Thank you, Kit, for your voice and witness!
Congratulations to TransEpiscopal Steering Committee member the Reverend Kit Wang, whose podcast interview with “Queer Spirit” for “OUT Cast” on WMPG was released on January 25th. In the interview, led by Dr. Marvin Ellison and the Rev’d Tamara Torres-McGovern, and recorded in the fall of 2020, Kit reflects on their experience of race, sexuality, and gender, as someone who identifies as queer, trans, and Chinese American. They also talk powerfully about discernment, not only to the priesthood but also to parenthood. Kit is one of a growing number of openly trans and nonbinary clergy in the Episcopal Church sharing the wisdom of their experience through service on wider church bodies, in local congregations, and in combinations of vocational settings. Kit serves on the leadership team of Arise Portland, is the chair of the Commission on Ministry for the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, and is the President of Province One, a regional body of seven New England Episcopal dioceses.
Thank you, Kit, for your voice and witness!
At the 2018 General Convention TransEpiscopal advocated for the passage of resolution D069, “Gather Annual Deployment and Compensation Data for LGBT and Gender Nonbinary Clergy.” Originally sponsored and endorsed by deputies Vanessa Stickler Glass at that time of the Diocese of California, and M.E. Eccles of the Diocese of Chicago, this resolution called for the gathering of data “using surveys and other mechanisms about: 1) the numbers of clergy who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender or gender nonbinary; 2) the deployment of such self-identified clergy, including whether their positions are part time, full time, or non-stipendiary; 3) their compensation, and 4) to broadly disseminate the report by electronic and other means.” Resolution D037 also called for an expansion of the annual “Clergy Compensation Report” to be able to analyze disparities on the basis of gender identity (specifically naming nonbinary in addition to female and male). We know anecdotally—indeed, from the experience of members of our own steering committee -- that there are LGBTIQ clergy who experience inequities and injustices in deployment and compensation. Stories of such experiences – such as that shared by Gwen Fry in a recent post -- are important and powerful.
We believe that along with such stories, data can help us locate these stories within a larger story, by pointing the wider church to the systemic, structural issues that continue to require change. D069 and D037 complemented resolutions C029 and D005, which called for the maintenance of statistics on the race and ethnicity of those in bishop elections as well as all who are ordained “in order to show trends in ordination, deployment, and compensation by race and ethnicity, and to report broadly by electronic and other means.” This statistical collection and reporting was further described by C029 as part of the wider church’s process of “Becoming Beloved Community,” a framework emphasized by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
In response to these resolutions, earlier this month an announcement came out: “The Episcopal Church invites all clergy to ‘Be a Part of the Picture’ as it seeks to Become Beloved Community.” The announcement calls for all clergy to participate in a study about the demographics, deployment, and compensation of clergy.
To participate in the study, clergy are asked to go to this page of the Church Pension Group website and fill out a special section, “Information for Church Reporting.” The section heading explains, “the data collected on race/ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation will only be used for analysis and reported in aggregate form and will not be published or displayed on any public facing CPG website or printed in the Episcopal Clerical Directory. Individual data will be separated from data used to administer benefits.”
Gender options in this section, which include an invitation to “check all that apply,” include “male, female, nonbinary” and then a “self-describe” write-in option, allowing for someone to write in trans specific language as best reflects their identity.
Sexual orientation options in the form are more specific and expansive than what we have yet seen acknowledged in General Convention resolutions thus far: asexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, pansexual, unsure, as well as a write-in option.
The Church Pension Group has also produced a video featuring leaders from across the church, including Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who explains the importance of participating in this study: “I have a sneaking suspicion there’s an image of who and what the Episcopal Church is that may not conform to the actual reality of who and what the Episcopal Church is today. Having data really does help to inform us in terms of who we are and also in terms of who we want to be.”
TransEpiscopal encourages all Episcopal clergy, particularly those who are trans and/or nonbinary, to participate in this study. We also appreciate all the effort that has gone in to bringing this process to fruition by so many behind the scenes. Aware as we are of trans people in the wider church who do not disclose this part of their history, we additionally appreciate the emphasis on confidentiality in this process, the promise that people’s information will not be shared without their consent. At the same time, several of us noted in updating our information that the Clerical Directory still does not have adequate public-facing, gender neutral options, whether in gender specific designations (e.g. it offers male or female only) or in titles. Particularly for those of us who are nonbinary identified and would like our entry in the Clerical Directory to reflect that truth, we ask CPG to expand the gender options for that public-facing directory. We consider such an expansion to align with resolution D090-2009 which encouraged “inclusive self-identification on all church data forms.”
We look forward to seeing the data produced by this study reflect more clearly who we already are and, as the Presiding Bishop put it, help give us more tools to assist the wider church in becoming who we want to be. Indeed, the Beloved Community God calls us to be.
by the Rev'd Gwen Fry
Last week I read an article from CTV News reporting on a trans woman, Junia Joplin, who is, well was, the pastor of a church in Ontario. It threw me back six plus years when, while serving a parish in Arkansas, I too came out as a trans person who would be socially transitioning. Junia’s story was all too familiar. Well at least this part of her story was my story as well. You see, Junia came out to her congregation during her sermon a little over a month ago. I suppose she was lucky that her parish took a month to discern and vote on whether to keep her or fire her for being transgender. Sitting on this side of my history, I’m not sure if it was a blessing or an abominable curse that they spent a month “discerning” Junia’s worthiness to be the spiritual leader of the congregation. In the three days it took for my parish to come to a decision to “dissolve the pastoral relationship” I had to bear the burden of tv news stations camping out in front of our house and being in the news cycle for five days. I received nasty threatening emails and text messages from strangers I didn’t even know both locally and nationally. They threatened my safety just because I am a trans woman. I pray Junia didn’t have to run the gauntlet that I did in that month leading up to the vote to fire her because she is a pastor who just happens to be a trans woman.
In the story Junia said, "I had a wonderful friend who took me out to dinner just to keep my mind off what might be going on and I had a cry but I tried to almost immediately start thinking about what comes next.”
Junia was already thinking about what would come next even before the votes on her future at the church were tallied. We transgender people in the church know what that’s like better than most. We clergy who are trans have made a great deal of progress in just a few short years. A great deal of progress has been made in the church since my coming out. The church has passed many resolutions at General Conventions since 2009, making it possible for trans people to be protected and incorporated more easily in the church at all levels and this is so very good. The challenge for the church now is ensuring those resolutions that have been passed make an impact all the way to the parish level. While transgender clergy are being accepted more and more in the church, that acceptance seems to be weighted much more heavily in the favor of lay members who are transgender and clergy who identify and express themselves as trans men. But that shouldn’t be surprising should it? Everyone in the church knows that women clergy have a much more difficult time being hired in the church than male clergy. There are even Facebook groups dedicated to women breaking the glass ceiling in the church. And even as difficult as it is for women to be hired for parochial positions in the church, it’s is even more difficult for a trans woman clergy person to be called to a church position. So, Junia’s question is an important one. What does come next for trans clergy, and especially clergy who identify as trans women, in a church where we have been given legislative equality but yet strive for acceptance and inclusion at the local parish level? What will it take for us to become the beloved community we all yearn to experience?
The bias and discrimination toward trans women is very real. I believe that the only way to get beyond this is to broaden the experience of the wider church with those of us who identify as trans women as well as clergy who identify as nonbinary, of which we have a growing number in The Episcopal Church. It isn’t easy hearing a bishop say, “the church isn’t ready for you yet.” And yet, this is where the church is at this time. I often joke with folks by telling them that my ministry in the church is now applying for positions as a trans woman so search committees are exposed to trans people in the clergy. But seriously, I do think one of the missions and ministries I can offer the church is to make myself available to those seeking to create a church where the ministries of all people are raised up and celebrated. By being vulnerable enough to meet others face to face and show them the unfathomable love of God I have experienced in my journey, I pray that some day the church that has nurtured me to become the authentic person I am will truly come to accept, embrace and celebrate all the children of God. Particularly those of us who identify as transgender.
We in the transgender community are resilient and can persevere. As individuals we often get knocked off of our feet only to get back up time and time again. I am a living example of this as I sit here in Maine writing while my spouse is in the home office writing her sermon for next Sunday. The transgender community has made great strides in the church and society and we are thankful for the progress we have made. But we have so far to go before we are accepted and celebrated in our communities. The transgender community has so many gifts the church desperately needs and we will be standing and waiting right here while the church continues its discernment of where we might fit in as leaders in The Episcopal Church in your neighborhood.
TransEpiscopal celebrates today’s landmark ruling by United States Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, 590 U.S. ___ (2020) that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation under the category of “sex.” It is now illegal in the United States for employers to discriminate against workers on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. This ruling confirms employment nondiscrimination laws that exist in various states around the country and adds protections for workers in more than half of the states that have previously had no such protections.
We feel the support of our wider church, particularly from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings who were lead signers on an Amicus Brief that was submitted for this case on July 3, 2019. Thank you. Among the efforts of a range of religious traditions, that brief cites the work of several General Conventions in support of the full dignity of trans, nonbinary, and LGBQ people’s humanity. Thank you Vice President of the House of Deputies Byron Rushing for sponsoring resolution D012 in 2009, supported by Deputies Sarah Lawton of the Diocese of California and Dante Tavolaro of the Diocese of Rhode Island. That resolution put the Episcopal Church on record in support of non-discrimination legislation to protect trans people at the federal, state and local levels. We give thanks to the people of the Episcopal Church who answer “present” in the struggle for civil rights on behalf of trans and nonbinary people, as we live out our baptismal vow “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
We also consider it important to acknowledge the particular contexts of struggle that today’s ruling has emerged out of and into. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, and national origin. It came into law because of the efforts of African Americans who struggled against racism for decades in the Civil Rights Movement. Today, we see the continuation of that struggle in the COVID 19 pandemic which is having disportionate health and economic effects on black and brown people in our communities. The struggle is continuing as well in the wake of the recent killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, following the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and on Friday Rayshard Brooks in Georgia. People around the country and the world are rising up to proclaim that black lives matter and that systemic racism, particularly its role in police brutality, must be eradicated. This is a history, a moment, and a movement with which trans and non-binary lives are bound up. The struggle very much continues.
In addition, this ruling arrives on the heels of news from Friday in which we learned that the Trump administration had reversed protection for trans people and the wider LGBTIQ communities in health care. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a rule change that seeks to remove discrimination protection for LGBTIQ people in access to health care (specifically in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act). The rule change makes it all too easy for health care providers to claim that their acts of discriminatory exclusion are protected practices of “religious liberty." While this ruling is not shocking given the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to erode legal recognitions and protections for trans people, it was demoralizing on a deeply challenging day.
News of the HHS rule change emerged as the community was attending to the fourth anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub massacre and absorbing the terrible news of the deaths of two more black trans women. Dominique Rem’mie Fells of Philadelphia and Riah Milton of Cincinnati had been killed last week within a twenty-four hour period, raising the number of anti-trans deaths in this country in 2020 to fourteen. The combination of trans misogyny and anti-black racism continues to be a horrific systemic pattern that we must eradicate. As marches in several cities proclaimed this past weekend, black trans lives matter.
Such compounded, ongoing struggle makes today’s good news all the more important to embrace and to be fortified by as we continue to take up the critical work that remains to be done to fully make this world a place that respects the dignity of every human being. In these days of deep struggle, amid a time of social distancing, many in our community are feeling isolated, overwhelmed, and grief-stricken. Today’s news, emerging from and into an historic, ongoing, intersectional struggle, can remind us of the power of collaborative connection and solidarity. We are in this struggle together.
“Let the word go forth: God loves us! .... ‘God loves us’ is not an innocuous platitude but a serious faith statement…. God does not make rejects. God does not redeem persons only to say that they were not worth redeeming. God loves us.”
- Louie Crew Clay, Letters From Samaria: The Prose and Poetry of Louie Crew Clay. Ed. Max Niedzwiecki (New York: Church Publishing, 2015), 58.
TransEpiscopal mourns the passing of Louie Crew Clay, pioneering founder of Integrity USA and a friend and tower of strength to all who sought peace and justice in and through the Episcopal Church. Yesterday Louie died peacefully in a step down unit after having been hospitalized on 11/21 after having a stroke.
Louie’s example as a lay leader who, starting in the 1970s, persistently and creatively forged a way forward when forces within the wider Church were hostile to LGBTIQ people, has long moved us. The way he went about that work, with abundant spirit, wry humor, deep encouragement, and palpable joy, has inspired us just as much.
At the turn of the millennium, when trans* people were just beginning to organize ourselves to seek welcome and acceptance in the Episcopal Church, Louie was a mentor, friend and wise counselor. “Even at the most difficult times for gay, lesbian and bi people in the church, Louie pointed the way for trans folk to follow in our own struggle,” commented Donna Cartwright, TransEpiscopal Steering Committee member. “He was undaunted in defeat and magnanimous in victory -- a good friend and we will miss him.”
In 2009, when TransEpiscopal first sent a team to General Convention, Louie not only supported the legislation we had come to support and were aware of ahead of time, but also drafted a resolution, 2009-D032. It read, simply, “Resolved, That the 76th General Convention commit The Episcopal Church not to discriminate in employment of lay employees based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” The resolution, which passed easily, is arguably just as significant as the canon change resolutions that barred discrimination in access to the ordination process (which passed in 2012) and in deployment (which passed in 2018). Together, with 2012-D019 (“The Rights of the Laity” ) it seeks to safeguard the ministry of trans people among all the baptized.
“Louie Clay was filled with joy and courage,” commented Sarah Lawton, ally Steering Committee member of TransEpiscopal and General Convention Deputy from the Diocese of California. “I learned so much from him. I'm sure he is already numbered among the saints.”
Cameron Partridge, also a Steering Committee member and Deputy from the Diocese of California, added, “I will always remember how Louie welcomed the TransEpiscopal community when we first attended General Convention in 2009. He was a true ally, encouraging us as we navigated unfamiliar and overwhelming terrain. Many times over the years Louie went out of his way to reach out to me and others, to offer support and joy-filled messages of encouragement. I am so grateful for him.”
“The last time I saw him he gave me a big kiss,” said Michelle Hansen, Steering Committee member from the Diocese of Connecticut. “I thank the Lord for his presence among us in these days. What a loss for the Church! What a gain for Heaven!”
Louie’s life was an emblem of God’s unquenchable, joyous love. When he declared “Let the word go forth: God loves us,” we truly felt it. We give thanks to God for the life, the love, the leadership, and the sheer joy of Louie Crew Clay, and we offer our sincerest condolences to Louie’s beloved husband Ernest. Rest eternal grant Louie, oh God, and may light perpetual shine upon him.
On this All Saints Day we give thanks for the life of Mary and Ron Miller, faithful, longstanding leaders in the Consultation, the coalition for independent peace and justice organizations of the Episcopal Church, of which TransEpiscopal has been a member since 2007. Mary died one year ago and Ron Miller just died earlier this month. A remembrance of Ron and Mary from Episcopal News Service and the Diocese of Maryland was posted earlier this week here. It includes quotations from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry who preached and presided at both of their funerals. The Presiding Bishop's homily at Mary Miller's service can be seen here and at Ron Miller's service be seen here.
The below reflection is from Donna Cartwright, founding member of TransEpiscopal and current member of our steering committee.
Fifteen years ago, when trans Episcopalians were beginning to organize and bring our issues and concerns before the church, the going was tough. We encountered suspicion, misunderstanding and in some cases an unwillingness to engage, in some cases even from others in the progressive wing of the church.
I met Mary Miller in that context -- she was a strong ally from the start, and a helpful guide in navigating the internal politics in the church. I met Ron Miller not long afterward, and got a more thorough understanding of the breadth of social justice commitments inside and outside the church that wonderful couple exemplified.
A few years later, when Mary and Ron sold their home in South Baltimore and moved a few blocks from where I live, our friendship deepened. Mary and I had a regular lunch every few weeks, where I learned a great deal about the inner workings of the church (as one who came to faith late in life, this was very helpful for me).
I miss them both a great deal. We can best honor and remember them by carrying on their work.
- Donna Cartwright
The portion of the Episcopal Church's Book of Occasional Services that was approved at the 2018 General Convention -- including the service of Renaming-- has now been formally digitized and posted online. You can find it here or at the following url: https://extranet.generalconvention.org/staff/files/download/21033
Since the document has no page numbers you'll need to scroll down until you get to the rite, which is listed in the Table of Contents as among the Pastoral services, shortly after the seasonal materials.
For background on this service, you can read this previous post.
The opening rubrics of the service read as follows:
A Service of Renaming
When an event or experience leads a baptized person to take or to be given a new name, the following may be used to mark this transition in the parish community. It is expected that the presider or someone appointed by the presider has prepared the candidate for this rite through pastoral conversation and theological reflection.
This new beginning is distinct from the new life begun in Holy Baptism, which conveys regeneration and the responsibilities of Christian discipleship.
The rite can be used on its own or in place of the Word of God during a celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It is particularly commended for use on a major feast day or any of the following occasions: Advent 3 (Gaudete); Holy Name (Jan. 1); Presentation in the Temple (Feb. 2); The Last Sunday After the Epiphany (Transfiguration Sunday); The Feast of the Transfiguration (Aug. 6).
Throughout the rite, the pronouns “they,” “their,” and “them” are used, with corresponding verb forms. These pronouns should be adapted to the preference of the person receiving or claiming the new name, with appropriate adjustment to the accompanying verbs.
by Deacon Zeb Treolar, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa
I have been going to the reading of the names and secular spaces to reflect on trans identities and our hopes since I came out in 2012.Two years back, I considered a requiem mass for the the dead at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Des Moines, where I worship. But I was concerned about how to reach out to the community and bring people in. I advertized an interfaith prayer service in our chapel that year, and a group of six faithful people came together, read names, and reflected on these lost lives. But the service still felt incomplete to me. I had to admit that what I desired, what I longed for, was communion.
Fast forward to 2018. My friend Lizzie has just become the coordinator of our diocesan young adult ministry, Breaking Bread, a ministry we helped co-found along with our friend Lydia. Breaking Bread focuses on radical hospitality and celebrating the Eucharist outside of parish walls. We met together to talk about her new role and how we might do things differently. We examined the November calendar and I brought up the sacred day of TDOR. Her eyes lit up. Yes. Where to have it? Where else but the gay bar, a natural community gathering space. Could we partner with others? Of course. The Downtown Disciples seemed a natural group for us us to team up with. This Disciples of Christ congregation had a rainbow flag chalice as their symbol and two of their members were also involved in the ministries of our diocese. Their pastor, Debbie Griffin, was up for anything. So we dreamed together. We prayed. Lizzie got in touch with The Garden Nightclub and set it up for us to use the space. My bishop, Alan Scarfe, was free that night and desired to preside at the table. I developed the liturgy, adapting from our own liturgies in The Book of Common Prayer.
Finally the day came. We were in a cozy seating area of the nightclub, and we set up two chalices, wine and grape juice, and our two patens, homemade gluten-free bread I had baked the night before with my friend Kaitlin, a Disciples pastor. Pizza was set on tables to the side. Four of us read the names, my heart breaking as we went through the pages and pages of people. I left the phrase “unknown name” on the page, and as we read those, we naturally began changing up how we shared them, “Beloved Child of God”, “Name known only to the Divine”, “Name unknown, but forever loved”. We shared a moment of silence. We ate.
Then we began our liturgy. It was one of the holiest moments in my life.We sang together, Pastor Debbie prayed. I shared a reflection on Rachel weeping for her children. “She shall not be comforted, for they are no more.” We had more silence. Then we began the Eucharistic prayer. Watching my bishop preside, using the words I had adapted for the day, seeing the bread and cups become the body and blood of Christ, the holy food for God’s holy people, holding the chalice and declaring “The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation” to transgender, nonbinary, and cisgender people who cared deeply about our community was everything I needed. As the community continued conversing and slowly filtered out the door, sharing the moment and enjoying each other’s company, I knew it was everything they needed too.
Afterward my bishop came up to me and stated, “We should have more liturgies here.” To which I replied, “Amen.”
TransEpiscopal adds our voice to those (including fellow Episcopalians) who stand against the strategic attempt by the Trump administration, which emerged earlier this week, to sharply narrow the federal definition of sex (and of “sex discrimination”) under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. The proposal limits the definition to “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” This position flies in the face of the reality that sex/gender is biologically as well as socially and culturally complex. It also undermines and perpetuates our community’s lived reality of discrimination and oppression. We consider our complexity a gift to be celebrated and embraced, not a threat to be denied, stigmatized, and eradicated.
At its highest levels, the Episcopal Church has affirmed trans/nonbinary people as made in the image of God. The Church has affirmed our presence and our leadership, lay and ordained alike, at all of its levels. Because we know that laws and policies that define and administer gender can facilitate or undermine our lives in very real ways, the Episcopal Church has been working at the churchwide level for over a decade to open the Church’s own canons and policies. The Church took further steps in that work at its triennial General Convention this summer, and our work continues.
Should it be fully realized, the Trump administration’s proposal could have serious and far-reaching implications for trans and/or nonbinary, intersex and broadly gender non-conforming people in access to health care, education, housing, employment, travel, public accommodations, and basic safety. Its most detrimental impact could be felt by people who experience transphobia combined with racism, misogyny, xenophobia, classism, and/or ableism. We think of how this news has emerged in a week when President Trump has also been vilifying a group of migrants making their way north to seek asylum, having been displaced by dangerous situations in Honduras and Guatemala. As Transgender Day of Remembrance approaches next month, we grieve the disproportionate loss of far too many transgender women of color, including Roxana Hernandez who died in May while in the custody of ICE. We are mindful of the trans/nonbinary community in Massachusetts whose protected access to public accommodations is being put to a statewide vote next week (please vote #YesOn3). We deplore the exploitation of various marginalized groups as wedge issues to stoke fear and hate. We stand with all who are oppressed and used for political gain. No one can erase our basic humanity. No one can define us out of existence. Our light cannot be put out. As the queer slogan declares, we are everywhere.
In the Acts of the Apostles, an angry mob in Thessalonica, reacting to the ministry and teaching of Paul and Silas, declared, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6). The Good News they were proclaiming declared the casting down of the mighty from their thrones, the uplifting of the lowly, the release of captives, the freeing of the oppressed, the recovery of vision. Then and now, this vision threatens to turn the world of those at the center power upside down. As Christians, we are called to follow Jesus Christ in this work. God calls all of us together, across lines of identity and embodiment to be a transformative people, to join in manifesting God’s vision for the world (basilea), the divine dream of justice poured out and peace that passes all understanding.
All of us are called to stand up in concrete ways for trans/non binary people, and indeed for all who are struggling against structural injustice and oppression. In this election season, where we can stand against direct efforts to undermine us, please do: vote, and do whatever you can to resist voter suppression. At your places of employment, in your cities and towns, in your congregations, make sure your trans/nonbinary neighbors have a voice. Reach out to one another, refuse isolation or attempts to pit us against one another, and build or strengthen relationships. Join in what our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has called the Way of Love.
#WontBeErased #TransformTheVote #YesOn3 #WayofLove
One of the resolutions that TransEpiscopal was particularly following at the 79th General Convention was A064 “Authorize the Book of Occasional Services, 2018” which included “A Service of Renaming.” As explained in this post from 2015, the 78th General Convention had called for the inclusion of such a service in the Book of Occasional Services (BOS) in resolution 2015-D036. Although some renaming rites already existed (including in the resource Changes: Prayers and Services Honoring Rites of Passage, Justin Tanis’ recently re-released book Transgender: Theology, Ministry and Communities of Faith, and now also in Christina Beardsley and Chris Dowd’s book Transfaith: a Transgender Pastoral Resource) nothing was specifically authorized for use throughout the Episcopal Church as services in the Book of Occasional Services are.
Convergences and Differences: Renaming in The Episcopal Church and the Church of England
At the 2015 General Convention we noted that this call for an official renaming service marked an important convergence with the Church of England. (The Episcopal Church has its roots in the Church of England and continues to be connected to it and other churches of the Anglican Communion through four “instruments of communion” but decisions in the Church of England do not bind the Episcopal Church.) In 2015 the C of E’s General Synod was slated to hear “the Blackburn Motion” calling for the creation of a rite to welcome transgender people in congregations by liturgically honoring their name changes and transitions. During the 78th General Convention the Reverend Dr. Christina Beardsley wrote a post for this blog about the then-upcoming C of E vote. In it she asked, “Will the General Synod have the courage to invite the House of Bishops to explore and commend forms of prayer for Church of England parishes that wish to celebrate with and affirm their transgender congregants and parishioners?”
The answer was yes: In July of 2017 the General Synod overwhelmingly passed this motion by a combined vote of 284-78 (here is an overview article and here is a detailed account of the proceedings, including an attempted amendment).
Unfortunately, that overwhelming yes did not mandate the creation of the service. In accordance with Church of England rules on the creation of official liturgies, the General Synod asked the House of Bishops to authorize the creation of this service by the Liturgical Commission. Disappointingly, this past January news came out that the recently formed Delegation Committee of the House of Bishops had declined to do so. They officially commented in this statement, released January 23, 2018, “On the matter of whether a new service is needed, the House of Bishops has decided that the current service that is used to affirm baptism can be adapted. Clergy always have the discretion to compose and say prayers with people as they see fit." Trans people in the Church of England were deeply disappointed by this decision, as Dr. Beardsley responded in this op ed for Church Times. "It is simply not good enough for the Church to claim that it is welcoming when it clearly isn’t," Dr. Beardsley wrote. "If the Church really wants to be a welcoming place for trans people then it has to be prepared to learn and to change."
Given this turn of events-- and given the Episcopal Church’s own call to continue turning, learning and changing-- the approval of a name change rite in the Book of Occasional Services took on added significance.
The Book of Occasional Services
Originally published in 1980 shortly after the then-new 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the BOS is, as the proposed 2018 volume described, “a collection of liturgical resources related to occasions which do not occur with sufficient frequency to warrant their inclusion in The Book of Common Prayer.” Intended as “a companion volume to The Book of Common Prayer,” its rites “are to be understood, interpreted, and used in light of the theology, structure, and directions of The Book of Common Prayer.” The most recent revision of the BOS is from 2003. The current proposed BOS revision was first authorized in 2012 and continued in 2015. You can find the mandate for and description of that revision process on pp. 153-158 of the 2018 SCLM Blue Book report, Vol. 1.
As part of this revision over this past triennium and, again, specifically in response to 2015-D036, a subcommittee of the SCLM created a new naming rite. This subcommittee drew on already existing resources (including the rites in Changes and Tanis’ book mentioned above) while also drafting new language. The SCLM gestures toward this subcommittee’s work in the conclusion of its introductory/overview essay here.
General Convention on the Renaming Service
As things unfolded at the 79th General Convention, Committee 12 on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music decided that part of the BOS was ready to be released to the wider Church while another part of it was not. Episcopal News Service reported on this development here. Rather than hold the whole project back until 2021, they created two new resolutions, one of which (A218) released a large chunk of the BOS to the Church and the other of which (A219) sent the rest back to the SCLM for further work. The Renaming Rite was included in the approved chunk, so it has been approved for use throughout the Church by the General Convention. Once the whole BOS is completed and approved (presumably as of the 80th General Convention in 2021) it will be published in a physical, bound format. In the meantime, the released portions, including the renaming service, are to be made available in a digital format, as this article explains. For now, you can find the service itself in this supplement to the SCLM Blue Book report here (please note: the pages are not numbered). When the new digital format is released we will share that link as well.
Bottom line: the Episcopal Church now has an official renaming rite available for use across the church. Thanks be to God!
On this final day of the 79thGeneral Convention TransEpiscopal has so much to celebrate. Everything we came to this convention supporting has passed, and more. We had many connecting conversations with people from across the church, and we also felt the support of the wider church in various ways even when we didn’t have direct conversations. It really felt like the church had our back. We felt it at the Revival on Saturday when the Presiding Bishop said “my brothers, my sisters, my siblings.” We felt it in testimony, especially on the floor of the House of Deputies. We felt it in resolutions where trans and nonbinary concerns got added to resolutions in committee, at times when we weren’t even aware of it. We may yet discover more legislation impacting us in specific ways among the record number of resolutions passed this convention. At over 500 resolutions, this convention dealt with the largest such number in its history, and while we did our best to go through all of them, the lack of a keyword search function on the General Convention website meant that we probably missed some. But several that we discovered along the way join with others we were advocating for, making the gains at this Convention arguably the most significant we have ever experienced.
Nondiscrimination Canons Augmented and Extended to Employment
Early in this convention we became aware of resolution A091. It sought to take the nondiscrimination categories, including ‘gender identity and expression’ whose addition we supported and celebrated in 2012, and to apply them to clergy appointment and hiring processes. We were disappointed when this resolution did not make it out of Committee #15 on Ministry. But then later we learned that a similar resolution had been assigned to Committee #2 on Constitution and Canons. It was not only similar, it was stronger. It had also made it out of committee. In fact, when we learned about it, it had already passed the House of Bishops (we don’t know if it was discussed or if it passed on their consent calendar). It was resolution A284 (originally D026), sponsored by the Reverend Beth Scriven. As of last night it was on the consent calendar, but this morning it was removed along with several other resolutions, forcing it to come up for a floor vote. We scrambled in the midst of packing to help alert folks to please testify in support and were elated when it passed.
A284 does several things:
This resolution was inspired in important ways by the #MeToo movement as it has been playing out in the Church. Testimony in its support included stories of how in interviews women have been asked questions that men are typically not – questions about family, children, pregnancy, and child care plans. We have heard testimony at this convention about how lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or trans and nonbinary people have been asked additional questions about their relationship status, or have been let go from their positions once they have come out or begun transition. Earlier this week our own steering committee member and newly elected President of the Episcopal Rainbow The Reverend Gwen Fry, shared her story of losing her rector position in the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas in the wake of her coming out as trans. We recommend reading it here in the Issues blog of the Consultation (the peace and justice coalition of which TransEpiscopal is a member). This Convention has also devoted considerable energy to the work of dismantling racism and renewing the Church's commitment to that work. Sexism, racism, ableism, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia -- all of these forms of oppression in all their permutations and intersections need to be dismantled. Our communal life together, embracing difference, is poised for renewal. This resolution makes an important new statement about our commitment to this process as a Church.
Studies of Employment, Compensation, and Career Development
D069 calls for the gathering of statistical information and stories about employment and compensation for LGBTQ clergy. Today the House of Deputies voted to concur with the Bishops who had passed it earlier this week (again, we don’t know if there was discussion or if it passed on their consent calendar). We were glad to connect with the statistician of the Church Pension Group Matthew Price along the way about the possibility of it becoming a report like one he worked on a decade ago, “Called to Serve.” Deputies the Reverend Vanessa Stickler-Glass and the Reverend M.E. Eccles, its respective sponsor and endorsers, spoke powerfully and movingly in its support this morning.
We had contributed to the construction of D069 and were glad to observe the passage of its sibling resolution – its inspiration, in fact – D005. It called for similar statistical information to be gathered on the basis of race and ethnicity. As we embrace difference across axes of oppression in the church, we need to take stock of where bias persists and gaps remain. Another resolution we learned about late in the game was A143. It acknowledges “that there has not been adequate investment in the career development of women, transgender, non-binary, and racial/ethnic minority clergy at multiple levels” and “that an appropriate interim body be assigned the task to study these concerns and make a report, including analysis and recommendation for improvements, to the 80th General Convention.” We very much appreciate our inclusion in this resolution and we look forward to being among those contributing to this study, and collaborating on its recommendations and outcomes.
Name Changes, Liturgy, Access and Advocacy
C022 Originating from the Diocese of California, this resolution calls upon Episcopalians to “support legislative, educational, pastoral, liturgical, and broader communal efforts that seek to end the pattern of violence against transgender people in general and transgender women in particular, calling attention especially to the rising violence against transgender women of color and gender non-conforming people.” It further calls congregations “to remove barriers to full participation in congregational life by making their gender-specific facilities and activities fully accessible to all, regardless of gender identity and expression.”
C054 Originating from the Diocese of Virginia and Province III, this resolution asks the Church to work with the Office of Formation in partnership with organizations such as Integrity (now the Episcopal Rainbow) and TransEpiscopal to establish “Guiding Principles for the Inclusion of Transgender and Non-Binary People in Dioceses, Parishes, Missions, Schools and Camps.”
A088 This resolution affirms trans and nonbinary people, as well as cisgender people in various life circumstances, in our ability to have our names and gender markers amended in Church records and to have certificates such as baptism and ordination reissued. The guidelines for doing so could be out as early as this year, or no later than the end of 2019.
A064 As of this writing we are aware that the Name Change Rite in the Book of Occasional Services is among a portion of that book slated to be released to the wider church soon, while other portions of that book receive additional attention.
A068 Prayer Book Revision ended up passing in a significantly modified form. A task force is slated to be created to begin that process, though it will receive significantly less funding than had originally been indicated. Gender expansive and inclusive language received more attention at this Convention than we have ever heard before, and it is clear that such language is a priority heading into this triennium.
B012 As we have reported in previous posts, the 79th General Convention took an important step forward in ensuring that sacramental marriage equality is accessible across the whole church. Several TransEpiscopal members testified at this Convention in its support.
The passage of these resolutions truly sends us out from the 79th General Convention with a sense of elation. We are all making our way forward together in what Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has called the Way of Love.
The Reverend Cameron Partridge, Diocese of California and TransEpiscopal Steering Committee Member
Earlier this week it was a hard couple of days in the hearing rooms of Committee 13 (idiosyncratically titled “Committee to Receive the Report of Resolution A169”). This committee was charged with hearing a range of topics from comprehensive prayer book revision (A068) to more narrow resolutions on marriage rites and their availability to all couples (A085, B012), including same sex couples. The committee considered how the various resolutions might or might not operate together.
On Thursday, July 5th, the committee had open hearings on two resolutions. First, A085, designed to add the two marriage rites available to all couples to the Book of Common Prayer, and to require all bishops to make the rites available with “reasonable and convenient access.” Second, B012, designed to continue to allow access to the marriage rites under the official banner of “trial use” but also leave open the possibility for diocesan bishops to prohibit their use within their diocese while providing an alternative access point for same sex couples. Over the last triennium the vast majority of the church has been able to access these rites, but in the case of eight dioceses, bishops have prohibited their use.
In the hearings, trans Episcopalians brought unique perspectives to the table, highlighting the absurdly implicit focus on body parts that often pervades opposition to marriage equality. My own testimony revisited a point (and blog post) I made at the 2015 General Convention. I asked the committee to consider the contradiction embodied in my life. For the first 46 years of my life, the church happily would have allowed me access to marriage with a man, while denying me access to marriage with a woman. After becoming Iain the opposite could now hold true. Now that I have a receding hairline and beard, no one would be troubled if I marry a woman. When I contemplate my reality, I have to wonder what sacred truth is being upheld. It would seem what matters to the church is the visual and outward representation of heterosexuality. In this way, the church has made an idol of heterosexuality. To move forward, we need to realize – to truly realize— that marriage is not about body parts, but rather about the love between the couple.
The Reverend Gwen Fry, President-elect of Integrity, stood up and challenged the committee to act now:
“As a trans queer priest I know the importance of resolutions that make real and substantive change in the church in concrete ways. A085 does that. If the church is serious, really serious about full inclusion of all the children of God and full access to all the sacraments of the church, this resolution is the only one that will accomplish that. We have been waiting patiently for decades to have what every straight person has enjoyed and never had to think about because the sacrament has always been available. No one wants to take that away. We are simply asking for what the majority of the church already has.
Separate but equal is not equal and it is not inclusive. If we don’t make these revisions in the Book of Common Prayer when will we? The time is now.”
Julianne, an alternate deputy of Iowaand trans woman, offered a powerful witness, telling the committee that she is part of a 45 year marriage: half in an opposite sex marriage and half in a same sex marriage. She recommends both! She also asked the committee to not hold 20 plus years of her marriage as second class to the other 20 plus years.
As our words joined others in favor of adding marriage rites for all into the Book of Common Prayer, others rose in opposition. The committee deliberated. It ultimately put together a compromise version of B012. The Reverend Canon Susan Russell, who helped hammer out the compromise, describes it in this post. The result was that a changed version of B012 went to the House of Deputies. If passed, it will continue the use of marriage rites under the rubric of “trial use” until comprehensive revision to the Book of Common Prayer is complete.It also limits Episcopal oversight regarding marriages to its intended area, namely, marriage after a divorce.
With this turn of events, attention has turned more acutely to the larger question of Prayer Book revision, which we have written about in two previous blog posts this Convention (here and here).
At the end of the day yesterday, June 6th, the House of Deputies decided to extend its deliberation into today’s morning session. The Deputies made several amendments were made to A068, the resolution setting forth a plan for comprehensive Prayer Book revision. Yesterday comments about this resolution seemed evenly split in favor and against Prayer Book revision. It was not at all clear which way the House would go. But right around noon they finally took a vote. By a measure of almost two thirds, the House of Deputies voted in favor of A068 (read more about it here). Now the resolution heads to the House of Bishops. Liturgical marriage equality is very much tied into this vote which only adds to our keen interest in it. Stay tuned.
The Reverend Iain Stanford, Priest of the Diocese of Oregon & TransEpiscopal Steering Committee member
I believe that it is past time for full revision of the Book of Common Prayer 1979 (BCP), and therefore support A068, the resolution supporting Prayer Book revision. The 1979 BCP was a stunning move forward in terms of liturgy and theology as enacted in the worship of the Episcopal Church. At the same time, however, it was behind in terms of what was then known as inclusive language. In 2018, it is still lovely and venerable, but it fails to adequately express a theology of the ministry of the laity, and the church’s mission of reconciliation.
The BCP falls short of the call “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” which is clear in our baptismal covenant, by making maleness and whiteness normative. (BCP, p. 305) Maleness and gender binary normativity are exemplified as follows:
Strengthen, O Lord, your servant N. with your Holy Spirit;
empower him for your service; and sustain him all the days
of his life. Amen. (BCP, p. 309)
And certainly in the marriage service as well.
Whiteness is exemplified and made normative by the way language is used. An obvious example is this:
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy
great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this
night; for the love of thy only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Amen. (BCP, p. 70)
While it is true that we also have supplemental materials with more expansive language for God and broader theological scope around marriage, the BCP is what is in our pews, and is the canonical, practical representation of who we are as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. What folks see when they come to visit on a Sunday morning, or drop by the church in search of a quiet place to pray, may be the first and formative impression received.
The notion of “common prayer” is that it is a unifying device. I am exhausted by the constant translation and transliteration in my head that is required when leading worship with text based on scripture translations designed to uphold the power of the English monarchy, and theology that supported the subordinate role of women and the holding of African-Americans as chattel property. It’s hard to evangelize or even talk about reconciliation with folks whose ears are attuned to the language of oppression. We can do better.
The Reverend Kit Wang
Episcopal Diocese of Maine and TransEpiscopal Steering Committee Member
This morning TransEpiscopal attended its first hearing of this General Convention: Legislative Committee #13, scintillatingly titled "Committee to Receive the Report of Resolution A169." Its topic was the possible revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. For a tradition that strongly emphasizes the phrase lex orandi, lex credendi, loosely translated "praying shapes believing," this hearing was highly significant. The Episcopal Church rarely revises its prayer books -- the current one was issued in 1979 after several years of trial use, while the prior prayer book was issued in 1928. Given all that, and given the significant media coverage the issue of gender and prayer book revision has received recently, surprisingly few people attended the hearing. Sixteen people testified. Of those sixteen fourteen spoke in favor of Prayer Book revision while three spoke in favor of embracing the Prayer Book as it stands, or revising it in a more limited, piecemeal manner.
We spoke in support of three (out of eight resolutions): A068 ("Plan for the Revision of the Book of Common Prayer"), C031 ("Minimize Gendered Language in the BCP"), and D036 ("BCP Revision: Inclusiveness and Expansive Language").
C031 was originally passed by the Episcopal Church in Connecticut at its 2017 Diocesan Convention. It asks that the Prayer Book revision process "amend, as far as is practicable, all gendered references to God, replacing them with gender expansive language." As its explanation stated, the mandate from the 2015 General Convention to present a plan for comprehensive Prayer Book revision (which resulted in resolution A068), opened "an unprecedented opportunity to further our commitment to equality of all genders." The title of the resolution is misleading: this resolution does not call for the minimization of gendered language for God so much as an expansive approach to such imagery.
D036 begins by emphasizing the "urgent pastoral and evangelical need for revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, particularly regarding the use of inclusive and expansive language for humanity and divinity." It also notes right off the bat that this work "began even as the 1979 BCP was being developed." The resolution's explanation gives a fuller description of how this "pastoral and evangelical need" was recognized and addressed by several General Conventions from the 1970s well into the 1990s after the 1979 BCP was released. It calls for the development of a new BCP "to meet the contemporary needs of The Episcopal Church, including employing inclusive and expansive language for humanity and divinity." A proposed revision of the BCP for trial use is to be ready no later than the 81st General Convention -- two GCs (six years) from now.
A068 is one of two resolutions proposed by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. A069 called for embracing at greater depth the Prayer Book we already have, while A068 calls for its full revision. Three speakers spoke in support of A068 from a trans and/or nonbinary point of view. We referenced the long-recognized androcentric and eurocentric imagery and language that pervades the 1979 BCP and we emphasized how binary its language remains. Gratifyingly, several other speakers also referenced the problem of how binary language erases the lived reality of nonbinary identified people.
We also acknowledged the beauty and reverence of Prayer Book language. I, for one, spoke of having grown up in a parish that was strongly opposed to the 1979 Prayer Book and continued to use the 1928 Prayer Book at its principal worship through the 1980s. As a result of that experience, I grew up steeped in the deep significance of patterned, common prayer, aware of how profoundly language matters, how it can touch people at a very deep level. I was aware that changing liturgical language can be fraught. At the same time, given how deeply impactful liturgical language can be, I was also aware that when the language of worship feels like it is missing the mark, its reverberations can be alienating. There were aspects of the 1928 BCP that I grew to love (e.g. the post communion prayer reproduced in Rite I, p. 339). Yet I also grew to feel strongly constrained and alienated by its androcentric language, particularly (though not only) its he/him/his pronoun usage. I have known a number of students over the years, particularly in my previous divinity school context, who loved the Rite I language of the BCP. On the whole, in the campus ministry and divinity school contexts I served previously, and even more so in the parish I serve now, Rite II and the supplemental texts developed after the '79 BCP, Enriching Our Worship, resonate much more strongly. Yet in almost all of our authorized texts some sort of language revision is necessary to keep the language from being exclusively binary. Regularly our worship language reinforces the idea that there are only men or women and that anyone who identifies as neither male nor female simply does not exist. Too many times I have heard the frustration, the deep pain, of nonbinary identified Episcopalians, their sense of being erased by the language of our worship. Our worship language matters in ways we may not fully realize.
Let me also add here: I have heard this pain from nonbinary lovers of Rite I, from Evensong enthusiasts, from devotees of the daily office. The call for Prayer Book revision need not oppose such facets of Episcopal worship. In several comments from those opposed to BCP revision I have heard a concern that Rite I in particular would necessarily be removed. On the whole I'm not a huge fan of Rite I at this point in my life, but I have no need to see it removed from a revised BCP, knowing that many people highly value it. I also appreciate the daily office and would love to see it further developed within the continued principal emphasis on Eucharist. I would especially love to see a revised Prayer Book do more to elevate the seasons of the Christian liturgical year.
Prayer book revision is a very expensive undertaking, and for many this factor will be where the rubber meets the road. Yet it's not going to get less expensive as time goes on. Nor do I believe that declaring we will embrace the Prayer Book now will make us any more resolved to revise it in three, six, or even twelve years, as one commentator seemed to suggest this morning. It is past time we got on with thoughtfully and prayerfully revising this critical source of our ongoing formation as Christians, as followers of Jesus, as members of Christ's body in this world.
- The Rev'd Dr. Cameron Partridge
Diocese of California and TransEpiscopal Steering Committee Member
The Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention is starting in Austin, Texas this week, and for the fourth General Convention in a row a small team from TransEpiscopal will be there, supported from afar by our Steering Committee. General Convention has much in common with the U.S. Congress. It considers and votes on legislation in two houses—the House of Bishops (elected by their dioceses) and the House of Deputies (with elected lay and ordained people from each diocese of the Church). Although our team mainly consists of non-deputies, anyone is able to attend and testify at a resolution hearing, and we look forward to doing that for legislation we are particularly following. That includes:
• a commitment to safeguard the access of trans and non-binary people to physical spaces and activities within the church (C022)
• a call for the Convention to oppose legislation in the wider world that would limit our access to restrooms and other gender-marked facilities (C022)
• a new Book of Occasional Services that includes a (trans and non-binary inclusive) renaming rite (A064)
• making certain that church records accurately and respectfully reflect our names and genders and protect our privacy (A088)
• the creation of gender expansive language in our worship (C031 – originally from the Diocese Connecticut) and the revision of the Book of Common Prayer (A068)
• a call for the collection and publication of employment and compensation statistics on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation (resolution number TBD) as is already collected on the basis of gender for non-transgender people, and building upon resolution D005 which calls for the collection of such data on the basis of race and ethnicity
* a call for equity in clergy hiring and appointment (A091) which would add new canonical nondiscrimination language (including gender identity and expression) that would extend beyond access to ordination and lay participation in church governance (which are already addressed) to cover the hiring and appointment of clergy.
• support for trans and non-binary youth in the Episcopal Church, particularly in our schools and camps (C006)
Our team on the ground includes the Reverend Iain Stanford of the Diocese of Oregon, the Reverend Gwen Fry of the Diocese of Arkansas (and newly elected President of IntegrityUSA—congratulations!), and the Reverend Cameron Partridge of the Diocese of California. We are so glad to have as our floor leader Deputy Sarah Lawton, co-chair of the Diocese of California Deputation, strong trans ally, and longtime TransEpiscopal member. The Reverend Deacon Vicki Gray of the Diocese of California will be joining us later in the week, and as in years past we look forward to making new friends on the ground at Convention. Trans and nonbinary people are much more present in the Episcopal Church than many people realize, and General Convention provides a key opportunity to both lift up that reality and build it up within the wider church. The Episcopal Church has much work still to do to fully embrace trans and nonbinary people at all levels of its life, and we are at General Convention to help the church move forward in that process.
On January 27th the Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington passed two resolutions that have received much public attention of late, particularly from reactionary, conservative news sites. We of TransEpiscopal applaud and appreciate the resolutions and recognize them as new additions to a theological and ecclesial conversation that has been ongoing for years.
The first of the Washington resolutions echoes in part a resolution the Diocese of California passed in October, entitled “Supporting Transgender Access." Both resolutions call for “educational, pastoral, liturgical, and legislative efforts that seek to end the systemic violence against transgender people, calling special attention to the rise in violence against transgender women of color.” Both resolutions also encourage congregations “to remove all obstacles to full participation in congregational life by making all gender-specific facilities and activities fully accessible, regardless of gender identity and expression.” The DioCal resolution also asks the churchwide General Convention to endorse similar language at its convention this summer.
If it passes this resolution, the General Convention would build on work TransEpiscopal began supporting more than a decade ago. After a first attempt in 2006, the Convention passed resolutions in 2009 supporting trans justice, particularly regarding employment discrimination and hate crimes. In 2012 it got more serious about trans justice within our own ecclesial life by passing resolutions committing the church to nondiscrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in access to the discernment process for ordination as well as to all levels of church life and governance. In 2015 the Convention called for a name change rite (for all, including trans people) to be incorporated into the upcoming revision of the Book of Occasional Services. General Convention also committed to examine how we can better facilitate name changes in our records and forms. Follow-ups on both of these resolutions are coming to General Convention 2018. For a complete list of General Convention legislation supportive of transgender and nonbinary people, as well as recent statements from the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Officers, click here.
What received the most attention out of the Diocese of Washington Convention was a resolution entitled “On the Gendered Language for God.” It goes to General Convention this summer and asks simply that “if revision of the Book of Common Prayer is authorized,” that revision should “utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God.” Distortions of that last clause seem to have inspired headlines that the diocese of Washington, or even the Episcopal Church as a whole, has now prohibited the use of he/him/his pronouns for God. That is not accurate. Similar reporting leaps have been made on a recent move toward gender expansive language by the Church of Sweden, a Lutheran body. A blanket prohibition isn’t mandated there either, as this report emphasizes. Both Sweden and Washington call for an expansive approach to language for God, and ask for particular care about pronouns. Both underscore that God is ultimately beyond gender. This is not a newfangled, politically correct cultural capitulation. It’s old theological news.
The call for a more gender expansive approach to language of God and of prayer has been happening for a long time. Feminist and Womanist theologians in particular have been intervening in this conversation since at least the 1970s and 80s. See, for example, Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Sexism and God Talk, Delores Williams’ Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk, or Elizabeth Johnson’s She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse. The trans theological interventions that started in the late 1990s and early 2000s—for instance Virginia Ramey Mollenkott’s Omnigender and Justin Tanis’s Transgender: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith – continued this conversation in a new vein. Today theologians such as Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, Justin Tanis, Christina Beardsley, and Susannah Cornwall are among those continuing the conversation.
Fundamentally, these Washington resolutions seek to fulfill the church’s mission to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ and our baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being (Book of Common Prayer, 855 & 305). This is the same spirit that inspires the first resolution passed by the Diocese of Washington on January 27th: "On Becoming a Sanctuary Diocese." "In faithfulness to the baptismal covenant," it invites people of the diocese to stand together in opposition to "policies that target undocumented immigrants for deportation while also placing undue restrictions on refugees seeking safe haven in the U.S." Each of these resolutions in different ways extends an invitation to communal "places of welcome and healing."
The conversation these resolutions kicked off may be newly intensified and reactionary but it isn’t new, either in the wider worlds of theology or the Episcopal Church. We’re glad the conversation is becoming more widely known, and we want to see it accurately reported and understood. We also want to see it deepen, not only at General Convention but on the ground in congregations.
This week is known for deals in stores and online. But today is #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. Join us today and make a big impact for transgender and non-binary people.
When you give to TransEpiscopal, you help to build a world where transgender and gender non-binary persons will have dignity, justice, and respect inside and beyond the borders of the Episcopal Church.
How can you be part of it? Here are a few sample ideas:
Wishing you all well this giving season!
Click here to make a donation
(all donations are tax deductible through our fiscal sponsor - TransFaith - a 501c3)
(P.S. Don't forget to check with your employer to see if they offer a matching gift program so your donation will go even further! )
The events of Charlottesville have brought new levels of visibility to the grip of white supremacy with its attendant bigotry based in racism, anti-semitism, zenophobia, and anti-LGBTQI bias. TransEpiscopal condemns these white supremacist movements, and the hatred which led to the injuries of nineteen people and the death of Heather Heyer, as well as state troopers Jay Cullen and M.M. Bates. These events, as well as our awareness that Texas passed SB4 which undoes “sanctuary” cities, temper our own relief in the news coming from Texas today.
We are grateful to learn that the Texas special legislative session came to a close today without passing an anti-transgender bill. This legislation was fundamentally about stigma and violence. As Isa Noyola of the Transgender Law Center explained, those who wanted to pass this legislation did so for the “the same reason why trans women experience violent murders. It is the stigma, it is the hatred against who we are as people.” This hatred has claimed sixteen trans people already this year— all of them trans women of color.
We give thanks for the many people who tirelessly worked to oppose this bill and to stand for the dignity of trans and gender non-conforming people. We want to particularity recognize the on-the-ground work of S. Wayne Mathis, who wrote about her experience last week, and of Katie Sherrod, who wrote op-eds and stood up for the trans community on television.
We remain very grateful for the work of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Jennings in support of the trans and gender non-conforming community. They wrote House Speaker Joe Straus in February, and then again in July urging him to continue standing firm against the bill. Their public witness on behalf of the whole Episcopal Church became part of the media narratives about this debate in Texas, an important reminder to many that there are Christians who stand up for the trans community.
And so we give thanks this night and we prepare to rise tomorrow to continue in the work given us to do, joining others in the ongoing work of transforming the unjust structures of this world and striving toward God’s dream of justice and mercy. The love of God urges us on.
The TransEpiscopal Steering Committee
August 2, 2017
While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
-- Luke 9: 34b-35
We are in period of intense focus on transgender people in the United States, used along with other marginalized groups as political tools for others’ agendas. Most recently, we have seen the highest office in the U.S. target transgender military personnel. As we write, legislation that would undermine the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Texas continues to hang in the balance. As members of both The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the transgender community, we reject all efforts to deny human dignity. We greatly appreciate the leadership of TEC for their steadfast support of transgender people.
This Sunday is the Feast of the Transfiguration, a day that highlights the transfiguration of Jesus and invites the disciples to move through their fear and listen to him. It is a day that reminds us of our lifelong call to be transformed, to grow toward God as plants grow toward light, and from out of that spiritual growth to become partners with God in transforming the world. We are struck that in Luke’s version of this story (Lk 9:28-36), a cloud suddenly rolls over Peter, James, and John after they have witnessed the glory of the transfigured Jesus. It doesn’t just hover over them. They enter the cloud. But as their sight is foreclosed, they hear a divine word inviting them to let go of their fear and to listen.
In 2017, the trans community stands amid an onslaught of anti-transgender legislation that seeks to use us as a political wedge. This pattern also follows similar trends in 2016 and 2015 (see this legislation tracker for more information). These bills are diverse in their approaches, seeking to keep us from being able to update our identification; to restrict access to healthcare; to curtail the rights of trans students in schools; to carve out limits to anti-discrimination laws, often on the basis of “religious freedom;” to override previously passed non-discrimination law in municipalities and counties; and most infamously to keep us from being able to use the restrooms with which we identify. In the name of privacy protection, these laws make it difficult to be trans in public. They also particularly target transgender women, as so much transphobia does.
In addition, amid this legislative onslaught, a rising pattern of violence against trans people has also been unfolding across this country, combining currents of trans-misogyny with racism to disproportionately impact transgender women of color. Already this year at least sixteen transgender people have been killed in the United States, all of them trans women of color (see here and here for more information). Just yesterday we learned of the sixteenth woman, Tee Tee Dangerfield, who died from multiple gunshot wounds in College Park, Georgia. These patterns of dehumanization—one legislative and one criminal – are deeply intertwined.
In its special session, the Texas Legislature is considering legislation that would deprive transgender and gender non-conforming people of basic safety as they participate in public life. As it did in the session that ended in May, the state Senate has passed this legislation but thus far the House has declined to debate it.
We want to thank the many faithful Episcopalians in Texas, cisgender and transgender, who are working so hard to oppose this legislation. We appreciate as well how Texas Episcopalians are standing against the anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4. Episcopalians are speaking at hearings, organizing, writing and recording op eds for the news, signing petitions, doing pastoral care, working behind the scenes to safeguard the dignity of all people in Texas. This work is powerful and inspiring.
We also want to publicly thank Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings for their steadfast support of transgender people in Texas and far beyond. We have so appreciated the letters they have sent to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, urging him to remain steadfast in refusing to consider legislation that uses transgender people as political bait. When President Trump announced last week that trans people will no long be allowed to serve in the military, we were also gratified to see so many statements in support of the trans community issued by leaders across The Episcopal Church—a great cloud of witnesses, including the Presiding Bishop.
We very much concur with both President Jennings and Presiding Bishop Curry as they wrote in February and July that no one wants to move the General Convention. In our own months long discussion and prayer about this issue, we have continued to believe in “the call of The Episcopal Church to leverage its power to help transform unjust structures,” as we wrote our presiding officers in a letter dated April 4th (and have published on our blog). If Texas enacts legislation dangerous to the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming people, we believe that The Episcopal Church should move the General Convention. With our presiding officers, we hope such a decision does not become necessary. If it does, however, we believe that moving the Convention could have the greatest impact not only in the context of Texas but also upon the wider pattern of anti-transgender legislation across the United States.
For now, we continue to monitor the situation. We continue to listen and, as always, we pray for transformation.
- The TransEpiscopal Steering Committee
Letter to the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies re: Texas Anti-Transgender Legislation & the 79th General Convention
April 4, 2017
Dear Presiding Bishop Curry and President Jennings:
We write to share our increasing alarm about Texas Senate Bill 6 which has passed the Senate and may soon come up for a vote in the House of Representatives. As you also noted in your letter to Representative Joe Straus on January 30th, we are concerned that if this bill becomes law in Texas, the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church could take place in a context where transgender and other gender non-conforming people would be unable to safely access gender specific public facilities. We therefore wish to formally request that if this bill becomes law in Texas, then the General Convention be moved to a state that does not allow such discrimination.
We are aware that SB6 is designed (in section Sec. 769.103) to exempt convention centers such as the one in Austin, and that an argument could be made that trans people attending Convention might not therefore be impacted. Yet in considering this angle, we think of all the restaurants, hotels, motels, rest stops and public transportation-- particularly airports-- that trans people would have to navigate in order to access Convention. We consider the momentum such legislation would lend to the other ‘bathroom bills’ that are increasingly proliferating across the U.S. Most of all, however, we think of the impact of this law on Texans without the privilege to access such exempt spaces. When we consider all of this, and pray about this possible scenario, what rises to the fore is the call of The Episcopal Church to leverage its power to help transform unjust structures. In light of all of this it feels clear to us that our most impactful response as a Church, should this bill become law, would be to move General Convention.
We want you to know that we do not make this request lightly. We very much agree with President Jennings as quoted in the Episcopal News Service story of February 6th that no one wants to move General Convention. Because we know that such a move would have considerable cost and would impact many people, we make this request only after much deliberation and prayer.
We also want you to know how much we appreciate the letter of January 30th as well as the Executive Council’s resolution and your joint letter from June 28, 2016 in the wake of the passage of North Carolina’s HB 2. In an era in which trans people are being subjected to increasing dehumanization and violence, and are being used across the country as a political wedge, the support of the Episcopal Church’s leadership means so much to us. Thank you for standing with us.
Please do not hesitate to be in touch with us to talk about this matter, and know in the meantime that you and all who work so hard to make General Convention happen are very much in our prayers.
the TransEpiscopal Steering Committee:
by the Rev'd Dr. Cameron Partridge
As we hit the two-week mark from the ending of the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, I look back on those nearly two weeks in Salt Lake City with a sense of gratitude for what the Church accomplished. We elected Bishop Michael Curry the new Presiding Bishop. We passed legislation in support of the rights of immigrants and refugees. We passed a new initiative on racial justice and reconciliation. We began the process of shifting our own structure as a General Convention. We passed legislation moving us clearly into the path of liturgical marriage equality.
We also passed several trans- affirming resolutions. In fact, all of the resolutions that TransEpiscopal was there to support (a list of which you can find here) passed. Two of these looked beyond the borders of TEC: A051 (“Support LGBT African Advocacy") and D028 (“Oppose Conversion Therapy”). Another pair, A073 and A074, called for “the creation of inclusive policy and practices in regard to LGBTQ and gender variant individuals" as part of a broader update of TEC’s call for an update of TEC's Model Policies & Resources for the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and Abuse of Youth and Children.
The two resolutions on which we focused the most strongly were about name changes: D036 ("Adding Name Change Rite to the Book of Occasional Services”) and D037 (“Amending Names in Church Records, Registries and Certificates”).
This morning resolution D036 ("Adding a Name Change Rite to the Book of Occasional Services") was passed by its legislative committee and now heads to the House of Bishops, where it should be on their calendar tomorrow (and will subsequently need to pass the House of Deputies). As we await the forward movement of this resolution, TransEpiscopal is pleased to share this reflection from The Rev. Dr. Christina Beardsley of the Church of England about how the Church of England is going through its own process regarding a name change liturgy. The major difference between D036 and the C of E's is that ours is not specifically a trans name change resolution, whereas theirs is in fact intended to be. TransEpiscopal is very glad that D036 proposes a rite broadly applicable to many people. At the same time, we are also glad to see that another part of the Anglican Communion is thinking about name change liturgies in connection with trans people. The Spirit seems to be moving in the midst of all of this, and we look forward to seeing what emerges.
by the Rev'd Dr. Christina Beardsley
The Blackburn Diocesan Synod Motion on Liturgies for Transgender People
A Blog Post for TransEpsicopal by the Revd Dr Christina Beardsley,
(former Changing Attitude, England trustee for trans people)
First of all, thank you for inviting me to post again on the TransEpisocpal blog, and I’m sorry not to be joining the TransEpiscopal delegation at General Convention in Salt Lake City in July. I loved being with you in Indianapolis in 2012, and was so pleased and proud when the transgender non-discrimination resolutions were approved then.
It would have been exciting to be present at this year’s General Convention, when name change liturgies are being considered because, as you’ve no doubt heard, the General Synod of the Church of England will also be discussing this … at a date to be confirmed; but discuss this matter it will, at some point.
by the Revd Dr. Cameron Partridge
What a whirlwind the last couple of days at General Convention have been. Friday the news of the Supreme Court’s decision blew through Convention like wildfire. People are absolutely jubilant. And then yesterday Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina was elected the next Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church on a landslide, first ballot vote. He follows Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as a pioneer: she has been the first woman elected to this position, while he is the first African American. He is an firey, articulate preacher and evangelist, the kind of inspiring leader you want to get up and follow to the ends of the earth. Yesterday the House of Deputies also discussed C019 “Establish Response to Systemic Racial Injustice”. As Deputy Jennifer Baskerville Burrows wrote, “To hear a white member of the [Social Justice and U.S. Policy] committee say words to the effect of, “we have the chance to make race the centerpiece of the next triennium” signals a shift. If funded, resolution C019 will put real muscle (to the tune of $1.2 million) behind the work of racial reconciliation for both justice and mission strategy.”
Amid this intense, spirited movement, two of the resolutions that TransEpiscopal has been particularly tracking have also made their way through the open hearing process.
D037 came first. This is the resolution that calls for a study of the canons to clarify that and/or how people who have legally changed their name(s) can have their names amended in church records and registries and church certificates reissued. It came to the committee on Governance and Structure last night amid several other complex resolutions on the possibilities of restructuring aspects of our Church’s governance. To begin, the chaplain of the committee lead us in prayer and a hymn, one of my favorites: “God is love and where true love is, God [Godself] is there.” When our resolution came up, something like six or seven of us testified in support of it. No one testified against. We told stories of how we or people we know have been impacted in our full access to the life of the Church by not being able to change records in a consistent way, or to have certificates reissued. After we were finished, a number of deputies and bishops came up to us, thanking us for our testimony. As the Structure committee sifts through all the complexities of the restructuring resolutions, our stories were, as one committee member later related to me, very straight forward and incarnational. We hope it moves out of committee and to one of the houses quickly.
Then twelve hours later, at 7:30 this morning, we gathered again to testify in support of D036. This resolution, on “Adding a Name Change Liturgy to the Book of Occasional Services”, came to the Committee on Prayerbook and Liturgy. Once again we began and ended with prayer and song, and once more we had a great group of people prepared to testify. I am hoping that some of these folks will write about their experiences as well. I lead off my own testimony by recounting an experience I had in 2001 when I first claimed my name. I described how I passed a difficult night, sharing the name Cameron with loved ones. When I went to church the following morning and was asked to do the first reading, I had been stunned to find myself standing before the congregation reading the story of Jacob wrestling with the divine stranger who then gave him the name Israel. Flash forward several years, my testimony continued, to my years in parish ministry in which I had a trans parishioner who wanted to take on his chosen name in the context of the congregation. And so I put together a rite as a component of the Sunday liturgy, drawing in part upon the name change rite in Changes: Prayers and Services Honoring Rites of Passage that is the subject of D036. To be able to take up one’s name in the midst of one’s congregation, to be named and seen in that way, can be a profound recognition of the deep spiritual significance of embodying one’s name, I concluded. I was also struck that in addition to the other trans folks who testified—and, again, there were several powerful speakers – there were non trans ones as well, lifting up the flexibility of this resource to be used by many people. These were folks in a religious order who talked about the possibilities of claiming a new name in connection with religious life. This rite is additionally applicable to situations like adoption or divorce/remarriage. I especially appreciate that this resource came out of indigenous Episcopal congregations, communities that have long recognized the spiritual significance of names and particularly of taking on a new name later in life.
We now wait for D036 and D037 to go to their houses of origin. The name change liturgy resolution should first travel to the House of Bishops, while the name change canon study resolution should head to the House of Deputies. Meanwhile a number of resolutions related to liturgical marriage equality are coming forward to the Houses of Bishops and Deputies as well. Stay tuned on all of these fronts.
Amid all of this, the hymn from the beginning of the D037 hearing continues to echo in my ears: God is love and where true love is, God Godself is there.
by the Rev'd Gwen Fry
Many in the Trans* community often don’t have much to be thankful for. There are many, who in making the choice to live authentically, lose much that we knew before. Some of us lose nearly everything, but gain our life. We all transition from one reality or state to another spiritually, psychologically and, for some, physically. Early on there doesn’t seem to be much at all to be thankful for. Life is hard and very difficult in the midst of life’s transitions. But eventually we all come to realize that we can be thankful for our life lived authentically. This is certainly true in my case.
Nearly one year ago to the day was the last time I celebrated the Eucharist as a priest in the Diocese of Arkansas. The evening before I celebrated at the altar that last time I snapped this photo through the door of the church at dusk. I placed my iPhone camera directly against the window and snapped the picture. A few days later I looked at the photos I had taken and much to my surprise, my reflection also somehow appeared in the top of the photo. A friend of mine commented on it and called it "The Trans Christ. "As the conversation continued I felt "Outside Looking In" was a better fit. At the time I reflected and wrote; “For me it defines my unique status in the church, not only as a trans woman, but also as a priest. It is funny how the church doesn’t know what to do with a priest who is trans and the trans community doesn’t know what to do with a trans woman who is a priest. So here I stand, for now, outside looking in.” The sense of loss and grief is present in every transition in life.
In that pilgrimage through and out of transitions we begin to see and appreciate the unexpected generosity and compassion in our unencumbered new life. I think of the friendship that is created and the true caring and compassion they show when you least expect it; Joining you in an otherwise empty pew so you will not be alone. There is the unexpected dinner from a neighbor because “you look tired after a long day. Take this spaghetti and meat sauce. You don’t worry ‘bout cooking tonight.” There is the sack of fresh produce sitting on your doorstep when you arrive home after a long day of cleaning houses. There is the laying on of hands at the healing service by your priest. And the telephone call on Father’s Day.
Nearly a year after that photograph was taken I realize I had it all wrong. I wasn’t “Outside Looking In.” Looking back at it again I was really “Inside Looking Out.” And I give thanks.
As TransEpiscopal celebrates today's Supreme Court decision honoring marriage equality, and as we join in supporting efforts toward full liturgical marriage equality in The Episcopal Church here at General Convention, we offer this essay from Iain Stanford who brings a trans angle to this conversation.
by Iain Stanford
Over the last several weeks, the blogosphere and Facebook have been alive with different opinions, questions and concerns about the various resolutions regarding marriage equality in The Episcopal Church. As I read the various arguments, I keep wondering if people realize that we already have same sex couples in The Episcopal Church who were married using the service for Holy Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer. Let me explain.
At the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2012, the church spoke loudly in support of transgender people as full members of our Church by adding gender identity and gender expression to the non-discrimination canons. As a trans person, though, the canons for marriage and the use of the BCP can become a bit, well, surreal.
Take for example the fictional couple of Jim and Francine. On their day, they walk through the red doors and up the aisle, the celebration begins with the words from the BCP, “Dearly Beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.” (BCP 423) And a little later, the priest pronounces, “they are husband and wife.” (BCP 428) Now several years go by, and Francine slowly acknowledges all those feelings when it comes to gender. All her life, people have asked, “are you a girl or boy?” She talks to friends, therapists, and yes, even her priest. Eventually, she knows that God is calling her to move forward, to become Francis. She does! After transition, they are now Jim and Francis. They live into what it means to be a same sex couple in society. And yes, they are still married in the eyes of the Church.
I can hear some people say, “But they came to the altar like any other heterosexual couple.”
Which begs the question: what is the connection between the outward and visible sign or signs of gender and marriage?