Transgender minister is reappointed

A year ago, the Rev. Ann Gordon received her routine reappointment as minister of a Charles Village Methodist congregation.

Yesterday – after undergoing a sex-change operation and taking on a new symbolic name – the Rev. Drew Phoenix received another one-year contract to head St. John’s United Methodist Church.

“This is about more than me,” Phoenix said after the decision by the bishop of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. “This is about people who come after me, about young people in particular who are struggling with their gender identity. I’m doing this for them.”

The decision came after a 2 1/2 -hour closed meeting with Methodist clergy, as well an emotional open session with about 1,600 clergy and laypeople gathered in Washington. While Methodists do not permit non-celibate gay clergy, no rules deal with transgendered ministers.

“I am here to say today that as of July 1 Reverend Phoenix will be reappointed to the St. John’s congregation,” Bishop John R. Schol told the conference, which represents nearly 700 churches in Washington, central and eastern Maryland, and parts of West Virginia.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Methodist, Other Churches, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

19 comments on “Transgender minister is reappointed

  1. Stephen Noll says:

    Really like the new name. It combines gender inclusivity (Drew Barrymore/Drew Pearson) with religious inclusivity (the phoenix having pagan and Christian associations). I have a suggestion for the next parson who crosses the sexual Rubicon: “Bo Nobo”. Same crossover possibilities: Bo Jackson/Bo Derrick, and “See, I am a new creation/emanation.”

  2. Wilfred says:

    This shows the danger of eating too much trans-fat.

  3. azusa says:

    # 1: also, it reaches out to ‘the kids’ with its evocation of River Phoenix, the wayward child from a wayward cult, while resonating warmly with oldies who remember ‘By the time I get to Phoenix’, a song about a man leaving his woman behind on his journey to a new life.
    & for the trifecta, the whole business satisfies conservatives who never really agreed with female ordination.
    Riverand Phoenix to pronounce the blessing at the inauguration of the next Methodist President!

  4. rugbyplayingpriest says:

    God made me who I am.
    God loves who I am
    God wants me love who I am and find the calling he has for who I am
    He calls me by name

    But I want to be someone else
    I want to defy my physiological, phsychological and biological makeup.
    I want to rename and redefine who I am

    …am I alone in finding the whole thing somewhat sad?


  5. Christopher Hathaway says:

    Actually, Gordian, she perfectly represents the theological perversion that is the ordination of women. A doctor “laying hands on her” cannot make her a man any more than a bishop can make her a priest.

  6. Tom Roberts says:

    Agree with Christopher H., once you get past the WO issue, as this person doesn’t appear to be unchaste (for whatever reason), the UMC probably doesn’t have much of a reason for barring ‘him’ as a pastor.

  7. Dave C. says:

    “…am I alone in finding the whole thing somewhat sad?”
    No, rugbyplayingpriest, you are not. And although it does look as if there is no clear rule that specifically prohibits a transgender minister in the UMC, I do wonder about his psychological stability, especially after reading accounts like this: link

  8. Deja Vu says:

    The link in #7 was very good — but the parts on adult transexuals only covered research on male to female transexuals.The mental disorders driving most of the cases were:
    1) conflicted and guilt ridden homosexual men, and
    2) heterosexual men who found intense arousal cross-dressing as females.

    If I had same-sex attraction and I saw that people like me were so guilt ridden that they would have their genitals mutilated in an effort to conform, what would I think and what would I do? What if I saw people being driven crazy with guilt mutilating their genitals and/ or commiting suicide. I would not want to be driven that crazy with guilt and I would want to protect other people from being driven that crazy with guilt.

    Maybe any guilt inducing statements by reasserters necessarily produce extreme over-reactions by LGBT reappraisers. They need to push away the guilt response in themselves and the people like them. They need to silence their internal guilt response and those who make statements that could generate it.

    Maybe for people to confront what is causing their same sex attractions, they need to be in a safe place that will not exacerbate their internal self-conflict and guilt. Of course, the community the LGBT reappraisers are creating may provide a safe place to have same sex attractions, but not a safe place to confront what is going on inside that causes the same sex attractions. To look at that would be to undermine the whole edifice of the reappraisers.

    Repprasiers create for those with same sex attractions a safe house to act out their attractions. But the safe house requires that they do not question the possibility of overcoming those attractions or express the desire to do so.

  9. Brad Page says:

    Very sad, indeed.

  10. Deja Vu says:

    Still thinkiing about the link Dave C provided in #7. At the end of the article Paul McHugh concludes

    As for the adults who came to us claiming to have discovered their “true” sexual identity and to have heard about sex-change operations, we psychiatrists have been distracted from studying the causes and natures of their mental misdirections by preparing them for surgery and for a life in the other sex. We have wasted scientific and technical resources and damaged our professional credibility by collaborating with madness rather than trying to study, cure, and ultimately prevent it.

    Maybe someday we will hear the Methodist Bishop saying this:
    As for the adults who came to us claiming to have discovered their “true” sexual identity and planning sex-change operations, we theologians and pastoral care givers have ignored the causes and natures of their spiritual misdirections and instead provided theological and pastoral support for surgery and for a life in the other sex. We have wasted theological and pastoral care resources and damaged our professional credibility by collaborating with spiritual distress rather than trying to develop theological and pastoral care resources to help prevent it.

  11. john scholasticus says:

    It’s not sad. There is plenty of evidence that a very small minority of persons experience a very strong sense that they are in the wrong sex (in the UK a famous case of years ago was the writer and journalist Jan Morris, who went from male to female). They take counselling, think hard, and if they (and their advisors) still think they are in the wrong sex, take radical measures to change things. There’s no threat here, it’s not disgusting, it doesn’t compromise marriage or rugby-playing. In most cases, as here, the results justify the change. We should be glad, not mean-spiritedly judgemental.

  12. Chris says:

    John Scholasticus, it was the mental health profession’s thinking back in the 70s that if people wanted to be a different gender then their wishes should be granted. As such, my father (a plastic surgeon) performed numerous sex change operations in that era.

    Now why, you might ask, am I writing in the past tense in the last paragraph? The mental health profession has conducted several studies of sex change patients and has concluded they are in NO way better off in their new gender. Needless to say, my father no longer performs these operations. And remember, the mental health people are by and large predisposed to the liberal, secular world view…..

  13. deaconjohn25 says:

    And another mainstream Protestant Church takes a further step into politically correct Hell.

  14. Merseymike says:

    Gender identity doesn’t have a lot to do with sexual orientation.

    And most gay people don’t have any problem with their orientation, so much of post 8 is irrelevant – the answer is simplt. Abandon repressive religions.

  15. Deja Vu says:

    #14 Merseymike makes the misleading claims “Gender identity doesn’t have a lot to do with sexual orientation.”
    FACT: Sexual orientation is one of the two major factors in male to female transsexual surgery requests. The link in #7 takes us to an article by a professor of Psychiatry from Johns Hopkins. He says that these were homosexuals who were guilt ridden and conflicted.

    #14 Merseymike makes the misleading claim “And most gay people don’t have any problem with their orientation.”
    FACT: There is documentation of a higher incidence of suicide and psychiatric disorders among homosexuals.

    #14 Merseymike makes the misleading claim “the answer is simplt. Abandon repressive religions.”
    FACT: While reappraiser religion creates a safe house for people with same sex attractions to act out their attractions, it necessarily silences expression of the desire to overcome same sex attraction and discussion of healthy human sexuality.

  16. Brad Page says:

    John Scholasticus (#11): I don’t know if your comment was a direct response to my brief statement, but just in case it was let me say that I was, and am, in no way “mean-spiritedly judgemental” toward individuals who struggle with their gender identity. I hope you will concede that one can have honest doubts (moral, medical, psychological, spiritual, etc.) about the benefits of gender reassignment surgery and life-long hormone treatments without being “mean-spiritedly judgemental”. Let me also say that I stand by my statement about the sadness of this state of affairs for all involved, even if one thinks it is a good thing to participate in these drastic and artificial measures.

  17. Merseymike says:

    Deja Vu. Wrong, as usual. Have a look at just about any material produced by transgendered organisations, and relevant academic papers from those who are not anti-transsexualism in an ideological sense and you will see that they are not connected. There may well be some people who go for gender reassignment because they are unhappy with their sexuality and do not wish to be gay – but this is not a valid reason for gender reassignment. Because they are not transsexual
    Second, ‘most’ does not mean all, and of course there is internalised homophobia, often caused by the influence of harmful religion. I’m happy being gay because I don’t follow such religions. Fact is that most gay people are happy with their orientation, and this will increase the more mainstreamed being gay becomes.
    Third, wishing to abandon being the person you are is a problem. people may need support to enable them to do that, which means understanding and appreciating their gay identity, and realising how important it is to give up any hint of conservative religion.

    Happily, that’s happening here in the UK. The ex-gay groups have hardly any attenders and gay people are amongst those most hostile to conservative religion. Which itself is small, insignisficant and has little influence.

  18. azusa says:

    People can’t be born in the ‘wrong’ body unless they are truly genetically and chromosomally mixed up, i.e. intersex, a very rare condition. So the problem for ‘transgenders’ doesn’t lie in their bodies but their minds; it’s a psychological developmental failure to identify comfortably with their actual sex, just as homosexuality is a psychological developmental failure in achieving gender identity. Homosexual people are not really at ease with members of their own sex, and even in homosex-tolerant societies like The Netherlands, the level of depression, and alcohol and drug use remains very high among homosexuals.
    Hiding from God and externalizing one’s own conflicts as a self-righteous repudiation of ‘conservative religions’ can afford only temporary relief. I think of a young ex-seminarian who dies of Aids, still fulminating against ‘the Church’. It’s called ‘projection’. In the end conscience hits back.

  19. john scholasticus says:

    ‘Homosexual people are not really at ease with members of their own sex, and even in homosex-tolerant societies like The Netherlands, the level of depression, and alcohol and drug use remains very high among homosexuals.’

    This isn’t my experieince in the UK. I know about 4 settled homosexual couples. They’re fine – at least as functional as you or I – not saying much, of course, but the point is they’re not way out of line.