Elizabeth Drescher—The Truth in Transgender: Will the Episcopal Church Amend Its Rules?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

(Please note that we posted on the video mentioned in this article on the blog earlier which you may find there--KSH).

As the Episcopal Church prepares for its 77th triennial General Convention in Indianapolis next month, transgender Episcopalians and their allies are preparing to challenge the denomination’s commitment to the full inclusion of all God’s people—without consideration of “race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age”—in discernment for lay or ordained ministry in the Church. The italicized language is a proposed addition to the current canons of the Episcopal Church, which were previously amended to include sexual orientation as a characteristic that could not be considered as an impediment to ministry. The new language was proposed at the 2009 General Convention, but failed to garner the support of the Legislative Committee charged with recommending resolutions to the full voting body of bishops, clergy, and lay delegates.

“I think there was a tremendous amount of confusion the first time around,” says Louise Emerson Brooks, a media consultant and communications director for the Episcopal LGBT advocacy group, Integrity USA, of the failure of the 2009 resolution. “There was a clear need for education among the bishops and the delegates in general on what it means to be transgender and why it matters that they are not prevented from serving the church in any ministry, lay or ordained.”

“I have to confess,” continues Brooks,
“that I was one of those people who used to say, ‘Why do we have to put the T with the LGB?’ I thought it was a different issue. I thought it was confusing. I thought it was polarizing. I thought we should just separate the issues, take on one battle at a time.”
A seminar by the advocacy group Trans Episcopal changed Brooks’ understanding of the issues, and Brooks channeled her own learning experience into Voices of Witness: Out of the Box, a documentary that tells the story of trans women and men now serving in ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)General Convention * Culture-WatchPsychologySexuality* TheologyAnthropology

11 Comments
Posted June 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Kendall Harmon wrote:

As on the previous thread on this topic, I am choosing to leave comments open, but caution people to be careful in their comments to focus on the content of the theology advocated in a Christian way.

June 26, 5:19 pm | [comment link]
2. Teatime2 wrote:

I hope this isn’t off-topic but I keep wondering—does anyone’s parish have discussions ad nauseum about GLBTs? Does anyone’s parish spend appreciable time on their issues at all? I’m wondering if it’s because I’ve only been an Episcopalian in Texas but I’ve never been at or known about any parishes that are engaged with, let alone obsessed with, this topic. I’m trying to understand what’s going on.

No parish or diocese I’ve been in has advanced any sort of theology or special handling instructions for this population. That’s not to say we don’t have homosexual church members. We do. And they’re treated and welcomed and preached to like everyone else (no same sex marriages, though).

So, if that is your experience, and I’m hypothesizing that most clergy’s and lay deputies’ and probably even bishop’s is, how does this tiny demographic of the church (yes, I disagree with the Trans Episcopal claim in their video that there are truly lots and lots of transsexuals among us) manage to usurp so dang much time, effort, and resources at national gatherings? I don’t understand, and I intend to ask a member of our parish who is a diocesan deputy about this. But, again, I’m in Texas and our perceptions may be skewed.

What is everyone else’s experience, if y’all don’t mind my asking?

June 26, 8:01 pm | [comment link]
3. Ross wrote:

#2 Teatime2:

I attend a reappraising (or, if you prefer, liberal) parish in Seattle, so perhaps my experience is a useful contrast to yours.

We don’t “have discussions ad nauseum” about LGBT issues.  In fact, I imagine that a typical Sunday morning at my church is much like a typical Sunday morning at your church—there might be an appeal for the local food bank, or for the youth mission trip, or for something going on in the local community.  Beyond that, we have worship in much the same way as I imagine you do.

But—the differences do come out in other ways.  It comes out in, say, whether a person in an openly homosexual relationship is elected to the vestry or welcomed as a Sunday School teacher.  It comes out in whether members of the congregation organize a contingent to march in the local Pride parade.  It comes out in who gets invited as guest speakers.  It comes out in dozens and dozens of little ways that either say, “We consider LGBT people and their relationships a normal and healthy part of our congregational life,” or “We welcome LGBT people, of course, but we don’t consider it a normal and healthy lifestyle and we don’t sanction it.”

June 26, 8:30 pm | [comment link]
4. QohelethDC wrote:

#2/#3:

Ross answered better than I could. My experience has been similar at St. Margaret’s, which boasts a large LGBT population (including yours truly).

June 26, 8:50 pm | [comment link]
5. Teatime2 wrote:

Good, thoughtful responses, and I thank you. I guess what I’ve most experienced is a third way, which says we all have struggles that we need to work on and for Christ to help and heal. There is no celebration or condemnation of specific issues and sins because we’re all imperfect.  I think that’s a reasonable stance.

And I am confused how something like that goes from an opportunity for growth and community support to forcing a new theology on the entire church. Something that is so overworked and forced can lead to resentment, in time. We’ve been force-fed this for about 10 years and I’m surprised that fatigue and resentment haven’t set in, particularly among the moderates who have stayed with the church.

June 26, 9:39 pm | [comment link]
6. Sarah wrote:

In response to your question, Teatime—a lot of conservatives in our diocese and my parish are well-informed about what’s going to happen, and thus talk about it amongst themselves.  My parish *desperately* does *not* want to talk about it, because it just stirs up the laity and damages “stewardship.”  ; > )

Our diocese tried to have Yet Another Set of Dialogues this year [we went through The Dialogues back in the 90s and conservatives I’ve talked with actually recall showing up for one or two and then realizing they were all fixed and controlled and didn’t attend any more—but hey, the revisionists all felt good talking amongst themselves!]—and most of the conservatives boycotted this latest set of events; I believe the first one pulled in 70-80 and the second one around a hundred—or vice versa, hard to recall the numbers from folks—and of course, a good chunk of those numbers were happy revisionist clergy. 

We all recognize that the two sides in question don’t share the same gospel/foundational worldview and so further discussion is pointless; neither side is going to be convinced of the rightness of the other position, and besides that, the teensy percentage of progressive activists in TEC are perfectly willing to plow under the church all for the sake of a faux pretense at symbolic gestures of “approval.” 

On the conservative side the choice is merely to “speak up” and demonstrate our disapproval by redirecting tithe money to other organizations.  That’s basically all that can be done.

June 26, 10:29 pm | [comment link]
7. Br. Michael wrote:

6, or to simply walk away.  When you know the fix is in you realize that “Dialogue” is a code word that means, “You need to change your mind and agree with what we are going to do anyway, And keep that money flowing in.”

June 27, 6:02 am | [comment link]
8. Stephen Noll wrote:

No question about it: the gay rights movement has been resourceful and successful in promoting its agenda over the past 30 years. I do not know how their leadership came up with the LGBT acronym, but it seems to have stuck: I heard an Army general last night on the news celebrating the newly won battle by oppressed LGBT warriors.

Branding matters aside, there is an inherent logic that links the L, the G, the B, and the T. Fifteen years ago, when I was (vainly) trying to stave off the Integrity juggernaut in TEC, I referred to a theoretician named Anthony Giddens, who advocated a new basis for sexual identity, unhitched from reproduction. He called it “plastic sexuality,” and from this plastic sexuality flows “confluent love,” “pure relationship” and “rolling contracts.” Surely this train of logic eventually reach its destination in TEC, whether at this Convention or in the near future.

June 27, 6:32 am | [comment link]
9. Sarah wrote:

RE: “6, or to simply walk away.”

Which—as I pointed out a number of years ago—most conservatives won’t do.

What’s going to fascinate me is just how emaciated TEC parishes, dioceses, and the institution as a whole, are going to get while the current “leaders” continue to act as if “all is well” or re-spin “success and growth.”  I would never have believed there’d be all the scrabbling and cawing that we’ve seen this year, and it’s going to get far far far worse for TEC in the coming few years.

“How low can we go?”  Quite a bit lower.

June 27, 7:42 am | [comment link]
10. Jill Woodliff wrote:

I applaud the compassion but believe it to be misguided.  We see through a glass darkly.  When scientists try to make mathematical sense of the universe (string theory), they come to the conclusion there must exist several more than four dimensions.  We have clues to other dimensions in Holy Scripture.  My hunch is that many of the miracles or supernatural events involve perception of unseen dimensions (e.g. Jesus walking through a wall, healings).  Because we are so utterly limited in perceiving the unseen realm, our best guide is Holy Scripture.  Just as Jesus humbled himself to take human form and come as a servant, the act of the Holy Spirit speaking to the writers of scripture, conveying heavenly treasure in finite words,  was one of humility.  May we humbly receive the treasure.
I see no scriptural basis for changing gender.  The surgery is more mutilating than most cancer surgery. The pathology is in the psyche, not the genitalia.
I’ve no experience in this area, but here is a prayer I wrote.  I recommend a practitioner of trauma prayer with some experience in depth psychology.

June 27, 8:10 am | [comment link]
11. Br. Michael wrote:

I have to admit to being amused by the ability of the LBGT people to twist an argument.

The gays argue that God doesn’t make mistakes.  God created sexual orientation and made me gay.  So does the transgender admit that God made a mistake and created them male when they should have been female thereby undercutting the “God does not make mistakes” argument.  By no means.  They say that God created them transgender.  And it is that “transgender orientation” that God created that impels them to change, as best they can, their biological sex.

It would seem that the only “orientation” that is not immutable is the “straight” orientation because if you change to another orientation the new orientation is what you were all along.

June 27, 8:57 am | [comment link]
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