Monday, April 21, 2008
Hope? I'll Hope
The Methodists Meet
The United Methodist Church begins its quadrennial General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas this week. Its called "A Future With Hope". I'll offer Hope for the future of transgender inclusion, but in all honesty, I'm not optimistic.
It will be at this conference that the fate of the Rev. Drew Phoenix of St. John's UMC in Baltimore, Maryland. When Drew transitioned, his own congregation was completely supportive, but the situation caused some dyspepsia with others in the UMC. The local leadership determined that there was nothing in the UMC laws that prohibited appropriate gender transformation. The church does not ordain gays or lesbians who are involved in active relationships. But like most, they'd never considered transgenders.
So what's going to happen? Since the UMC didn't have a rule that would defrock Rev. Phoenix, there will be an intense effort to create the rule at this convention that would do just that. And then, my guess, it would be retroactively applied to Rev. Phoenix. This is likely to mirror somewhat the actions involved in the case of Jimmy Creech, who now leads Faith in America. Creech, then an ordained UMC minister, openly performed same-sex relationship wedding services. The first time he did so, many in the UMC condemned his actions, but it became known he had not violated any rule in the UMC's Book of Discipline. So at the next General Conference, the UMC adopted a prohibition of these services. Creech disobeyed and continued to courageously be a true minister to his entire congregation. And he was defrocked.
The conference lasts nearly two weeks, so the fate of Rev. Phoenix may take awhile, but given the history of "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors", I'm not terribly optimistic about "A Future with Hope" for transgenders in the UMC tradition. And, if you've read my essays on Scriptural references about transgenders, it will be most intriguing to see how (assuming the "if" here) the UMC Scripturally justifies its action.