Reverend speaks out against gender-based harassment

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
The Rev. Diana Wilcox sits with her dog Lexi.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The Rev. Diana Wilcox, of the Christ Episcopal Church of Bloomfield and Glen Ridge, has written a resolution promoting sexual equality that was approved by the Episcopal Church at its 79th annual convention in Austin, Texas, from July 5 to 13.

Wilcox was an alternative deputy to the convention, but attended the event because she had been chosen to serve on the Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation. Forty-two women served on its five subcommittees. The goal of the committee was to prompt research and a reevaluation by the church of its treatment of female clergy. The title of Wilcox’s resolution was “Breaking the Episcopal Stained Glass Ceiling.”

Her resolution requested that a task force be created “to research sexism in the Episcopal Church and the role it plays in pay equity, status and gender-based harassment.” Half of the membership of this task force are to be women, and a budget of $60,000 is to be allocated.

In an interview earlier this week at the Bloomfield Avenue church, Wilcox said her resolution will ask the task force to look at the disparity of salaries between male and female clergy performing the same tasks. It also requests mandatory anti-sexism training for all lay leaders and clergy.
“The data show, in the Episcopal Church, that men tend to get solo rector positions and roles of less responsibility are given to women,” Wilcox said. “Consequently, salary and pension are affected.”

In her written explanation accompanying the resolution, Wilcox said that women clergy are often victims of sexual harassment and other forms of abuse. She said during the interview that this was known to her anecdotally, but the difference in salary and pension is evident at the diocese level.
“Anytime there is discrimination in the church,” she said, “we are not living out the Gospel message of Christ fully. All of us are equal in the eyes of God.”

She said it was a wonderful moment in the life of the Episcopal Church when her resolution was passed by the convention.
“Now the hard work begins,” she said. “I think people have a hard time seeing discrimination, when it doesn’t happen to them. It’s hard to understand gender discrimination if you’re a male.”

Wilcox said the time of coming to terms with sexual discrimination has arrived, because of the “Me Too” movement, with women coming forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against influential men.

“The ‘Me Too’ movement was the crack that broke the dam,” Wilcox said. “Our all-male deference to God helps put men one step closer to the divine, when in fact we’re all children of God and made in God’s image.”

The five subcommittees of the Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation focused on theology and language; truth and reconciliation; social justice for women; Title IV and training; and structural equity. Wilcox was a member of the Structural Equity Subcommittee. Title IV are the regulations governing ecclesiastical accountability and discipline. Wilcox said it was empowering for the 42 women on the Special Committee to work together. The task force that will investigate wage and pension inequities will present its findings at the 80th general convention, scheduled to take place in Baltimore in July 2121.