Following a special listening liturgy on July 3 to acknowledge the #MeToo movement and hear personal stories of abuse, harassment and exploitation, bishops meeting at The Episcopal Church’s General Convention in Austin adopted a covenant that commits them to seek changes. The document, which applies only to bishops, is entitled “A Working Covenant for the Practice of Equity and Justice for All in The Episcopal Church.”
The stories which were read by bishops during the liturgy had been chosen from more than 40 testimonial letters submitted. Names and identifying information were redacted, but the readings and silence within the liturgy was both dramatic and profoundly uncomfortable for those attending. The Covenant is meant as a first step in the Church’s response.
Bishop Audrey Scanlan of Central Pennsylvania said that plans are underway to create a toolkit to help dioceses create their own kind of listening events to begin the hard work that is needed. “Sexual violence, aggression, exploitation and harassment exist in our church. We can’t let that be the last word,” she said.
A Working Covenant for the Practice of Equity and Justice for All in The Episcopal Church
Giving thanks to God and listening deeply to the recent outcry expressing pain and brokenness in our church, we recognize the urgent need for change. 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. As pastoral and prophetic leaders of the church, we bear the responsibility to continue the healing and transformational work that has yet to be fully realized. Together, we commit ourselves in our local contexts to strive daily, transforming the culture of our church into a more just, safe, caring and prophetic place for all. We are grateful for the substantial and insightful memorial offered at General Convention, 2018 by Gathering the Next Generation, 2016. We seek to shift our institutional life from one which benefits a few at the expense of others, and more determinedly live our baptismal vows following the way of Jesus.
Leading with greater awareness of God’s dream, deeper courage and integrity, we plan to engage our 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 amendment of life 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;1
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;
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 Beloved Community Page: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/beloved-community, with further materials on implicit bias found at: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/resources-racial-reconciliation-and-justice
Nesbitt, The Rev. Dr. Paula, “Why Gender Still Matters” (article), in “Cast Wide the Net: Search and Transitions Toolkit for Female Clergy.” Online compendium of resources, 2015 https://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/cast-wide-net
Svoboda-Barber, The Rev. Dr. Helen, “Women Embodying Executive Leadership: A Cohort Model for Episcopal Discernment.” Prequest Dissertation Publishing, 2017. #10617039