[Episcopal News Service] General Convention Committees on Christian Formation and Discipleship received testimonies on the Episcopal Church’s strengthened welcome for transgender and non-binary people, as well as people with mental illness and their loved ones; expand the Sacred Ground program; integrating advocacy for social justice into catechesis; and, creating a digital hub for training resources at a recent online hearing.
Resolution D030 would allocate $50,000 to develop resources to equip congregations to “be sanctuaries for our trans youth to be where they are loved and affirmed and can be fully who they are in safety,” said the Reverend AJ Buckley, associate rector of St. David of Wales Church in Portland, Oregon, told committee members.
By April 2022, at least 330 anti-trans bills — the majority aimed at young people — had been introduced in state legislatures across the country, Buckley said. “Studies show that more than half of trans boys, 42% of non-binary youth and 30% of trans girls have attempted suicide. These bills aren’t just inconveniences or disappointments, they’re killing young people of diverse gender identities.
As a gender-diverse young person, “it was excruciating to feel different, but not understand why I didn’t meet a trans person until I was in my 30s,” Buckley added. “At a time when I was intensely questioning my own gender identity, if the church had been supportive and educated about diverse transgender identities, and been a safe place, I could have come out earlier and saved myself a lot of anguish. “Buckley said.
In equally moving testimony, Reverend Susan Phillips, a vocation deacon and nurse in the Diocese of Delaware, said her 48-year-old son struggles with autism spectrum disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia and that “We did not feel the Episcopal welcome to the church.
“As a church, we don’t seem to be adept at nurturing and uplifting people with mental illness and their families. We need good information and basic training in mental health.
Phillips testified in support of three resolutions: A107, which would “strengthen care, inclusion, support and advocacy.” A108 would allocate $35,000 to fund regional trainings in mental health first aid by June 2023 and proposes to integrate the help of trainers from the Union of Black Episcopalians. The third resolution, A109, would allocate $15,000 to create and launch a new program and to require mental health first aid training for clergy and those seeking ordination.
First postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a truncated 80e The general convention is now set to take place in Baltimore, Maryland, July 8-11. The triennial convention is the governing body of the church, where final resolutions are considered and voted on by both the House of Bishops and the House of Representatives. Also in the wake of the pandemic, for the first time, two dozen committees of bishops and deputies held hearings together online ahead of the convention. The legislative process has since been further revised.
On May 20, the committees also received testimonies on resolutions to expand Sacred Ground and on the development of social justice ministry as a foundation of Christian identity.
Aileen Chang-Matus, a member of the Standing Committee for the Diocese of Iowa, testified on behalf of resolutions C033 and D014, saying the 11-week Sacred Ground documentary film and readings dialogue series “has a unique and necessary to prepare and equip our churches and our members…and I see nothing else that can do the same, at this time.
Sacred Ground, part of Becoming Beloved Community, the church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, includes documentary films and readings focused on the intersection of Indigenous, Black, Latino and Asian/peaceful with European American stories.
“We need a much wider range of issues, topics and communities covered,” Chang-Matus said. “The Church must be and strives to be a place of love and mutual respect where the faithful of different opinions can dialogue. We really, really need this common dialogue, if we want to move forward.
Dr. Reuben Varghese, of the Diocese of Washington and a member of the Theology of Social Justice Advocacy Task Force, testified in support of Resolution A078, which would allocate $55,000 to place social justice advocacy at the heart of Christian formation.
Varghese, who is the county’s director of public health, wondered “why do we as Episcopalians seem to be hiding from our baptismal promises as a church, when many are denying a theological basis for defending social justice. It makes me wonder if the Episcopal Church really means the marginalized belong.
Los Angeles Alternate Deputy Reverend Guy Leemhuis, first vice president of the Union of Black Episcopalians, called the resolution a “first step” to further the work of the task force. It proposes “institutional change to support social justice as a Christian ministry in the areas of governance and structure, prayer and liturgy, catechesis and lifelong formation to become discipleship, especially with the laity and in accordance with a fair and inclusive policy”.
The resolution would shift the burden of responsibility for change from the communities most affected by injustice, and bring it “to the attention of those who make politics in our church,” Leemhuis said.
Some committee members questioned the need for a digital hub for formation resources in resolutions A104, proposed by the Formation and Ministry of the Baptized Task Force, and A085, a joint resolution proposed by the group. work on networking in theological education.
“I like the idea of making resources accessible; I guess I’m not sure they’re not accessible,” according to Reverend Alex Lenzo, MP for Rio Grande and Secretary of the Committee of Deputies. As rector of St. Francis Church in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, “One thing I love to do is get people to mentor others. I give them resources,” he said. “Others find theirs, just by googling them. So convince me more that this is necessary when there are so many resources out there.
He also asked if the center would focus solely on Episcopal resources, given the many other helpful aids available.
The resolutions would allocate $30,000 to establish “something like Wikipedia meets teacher-to-teacher, something that could allow anyone to share the resources they’ve developed for free or for a fee,” according to Melissa Rau, director of institutional advancement for Seabury Bexley Seminary in Chicago, Illinois.
Reverend Heather Erickson, associate priest at St. John’s Ross in the Diocese of California and a member of the task force, said a task force survey of 700 Episcopalians “confirmed what many of us intuitively knew and through our lived experience…there is a connection between what we believe as Episcopalians and how we train people to live as Christians.
Many interviewees, she said, equated ministry “with acts of service in or on behalf of the congregation, and yet our baptismal theology invites us to an ongoing practice of discipleship in all aspects of our lives. daily, not just within the confines of the church or worship.”
It is through research and educational experience that the task force has proposed a digital hub, intending to “activate baptism” and awaken Episcopalians to their identity and expand their Christian imagination. to continue building the church.
“We thought this would be the most effective and efficient way to share and collaborate information resources that will speak to the depth and breadth of our church and the diversity of contexts in which we live our faith,” Erickson said. “There are already many amazing resources out there. The digital hub would help expand access to the 99% of Episcopalians who identify as lay. »
–Reverend Pat McCaughan is ENS correspondent, based in Los Angeles.