[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings expressed thanks Aug. 16 for the defeat of a “bathroom bill” in Texas and said General Convention will convene in 2018 in Austin as planned.

“We give thanks for all of the Texan Episcopalians, elected officials, business leaders, and advocates who raised their voices publicly against this proposed law and the physical, spiritual and emotional damage it threatened to do to transgender people,” the two presiding officers wrote. “Now that we can be more confident that transgender deputies, exhibitors, advocates and guests can travel to Texas safely and with dignity, we have no plans to ask Executive Council to reconsider the location of the 2018 General Convention.”

The Episcopal Church General Convention is scheduled to meet July 5-13, 2018, in Austin.

However, Curry and Jennings warned that they, the bishops of Texas and other Episcopalians are still concerned about Texas Senate Bill 4, which goes into effect Sept. 1 of this year. The bill threatens law enforcement officials with stiff penalties if they fail to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and it forbids municipalities from becoming sanctuary cities. The bill also allows police officers to question people about their immigration status during arrests or traffic stops.

“Between now and next summer, we plan to follow the progress of legal challenges to Senate Bill 4 closely and to explore ways to lend the support of the Episcopal Church to Texans who oppose this discriminatory, anti-immigrant law,” they said.

Saying that recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, shows that “there is darkness in our land,” Curry and Jennings asked Episcopalians to “join us in continuing to pray and to speak out for all of God’s children who have reason to be afraid in these frightening times. Dear people of God, let the light shine!”

While the Texas Senate had passed the latest iteration of the so-called bathroom bill, Senate Bill 3, earlier in the special session, the bill failed when the state House refused to even hold a hearing on it. Well-financed and visible opposition by major Texas employers, including energy companies, also helped defeat the bill.

The bill said using public multiple-occupancy restroom, shower or changing facilities at Texas, including public and charter schools, must use the gender-labeled facility that matched the sex stated on a person’s birth certificate, driver’s license, personal identification certificate or state license to carry a handgun. It also would’ve overturned local and individual school district’s policies on bathroom use.

Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus had firmly opposed the bill and Curry and Jennings have supported him in that stance. They wrote to him in July before the special session convened to follow up on a letter they sent him in February.

They reminded him that General Convention moved from Houston to Honolulu in 1955 because the Texas city could not offer sufficient guarantees of desegregated housing for its delegates.

In March, Curry and Jennings were the lead signers on an amicus brief filed by 1,800 clergy and religious leaders in a U.S. Supreme Court case involving transgender-bathroom use policies.

The text of their Aug. 16 letter follows.


Letting Our Light Shine in Texas:

A Letter from the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies

August 16, 2017

Dear People of God in the Episcopal Church:

Yesterday, the Texas legislature adjourned its special session without passing a so-called “bathroom bill,” which threatened to write discrimination against transgender people into state law. We give thanks for all of the Texan Episcopalians, elected officials, business leaders, and advocates who raised their voices publicly against this proposed law and the physical, spiritual and emotional damage it threatened to do to transgender people.

Now that we can be more confident that transgender deputies, exhibitors, advocates and guests can travel to Texas safely and with dignity, we have no plans to ask Executive Council to reconsider the location of the 2018 General Convention. We are delighted and relieved to assure the Episcopalians of Texas that we look forward to being with you in Austin next summer.

Along with the bishops of Texas and many other Episcopalians, we remain concerned about Senate Bill 4, a Texas law scheduled to go into effect on September 1 that requires local police to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and forbids local municipalities from adopting sanctuary city statutes. Between now and next summer, we plan to follow the progress of legal challenges to Senate Bill 4 closely and to explore ways to lend the support of the Episcopal Church to Texans who oppose this discriminatory, anti-immigrant law.

There is darkness in our land, as the white supremacist riot in Charlottesville last weekend demonstrated with sickening and deadly clarity. But we follow Jesus, about whose coming John’s Gospel said, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.” And it cannot! So when the evil one divides us from one another through darkness of racism, bigotry and intolerance, we must witness even more steadfastly to the light, the power of the risen Christ to overcome hatred, cease division, and bind us all even more closely to one another.

Even as we give thanks that justice for transgender people has prevailed in Texas, we ask you to join us in continuing to pray and to speak out for all of God’s children who have reason to be afraid in these frightening times. Dear people of God, let the light shine!

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies

This post appeared here first: Texas bathroom bill’s defeat means 2018 General Convention stays in Austin

[Episcopal News Service – General Convention 2018]

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