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Inclusive Language, Equitable Pensions

By Matthew Townsend

The House of Deputies passed several resolutions during its July 10 meeting that shared a common prescription: inclusion and equity.

Resolution B011— or Inclusive Language Policies for Episcopal Seminaries and Formation Programs — “encourages and requests, it does not mandate, that seminaries, training programs, and schools of formation for ordination adopt policies calling for bias-free and inclusive language for God and humanity,” said Canon Thomas O’Brien of the Christian Formation and Discipleship Committee. The resolution drew comments in favor and opposition, and a floor amendment that was equally disputed.

Allison Huggins of Connecticut rose in favor of the resolution, saying it was an “excellent step forward … which is necessary because God is beyond gender.  Only using one gender for God limits God, and that is not in order for us, as humans, to do.”

The Rev. Les Singleton of Florida spoke against the resolution. “To quote Scripture, Psalm 137, ‘By the rivers of Babylon, we wept. How do we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’” he said. “God and humanity can be addressed in so many different ways. I trust our seminaries to determine what is the best language and hope that in each seminary each professor is allowed for themselves to figure out how their students should be encouraged to direct God and direct man in their human speech.”

An amendment submitted by John Crossan of Delaware struck the entire first resolve, limiting the resolution to encouragement. “Language matters,” he said, “and our ability to speak freely, which is a foundational principle of our society, matters too.”

“The idea that this General Convention would ask our seminaries and diocesan formation programs to adopt policies that effectively stifle and police speech in all forms of digital, written, and oral communications … is absolutely chilling.”

The amendment passed 468 to 351; the resolution passed 507 to 313.

Likewise, the house passed Resolution C054-Inclusion of Transgender People, which asks dioceses to consider adopting a set of guidelines for the inclusion of transgender and non-binary people. Among them: “We will protect the rights and respect the dignity of transgender and non-binary persons, refusing to reject, judge, abuse, belittle or in any way dehumanize them”; “We will recognize and accept our responsibility to protect the privacy of transgender and non-binary persons”; and “We will provide a safe environment for transgender and non-binary persons, for those who support them, and for those who do not understand our commitment to these principles.”

The house also passed resolutions D045 and A237, both aimed at increasing pension equity.

“Pension equity is a justice issue,” Christian Clough of Chicago said in favor of D045. “At this convention, we are considering resolutions to address discrepancies in treatment and compensation of women, minorities, and other marginalized members of our church. Resolution D045 addresses this inequality as well, and also the ways in which lay employees are generally less secure in retirement because the generally lower compensation of lay employees — even those with comparable education, experience, and responsibilities — is compounded by an inferior pension plan.”

No deputies spoke against the resolution and it passed by a large margin.

A237 calls on the Church Pension Fund to “report on the current state of parity between the pensions of lay and ordained Church employees, domestic and non-domestic Church employees and Church employees of disparate incomes, with a particular focus on how those income disparities are manifested across gender and racial or ethnic lines, understanding that lower compensation directly affects pension benefits.”

The resolution also asks CPF to “consider supplemental models for the pension system that would benefit lay and clergy employees while the Church works toward true parity in wages and employment practices.”

In addition, the House of Deputies adopted Resolution A222-Against Caste- and Descent-Based Discrimination and Resolution A223-Family Leave Policies.

These resolutions will proceed to the House of Bishops.


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