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 (http://www.ewc-ecusa.org/) (and who blogs at Telling Secrets: http://telling-secrets.blogspot.com/?m=1) 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
process.

- 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
involved.

- 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
bishop;

- 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
program

- 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 not 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.

CP


**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
    materials
 - 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 serious carrot-tops.  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.


CP


**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.

CP

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Edge of Our Seats


We’re now on the edge of our seats waiting for resolutionsD002 and D019 – the transgender nondiscrimination resolutions – to come to thefloor of the House of Bishops (HoB). Since the Ministry Committee passed these two days ago we have beenwaiting for them to turn up in the HoB—they are on the supplemental calendarfor day 2, and since the Bishops are a bit behind in their calendar, theyhaven’t come up quite yet. TransEpiscopalians sat in the HoB gallery last night and this morning,and will be back when the bishops go into open session at about 3:15pm.

Our work here has been buoyed by some wonderfulpreaching.  Yesterday BonnieAnderson, President of the House of Deputies, preached an inspiring sermonbased on the readings for the feast day of the martyred Czeck Reformer JohnHuss (c. 1369 – 6 July 1415).  Youcan watch the video and see the text here (http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2012/07/06/general-convention-july-6-sermon/).  Her theme was courage:

“Courage animates all our virtues-honesty, confidence, humility, compassion, integrity, valor. Without courage,all these virtues lie dormant.
There is no prescription for teachingcourage. You may have noticed that courage 101 is not taught in school, or evenin college, or even in seminary.”

She continued,

“I can vividly remember the first time I stood up forsomething. I bet you can too. That memory becomes the story of a definingmoment that is incorporated into our spiritual selves and becomes a cornerstoneof our morality or our moral courage. If we are to reflect on our life, each ofus can probably name today, events and people who helped to shape our moralcourage. Moral courage defines us at our core and prompts us to act in spite offear.”

I left the service strengthened for the day ahead.  As we did yesterday, several of usreadied ourselves to testify at a committee hearing.  This time it was D022, a “Churchwide Response toBullying.”  I spoke in support ofit in my capacity as an Episcopal Campus Minister.  Before the day was out, the committee had reported it out tothe House of Bishops.

Then this morning Bishop Michael Curry of the Diocese ofNorth Carolina, assigned the lection in celebration of the life of the novelistand abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, preached a soul-stirring sermon on howbeing a prophetic Christian requires a certain kind of insanity. Watch and/orread it here (http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2012/07/07/north-carolina-bishop-michael-curry-preaches-at-convention-eucharist/).  Citing the gospel passage from June 10th(Mark 3:20-35) in which Jesus’ family comes to find him and declares him “outof his mind,” Bishop Curry proclaimed,

“forgive me for saying it this way,but Jesus was, and is, crazy! And those who would follow him, those who wouldbe his disciples, those who would live as and be the people of the Way, arecalled and summoned and challenged to be just as crazy as Jesus. So I want tospeak on the subject, ‘We Need Some Crazy Christians.’”

I couldn’t help myself—I just had to tweet, to share, what Iwas hearing.  Over the next severalminutes my twitter account posted:

·     #GC77 nervous re: voting on #Trans people inordained & lay ministry? remember this morning's sermon: 'we need some*crazy* Christians.'

·     #GC77 Rt Rev Curry preaches it in a.m.Eucharist: 'we are called to be *different*'. #TransEpiscopal

·     Bp Michael Curry: 'We need some *crazy*Christians to change this world in the name of Jesus.'... 'Think different.'#GC77

·     'the ones crazy enough to think they can changethe world do.' May this Convention be transfigured by the Bps witness #GC77

And all of this crazy talk made me free associate:

·     As Seal put it, 'cuz we're never gonna surviveunless we get a little crazy' #GC77 #TransEpiscopal

I haven’t been able to get the Seal song out of my headsince (and now it’s in yours… sorry).

After the service I flipped over my name tag and wrote

*Crazy* Christian

As I left the worship space I found myself wondering, willthe bishops make the connection between Bishop Curry’s inspiring message andthe trans nondiscrimination resolutions? Are they willing to be “crazy” enough – as some may well deem themwithin this church and beyond– to embrace the ministries of its transgendermembers, lay and ordained? Are they willing to take that leap?

This morning TransEpiscopal members and supporters sat inthe HoB gallery. The bishops did not quite get to our resolutions, but wereturn to the gallery now with hope in our hearts.

CP

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Listening Process Compared


By the Rev. Dr. Christina Beardsley of Changing Attitude

This afternoon I attended the hearing of the Ministry Committee considering Resolution D002 which would add the category ‘gender identity and expression’ to the non-discrimination canon for the ordination discernment process, and D019 which would add the same wording to the Episcopal Church’s canon on access of the laity to all levels of church participation and representation. These additions, as one speaker remarked, were a necessary enhancement to the standard of welcome - at policy level at least - in the Episcopal Church.

Forty-five minutes was set aside for testimonies, with each person assigned two minutes for their contribution. No one had signed up to oppose D019 and only one person spoke against D002. Indeed, so many people had signed up to testify in favour of D002 that the forty-five minutes was reached before everyone had a chance to speak. I had signed up to testify about the Church of England context, which is not that different from that of the US, and I’ll append the testimony I had prepared below (in italics).

The testimonies over, I stayed on in the committee room to hear the discussion by the deputies and bishops and to await their outcome. The process is entirely open, not behind closed doors. I’m merely a visitor to the Convention, from another Province altogether, but I could have testified had there been time, and was, with others, privy to how the decision was made. It was very easy really. The deputies and bishops were appreciative of the courage of all who spoke – including the individual who spoke to the minority position - and there was a commitment on both sides to mutual listening. When it came to the vote there was hardly any discussion – the rightness and justice of full inclusion for trans people was almost unanimous. Now the Resolutions must go to the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies where there is likely to be much more debate, but this is a wonderful start.

What a contrast between my experience today and what happened to Colin, Keith, Jenny and Rob in their meeting with the Pilling Committee at Church House. I wasn’t there so I don’t know the tone in which the chair’s comments were made, but this is a working party that is supposed to be reviewing the listening process in the Church of England. Ought it not to be modelling listening to LGB&T people rather than lecturing them about how things are done in the Civil Service? Or was this intended as avuncular advice to an organisation that was once considered safe by the church establishment, but that now, in the face of an intractable culture, has become increasingly edgy, radical, and ready to say exactly what we think rather than what people would prefer to hear? Whatever the motives it sounds quite bruising for those who were there.

Changing Attitude, England, like the other organisations which have been called so far by the working party, has had its allotted hour. What happens next? I’m sure we won’t be privy to the discussions of the working party as I was to those of the Ministry Committee at General Convention today. As a delegate to the Triennial Women’s the Triennial Women’s Convention – which runs parallel to General Convention – observed to me this afternoon, the protocols of General Convention are modelled on those of the United States Senate and Congress. The model for the central bodies of the Church of England, as Sir Joseph reminded Colin today, is the British Civil Service. Excellent as that may be for purposes of government, in the context of the listening process it doesn’t seem to be creating a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people to be heard. So, London or Indiana? I know where I would rather have given my testimony today, and here it is:  

My name is Christina Beardsley.  I’m a visitor from the Diocese of London, England. I’ve been a priest for thirty-three years. I transitioned eleven years ago so I’ve spent a third of my ministry as a trans woman working throughout that time as a hospital chaplain. I’m now the Head of a Multi-faith Chaplaincy team and manage more than twenty people. 
  
I’m aware of seven trans clergy in the Church of England who have transitioned – exactly the same number as in the United States. Two are parish priests, one has an active ministry in retirement, three are in secular employment but involved in their parish and diocese, and I am in a sector ministry.
An English House of Bishops working group’s reflections on trans people in the life of the Church, including ordination, were published in 2003 as Chapter 7 of ‘Some issues in human sexuality 


In 2002 the English House of Bishops discussed the discernment process for trans candidates and the outcome can be found in the Handbook for Diocesan Directors of Ordinands, Section 2.16, which sets this out in detail.


You might expect me, as an English person, to say that it was ‘time for t’ but by that I don’t mean time for a cup of tea: I mean it is now time for the letter T -  for Trans -  and I urge you to add ‘gender identity and expression’ to your non-discrimination canons.

A Church Where All Can Actually Mean All


By Anderson C.
Yesterday, I listened to moving testimony at the Ministry Committee hearing for resolutions D002 and D019 that would add “gender identity and expression” to the Episcopal church’s non-discrimination canons. Their passage would ensure access for transgender people to the ordination process and all levels of laity participation.   The resolutions were successfully voted out of committee yesterday, similar to the last General Convention when they were subsequently approved by the House of Deputies but stalled in the House of Bishops in a discussion to remove mention of any protected groups in the non-discrimination language and replace it with language that would ban “all” discrimination.
I write this post to address these resolutions as a transgender man and a relatively new member of the Episcopal Church.  I also write as a witness to the power of the presence of ordained transgender people in the church and the knowledge that I could have access to all levels of lay participation. 
Baptized and raised in the Roman Catholic Church, it was my spiritual home until roughly six years ago when I simply could not abide any longer the way I was being treated by my fellow parishioners.  At the time, I was not living as my true self.  Instead, I was trying to live as expected by the Catholic Church and, apparently, by some of her parishioners – as a woman rather than the man I know myself to be.
And yet, despite these efforts, despite trying to adhere to the messages of the Roman Catholic church and the expectations of those around me, I was still treated differently, as “other,” based on my appearance as a masculine woman.  Some of my fellow parishioners would return my greetings in church with mumbles and troubled expressions, while some would not respond at all. The final blow came when, during mass, a woman who had offered the sign of peace to the people around her, folded her arms across her chest and looked me in the eyes while refusing to accept my hand that was offered to her in peace. Her message to me was clear – I was not wanted there.
Some people told me that those who did not welcome my presence in my church were only individuals and I should not have let them drive me from my spiritual home.  Some stated that “all” people are welcome in the Roman Catholic Church.  However, the word “all” can be a veil that conceals patronizing tokenism or subtle discrimination.  We may all be welcome in God’s house, but that doesn’t mean that we are all necessarily treated the same way when we are there.  “All” was in the language that the priest at my former Catholic church used when I explained my pain from the treatment of some of my fellow parishioners.  He told me, “We are all children of God and made in his image,” as though I was the one who needed convincing rather than the people who would not speak to me or the woman who refused to accept my offer of peace.
And so I left the Catholic Church, becoming spiritually adrift. Where was I to go?  Where could I receive the Eucharist as my true self?  In what church would I not face rejection?  From what I had seen and heard from other transgender people who had been discriminated against in their churches of other Christian denominations, I thought that there was no place for me.  I was so spiritually lonely that I even tried to go back once to my former Catholic church but experienced such a level of anxiousness while sitting in the pews that I thought I was going to be ill so I didn’t try it again.
My spiritual Diaspora lasted for years, leaving me hungry for the sustenance of the Eucharist and the fellowship of a congregation.  I didn’t believe that a spiritual home existed for me.  Until, that is, I met a transgender man who was an Episcopal priest.  
A priest! 
My entire world changed at that moment.  I knew then that if a church was accepting of transgender people in the ordination process, then this would be a church where I would be accepted as well, and not only sitting in the pews.  In a church with ordained transgender people, I knew I would find an open path for my own lay ministry.
For transgender people, one of the most marginalized groups in our society, witnessing the participation of others like themselves in ordained and lay ministries in the Episcopal church can be positively uplifting and life altering, as it was for me. 
There is power in the presence and visibility of transgender people in The Episcopal church, and a person does not need to be transgender to see it -- anyone who is struggling in their life, who might feel for whatever reason that they would not be accepted into any church, would receive the message, as I did, that the Episcopal church can be a spiritual home for them. This Episcopal 'beacon,' as it were, could be guaranteed by adding "gender identity and expression" to the non-discrimination canons D002 and D019.

Slingshot Ministry at the 77th General Convention: Trans Lived Experience as Embodied Prophecy


A post by Teal Van Dyck

As a non-Episcopalian and a young queer trans activist, I was a little bit apprehensive about attending the 77th Episcopal General Convention. I agreed to travel to Indianapolis from my home in Western Massachusetts to help my friend and employer navigate accessibility at the Convention as her aide. She is an out lesbian Episcopalian, and a proud member of IntegrityUSA and the Episcopal Women's Caucus, and I knew how important it was to her to be able to attend. If summoning the resolve to jump into two weeks at my first General Convention would make her participation possible, I knew that my call to service was clear. Nonetheless, I was concerned. Would there be room for someone like me at the General Convention?

I'm a queer, genderqueer trans man and at home, I use art and performance to speak about intersectional justice as loudly as I can manage. I was also raised in a deeply Christian family, and continue to seek Jesus' message of teaching, preaching, and healing while working to hold my certainty that God loves me just as Ze loves the whole benevolent universal creation. It is rare that I am able to live fully in both my transformative faith and my social justice politics. As I boarded the flight to Indiana and checked into the hotel, I worried that I would need to once again perform a less-than-whole version of myself to make it though the Convention.

I shouldn't have been concerned. My employer volun-told me to help TransEpiscopal with their work at the Convention, and the generosity, warmth, humor, and heart of the group of people here has been astounding. I feel grateful for their willingness to include me in their initiatives to pass resolutions D002, D019, and D022, and their larger mission of promoting visibility, inclusion, and understanding of trans people and our lives in the church. Our numbers are small compared to the massive scale of the event, but our spirit is disproportionately strong, propelled by the compelling message that we bring about the future of The Episcopal Church.

In the last several days I have had the chance to speak with people as they stop by the booth, encourage them to check out our materials, and engage in friendly dialogue while clarifying the urgency of TransEpiscopal's mission. As folks stop by who have little experience with transgender politics or experiences, I am moved by the number of people who express great willingness to make connections and learn, making it safe and feasible for me to have these vulnerable interactions. As our conversations develop, many people share stories with me about trans people they notice in their lives. I noticed one man momentarily lingering near the table, and we made small talk about General Convention. He eventually spoke of a trans woman he works with who transitioned on the job, impressing upon me that he respects and values her because she's a good coworker. I brought up the widespread employment discrimination faced by many trans people, and we talked about supporting a trans coworker as an important way to support gender justice.

Another woman stopped by hoping to talk about ways to support her friend, a mother struggling to accept her trans son who has come out in the last year. She spoke earnestly about not understanding much about transgender identities, but feeling strongly that she must find tangible resources and language to pass along to her beloved friend. I spoke to her from my own experience of patiently working with my mother as she struggled to accept my transition, and Donna Cartwright, one of the co-founders of TransEpiscopal, also shared from her experience with her mother. We directed her to resources for parents of trans children, and also spoke about the power of love to transform some families' acceptance over time, and God's unwavering love for each person in the family as they work to grieve, process, and witness each others' true selves. Each interaction like these demonstrates the depth of the power of courageous love to conquer oppressive fear.

The power of telling the truth of my trans lived experience to another person is a prophetic ministry of hope and the possibility for interpersonal triumph over the superhuman monolith of prejudicial discrimination. I'm reminded of the young David on the verge of battling the biggest, baddest guy that the Philistines could find, as described in 1 Samuel 17.

Goliath, like the giants of exclusion, discrimination, and prejudice that we stand down every day, wasn't operating on a human scale. He's between eight and twelve feet tall depending on who's telling the story, his armor is between 60 and 120 tons, and his weaponry is ultra high-tech for the ancient world. The Israelites, with all their war weapons and violent fervor, are afraid to challenge him. Even King Saul, himself a tall and powerful warrior with ancient high-tech armor, isn't interested in taking his chances with Goliath. To make things worse, Goliath is vocal about his intention to destroy the Israelites, raining down all sorts of shady comments and threats and challenging them to fight every morning and evening when they're trying to worship and pray.

At this time, David is the little brother of three older soldier sons, so he's at home in the mountains tending the sheep when his dad asks him to bring some provisions to King Saul's men. When David hears about Goliath and all his threats, he goes to Saul to volunteer to face the giant – to speak truth to power. Perhaps in an effort to save face, “Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth” (1 Samuel 17:33). David elaborates that as a shepherd, he's used to dealing with large, loud, aggressive threats to his flock – he killed a lion and a bear by himself, evidently using just his courage, faith, and desire to protect his sheep. Saul piles all his armor onto David's small frame, but David refuses it, saying he hasn't tested Saul's equipment and trusts his usual weapon, the totally low-tech slingshot.

When David shows up to face Goliath, the monolith starts up again with the discriminatory diatribes. Goliath is offended that the Israelites have sent a young person to take him on – Goliath, like Saul, estimates that young people aren't any good at speaking truth to power.  David lays it on him, saying “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord...and all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:45-47). To seal the deal, David whips a smooth river stone from his slingshot into Goliath's forehead, the big guy topples over, completely defeated.

David makes an important distinction about what brought him to victory. As the spiritual inspired by 2 Corinthians 20:15 says, “The battle is not yours – it's the Lord's.” David's stature, weaponry, and ammunition are small, but he knows he's contributing to the tidal force of God's justice reflected in courageous incarnational presence by human beings. When it comes to our work toward full transgender inclusion in The Episcopal Church and in the world, we commit small acts of courage that contribute to the larger change of transgender people assuming their rightful place as spiritual leaders and valued members of parishes and dioceses.

Every moment in which I trust God enough to have an honest conversation with a stranger about being a transgender person, I lean on the sustaining faith that brought me to that moment with a fellow human being, a seeker like myself. Every time I bear witness to the incredible and mischievous grace of the Universe that made me fluid and resilient, I am like David, quietly kneeling by the river to find the smoothest stones, worn down to the authentic truth by time in the flow of the life-giving waters. Every connection that I share with another person about the lessons of life in my body is another stone lodged in the forehead of institutional discrimination until that bellowing giant is inevitably felled.

Some deliver dire predictions that voices and bodies like ours will bring chaos and collapse to the church, just as fearful and prejudiced people around the world assert that we are irreparably unraveling the social fabric itself. As a trans person, I have the lived experience of immersing myself in the chaotic unknown – throwing myself into the abyss of change through transition with complete doubt, but also with complete trust that God's omniscience regarding my truest self will uplift me from my dark nights of the soul into the morning light of my glorious future. For those who have never taken such an embodied leap of faith, for those who don't believe it's sacred or even possible to prove the malleability of corporeal gender and perpetuity of spiritual wholeness, fear is an understandable response. As trans people, we hold a beautiful prophecy for the world. Over the edge of the unknown, deep in abyssal fear, the wings of divine Love are just waiting to scoop up all up, deliver us from the giants of oppression and discrimination, and transform our hearts and our communities. As we humbly aim the smooth stones of living our truth in each moment, we are already victorious in our battle to reveal God's exuberant grace to the 77th General Convention and to all who encounter us in our daily lives.

D019 Testimony from Donna Cartwright

Following is testimony prepared by TE Co-Convenor Donna Cartwright, for hearing by Ministry Committee of GC 2012 on Resolutions D002 and D019. Testimony could not be delivered because too many witnesses had signed up for the available time.

For many trans people, religious experience includes a strong narrative of transformation and redemption. Indeed, some of us find our spirituality through our trans journeys. I will tell you one such story, my own.

As a child of the 1960's, I became involved several of the movements for social change of that time, particularly civil rights and anti-war. I marched, I picketed, I was arrested, I went to jail. Since then, advocacy for social justice has remained a central part of my life. But for most of my life, there was still something missing.

As a closeted trans person, I felt a lack of authenticity, a deep inner uncertainty, a detachment from myself, an emptiness at the core. I was guarded, moody, frequently depressed and withdrawn. And as an agnostic, I found it difficult to express or develop my spiritual feelings. There was a part of me that was hungry and was not fed.

When I came out as trans and lived into my true self, dissociation dropped away quickly and depression lessened greatly. My spiritual hunger intensified, and eventually I had to act on it. I needed reverence and ritual to mark out my journey, for which secular culture had left me ill-equipped.

I found what I needed, and much more, and the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Fort Lee, N.J., where I became a member, and eventually served as an usher, on vestry, and as deputy to diocesan convention. At last, my soul was fed.

By adopting these resolutions, the church will support trans people as we say, "Grant, Lord, that we may serve thee in newness of life."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hearing on D002 and D019 -- Powerful Witness


This afternoon the Ministry Committee heard resolutions D002 and D019.  The room was full, the testimony sign-up lists overflowing with overwhelmingly supportive people.  The committee itself is large—forty members – which made getting up to speak that much more overwhelming for those who did it.  But what an amazing collective witness we offered. 

In addition to trans people ourselves, a striking number of allies came forward, including two bishops.  One of them was my bishop, Tom Shaw, who spoke of our experience in the diocese of Massachusetts with trans clergy as well as strong support for the trans community more generally.  Striking testimony was offered by Vivian Taylor whose writings have been share on this blog before.  Vivian spoke of finding a home in the Episcopal Church during college, prior to her deployment to Iraq as a chaplain’s assistant, and her intention to enter discernment for ordained ministry.  Bishop Chet Talton spoke of the stance of full welcome that he has supported in the Diocese of San Joaquin, and of the ministry of Carolyn Woodall who was ordained a deacon this spring.  

The lone dissenting testimony was offered by a deputy from the diocese of Albany.  The main sentiment she shared was a sense of isolation in her disagreement with resolution D002.  When gently pressed by Bishop Mary Glasspool to be more specific about her concern, the deputy indicated her belief that “God doesn’t make mistakes” and that those who transition inherently assert the opposite. Bishop Shaw and I also answered a question from another deputy from the diocese of Albany about how to respond to people in that diocese who may feel alienated by the passage of these resolutions.  Both of us emphasized the importance of relationships, of staying in conversation, of recognizing the humanity of one another, even and especially when we disagree.  This deputy also turned out to live only twenty minutes from where my spouse grew up in central New York state.  The world is small, and we must be gentle to one another.

After forty-five minutes of testimony on both resolutions, the chair ended the session.  Because there were so many more people who wanted to testify, unfortunately, many were not able to, and we will be posting more testimony here.  When the session ended, we streamed out into the hall, hugging each other and sighing huge sighs of relief.  While a number of us dispersed, a few stayed behind to hear debate and voting on the resolutions.  As it turned out, the vote was very straight forward:  both D002 and D019 were passed out of committee and now head to the House of Bishops.  They should come there in the next couple of days. 

Tomorrow at 2pm there will be a hearing on another trans related resolution, D022, the Churchwide Response to Bullying.  Stay  tuned for news on that resolution as well as House of Bishops movement on D002 and D019.

CP