The Episcopal Church’s embrace of transgenderism is part of God’s “project of revelation” according to the first transgender person to preach at the Washington National Cathedral.
In a special Sunday service marking Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride month, the cathedral hosted visiting guest preacher the Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, who was born a woman but now identifies as a Trans-man.
Partridge was joined by retired Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly partnered homosexual bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion, who presided at the 11 a.m. service of Holy Eucharist.
“The cathedral’s voice is being heard in a new and powerful way,” Robinson declared, adding that under Dean Gary Hall’s leadership, the cathedral has “come out to the world in new and bold ways.”
Since assuming leadership of the gothic church in 2012, Hall has sought to capitalize on the cathedral’s high profile by inserting it into debates over firearms restrictions, same-sex marriage and an assortment of other left-leaning causes. Last year, the cathedral hosted its first same-sex wedding ceremony.
Partridge thanked Hall, Robinson and the congregation for welcoming him “in this season of Pentecost, and of pride.”
Recalling an Episcopal Church retreat in which the participants engaged in an exercise called the “circle of oppression,” Partridge explained that the activity served to remind of what forms of privilege people carry and in some cases do not carry. When it was time for LGBT-identifying women to enter the circle, Partridge — then identifying as a woman in a lesbian relationship — subtly slid half of his foot into the circle. After the exercise, a woman approached Partridge and said “I saw what you did in the circle and I don’t know how you identify, but my partner identifies as Trans.”
“Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered. Nothing secret that will not become known,” Partridge quoted from Matthew chapter 10 verse 26, part of the morning Gospel reading. “What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.”
The Boston University Episcopal Chaplain shared that he had long pondered the verses, wondering “what troves of trouble we hear from God in the recesses of our hearts? What might it mean to tell them in the light? And if we decide to disclose in a world of uncertainty and profound vulnerability, what lives might we lose and find?”
Asking in what ways God might be drawing us “into the project of revelation,” Partridge noted that the disciples Jesus is addressing in the verse are being sent both as healers and “leavening agents.”
“This work of justice is part of a much broader, deeper, more challenging process: the uncovering of God’s work in the world,” Partridge asserted, determining that underpinning this entire enterprise is the Christian concept of revelation.
Fundamentally, the Harvard Divinity School faculty member proposed, revelation points to the good news itself.
Addressing Haggar’s reliance upon God from the morning’s lectionary scripture reading, Patridge noted “like Haggar, so many in the LGBT community, particularly the Trans community, have at one point or another found ourselves in intense situations of oppression, isolation and despair.”
“These folks have held up the mirror to the systemic, interlocking oppressions that have held so many back.”
Returning to his retreat colleague, Partridge declared that what she did “was to see me, to walk across that circle of difference and to share what she saw. In that moment, I knew in a way I had not before understood, that I was not alone. In that moment I gained a new measure of courage to imagine more fully my live and vocation and the lives and vocations of others like me. To dream that one day this Episcopal Church family, in which I grew up, might join other traditions, and inspire still others, by embracing our gifts and leadership at all levels of its life. I am so grateful and proud to be in a church that is now living in to this charge. More fundamentally, I am moved by how our decisions are calling us into a deeper awareness of the mystery of the human person. For at the end of the day, to respect the dignity of every human being – as we promise in our baptismal covenant – is to actively create space for the unfolding of our lifelong growth as members of Christ’s body.”
“As we behold one another in these days of celebration, may we honor the ways in which we have sustained one another and been sustained by God’s unexpected promptings,” Partridge concluded. “May we give thanks for the unfolding mystery of our humanity and may we revel in our participation in God’s ongoing project of revelation.”
Following the sermon, the congregation was led in prayers addressed to “Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life.”
“We pray for your lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender children in every place, whose names may not be known, but only to you. May your compassion sustain them in the face of discrimination,” the prayer read. “Grant us grace to work, for the day when all may freely enjoy fullness of life and love.”
During an announcement time, Robinson briefly recalled his own process of gaining consent to be consecrated as bishop over a decade ago.
“What you have seen over the past decade is this beloved church of ours risking its life for those of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender,” Robinson declared, adding that Episcopalians were now “proclaiming more fully God’s word.”
“The Episcopal Church has come a long way,” Robinson concluded, leaving unmentioned the denomination’s precipitous decline in membership and attendance since the early 2000s. “It is an astounding thing and we should all give thanks to see this movement of God in our midst.”