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Episcopal Church embraces all God's Creatures
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 850-plot
 Cemetery for All God's Creatures.

The Rev. Michael Delaney, rector of the Church
 of Saint Andrew in Richmondtown, Staten Island leading the
 consecration services of the Cemetery for All God's Creatures.
 (Episcopal News Service photos by Daphne Mack.)

When trappers killed Franz, a beloved tiger cat, the Rev. Rebecca Deinsen looked for help.

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 it."

Since the launch of The Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare ( 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 rights."

 --- Richelle Thompson is director of communications for the Diocese of Southern Ohio and editor of the Interchange.

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.

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