Resolution 3: Prevention and Reporting of Sexual Harassment

Resolved, That the 169th Convention of the Diocese of California ratifies and joins in the work set forth in Resolution A109 of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in declaring that “sexual harassment of adults by clergy, church employees, and church members are abuses of trust, a violation of the Baptismal Covenant, contrary to Christian Character, and are therefore wrong;”

Resolved, That sexual harassment is defined as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them;”

Resolved, That this Convention hereby establishes a Task Force on the Prevention and Reporting of Sexual Harassment, to be appointed by the Bishop or the Bishop’s designee, with preference given to those who have experience in dealing with harassment and its effects, such as psychologists/psychiatrists, medical doctors, employment lawyers, HR professionals, and with the following duties:

  1. to develop a system of standard practices for use in Diocesan institutions including: parishes, missions, schools, camps, conference centers, and other ministries;
  2. to develop preventative education, standards for the continued care of those who have been affected, and guidelines for the appropriate response of ministry leaders;
  3. to support diocesan staff in the development of sexual harassment prevention policies and training to be outlined in Called to Right Relationship: Safe Church Policies; and
  4. to report to the 170th Convention of the Diocese of California and present as a part of that report the additional policies which may be proposed changes or already included in Called to Right Relationship: Safe Church Policies;

Resolved, That all lay and ordained leaders currently required to complete Called to Right Relationship training shall complete the training every three years, and once adopted shall as a part of this training complete a unit on the prevention and reporting of sexual harassment; and

Resolved, That as a part of the existing requirement in Called to Right Relationship, annual audits shall report the completion of sexual harassment prevention and reporting training along with other required training units.

Explanation: While the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church has taken on the good work of studying best practices in addressing sexual harassment within our communities of faith, each year that passes means potentially preventable harm will be endured by members, leaders, staff, and volunteers of our diocesan and congregational ministries. While we have, as a church, done considerable work in protecting vulnerable populations such as children, disabled, and elderly members of our communities, we have not provided the same education and resources to prevent and address the occurrence of sexual harassment as it may be experienced by any member of our diocese at large.

The definition of sexual harassment outlined in this resolution is intended to expand the common legal definition of sexual harassment beyond the workplace to include harassment as it may be present among parish members, volunteers, staff, and clergy in circumstances where authority may or may not be a factor. More simply put, Title IV of the Canons of the national church addresses the accountability and discipline of clergy. This resolution is intended to create a standard for the prevention and reporting of sexual harassment as it may be experienced between leaders or any other person to person interaction, whether it be abuse of clergy, abuse between parishioners, staff, non-parochial volunteers, program conveners or anyone associated with the church, such as camp counselors or groups renting church space.

It will be important to adopt best practices as they are developed by the national church, and still, there is no reason to wait for the next triennial meeting of the General Convention. It is also the intent of this resolution to give parishes and other ministries guidance in appropriately responding to incidents of sexual harassment. As a final recommendation this resolution also considers a potential lapse in policy as requirements for the regular renewal of Called to Right Relationship training exists for lay volunteers and staff but as yet not for clergy. Thus continued education and formation in protecting the dignity of all of our members both lay and ordained is addressed by this resolution.

Submitted by: the Rev. Alan K. Gates, Church of the Epiphany, San Carlos, alan@churchoftheepiphany.org.

Endorsed by: the Rev. Charlotte Wilson, St. Peter’s, Redwood City; the Rev. Claire Dietrich Ranna, Christ Episcopal Church, Los Altos; the Rev. Melanie Donahoe, Church of the Epiphany, San Carlos.

 

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