and for high school students across the state. As chaplain for St. Francis House on the UW-Madison campus and Missioner for Young Adult Ministries for the Diocese of Milwaukee, let me be the first to congratulate all our graduates! The additional stresses of the past two years, on top of the “normal” challenges of life as a high school student, are due celebration of this accomplishment!
Whether high school is to be followed by college, tech school, or the daily life of “adulting,” my prayer for each student is to experience God’s abundant love. This prayer is shared by many across The Episcopal Church, especially here in Wisconsin. There is a growing movement across our state for young adults (currently defined as ages 18-30) to encourage conversations for their spiritual lives. The Diocese of Milwaukee has two part-time chaplains and one full-time chaplain serving UW-Whitewater, UW-Milwaukee, MSOE, and UW-Madison. The Diocese of Fond du Lac has priests and congregations committed to serving students at UW-Green Bay, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Stevens Point, Ripon College, St. Lawrence University, and St. Norbert’s College. Additionally, there are congregations committed to providing programming for young adults who are not participating in a college setting.
This is the first of updates you can expect from me with news for and about young adult ministry here in WI. Today, let me share three suggestions related specifically to high school graduates.
On behalf of the young adult and campus minsters across the state, Congratulations! We look forward to seeing you in the fall! You are Beloved!
The Rev. Bobbi Kraft (she/her)
Chaplain, St. Francis House Episcopal Student Center - UW Madison
Young Adult Missioner, Diocese of Milwaukee
The Diocese of Fond du Lac has received notice from the Anglican Diocese of Masvingo, companion diocese, that the Archbishop of the Province of Central Africa, the Most Rev. Albert Chama, has appointed the Rev. Reverend Friar Fungayi Nyandoro, CHT, as the Vicar General of Masvingo Diocese. He will be in charge of the Administration of the Diocese of Masvingo until a Diocesan Ordinary is elected. The Rt. Rev. Godfrey Tawonezvi, founding bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Masvingo, retired in March 2020 after 20 years as bishop.
Friar Fungayi was a part of the delegation from Masvingo that visited the Diocese of Fond du Lac in 2019. Please include him in your prayers that the Holy Spirit may give him the wisdom and fortitude to serve the Flock of God in humility, truth and prayer.
The Rev. Dcn. Michael Burg retired from active ordained ministry December 31, 2021. Received into the Episcopal Church in 1982, he previously was Lutheran and Roman Catholic. He was ordained a deacon by Bishop William Stevens in 1990 and had assigned to serve at Grace, Sheboygan since ordination until retirement.
In addition to serving in a diaconal role at the altar of Grace, Dcn. Mike was deeply involved in Hmong ministry. Working with Episcopal Migration Ministries, he helped resettle over 400 people from over 100 families. He was part of bringing Cursillo to the Diocese of Fond du Lac and served on many teams as a lay person and as a deacon.
When Grace's regular healing ministry started in 1992, Dcn. Mike was one of the ministry's leaders and continued to be involved over three decades. Most recently, he is a member of the Companion Diocese Task Force and had the honor of hosting Friar Fungayi for several days during their visit in 2018.
Dcn. Mike will continue to be involved at Grace, Sheboygan and in the diocese, but on a more informal basis.
The diocesan Eucharistic Festival is this weekend, and there is a long tradition of designating half of the offering to benefit a ministry beyond the diocese. Bishop Matt Gunter has determined the recipient for 2022 will be Episcopal Migration Ministries. EMM monitors and oversees the work of 11 affiliate partners in implementing major programs and initiatives. These services include welcoming families when they first arrive, providing initial housing, ESL classes, medical resources, job assistance, youth programs, and more.
This is a critical time for Episcopal Migration Ministries and the life-saving work they do. EMM has welcomed and resettled more than 100,000 refugees through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program since the 1980s. In 2021, EMM welcomed individuals from 24 countries to 12 communities across the U.S. It continues to offer a ministry of welcome that allows continued resettling of vulnerable populations, assisting arriving Afghans, and respond to the crisis in Ukraine.
"In these days of dislocation caused by strife of all kinds, including war, supporting the work of Episcopal Migration Ministries is so important" Bishop Matt Gunter shared. "Serving refugees during their initial days in the U.S. through a process of finding employment and building a future in new communities Is something we can all support. I am reminded of the verse in Hebrews (13:1-2) that showing hospitality to strangers may be showing hospitality to angels without knowing it."
Let’s join together and support a voice of welcome and hope for our refugee neighbors and friends. If you are unable to attend the Festival, you are still welcome to give to support EMM at episcopalmigrationministries.org/donate-now.
The Rev. Dcn. Sandra Muinde retired from active ordained ministry May 7, 2022. 11 years earlier, she was ordained deacon and assigned to serve at Trinity, Oshkosh. Prior to ordination, she had been an active lay member there since 1969.
Dcn. Sandy is well known across the diocese. She served on the Executive Council and Standing Commission, been a General Convention deputy and served on numerous committees and commissions. She is a Cursillista and Bishop's Cross award recipient.
"This does not mean that I will no longer be a Deacon, it means I will step down from actively serving on a regular basis at Trinity." she shared in a letter to the parish. "I am not going anywhere. I will continue to be a regular communicant and assist with some ministries as needed and as I am able to do so."
The Rt. Rev. Godfrey Tawonezvi, founding bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Masvingo, Companion Diocese of the Diocese of Fond du Lac, retired March 25, 2022. He served the church for 28 years, 20 of them as a bishop. When appointed bishop in 2002, Bishop Godfrey started with three priests and now the diocese has 35. There were initially two congregations, and the diocese now has 38 districts with 148 congregations. Below is a farewell message he recently sent to the Diocese of Fond du Lac.
The Diocese of Masvingo entered into a companion relationship with the Diocese of Fond du Lac in 2016. Since then, we have journeyed together, praying for each other, sharing experiences and information, learning from each other and encouraging one another in the furtherance of God’s work in our respective Dioceses.
In 2019, my wife Albertina, Friar Fungayi and I had an opportunity to visit the Diocese of Fond du Lac. We really enjoyed the generous hospitality we received where ever we visited. We are profoundly grateful for the opportunity we got to meet and interact with some of the Clergy and Laity in the Diocese of Fond du Lac.
I appreciate the cordial relationship I had with Bishop Matt Gunter over the years. I personally learnt a lot from him as we interacted. It was also a pleasure to have communicated with the Lay Canon for Administration, Matthew Payne.
Let me express my gratitude and appreciation and that of the Diocese of Masvingo for your generous support over the past years. You supported many relief and developmental programmes in the Diocese of Masvingo. Allow me to mention the most recent lucrative dairy project at Christ The King Daramombe Mission you have supported. We are short of words to express our gratefulness for your generous donation which enabled us to fulfil our vision of establishing a dairy project in the Diocese.
As I retire I am aware that the three Episcopal Dioceses of Wisconsin are exploring possibilities of reuniting. You will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers as you go through this process.
I retire with good memories of the companion relationship between our two Dioceses. I pray and hope that this companionship continues.
I am appreciative of your prayers, support and fellowship during my Episcopal Ministry in the Diocese of Masvingo.
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you Grace and Peace (2 Cor 1:2).
With love and prayers
Bishop Godfrey Tawonezvi
The budget of the Diocese of Fond du Lac includes a line for outreach beyond the structures of the diocese. Distribution of these funds is determined by the diocesan Deacon Council. It discerns where funds go after doing homework of where there is need.
Typically $8,000 to $10,000 in a year, the 2021 distribution grew to over $36,000 when the Executive Council determined to tithe on the proceeds of a bequest. Tithing on such a gift has been a standard operating procedure in the past. Tithing has also been practiced when church property has been sold.
"We try to be intentional in giving to those in need when we receive the blessing of such gifts," Bishop Matt noted. "It is is a tangible way to give support beyond our diocese as a sign of our gratefulness."
The Deacon Council met twice to decide recipients. Distribution was delayed until March, after the full bequest had been received. Recipients were the Mandolin Foundation in Green Bay (mandolinfoundationllc.com), Sleep in Heavenly Peace - Oshkosh Chapter (shpbeds.org), The Anglican Diocese of Masvingo (masvingo.anglican.org), Episcopal Relief and Development (episcopalrelief.org) and Episcopal Migration Ministries (https://episcopalmigrationministries.org/). Members of the diocese are encouraged to visit their websites and learn of the work each is doing.
Since 2004, the Diocese has donated nearly $200,000 through its Outreach Fund agencies, programs and opportunities. Gifts have been made locally and around the world, all beyond diocesan structures with the intent to give outside of ourselves to the greater glory of God.
The Rt. Rev. Godfrey Tawonezvi, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Masvingo in Zimbabwe, companion diocese of the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac, commissioned the Daramombe Mission Farm Project on March 20, 2022. Over $24,000 was raised through an Epiphany Giving appeal to funds 2 uni-calf dairy heifers and 4 dairy cows, with calves already on their way. Other costs provided for include transport from the farmer in Beatrice to Christ The King Daramombe Mission Farm, feeds and equipment such as material for the paddocks. Read more here.
Shortly after the start of the pandemic in 2020, the clergy of the Diocese of Fond du Lac began meeting regularly by Zoom. The weekly gathering was to update clergy with current Covid information, listen to what was going on in congregations, and pray with each session ending with a cacophonous recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. As time moved on, Zoom gatherings were less frequent, but continued.
Zoom allowed to two clergy continuing education conference and one retreat, but pandemic spikes prevented in-person gatherings. A number of clergy who recently arrived in the diocese had not had opportunity to meet their ordained colleagues face-to-face. That changed in February 2022.
The clergy of the diocese gathered in-person for the first time for a pre-Lenten retreat at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality, De Pere. Bishop Matt invited Bishop Jake Owensby of Western Louisiana to lead. The cold wind outside may have chilled the toes, the time to be together warmed the heart.
Fr. Paul Coey, ordained during the pandemic and called to be rector of St. Peter’s, Sheboygan Falls, was attending his first clergy retreat. “I appreciated the collegiality, and vulnerability of my brother and sister clerics,” Coey shared, and was “able to connect more than just faces to names, but also their stories, humor, hopes, and concerns allows me to more robustly know, be known, and pray for each of them.”
There retreat included a variety of things to do: community worship, prayer, meditation, Bible study, confession, spiritual counsel, reading, eating, and sleeping. Part of the retreat, including communal gatherings, is spent in silence.
“I couldn’t help but be thankful for the time spent in prayer, silence, and space allowed at the St. Norbert Abbey,” Deacon Paul Aparicio noted. As a deacon, assigned to Grace, Sheboygan, he is “employed outside the Church so my ability to attend is largely based on the available paid-time-off,” but appreciated the time away as “a re-orientation towards the vows that I carry and the community I have been sent to.”
In the four reflections provided by Bishop Owensby, the focus was on “messiness” and finding God in the messiness of life. Through sharing personal stories of vulnerability, he reflected on his life and spiritual growth. Mthr. Meredyth Albright, serving as rector of St. Augustine, Rhinelander, found the “unified message of trusting God in a way we have never trusted before, set for me, a tone with which to approach Lent.” Ordained in 2011, she remarked the reflections laid groundwork “to be open to a sense of honesty with God and start thinking about what to do with that gift of unencumbered love and support.”
Aiding clergy to better serve spiritual needs of those in their care is another reason for the retreat. Coey remarked that the week was “edifying as I return to the parish to lead the community through Lent.” Albright expanded for her it “was an opportunity to advance in my own thinking and belief to hopefully share an inspired Holy Lent with parishioners and those beyond our church doors.” Aparicio’s prayer is that the time in retreat “turned me towards my role as a deacon, my role as a husband, and my role as a father.”
Holding retreats has become more difficult as the costs involved, continue to increase, but clergy are charged only for their room and board as all other costs are covered through the diocesan Amaan Fund. Even though that cost can strain already tight budgets, the value of being together in-person was clearly priceless.
“I pray that the diocesan clergy may together continue to turn towards the direction of the Holy Spirit and continue the work we have been ordained to do,” Aparicio said. “We have been sent into the world in peace to love and serve the Lord and I give thanks to God for it!”
To the Members of the Dioceses of Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, and Milwaukee
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ. We hope most of you have heard by now that the three Episcopal dioceses of Wisconsin have entered conversation about the possibility of returning to our roots and reuniting back into one diocese. In the 21st century, the church faces a changing landscape; our society is becoming increasingly secular and commitment to the church is no longer a given.
One way or another, the church must adapt to better engage the world with the resurrection hope we have in Jesus Christ. What worked in one generation will not automatically work as well in this one and generations to come. Jesus is the same from generation to generation, but how we are organized to faithfully bear witness to the kingdom of God he proclaimed and how we worship the triune God might well change.
At the end of 2020, the Rt. Rev. Jay Lambert of the Diocese of Eau Claire and the Rt. Rev. Steven Miller of the Diocese of Milwaukee both retired, which resulted in two of the three dioceses of Wisconsin being without bishops. That presented what seems like an opportunity to explore the future of the Episcopal Church in Wisconsin. Indeed, we believe the opportunity is providential. Might the Holy Spirit be inviting us to look afresh at being the church in our time? How might our combined assets – financial and human resources – be used to support each of our existing congregations and encourage the beginning of new congregations or communities that might look more or less like church as we know it? Or perhaps even communities of faith that look quite different from the church as we know it today? How might we be better public witnesses and agents of hope in Wisconsin? The time is right to look at these and other questions.
A steering committee has been formed as well as several task forces have been appointed to explore different aspects of a possible reunion. The task forces will be addressing many of the practical aspects of reunion, such as addressing the constitutions and canons, working through all the financial details, and the culture and mission of the Episcopal Church in Wisconsin. Each of those task forces will be soliciting input and participation from members of each diocese.
We will continue to update members of the diocese with information about the process and opportunities for you to participate in this discernment. We are currently building a website hub for you to learn more about and engage in the process. We will share that with you soon.
We urge you to be engaged and participate in this process of discernment. Most especially, we encourage you to pray. Steeping our discernment in prayer will better enable us to hear what the Holy Spirit is calling us to be.
Faithfully in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Matthew Gunter
Bishop of the Diocese of Fond du Lac
Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Eau Claire
The Rt. Rev. Jeffery Lee
Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Milwaukee
The Rt. Rev. Godfrey Tawonezvi, founding bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Masvingo, Companion Diocese of the Diocese of Fond du Lac, will officially retired on March 25, 2022. The Anglican Church has five dioceses in Zimbabwe. He had served the church for 28 years, 20 of them as a bishop. When appointed bishop in 2002, Bishop Godfrey started with three priests and now the diocese has 35. There were initially two churches, and the diocese now has 38 districts and 148 churches. Vicar General Friar Fungayi Nyandoro will administer pastoral care in the diocese until another bishop is appointed.
During a farewell celebration in December, one speaker noted Bishop Godfrey had "fostered discipline in the clergy and congregants, the construction of buildings including maternity wards, church buildings, drilling of boreholes, feeding the disadvantaged in community among other works. We can never replace you."
A report in the Masvingo Mirror noted Bishop Godfrey spearheaded many development projects including distribution of 50,000 treated mosquito nets to a malaria stricken area, construction of a clinic, construction and commissioning of a vocational Training Centre, distribution of maize seed to thousands of households, construction of a maternity ward and a weekly feeding program for the less privileged.
At the farewell celebration, Bishop Tawnezvi left people in stitches when he said he "worked with troublesome priests but managed to bring them back into line." He continued "I leave this diocese a happy and satisfied man with happy memories. It is hard to lead a diocese with limited resources but you supported me.
"we look forward to continuing to work with our friends in the Diocese of Masvingo," Bishop Matt Gunter shared. "Bishop Godfrey's retirement marks a time of transition in that diocese, which means more opportunity to build new relationships and share in living out the Gospel."
The Companion Diocese Task Force is currently sponsoring an Epiphany Campaign to raise funds for dairy cows in Masvingo.
Prayers are asked for the repose of the soul of the Rev. Dcn. Bruce A. McCallum who died February 2, 2022. He was 80. He is survived by his wife Karen, three adult children and and numerous grandchildren.
An active member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Waupaca, he served as lay Eucharistic Minister, Sunday School teacher and on the vestry. He was active in Monarch Cursillo and completed the four-year Education for Ministry course of theological study. Approaching retirement as an insurance representative, Bruce realized "the hound of heaven has been nipping at my heels" and entered the diocesan discernment process. He attended Deacon's School. and was ordained to the Diaconate on May 7, 2011. He had been assigned to serve St. Mark's, Waupaca.
An obituary may be found here. Memorials may be made in Bruce’s name to St. Marks Episcopal Church, 415 S. Main Street, Waupaca, WI 54981.
Funeral services will be at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, February 12, 2022 at St. Marks with the service streamed on St. Mark's Facebook page facebook.com/stmarkswaupaca. Visitation will be at 10:00 a.m. A reception will follow the service. Masking is required. Clergy may vest - white stole. Any person not a member of St. Mark's is asked to email Mthr. Julie Hendrix if you plan to attend so proper arrangements may be made.
Here is one opportunity to participate in the trialogue, pursuing reunion as one Episcopal diocese in Wisconsin. The dioceses of Fond du Lac, Eau Claire and Milwaukee are exploring how reunification into one diocese can better equip us to be the church God is calling us to be in these times. A Steering Committee of representatives from each diocese is taking action to build connections and relationships exploring reunification. A first formal step is to form task forces to examine the possibilities.
Informal input began last Summer. Delegates to the diocesan convention last October participated in small discussion groups which generated great comments and questions about moving forward (read these here). Similar processes took place in the dioceses of Eau Claire and Milwaukee. An initial trialogue group, appointed by each diocesan governing board, reviewed this feedback and discovered a general desire to move towards a combined diocese. The potential to equip churches to be better in sharing the Gospel with one diocese was noted, but lack of clarity about how to do this was noted as well. A Steering Committee then developed a task force structure to begin work to address the questions related to reunification.
Task forces are being formed to examine various components of reunification including: Prayer; Parish and Regional Engagement; Culture and Mission; Location, Place, and Staffing; Finances; Constitution and Canons; and Communication. These will establish ways to involve more voices as ideas and proposals are developed (in-person or through technological means).
Those in the Diocese of Fond du Lac are invited to express their interest in serving on a task force. A description of each task force is provided on the interest page. After you share your interest, you can expect to be contacted to be involved by the end of February 2022.
The Diocese of Masvingo, companion diocese of the Diocese of Fond du Lac, is starting a dairy farm. Since Wisconsin is the "Dairy State", it would be udderly ridiculous for us not to help! In Epiphany we remember gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh - and in this spirit the Companion Diocese Task Force calls members of the Diocese of Fond du Lac to give.
The diocesan-wide fund raising effort from From January 6-March 5 is to fund dairy cows for the farm at Daramombe, Zimbabawe, and Anglican school campus in the middle of 1,200 acres of school owned farmland. Each heifer costs about $2,000 with at least 5 needed to start a good herd.
One cow isn't enough. The campaign kicks off with 2 cows funded by early givers! Can we build a herd? Our goal is to build the herd with every congregation providing support to the effort. How many cows in the herd is up to you! Every contribution - from as small as the price of a fast food meal to as large as the cost of a professional sporting event - can change the lives of entire communities in Zimbabwe.
Ready to give? Click here.
When the Diocese of Wisconsin was formed in 1847, Bishop Jackson Kemper lived out the missionary spirit of the Church. He did so while working in a field rife with possibility and being God’s witness “in the wilderness.”
There is a type of wilderness today, and not one of geography. The world has changed, but will the church in this place? Can we form ourselves to be relevant? Can we use the resources God has provided to support the work of the Episcopal Church through local congregations?
The three Episcopal dioceses determined to pursue reunion as one diocese in Wisconsin to come together with a blank slate to create a new culture. Leaders from the Milwaukee, Fond du Lac and Eau Claire met in December to continue talks about reunification – to dream about what God wants us to do and take the steps to do it. This second meeting looked at ways to best involve people in the trialogue so we can begin to crystallize a direction and some action.
Delegates from each diocesan convention had provided thoughts, comments, and responses to the idea of reunion. There were a lot of questions about things we don’t yet know. Many comments reflected a general desire to move towards a combined diocese. The responses noted the potential of one diocese to equip churches to better share the Gospel. But there is a lack of clarity evident as to what that means. The trialogue has just started, so this was to be expected. The need for information is great to generate specific ideas or proposals as well as to have more informed questions and discussion.
Reflecting on many responses, the leaders at this second meeting recognized the pursuit will not be easy and is to be undergirded by prayer. Seeking to come together and do things in a different way will be a challenge in a variety of ways.
The purpose of the trialogue is to enable members of the three Episcopal dioceses in Wisconsin to explore how reunification into one diocese can better equip us to be the church God is calling us to be in these times. Work is beginning to shape how we can get to know each other better. There will be opportunities to learn more about each diocese and its people. These will help in building relationships and informing the discussion. As with any change, there will be more questions than answers to start.
The leaders, who were selected by each diocesan governing body, serve as the trialogue Steering Committee going forward. Its purpose is to take collaborative action to build connections and relationships exploring reunification.
The Steering Committee will establish task forces to examine various components of trialogue. These are: Prayer; Parish and Regional Engagement; Culture; Location, Place, and Staffing; Finances; Constitution and Canons; and Communication. Members of each diocese with experience, knowledge, or passion in each area are being called to participate. These task forces will establish ways to involve more voices as ideas and proposals are developed. This may involve in-person connections as well as technological ones.
Communication will be essential. To involve over 10,000 persons is an immense task. An interactive website as centralized source of information is being designed. There will be ways to interact with others, provide answers to frequently asked questions, and share your thoughts and ideas with the task forces. Stay tuned to diocesan communication channels to learn ways to be a part to better equip us to be the church God is calling us to be in these times.
The trialogue Steering Committee members are the Rev. Canon Kathleen Charles, Tim Donahue, the Rt. Rev. Matthew Gunter, the Rev. Canon Aaron Zook (Diocese of Eau Claire), the Rt. Rev. Matthew Gunter, Matthew Payne, Pat Pfeifer, the Rev. Canon Wilson Roane (Diocese of Fond du Lac), The Rev. Canon Scott Leannah, the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee, the Rev. Jana Troutman-Miller, John Vogel (Diocese of Milwaukee).
The Diocese of Fond du Lac youth ministries have been wonderfully blessed by an unexpected gift of $50,000 through the generosity of an anonymous donor. The donor shared the contribution is made in thanksgiving for the commitment the diocese has shown to youth work, especially as shown through its summer camp. Youth work in the diocese has over a century of history, beginning with a diocesan school for girls in the 1880’s and over 90 years of an organized summer camp experience. The operating budget includes a significant to faith formation for young people from all congregations.
The donor determined to make the gift because of seeing children and youth being positively impacted and experiencing the love of God through the people and programs of the diocese. With the donors input, a majority of the gift has been placed with the Val Burg Memorial Youth Work Fund, essentially doubling its assets. Started in the early 1990’s through gifts from a number of supporters, the fund provides ongoing financial support to youth ministries of the diocese. Those interested in supporting the fund are invited to do so here.
The Anglican Diocese of Masvingo has been selected as a recipient from the 2021 Diocesan Outreach Fund by the Deacon Council of the Diocese of Fond du Lac. Each year, funds are set aside from the diocesan operating budget to give "beyond the diocese." The intent is giving beyond diocesan structures, though recipients may come from inside the geographical boundaries of the diocese.
The Council determined to provide $10,000 after being made aware of great need from the impact of the pandemic. The majority of funds were from assets on hand in the Outreach Fund. The remainder will come from a pending bequest to the diocese. The Executive Council determined 10% of that bequest, when received, will be added to the Outreach Fund.
Representatives of the Diocese of Masvingo visited the Diocese of Fond du Lac in 2019. Plans for a return visit are pending due to the pandemic. "The financial support our diocese has provided to our brothers and sisters in Masvingo over the past few years has been amazing," Bishop Matt Gunter commented. "We know our relationship is about more than money. We lift each other up in prayer daily, and in our congregations every Sunday. But the challenges in their situation has meant funds have greater impact and the support is an example that we can do more together as a diocese than we might be able to do as individual parishes."
Members of the diocese will have another opportunity to support the work of the Diocese of Masvingo during Epiphany. The Companion Diocese Task Force will be raising funds to purchase farms animals for the agricultural ministries in Masvingo. Learn more about their development projects here. Look for details on how you can provide a chicken, pig, cow or other animals on January 6, 2022.
December 9, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
While we are grateful to God for the progress we have made in keeping people safe from COVID infection, we are writing today to remind Episcopalians in the State of Wisconsin that the pandemic is not over. Indeed, we now know that the most recently detected variant, Omicron, has been detected in our state. The data is still being collected, but it seems clear that this variant is significantly more transmissible than Delta and that current vaccines and boosters do not prevent transmission in all cases. We do know that vaccinations and boosters still provide important protection against developing the most serious illness and hospitalization.
This is a moment to ask all of our congregations to continue to take the pandemic with due seriousness and care. Let us recommit ourselves to the responsible, careful practices we have learned over the past months. In order to keep one another as safe as possible, we strongly encourage masking and social distancing when we gather. We urge every eligible member of the church to be fully vaccinated and to receive appropriate booster shots. We commend the continuation of virtual options for worship and other meetings. And we commend the guidelines adopted in most of our churches regarding masking, social distancing, and the reception of Holy Communion.
These are challenging times for us all, but we are members of the Body of Christ who is the light of the world. In these Advent days leading to the Christmas Feast, let us renew our trust in the God who is with us in every circumstance, in every challenge or time of uncertainty or fear. Let us commit ourselves to be bearers of God’s light and love to one another and to the world.
The Rt. Rev. Matthew Gunter
Bishop of the Diocese of Fond du Lac
Bishop Provisional the Diocese of Eau Claire
The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee
Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Milwaukee
An update to the Protocols and Best Practices document has been published by the Bishop and diocesan Covid Task Force. Changes were made considering information learned since the previous revision.
Masking and distancing continue to be encouraged as the best method to reduce the possibility of transmission of the Covid-19 virus. To further emphasize this, the protocols now include posting signage to remind participants that masking and distancing is encouraged. This is important to do regardless of vaccination status.
The primary modification made regards singing. Singing is an important part of our worship tradition. Congregational and choir singing is now allowed while distanced. Masking while singing is strongly encouraged. The Task Force recognizes singing increases the risk of transmission, but such risk is best mitigated by distance. The mitigation of risk by masking is likely, but not as significant as distancing is. Keeping appropriate space between households becomes more important when singing takes place.
Additional modifications made either clarify the language or attempt to make it consistent with current understandings regarding Covid-19.
The revised document is here.
The Diocese of Fond du Lac has announced the sale of the former St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Tomahawk. The property has been purchased by the non-denominational The Rock Church of Tomahawk. Their first service was held November 14, three days after the closing, with 40 people in attendance.
"It saddens me when we have an Episcopal community come to an end," Bishop Matthew Gunter noted. "But I am pleased that the space will continue to be filled with worshippers doing the work of the the Gospel."
After the dissolution of the congregation in 2019, the diocese took responsibility of the building. The decision was made to sell it in summer 2021. Sold through a land contract (the property is deeded to the buyer with the diocese acting as the "bank" holding a mortgage), revenue will be placed into a fund until the land contract is fulfilled. A portion of the proceeds is to be returned to the Roddis Loan Fund having been written off when the church closed. The Executive Council will then determine the use of the remaining proceeds. Typically they determine to tithe for outreach with the balance placed in diocesan endowments.
The Diocese of Fond du Lac has announced a new use for the church building in Green Bay formerly housing Blessed Sacrament Episcopal Church. After taking responsibility of the building, the diocese engaged a property management agency who was aware of a not-for-profit seeking space.
The Mandolin Foundation assists families in recovery from addiction, substance abuse and mental health disorders. The hall, kitchen, offices and apartment of the Webster Avenue building have been rented to Mandolin for "Amanda’s House" to provide transitional housing and programs focused on life skills training and connecting to community resources.
Bishop Matt Gunter noted in a letter to former parishioners that the "space where people experienced joy in life and sorrow in death is no longer a place of worship," but is becoming a place of good work that is "consistent with the work of Gospel." He invited them to consider volunteering at Amanda’s House. Opportunities include reading to children, cooking with residents, gardening, maintenance and office work. All volunteers must submit a completed application and agree to a background check.
Mandolin Foundation follows the high standards set by the Wisconsin Association for Sober Living Housing (W.A.S.H.). These are centered around the dignity, safety, and well-being of guests, reinforcing they are worthy and deserving of the love and care.
To support this important work, the diocesan Deacons Council recently approved a grant from the diocesan Outreach Fund.
For more information, including volunteering, visit mandolinfoundationllc.com.
Bishop Matt Gunter awarded the Bishop's Cross to Dr. Bradley Lauderdale and the Rev. Christopher Arnold. As a diocesan award, it was presented during the 2021 Convention of the Diocese of Fond du Lac on October 30th. The Bishop’s Cross is intended to honor individuals who have provided outstanding service to the Episcopal Church, especially on the diocesan and congregational levels. The Rt. Rev. Russell E. Jacobus established this award in 1997.
Dr. Brad is a member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Menasha, Wisconsin. In his comments to the Convention, Bishop Matt noted his involvement in his parish and the diocese, especially in sharing his expertise as part of the diocesan Covid Task Force.
Fr. Chris is a priest canonically resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac. In his comments to the Convention, Bishop Matt noted his leadership to congregations with a focus in the prayerful life as well as to the diocese, especially in chairing the diocesan Covid Task Force.
You may read the Bishop's comments here.
Some may know Christi Cunningham or others from her family. family. Her dad, the Rev. Marcus Cunningham, served at St. Peter’s, Ripon and Trinity, Oshkosh. She was active in youth ministries of the diocese, and served on the national Episcopal Youth Event planning team in 2017.
A graduate of Hamline University in St. Paul this past August, Christi has decided to spend the next year serving in the Young Adult Service Corps. YASC is a ministry for young adults 21-30 in the Episcopal Church which sends young adults out into the Anglican Communion to work and become a part of the community. Challenge because of COVID, she has received news of her placement.
Cunningham will be serving in Liverpool, England and living in community with three others on the grounds of the Liverpool Cathedral. Tsedaqah Community house is a “missional community based at Liverpool Cathedral, made up of young people from around the Triangle of Hope living together in community for a year. Tsedaqah community members work in a variety of social justice projects across the Liverpool City Region, in conjunction with the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool and Liverpool Cathedral.” The work will be be social justice oriented, and she couldn’t be more excited. She plans to keep everyone updated through a blog with lots of pictures and stories of this journey.
"What an invigorating opportunity for a young adult from our diocese in another country," Bishop Matt Gunter noted. "Living in community, in service to others, provides an occasion to experience God's presence like no other."
"In all this excitement, I must ask for help." Christi informed the delegates of the Diocesan Convention. "I ask you to pray for me and my housemates throughout this year. I ask your support financially, as you are able. I invite you take this journey with me."
There are two ways you are able to support Christi in her work with YASC.
Facebook Christi Cunningham