With deep sorrow and abiding love we write to share that our beloved friend Iain Michael Stanford died this evening at 9 pm. Iain had been navigating a rare, aggressive cancer diagnosed shortly after his sixtieth birthday in March. He received excellent care through Kaiser, including immunotherapy, but after a week in the hospital in May he never regained his strength. He went home to God peacefully at home in the presence of family and friends.
Iain was originally from the West Coast and grew up in California and Washington. After graduating from Oregon State in Industrial Engineering he worked for Arthur Anderson for several years, living in Switzerland before returning to the United States. After taking coursework in theology at Seattle University, he was inspired to go to seminary at the University of Notre Dame, from which he earned a Master of Divinity degree. Iain was strongly formed in the Vatican II traditions of Roman Catholicism and over the years drew deeply from the feminist, queer, and liberation theologies of various Christian traditions. At Harvard Divinity School starting in the late 1990s, he was a doctoral student in the Religion, Gender, and Culture Program, made his way into the Episcopal Church, and in the late 2000s came out as an openly transgender man. Iain returned to the Pacific Northwest in the 2010s and was sponsored for the priesthood from the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon. Ordained in 2016, he served parishes in San Francisco and Lake Oswego, Oregon before becoming the Rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Redwood City, California in July, 2020.
Iain was an active leader in the TransEpiscopal community for many years. He was part of our advocacy efforts leading up to and at the 2012 General Convention at which “gender identity and expression” were added to the Episcopal Church’s nondiscrimination canons for access to the ordination process and all levels of leadership in the Church. He was on our Steering Committee for many years and contributed both his own posts and his editorial skills to our blog. Over the last year Iain had been chairing the Trans and Non-binary Task Force of the Diocese of California, and last year was appointed to the churchwide Task Force on LGBTQ+ Inclusion.
Iain was fierce and compassionate, stubborn and loving. He was a truth-teller, a lover of community, a pragmatic prophet, a believer in rolling up his sleeves and digging in to the nitty gritty. He hated injustice of all kinds. He loved being a parish priest. He made connections and built community. He felt strongly both that have come a long way as a Church in our upholding of trans, non-binary and all marginalized communities, and that we have a great deal of work to do to fully realize the promises we have made as a church.
Even this very day, we told him we will carry him with us as we continue the work that lies before us. We told him we loved him dearly, beyond what words can convey. So many of you have joined us in conveying this love in these last days. You sent cards and emails, you posted to his social media, you contributed to his Go Fund Me campaign, which made such a difference in easing his financial stress. Iain truly felt the love and support of the people in his life. He came to catch an authentic glimpse of the profound difference he made in so many lives. He was utterly clear that relationships are what matter the most in this life. The call to love one another was truly his commitment.
Iain is survived by his three older siblings Cheryl Linder, Bob Stanford, Bill Stanford, and their children; his many friends; and his two beloved cats. In the coming days we will share a recorded conversation he made this past week with his friend Cameron Partridge. In the meantime, we invite you to share stories of Iain in the comments.
We release our beloved friend into the loving arms of the God who created him to become the beautiful human being Iain was. We are so grateful for his presence in our lives. We rest this night in the promise of resurrection life and in the conviction “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).