Executive Council meeting opens on suffrage, budget and treatment of transgender Episcopalians – Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] The Executive Council opened its final meeting on Jan. 25 highlighting a wide range of issues facing the church, including advocating for voting rights, the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, final planning for the 80 coming years.and General convention and efforts to address the Church’s historical complicity with the American system of Native boarding schools.

The central issue, however, on this first full day of the January 25-27 meeting was the experiences of transgender and non-binary Episcopalians. During a 90-minute listening session, seven clergy and lay leaders discussed how transgender people often feel alternately supported and marginalized by the Episcopal Church, which they said does not has not yet lived up to its promise to be a church for all.

“We’ve come a very long way and we still have a lot of work to do,” said Reverend Cameron Partridge, a transgender man who serves as rector at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco, California.

executive counsel is the governing body of the church between triennial meetings of General Convention. After meeting online for most of the pandemic, members were scheduled to meet this week in Cleveland, Ohio, but opted to move to virtual sessions due to the latest national increase in COVID-19 cases.

The Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, Speaker of the House of Representatives, lives near Cleveland and said in her opening remarks that she had hoped to host the Executive Council in person. Even so, “I’m proud to say that we still bring you some of the best from our region via Zoom,” Jennings said, noting that Brant Lee, an Episcopalian and University of Akron law professor, will speak Jan 26 on the church’s racial reconciliation initiatives.

Jennings also brought the board’s attention to the recent Winter Talk, a gathering of Aboriginal ministry leaders. Jennings and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry attended the conference, held online Jan. 15-16, and heard “heartbreaking stories of leaders who helped bring home the remains of deceased children. in boarding schools in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Curry and Jennings pledged to raise Indigenous issues, including the church’s past role in running Indigenous boarding schools, at the church’s upcoming general convention, to be held July 7-14 in Baltimore, Maryland.

The 80sand General Convention has been postponed from 2021 to 2022 due to the pandemic. Church leaders announced in December that masks and proof of vaccinations will be required for attendees in Baltimore, and Jennings told the Executive Council that plans are moving forward for an in-person gathering this summer. The presidents have formed a “scenario planning group” to consider “various options” and help ensure that appropriate health protection measures are in place.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, Speaker of the House of Representatives, each deliver opening remarks Jan. 25 at an Executive Council meeting.

Curry devoted most of his opening remarks to raising awareness of the Episcopal Church’s recent advocacy for the passage of federal suffrage legislation that blocked this month in the US Senate. The General Convention passed a resolution in 2018 opposing voter suppression, and the Episcopal Public Policy Network at the Washington-based Office of Government Relations encouraged Episcopalians to ask Congress to pass the new voter protections. proposed votes.

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“It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen easily,” Curry said. “But we and others of goodwill must work, we must persist, and we must work, through thick and thin, until the right to vote is fully protected and unencumbered by partisan interests.”

Curry emphasized that the church’s advocacy is nonpartisan and that protecting the right to vote is more than a secular ideal. “It is a fundamental human right, based on the innate dignity and equality of every human being, created as the Bible says in the image and likeness of God.”

Church-wide finances, meanwhile, remain relatively stable despite pandemic-related disruptions, according to Kurt Barnes, church treasurer and chief financial officer. “Spending has been tightly managed and spending is continuing [to be] tightly managed, as restrictions on travel and face-to-face meetings continue, Barnes told the Executive Council.

Payment by dioceses of their assessments to support the whole church budget has generally been consistent with their commitments, Barnes said. He also shared in his presentation that 76 dioceses have received pandemic relief grants, totaling $3 million.

The Reverend Mally Lloyd, Chair of the Executive Council Finance Committee, shared an overview of the committee’s development of the 2023-24 budget that will be submitted for consideration by General Convention in July. “We wanted to acknowledge the financial loss and the loss of people suffered in the time of COVID, that there is great pain in many, but not all, dioceses related to this,” Lloyd said.

One way the Executive Council can try to ease this pain is to adjust the church’s formula for diocesan assessments. Dioceses are asked to contribute 15% of their annual income to the church budget, after exempting the first $140,000 of diocese income. The proposed change would increase this exemption to $200,000. At the same time, the budget proposal would maintain the church’s current staffing level of 152 employees.

The Finance Committee is also considering what to do with more than $15 million in surplus from the 2019-21 triennium, most of which relates to pandemic cost savings, the postponement of General Convention and one-time help from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Approximately $2.5 million will be transferred from 2021 to 2022 to cover General Convention. With the remaining funds, $2.3 million was used in the 2022 budget. The latest proposal would apply up to $5 million to the 2023-24 budget. The rest could be placed in short-term reserves, to hedge against sudden drops in income amid continued pandemic uncertainty, but that is still under discussion.

The Joint Standing Committee on Mission Beyond the Episcopal Church, meeting in the afternoon, approved a resolution expressing “serious concern over the escalation of tensions and military build-up along the border between Russia and Ukraine”. The resolution, a call and a prayer to avoid conflict, is expected to be presented to the full council on Jan. 26 alongside Pope Francis’ call to a world day of prayer for peace.

The listening session with transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming Episcopalians was initiated by the Reverend Charles Graves, a member of the executive council of the Diocese of Texas. Graves said he sees a need “not just to recognize, but to really lean into and understand trans and non-binary communities in our church.”

Partridge, the rector of San Francisco, said he began to openly identify as transgender during his 2001 ordination process in the Massachusetts diocese. “I didn’t question God’s love for me,” he said, but he and some of the other presenters said they often find less support in their faith communities than in the community. LGBTQ+. “In fact, time and time again I have experienced God’s love and support through this community, which has too often been judged, rejected and set aside in the name of Christianity,” Partridge said. .

Much of the push for greater inclusion of transgender people in the church has been led by a group called transepiscopal. Several presenters mentioned the group’s work since 2006 to secure General Convention Resolutions affirming the church’s opposition to anti-transgender discrimination and violence against transgender and non-binary people.

These advances, they said, have not eliminated the disconnect between church-wide policies and the experiences of transgender people at the local level.

“While many Episcopalians, most Episcopalians I would say – are comfortable saying ‘All are welcome’, many of us have not felt that welcome by being ourselves authentic as God us. created to be,” said Reverend Rowan Larson, a newly ordained priest in the Massachusetts Diocese who identifies as non-binary and transgender.

Larson offered a brief tutorial on gender and sexual fluidity, as well as pronouns and other terms commonly used by transgender and non-binary people. “Ask the person who identifies this way how they want their pronouns used,” said Larson, who uses the pronouns they and them. “It’s easier to ask,” they said, while referring council members to mypronouns.org.

The Council also heard from Reverend Gwen Fry, Reverend Lauren Kay, Reverend Kit Wang and Reverend Iain Stanford, who each shared stories of the challenges they faced as transgender and non-binary clergy. Sarah Lawton, a secular congresswoman for the California General Convention, shared the story of her sister who comes out as transgender.

The Episcopal Church must do more to increase the visibility of transgender people and educate dioceses and congregations, Fry said. As a transgender woman, she described being forced out of parish ministry after revealing to her congregation that she was transitioning from male to female.

“We’ve done an incredible job of starting the inclusion process at the church level, but it’s just not translating to the diocesan and parish levels. God knows my experience tells us that,” she said. “So let’s look at ways to help our dioceses and parishes see and understand us, increase the visibility of our community locally, and help us provide the education that will change lives.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at [email protected].

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