Episcopal Church promotes the “T” in LGBT equation

Commentators at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times may decry the Episcopal Church as a place offering … Continued

Commentators at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times may decry the Episcopal Church as a place offering pet funerals but nothing for the faithful or failing to provide anything one cannot get from purely secular liberalism. These traditionalists appear to bemoan the loss of a 1950s-era church that promoted an Eisenhower-era civil religion replete with the cross draped in the American flag.

While they wax nostalgia over a past that largely existed only in TV Land, the Episcopal Church made history at its 77th triennial General Convention by passing two gender nondiscrimination resolutions. Led by a grassroots coalition including, TransEpiscopal, IntegrityUSA, the Consultation, and the Chicago Consultation, the General Convention granted transgender people protection against discrimination in the ordination process and in lay leadership in the Episcopal Church. Such protections remain unavailable in the vast majority of religious and secular institutions as well as in most states and municipalities (only 16 states have transgender nondiscrimination laws on their books.

In an effort to educate those deputies who would be voting on these measures, prior to General Convention, they received copies of documentary “Out of the Box.” This film puts a human face on this topic by telling the stories of both ordained and lay transgender Episcopalians. Also, the presence of a gender neutral bathroom at General Convention afforded those present the opportunity to engage in a discussion of gender identity and expression. (Those looking to further their education about the intersection of transgender issues and faith can posts at the blog of the Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality.)

After six members of the South Carolina deputation left the convention in protest, the Right Rev. Mark Lawrence penned a letter designed to be read in all parishes in his diocese. In this letter he claims:

Lawrence and the rest of the South Carolina deputation might have walked out in protest though they have not left the Episcopal Church. However, the vast majority of deputies voted overwhelmingly in support of resolutions regarding gender identity and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Lost in this discussion are the developments in theology, science, psychology and other disciplines around this topic that inform the work of academics like as the Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, a transman who is the Episcopal chaplain for Boston University and a lecturer at Harvard Divinity School. He notes how those with bodies perceived as “different” can make us feel uncomfortable about our own bodies. But transgender clergy bring embodiment into the conversation in an exploration of “what does it mean to be human?”

For now, this appears a question that those commenting about the changes transpiring in the church don’t appear willing to address. After a slight flurry of articles about these trans friendly resolutions in outlets such as the Chicago Tribune and Anglican newspaper Church Times , once a trial rite for same-sex blessings passed, the media coverage shifted to focus solely on this particular LGBT related resolution.

Commentators such as John Meacham focus rightly on the significance of the church’s changing attitudes on marriage equality noting that “Given that sexual orientation is innate and that we are all, in theological terms, children of God, to deny access to some sacraments based on sexuality is as wrong as denying access to some sacraments based on race or gender.” However, his reflections fail to note the significance that the vote to include transgender clergy and lay people will have on the future of the church.

Once again, discussion about the “T” part of the LGBT equation became silenced. But the battle for transgender rights continues to move forward.


Becky Garrison is a religion writer and author whose books include “Jesus Died for This?” and “Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church.”

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  • Kamalaasaa

    If a baby is born with some sort of deformity or disability (blindness, a missing limb, a tumor, Down syndrome, autism), then in many cases at least part of the underlying cause can be discerned (e.g., a genetic mutation) even if the ultimate cause (e.g., exposure to a certain chemical in utero) cannot. And, even as they lament them, people of faith can understand that such things happen because both original sin and ongoing human sin mean we live in a fallen world, where things are not as God intended them.

    Transgender issues puzzle me, though. On what basis, theologically, can a person say “One of my chromosomes in every cell in my body is completely wrong” without it being a slap in the face to God?

    There is no possible way to attribute this to a genetic mutation. It seems to be the exhalation of human sovereignty and will (“I will determine what gender I am”) over divine sovereignty and will (God put each person’s spirit in a male or female body as it pleased Him).

    What am I missing here?

  • WmarkW

    What’s with the push to create gender-nuetral restrooms as a political statement?
    Is someone going to start manufacturing unisex bras and condoms, too?
    Gender-specific body parts are NOT a social construct.

  • ThomasBaum

    Kamalaasaa

    You wrote, “And, even as they lament them, people of faith can understand that such things happen because both original sin and ongoing human sin mean we live in a fallen world, where things are not as God intended them.”

    Maybe everything is as God intended and that God has an ultimate intention that many that believe in God have issues with.

    You asked, “What am I missing here?”

    That there are people that are different from you and that each and every human being is made in the Image and Likeness of God, if you purport to believe in the God of the bible.

  • standard_guy

    oh boy, a church for freaks!