The Acts of Convention

Full Legislative History

Resolution Number: 1985-A083
Title: Adopt Church Policy on Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Legislative Action Taken: Concurred As Amended
Final Text:

Resolved, That this 68th General Convention adopt the following policy statement:


The Episcopal Church acknowledges the need for exercising a healing ministry and for offering guidance to problem drinkers or chemically dependent persons and to members of their families.

Alcoholism and other drug abuse are recognized as treatable human disorders which are manifested by a three-fold impairment of the body, mind and spirit. The Church concurs with health authorities that alcohol and other substance abuse is a major health concern of our society. It affects not only the alcoholic or abuser's health and self-concept, but also interpersonal relationships with family, co-workers, friends and counselors. It may affect any individual, regardless of financial situation, education, employment, race or creed.

The Church calls on all clergy and lay people to take to heart the seriousness of the illness of alcohol and drug abuse and its manifestations as a disrupter of family, economic and social life; and urges all churchpeople to do everything in their power to offer forth the love of Christ in his healing ministry to those afflicted persons and families.

Diocesan Committees on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency

The General Convention of 1979 encouraged each diocese to appoint a Diocesan Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency to implement a program on alcohol and drug abuse. Such committees are responsible for developing a diocesan policy and planning a diocesan resource center for education, information, counseling and training. Clergy and lay counselors are encouraged to pursue continuing education in these fields. Congregations are encouraged to provide members with educational opportunities to learn more about the nature, prevention, techniques of treatment and pastoral care of alcoholics and drug abusers and their families. Trained consultants should be made available to interested clergy and congregations to facilitate this education process. Through education and usage of appropriate resources, intervention is made possible to stop the progress of the disorder before it runs its full destructive course.

The Church commends and encourages the many programs offering treatment and support to persons suffering from the illnesses of alcoholism and drug addiction. Clergy and vestries are encouraged to further their assistance to the National Episcopal Coalition on Alcohol (NECA), Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, AlaTeen Groups, Adult Children of Alcoholics Groups, Narcotics Anonymous and to chemical dependency programs and halfway houses as well as becoming knowledgeable concerning all local resources offering intervention, treatment and continuing care for these persons.

Employees of the Church

Alcoholic or drug dependent employees of the Church should be treated with pastoral love and concern. Church health insurance policies should include provision for the treatment and care of persons afflicted with these illnesses. Treatment intervention for the person and family along with counseling and continuing support during recovery should be coordinated by the clergy and other support groups in the parish. Every effort should be made to offer job protection and re-employment, with salaried sick leave during hospitalization, to alcoholics and drug abusers accepting treatment. Those refusing treatment will not be offered this protection.

Alcoholic Beverages in the Local Parish

The Episcopal Church has never endorsed prohibiting the use of beverages containing alcohol among adult members. Scripture offers Jesus' example of the use and serving of wine in his first miracle at Cana and in the institution of the Holy Eucharist. If an adult member elects to use alcohol, however, moderate usage is expected. Church members should be educated regarding those conditions that might consequently compromise the health and safety of oneself or others. The Church also supports and has a responsibility to those people who abstain from the use of alcoholic beverages for whatever reason. Many churches do not serve alcoholic beverages at social functions, but, for those which do, the following guidelines are given:

-- All applicable federal, state and local laws should be obeyed, including those governing the serving of alcoholic beverages to minors.

-- Alcoholic beverages and food containing alcohol must be clearly labeled as such.

-- Whenever alcohol is served, non-alcoholic alternatives must always be offered with equal attractiveness and accessibility.

-- The service of alcoholic beverages at church events should not be publicized as an attraction of the event.

-- The group or organization sponsoring the activity or event at which alcoholic beverages are served must have permission from the parish for this plan. Such groups or organizations must also assume responsibility for those persons who might become intoxicated and must provide alternative transportation for anyone whose capacity to drive may thus be impaired.

-- Recognizing the effect of alcohol as a mood-altering drug, it would be advisable to consider the nature of the function at which alcoholic beverages are proposed to be served.

-- Chemical usage other than alcohol is clearly controlled under federal, state and local laws and, as such, should be forbidden at any function.

Citation: General Convention, Journal of the General Convention of...The Episcopal Church, Anaheim, 1985 (New York: General Convention, 1986), p. 135.