The House of Deputies on Monday approved almost unanimously a resolution from the so-called #MeToo committee to establish a Task Force for Women, Truth, and Reconciliation to help the church “engage in truth-telling, confession, and reconciliation regarding gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence against women and girls in all their forms by those in power in the Church.”
Resolution D016, proposed by Deputy Julia Ayala Harris of Oklahoma, a member of the House of Deputies Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation, creates a task force of 15 members comprising six lay people, at least 4 of whom identify as women; six clergy, at least four of whom identify as women; and three bishops, at least two of whom identify as women.
“This resolution calls us to name and confess our sins of systems of oppression,” Deputy Laurie Brock of the Diocese of Lexington said in a floor speech. “This resolution supports safe ways for all people in the church who have been victims of sexual harassment, abuse and gender discrimination to tell the truth about how they have been preyed upon while they prayed. This resolution also begins the challenging work of reconciliation that asks every part of our church to engage in and contribute to the holy brave work of creating a path for Christ’s love to restore us into wholeness.”
Brock was the chair of the special committee’s Subcommittee on Truth and Reconciliation, which proposed the resolution. Harris was a member of the sub-committee.
The resolution now moves to the House of Bishops.
The task force is charged with developing a survey on gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence against women and girls modeled on the survey used by United Methodist Church to compile a report on sexual misconduct and present its findings to the church.
“It is important to note that there are many models for our church to lean on as we embark on a truth and reconciliation process,” Harris said. “The creation of the mandate and the task force in this resolution has been inspired by our full communion partner the ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] and their Women and Justice Task Force that was formed in 2009. … We find ourselves in the midst of a movement that has already begun within other mainline denominations. This is not uncharted territory.”
The group is also charged with conducting “a comprehensive audit and analysis of the internal church-wide structures that exist, or are needed, to educate and inform the church about realities and consequences of gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence against women and girls,” and the development of “programs to proactively reduce incidences of gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence within the church.”
The resolution calls upon the task force to oversee an audit by an outside auditor “of the culture within church-wide structures to identify systemic expressions of power and leadership that create and continue gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence against women and girls in all their forms” with particular emphasis “pay inequity, imbalances in power, inequality in leadership, gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment and violence, and the enabling of gender-based violence by those in positions of power throughout the church.”
Another item on the task force’s agenda would be the creation of truth and reconciliation processes for churches, dioceses, provinces, and the general church.
Deputy Molly James of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut said she was gratified by the overwhelming margin by which the resolution passed.
“I have witnessed and experienced the reality of sexism in the Church” she said. “So many women in the church have a story of having been harmed by the church. We deserve reconciliation and justice.”
“This task force is a keystone for the work of the Special Committee Sexual Harassment and Exploitation. Without it we cannot fully live into all the resolutions and other policy and canonical changes proposed by that committee.”