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Task force on implementation of canon on women's ministry submits final report
I respect the members of the Task Force, and appreciate their tireless
efforts in a difficult and largely thankless mission.
I am disappointed with the Task Force's refusal to "assist" the three
dioceses as General Convention charged Council to do.
No one likes to be coercive, but that is precisely what the members of the
Task Force were appointed to be. The Task Force is right in stressing
that unwanted assistance is coercive. So are red lights. So are canons.
So would be presentments if brought against the three bishops who refuse
to obey the mandatory canons of the church.
I could give the background papers on A045 to any freshmen English class
of non-Episcopalians or even non-Christians, ask them to brainstorm, and
in an hour present a list at least 20 ways to "assist" the three dioceses
to comply with the canons and still not require bishops to violate their
consciences by themselves ordaining women. That would be an easy writing
assignment. For example, they might suggest:
* Executive Council could send in women priests to serve in those dioceses,
each not staying for more than 59 days, after which the Title III,
Canon 3a would require them to have the consent of the local bishop.
* Executive Council might operate a Radio Free ECUSA to broadcast the
priestly services of women in the three dioceses, so that Episcopalians
there will not grow up unaware of women's priestly ministries
* Executive Council might send materials on women's ministries to every
communicant in those dioceses
Not one of these suggested ways to "assist" is as coercive as presentments
would be. Clearly the bishops are in violation of the canons that they
have sworn to uphold. Clearly they should be found guilty in a Court for
the Trial of a Bishop. But I hope we won't go that route. One reason
that I voted for A045 was to offer an irenic alternative to presentments.
The report on the deployment of women in other dioceses was well done, and
I hope that the General Convention Office will publish it on the church's
website. I also hope that it will gather and publish the same data for
the 8 non-domestic dioceses and on the Diocese of Cuba, the Diocese of
Puerto Rico, and the Diocese of Venezuela, all three of whom are exploring
joining ECUSA. (Venezuela has already asked; Cuba and Puerto Rico have
called extraordinary conventions to vote on whether to ask, meeting very
The report on the 100 domestic dioceses shows that many dioceses have made
very little progress towards deployment of women clergy, especially in
percentage of women leading parishes. In 18 dioceses (18%) under 5
percent of those who lead parishes are women.
I am uneasy in contemplating a "day of dialogue and reflection" at the
2006 General Convention, 30 years after women were first ordained legally
in ECUSA. I realize that the dialogue is supposed to "assist" us move
towards the goal of deployment of women in all dioceses. At a certain
point talk can become a cheap substitute for action.
We changed the canons on women's ordination 1976. ECUSA had only 14
"irregularly" ordained women priests at that time. By 2001, women were
20.3% of the 17,118 clergy listed in the Clerical Directory. Women 25.5%
of the clergy in the House of Deputies for 2003 (and 38.4% of the full
house). Isn't it about time we do more than talk to assure that
women have a full and equal change of employment throughout ECUSA
Here's the text of the resolution that Executive Council voted to bring to
Resolved, the House of ____ concurring, the 24th General Convention receive
with thanks the report of the visitors representing the Executive Council in
the implementation of Resolution A045 of the 73rd General Convention; and be
Resolved, the House of ____ concurring, that we give thanks for the work of
the Holy Spirit within our Communion through the life-giving ministry of
ordained women; and be it further
Resolved that, inasmuch as the 72nd General Convention in resolution A052
clarified that the canons regarding the ordination of women are mandatory,
that this church engage in a national conversation drawing on the best
resources available, including theological, beginning in the year following
the 74th General Convention, sponsored by its Executive Council and with
implementation by church staff and other appropriate entities, in order to
(1) assist the whole church to promote, explore and develop ways to
facilitate the ordination of women in every diocese and their full and equal
deployment through the church; and (2) prepare for a day a dialogue and
reflection to be held at the 75th General Convention in 2006; and be it
Resolved, that the budget for the 2004-2006 Triennium include $50,000 for
this national conversation.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Here's ENS's report on our deliberations:
October 24, 2002
Task force on implementation of canon on women's ministry
submits final report
by Jan Nunley
(ENS) In the end, the A045 Task Force--charged by the 2000
General Convention to "visit, interview, assess and assist" the
bishops, leaders and people of the Dioceses of Fort Worth,
Quincy and San Joaquin to comply fully with canons regarding the
ordination of women--could do everything that was asked of them
except assist. That was the essence of the final report of the
three teams that visited the dioceses to the Executive Council
at its fall meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, October 11-14.
"We found that the intrusion of an unwelcome and uninvited
group made it impossible 'to assist'; we are a diverse church,
committed to inclusivity, but some of our behavior sends to
self-described traditionalists a message of unwelcome," the
The first of the three-member teams to make a visit was the
one assigned to the Diocese of San Joaquin. Pauline Getz of San
Diego, the Rev. Scott Kirby of Eau Claire, and Bishop Catherine
Roskam of New York spent July 12 of last year at the diocesan
camp and conference center and described their reception as one
of "gracious hostility." The report said, "It was very clear
that the bishop and most of the clergy present were convinced
that we had come to dig up information to be used to bring
charges against the bishop."
They found that Bishop John-David Schofield has been
"supportive" of women currently in the diocese's ordination
process, though he will not ordain them himself. Schofield told
them that "he is not convinced that women who go through
ordination are truly ordained" and described them as "'make
believe' priests" whose administration of the sacraments would
lead recipients to be "barred from grace." The San Joaquin team,
rather than make a second visit, opted to offer Schofield the
opportunity to visit the Diocese of New York with other diocesan
leadership to "experience the ordained ministry of women."
A team whose members included the Rev. Ann Coburn of Rhode
Island, Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida and Diane
Pollard of New York visited the Diocese of Quincy on October 1,
2001 and again on August 29, 2002. The team reported "an
expressed willingness" on the part of diocesan leadership to
"observe the canons of this church and provide equal access to
the ordination process for both women and men." The diocese has
several women postulants preparing for the vocational diaconate,
but to date reported that no woman has presented herself for
discernment in seeking ordination to the priesthood.
The third team, composed of the Rev. David Chee of
California, Sarah Harte of Los Angeles, and Bishop Peter James
Lee of Virginia, visited the Diocese of Fort Worth on October 9,
2001 and March 6, 2002. Fort Worth bishop Jack Iker made it
plain that they were "an unwelcome intrusion into the life of
the Diocese^Ćinterfering with the internal affairs of the
Diocese" in opening remarks, and declared to them that "we don't
have any trust in the Executive Council, the General Convention,
and the Presiding Bishop."
The team was impressed by the "vitality in mission" in Fort
Worth, and reported that women are included at all levels of
leadership except ordained ministry. Any woman seeking
ordination is directed to the "Dallas/Fort Worth plan," an
arrangement whereby she is put under the episcopal oversight of
the Diocese of Dallas. So far, three women have been ordained
through that process.
The second meeting, planned with lay and clergy leaders who
differed from the majority in Fort Worth, caused friction with
Iker and diocesan leaders, who insisted that members of the
diocesan standing committee be allowed to attend. The team
reported that they "sympathized" with feelings of
marginalization on the part of both groups.
"We did the work we needed to do, as much as we could,"
remarked task force co-chair Sarah Harte.
One woman out of every four clergy
Drawing somewhat less attention than the team visits were the
task force's efforts to address the first mandate of resolution
A045, which was "to monitor progress in all dioceses toward the
full implementation" of the women's ordination canons. That was
done through a questionnaire sent last summer to all dioceses of
the Episcopal Church.
The monitoring group warned council members that its results
were "preliminary" and needed improvement in accuracy and
consistency. They indicated that, on average, roughly one out of
every four Episcopal clergy now serving are women. But some
dioceses clearly take up the slack for others, the group
reported. "One diocese reports as high a percentage of female
parochial clergy as 62.5 percent," the report said. "Three
others report percentages of 50 or more." In 27 of the 100
domestic dioceses, one of every three parish clergy is a woman.
But in 34 dioceses, fewer than one in five are female.
The group found no correlation between geography or other
factors and the incorporation of women into ordained ministry.
The council voted to present a resolution to General
Convention asking for a "national conversation" to assist the
whole church to "promote, explore, and develop ways to
facilitate the ordination of women in every diocese and their
full and equal deployment throughout the church," with a eye
towards a "day of dialogue and reflection" at the 2006 General
--The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of Episcopal News
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