Saturday, January 5, 2019

A Working Covenant: Bishops’ Promise Proves Hollow

Last summer, the bishops of The Episcopal Church, having heard the #churchtoo testimony, entered into a covenant to work for justice and inclusion for all. A copy of the covenant follows.

So is this covenant consistent with my experience with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia? Answer: It isn’t.

Engaging in retaliation for asking the diocese to mediate a dispute with clergy? One that involves workplace harassment? Clergy committing perjury in court? Illegally misusing funds? And telling me that the matter isn’t of “of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church?” If that’s the case, what on earth qualifies? Rape, mayhem and murder? 

Let me just say this: Thus far, The Episcopal Church has shown that it is utterly broken and hypocritical at every level. And that includes both Bishop Susan and Bishop Shannon. Their only interest to date has been in protecting the reputation of the church.

Here is the text of the covenant that Bishop Goff presumably voted to approve, emphases added:

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;

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.