Both historically and at this General Convention, debate has continued over whether various ministries should be staffed at the highest levels. One such position is a Women’s & LGBTQ Ministry Desk—but after much discussion, the position was both created and funded in the approved budget.
“We need someone in churchwide leadership who can devote full-time ministry to articulating this Church’s theology, vision, and witness for fully including women and LGBTQI people in the Church’s life as well as in public life,” said Deputy Christopher Hayes, of the Diocese of California during the debate.
In the past, the Episcopal Church had a Women’s Desk, but the position was cut in 2009 for budgetary reasons. In 2015, the General Convention voted to reinstate the job, but the position wasn’t funded, which stalled the effort. Now, however, with both agreement and the necessary financial support, the Episcopal Church has a clear path to supporting these important ministries.
As part of the legislative process, the resolution titled A063 Creation of Director of LBGTQI and Women’s Ministries was debated in the House of Deputies and passed and then sent for review by the House of Bishops. The Bishops made minor changes and sent it back to the House of Deputies where it passed on the consent calendar.
Volunteers who have spearheaded these efforts until now reported being elated by the shift, seeing it as a path to support of its already committed efforts, as well as a response to increasing need.“TransEpiscopal is an all-volunteer organization, with no paid staff and a bare bones budget. We are asked on a weekly basis to assist individuals, congregations, dioceses in everything from training to pastoral care,” said Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, a leader of the group. “Outside the church we advocate against the many laws limiting civil rights and bodily autonomy. While all that we do is a labor of love and solidarity, we cannot keep up with the ever-growing need. We need staff support from our church.”
There’s plenty of work to be done. The legislation outlined the duties associated with this new position, including:
- disseminate the anti-sexism training modules developed by the Task Force to Study Sexism in the Episcopal Church,
- collect and disseminate data relevant to gender and sexual orientation equality within The Episcopal Church,
- collect and develop multilingual, multicultural churchwide resources to support the church in living into its commitments to fully welcome and include people and communities of diverse genders
- provide both in-person and on-line trainings and create networks to form and mobilize women and people of diverse gender identities and sexualities who can in turn lead faith-rooted trainings at the diocesan and parish level.
This newly-created position will enhance the work and efforts of the considerable network of volunteers who are already working on the ground to make change. “We really need someone to gather in people, to create a network that can identify the issues, then gather in the resources and get them out to congregations,” said Deputy Sarah Lawton of the Diocese of California.