Before I talk about this week’s resolution, let me share the most recent news from Standing Rock. Last Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would not grant the easement for the final section of the DAPL (the section that would complete the line in this region crossing Lake Oahe at the Missouri River) and would be investigating other potential routes. As you can imagine, there was much rejoicing at this news. The joy was later tempered by Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners’ announcement that they would continue with the original route regardless on the Corps’ decision (http://ir.energytransfer.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=106094&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2227348). We also know that our President-Elect has supported the Dakota Access Pipeline in the past and is an investor in Energy Transfers Partners. Mr Trump is expected to review the project after he takes office. In the meantime, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II, has asked the water protectors to leave the camp, according to CBS News: “I understand the fear that they have that this is just a small victory and it’s not over yet. But it’s over right now” (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/dakota-access-pipeline-protests-future-uncertain-standing-rock-sioux-chairman/). With the blizzard conditions at the camp and impassable roads leading in and out of the camp, there is concern for the safety and health of the water protectors staying there.
Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a letter on December 5th on the news from Standing Rock – http://publicaffairs.cmail20.com/t/ViewEmail/r/6A06C5F6B954171F2540EF23F30FEDED/0D2066E3A39D3F72F1E87EB810D8F10A
If you haven’t “liked” the Facebook page Episcopalians STAND with Standing Rock, let me suggest that you do it now so that you can continue to get the most recent news on this topic: https://www.facebook.com/Episcopalians-STAND-with-Standing-ROCK-1597825547184184/?fref=ts
On to our resolution for this week from the list that Covenant 5 gave us in October: A049 Make Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women a Focus of Foreign and Church Aid
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 78th General Convention commend giving priority to the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women, including transgender individuals, by using the following principles as appropriate standards for distribution of foreign aid by the United States, and be it further
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention recommends that any proposed economic aid will increase economic capacity, using methods such as global trade and financial and investment agreements, and will include the direct involvement of and capacity building for women; and be it further
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention recommends that any proposed aid for health care will require a goal of universal coverage, ensuring access without discrimination for women, girls and transgender individuals to all types of services offered, without imposing financial hardship on the patient; and be it further
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention recommends that any proposed aid for agriculture or aquaculture will facilitate the participation of women in these programs; and be it further
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention recommends that any proposed aid responding to financial or economic crises or natural disasters and their aftermaths will include steps to minimize negative impacts on gender equality and empowerment of women, providing opportunities for women’s employment, and access to essential services and social protection systems for women’s and girls’ and other vulnerable and disadvantaged persons’ human rights; and be it further
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention recommends that any proposed aid for environmental and climate-change issues will promote full and equal participation of women at all levels of decision making regarding the use of such aid; and be it further
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention commend the same principles of achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women, including transgender individuals, to dioceses and congregations throughout the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society as a criterion for engagement in domestic and international projects, whether through direct aid or involvement of personnel.
Most of the resolves of this resolution deal specifically with funding of particular global projects and, while that might seem unrelated to our personal work in the Diocese of Michigan, we all help to fund many agencies and corporations through our investments and purchasing power. One way we can participate actively in supporting women and girls is by choosing investments that honor these commitments. It might take a little more work on our part to investigate where our money is going but it is possible to get the information either from your fund manager or your financial planner if you have one.
We can also be responsible shoppers by supporting companies like Thistle Farm, Homeboys Industries and Bead for Life which specifically empower women through their businesses. With Christmas right around the corner, check out these websites for your gift ideas:
At our Diocesan Convention in October, Victoria Bell of Ann Arbor opened the discussion of “Who is My Neighbor?” by sharing her experience as a representative for The Episcopal Church at this year’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The above resolution is based on some of the agreements set out in the report on the 58th UN Commission on the Status of Women (2014). Miss Bell was gracious to share her words with us:
Thank you, Bishop Gibbs, and thanks everyone, for your kind invitation to provide a brief report of my experiences to this convention! I’d like to recognize and acknowledge two other women here today – The Rev. Areeta Bridgemohan, who was an Episcopal delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 2009, and Rebecca Rosen, who has been named to serve in 2017. All three of us were encouraged and inspired to apply for this honor by Canterbury House, your campus ministry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is an annual two-week convention that brings UN Member States, UN entities and nongovernmental organizations together to focus on a chosen theme relating to global empowerment and equality for women and girls. The 2016 session, held in March, focused on drafting agreed conclusions for member states linking the empowerment of women and girls to the UN Sustainable Development Goals created in 2015 (replacing the UN Millennium Development Goals). There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals including clean water and sanitation, quality education, and climate action to name only a few. The Episcopal Church is one of the entities with delegate status at UNCSW and The Church had opportunities open for 20 church members from dioceses and parishes from North America to apply. I was privileged to be the only delegate from Michigan and the only delegate from Province V selected to attend.
The commission not only had UN and member state-sponsored sessions, but also featured many NGO produced presentations, discussions and expert panels focusing on reviewing the status of previous UNCSW conclusions regarding the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls
The non-governmental organizations invited to the commission include nonprofit groups, religious institutions, and other public or voluntary organizations that operate either as attendees or delegates. Delegates are able to consult with UN entities and member states in addition to attending the sessions and presentations.
Being a member of the Episcopal delegation was exciting and interesting in so many ways, I could easily share with you for hours! Needless to say, it was a privilege to meet, network and share ideas and experience with the different delegates, attendees and speakers from around the world. I cannot overstate how much I treasure the depth of critical conversation and passion I was a part of with so many inspirational people.
My favorite memories by far are the moments of advocacy that I experienced with the other members of the Episcopal delegation – whether intentionally or by unplanned coincidence! Our delegation was able to meet with UN Member state delegations from several countries including the US. We were able to present and discuss The Episcopal Church’s statements and positions on the topics being debated by member states as they drafted their agreed conclusions. Several member state actors we met with expressed their gratitude for many of the inclusive and feminist stances of the Episcopal Church on issues of equality and empowerment of women and girls. They were very happy to have present a large group of Christians with liberal and forward-thinking attitudes toward women’s issues as a counterbalance to the many conservative Christian organizations also represented. They were glad to have our support for their own advocacy as the agreed conclusions were debated by member states in closed session.
I want to be sure here to express my thanks to Bishop Gibbs, once again; also to Christ Church, Dearborn, the parish I grew up in, and its Rector, the Rev. Terri Pilarski, and to many of you here today who contributed to the cost of my trip to New York to attend the Commission. I’m deeply grateful to all of you, and to Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, who was kind enough to select me to attend. I’m also grateful to Canterbury House, which was an essential and supportive part of my personal and spiritual life when I was going to school at the University of Michigan.
Today, I work in Ann Arbor as a social worker in an emergency shelter advocating for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and this year’s Commission theme spoke deeply to who I am and the necessary feminist work that I do with survivors every day. There is so much that needs to be done as we continue to work to empower and include all who have been disadvantaged and to dismantle the specific barriers and violence faced by women and girls both in America and around the world. Now more than ever, I know that I am called to feminist advocacy and hope to devote my personal and professional life to that goal. I believe that God calls each of us to participate and to continue to lead in our homes, our congregations and our dioceses. I pray that God continues to be with me and with us in this mission. Thank you, again, to each of you for your time and support!
You can find more information about the work of the Commission at their webpage – http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw
In my hunting for resources today, I also came across a great resource for you and your congregation to enter into “31 Days of Prayer for Women’s Empowerment” from Christian Churches Together, a partnership of some thirty-eight different churches and ministries, including The Episcopal Church. While their event took place in 2016, the resource could still be used for thirty-one days anytime: http://lottcarey.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/2016-3PrayerEditionForWeb.pdf To close, I’m borrowing one of their prayers.
Let us pray –
Almighty and Loving God,
We pray for our sisters all over the world oppressed by domestic violence and gender subjugation from East Africa to the Eastern Caribbean to East St. Louis, Illinois. Help those who at this very moment are being physically abused, emotionally damaged and economically deprived. Grant them release from the cruelty and inhumane treatment that steal their human dignity and joy. Deliver justice to those who have been brutalized. We lift up the women in Haiti, Mozambique, the Congo, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi who are not only dealing with poverty and a lack of health resources, but also endure abuse from the men they love, and rape by heartless strangers. For the millions of black, brown and white women who hide their bruised bodies and wounded spirits from family and friends, smiling in public but crying in private, Lord, we pray for release and healing. God, we raise our voices in protest against the evils that compromise your daughters. Lord, we implore you, let the world take notice and decry the marginalization and oppression of women everywhere. Let governments institute and enforce laws that bring an end to female victimization and rape. Touch the hearts of abusers and restore them to their full humanity. It is in the name of the risen Lord that we pray. Amen.
(Elaine McCollins Flake, Co-Pastor, Greater Allen Cathedral, Jamaica, New York)
— The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee