By Matthew Maule , CP Op-Ed Contributor
July 28, 2015|8:18 am
- (Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi)
Transgender clergy now serve openly in several mainline and progressive Christian denominations. Churches that espouse traditional Christian theology have not allowed transgender persons to be clergy as they do not accept transgender identity as a Biblical expression of personhood. Several of the transgender clergy below caused disorder in their churches and denominations when they insisted on recognition. Several of them have left diminished or destroyed churches in their paths. Below are brief biographies of the openly transgender clergy serving in the United States today.
The Episcopal Church (approved transgender ordination at its 2012 General Convention)
The Reverend Carolyn Woodall is a deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, California. Formerly the Deputy Public Defender in Sonora, Woodall now has a small criminal defense practice in addition to serving as deacon for St. James Episcopal Church. Woodall serves as the Chair of the Stakeholders' Council of Integrity USA, "the leading grassroots voice for the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the Episcopal Church."
The Reverend Vicki Gray is a deacon at Christ the Lord Episcopal Church in Pinole, California in the Episcopal Diocese of California. A Vietnam War combat veteran and retired Foreign Service Officer, Gray also serves on the Executive Council and Commission on Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of California. Gray assists with Open Cathedral, an open-air weekly worship service takes place in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco that ministers to the poor and homeless.
The Reverend Dr. Cameron Partridge is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts where he functions as the Episcopal Chaplain at Boston University and a lecturer and counselor at Harvard Divinity School. Partridge was the first transgender priest to preach at the Episcopal Church's National Cathedral in Washington D.C. where he spoke during "Pride Month" 2014.
The Reverend Carla Robinson is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. Robinson is the Director of Children and Youth Ministries at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Seattle. Before transitioning, Robinson was an ordained minister in the conservative Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Previously, Robinson was the priest of All Saints Episcopal Church in Seattle, this church has seemingly ceased to exist as they no longer have a website and are no longer listed in the diocesan directory. Robinson then became a non-stipended priest at St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle before moving on to the Church of the Ascension.
The Reverend Gwen Fry is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas. In 2014 Fry shocked his parish, Grace Episcopal Church, by identifying as a transgender person and was removed from his position by the Bishop of Arkansas, Larry Benfield. Fry is a Diocesan Coordinator for the aforementioned Integrity USA and is a member of TransEpiscopal, representing the group at the 2015 Episcopal General Convention in Salt Lake City. Fry was a panelist at a Wild Goose Festival 2015 session entitled "LGBTQ Lives: Hurt & Healing."
The Reverend Christopher Fike is the Priest in Charge at St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church, Wilmington in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts . Before transitioning, Fike was the Episcopal Chaplain at Tufts University, the Priest in Charge at St. Paul's Cathedral in Boston, and the Interim Episcopal Chaplain at Boston University. The film To Cold Out There Without You details Fike's experience.
The United Methodist Church (the denomination's Book of Discipline does not address the issue of transgender clergy)
The Reverend Drew Phoenix, formerly pastor of St. John's United Methodist Church – a "primarily LGBT congregation" in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, now serves as the Executive Directorof Indentity, whose mission is to advance Alaska's LGBT community through advocacy, education and connectivity. Phoenix' transition, while an ordained and active pastor, caused controversy at the 2007 Baltimore-Washington annual conference and at the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The Reverend David Weekley is the pastor of St. Nicholas United Methodist Church in Hull, Massachusetts. Weekley transitioned from female to male in 1975, seven years before becoming an ordained UMC minister; he did not reveal this transition until 2009 while pastor at historic Epworth United Methodist Church in Portland. While that church, begun as a mission in 1890, had 220 members in 2011, it has now shrunk to 30 members according to the UMC website. One hopes that St. Nicholas will not suffer the same fate.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) implicitly recognized transgender persons in 2009 in their social statement on human sexuality.
The Reverend Asher O'Callaghan became the first regularly ordained transgender minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America on July 2, 2015. O'Callaghan was called to serve at Zion Lutheran Church in Idaho Springs, Colorado in the Rocky Mountain Synod. He was ordained at the House for All Sinners and Saints and ELCA church where celebrity pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber ministers.
The Reverend Megan Rohrer is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in the San Francisco Conference of the ELCA. Rohrer is also the Executive Director of Welcome, "a communal response to poverty." Rohrer also [served] as Associate Pastor at St. Aidan's Episcopal Church and is overseen by both Lutheran and Episcopal bishops. Rohrer's passions include creating services from popular music including a "Beatles Mass," a "Bob Dylan Folk Mass," and a "Lady Gaga Mass." Because the ELCA did not ordain transgender persons before 2009, Rohrer was ordained by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, an ordination mill for LGBTQ persons denied ordination by the ECLA. Their ordinations have now been recognized by the ELCA.