The Rev. Drew Phoenix is many things to many people.
To congregants of St. John’s of Baltimore, he’s the fun-loving pastor who counsels them, takes their children hiking, explains Scripture and plunges into worthy causes.
To conservative Methodists, Phoenix embodies another front in the culture wars: a rebel who has defied God and nature and should be removed from ministry.
To mainstream society, Phoenix is an enigma who transcends traditional sexual boundaries, provoking uncomfortable questions about the interplay between body, mind and soul.
To the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church, he’s number IV on the docket for its Oct. 24-27 session: “A Review of Bishop’s Decision . . . Whether Transgendered Persons Are Eligible for Appointment in The United Methodist Church.”
The issue of transgenderism seems too hot to touch for religious Americans already bitterly divided over sexual orientation. A number of Methodist theologians and ethicists asked to comment for this article declined.
But as scientific advances and changing sexual mores allow transgender people to slowly move into the mainstream, religious leaders will soon have to grapple with the theological implications of sexual identity, scholars say.