Bishops in the US-based Episcopal Church (TEC) have adopted a covenant committing them to seek change after hearing personal stories of abuse, harassment and exploitation. Ahead of the Church’s General Convention – the triennial governing synod of the province currently taking place in Austin, Texas – the bishops took part in a “special listening liturgy” to acknowledge the #MeToo movement. They then adopted “A Working Covenant for the Practice of Equity and Justice for All in The Episcopal Church” which commits them to seeking change.
The liturgy included stories chosen from more than 40 testimonies submitted to the Church. “Names and identifying information were redacted, but the readings and silence within the liturgy was both dramatic and profoundly uncomfortable for those attending,” TEC’s public affairs department said. “The Covenant is meant as a first step in the Church’s response.”
Bishop Audrey Scanlan of Central Pennsylvania said that plans are underway to create a toolkit to help dioceses create their own kind of listening events to begin the hard work that is needed. “Sexual violence, aggression, exploitation and harassment exist in our church. We can’t let that be the last word,” she said.
In their Covenant, the bishops say that “the church as both community of faith and workplace is not immune to abuse, harassment and exploitation of people of varying gender, racial and cultural identities. As pastoral and prophetic leaders of the church, we bear the responsibility to continue the healing and transformational work that has yet to be fully realised.
“Together, we commit ourselves in our local contexts to strive daily, transforming the culture of our church into a more just, safe, caring and prophetic place for all. . . We seek to shift our institutional life from one which benefits a few at the expense of others, and more determinedly live our baptismal vows following the way of Jesus.”
The issue of gender-based violence is one that will be considered at the General Convention as it continues to meet in Austin.