Episcopal Church Foundation names four new fellows

June 3, 2011

The Episcopal Church Foundation has awarded 2011 Fellowship Partners Program grants to the Rev. James Brian McVey (Brian), Sister Greta Ronningen, the Rev. Sam Dessórdi Peres Leite and Andrew Thompson .

The nearly 50-year-old program identifies and helps to "raise up dynamic and transformational lay and ordained church leaders by providing financial support to individuals engaged in academic study and transformational ministries that address important areas of need in the Episcopal Church," according to an ECFpress release. ECF Fellows have emerged as important leaders, teachers, and scholars at all levels of the church, the release said.

"They are leading the way on important issues and helping to define the future of the Episcopal Church," ECF President Donald V. Romanik, said in the release.

Anne Ditzler, ECF senior program director, said the recipients' "areas of study and ministry speak to a wide range of needs -- from addressing ethical responses to contemporary social issues to renewing hearts and spirits."

Awards range up to $15,000 and fellows may apply to renew grants for up to three years (renewal grants are capped at $10,000), according to the foundation's website.

Peres Leite is a priest of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil and is working on a doctoral degree at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the Episcopal Church-affiliated seminary in Berkeley, California. His focus is on issues in Latino ministries for the U.S.-based Episcopal Church of the United States. His current research is designed to identify ways to empower Latino ministries that will help the church engage in a true dialogue with the Latin American population, according to the release. He is the custodian of the Brazilian Book of Common Prayer and is assistant dean of Holy Trinity National Cathedral, Porto Alegre. Peres Leite also served as chairman of the National Worship Committee of the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 2005-06.

McVey is rector of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Davenport, Iowa, where he is leading his congregation and local community in addressing the issue of human trafficking. McVey began with a "ministry of presence" at a truck stop on Interstate 80, which the release called one of the top sites in the United States for transporting, buying and selling women, children and men for all forms of forced labor. The ministry is evolving into a network of people and institutions addressing the problem, including congregations and diocesan leaders, local law enforcement and government employees, FBI agents, businesses, social service providers and politicians. The release said he hopes others can plant similar ministries at other trafficking sites in the United States or elsewhere in the Anglican Communion. He is a graduate of Trinity School for Ministry, and Episcopal Church- and Anglican-affiliated seminary in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

Ronningen has created and will lead the Good Seed Project, a series of spiritual formation and faith building classes for young girls in juvenile detention in Los Angeles, the release said. The goal of this program is to help the girls grow in self-esteem and treat themselves and each other with respect and dignity; to re-imagine themselves as beloved children of God. Ronningen will use her background in yoga and meditation to teach the girls how to access inner peace in their challenging lives, according to the release. Ronningen has been a chaplain for PRISM Restorative Justice, a ministry of the Diocese of Los Angeles, for more than three years. She is attending Claremont School of Theology pursuing a master's degree in spiritual formation. Greta lives in San Gabriel, California, and is a founding member of The Community of Divine Love, a religious order in the Benedictine tradition.

Thompson is a doctoral candidate in Christian ethics at Yale University, where his research focuses on the ethics of the church and its relationship to different cultural contexts, the release said. He believes that "in its public life the church should seek to discern the actions of the creator in the world around it and to respond to that creative action." Thompson hopes to support this process of discernment in the church. As a member of the Episcopal Young Adult Service Corps, Thompson was a missionary and community-development worker in the Anglican Episcopal Church of El Salvador, where he and his wife established a primary school. He is working on a book project on mission with other young leaders from the Anglican Communion.

Renewal fellowships were awarded to Paul Clever, the Rev. Kathryn Reinhard, the Rev. Edward E. Thompson, Liza Anderson, the Rev. Rosa Lindahl Mallow and the Rev. Altagracia Perez, the release said.

Information about the Fellowship Partners Program can be found here or by calling 800-697-2858. The deadline for 2012 fellowships applications is March 15, 2012.

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