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OLYMPIA: Convention affirms full inclusion of gays and lesbians in church

By Mary Frances Schjonberg


[Episcopal News Service]  The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, meeting October 27-28 in its 96th annual Convention, called upon the Episcopal Church's bishops and standing committees to join the diocese's affirmation for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church.

The resolution, detailed below, passed with 317 in favor, 79 against, and 51 abstentions.

"We know that the issue is not human sexuality," Bishop Vincent Warner told the convention, noting that the General Conventions of 2000, 2003 and 2006 "were times when the whole Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion were focused on issues of human sexuality."

"It's really been about our understanding of the Biblical authority that we have as Episcopalians as we live into the world of the Anglican understanding of the three primary bases for our theology: scripture, tradition and reason," he said. "My basis for my understanding of the Gospel as expressed in our baptismal covenant is based on the fact that we respect the dignity of every human being and work for justice and peace for all of God's people."

The full text of Warner's address is available here.

The convention passed resolutions to:

  • encourage parishes to "reach out and prayerfully uphold peace and reconciliation in the Sudan" and offer prayer and action the Province VIII and the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan in their efforts to provide leadership efforts to rebuild churches and communities for the 1.5 million Christians in the Sudan;
    acknowledge and give thanks for the beginning congregational development and the outreach to/of Sudanese people living in the diocese and encourage  congregations to develop relationships with Sudanese;
  • restore grants to congregations to at least 2006 budget levels and ask the Diocesan Council to restore a $60,000 cut to the Episcopal Church apportionment with funds from the "rainy day fund;"
  • affirm and call upon the bishops and Standing Committee to affirm the full inclusion in all areas of the life of the Episcopal Church of "our otherwise qualified brother and sister Christians who are single or partnered heterosexual gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered persons, and those who are in non-celibate heterosexual relationships and those who are divorced, as well as the full inclusion of the Episcopal Church in the full life of the Anglican Communion;"
  • express its appreciation for Warner;
  • strongly recommend that each independent employing unit within the diocese seek and find ways to fund in its annual budget, a program of partial salary or wage continuation benefits to employees who become unemployed through no fault of their own, in order to assist the transition to re-employment;
  • set the 2008 diocesan assessment rate factor at 18% of the net disposable income; and authorize a cost-of-living salary adjustment for 2007 diocesan congregations of 3.6%.

The convention did not consider a resolution which would have stated that it was the sentiment of the diocese that beginning January 2008, marriages usually performed by Episcopal clergy be presided over by an agent of the state of Washington and that marriages in the diocese be limited to the blessing of the union as a holy act and that clergy not act as an agent of the state for any form of civil marriage.

Two resolutions were withdrawn. One would have endorsed current Washington state laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The other would have recommended, among other things, that the Episcopal Church create a staff position of ministry for indigenous people of the world.

The convention rejected, 202 to 235, a resolution to encourage all congregations to establish a "legacy society" to enable planned giving and celebrate an annual Legacy Sunday "to recognize the generosity of legacy giving by faithful members of each congregation." It also rejected a resolution to employ one or more people to "identify specific opportunities to clarify, enhance and further the Diocesan Council's support of the bishop and diocese, and to develop Council bylaws in order to build strong leadership for the future of our church."

The complete texts of the resolutions are available here.

The Diocese of Olympia comprises about 32,000 Episcopalians worshipping in 96 congregations in the state of Washington west of the Cascades.