“Separate but Equal?”
Did you know that during the 79th General Convention, the ECW also conducts its own meeting? Your ECW sent 4 delegates to the 49th Triennial: Meredith Blocker, Whitney Evans, Delores Godwin, and Kathy Siegel.
To kick off every Triennial, there is a Welcome Dinner, and this year we were asked to plan it! We planned the program around the Gospel of Mark 13: 35-37, encouraging all attendees to understand that the “Keep Awake” statements in that gospel are synonymous with the current phrase “Stay Woke.” Our three speakers focused on the topics of implicit bias, the call to service, and the journey of reconciliation. The third speaker of the night was EDUSC’s very own Kellie Wilson. All week long we heard comments about how amazing she was. She did the Diocese proud!
The Triennial meeting is to conduct the business of the ECW, including election of Board members and any bylaws amendments. While we don’t have quite as many resolutions as General Convention, the debate on our resolutions can be just as contentious. The main item of business this year was to clarify the relationship between ECW and the United Thank Offering (UTO).
Since the new memorandum of understanding between UTO and the Church, the bylaws relationship between ECW and UTO needed to be updated to reflect those status changes. The exact nature of this update, however, was incredibly divisive for the group, with emotions running high on both sides, and a situation that presented multiple options without a clear right or wrong.
From our point of view, both sides had very valid arguments, and ultimately the group took the best (and most Episcopalian) course: a task force from both sides was formed to study, discern, and report back at the next Triennial.
After our attendance this year, we come away feeling deeply grateful for our diocese and the effort made to function as one deputation, rather than two separate groups at two separate meetings. After networking with our sisters around the Church, we know that we are truly fortunate to have a Bishop and a deputation that was thrilled to include the ECW. We were invited to briefing meetings and social time.
As a result of this unity, we heard our deputation discussing a resolution that had passed the House of Deputies specifically calling the Church to engage in a task-force led conversation on reconciliation with women. Due largely to the #MeToo movement, over 40 resolutions were proposed this General Convention having to do with women and their relationship with and protection by the Church. We were deeply dismayed to learn this resolution, D016, did not contain any provision for inclusion of the ECW in the task force or in the presentation of the findings. When we asked our deputation, they fully supported and helped us strategize on how to have the ECW’s voice heard in the resolution’s debate in the House of Bishops. We were so grateful for this, even more so because our Bishop could not be our voice in his absence.
We drafted a suggested amendment and presented it to the ECW body the next morning, encouraging all Triennial attendees to contact their Bishops in support of amending the resolution to include the only group in our Church that represents all Episcopal women. Over 20 Bishops have been contacted, many of whom have already promised support. We are carefully monitoring this resolution as we wait for it to be debated, even though we came home on Wednesday at the end of Triennial meeting.
Many are speaking of this moment as a shift for the focus of ECW toward higher levels of advocacy and involvement in the Church process on issues relating to women. All of this shift is due to the open sharing of our deputation in EDUSC. This does not happen in many other dioceses, but our diocese is modeling that true acceptance and open communication can cause seismic shifts in venerable church organizations.
Triennial has often felt like a meeting that is “separate but equal” to General Convention. After this year and because of our deputation, hopefully we have moved the bar toward reconciliation not just of our two business meetings, but between women and the wider Church.