Deputies Deeply Discuss Our Culture of Drink


You’ve heard the jokes.

Where three or four are gathered, there’s always a fifth.

I’m a whiskeypalian.

In 1985 General Convention adopted policies on alcohol, available here. We have had little to add to the conversation since then, yet treatment and recovery have made huge strides in this time. This Convention convened Special Legislative Committee 22 on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse.

They offered two resolutions.

A159 – The Role of the Church in the Culture of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse – After much discussion, the committee recommended a substitute here. Their resolution calls on the church to “confront and repent of our complicity in a culture of alcohol, denial, and enabling.” This substitute resolution passed and now goes to the House of Bishops for their vote.

A158 – Task force to Review and Revise Policy on Substance Abuse, Addiction, and Recovery – This committee also proposed a substitute which was more of a revised policy than the creation of a task force. Deputies spent over 35 minutes in conversation, which is a lot for that House. The resolution calls on the Convention to adopt a policy on alcohol and encourage dioceses, congregations, and affiliated institutions to update their policies. The recommended policies begin with a statement – “The Church most provide a safe and welcoming environment for all people, including people in recovery.” Specific recommendations include following all state and local laws, mindful use of alcohol if offered, monitored use when offered and care not to serve to those who have had too much to drink, an encouragement not to serve when minors are present, clear labeling of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, offering non-alcoholic alternatives, not publicizing alcohol as a central feature of a church event, serving food when alcohol is served, seeking permission from clergy or vestry when serving alcohol at events, and not serving alcohol at events where church business is being conducted.

At one point a deputy from Europe proposed softening the language in the resolution from “must” to “should.” That amendment was defeated and the stronger language remains. These resolutions go now to the House of Bishops.

A few Deputy comments from this conversation –

We are beginning a vital conversation that has been desperately needed for many years. This puts us on the right side of history. Given the recent tragedy in MD the world is waiting for our response.

Softening language (in A158) is part of a wider problem in our church regarding treatment of alcohol. As a person in recovery I personally have felt unsafe because of the role of alcohol in church events.

A deputy from Utah – The number one question when people called our office to ask about General Convention was about alcohol. Can I get a drink in Utah? Can I serve drinks at meetings? They weren’t joking.   One of the first comments I heard from a deputy here was, “Hi – good to see you. I’m running off to try to find a liquor store.” We must address this in our culture.

A deputy from Maryland – Our beloved church still has much to learn and affirm about treatment of addiction and the lives it affects. Recent events in the Diocese of Maryland have shaken so many of us. As I ask God to grant me the serenity to accept legislative actions I cannot change I pray that we as a church will have the courage to change the things we can.

While this conversation was helpful, it will have no effect unless we bring this conversation home. God grant us the courage to work on this.

Update – Our bishops discussed these resolutions on Wednesday. I missed conversation on A158 but heard them pass A159.

Foto: Jonn Leffmann [CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


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