Guess how many of the forty members of The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council are lesbian or gay?
The answer is eight.
Twenty percent of the elected leaders of the Church’s most important governing body in between General Conventions are lesbian and gay clergy and laity from around the country. This is reflective of the talent, dedication, and service that this small minority of the church’s membership offers to the whole. It is a testament to the esteem in which gay and lesbian Christians are held by our sisters and brothers.
Now, guess how many of these lesbian and gay leaders are serving on the Executive Council committee appointed to respond to the Communiqué from the Anglican Primates’ meeting in
The answer is zero.
Despite the fact that two of the three requests made of our Church by the Primates’ Communiqué bear directly on the lives, relationships, and vocations of our Church’s lesbian and gay members, none of the lesbian or gay leaders on Executive Council were appointed to the committee drafting our Church’s response to these requests. Once again, our straight sisters and brothers assume the right to represent us, even when we are sitting at the table and can speak for ourselves!
This is called heterosexist privilege. Can you imagine a response to, say, requests about the ordination of women being drafted without women being in the room? Can you imagine a statement about racism being drafted without people of color in the room? I think you get the picture.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson are good-hearted people. They care about the lesbian and gay member of our Church. They are on record as supporting our full inclusion in the life and ministry of the Church.
Even so, their good intentions are readily subverted by the dynamic of heterosexist privilege operative in the decision-making structures of our Church. Their failure to insure that lesbian and gay leaders participate in drafting a response to requests for moratoria on gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions isn’t just an unfortunate oversight. It is an unconscionable, even if unconscious, participation in unjust power dynamics that exclude and silence us.
Write to Bishop Katharine and President Bonnie Anderson to urge them to expand the drafting committee to include lesbian and gay members of Executive Council. This is an opportunity to educate them and appeal to their better natures. They are strong, compassionate, and wise women who can handle it when we hold them accountable.
While you are at it, let them know that members of Executive Council, including some gay and lesbian members, should be invited to participate in the September House of Bishops’ meeting with Archbishop Rowan Williams. He needs to hear from all the orders of ministry in our Church, and Bishop Gene Robinson should not be the only (out) lesbian or gay voice in the room. That is an unfair burden for him or anyone else to bear.
The presence of so many of us on Executive Council, and the current visit of openly gay Nigerian human rights activist (and Anglican) Davis Mac-Illya to the United States, reminds us of how far we have come and of how far we have yet to go in terms of the full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in the life and ministry of the Anglican Communion. Let us pray that all of our voices are heard as important decisions are made in the coming days and months.