Practical Issues >
Things to do >
Religion and Animals
Episcopal Church embraces all
May 02, 2005
Priest launches national animal-rights network
by Richelle Thompson
Bishop Vicar E. Don Taylor
of the Diocese of
New York opening the gate to the
Cemetery for All God's
The Rev. Michael Delaney,
rector of the Church
of Saint Andrew in Richmondtown, Staten Island
consecration services of the Cemetery for All
(Episcopal News Service photos
by Daphne Mack.)
When trappers killed Franz, a beloved tiger cat, the Rev.
Rebecca Deinsen looked for
That's when she discovered that there was little recourse
against the trappers, and frankly, that few people were
interested in the issue.
"I started contacting animal rights' organizations,
and they were the only ones who cared," said Deinsen,
associate priest at St. John's, Worthington.
"In the midst of all that, I discovered that there was a
need here. There was no spiritual outlet for grieving the loss
of pets even though all of creation is a spiritual issue."
Deinsen began researching the issue of animal rights
in the church and became involved with the Anglican Society
for the Welfare of Animals, based in England. Through online
chats and blogs, she found other people in the United States
interested in the issue.
Together, they decided to launch a network of people in the
U.S. concerned about animal rights and welfare.
"We prayed about it," Deinsen said. "And we e-mailed
Since the launch of The Episcopal Network for Animal
Welfare (http://www.franciscan-anglican.com/enaw) in
the fall, "it's really caught on. We thought we'd be lucky
to get 12 members, but we're up to more than 50 now," she
said. Her website:
Three churches in New York have pledged to be "animal
friendly," which requires a promise to support and uphold
members engaged in animal welfare ministries; hold an "Animal
Blessing" service annually; provide pastoral care and prayer
for members grieving the loss or illness of a pet; serve
vegetarian fare during Lent and provide vegetarian options at
community meals; and agree not to hold fundraisers that center
upon the killing of animals, such as pig roasts, sport hunting
and lobster boils.
For a long time, Deinsen admitted, she believed there were
more pressing concerns in the world than animal welfare.
But being committed to animal rights doesn't exclude a
commitment to other justice issues.
"It's an additional ministry. The fact that there are so
few people who care about animals in creation makes the people
who feel called really want to stand up and be a voice,"
Deinsen said. "Our goal is to raise awareness, to help
people make more ethical choices and to provide ministries for
people who have lost pets and are grieving. We want to be a
place of support for people who feel alienated because they
are vegetarian or because they're passionate about animal
--- Richelle Thompson is director of communications
for the Diocese of Southern Ohio and editor of the
Mother Rebecca Deinsen has been the Associate Rector of St.
John's since May 2004. Rebecca gained her Master of Divinity through the
Graduate Theological Union in 1999 and a Master in Anglican Studies in 2003. She
was ordained to the priesthood in November 2003 while serving as the Episcopal
Campus Chaplain at the University of Michigan. Rebecca enjoys writing, creating
websites, Franciscan and Celtic spirituality, animal welfare ministry, dancing,
reading, postmodern ministry, and traveling.