Since July 5th, The Episcopal Church's triennial General Convention has been meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana to discuss a long docket of resolutions to improve Episcopal doctrine and policy toward LGBT people. Today, in the House of Deputies Hearing, a resolution to add gender identity and expression to the Church’s nondiscrimination clause, passed overwhelmingly. Most who spoke on the resolution were in favor of adding to the nondiscrimination clause. Deputy Carla Robinson of Olympia, who is a transwoman in the Episcopal Church, shared her moving story of how empowerment comes from the Church being able to “rightly name us.” The resolution states:
Canons of The Episcopal Church be hereby amended to read as follows: No one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age, except as otherwise specified by Canons.
This resolution was submitted as a companion to another resolution, which adds gender identity and expression to the nondiscrimination clause specific to serving the Episcopal Church. This resolution was also passed overwhelmingly. The House of Bishops had previously adopted both resolutions, making the House of Deputies’ vote the final step (which means official transgender inclusion for both the laity and clergy). Both resolutions are based upon an “increased understanding and practice to respect the human dignity of transgender people…” Below is the Ministry Committee’s explanation of both resolutions:
Gender identity (one's inner sense of being a man, a woman, or something more complex) and expression (the way in which one manifests that gender identity in the world) should not be bases for exclusion from the life of the Church at any level. As transgender people and their families increasingly come out within or find their way to congregations, their specific naming in our Canons, along with other groups who historically have experienced discrimination, will encourage congregations to deepen their understanding and widen their welcome, that we all might be empowered ‘to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.’
Reverend Susan Russell offered her take on the impact of this vote:
And it is not just a good day for transgender Episcopalians and their friends, families and allies. It is a good day for all of us who are part of a church willing to the risk to continue to draw the circle wider as we work to live out our call to make God's inclusive love known to the whole human family.
The Episcopal Church has a great track record on LGBT equality. Known as one of America's most LGBT inclusivedenominations, the Episcopal Church has been affirming gay and lesbian couples for many years. This year, the convention addressed the technical issues of inclusivity, such as the details of nondiscrimination clauses and liturgical rites. The General Convention is expected to vote on the provisional use of a new liturgical rite, titled “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” which would be given as a blessing to gay and lesbian couples on their wedding day. GLAAD celebrates the official inclusion of transgender people within the Episcopal Church, or as Rev. Russell phrases it, putting “the T in equality.” GLAAD will continue to cover more LGBT-equality breakthroughs at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
Nichole Latimer, Religion, Faith & Values Media Intern, contributed significantly to this post.