Received this week from Soulforce (emphasis mine):
In 2007, the United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council ruled that a newly-transitioned transgender pastor, Rev. Drew Phoenix of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Baltimore, could continue to serve his church, as his congregation desires. However, because church law makes no reference to transgender people, the Judicial Council referred the broader question of whether transgender ministers are eligible for clergy appointments to the church’s main legislative body, the United Methodist General Conference, which will convene in Fort Worth, Texas, April 23-May 2.
The judicial council’s ruling has inspired both inclusive and discriminatory legislative proposals. A coalition of progressive organizations within the church have proposed expanding the church’s statement of civil rights to affirm support for “all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” The coalition has also proposed amending the church’s membership rules to state: “no person shall or will be excluded from baptized or professing membership in the United Methodist Church for reasons related to sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Unfortunately, anti-LGBT organizations have proposed legislation that is misinformed and discriminatory. One such proposal comes from the leader of an ex-gay ministry:
“Therefore, be it resolved, that in faithfulness to Scripture and Christian/Jewish tradition about God’s gift of male and female, and out of deep compassion for persons struggling with gender and sexual identity issues, we do not recognize transgenderism or transsexuality as part of God’s good intentions for humankind and we oppose sex reassignment therapy (hormonal or surgical) as a solution to these conditions.”
Another piece of legislation, introduced by an employee of the right-wing Institute for Religion and Democracy, would make simply “identifying as transgender” a “chargeable offense” for clergy.
The United Methodist Church is the 2nd largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. The impact of this General Conference will resound beyond the denomination and ultimately affect conversations about civil rights.
Soulforce is organizing an opportunity for delegates to the UMC General Conference to meet with transgender people and their allies this Friday. More information is available here. Christianity Today also has coverage.