No men amongst 47 member committee charged with creating legislation to address sexual harassment and exploitation
The President of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Jennings, has created a 47-member special committee to draft legislation on sexual harassment and exploitation for the July meeting the General Convention.
A statement released by the national church office said President Jennings would chair the committee, which would be divided into five subcommittees. “One group will draft legislation concerning theology and language, while others will address issues of structural equity including pay and benefits, the Title IV disciplinary process, and social justice for women. In response to the presiding officers’ call for the church to examine its history, a sub-committee will draft legislation proposing the creation of a truth and reconciliation process”, the statement said.
President Jennings was also please to report the committee membership reflected the diversity of the church. “Forty percent of the committee’s members and four of its five sub-committee chairs are under age 50, and more than 30 percent are women of color,” the statement noted..
“Women of my generation were the first women to be ordained in the Episcopal Church, and both we and the laywomen in our congregations have experienced sexual exploitation and harassment for decades,” said President Jennings.
“Our younger sisters, both lay and ordained, have no shortage of #metoo stories, but they have come of age in a world and a church that are much more aware of the intersections of sexism and racism and much better educated about gender identity and expression. It’s energizing to hear their ideas and perspectives, and their determination to change our church for the better is contagious.”
One demographic missing from the committee noted Episcopal church commentator and former member of the Executive Council, the Rev. Canon Mark Harris, was men.
On his blog, Preludium, Canon Harris wrote:
There is a good mix of ordained and lay, and I presume a wide range of inclusion(s) – persons of color, indigenous peoples, sexual orientation, etc. But there seem to be no men.
Fair enough. The committee needs to be clear that its members are driven by “their determination to change our church for the better.” That drive is without question a product of personal experience, and because the matter at hand has to do with sexual harassment and exploitation, women need to be at the center of this work. But is that sufficient reason to not include men in any of the committees? Perhaps it is, but if so it is a sad testament to the level of disunity, fracture and lack of maturity, that keeps us from the “full measure of the fullness of Christ.”
The rules of order for the House of Deputies says very little about who may serve on Special Committees. There has been a laudable effort to include on all regular committees and commissions of the General Convention a broadly inclusive membership. This Special Committee has been appointed with the apparent, and if so, notable exclusion of men.
Perhaps a rationale can be provided.