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.


Craig L. Adams said...

I am quite concerned about this as well. I'm concerned because the Church is so polarized between "liberals" and "conservatives" — and the liberal segment of the church is in decline. The more this issue is allied to the issue of homosexuality, and other issues thought to be "liberal" the more likely it is that the prohibitions against transgendered people will pass.

Donna said...


Nice to see you again. I echo your concern and not just for the Methodists. It seems there is no common ground for many denominations on LGB and T issues. But while it is seemingly divisive, I also feel too many denominations are hemming and hawing on making a decision one way or the other and dragging it on in an apparent effort to avoid the issue.

Personally, I don't care which way a denomination opts, but DECIDE. I don't think it's proper to offer strands of hope that aren't genuine.

And yes, I'm concerned for Rev. Phoenix. Again, accept me (or him) or not - but you just know they'll try (and maybe succeed) to make something up out of nothing. I think I reasonably state the case on this blog (and Rev. Phoenix's bishop also agreed) that there is no Biblical impediment to transitions.

Craig L. Adams said...

We are all feeling the frustration. Decisions at General Conferences have been 60/40 or closer on GL issues, so no decision they make ever feels like a real decision.

I agree with you (as you know) that there is no genuine Biblical impediment to transitions. And, as the Judicial Council correctly ruled, there is no prohibition against persons who have transitioned in the UM Discipline.

I think it is very unlikely that the prohibitions against transsexuals will pass. But, I've been wrong before. The denomination as a whole is moving in a more & more conservative direction. (This is something I am personally OK with, generally speaking). So, this is likely to turn on how the issue is perceived on the liberal to conservative axis.

Craig L. Adams said...

From what I gather those awful petitions against transgendered persons never even made it to the floor. They were not approved in their legislative committee.

This is what I had hoped would happen.

Donna said...


I was surprised they were quashed so affirmatively - the votes in committee weren't close. Odd, given our political reality with HRC that the UMC would nurture the T, while throwing the LGB's off the bus. Curious twist, eh?


Craig L. Adams said...

It's not surprising at all. Passing the restrictions would have meant having to fight over that issue every four years as well.

And, there are otherwise conservative-minded people (like me, actually) who just don't see how a moral case against transitions can be legitimately made.

It was good sense on the part of the delegates. Those T-petitions were awful & it was good to see that the delegates recognized them to be so.

Donna said...

I'll be honest, you read my initial entry - that they did not work to defrock Rev. Phoenix, I am shocked. Our history has been one of, essentially, "gotta punish the tranny" and so to see this not happen in Rev. Phoenix's situation is indeed a surprise - albeit very welcome.

Yes, the language of a couple of those petitions was grotesque at best, and I truly appreciate that their are those, such as yourself, who don't find - as you said - "a moral case against trasnitions". But I also think that there were those that would just as soon keep it "hush-hush" as it were and not have to truly face this issue. I call that the Ostrich Approach. ;-)

Craig L. Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig L. Adams said...

I understand how you're feeling. But, conservative Christian response is not always consistently negative.

On the sidebar of your blog there's a link to By the Grace of God by Lee Francis Heller and Friends. There are some articles in that book by Terri Main (whom I met online @ the Bridges Across the Divide forums). She was accepted and given leadership as a known M to F transsexual in a Pentecostal church.

But, I'm sure there are many Pentecostal churches where such a person would be rejected.