Episcopal Life Convention Daily
Saturday, 8 July 2000  

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'Heterosexism' resolution sparks questions, scrutiny

A resolution that included a call for a pastoral study guide on "heterosexism" was incorporated into another resolution and subjected to a vote by orders July 7. The results of the vote were not announced by the end of the day.

Resolution B008 was incorporated into C008 by the special committee on sexuality; an amendment changed the source of the study group from the House of Bishops to a joint committee. While the rest of C008, calling for "mutual sharing, study and discernment concerning human sexuality" was passed, the heterosexism portion went to the vote by orders.

The term "heterosexism" as a "systemic form of injustice" raised questions at a briefing earlier in the day. The term also drew fire from conservative members of the church in hearings held by the special committee this week. Ian Douglas, a briefing officer and professor of world mission at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., described heterosexism in terms of power relations and the privilege enjoyed by heterosexual people in society.

"As a straight, white male, I assume I have an unearned backpack of privilege that affords me power and access at the expense of those who are `the other,"' said Douglas. The "other" he defined as those who suffer oppression because of the privileges enjoyed by those in power. Briefing officers stressed that heterosexism is not synonymous with homophobia, the "irrational fear of the other," but is a systemic injustice that involves power and privilege being exercised, for the most part unconsciously, he said.

Bishop Chester Talton of the Diocese of Los Angeles clarified that a critique of heterosexism does not imply that being heterosexual is sinful. The sin comes "in the use of an inordinate power over others," he said. Power is the common denominator among all systemic forms of oppression, he added.

Based on reports by Episcopal News Service.

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