D020 Understanding the Truth of Sexual Harrassment and Assault in The Episcopal Church

Original version

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 79th General Convention appoint a task force to develop a survey on gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence against women and girls in all their forms as we understand these sins, which include, but are not limited to, sexual and gender harassment, sexual assault, physical, spiritual, and emotionally abusive behavior, and oppression based on gender. This survey shall be modeled on the survey used to gather information and compile the 2017 report “Sexual Misconduct in the United Methodist Church: US Update”; and be it further

Resolved, That the task force shall be appointed jointly by the President of the House of Deputies and the Presiding Bishop, with 9 members - 3 lay people (at least 2 of whom identify as women), 3 priests or deacons members (at least 2 of whom identify as women), and 3 bishops members (at least 2 of whom identify as women). The overall composition of this task force shall include at least 5 members who have experienced gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence against women and girls and at least 3 members who have personal and recent experience working with complaints within the general Church and/or secular community on matters of gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence against women and girls. This task force shall report its progress to Executive Council at regular and timely intervals as determined by the task force, the Presiding Bishop, and the President of the House of Deputies; and be it further

Resolved, That the task force shall create said survey no later than December of 2019 and shall work with appropriate general Church organizations, dioceses, and church leadership, both lay and clergy, to distribute widely in the Episcopal Church for access by both laity and clergy no later than spring of 2020, said survey being available primarily on-line, and with adaptations made as determined by the task force to enable responses by those members of the general Church who may not have ready and easy access to the internet; and be it further

Resolved, That the task force shall write a report detailing the responses to the survey, a summary of the responses to the survey, and particular insights and observations by the task force, with said report being publicly disseminated and available to the Episcopal Church online no later than early 2021. The report will be provided to the following members and organizations of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: The House of Bishops, The Executive Council, The National Association of Episcopal Schools; all Episcopal Seminaries (including diocesan formation programs for ordination); Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers; all Canons to the Ordinary; all Transition Officers; and any other bodies, organizations, or committees that the President of the House of Deputies or the Presiding Bishop deem necessary. Those persons and organizations are requested to report back to the Task Force no later than April 30, 2021 with the following written responses to the report, a copy of the same responses shared with the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies:
1) How their body and/or institution has contributed to a church culture of gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence against women and girls in all their forms, when appropriate detailing specific examples of this culture that has approved of this behavior, ignored and/or excused this behavior, and how this culture has damaged the body and/or institution; 2) The body and/or institution’s plan of action within their body or institution that can bring about a culture of truth telling, repentance, reconciliation, and justice in our church; including a timeline of said plan of action; 3) And any other questions the task force, in consultation with the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies, deem helpful and necessary for the general Church to confess the truth of the impact of the sin of gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence against women and girls in all their forms and to engage the process of restoration and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, That the task force shall review these responses and forward them to the appropriate board, committee, and/or task force so they may be evaluated and utilized as the general Church moves to restoration and reconciliation with Christ and each other over our sins of gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention request that the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance consider a budget allocation of $40,000 for the implementation of this resolution, including two face-to-face meetings of the task force, costs associated with creating and disseminating the survey and the subsequent report.

Explanation

The truth-telling of the #metoo movement of women, girls, as well as men, who have been victims of gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence confronts us with a truth particularly women have been speaking for centuries, yet has been ignored. This truth cannot be ignored anymore, particularly in the Church.

As the Body of Christ in the world, we are called in a particular way to model the Gospel mandate of confession and reconciliation. This Resolution begins this process, inviting us to be courageous in our truth-telling. The Episcopal Church does not yet know the full truth of the experience of gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence inflicted upon its clergy and laypeople by those in power and the systems of the Church that do not respect the dignity of every human being.

Other denominations have modeled this work for us. In 2017, the United Methodist Church surveyed 4300 lay and clergy leaders about sexual misconduct. The results of that survey indicated that 64% of clergy and 31% of laity had experienced sexual misconduct in the church, ranging from assault to inappropriate comments to uncomfortable touching and closeness. We propose adapting that survey for the Episcopal context so that we can begin the process of sharing the truth of gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence in our church, that we may be guided by Christ in the work of reconciliation and justice.


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