January 24, 2013

Transgender: Coming to a Denomination Near You

Shannon Kearns was recently ordained in the North American Old Catholic Church, a small liberal denomination that follows some of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church, but is not connected with it. (Photo: David Joles/Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Shannon Kearns was recently ordained in the North American Old Catholic Church, a small liberal denomination that follows some of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church, but is not connected with it. (Photo: David Joles/Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Despite significant nods to homosexual groups and individuals at the recent Presidential Inauguration, I couldn’t help but notice some dissatisfied tweeting from activists lamenting that the “B and T” of “LGBT” went unacknowledged. IRD has already noted that both transgenderism and polyamory are going to continue to be more openly proclaimed and celebrated in old-line Protestant circles.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports about a transgender person who was ordained to minister in an offshoot Catholic denomination this past Saturday:

One of only a half-dozen or so transgender clergy members in Minnesota, Shannon T.L. Kearns will set about starting the state’s first North American Old Catholic Church congregation following his ordination at Plymouth Congregational Church.

Established in 2007, the North American Old Catholic Church (NAOCC) is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, though Kearns says he hopes to attract disenchanted Roman Catholics to his new, more liberal-leaning Minneapolis congregation.

Two weeks ago I blogged about transgender clergy, noting that several come from conservative/traditionalist backgrounds and wondering aloud if this is the norm for transgender clergy, rather than the exception. Consistent with this theory, the Minneapolis priest, Kearns, reports that he grew up in a ‘fundamentalist evangelical church.’

As the article indicates, this group that claims a Catholic identity is not particularly common in the United States. When you do encounter a dissident Catholic group that is outside of the Church, they are almost always pre-Vatican II ultra-conservatives, not liberals. The liberals are usually content to do (literal) puppet/clown masses just on the edge of the Church, but not outside it.

At first, I (mistakenly) assumed that the NAOCC was a geographic branch of the Old Catholic Church, a European group that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church after the first Vatican council over differences about Papal Infallibility. That group is in communion with the U.S.-based Episcopal Church and Swedish Lutherans, among others. The NAOCC, on the other hand, claims only 21 congregations and is independently organized.

I’d be interested in learning why Kearns chose to join a tiny splinter group, instead of going for a larger, transgender-affirming denomination such as the Episcopal Church or United Church of Christ. Surely, the liberal Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota would welcome this person to their clergy roles with open arms (along with Buddhist liturgies and other innovations).

Expect more visible emphasis on transgender matters in the coming year, as the groups seek more public acknowledgement and affirmation within our churches.

35 Responses to Transgender: Coming to a Denomination Near You

  1. Oy. As a celibate follower of Christ who happens to be attracted to the same sex as well, and as someone who thinks all persons deserve respect as image-bearers, I still cannot help feeling disturbed about this modern neo-transgender fixation. That such plays a role in our society is one aspect; that such has a role to play in the “Church” (used loosely) is quite another.

    But I think you’re spot on: In the coming years, we should expect the agendas of both bi-sexual and transgender — as well as polyamorous — persons to increase. I think you should also add to that list an increasing tolerance (or at least sympathy) for the legitimizing of pedophilia via advocates of NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association. I read a plea recently for a reduction of the age of consent. Can you say “slippery slope”?

    • p c oneoone says:

      Not to detract from the topic at hand, but when I noticed William W. Birch’s comment stating that he was “a follower of Christ who happens to be attracted to same sex,” alarm bells started to ring!
      Why would a follower of Christ’s teaching “dismissively?” mention a sinful desire(lust) as an identification marker whilst attempting to qualify their faith?
      Sin is sin, if we attach ourselves to ANY practice which is against God’s laws we are courting death (eternal separation from our Maker/ and physical ruin). Is it ANYTHING worth such a price?…..I think any sane person would say Hell NO!

      Romans 6:23
      For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ Our Lord.

      • “Why would a follower of Christ’s teaching ‘dismissively?’ mention a sinful desire(lust) as an identification marker whilst attempting to qualify their faith?”

        In what manner did I “dismissively?” mention my “sinful desire(lust)”? I trusted in Christ in 1995, came out of the homosexual lifestyle, and still struggle with same-sex attraction. My mentioning that struggle puts me in an implicitly non-homophobic category. Hence my aversion to transgenderism does not derive from homophobia.

        Do you still struggle against sin, lust, greed, etc.? Admitting your struggle against sin is not the same as identifying with it, or qualifying your faith with it. I think you over-reacted to my comments.

        • John Morris says:

          Any Christian who does not admit that they struggle with some sin is being dishonest with themselves and with God. We all have to struggle against temptation. Last summer, I was a Ft. Lauderdale at a convention. I decided that I should at least walk down to the beach. I was not there long before I realized that even a 64 year old man is tempted when surrounded by practically naked women.

      • Fr. John Morris says:

        It is not a sin to be tempted, it only becomes a sin when we yield to the temptation. Mr Birth specifically said that he is celibate. That means that he has one yielded to temptation.

    • B Riggs says:

      I think that the “progressive” sexuals and those sympathetic to the cause will never endorse pedophilia. If they did, what on earth would they use to denigrate the Catholic Church. If pedophilia were suddenly respectable, the Church would have to be seen as cutting edge and pioneering, which will never happen.

      • I hope you’re right, and I would think you are right. I agree that the concept seems too extreme to be a future reality. But I’m sure that’s what people in the 1950s would have said about our current situation with regard to transgenderism.

      • Jeremy Baines says:

        I think people in the 1950s would have laughed if you told them that in the future one of the big hit shows on Broadway was The Vagina Monologues – or that the starchy tradition-bound Episcopal church would have a gay bishop. I hope pedophilia never becomes socially acceptable, but given the cultural shift in my own lifetime, I’m not too optimistic, especially when you consider that most parents don’t even make the effort to shield their own kids from Internet porn.

  2. Ben Welliver says:

    Jeffrey, you raised the question of why this person is with a “Catholic” group instead of with “the usual suspects” (e.g., Episcopalians). One answer is, they want to be Catholic (in name at least) without the restrictions of the real Catholic church. A second answer is, in some of these “Catholic” churches, the pastor goes by the title “bishop,” not “priest.” Kind of a nice package deal: stay “Catholic,” dump all the RC moral teachings, AND get a big promotion. Not a bad day’s work for a liberal cleric.

  3. John S. says:

    What I’m also seeing is the LGBTQ movement growing with the Q being a catchall to to add numbers to the movement by including those who are confused about themselves becasuse of the actions of the LBGT lobby.

  4. T Todd says:

    Maybe they decided not to sell the sell the entire LGBT package at one time. Whenever I read about Methodist debating this I would cringe. Especially the Bi and Trans.That is the slippery slope. When those outside the church read things like this they will think small groups are swingers??

  5. Paul Hoskins says:

    At the risk of sounding reactionary (not that that bothers me), I think that God in his wisdom endowed human beings with a “yuck-detector,” hard-wired into us. I don’t react to transgenders because of the Bible, Christian tradition, or even logic. It just seems WRONG, according to my gut. We’ve had 30 years of Oprah-style TV brainwashing us to believe that nothing is really bad, especially if we listen closely to the individual’s story and share his/her/its pain. Sorry, Oprah, but my yuck-detector is still fully operational.

    Btw, William Birch, I agree about the slippery slope. Right now it seems impossible that churches would ever accept a pedophiliac pastor, but 20 years ago who would have imagined a transgender pastor?

    • bys says:

      Please let me say with deep sincerity that your display of intolerance results in a strong and very visceral “yuck” reaction in me, an adult, male, heterosexual Christian.

      The attempt at a slippery slope argument making the rounds here is specious in the extreme.

      Providing justice for an oppressed group of people has before and may again lead toward toward providing justice for other oppressed groups. It is a step *up*, not a step down.

      Please let me illustrate my point in an historical context.

      In the times of absolute rule by monarchs, someone might have quite intelligibly said: “If we give a vote to land-owning gentry, it may lead to general voting rights for free men.”

      Indeed, history would have vindicated this insight.

      At a somewhat later point in history, someone might have quite intelligibly said: “If we give the vote to adult men generally, it may lead to women’s suffrage.”

      Again, history would proceed in such a way as to vindicate this insight.

      Whereas, just prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, a claim along the lines of: “If we emancipate the non-whites from slavery, it may lead to emancipating the murderers from prison” would have been a complete non-starter. Nonsense.

      … as is your claim that equal treatment for moral, law abiding trans-gendered men and women will result in acceptance of child abuse.

      To hold as you do that taking a step toward justice is the first step *downward* toward some particular injustice just doesn’t make a lick of sense. Indeed, it is perverse.

      • Paul Hoskins says:

        Well, since you used the famliar liberal clobber word “intolerance” in your first sentence, that pretty much settles the matter, doesn’t it?

        Sorry, but I hold tenaciously to my right as an individual human being with a functioning brain to react with a “yuck” to whatever I like. I didn’t propose or suggest persecuting or harassing transgendered people, just offered my own opinion. George Orwell’s novel 1984 spoke of the Thought Police. Sounds like a concept you might approve of. For the time being I will think whatever I please. If transgendered people want to get together and say nasty things about Christians, that is fine with me too. People have a right to their opinions in a free society. Does that bother you? Btw, how exactly are transgendered people “oppressed”? Unless they SAY they are transgender, who would know? Please provide us with some examples of their oppression – something tear-jerking would be good.

        As for the slippery slope, check back in 5 years, 10 at the most. The slope is already well lubricated, thanks to “compassionate” people who have continuously bombard us with their manipulative use of words like “justice” and “intolerance.” If you are new to this website, you may discover that those mantras don’t carry much weight with people who think. Conservatives are accustomed to those molotov cocktails being thrown at us. Twisting my words is a cheap tactic. I did not say that “equal treatment for moral, law-abiding transgendered men and women will result in acceptance of child abuse.” But if you’re determined to find evidence of “intolerance,” no doubt you will find it.

        You sound like the familiar “Shame on you” voice that has provided a lot of hearty laughter on this site. That voice is of great benefit to the conservative side.

    • Eric Lytle says:

      It was Daniel Patrick Moynihan (I think) who coined the phrase “defining deviancy down.” Doing away with the idea of “normal” will definitely grease up the slippery slope.

      Aside from gut feelings, there is a theological issue that affects my view of transgender clergy. Someone who cannot accept the way God made him is not someone I’d want as a pastor.

      It’s ironic that gay activists are certain that gays are born gay and would be wrong to change that – yet those same people think it’s fine to change their gender. In the LGBT coalition, the LGs scream “Dont’ try to change us!” while the T subgroup insists that change is highly desirable. Not much consistency there.

    • I agree repulsion at this kind of abnormality is innate. This why the LGBT crowd wants access to your children to carefully brainwash the natural repulsiveness people have towards this kind of perversion.

    • Fr. John Morris says:

      Yuck factor is a very good way to put it. Because it does not take a whole lot of common sense to realize that so called transgenderism is really a serious deviation of human sexuality. In reality this “man” is only a surgically mutated woman filled with hormones. “He” cannot father a child and still has the same chromosomes as a woman. The real tragedy is that the pro-gay mob has created such a reign of terror that it is not possible for a scientists or psychologist to conduct the study needed to find out what causes these afflictions and how to cure it. Any scientists who does not bow before the altar of political correctness risks their career b ecause of the refusal of the pro-gay lobby to tolerate anyone who does not agree with them and their agenda to make homosexuality, et. al. considered perfectly normal.

  6. bys says:

    Will you kindly explain what: “do (literal) puppet/clown masses” means?

    Thank you.

    • jeffreywalton says:

      Some dissident liberal groups within the Roman Catholic Church occasionally hold masses in which participants dress as clowns, or which involve large puppets (usually constructed with papier-mâché). The rationale for the clown masses is being a “fool for Christ” while the rationale for the puppets just seems to be lefty creative types in search of a method to express themselves. Always well-intentioned, the masses usually come across as absurd. A YouTube search for “clown mass” or “puppet mass” should generate satisfactory examples. Here is a notorious one held by the dissident group Call to Action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh_nqtp3VrU

  7. J S Lang says:

    This Shannon Kearns posted his/her life story on Huffington Post. He/she claims that after hitting puberty, he/she was uncomfortable with his/her body. Welcome to planet earth, kid! That’s a normal part of growing up. I tried to read this with a sympathetic eye, but I just got the impression of a really screwed-up, self-pitying personality. Do we need more of those in ministry?

  8. USMaleSF says:

    I am a happily homosexual man who has become increasingly distanced from the LGBT(Q) construct that I am supposedly a part of. I used to think that what I had in common with other gays was the experience of being attracted to my own sex, not wondering which sex I was. It was about sexual orientation. But at some point along the line, transgenderism got adopted into the family so to speak. And now I am supposed to have fellow feeling and common cause with, eg, males who are so ill at ease with their male bodies that they have themselves surgically castrated? Or with “trans-men” who tell me that having a penis has nothing to do with being a man? This is my “community?” No thanks, I’ll pass.

    What I did not realize was that the social construct of LGBTism –not the same-sex erotic orientation by itself– is a subset of feminism and therefore aimed at the destruction of sex opposition, the erasure difference between male and female, (in service of the actual domination of the male by the female.). This makes the LGBT thing not about sexual attraction but about gender identity deviance. Again, not what I signed up for. My sexual behavior may be unusual for a male, but a male is what I am and what I like. That, I naively used to think, was the whole point.

    • J P Logan says:

      Your comments reminded me of Tammy Bruce, the lesbian author of several books about Political Correctness and her opposition to it. Always nice to know that not everyone in a particular group accepts being part of a herd.

      Re the post by John Morris: you’re so right: DNA is what it is, and we’re born male or female, no other options, genetically speaking. The trans person treats a sex change as if it was purely a matter of surgery, like removing a mole, but surgery can’t alter the genes. Shannon Kerns, whatever “he” may look like now, was born female and nothing can change that.

  9. I seem to remember something about some men, in early Christian communities, making themselves eunuchs for the sake of Christ–or is that another unfounded legend? There have always been humans uncomfortable with their bodies and, presumably, with their gender. I’m really not sure where the “yuck” factor comes in; I do recall that “yuck” was exactly what my two young-ish children said when my wife became pregnant with our third child and the two kids asked us where babies came from–and we told them. “Yuck,” I’m fairly certain, is in the eye of the beholder.

  10. jfg says:

    I am an openly gay man in my mid-sixties, in a stable relationship of more than 20 years. I was raised a devout Southern Baptist and left my faith in my teens, partly because of my sexuality but more because I was unable to square the teachings if my faith with the rationalist, secular world-view I was drawn to. I eventually found that world-view to be insufficient, even dangerous, and so came again to search for God. I consider myself a Christian, meaning I believe that Christ is the only begotten son of God, that he died on the cross for our sins, arose from the dead and offers us the promise of eternal life if we believe in him. I also love my partner and believe that it is God’s will for me to stay in the relationship I committed to.

    My partner and I both have grave doubts about the whole transgendered movement, especially the tone it has taken of late, which is too often one of sneering contempt for any who even question the wisdom of a limitless expansion of sexual boundaries. I know transgendered people who wanted only to resolve their own gender angst and feel that they have finally landed on the right side of the fence. They live quietly and with dignity, not demanding or needing the approval of society. Others, increasingly, seem addicted to the juvenile pleasure of shocking others and seem to think it their duty to test anyone they meet, hoping to catch them in some politically incorrect word or assumption. They wallow in a egoistic slough of self-righteous anger and insist that gender is arbitrarily “assigned” at birth and can only be considered provisional until the individual decides foe h. Some people, indeed, have changed gender more than once.

    It is virtually impossible now in California to raise any doubts about the trajectory of the transgendered movement. More amid more definitions and categories of gender are created and none may be objected to. It seems to me that the primary goal of transgendered activity is to efface the whole idea of gender, in defiance of anatomy, biology and divine intention. I realize some of those who have posted here will consider me, a gay man, as disordered as any transgendered person. Similarly, most gay people would say thatch expressing concerns about transgendered theory I am simply trying to close the door of tolerance behind me. It’s admittedly hard to refute the latter charge for I have benefitted greatly from the expansion of gay rights. But I nonetheless fear a future characterized by an ever more militant and intolerant secularism and a growing reliance on self-gratification through experimentation. With the growth of bio technology anything may appear possible and, if possible, must it not be tried? Is Babel nearing its peak?

    • Jeremy Baines says:

      The genie is out of the bottle, and they threw away the cork. The pervs who now take their sex vacations in Thailand are probably looking forward to the day when a child prostitute is nearby and legal.

  11. I’d be interested in learning more about the apparent similarities between pedophilia and “transgenderism,” other than the fact that some folks disapprove of both. But I’ll grant you that “people in the 1950s” would be shocked, shocked I tell you by an awful lot of our contemporary culture: I’m just not sure why that matters.

    • The “apparent similarities” between pedophilia and transgenderism are, categorically, in the realm of sexual ethics and human sexuality. Normalizing the latter is thought as a slippery slope to normalizing the former.

      The appeal to American culture in the 1950s corresponds to what was deemed appropriate then as to what is becoming normalized now. While no era was ever absolutely perfect, and while certain worldview aspects of the 1950s are bid a grateful adieu, the appeal to a perceived purer society bolsters the slippery slope motif regarding sexual ethics, at least in the minds of many persons.

      • Mr. Birch–yes, I think I get all that. But “categorically,” transgender is a form of gender identity, however disputed; “pedophilia” is an inclination toward certain criminal behaviors, or an illness leading towards such behaviors . What’s criminal about being transgender, or about acting on it?

    • I’m not looking at nor trying to correlate any supposed criminal similarities between the two. Therefore I cannot answer your question, “What’s criminal about being transgender, or about acting on it?” I’m not making a criminal case for transgenderism. Why did you impose such on my overall thesis?

      The slippery slope between the two accepted realities has nothing to do with the legalities of either but of human sexuality and the sexual ethics of both and what is being normalized in our post-postmodern culture.

      • Mr. Birch–I apologize for imposing on your thesis. I was picking up on the comment threads that seemed to equate the “normalizing” of transgenderism (once unthinkable) with the hypothetical future normalizing of pedophilia (currently beyond the pale), and I was suggesting that those are very different issues. They do, as you say, both have to do with human sexuality and social norms; my point remains, one is a gender identity issue and one is a behavioral issue, but folks on this thread seem to be equating them…

    • No worries, Jack. I very much appreciate the dialogue.

  12. […] Transgender: Coming to a Denomination Near You Jeffrey Walton, Juicy Ecumenism […]

  13. Ray Bannister says:

    FYI, this very liberal North American Old Catholic church is NOT the same as the North American Old Roman Catholic Church, a very conservative denomination whose website is http://www.naorcc.org. They affirm on their home page that marriage is between one man and one woman, also affirms the pro-life position.

    Union Seminary in NYC has a lot to answer for, accepting a student who “transitioned” from female to male while studying for the ministry.

    • John Morris says:

      There are dozens of these Old Catholic groups led by “Bishops” with high sounding titles, but with few actual members. Read Peter Anson’s classic study of the Old Catholic movement, Bishops At Large to understand the beginning of these groups. It is a very good rule of thumb that if a group feels it necessary prove its “Apostolic Succession,” it probably does not have real Apostolic Succession.

      • Eric Lytle says:

        John, I’m sure you and I would disagree about the issue of apostolic succession, but I think we could find some common ground, i.e., I think we would agree that when any clergyman, even a bishop, tosses aside doctrines and moral standards that were clearly taught by the apostles, that person is assuredly NOT any successor of the apostles. Lawrence, the “divisive” bishop of South Carolina, IS a successor of the apostles, regardless of what the Episcs’ Presiding B says about him. A robe and a miter and an army of sycophants won’t count for much when she has to face God.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *