Wednesday, July 29, 2015

History of The Episcopal Women's Caucus and Women's Ordination

The Episcopal Women’s Caucus started on October 30, 1971, as an intentional response to the resistance to women’s ordination to the priesthood. 

The early 1970’s, thanks in large part to the hard work of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus and it’s founding members, was a time of tremendous energy and drive to move the church forward in ordaining women as priests. 

Women first became deputies at the 1970 General Convention, after a fifty year struggle to do so.  

That same year General Convention changed the term deaconess to deacons and opened the door for women’s ordination to the diaconate. 

Sadly, the resistance to women’s ordination to the priesthood increased in intensity the closer the church moved toward it. 

Resistance intensified following the ordination of the Philadelphia 11 on October 27, 1974. 

The Caucus, along with other women’s organizations of the Episcopal Church, lobbied hard at seminaries and in dioceses, creating resolutions for the General Convention scheduled for September 1976. 

All the good work of caucusing and organizing led to the successful passing of the 1976 resolution authorizing the ordination of women to all three orders, bishop, priest, and deacon. 

But that was really just the beginning. 

Deployment of women to ordained positions has been a long and difficult job, one we have not yet fully overcome. The few number of women in the House of Bishops, and the slate of nominees for Presiding Bishop at this General Convention, which did not include a woman, stands as a clear example of the work before us. 

The Episcopal Women’s Caucus is already on the forefront of this effort, which offers an opportunity for everyone in this room to participate in advancing the cause of women. 

When women have full equality, then every person, regardless of race or gender, will be one step closer to full equality. 

Equal rights begin with women. 

One side note of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus has been the coffee mugs, tote bags, and tee shirts that the Caucus has sold. 

In 1985 our first slogan was, 
“A woman’s place in the house…of bishops.” 

That slogan, on tee shirts and coffee mugs remains a best selling product. 

In 1991, in response to an increased demand for reducing the use of male pronouns to describe God, the Caucus created our most popular slogan, 

“God is not a boy’s name.” 

Coffee mugs, tote bags, and tee shirts carry that slogan, which to this day, gives people a smile and a thoughtful pause. 

In 1994, in response to the struggle around the deployment of women and the lack of viable positions
for women priests, the Caucus came to General Convention that year  with the theme, 

“Faith, Hope, and Parity.”

 Over the years the Caucus has promoted the equal deployment of all people, with the hope that for every white male cleric that holds a position there will also be
 a woman cleric, for every white person there will be a person of color, and for every heterosexual there will be a gay, lesbian, bi and transgender person employed in a viable position as a deacon, priest and bishop. 

The Caucus supports all people in living their ministry as they are called by God. 

And, if you are interested our merchandise can be found 
in the booth at this convention and at the Episcopal Women’s Caucus store at 

If I had to describe the purpose of the Caucus board 
as a part of the body I’d have to say that we are like the stomach - we take all the great things you all are doing 
and digest them into energy that feeds us through the work it takes to come to convention, produce our on-line e-newsletter, manage our Facebook page, and the many other ways we network to bring forth justice in the Episcopal Church as well as in the world. 

The Caucus is always reimagining itself and assessing 
its purpose so that we can stay vibrant and relevant. We are currently looking for new board members. 

Part of the work of the board is to create the vision  for the work of the caucus and help build working relationships with others in and out of the church. 

What are your passions?
What are you hopes?
What are the concerns you have?

Consider this YOUR invitation to join the Caucus and bring  your hopes and dreams for a better world to the Caucus. 

and let us know your interest in the board. 

We are a dynamic group albeit not very diverse at the moment. We’d like to change that!

Most of our work is done in conference calls, meeting once a month or less.

The Caucus breakfast has been a tradition at General Convention since 1982 when it was created to support deputies and friends who were attending General Convention, and particularly as an opportunity to lift up issues affecting women. 

The work of those early days included training women on parliamentary procedure and Robert’s Rules, in order that women could effectively speak to the issues before convention. 

Inclusive language was also a priority, and some headway has been made. 

Now, however, we are beginning to speak about expansive language, a concept that moves beyond inclusive. 

Expansive language calls us to be sensitive to the many expressions of human kind and our various understandings of God, expanding the language we use 
to speak about God, human beings, and faith.  

Our WordsMatter project and the prayers we have written are examples of expansive language. 

Other issues, that have remained on the forefront of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus agenda, include intimate partner violence, violence against humanity, human trafficking,  civil rights and social justice, and equality for all humans.