EPISCOPAL WOMEN’S CAUCUS IS SUNSETTING

The Episcopal Women’s Caucus 

Closing Festive Eucharist and Reception at General Convention

The EWC has officially closed as an organization within the Episcopal Church.

A celebratory Eucharist will be held at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas (two blocks from the convention) from 5:30-7:30 on July 11, 2018. All are invited to this celebration.

The closing service will livestream at https://www.youtube.com/user/revchasjr/live

A Note from the Convener: The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski

I was ordained in 1999, in a diocese that had not been friendly to women priests, but one that was trying to change. The challenges of being a female priest in a climate that expected conformity to the male dominated culture left me conflicted. What saved me from my sense of isolation was an all female clergy support group that met once a month for a decade. One year everyone in the group was given a coffee mug which read, “God is not a Boys Name.” That coffee mug conveyed one of the abiding values and principles of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus and spoke deep into my struggle, sorrow, and hope as a young priest. It was this hope in the midst of struggle that led me to accept the invitation to join the board of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus. When I became the co-convener of the caucus in the summer of 2012 I looked forward to opportunities to support women’s leadership in the wider church, especially the Episcopal Church. I came into this role on the heels of amazing women, some who have died and many who are still doing profound work in the church. These women have mentored me along the way, and I am grateful for their wisdom.

In the subsequent six years the Episcopal Women’s Caucus endorsed the WordsMatter Expansive Language project, an ecumenical endeavor of the women’s ministry department at the National Council of Churches. This project offered opportunities for people to explore the words, symbols, and concepts we use to talk about God, self, and others. It explored, and offered, an opportunity to become more expansive in one’s use of pronouns and images of God in worship.

The caucus had a presence at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 2014 by offering hospitality to women at the church center in NYC and then by raising funds to  support the Episcopal Church’s first delegation to the UN in 2016.

We participated in the “Forced Clergy Exit” essay writing project in 2014. Recognizing that women clergy are often on the receiving end of congregational anxiety and forced exits we worked, and are working, to support women through the challenges of leading in an age of church decline and chronic angst.

In 2015 we raised up indigenous people, especially women, at the EWC General Convention breakfast, with keynote speaker Sarah Eagle Heart. A new board formed in 2015: Janet Waggoner, Amy Peden Haynie, Robin Sumners, and Kate Bradson. With their leadership came new energy. These extremely intelligent, gifted, and wise women have brought deep wisdom and a love for church leadership as well as insight into leadership today. I have learned much from them and am profoundly grateful for their friendship.Through 2016 we fought for women’s rights during the contentious election season, we offered reflections on The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas’ book, “Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God” on the EWC blog with links from on the Facebook page, and in 2017 we offered the Women Rising workshop, inviting women and men to imagine the future of the caucus and how we could respond to the challenges of women in leadership today.

I am proud of the work that Episcopal Women’s Caucus has done over the years, from its heyday in the 1970’s when this organization won the right for women to be ordained through the successful passing of the General Convention resolution, our work with Integrity and the LGBTQ community, the Women Rising event last summer, and now, to the decision to formally end the Episcopal Women’s Caucus.

This closure is not a failure and not a copout. None of the initiatives that the caucus has taken on in these later years garnered the energy and enthusiasm that the early years had. It has been apparent for the last year that the work of women supporting women is happening all over  the church, but not through old models of organization like the Episcopal Women’s Caucus. It took the board of directors awhile to accept this. We tried various avenues to see if it was possible to revitalize, reform, reframe this organization, but to no avail. We finally accepted the reality that for the work of justice for women to continue we needed to close the Episcopal Women’s Caucus and make room for something else to rise up.

We have a lot of hard work to do over the next few months. Sunsetting the caucus will be a slow process of closing down an organization that has done amazing justice work, but whose time is over. I ask your prayers for this board as we do this work. I ask your prayers for me, who came into this role of convener full of hope and enthusiasm and leave it wiser, sadder, and yet still hopeful.

On this International Women’s Day, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus is celebrating the achievement of the singular goal for which it was formed in 1971, to work within the polity of The Episcopal Church to gain for women the right and privilege to be ordained to the priesthood and consecrated to the episcopate. Today, we are also taking the bold step of sunsetting this organization to make way for something new as the work for justice for all women in the Church continues.Please read the news release below.

THE EPISCOPAL WOMEN’S CAUCUS IS SUNSETTING;

THE WORK OF JUSTICE FOR WOMEN GOES ON

Thursday, March 8, 2018

After 47 years of facilitating transformation in The Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus is taking the bold step of sunsetting the Caucus so that justice for women – lay and ordained – can continue to be pursued in the Church in new ways with new goals.

Founded in 1971, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus was formed to be a change agent in The Episcopal Church. Through political means, the Caucus had a singular strategic goal: to gain for women the right and privilege to be ordained to the priesthood and consecrated to the episcopate. The Episcopal Women’s Caucus has accomplished this.

Obviously, the work of gaining equity and justice for women is far from complete. The Church needs more women clergy serving in positions of leadership, including large congregations, cathedrals and the episcopate. The #Metoo Movement has made it clear the Church is as involved in sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse as any other institution in our society. Women of color are at particular risk living as they do at the intersection of race and gender. Gender non-conforming people are extremely vulnerable to violence and discrimination. Now more than ever the Church needs to continue to be a change agent within our congregations and out into our communities to “strive for justice and peace and [respect for] the dignity of every human being.”

This work – ranging from fighting for salary equity for women to ending sexual abuse and harassment to seeking racial reconciliation to caring for the most vulnerable among us – needs to be accomplished in new ways, ways which include the kinds of political gains made through the Caucus, but achieved through other strategies and with voices of people throughout the whole Church.

In this time of both opportunity and challenge in so many areas, having achieved the goals the Caucus was created to achieve, we believe the best way to serve the Church is to close the Caucus in order to make room for new and different vehicles for activism on women’s issues to rise. The decision to bring the Caucus to a close is in keeping with the Caucus’ history of providing leadership and creating space for prophetic visionary work.

At General Convention in July, the work of the Caucus will be acknowledged at a service of the Holy Eucharist, followed by an opportunity for fellowship. The liturgy of the Word at this Eucharist will be a celebration of the history of the Caucus and of women who have led TEC forth so bravely in transformation for women.

More information about activities at General Convention to celebrate the work of the Caucus will be forthcoming.

The members of the Board of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus are Terri Pilarski, Kate Bradsen, Amy Haynie, Robin Woods Sumners, and Janet Waggoner.

For more information, connect with media coordinator Katie Sherrod at katie.sherrod@edfw.org or 817-909-0070.