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.
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
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
What a day! It started out early this morning, when Deputy Dante Tavolaro and I testified in support of D090, a resolution that Dante got in just before the deadline last week. It calls upon the Episcopal Church to adapt its various forms, paper and electronic, to be inclusive of people with various gender identities. All too often, people who identify as neither male nor female (which numerous people within the trans community do), or who might use more than one term to articulate their gender, encounter forms that turn them away just as surely as a closed door. As part of his testimony, Dante told a story of a recent difficult experience filling out a form in a church body (which I hope he might post here). I emphasized that while I have encountered forms that attempt to include transgender people by having three options—male, female, and transgender—the option of simply giving a space for someone to write in their gender, along with their name and preferred pronouns is preferable. The committee asked thoughtful questions, and the subcommittee was very receptive, even sharpening the language slightly to push the church more. The final version was:
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that this 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church recommends and encourages all bodies of the Episcopal Church to utilize all available resources to revise and adapt forms to be fully inclusive of all people: by including lines not only for one's legal name, but also for one's preferred name as well as one's gender identity and pronoun preference.
The subcommittee then took up resolution D032, submitted by Dr. Louie Crew, on refusing to discriminate against lay church employees on the basis of "race, color, sex, national origin, age, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity." The subcommittee supported it and added "gender expression."
When both of these resolutions went to the full committee, they were unanimously voted to go to the House of Deputies. So at that point, the count of trans related resolutions stood as follows:
1) C061 "Amend Title II.1.2" (World Mission) (originating from Diocese of MA)
2) D012 "Support of Transgender Civil Rights (National and International Concerns) (sponsored by Byron Rushing, Sarah Lawton & Dante Tavolaro)
3) D090 "Inclusive Church Paper Work" (Social and Urban Affairs) (sponsored by Dante Tavolaro)
4) D032 Non-Discrimination in Lay Employment (Social and Urban Affairs) (sponsored by Dr. Louie Crew)
There were two others that had been left behind in the committee on World Mission: C001 (which basically duplicated #1) and C046 which added the same language as C061 to Title II.1.3.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the House of Deputies yesterday approved D025, a long, nuanced resolution that would move the Episcopal Church Beyond B033, and sent it to the House of Bishops. I sat in on the House of Deputies during their morning session, however, because there was a possibility that C061 (which would add "gender identity or expression" to the ministry canon) might come to the floor. As it turned out, that didn't happen. After lunch, I returned to the HoD for the same reason. But halfway through the session, I learned that the House of Bishops was beginning to debate C025. So I made my way up the two long escalators to the third floor of the Anaheim Conference Center, where the House of Bishops is stationed. I arrived amid a steadily increasing crowd, and parked myself amid the Integrity contingent. Michelle Hansen was already there, though I couldn't see her for all the people. Donna Cartwright, meanwhile, was keeping an eye on the House of Deputies below.
And because the Episcopal Church Women were holding their triennial meeting in the room next door, snippets of cheerful song occasionally wafted through the walls with oddly appropriate incongruity.
You can find out more about the debate in the House of Bishops here. The closer it got to 5pm, the more likely it seemed that the day would come to a close without the Bishops bringing the matter to a vote. Debate was still going strong, well after 5pm, when I got word that at the last moment the House of Deputies had indeed taken up C061, the ministry canon resolution.
I busted out of the House of Bishops, nearly running over a stately ECW delegate, and headed to the escalators. There was no way I was going to miss this debate.
By the time I got into the HoD, Michael Barlow had just begun eloquently testifying in favor of the resolution. What I had missed was an introduction to the resolution by Gay Jennings, the chair of the World Mission committee, which had included a reading of a definition sheet that had been prepared for us by Lisa Mottet of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
I sat down and listened, my heart in my throat, as Michael Barlowe finished and Dante Tavolaro began. What an incredibly proud moment it was to hear Dante speaking as an openly trans deputy. Heck, how amazing was it to even hear the word "transgender" spoken on the floor of the House of Deputies. I had run into someone from the Diocese of Massachusetts earlier in the day, and when I told her that a trans-themed resolution had never come up before, she was genuinely surprised. Dante's testimony will be posted here in the coming days, but suffice it to say that he spoke of what a beacon of hope the Episcopal Church could be if it explicitly included transgender people the sentiment famously expressed by Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning that "there will be no outcasts in this church."
Sarah Lawton then told a beautiful, poignant story of her sister, who is a transgender woman. I cannot express how moving this was, and I sincerely hope Sarah will let us post her testimony on the blog as well.
After Sarah finished, someone asked Gay Jennings to re-read the definition of "gender expression". He was apparently uncomfortable with this concept, namely the expression of one's inner gender identity which, come to think of it, is not unlike the definition of a sacrament: "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace"... He then moved an amendment to strike the words "gender expression" from the resolution. In the debate about this amendment, Rev. Christopher Hoeffer from the diocese of Long Island spoke. He spoke against the amendment and for the resolution itself, and very strongly at that.
The amendment was then soundly defeated.
About this time, a current of people started flowing into the HoD. Had I heard, an Integrity comrade asked? The House of Bishops had voted in favor of D025 (text of the amended resolution is here)! The Spirit felt like it was seriously blowing in the Anaheim Conference Center.
At this point, the Deputies were turning to vote on the resolution. They voted by orders in their deputations, which are made up of equal numbers of clergy and laity. A so-called "divided vote" in which there are equal numbers for and against, counts as a "no" vote. Otherwise a majority wins within each deputation.
Then we had to wait. Earlier today, and in previous days, the electronic voting machines have had technology problems, causing frustrating delays. While we waited, the Secretary of the Connvention made several announcements.
.....And then the session was adjourned without us finding out the results! They should be announced first thing in the morning session, which starts at 9:30 a.m.
So tomorrow (Tuesday) should prove to be quite a day. In addition to learning these results, the HoD should take up D012, the Transgender Civil Rights resolution, not to mention D025 (the huge Beyond B033 resolution). And if C061 has passed, it should be sent to the House of Bishops. Before it can become the mind of the Convention, it must pass both houses.
But I have to say from this exhausted but exhilarated perch at 3 a.m., it's been an amazing day. I'm so grateful for the witness of the Deputies who spoke in favor of the resolution, for the support of Michael Barlowe and Ian Douglas within the World Mission Committee, for the open hearts of those committee members who heard our testimony last week, and for the positive feedback we've been getting around Convention. Blessings abound.
- The Rev'd Dr. Cameron Partridge