Bishops say 'all baptized persons' is inclusive enough for ministry access resolution

House recommends giving dioceses sole consent on bishop elections
July 14, 2009

The House of Bishops July 15 adopted an amended version of Resolution C061, which would change the canons to say that "all baptized persons" have full access to any ministry, lay or ordained.

The amended measure, which proposes a change to Title III, Canon 1, returns to the House of Deputies World Mission Committee.

The resolution originally included the statement that no person would be denied access to ministry because of "gender identity or expression" – as well as "race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age," as already included in the canon.

Bishops, however, changed the resolution to eliminate all these descriptions, agreeing that they are unnecessary and perhaps even limit the resolution's primary intent of including "all baptized persons."

"What is it about 'all' that we don't understand?" Bishop Suffragan Catherine Roskam of New York asked her colleagues. "It's like trying to thank the ECW. There will always be someone's name you've left off. I propose we go with the 'all' and let it be 'all.'"

The decision came after discussion about what "gender identity or expression" means.

Bishop Mark Andrus of California read definitions as presented by the transgender community:

  • Gender identity: an individual's internal sense of being male, female or something else; since gender identity is internal one's gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.
  • Gender expression: how a person represents or expresses one's gender identity to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice or body characteristics.

The House of Bishops also adopted Resolution B029, which calls for the elimination of the House of Deputies' consent to bishop elections if they occur within 120 days of General Convention. All such elections would be approved by diocesan standing committees instead.

Bishop George Councell of New Jersey said it is "fundamentally unwise to have two different groups doing the important work of discernment with respect to consent …Whatever the rationale was for this constitutional provision, it no longer seems to make any sense."

Bishop Edward Little of Northern Indiana said he supported the change because "standing committees are in the discernment business … whereas at General Convention, we get caught up in this hurly burly of politics. The more careful discernment that can occur in dioceses gives us a more prayerful process."

The resolution goes to the House of Deputies for consideration.

In other business, the bishops adopted and sent to the House of Deputies:

  • Resolution B004, which calls for a feasibility study for revising The Hymnal 1982 to include hymn texts developed over the past three decades.
  • Resolution A088, which calls for adding Rachel's Tears, Hannah's Hopes to the Enriching Our Worship series for 2010-2012 with a few minor changes in the text.