Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Moving our work to the next level

Dear Friends:

In the last seven years, TransEpiscopal has achieved a number of remarkable successes. We have supported trans people throughout The Episcopal Church, brought trans people into the foreground of the church’s national conversation, built strong alliances with other progressive groups both within The Episcopal Church and in other denominations, and driven the passage of pro-transgender legislation at two General Conventions and in a number of diocesan conventions.

We have achieved all of this while remaining a small, informal, unincorporated organization without officers or formal rules. Our ability to do this has depended on the generosity of our members and friends, who have given unstintingly of their time, talent and treasure to keep us going.

We are now at a moment when we need to start building the material foundation that will hopefully take us to the next level. We currently have a few hundred dollars in our account with Integrity; against that, we owe $800 in dues to the Consultation, the umbrella group of progressive Episcopal organizations, covering last year as well as 2014. Beyond that, General Convention 2015 is only about 15 months away, and we still have much to do.


  • We need to encourage the church to fully assimilate and internalize the measures that it has already passed, particularly concerning nondiscrimination in access to ordained ministry and in the rights of the laity; 
  • We need to familiarize the church with non-binary gender identities, and help church leaders understand and welcome genderqueer people; 
  • We need to persuade the church to drop transgender health insurance exclusions for clergy and other employees, which remain a substantial barrier to trans people’s full participation in the life of the church; 
  • We need to help develop liturgy that will celebrate the experience of trans people. 


To do all this, we need to start rebuilding our finances soon and so we're asking for your help. Please go to TransEpiscopal’s Web site, http://blog.transepiscopal.com, look for the donate button on the left side of the page, and make a contribution.

With your help, TransEpiscopal can continue to do God’s work.

Donna Cartwright
Co-convenor
TransEpiscopal

Monday, March 3, 2014

Transfiguration & Transformation: to repair with gold

Sharing a sermon preached by one of our members, Kori Pacyniak for Transfiguration Sunday / Last Sunday of the Epiphany. Preached on Wednesday, 26 February 2014 at Diocesan House, Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut.

Readings:
[Exodus 24:12-18]
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9

 As Episcopalians, we’re fortunate enough to get to celebrate the Transfiguration twice in our liturgical year - once on the last Sunday before Lent, often known as Transfiguration Sunday, and then again on August 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration.  It’s nice today to think about August – about long summer days and even sweltering heat as we feel the brunt of another ‘polar vortex’, but there is something peculiar, and special about Transfiguration Sunday.

Today’s transfiguration comes at the end of the season of the epiphany, at the end of a long and particularly arduous winter, on the threshold of lent. This year, Christmas and Epiphany seem like long forgotten memories, buried under the snow and ice that have been a near constant presence. There is a hope that spring lurks just around a corner, but on a day like today, spring shows no sign of hurrying. Liturgically, we are at a threshold, or, as one of my priests calls it, a hinge day. A hinge between the seasons of epiphany and lent, but more than that, a hinge between heaven and earth. That’s what we glimpse at the transfiguration, a disruption of the norm and a supernatural event that causes fear in the disciples.

 In the icons of the transfiguration, Jesus is usually depicted standing between Moses and Elijah, enshrined in gold and light on the mountaintop with rays of light emanating force, piercing the disciples. In contrast, Peter, James and John are shown lying down or with their faces turned away. We glimpse a moment of liminal space, a moment of transition and transformation and we become acutely aware that something is happening. Something is happening and we are invited to be transformed.

 In the first reading, we are called to be attentive to the prophetic message, “as a lamp shining in a dark place” until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts. There is a feeling of waiting, of expectation, of hope in spite of the darkness. Peter, James, and John needed this hope. Six days earlier, Jesus had told his disciples that he would be handed over to the chief priests, killed and raised up on the third day. Difficult news for anyone to swallow. It is not difficult to imagine the sort of darkness the disciples were living in – having to come to grips with the revelation that their beloved teacher would be taken from them and killed. At the same time Jesus was asking them to take up their cross and follow him. We can imagine the feelings of fear, hopelessness, betrayal…through this, Jesus asks his disciples for acceptance of what is to come.

 And now, Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him up on a mountain, apart from the others and is transfigured before them – as if they didn’t have enough to deal with. But this clearly supernatural event only gets better. Out of nowhere, Moses and Elijah appear, talking with Jesus and then a voice emerges from the heavens, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” The disciples naturally fall to the ground in fear and it is Jesus who rouses them, reassuring them and telling them to not be afraid. It might not be only fear that causes the disciples to fall down and turn away, but the knowledge and awareness that they are participating in something greater, something beyond their wildest imagination. They know they are being invited into transformation.

 Who are these words from heaven for? In the disciples, they seem to cause more fear than anything. Perhaps it is Jesus himself who needs to hear these words, this reassurance of his father’s love, of approval, of his mission. Despite the supernatural nature of the transfiguration, perhaps this is a moment where we see Jesus’ humanity bleed through. Aware of the task before him, the difficulty of accepting what he is called to do, he takes some of his friends and goes up on a mountaintop to pray. And what is the result? Two of prophets come to speak with him and his father’s voice booming from the heavens. 

We know what comes next. The forty days of lent, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the last supper, the crucifixion and eventually the resurrection. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s take a moment to stand here on the mountaintop, to consider our own selves on the brink of transition – transition into a new liturgical season and transition into a new space for our work. Transition is scary. New things are scary and often hard. Sometimes we don’t feel ready for the change, something we feel that we are incapable of bearing it. We so easily forget that the journey up the mountain, the journey into the wilderness, can carry with it the potential for transformation.

In Japanese, there is a word called kintsukuroi, which means to repair with gold. It was a word that came into mind when I read over today’s Scriptures, a word that refers to the art of repairing broken pottery with gold and silver lacquer and understanding that the pottery is more beautiful for having been broken because it is precisely those broken shards that allow the luminescent gold to show. This fits in with the transfiguration. The disciples were not perfect people. These were ordinary individuals, each with their faults, each asked to take up their cross and follow Jesus. Asked to leave behind their family and their possessions and enter into this journey with Christ. We, too, are invited into that journey, into the moment of the transfiguration. How will we let Christ transform us? How will we let him repair our brokenness with gold so that we are more beautiful for it?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

An Update on the Rev. Gwen Fry

An update to yesterday's statement:

Integrity USA and TransEpiscopal were saddened to learn that the Rev. Gwen Fry is no longer the Priest in Charge of Grace Episcopal Church in Pine Bluff, AR. We pray for healing for the Rev. Fry, for Grace Church, for the Diocese of Arkansas, and the wider LGBT community in the coming days and months.

We remain clear and confident that the wider family of the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas – including the Rt. Rev. Larry Benfield— embraces, supports, and is confident in the leadership of the Rev. Fry. We look forward to hearing about the next ordained position into which she will step in the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas.

The events of this week point to the need for continued conversation and education on transgender leadership throughout the Episcopal Church. To aid in this process, IntegrityUSA and TransEpiscopal stand ready to offer a wide range of resources, including the short film Voices of Witness: Out of the Box.

This weekend Transfiguration Sunday will be observed across The Episcopal Church. We will hear the story of how Jesus walked up a mountain and was transfigured beside Moses and Elijah before three bewildered disciples. Only in Matthew’s gospel does Jesus bend down, touch them, and say, “Get up, and do not be afraid.”

This message could not be more timely today. As we stand together on God’s holy mountain, may we be strengthened to walk together through the challenges that lie before us, confident that in the process we will be changed into Christ’s likeness from glory to glory.

For further information/comment, please contact:

for IntegrityUSA
Mel Soriano, mel@integrityusa.org

for TransEpiscopal
The Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, cepart@yahoo.com
Ms. Donna Cartwright, donnamartina@gmail.com

IntegrityUSA & TransEpiscopal's original statement can be found here, including a statement from the Rev. Gwen Fry.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

IntegrityUSA and TransEpiscopal Joint Statement on the Rev. Gwen Fry

IntegrityUSA and TransEpiscopal stand behind the leadership, courage, and integrity of the Rev. Gwen Fry, Priest in Charge of Grace Episcopal Church in Pine Bluff, AR, who last weekend came out to her congregation as a transgender woman.  We also recognize and applaud the support offered to the Rev. Fry and to Grace Church by her bishop, the Right Rev. Larry Benfield.

The Episcopal Church is committed to the full incorporation and equality of transgender and gender nonconforming people. As the Right Rev. Benfield noted, at its 2012 General Convention, The Episcopal Church passed resolution D019, which stated "that no one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of the Episcopal Church" on the basis of gender identity and expression.  It also passed resolution D002 which barred discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in access to the ordination process.  As a church we have declared, as Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning once said, that "there will be no outcasts."

In her own statement (printed below), the Rev. Fry notes that this moment is "an amazing opportunity to learn, to grow, to seek out and find the risen Christ in one another in ways we might never have expected."  We hope that Grace Episcopal Church will seize this moment as an opportunity to learn, to be vulnerable, to know one another more authentically, to deepen their membership in Christ's body.

As our Church continues in the ongoing process of learning and exploring what it means to have transgender people in community and in leadership, Integrity is proud to offer a wide range of educational resources, including the short film Voices of Witness: Out of the Box.

The Rev. Fry's commitment to living honestly, to letting her light shine, to growing into her full stature as a member of Christ's body stands as a beacon of inspiration to all of us as we seek and serve Christ in all people, loving our neighbors as ourselves.

For further information, please contact:


for IntegrityUSA 
Mel Soriano, mel@integrityusa.org

for TransEpiscopal
The Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, cepart@yahoo.com
Ms. Donna Cartwright, donnamartina@gmail.com



____

A Statement from the Rev. Gwen Fry

The Rev. Gwen Fry
I would like to express my sincere and deepest thanks to all of my family, colleagues, and friends who have reached out in support of me, of my family, and of our respective parishes. Not all of life's journeys are ones we expect to take. They can be both challenging and filled with wonder. On Sunday I began a journey of conversation and education, of vulnerability, of transition. Because gender transition is something with which many are unfamiliar, it is only natural that there are questions. There may be anxiety, and at times we may stumble. But we also have an amazing opportunity to learn, to grow, to seek out and find the risen Christ in one another in ways we might never have expected. To do this well, I would like to engage with a spirit of respect, patience, peace, and prayer. Everyone needs space and time to talk and listen, to make adjustments, to make mistakes and ask forgiveness, to trust in the communal power of our membership in the body of Christ. My prayer is that we actively cultivate trust, patience, and respect, that we might rediscover the peace of Christ. I invite us all to continue prayerfully walking together in faith.

Faithfully,

The Rev. Gwen Fry

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Homily for Transgender Day of Celebration

Vivian Taylor offered the following homily as part of Boston's first Transgender Day of Celebration service which was held at MCC Boston on May 19th.  Rev. James Terry, one of the organizers of the event, explained the event as follows: "While many of us suffer severely from oppression of many sorts, our lives can not and should not be reduced to that dimension. TDOC is partly about taking back the public narrative, reminding ourselves and each other that we are alive, that we are multi-dimensional people, and that we have much to celebrate.”

**********

My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever. (Luke 1: 46-55)

I had a very hard time trying to write this little sermon. Don't get me wrong, I love being trans. I love challenging gender norms, I love playing with my appearance, I love getting to play at being tall and maybe beautiful and definitely rebellious against a toxic system of power based on gender and racism and wealth and violence and a hundred thousand other things.

I love living into the freedom of being a human, I love knowing the reality of transformation, of ambiguity, and of fluidity. I love the brilliant, fascinating, brave trans people I have met out in the world, who have been a more incredible blessing to me that I could have ever imagined.

But writing this sermon worried me. I was terrified that in celebrating I might be white washing the terrible problem that face my people. One opening I considered was "WOOHOO EVERYBODY! The rate of prevalence of HIV among trans women hasn't grown as fast this year so far! Wooo! Maybe in a few cases trans women of color are being imprisoned at slightly less obscene and outrageous rates!" I thought of unemployment and street violence and estrangement from family and addiction and homelessness and the ways in which trans women are not always wholly welcomed into the LGBTQ community and the marginalization of people of color in our community and all the other plagues trans folks suffer and I felt crushed and hopeless.

Then on Thursday I learned a family member's cancer, after several months of chemo treatment was found by new hospital tests to be in nearly full remission at the moment. Back in the fall he learned that he had a metastasized cancer that had already spread to vital organs and that his life expectancy was reduced to a few months.

I did not allow myself to hope. I tried to come to terms with a God who would not move, who for some reason, some unknowable, probably celestially good reason, would let this person who I love, who I do not know how I could do without, die far too soon.

Thurday’s news is not without its caveats.  Clinical trial evidence for the chemo drug he is on shows that the cancer can return.  All of this must remain a matter of prayer.  And perhaps Thursday’s news means only that he was only the tiny tip of a massive bell curve, the winner of some biological lottery, but for me, I have no language to talk about this but as a miracle, the work of Christ in the world, a sign of Christ's irresponsible and promiscuous love.

I am knocked flat. I am swimming in a flood. The world is shifted under my feet.

What I celebrate today is that trans people will overcome our challenges. Trans people and those that love us will do the hard and painful work to overcome these problems that plague our communities, that harm us. I don't care how bad the situation looks, I don't care how unlikely it is that we will succeed.

When it becomes apparent, obvious that there is nothing we can do, that we are clearly beaten, there will still be God, creator, redeemer, sustainer, who is lifting up the lowly, who is pulling the mighty down from their throws, who feeds the hungry and sends the rich away empty. It may be unlikely, but it will be done.

I celebrate that despite there being a world of forces against us, despite those forces doing true and terrible harm, that in our respect and love and frank need for one another and God's love and need for us, that we shall overcome!

Alleluia!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Integrity Delaware Spring Retreat



“VOICES OF WITNESS: OUT-OF-THE-BOX”
Transgender 101 – Integrity Delaware Spring Retreat
Integrity Delaware, an Episcopal Church LGBT advocacy group, is hosting a spring retreat April 19th & 20th exploring the world of transgendered people. The retreat will begin with the film “Voices of Witnesses: Out-of­the-Box” produced by IntegrityUSA. This film is a groundbreaking documentary giving voice to the witness of transgender people of faith courageously sharing their stories of hope, healing and wholeness. Retreat leaders are Vivian Taylor and Donna Cartwright, who are transgendered women, and who will share stories of their journey transitioning from male to female. The retreat will also include a Q & A period, worship, and socializing.


Viv Taylor is a writer, activist, and avid Sung Compline promoter currently living in Boston, MA. She served in the War in Iraq from 2009-2010 and writes about her experiences in war, being a veteran, and being a transgender Christian. Ms. Taylor started transitioning in earnest when she returned to Chapel Hill after serving as a Chaplain’s Assistant with the Army in Iraq. Taylor was part of IntegrityUSA and TransEpiscopal (a transgendered online support group), and their successful advocacy effort at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2012. She offered powerful testimony in support of resolutions that added "gender identity and expression" to The Episcopal Church's nondiscrimination canons on lay and ordained ministry.
Donna Cartwright, is an Episcopal layperson in Baltimore Maryland, where she attends St. Bartholomew's church. For many years an agnostic, she came to faith through her transgender journey, joining the Episcopal Church in 2000 in the Diocese of Newark. She was the first trans person to join the Commission (governing body) of The Oasis, the LGBT ministry of that diocese, and served on it until she moved to Baltimore in 2006. She was a co-founder of TransEpiscopal in 2005, and helped lead TransEpiscopal efforts at General Conventions 2006, 2009 and 2012.


The retreat will be held at All Saints Episcopal Church, 18 Olive Avenue, Rehoboth Beach, from 3:00pm, Friday April 19 through Saturday, April 20th at 4pm. Registration for the retreat may be made online at www.integritydelaware.org. The cost of the retreat is $75/per person. Discount rooms available at the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel (302) 227-7169 (ask for Integrity Group Rate), and the Atlantic Sands Hotel, call 1-800-422-0660 (Ask for Integrity Block #7059). For additional information call Rita Nelson (302) 945-7520 or Elizabeth Kaeton (302) 231-8246.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Encounter and Conviction-- Bishop Shaw on Michelle Kosilek



About a month ago, Bishop Tom Shaw of the Episcopal Diocese of Masachusetts wrote a blog post about a recent encounter at the gym.  I just came across it this evening, and was moved to post it here.  The post reflects on the case of Michelle Kosilek, a transgender woman who was convicted of murder in the 1990s and has recently been in the news because of a judge's decision that the state should cover the cost of her medical transition.  As I remarked in the comment I added to Bishop Shaw's post, seeing the steady stream of stories in the paper about Kosilek, and the predictable backlash against her was pretty demoralizing.  A December Boston Globe op ed put it this way: 

“For the judicial system, the case [for MA paying for Kosilek’s surgery] is a no brainer.  For just about everyone else the case can be confusing at a minimum, and downright infuriating at its worst. And some of those most disturbed by the case are often those who, like Kosilek, identify as transgender.”   I have heard people in the community wonder how someone who committed murder could potentially have her medical transition paid for while most law abiding trans people have to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket—if they can manage to save up and/or get a loan.

Kosilek may be far from sympathetic, but at the end of the day, I agree with Judge Wolf’s decision.  It is an issue of fairness, of respecting her human dignity-- even if she did not respect that of the wife she murdered years ago.  For the state to make an exception in its commitment to medical coverage for those in its prison system would be, as Jennifer Levi put it, “transgender exceptionalism.”

Bishop Shaw agreed.  But what particularly moves me about his piece is its prayerful reflection on encounter-- how we do and do not engage one another, and how God continually calls us into this process:  

Back at the gym.  This time the conversation was about a transgender person.  My trainer asked me what I thought about the recent controversy over the ruling of the federal court judge who ordered the Massachusetts Department of Correction to pay for the reassignment surgery of a prisoner, Michelle Kosilek, who had previously been known as Robert.  (The ruling has since been put on hold pending an appeal.)  I said that it was my understanding that the prisoner had a gender identity disorder and that it seemed appropriate, as she is a ward of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that the Department of Correction should provide the remedy of surgery.  I personally agreed with the judge.

This is a small gym, so everyone hears every conversation.  Before my trainer could respond, another trainer offered his opinion, which was very different from mine.  My trainer didn’t agree with me either.  Back and forth we went.  It got pretty heated and, of course, no one’s mind was changed.  These are not unkind men.  I couldn’t just dismiss them.  They are my friends and I’ve known them for years. 

The conversation stayed with me for days.  It even became part of my prayer.  Mostly I was mad at myself.  I wished I had been more articulate.  You probably know how it is after a conversation like that.  I kept saying to myself:  “If only I had said this, then they would understand… .”  The more I went over it, though, I got the clear sense that God was shifting my focus from this unconvincing conversation to the deeper place of my own conviction.  God was asking me how I had come to the place where I could be open to securing the rights of a transgender person.

I knew immediately.  It was several years ago in a workshop on transgender issues.  I didn’t really want to be there but a friend had asked me to go.  Intellectually I think I understood why someone should have the right to change their sex, but I was pretty uncomfortable with the whole idea.  Then a transgender woman stood up and told her story.  She was a minister and she spoke of how she had suffered in making her decision and how she had sacrificed her career, friendships and family relationships.  She told of how alone and helpless she often felt because of the discrimination she experienced, and of how hard it was for her to fulfill her vocation. 

“Wow,” I thought to myself as I listened to her poignant story, “all she wants is to practice her call from God.  She isn’t any different from me, from anyone who takes their call seriously.”  Something shifted inside of me, and the Spirit opened me to her dignity as a human being.  It’s almost always different when it’s a personal encounter like that, or when it’s someone you know.  Somehow their dignity is right there in front of you and it speaks to your dignity as a human being.

So ever since then it comes to me at odd times in my prayer:  Who else don’t I know?  Who are all the other people I’ve kept at a distance or let circumstances keep at a distance from me?  Who is God trying to put in front of me and open me to?

M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE