‘(Together), we will go our way
(Together), we will leave some day
(Together), your hand in my hands
(Together), we will make our plans.’
As I continue packing for my journey to Indianapolis, Indiana, to attend the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA, the words of ‘Go West’, a Village People song, memorably covered by the Pet Shop Boys, come to mind. For this visit is all about working together, in a small way, with our partners on the other side of the pond, Integrity and TransEpiscopal. It builds on relationships formed over many years between our organisations as we work, in different continents, but as members of the same Communion, for the same end: the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in every aspect of the Church’s life, including the ordained ministry.
These relationships were extended at the Lambeth Conference 2008 in Canterbury when Integrity sponsored TransEpiscopal co-founder, the Revd Dr Cameron Partridge as part of their delegation, enabling him to participate in the Trans seminar organised by Changing Attitude, England. The Revd Dr Vicki Gray of TransEpiscopal was also present at Lambeth 2008 but she and I missed one another by hours, so I’m looking forward to meeting Vicki and all the members of the TransEpiscopal delegation on this occasion.
In the States, as here in the UK, trans people ‘lag behind’ in the inclusion stakes. At the last General Convention, as I reported at the time on this blog, TransEpsicopal brought forward five transgender inclusive resolutions, some concerned with civil rights, the others relating to church life. The former set was heard by the Committee on National and International Concerns; the latter, which included the call to include ‘gender identity and gender expression’ in the Church’s ministry non-discriminatory canon, was heard by the World Missions Committee.
All these resolutions were listened to with serious attention by the committees and the civil rights ones were passed by Convention. However, there was a glitch with adding ‘gender identity and gender expression’ to the non-discrimination canon for ordained ministry: the bishops suggested abandoning the list – which thus far had specified race, colour, ethnic origin, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities or age – and substituting instead the phrase that the discernment process was open to all the baptised.
Now as any equality and diversity officer will tell you, the expression ‘welcome for all’ is just too general to catch the subtleties of discrimination that people experience on a daily basis because of their ethnicity, colour, age, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and so on. One just has to be specific. That’s why the Equality Act 2010 in the UK identified no less than nine characteristics that need specific protection.
Thankfully the Convention drew back from the generality of ‘all’ and the debate held over so the ‘gender identity and expression’ resolution is to come back to General Convention in a few days time. I’m looking forward to reporting here on the blog about what happens and my experience of this amazing triennial event. I’ll begin by joining the TransEpisocal delegation and listening to their plans. The few who were at the last General Convention made a deep impression by their testimonies at the various hearings and I will probably be given an opportunity to speak as well – the Episcopal Church is extraordinarily open it seems. Soon then, and I can hardly wait, it will be time for me to ‘go west’.