Will the Episcopal church be the first US religious body to issue a formal apology to mothers?
Background to the Episcopal Church resolution D074 - “Examine the Complicity of the Episcopal Church in Facilitating Forced Adoptions.”
By Guest Contributor
I’m an Episcopal priest and transracially adopted person who has been working on adoption issues since 2009 when I was prodded by an adoptee advocate in New Jersey to press the Episcopal Church to listen to adoptees and support opening records for them and donor conceived persons. The resolution I drafted was ratified by the Episcopal Diocese of Albany at its annual convention and was sent to the General Convention in the summer of 2009 at Anaheim where it was tabled until 2012 and presented to the next convention in 2012 at Indianapolis. There it was rejected by the House of Bishops, the reason being “it was too complicated” an issue.
This process taught me about the committee process in the Episcopal Church, so when Francine Gurtler reached out to me in September 2021 asking me to help her obtain an apology from the church for forcing her to give away her child in 1971, I had an idea where to turn. The Social Justice and U.S. Policy Committee chaired by the Rev. Edwin Johnson responded to my letter introducing Francine. Her story, the example of the apology the United Church of Canada made to mothers and their children and how the House of Commons in England is investigating it led the Committee to ask for testimony in a hearing in late February. Karen Wilson-Butterbaugh, relinquishing mom and author of The Baby Scoop Era: Unwed Mothers, Infant Adoption, Forced Surrender, provided detailed research. Desiree Stephens, an adoptee who was fresh off the successful adoptee rights effort in Connecticut where she worked closely with mothers of forced relinquishment to leverage their voice in the political process, , gave help with strategy and communications. We invited a number of moms, adoptees and historians of the forced adoption era to testify with the four of us later that month.
In late February, we heard back and learned that our testimony wasn’t needed. Instead, we were invited to “workshop a resolution” in late March. We interpreted that to mean it’s time to write out exactly what we want to ask. What you see in the completed resolution, submitted June 6th, is what we wanted. We want to focus on the “forced adoption era”, changing the language from the Baby Scoop Era so that the conversation begins with what mothers and adoptees lost and not what agencies and adoptive families gained. The focus is “single pregnant women” and “unwed mothers” not birth moms. We were helped by members of the Social Justice & U.S. Policy Committee, especially Alan Murray, deputy to Convention from the Diocese of Oregon, who worked on the final language of the resolution.
General Convention will be meeting between July 7 and July 14 in Baltimore.