Monday, November 26, 2012

Pastoral Fallout: a Trans Perspective on Women Bishops

Rev. Dr. Christina Beardsley

The Reverend Dr. Christina Beardsley is an ordained priest in the Church of England, is a board member of Changing Attitude (which works for full LGBT inclusion in the Anglican Communion), and has served for a number of years as a hospital chaplain.  In the piece below she reflects on last week's vote by the General Synod of the Church of England which fell just shy of allowing women to become bishops there.  As she notes, because the various members of the Anglican Communion have somewhat different governing structures, women already are bishops in other parts of the Communion (e.g. Australia, the United States and, most recently, South Africa).  Her comments on the church's relation to equality legislation also reflect the fact that the Church of England is a state church. As we reflect with Tina, may we stand in solidarity with all in the Church of England who are struggling, who are angry, who are in pain.


“Well, and which way did you vote?” The lady who asked me was sitting with an elderly friend in the High Dependency Unit of the hospital where I work. It was her first remark to me as I introduced myself as a hospital chaplain, the day after the General Synod’s recent vote on women bishops.

People are angry at the outcome – and rightly so. I explained that I hadn’t had a vote – not at the Synod anyway, but that as a member of a deanery synod I had voted in the clergy elections: ‘and it was passed in the House of Clergy’ I said encouragingly. She seemed to calm down then, knowing that I was ‘on side’. I think that it has probably shocked many women to see television clips of women arguing against the consecration of women as bishops. This lady clearly needed to check me out.

It wasn’t the place or the occasion though to talk about me, or my credentials as a supporter of women’s ordination, which go back a long way. I was there in my role as a chaplain and we quickly moved on to the needs of her friend.

Prior to transition I was a member of Priests for the Ordination of Women, and, of course, the ordination of women in the Church of England enabled me to remain a priest when I transitioned. Most of my working life, though, has been about pastoral care. It’s only in the last six years I’ve become an activist for LGB&T inclusion, and now that I have it’s probably too late to stand for General Synod, even if I wanted to (and I might not be elected anyway).

In any case I’ve felt very ambivalent about the General Synod since 1987, and the personal morality debate initiated by the Revd Tony Higton, which basically set the scene for the marginalisation of LGB&T people in the Church of England.

That catastrophe, combined with the painfully slow progress of the legislation on the ordination of women to the priesthood from the late 1970s onwards, means that I’ve never felt wholly confident in the processes and ethos of the General Synod. Perhaps I should have taken time to observe it at close quarters, but each time the Synod is in session I’m either working or elsewhere. Back in July, when the General Synod was meant to have voted on women bishops in York, I was at General Convention in Indianapolis, networking with the TransEpsicopal delegation.

What a contrast between General Convention 2012, where the three transgender inclusive resolutions were passed overwhelmingly by the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, and the defeat, last week, of the women bishops’ legislation in the House of Laity of the General Synod!

Tina Beardsley in the Speaker's Corner at General Convention 2012 
On the other hand, the failure of the laity to meet the required two-thirds majority by just six votes was not a complete surprise. It had been evident for some time that this could happen. The legislation had been drafted, redrafted and amended several times, and it’s claimed that there was an orchestrated campaign in the last election to the House of Laity by those opposed to women bishops. If that’s true, it shows just how political the Synod has become, and how the moderate middle need to be more politically aware in future.

In many ways this was not so much a vote about women bishops but about the creation of a measure that could accommodate those – Conservative Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics – who, for different reasons, would be unable to accept the ministry of a woman bishop. From the General Synod vote, and the voting by the dioceses (42 out of 44 in favour), it would seem that those opposed to women bishops are a minority; but the Church of England tries hard to hold on to its conservative minorities. I find that slightly uncomfortable when the Church of England seems to treat other minorities as expendable, though the principle is sound and could, and should, be extended.

What has shocked people about the latest decision is that a truth that has been hard won, and is now widely experienced in society in general, the equality of men and women, cannot be embraced by the church because of its tenderness to those with conscientious objections. Such tenderness is the Christian way set out by Paul in relation to dietary regulations in Romans 14-15.1 and 1 Corinthians 8, but not when it challenged the inclusive character of the gospel (Galatians 2.11-21). Parallel jurisdiction, which some of the opponents to women bishops appear to want, would likewise compromise the oversight of a woman bishop, leading to a two-tier episcopate.

This is the so-called ‘circle that cannot be squared’ which is plunging the Church of England into crisis. Since the Church of England is the Established Church of the land, the General Synod’s legal decisions are subject to scrutiny and ratification by Parliament and there is serious concern within Parliament about the Synod’s inability to progress the legislation in favour of women bishops.

There is talk of making the government’s experience in promoting equality available to the Church of England. Some MPs, and even bishops, are keen for the Church’s exemptions to equality legislation to be lifted. If this were to happen there would be a huge outcry from conservatives but it is something that I have longed for. Back in the late 1970s, when I was lamenting the Church of England’s slow progress towards enabling the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood, the priest who was training me said this: ‘It was scandalous that the Church of England was granted exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act (1975).’

How right he was, and how important now for us, as LGB&T people, that ALL the Church’s exemptions should be removed, not just with reference to the Sex Discrimination Act, but to all the equalities legislation the UK Government has enacted in recent years. Only when the Church of England has finally embraced the principle of equality – which, after all, lies at the heart of the gospel – can it with integrity minister to the tender consciences of those who find such strong meat too hard to swallow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Coming Full Circle: Boston Trans Day of Remembrance, 2012

Though today, November 20, marks the official Transgender Day of Remembrance, many communities observed the day on Sunday evening.  In Boston, the Cathedral Church of St. Paul hosted the event, organized by a local planning committee.  In his comments below, TransEpiscopal member Iain Stanford reports on his experience of the evening, how it brought together his worlds. 


This past Sunday afternoon the air was cool and crisp, and thelast of the leaves with their shades of orange and red still clung to thetrees, as I walked across the Boston Common to the CathedralChurch of St. Paul to help in the preparations for Boston’s annualobservance of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Joining with other membersof theCrossing community, signs were put up, linens were put out, and candles lit. This was the third year that the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts wouldhave the honor of welcoming the trans community into our cathedral.

In 1998 in the Allston neighborhood of Boston, friends, family,and allies had gathered to hold a speak-out and candlelight vigil in honor ofRita Hester, who had been brutally stabbed to death days before. This was thebeginning. Since then, TDOR has grown into an international observance toremember those in the trans community who have lost their lives due toanti-transgender violence and discrimination. Now in its fourteenth year, thenumber of deaths continues to rise. Sadly, this year’s TDOR remembered 265 people who lost their lives from November15, 2011 through November 14, 2012. Listening to the stories of loss and grief,I am always struck by the resilience and beauty of people embracing andsupporting one another. It is an evening filled with tears and aches, but alsowith laughter and joy. It is a time to see old friends and meet new ones.

As people took their seats and began to settle in for the startof the evening, I sat off to the side collecting my thoughts. Scheduled to givethe welcome with Bishop Shaw on behalf of the Cathedral, I could feel thenervous tension intensifying. Katie Ernst, the Crossing’s Minister for Mission,and liaison to the TDOR committee, came over to try to calm me. I was feelingsomething more than the usual adrenaline rush and nervous butterflies. Was itjust that this was the first time I would speak at the Cathedral? Was it thatthis was the first time I would speak to the Boston trans community? Yes andyes, but there was something more.

Two of my worlds were meeting this night. It felt a little likeinviting your friends and family to the same holiday event, where you are hopingfor more than mere toleration-- you are hoping that the two groups mightactually enjoy their time together. I am grateful that there are many who quite literally embody in ourlives both these worlds—I do not stand alone. Still, being Christian in thetrans community or being trans in the Christian community has its moments ofincongruity. The hurt to many in the trans community in the name ofinstitutional religion, particularly some Christian Churches, looms large.There is much work to be done. I am grateful that my own Episcopal Church is asupportive ally and counter voice to the hurt.

Charito Suarez, the master of ceremonies, set the tone of thenight as she sang, “Perhaps Love,” a poignant song of love and loss. She thencalled Bishop Shaw up to the microphone to speak. I was trying to listen, butmy heart was pounding.  +Tomwelcomed the trans community to the Cathedral, explaining how blessed he feltthat the trans community, had trusted him with our stories, how he had grownover the years to understand our lives and struggles more and more, and how hewas committed to being an advocate on our behalf. In particular he told thestory of young man just 14 years old who had touched his heart.

And then, it was my turn to speak: I walked up, took themicrophone, and turned around. All of a sudden, facing the people, the Cathedral had just become much bigger than the view from the seats. These weremy remarks …

* * *

Hello, my name is Iain Stanford. It is my pleasure to welcome youtoday on behalf of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, and especially on behalfof the Crossing community. We are one of several communities that call theCathedral home. We are a community that seeks to practice what we like to callradical welcome, embracing all people, communities, and the earth. 

I feel particularly blessed tonight to have two of my worlds cometogether, The Episcopal Church and the trans community. Two years ago, havingjust begun my own transition, I sat right over there, in those seats, for thefirst Trans Day of Remembrance held here at St Paul’s. I listened intently toBishop Shaw as he apologized for the way Christians – and especiallyinstitutional Churches -- had treated trans people.  As I listened to his words, my eyes filled with tears, asdid those of the people around me. It was powerful moment, and for many, ahealing one. It lingers still in my heart today. Thank you, +Tom!

Tonight that memory, combined with recent events, brings me fullcircle. It is with great joy that I can report to you the events of this pastsummer at our General Convention -- the highest governing body of The EpiscopalChurch. We changed the non-discrimination canons of The Episcopal church -- thelaws by which we govern ourselves -- to include gender identity and genderexpression.

We were able to accomplish this feat through the efforts ofTransEpiscopal members, several of whom are here tonight. But more importantly,we accomplished this through you. We could not have achieved this historic shift without the witness ofthe trans community writ large. As +Tom mentioned, he and the other bishops,and the people in the Church learned from and grew in understanding because ofthe trans community. Without your witness every day, day in and day out, TheEpiscopal Church would not have been able to turn its face. This summer itembraced us. So tonight, I want to say thank you!

And again, welcome to my home! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From Caricature to Community

Vivian Taylor was part of IntegrityUSA and TransEpiscopal's successful advocacy effort at General Convention this summer.  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.  This article is reposted from her column in the Chapel Hill News. 

Being trans no joke
One day back in high school I was hanging out at a friend’s house. There were several of us watching funny videos on the Internet. There was all the usual sort of Internet jokes, nerd humor, silly animals, various bloopers, but then someone put on a video that made me wince.

It was a cell phone commercial showing a young man marrying a beautiful woman only to discover, horror of horrors, that she is a transgender woman. He is crushed. I don’t remember the point of that commercial, but it might have been something about their competitor’s deceptive fees.

There are many mean jokes that are often told about trans women. They are told in books and movies and on television. It’s the narrative that “The Crying Game” made famous, that delivers the punch line at the end of “Ace Ventura.” It’s the joke told on Jerry Springer and with only slight modification on “The Simpsons” and in the “Game of Thrones” books. Everywhere you go, it’s an “edgy” way to get a laugh.

It says that we’re deceptive, trying to trick straight men. It’s a joke that snickers at the looks of trans women, that says that the only reason a “regular” person would love or be attracted to us is if they didn’t know the truth and were lied to.

That sort of narrative is often used as defense for violence against trans women as happened in the trial of Gwen Araujo’s murders in 2008.

That isn’t the only harmful narrative about trans people, especially trans women. Trans women are regularly shown as sex workers in crime dramas and comedies. We are used as a metaphor for the rot and decay of civilization. An early episode of Dave Chappell’s show makes a joke of the harmful effects of cheap beer by showing it causing otherwise reasonable men to visit trans women sex workers as Chappell looks on screaming in terror.

It’s a story that is told over and over again that says that trans women are loathsome, monstrous, immoral, that we don’t deserve to be in relationship with other human beings or even really have a place in the world.

Watching this with my high school friends, I was the first to laugh, and the probably loudest. I glanced around looking for an expression of recognition on any of my friend’s faces, waiting for one of them to put it together that I was trans, that I was just waiting for my chance to transition and live as the person I was. I prayed that they wouldn’t see who I was, think of me as a joke or a freak.

The thing is though, the worst part isn’t the fear that people you care about will think you’re a monster. The worst part is the fear that all these jokes are right, that you somehow are this gruesome, laughable thing.

Return to Chapel Hill

I started transitioning in earnest when I returned to Chapel Hill after serving in Iraq. I came out of the military in a great rush to come out, to transition, to move on with my life.

I was shocked to find that even after all I had been through, coming out even to people who weren’t incredibly important to me was extremely stressful. I choked on my words, sometimes I almost apologized for being trans.

It was bizarre. I felt poisoned by those old stories.

The solution came through a mentor at my parish. She gave me the contact information for an open group that met once every other week. These were local North Carolina trans folks who would come together to talk about their lives. It was halfway between a support group and a social club.

I’ll admit, the first time I visited I was completely tongue tied. Here were trans men and trans women and nonbinary folks and folks still figuring it out, people of many ages and stages of transition coming together to drink coffee and talk. I had no idea what to say or do the first time.

They were just such powerfully regular people, students and insurance adjusters and artists and … well, people. Some folks talked about their romantic relationships, some about their jobs, some about stuff as esoteric as best practices for keeping rabbits as pets. They were smart and funny, occasionally angry or tired, but mainly just wonderful to be around.

When I first turned up, I think I was looking for people with all the answers about how to be trans, what it meant to be trans. What I found was better.

All those ugly narratives want to hold up a distorted caricature and tell you it’s a mirror. They want to make those dirty jokes your life, either being the butt of them or struggling against them.

The real answer, and what I found at trans talk, was that the trick is to find community, and to fight oppression without that oppression defining you, owning you. It’s an incredible blessing to exist. Why let anybody tell you how you have to do it?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

True Voice of Witness: Louise Brooks

Today the world lost a remarkable woman named Louise Brooks. I knew her through The Episcopal Church’s LGBT advocacy organization IntegrityUSA, for which Louise was the communications director over the last several years.  She brought to that role a long career as a documentary film-maker, journalist, activist and media-consultant.  Together with her wife, Integrity’s most recent president emerita the Reverend Canon Susan Russell, Louise brought impressive media sophistication to the organization’s communications.

I first met Louise in the summer of 2007 when I joined a number of LGBT and allied Episcopalians at a New York City roundtable as part of the Anglican Communion Listening Process on sexuality.  As I pulled up a chair to this proverbial table, Louise was among a cadre of formidable folks who welcomed me warmly.  I saw Louise the following summer at the “Fringe Festival” of the Lambeth Conference (the decennial gathering of bishops from around the Anglican Communion), and then a year later at the 2009 General Convention of The Episcopal Church.  It was there that we began talking more, and that the seeds were sown for what turned out to be – as far as I know – her last film project: Voices of Witness Out of the Box.

For the first time in 2009, Integrity and TransEpiscopal had brought several volunteers to the Convention to do advocacy and education on trans equality.  As part of that effort, Dante Tavolaro (Deputy from the Diocese of Rhode Island in both 2009 and 2012) and I led a “Trans 101” for the combined Integrity/TransEpiscopal team (you can catch bits of it in the video posted below).  About thirty or so people, including Louise, gathered in Integrity’s meeting room as Dante sketched out a simple grid or set of rules that went like this: in the West or Global North we’re assigned a sex at birth, either male or female; males are expected to grow up to be men, to “act like men”, and to date women. Those born female are expected to become women, to “act like women”, and to date men.  There are many ways to violate these rules.  To not act “like a man” or “like a woman” in your given context, to date people of your same sex, or to transition are just a few.  Gender theorists call this set of rules “heteronormativity.”  Christian theologians call it “complementarity.” Louise called it “the box.”  

As she put it in this May 15th preview, Louise left the 2009 General Convention committed to bringing this conversation, trans voices, and “the box” idea itself to the wider church.

About six months after GenCon 2009, Louise called me up to explore the idea for the documentary.  Could Integrity and TransEpiscopal work together on a film that showed not only how transgender people are “out of the box” but also — at least implicitly – how many other, nontrans people are out of it as well?   This film could convey both difference and connection—that trans people have different challenges than nontrans people do and at the same time that what can make life difficult for us also impacts everyone else.  We all live with the pervasive influence of that box which, crucially, intersects and assembles anew in conjunction with race, class, ability, and national origin.  We are connected in our struggle, even as we struggle in distinct ways.

As Louise ultimately described the project, "Gender identity and gender expression are issues that can easily be misunderstood and cannot be wrapped up in a neat little box.  So the goal of Out of the Box was to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.”  The simplicity of “the box” pointed to, opened – but did not seek to plumb – the complexity underlying it.

We talked and emailed about the film at several points between 2010 and last winter.  When I learned that Louise was ill, I suspected the film would need to go on hold, perhaps indefinitely.  But then, seemingly out of nowhere, Out of the Box roared to life.  In early February I flew out to Los Angeles for a day of filming.  Louise seemed totally in her element.  She was fatigued but connected and absolutely focused.  In between the interviews we talked about the upcoming General Convention and about Macky Allston’s powerful film Love Free Or Die that had just been released.  I was honored and grateful to be part of this work, curious and excited about its potential impact.

What I hadn’t realized was just how steeped in transformation this film was from the start.  Shortly after its release on May 31st, I saw a HufPo blog post by Louise’s wife (and major Out of the Box supporter) Susan Russell.  Susan explained, “what we found in Anaheim in 2009 was that the presence of members of TransEpiscopal testifying in committee hearings, participating in round-table discussions, speaking their truth, and sharing their lives created a profoundly teachable moment that quite literally changed lives.”  But what really struck me was the next sentence: “And one of those was my wife.” “Now,” Susan continued, “I have a hard-and-fast rule to never blog about my wife, but this blog is going to be the exception that proves the rule. A long-time activist, journalist, documentarian, and media consultant, Louise was convinced that gay, lesbian, and bisexual equality was a hard enough row to hoe without adding the ‘T’ into the mix. ‘Let's fight one battle at a time’ pretty much summed up her position -- that is, until the 2009 General Convention and the powerful witness of the transgender folk who so courageously shared their stories, their experience, their journeys, and their reality with her. She left Anaheim committed to finding a way to get their voices out beyond the relatively small audience of an Episcopal General Convention team -- and the idea for the documentary film project Voices of Witness: Out of the Box was born.”

I read that and was speechless.  It’s one thing to talk about transformation – I hear the word all the time, and I preach it, too – but seeing it, hearing an authentic story of it, experiencing it just takes my breath away.  I had not understood what a profound impact we had had on Louise.

But in retrospect, as I contemplated Susan’s words, it made sense.  Or at least, it explained more fully the deep sense of connection, the passion with which Louise pursued this project.  It very clearly mattered to her at a deep level.  When she said she was making the film as a gift to the church, you could tell she really meant it.  And it truly was. 

I was concerned to learn that Louise was too ill to attend General Convention this past July, but I was far from surprised that she was present all the same.  She was on the phone with the communications team every day.  She was making things happen.  We were all pulling for her, and she was most certainly pulling for us. 

You hear a lot of people described as “fighter.”  “He/she was a fighter.”  I am not someone who knew Louise from Adam, but it seems clear to me that she was indeed a fighter.  She fought for me and so many others.  But there was a heck of a lot more to Louise than that, and I don’t know even a quarter of it.  What I do know, though, is that Louise was a woman of profound compassion, open to being transformed, and passionate about opening that process to others. 

I will always be grateful for her support and solidarity, and my heart is with Susan Russell, with All Saints Pasadena, and IntegrityUSA in this time of loss.  May light perpetual shine on Louise.

Susan Russell and Louise Brooks

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summary of the Acts of the 77th General Convention

The Reverend Dr. Elizabeth Keaton, outgoing President of the Episcopal Women's Caucus ( (and who blogs at Telling Secrets: put together this very helpful overview of actions taken at the General Convention earlier this month. Many thanks to her for sharing it!

- General Convention approved the $111,516,032 budget for 2013-2015. The
budget is based on the Five Marks of Mission.

- The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings of Ohio was elected President of the House
of Deputies. Byron Rushing of Massachusetts was elected Vice President of
the House of Deputies.

- Anglican Covenant: General Convention affirmed the commitment to
building relationships across the Anglican Communion, especially through
the Continuing Indaba program, but declined to take a position on the
Anglican Covenant.

- Eight bishops received approvals to their consent process: Atlanta,
New Hampshire, Pittsburgh, Rhode Island, Texas (Suffragan), Virginia
(Suffragan), Western Louisiana, and Western Massachusetts. Related, General
Convention approved a change in rules so elections held close to General
Convention no longer need to go to General Convention for the consent

- Israel-Palestine: General Convention supported a resolution on
positive investment in the Palestinian territories. Bishops agreed to
postpone indefinitely the conversation on corporate engagement.

- Bishops rejected several resolutions attempting to postpone
implementation of the Episcopal Church Medical Trust.

- Executive Council elections: The House of Deputies elected seven lay
and two clergy members: Lay members elected for six-year terms are: Joseph
S. Ferrell of North Carolina, Anita P. George of Mississippi, Fredrica
Harris Thompsett of Massachusetts, Karen Ann Longenecker of the Rio Grande,
Nancy Wonderlich Koonce of Idaho, and John Johnson of Washington (DC). Lay
person, Elizabeth L. Anderson, of Connecticut was elected for three years.
Clergy members elected for six-year terms were the Rev. Susan B. Snook of
Arizona and the Rev. James B. Simons of Pittsburgh.

- A030: establishes how clergy who want to leave the Episcopal Church
for another part of the Anglican Communion can do so without renouncing
their Holy Orders

- A033 and C049 enact a series of revisions to Title IV, the clergy
discipline canons, to fix some errors while maintaining the underlying
principles of the canons

- A036: commends the 11-year relationship of full communion with the
ELCA and asks the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee to address
areas where Episcopal and Lutheran practices differ, especially who can
preside at Holy Communion and the role of deacons.

- A049: a denominational response to same-sex blessings. The approved
liturgy is for provisional use. The diocesan bishop has to grant approval
for use in his/her diocese even in those states where same-sex marriage has
been legislated. It is effective first Sunday in Advent 2012 (December 2).

- A050: authorizes a task force to study marriage.

- A054: new rites and prayers for pastoral responses to people caring
for animals, including the death of a pet

- A102, the first reading of an amendment to the constitution that would
help dioceses that want to merge with another diocese or divide itself into
two dioceses to do so without requiring sitting bishops in all dioceses

- A122: Standing Commission on the Structure of the Church should study
the current budgeting process and matters of financial oversight and make
recommendations to next General Convention

- A158: clarifies the status in the Episcopal Church of pastors in the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who had been ordained by other
pastors and not by bishops.

- A167: creation of an �HIV Welcoming Parish Initiative� to help
congregations to become more engaged with people living with HIV/AIDS.

- B009: with the bishop�s permission, use the lectionary in the BCP
rather than the Revised Common Lectionary

- B019: affirms positive investment in the Palestinian Territories. It
also calls on the church to support �the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian
study on peace with justice in the Middle East,�

- B021: amends the canons to provide a mechanism for addressing
disagreements in the pastoral relationship between a diocese and its

- B023: solidarity with the poor and indigenous people who bear great
burdens because of climate change, with special mention to the Inupiaqs of
Kivalina, Alaska

- B026: gives dioceses and parishes an additional three years to provide
parity in health insurance cost-sharing between lay and clergy employees.
That deadline now is extended until Dec. 31, 2015.

- B028: urges Congress to modernize the nation�s refugee resettlement

- C029: baptism as the normative entrance into Holy Communion

- C095 Church structure: a special task force of up to 24 to meet in the
next two years from all levels of the church on reforms to structure,
governance and administration. There will be a special gathering from every
diocese to hear what recommendations the task force plans to make to the
78th General Convention. The final report is due by November 2014.

- D016 - Selling �815�: The House of Bishops approved a move away from,
but did not authorize the sale of, the Episcopal Church Center headquarters.

- D018: calls on Congress to repeal federal laws, such as the Defense of
Marriage Act, that discriminate against same-gender couples who are legally
married in the states where that is permitted;

- D019 and D002: Support for the transgender community by adding
gender expression and identity to two canons that prevent discrimination:
the ordination discernment process is open; and guarantees equal place in
the life, worship and governance of the church.

- D022: a church-wide response to bullying

- D023: affirms that all Episcopalians are called to be evangelists to
help grow the church

- D025: establishes a Development Office to solicit major gifts and
other resources

- D049: creates a pilot student loan fund for seminarians who agree to
three years in under-served areas of the Episcopal Church.

- D055: urges the government to enact stricter controls on the use of
carbon-based fuels

- D059: urges a halt to the Immigration and Custom Enforcement�s
practice of detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally
without filing any charges against them.

- D066: develops a network of retired Episcopal executives to assist
dioceses and parishes, modeled on SCORE

- D067: urges passage by Congress of the DREAM Act

- D069: a �social media challenge� calling upon every congregation to
use social media in its current and future forms

- D081: directs the Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious
Relations to initiate dialogue between the Episcopal Church and the Mormon
Church in anticipation of General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Meant To Be Transfigured

And it’s a wrap.  General Convention 2012 is now one for the history books.

From my perch here on my last night in this Indianapolis hotel room, I am struck by a combination of wonder, gratitude and just plain exhaustion.  This church has done so much over the last couple of weeks, and they’ve also been long.

And in that spirit of Eucharist – of thanksgiving – and of the comfort and challenge communion offers, I offer a couple of snapshops from my experience of two communion services in the latter part of Convention:  The Integrity Eucharist and the TransEpiscopal Eucharist.

It was a huge honor to serve alongside Bishop Mary Glasspool, Bishop Gene Robinson, and Deacon Carolyn Woodall in the service.  And words cannot describe the emotion of the evening, which was a capstone to the passage of resolutions D019 and D002 earlier that day. The crowd of 1600 was positively elated.  Members of the TransEpiscopal team sat in seats of honor in the front row.  I have no words for how I felt looking out from the platform, seeing both longstanding TransEpiscopal teammates and newer members, several of whom are mentees (or, as became our GC joke, padawans…) and friends from Massachusetts.  I was particularly proud of our young adult presence this year.  There they all were being preached to, directly, by +Gene Robinson, who emphasized again and again, “we were meant to live in tents.” 

Referencing the nomadic life of Abraham and Sarah, he underscored how we should expect to be on the move, to be challenged, to grow comfortable with new understanding and then to be challenged yet again.  This is the work of the Spirit, +Gene preached, the Spirit that continues to flow among us, opening us to truths that Jesus told us we could not yet bear.  As John 16:12-13 puts it, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.”  This has become one of my favorite passages over the last several years, particularly since I began working in earnest on trans issues in the church.  It's obviously one of +Gene’s favorites as well. 

The following day the House of Deputies debated one of the major LGBT related resolutions of General Convention, #A049, which authorized a blessing of same sex couples that was developed over the previous triennium.  It, too, passed in a landslide.  It was a huge moment for a church that does so much of its theology through its liturgical practice and development.  It is one thing for couples to already be able to receive a blessing—or even to have their marriage solemnized in church, as Bishop Shaw authorizes clergy to do in the Diocese of Massachusetts—but it is another thing for The Episcopal Church to officially authorize a blessing rite.

Meanwhile, TransEpiscopal was preparing for another Eucharist.  Today I noticed a tweet from someone that read, “I hesitate to ask, but what is a TransEpiscopal Eucharist”?  In short, it was a service of Communion organized and lead by members of TransEpiscopal to which all were invited.  We came into the 2009 Convention with no plans for such a service, but were persuaded by friends within TransEpiscopal, Integrity, and the Episcopal Women’s Caucus to gather in that way.  In 2009 it was small—maybe twenty people – but very powerful.  We gathered in a circle around a table at the back of Integrity’s conference room, shared scripture readings, a group reflection, and the holy gifts of bread and wine.  At one point, someone held up a camera and snapped a photo that conveys well the service’s intimate feel. 

2009 TransEpiscopal Eucharist
This year we decided to do a service again, planning the liturgy more in advance yet still leaving plenty of room for the Spirit to move our preparations.  As Iain Stanford and I finished putting the liturgy together in Integrity’s nerve center, the debate in the House of Deputies on the blessing liturgy was live streaming.  The liturgy passed just as we finished our work.  What a day!

As it so happened, our openness to the Spirit’s blowing allowed us to transform the service into a combination of both Baptism and Eucharist.  One of the totally unexpected delights of the Convention was meeting a genderqueer identified transman who, it turns out, came into Convention considering baptism.  TransEpiscopal volunteers instantly bonded with him, grafting him into the team.  And when Elizabeth Kaeton, President  of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, baptized another General Convention attendee in the hotel fountain earlier this week, our new friend wondered whether he too might take this step here, rather than back in his home state.  Several long, inspired conversations later, it was apparent that the TransEpiscopal Eucharist was the perfect context for this moment. 

I had never had the privilege of doing an adult baptism before, nor had I baptized someone from the trans community.  This was a truly holy moment.  It also followed a long period of reflection—in place of a sermon—in which nearly all of the forty or so gathered people participated.  There was such joy, love, wonder in that room.  It was such a privilege to see the various roles played by both clergy and laity, trans and allied.  As Rev. Carla Robinson invited us, we all shared the bread and wine with one another, a fitting follow-up to the renewal of our baptismal covenants.  We were living fully into our membership in this one body—this changing, challenging body—and not simply our own, there in the Integrity meeting room, but that of the wider convention, of the wider church. 
As we come to the end of this powerful Convention, we stand at a kind of commencement.  An ending/beginning.  We are stepping into a new chapter in the life of The Episcopal Church.  TransEpiscopal’s and IntegrityUSA’s prioritized resolutions were and are part of something much larger. 

+Gene Robinson told us, “we were meant to live in tents.”  Yet even tents can perhaps prove  too constraining.  On the Transfiguration Mount where Peter, James and John beheld the already/not yet resurrected Christ, Peter’s impulse was to “make three booths” or “dwellings,” to try to pin Jesus down, to pitch his tent among us and stay for a while.  A long while.  But we weren’t meant to stay on that mount forever.  We were meant to travel back down, to walk through unforeseen valleys and reach the other side.

We were meant to be transfigured.


**All photos except the 2009 TransEpiscopal Eucharist, were taken by Anderson C.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

For Immediate Release

The 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church has now added “gender identity and expression” to the church's nondiscrimination canons for both lay and ordained ministry. The House of Bishops passed the legislation on Saturday, July 7th. The House of Deputies then passed it Monday, July 10, officially making it an act of the convention.  By adding this language to its canons, The Episcopal Church joins the United Church of Christ, which took a similar step in 2003, and the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, which did so in 2007.  Like The Episcopal Church, both groups have had openly transgender ordained and lay leaders for several years.

"We are filled with joy for this clear affirmation that the Episcopal Church welcomes and values the ministerial gifts of transgender people, lay and ordained,'' members of TransEpiscopal said in a joint statement after the House of Deputies' vote.

''We are also delighted by the strong support and broad understanding of trans issues shown by deputies representing a wide range of regions and generations in this church. As the church steps boldly into new frontiers in various facets of its life, we are proud to be part of this spirit-filled movement. We thank all of our allies, especially IntegrityUSA, The Consultation, and the Chicago Consultation for their tireless, heartfelt support.''

On the final day of Convention the House of Deputies also concurred with the House of Bishops to pass resolution D022 which calls for a Church-Wide Response to Bullying.  "Gender identity and expression" are included along with "economic, ethnic, racial or physical characteristics, religious status and sexual orientation" in a list of characteristics in response to which bullying often takes place.

“Bullying of any kind, for any reason, goes contrary to the second of Jesus’ two great commandments:  to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  As we in the United States continue to grow in awareness of the effects of bullying, we are proud that The Episcopal Church has decided to take a stand in support of the most vulnerable in our society.  Transgender people are certainly among them: according to a 2011 study, 78 percent of transgender people report being bullied or harassed as children.  It is high time for our church to join in the lifesaving work of ending this epidemic.”

The text of D022 reads as follows:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 77th General Convention calls for a church wide response to the epidemic of bullying, particularly of those perceived as being “different” by virtue of economic, ethnic, racial or physical characteristics, religious status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression; bullying is defined as the recurring use of single or combined written, verbal or electronic expressions or physical acts or gestures, directed at any person that: result in physical or emotional harm to the person or damage to his/her property; places the person in reasonable fear of harm to him/herself or of damage to her/his property; creates an intimidating or hostile environment for the person; impacts the rights of the victim.  Bullying shall include cyber-bullying through elctronic/social media, telephonic technology or other means;and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention encourage new partnerships among our congregations, dioceses, campus ministries, National Association of Episcopal Schools, public schools, counseling centers, and governmental organizations in order to support and offer preventative programs addressing bullying, harassment, and other related violence, especially with higher risk populations; and be it further

Resolved, That these partnerships be encouraged to create or join with existing required programs  designed to recognize and prevent abuse, neglect, and exploitation in our church settings which:

 - utilize positive, inclusive, empowering and developmentally appropriate
 - raise participant’s awareness about the issue
 - focus on prevention
 - seek to change bystander behavior into ally behavior
 - create partnerships between youth and adults
 - provide intervention and treatment for those who exhibit bullying behavior.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Healing Waters

By Anderson C.

Tuesday morning in the shower, it hit me – the full weight of what had happened over the previous two days at General Convention.  My emotions rose up, mixing tears with the warm water streaming down my face.

I was thinking about how the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies  had both passed resolutions D019 and D002 that incorporate “gender identity and expression” into the non-discrimination canons for access to the ordination process and lay participation in The Episcopal Church.  The positive comments and arguments given by supporting and allied deputies were on my mind, as well as the final vote tallies.  An entire Christian denomination had just recognized and accepted trans people as valued members of the Church and removed barriers for their participation at all levels.  The enormity and impact of the outcome of these events were best summed up by my friend Vivian who, when I asked her for the reason behind her own emotional response, said, “Oh, just this business of changing the direction of American Christianity.” 

I was also remembering the previous evening, when trans people played a significant role in the Integrity Eucharist.  When I and other trans folks walked into the large room where the service was being held, we were directed to the first two rows of the center section of seating, where we found on each chair a printed piece of paper that said, “Reserved for VIPs and Transgender service participants.”  We also lead the procession to the stage, two columns of trans people leading TransEpiscopal members Reverend Cameron Partridge, Invocator of the service, and Reverend Carolyn Woodall, Deacon of the Eucharist, as well as Bishop Mary Glasspool, the Bishop Presiding and Bishop Gene Robinson, Preacher.

For his sermon, Bishop Robinson preached about the day, the passing of the two trans-inclusive resolutions and, in the House of Bishops, the passing of the trial liturgy for same gender blessings.  For me, the remarkable aspect of the Integrity Eucharist was the high level of trans inclusion, including in Bishop Robinson’s sermon. 

Clearly, these events could not have been realized without the support of friends and allies, including and perhaps especially members of IntegrityUSA and gay men, bisexual people and lesbians in the Church.  I considered that as I stood there in the service, surrounded by hundreds of supportive people, listening to Bishop Robinson telling us in the trans community that our work is not finished, with the promise, "We'll have your back."

This last sentiment was a new concept for me, not so much in intent because I have heard similar sentiments often enough before, but in action.  Since entering the GLBT community at the peak of the contentiousness around Rep. Barney Frank’s and the HRC’s 2007 actions to remove trans people from the protections of the Federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), I am afraid to say that I have been repeatedly disappointed by the “support” of our GL colleagues.  My painful experiences in this regard have not been with the majority of the GL people with whom I have interacted, but there have been enough of them to render me jaded and cautious about overtures of support.  I have spent too much of my energy in GLBT activism engaged in educating people in the GL community whom I always expect will know better but who too often do not.  At times the behavior of well meaning allies has felt patronizing, and at times, attitudes have seemed dismissive or even downright hostile. 

Fortunately, that has all been turned around at this General Convention and during the Integrity Eucharist the other night.  I believe that Bishop Robinson is aware of the need for education of the “GL’s” about the “T’s” – he gave me hope during his sermon when he spoke twice to the non-trans people at the service, "Don't underestimate what there is to learn on this."  In addition, the overwhelming support that was extended toward us trans folks was palpable.  We were included, we were part of the collective spirit, and we were loved.  I believe the Holy Spirit moved through everyone in that room that night, and I felt in communion with the hundreds of people there.  When Bishop Robinson said, “We'll have your back,” I believed him. 

What rose up in me in the shower and since then has been an overwhelming pride in The Episcopal Church for remembering, supporting and being inclusive of some of her most vulnerable members.  Even though we trans people are few in number in the Church, we have been rendered significant by our non-trans Episcopal gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight brothers and sisters.  For this, I am grateful, I have begun to heal, and I am proud to be a member of The Episcopal Church.

** Photos by Anderson C. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Episcopal Church, Transfigured

I’m almost at a loss for words.

Yesterday the House of Deputies—one of the two Houses in The Episcopal Church’s bicameral system of governance – passed resolutions D019 and D002.  The House of Bishops had done the same on Saturday afternoon.  Both resolutions add “gender identity and expression” to the Church’s nondiscrimination canons.  D019 addresses access of lay people to the life and governance of the church – so, for instance, it clarifies that transgender people can be Eucharistic ministers, vestry members, retreat attendees or leaders, etc.  D002 affirms that transgender people can be ordained leaders.  These resolutions addressed an already/not yet phenomenon:  already trans people are vestry members, Deputies to General Convention, Eucharistic ministers or Lectors; already, transgender people are priests and deacons in a handful of dioceses in this church.  But now we affirm and underscore that practice.  Transgender people are not just in Massachusetts, Washington State, and California.  We are, as the saying goes, everywhere.

We knew that the resolutions were on the Deputies’ calendar for the day, so a number of TransEpiscopal members listened in the gallery, once more on the edge of our seats.

As the House moved quickly down their calendar list, our resolutions quickly approached.  But just as D019 came up, a problem emerged.  A combination of factors had caused a delay in the Spanish translation of several complex resolutions.  As a result, the House would need to delay the vote until at least the afternoon session, maybe longer.

We adjourned to Steak n’ Shake.

After a raucous lunch (pressure release being a good and necessary thing) we said goodbye to Tina Beardsley who was flying back to the UK.  We very much miss her and so appreciated her warmth and wry humor—by the end of her stay, Tina and roommate Rev. Gari Green had practically developed a Midwest/UK vaudeville act.

Back in the Deputies gallery, D019 quickly came to the floor.  Once more, backers were ready to roll.  We heard from Sarah Lawton of the Diocese of California, whose sister is trans.  We heard from Deputy Dante Tavolaro, transman from Rhode Island.  We heard from Rev. Carla Robinson, transwoman from the Diocese of Olympia.  From a bevy of young adults, including Sam Gould from the Diocese of Massachusetts, and Natalie Venatta of the Diocese of Kansas. A Deputy from Alaska spoke of trans people in his congregation.  There were innumerable allies, just as in the hearing before the Ministry Committee.  People from across the United States—all manner of regions, and not simply the coasts—stood up and spoke passionately in support.  There were some people opposed to the move, and they were more represented on the floor of the House than in the hearing, though still a clear minority.  As expected – and as happened in the House of Bishops in 2009 – they tried to amend the resolution to remove the specific language from the canon.  In support of this move, a Deputy from the Diocese of Albany ridiculed the growing list of protected categories, saying she felt slighted “as a red-head” for not being included despite being a minority of the population.  My mom and sister are both red heads.  I can only imagine how fiercely they would have responded to that comment.

In any case, the supportive Deputies were more than ready for the amendment, and it was soundly defeated.  A vote on the original resolution followed quickly, and at 3:15pm it passed by a landslide.  Debate had lasted for a half hour.

D002 came up directly afterward.  In many ways, as in the House of Bishops, the debate was a continuation of the previous one.  The amendment tactic having failed, however, it was not tried again.  Once more Deputies from all around the church, North and South, Midwest, East and West, got up and spoke in support.  Sarah Lawton of California spoke of her experience with trans clergy, saying we as a church will be “richly blessed” if we open our ordination process explicitly to trans people.  Carla Robinson spoke of the rigorous process she underwent for ordination in the Diocese of Olympia, even after having been ordained in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.  She wanted to make the supportive atmosphere she experienced in that process more widely accessible.  Then a Deputy from Alabama in a plaid sport coat and bow tie (in honor of Gregory Straub, Secretary of the General Convention, who is known for his crazy sport coats) got up and began speaking.  At first I couldn’t tell if he would speak in favor or against.  But then he said that we are to make God’s kingdom present here on earth, and read from Isaiah 56:4-5:

For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
   who choose the things that please me
   and hold fast my covenant,
I will give, in my house and within my walls,
   a monument and a name
   better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
   that shall not be cut off.

These were a people, he said, that formerly had not been allowed access to the assembly.  They had been a people cut off—unwelcome because of what we might refer to as their gender identity and expression—but now they were welcomed.  “We must name what God has named,” he said.

TransEpiscopal members were sitting in a row in the gallery.  When he said that, we all just lost it.  I tweeted

#GC77‬ Dio Ala: we r to establish kingdom here on earth, now. Let not eunuch say I am a dry tree (Is 60); we must name what God has named

And then:

#GC77‬ Dep from Alabama: wow, you absolutely made my day ‪#TransEpiscopal‬

Shortly thereafter, debate finished.  Again, as expected, and as happened in 2009, a Deputy (Diocese of Albany) requested a vote by orders.  This tactic makes it more difficult to pass legislation.  Instead of a voice vote, in which a simple majority suffices, a vote by orders tabulates by each diocesan deputy team (what’s called a Deputation).  The votes of evenly divided deputations count as “no” votes.  The most contentious resolutions tend to be tabulated in this way.  It also delays the results, as they must be certified.  So, as Deputy business continued, we waited.  We stood up and sang “Be Thou My Vision.”  A fifteen minute recess came and went.  Still no results.  We were on the edge of our seats once more.  Finally, a question emerged as to when we would hear the results.  Secretary Straub let President of the HoD Bonnie Anderson know that she had the results already.  No, she said, she had not yet received them.  But then—aha!—she realized they had been before her for some time. All of us seated in the gallery roared.

She read them aloud: we had done it.  A landslide.

At 4:48pm I tweeted:

#GC77‬ D002 PASSES!!!! By a lot!!!

And then:

#GC77‬ D002: Y lay: 94; Y clg: 95; N lay: 11; no clg: 16; Divided lay: 5; Divided clg: 0; thus, No + Divided lay: 16; No + Divided clg: 16

It had passed by 85%.

We were Transfigured.


**Photos by Anderson C (except photo #2)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Halfway There

Bishop Marc Andrus congratulated Rev. Vicki Gray
Yesterday was an historic day, as theHouse of Bishops voted in favor of all three of the resolutions that take upgender identity and expression.

As yesterday’s blog post left off, we were on the edge ofour seats as the bishops began their afternoon session. 

At the conclusion of the morning session, Rev. StephanieSpellers, a priest from my diocese (though soon to be of the Diocese of LongIsland) and one of the chaplains to the Bishops, had preached on one of the textsassigned for the day: Romans 8:18-27. From the lectern at the front of the room, she read it out deliberately:

I consider that thesufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about tobe revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealingof the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of itsown will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creationitself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedomof the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has beengroaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but weourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while wewait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Nowhope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hopefor what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

She paused for several seconds before continuing:

Likewise the Spirithelps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but thatvery Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches theheart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes forthe saints according to the will of God.

She went on to talk about our groaning as a church.  We should not mistake this groaningsimply for suffering, though it does indeed signal pain. Yet it signalssomething much larger: rebirth.  We should not losehope in the midst of our process, our transition, our rebirth.  As I tweeted:

#GC77 StephanieSpellers 'this groaning that you hear' is church being reborn. 'You would notbe sitting here now unless u believed it.'

We would not have been sitting there, would not still beworking here now, unless we believed it.

And, again:

#GC77 StephanieSpellers: 'we are walking together in the space between.'#TransEpiscopal 

Walking together in the space between—she could not havespoken more directly to my experience as a transperson had she beentrying.  And yet the beauty ofthese words were that they spoke bothto my experience and to that of thechurch in its liminal, in-between location right now.  That’s a connection I tried to name in the panel after Integrity’sshowing of Out of the Box severaldays ago—as a trans person I feel like the place in which the church standspoised, forging its way forward into uncharted terrain, is familiarterritory.  It was so powerful tohear it from my friend Stephanie, and to hear it shared with the bishops I knowshe is so honored to support.

What amazing, nourishing preaching we have heard these lastseveral days.  Truly food for thejourney, for all of us.

So, after posting the “Edge of Our Seats” blog entry, I headedto the House of Bishops and took a seat in the gallery.  It took about a half hour for D002 tocome up.  The text is the same asthe 2009 resolution (C061).  I had told my spouse and a friend I would text them as soonas debate began so they could watch comments on the GC#77 Twitter feed.  So at 3:35pm when Bishop Mary GrayReeves of the Ministry Committee presented D002 with a recommendation ofpassage, I texted a single word: “Now!!”

At 3:36 I then tweeted:  

#GC77 D002 Bp Douglasspeaking re: transgender res

At 3:38:

#GC77 Gene Robinsonspeaking in favor of D002 Trans nondiscrimination res

At 3:39:

#GC77 Mark Andrusspeaking in favor of D002

At 3:41:

#GC77 Chet Talton ofSan Joaquin speaking in favor of D002, referencing ordination of a transwomanthat he recently did

At 3:43:

#GC77 Bishop Love ofAlbany wants to know what 'gender expression' means. PB responds, how gender isexpressed in world. Thank you PB!

And again at 3:43:

#GC77 Texas seeks toend debate

And then:

#GC77 it passed!!!D002

I turned around in my seat and locked eyes with myTransEpiscopal colleagues seated behind me.  Big smiles and weepy eyes.

Several things struck me right off the bat.  First, that those in favor of theresolution were clearly ready to speak. Bishop Ian Douglas referenced the hard educating work he engaged inthree years ago on the World Mission committee, to which C061 was sent lasttime.  He explained what genderidentity and expression meant, and how his daughter’s generation seemed morefamiliar and comfortable with transgender people than perhaps people of oldergenerations knew.  Bishop Robinsonreiterated the strong support for the trans community that I have heard himshare in numerous venues recently. Bishop Andrus spoke of how his diocese has ordained a transwoman to thediaconate who is passionate in her work for peace and justice (Vicki Gray, whohas posted in this space before and is here as an alternate Deputy from DioCal).  Bishop Chet Talton shared how hisdiocese has recently ordained a highly qualified Deacon (Carolyn Woodall, whois also here at GC, volunteering with IntegrityUSA) and how he sees othertransgender people in congregations around the diocese of San Joaquin.  When Bishop Love of Albany spoke, I wasstruck that he asked the same question I recall him asking three years ago,namely what “gender expression” is. There seemed to be some concern that it might be code for sexual activity.  After Bishop Love’s question, the PresidingBishop asked if someone would like to respond.  A long pause ensued. Just as I started to worry that no one would respond, the PresidingBishop herself leaned forward into the mike and explained that genderexpression is simply how your gender is expressed in the world.  I was so grateful that Bishop KatharineJefferts Schori was willing to offer that simple, straightforwarddefinition.  Right afterward, thebishop of Texas called the question and the vote was taken.

Discussion had taken eight minutes, and D002 passed on avoice vote by a large margin—I would put it at 3/4 or perhaps 2/3 in favor.

The D019 debate then followed directly.  Once more, starting at 3:45pm Itweeted:

#GC77 now onto D019.Beckwith speaking of his experience in All Saints Worcester. Bishop Shawspeaking in favor

At 3:46:

#GC77 South Carolinaspeaking against D019. Referencing 'gender expression', says Wikipedia definedgender expression as all over the map

At 3:49:

#GC77 Rochester,Bishop Singh, speaking of experience of living in liminal space; opportunity toengage liminal embodiment as a church

Again, at 3:49:

#GC77 Gene Robinsonspeaking in support if D019; addressing 'gender expression'

At 3:50:

#GC77 Lawrence ofSouth Carolina speaking against

At 3:52:

#GC77 Bishop Andrus'when we have confusion about a group' that is precisely a reason to protectthem

And then at 3:53:

#GC77 bishops passD019!!

Once again, debate and passage had taken eight minutes.

What immediately struck me was how there was more resistanceto this resolution about access of the laity to the life of the church thanthere had been to the resolution about access to the ordination process.  Perhaps that is because there is lessopportunity to regulate the laity, as a colleague here pointed out—people inthe ordination process have to pass through many steps (including psychologicaltesting).  My own sense, however,is that the conversation about D019 was a continuation of the earlier one onD002.  Bishop Lawrence of SouthCarolina, for instance, continued to push on the question about “genderexpression.”  And I didn’t tweetit, but here again the Presiding Bishop intervened when Bishop Lawrence made astatement about gender expression relating to same sex relationships andsexuality more broadly.  “we aren’ttalking about relationships at all,” she said.  “We’re talking about individuals here.” 

Bishop Gene Robinson with TransEpiscopal
members after HoB vote
My bishop, Tom Shaw, spoke in favor, referencing the way inwhich we in the Diocese of Massachusetts have been able to reach out to thetrans community and advocate in favor of transgender nondiscriminationlegislation at the state level.  Itmeant so much to hear him say that, as I’ve been walking with him in this workfor a number of years now.

Bishop Beckwith of Newark spoke of his experience as arector at All Saints in Worcester, in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts,where the transition of a transman was moving not only for him but for thecongregation as a whole.  I knowthe folks to whom he was referring, and I was moved to hear this witness.

Bishop Singh of the Diocese of Rochester made a strongconnection between trans embodiment and his experience of liminality—of beingperceived as an American in India and an Indian in America—of beingbi-cultural.  He asked us toconsider how the church’s own multiple identities, its threshold identity,could be deepened through our conversation about trans embodiment.  This comment spoke so directly to themesclose to my heart, my ministry and teaching, that I was essentially sittingthere in an excited vibrational state.  That this conversation could point toward the deeptheological significance of this vote, and this conversation, not simply fortrans people but for the church more braodly, left me truly excited and full ofhope.

When the vote was taken, once more it passed by asignificant majority.

TransEpiscopal members and our allies gathered outside thegallery after the House went into recess and gave each other huge hugs.  This was a major step.

As we stood in the hallways, we learned that D022, the resolution calling for a Churchwide Response to Bullying, had passed the House of Bishops.  I was surprised that it had come up so quickly, since the hearings had been a day apart. But there it was, another major step forward.

Now we wait for the House of Deputies to take up all three resolutions.  It could happen latetoday, but most likely tomorrow (July 9). We are halfway there.