Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Transgender Methodist minister opens up

"A transgender United Methodist pastor has shared his story with other members of the denomination's Baltimore-Washington Conference in the hopes of promoting a broader discussion about gender identity."

That is from a United Methodist News Service article, via DMN's religion blog.

The Rev. Drew Phoenix - formerly the Rev. Ann Gordon - spoke at both a closed clergy session and a general plenary session on May 24 during the annual conference meeting at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington. He is pastor of St. John's United Methodist Church in Baltimore.

"I was very grateful for the opportunity to be able to share my story and who I am," Phoenix told United Methodist News Service in a phone interview following those sessions. "I was very pleased at the number of people who were very honest in their reflections and questions."

He said he has been undergoing medical procedures for the transition from female to male during the past year, with "a great team of medical people who helped me think it out."

In his statement to the plenary session, the 48-year-old pastor explained that "last fall, after a lifelong spiritual journey, and years of prayer and discernment, I decided to change my name from Ann Gordon to Drew Phoenix in order to reflect my true gender identity and to honor my spiritual transformation and relationship with God."

By sharing the story of his spiritual journey and relationship with God, Phoenix said he hoped the conference participants "will commit ourselves to becoming educated about the complexity of gender and gender identity and open ourselves to those in our congregations who identify as transgender."

Phoenix, who was ordained in 1989 and previously served in the Bethesda area, said he joined the ministry because of "a calling to be in service to folk who are oppressed, who are poor, who are excluded, who are marginalized."

Although he was named Ann and declared a girl, Phoenix said he always felt he was male and had trouble understanding "the disconnect I was experiencing between my physical, external self and my internal, spiritual self."

"Fortunately, today, God's gift of medical science is enabling me to bring my physical body into alignment with my true gender," he told the plenary session.

More here from CBS2 in L.A. Not sure if such a scenario has occurred before, but the church's Book of Discipline -- the Methodist doctrinal bible, if you will -- has "no specific policies regarding gender reassignment."

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