Committee 17: Accessibility & inclusion

6 Responses

  1. Sarah Lawton says:

    Hi, again, Scott.

    The crux of the issue raised in C010, which came from my diocesan convention, is that Kairos has recently changed its policies, or at least made their policies more explicit and public, to say that volunteers must adhere to their ethics code ( Volunteers are required to sign their names to this code, which requires them to use their “sex assigned at birth for volunteers and for Kairos Outside Guests” (p. 9). The policy prohibits trans and non-binary volunteer participation, requiring them to literally cosign a denial of who they are. The policy also puts any clergy signing on behalf of parishioners in conflict with the Episcopal Church’s non-discrimination canons (I.17.5 and III.1.2).

    This is a very different scenario than the one we live in all the time, doing ecumenical and interfaith work many ministries and projects. My church works with many Roman Catholic churches in our neighborhood, on affordable housing policy and also in supporting immigrants. Our churches have very different different policies on the role of women, and on LGBTQ inclusion. But that doesn’t come up in our work on housing and immigration – we have differences and we accept those to work together on common ground. We’ve done that a long time with Kairos, also. But now they are demanding that volunteers sign this code. We have been communicating with them, and also asking for more dialogue, to no avail. They are firm on this.

    A priest in my diocese, the Rev. Mees Tielens, testified for the resolution in committee. He said:

    “We need queer folks, trans folks ministering to people in prison. As a trans person, I know what it is like to be considered not-quite-human, not quite deserving the same rights, dignity, bodily autonomy or privacy that other people get, to have people judge you before they even know you. Prisons are parallel worlds that society likes to tuck out of sight and surround with shame. Well, if there’s anything queer folks know, it’s the destructive power of shame.

    I write with a condemned trans woman at San Quentin, and visited her recently to take her confession. She had been taught, as had I, that God couldn’t love us the way we were. I don’t know if I can convey the damage that did to us. And so it was incredibly healing to both of us that I could offer her absolution as a trans priest, living proof of there being churches that don’t just tolerate but celebrate trans people and their gifts for ministry.

    I’m here today asking the Episcopal Church to stand behind its principles not for my own sake. Because the real issue is that Kairos doesn’t just deprive me of the opportunity for mutual ministry–it deprives queer and trans folks on the inside, a particularly cruel reality for people already so deprived of connection and authenticity.”

    There’s more on this issue on the TransEpiscopal blog:

    I really hope you and other deputies, as well as bishops, take seriously the concerns being brought forward here. There’s been a lot of thoughtful conversation and debate about this issue in California and in the committee. Many involved in the conversation are deeply engaged in prison ministry.

    Sarah Lawton
    L1, California

    • Scott Gunn says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for popping in again. You’re always welcome!

      This particular change of Kairos sounds lousy, and I agree that I wouldn’t want anyone to have to sign a statement that they can’t agree with.

      My concern though is that the resolution, as written, says that we don’t want people to overtly or tacitly endorse “theological statements or practices that conflict with our stated policies and beliefs.” That’s VERY broad. Would it prevent us from working with Presbyterians because they may teach double predestination? Or all Roman Catholics because we have different views on the place of women in the church? Or American Baptists because they don’t have threefold ministry? Or Unitarian-Universalists on any number of fronts? Or, for that matter, Jews or Muslims? Surely we can find ways to work with groups with whom we disagree on important things. And surely we can ensure that no Episcopalian is coerced to sign a statement that violates their conscience.

      The resolution would be less problematic from my perspective if it were more specific. If, for example, it focused on discrimination and not on “stated policies or beliefs.” I don’t doubt that good conversation preceded this resolution, but I think the current version is simply too broad and would prevent us from working with…nearly everyone.


      • Sarah Lawton says:

        Thank you, Scott. You’re very kind.

        So I’m wondering – when you’ve done ecumenical or interfaith work in your ministries, have you ever encountered a request to sign a statement or code like this? Have you ever offered one to sign? I mean, going into such spaces, I have found that we focus on work at hand, where we have common ground – pushing for more affordable units in a housing development, or support for immigrant families. We don’t talk about the doctrinal issues that may divide us. We don’t get into predestination or sacraments or (in interfaith work) the death and resurrection of Jesus. We might ask about holidays and foodways and, of course, religious calendars for scheduling events–no press conference on Yom Kippur or Good Friday. For certain issues, like reproductive rights or LGBTQ inclusion, we might not be able to work with every faith group, and that’s understood. But we don’t ask the Roman Catholic sisters to sign a code of ethics statement on those issues when we invite them to come to a vigil at ICE or a press conference at city hall on housing–issues where we do have common ground. Nor do they ask us to endorse their church’s statements on those issues where we differ. Right? I guess I’m struggling to understand how this phrase would preclude almost all of the ecumenical and interfaith work, all the time.

  2. Robert F Solon Jr says:

    Re A145: I know of at least two fine priests who have been deposed or had to resign bc of their poly household structures. I wonder if this Rez has at least similar partly in mind.

  3. Liza says:

    Robert is right. We’ve had several (I know of at least 4…) priests who were removed from ministry or left voluntarily over the church’s stance against polyamory in recent years, and these resolutions and the task force that produced them were in response to that. I will admit that I’m pretty opposed, but more than anything I regret that we are going to have to have a public debate about this right now at all, which absolutely feels like a distraction from more urgent issues. But in the interest of balance, one recent first-person account is here:

    • Scott White says:

      To Liza’s point on public debate, without comment on merit, I can see The NY Times headlines now—‘“Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery” is cancelled by Episcopal Convention”

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