TRENTON – The Assembly Judiciary Committee released a bill dealing with gender-neutral language in one church.
A3943 revises a statute concerning the incorporation and governance of Protestant Episcopal Churches in New Jersey, to eliminate gender-specific references and change those references to be gender-neutral. It passed 5-0-1.
The bill is an attempt to address the problem of language that dates to a time when women could not serve as ministers. It opened the door to questions on the committee about what business the state has meddling in internal rules of a church.
Both the Episcopal dioceses of New Jersey and Newark support the bill, the committee was told.
Assemblyman John McKeon asked why a statute dealing with how the Episcopal church is organized even exists.
The acting chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey said, for instance, in order for a congregation to own real estate it must incorporate.
Chairman Assemblyman Peter Barnes said that each church has a specific subsection in the law.
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi also raised the question of what business the state has getting involved in the internal workings of a church, but said she supported the Episcopal church in its move toward gender-neutral language. There might be concerns, she said, if next week there was an attempt to impose the same provisions on some other church.
In this particular case, the Episcopal dioceses are supporting the effort. The law in question dates as far back as 1877.
Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, who abstained, said that if the question of this statute’s constitutionality ever comes up, the answer should be a slam dunk.