The 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church has now added “gender identity and expression” to the church's nondiscrimination canons for both lay and ordained ministry. The House of Bishops passed the legislation on Saturday, July 7th. The House of Deputies then passed it Monday, July 10, officially making it an act of the convention. By adding this language to its canons, The Episcopal Church joins the United Church of Christ, which took a similar step in 2003, and the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, which did so in 2007. Like The Episcopal Church, both groups have had openly transgender ordained and lay leaders for several years.
"We are filled with joy for this clear affirmation that the Episcopal Church welcomes and values the ministerial gifts of transgender people, lay and ordained,'' members of TransEpiscopal said in a joint statement after the House of Deputies' vote.
''We are also delighted by the strong support and broad understanding of trans issues shown by deputies representing a wide range of regions and generations in this church. As the church steps boldly into new frontiers in various facets of its life, we are proud to be part of this spirit-filled movement. We thank all of our allies, especially IntegrityUSA, The Consultation, and the Chicago Consultation for their tireless, heartfelt support.''
On the final day of Convention the House of Deputies also concurred with the House of Bishops to pass resolution D022 which calls for a Church-Wide Response to Bullying. "Gender identity and expression" are included along with "economic, ethnic, racial or physical characteristics, religious status and sexual orientation" in a list of characteristics in response to which bullying often takes place.
“Bullying of any kind, for any reason, goes contrary to the second of Jesus’ two great commandments: to love one’s neighbor as oneself. As we in the United States continue to grow in awareness of the effects of bullying, we are proud that The Episcopal Church has decided to take a stand in support of the most vulnerable in our society. Transgender people are certainly among them: according to a 2011 study, 78 percent of transgender people report being bullied or harassed as children. It is high time for our church to join in the lifesaving work of ending this epidemic.”
The text of D022 reads as follows:
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 77th General Convention calls for a church wide response to the epidemic of bullying, particularly of those perceived as being “different” by virtue of economic, ethnic, racial or physical characteristics, religious status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression; bullying is defined as the recurring use of single or combined written, verbal or electronic expressions or physical acts or gestures, directed at any person that: result in physical or emotional harm to the person or damage to his/her property; places the person in reasonable fear of harm to him/herself or of damage to her/his property; creates an intimidating or hostile environment for the person; impacts the rights of the victim. Bullying shall include cyber-bullying through elctronic/social media, telephonic technology or other means;and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention encourage new partnerships among our congregations, dioceses, campus ministries, National Association of Episcopal Schools, public schools, counseling centers, and governmental organizations in order to support and offer preventative programs addressing bullying, harassment, and other related violence, especially with higher risk populations; and be it further
Resolved, That these partnerships be encouraged to create or join with existing required programs designed to recognize and prevent abuse, neglect, and exploitation in our church settings which:
- utilize positive, inclusive, empowering and developmentally appropriate
- raise participant’s awareness about the issue
- focus on prevention
- seek to change bystander behavior into ally behavior
- create partnerships between youth and adults
- provide intervention and treatment for those who exhibit bullying behavior.