Monday, July 9, 2018

Day 5 of #GC79: Marriage equality

House of Deputies approves compromise resolution on marriage equality

Southern Virginia's deputation table sign.
On July 9, the House of Deputies voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution aimed at ensuring all Episcopalians can be married by their priests in their home churches. The debate on the resolution was spread over two days and was intense. The resolution will now go to the House of Bishops for consideration.

The resolution, B012, gives clergy in charge of a congregation the ability to provide access to the trial-use marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Currently those rites can only be used with the permission of their bishop. The resolution also requires that if a bishop is unable, due to his or her theological position, to permit marriage of same-sex couples, that he or she may appoint another bishop to provide pastoral support to any clergy or couples desiring to use the rites. The resolution provides for the trial use of the rites until the completion of the next comprehensive revision of the prayer book.

This amended version of the resolution provides a compromise that gives equal access to the marriage rites while protecting the conscience of those who object to same-sex marriage. It also makes clear that the canonical authority to use the liturgies rests with the clergy in charge of a congregation.

House of Bishops adopts covenant to combat abuse, harassment and exploitation

Meeting on July 8, the House of Bishops adopted a covenant to seek changes in their diocese to combat abuse, harassment and exploitation. A Working Covenant for the Practice of Equity and Justice for All in The Episcopal Church states that “the church as both community of faith and workplace is not immune to abuse, harassment and exploitation of people of varying gender, racial and cultural identities.”

Bishop Hollerith said that he will bring the covenant back to Southern Virginia and talk particularly with women clergy about what next steps to take in our diocese.

The covenant states that bishops plan to engage their diocesan cultures and structures in the following ways:

  • Recognize and respect the official as well as unofficial power given to us by our office, exercising it with humble care and in loving service with all God’s people;
  • Participate in regular self-examination and seek micro-transformations in our personal and systemic use of authorized, relational and positional power;
  • Increase our awareness of, listen to, and take to heart the stories that reflect the biases deeply embedded in our structure;
  • Create a culture of empowerment, giving space for leadership based on equity, not tokenism;
  • Make room for varying cultural and gender-based leadership practices, nurturing an ethos of cooperation and collaboration, exploring and supporting a broad range of leadership models;
  • Eliminate pay and benefit inequities among all persons, and cease ‘wage theft’ by creating and enforcing standardized diocesan compensation guidelines;
  • Create and enforce equitable parental leave policies;
  • Utilize formational opportunities for congregational search committees to examine bias and make responsible choices regarding their selection and call of clergy into ministry with them.

The bishops’ covenant came out of the Liturgy of Listening held July 4 here at General Convention. At that service, bishops offered laments and confession for the church’s role in sexism and misogyny. The service featured 12 stories – six from women and six from men – from victims of sexual misconduct perpetrated by someone in the church. Each story was read by a bishop of the same gender as the victim. You can read more about this liturgy and watch video of it here.