First “Non-Binary Gendered” Deacon Commissioned as UMC Considers Amendment to Include All “Genders”

on June 7, 2017

This Sunday, June 4, the Northern Illinois Conference commissioned for deacon’s orders someone who was reportedly the “first openly non-binary trans person” for ministry in the United Methodist Church.

And the full inclusion of such persons in ordination could potentially be mandated in every region of our denomination if the United Methodist annual conferences meeting this month vote to adopt Proposed Amendment #2. This amendment would change the UMC Constitution – the narrow section of the UMC Discipline that trumps all other parts of church law – to mandate absolute inclusion at all levels of our denomination’s governance regardless of “gender,” without making clear that this is limited to only male and female.

The individual now using the name “M Barclay” does not personally identify as male or female, and insists on using “singular they pronouns” as Barclay no longer accepts being referred to with such feminine pronouns as “her” or “she.”

Such pronoun preferences can get so confusing that reportedly even leading LGBTQ activists in the denomination could not agree on how to do it. When in my writings, I decline to join Miss Barclay in denying the good, God-given gift of her female identity, it is NOT because of any personal ill will or any desire to hurt anyone’s feelings. But among the things at stake in the language we use in such matters are such fundamental questions as whether or not is such a thing as objective, physical reality about people, or if people actually have the ability redefine their own realities as radically as an XX-chromosomed woman declaring that she is no longer a woman. I understand that a key principle of psychological care that when patients experience unhealthy fantasies of not accepting certain realities, it is actually harmful to “play along” and speak and act as if their fantasies were realities.

Barclay is no stranger to controversy. I have previously reported on her publicity stunt of seeking (ultimately unsuccessfully) to be ordained in the more theologically diverse Southwest Texas Conference, while she was at that time openly cohabiting with her lesbian partner.

While seeking the affirmation of the United Methodist Church, Barclay is not seeking to pastor any of our congregations. United Methodist deacons find their own employment and normally do not work as full-time congregational pastors. Instead, this clergy status gives Barclay a personal sense of affirmation, as well as a sort of validation of her work in full-time LGBTQ activism, as the communications director for the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN). RMN is the largest unofficial liberal caucus group within our denomination, and recruits United Methodist clergy to openly break the United Methodist standards they have vowed to uphold against homosexual practice and other forms of sex outside of marriage.

Unsurprisingly, RMN was quick to celebrate Barclay’s approval for commissioning as a great leap forward for the LGBTQ cause within the UMC.

The declining Northern Illinois Conference has long been a hotbed of theological radicalism. Its former bishop, Joseph Sprague, was notorious for publicly denying such core Christian doctrines as the eternal divinity of Christ and His physical resurrection. Sprague’s successor, Hee-Soo Jung, appointed an incredibly “stacked” board of ordained ministry then went on to unanimously approve a policy of publicly welcoming “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and straight candidates” for ministry.

To their credit, in response to the Judicial Council’s recent rulings about how boards of ordained ministry MUST screen ordination candidates for their compliance with biblical standards of sexual self-control, Bishop Sally Dyck (the current bishop) later ruled this policy “out of order” and the Northern Illinois Conference board of ordained ministry said that they would do the required work of fully examining ordination candidates for their commitment to these standards.

However, it is important to note that this approval of a transgendered individual for ministry is NOT quite the same sort of defiance as ordaining someone who is openly homosexually active.

The United Methodist Church’s governing Book of Discipline is very clear that homosexual practice is inherently “incompatible with Christian teaching,” that we do not recognize homosexual marriages, and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” are not to be ordained. These standards were strengthened by recent Judicial Council rulings.

However, the UMC’s teachings and standards are currently less explicit as they relate to transgenderism. The last few General Conferences have rejected petitions that would have put our church on record as more clearly affirming or as more clearly rejecting transgenderist ideology about there being allegedly more than two genders or about the “fluidity” of how people can allegedly change their gender over time.

So we are left in a less clear place. I have urged Christians within and beyond my denomination to think about ministry with individuals struggling with their gender identity (as with other forms of mental illness) in ways that are both truthful and compassionate. But I have observed rather little discussion of such concerns in the UMC at large.

There is little doubt that if Proposed Amendment #2 is adopted, some activists will then try to use the language of full inclusion at ALL levels of church governance, regardless of “gender,” to mandate imposition of transgenderist ideology throughout the United Methodist Church, in a way of heavy-handedly ending this important discussion before it has even really begun in our denomination.


UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that “Barclay is not in a romantic relationship now, so is not violating the church’s rule that clergy can have sexual relationships only in heterosexual marriages.”

  1. Comment by Joan Watson on June 7, 2017 at 9:13 am

    I have been very concerned and frustrated that the church has been ignoring how the sexuality question has been expanding to include other sexual identities beyond same gender attraction. Hopefully this will force the church as a whole to face the reality that the question about sexuality is not just about homosexuality but is really about embracing a whole new sexual ethic that has no bounds. It is rapidly becoming about people who are LGBTQIA…XYZ.

    When it comes to the transgender question, I read an interesting article several years ago as to why the hospital at John Hopkins University no longer performs sex-change operation. The Chief of Psychiatry began noting that after the sex change operation, the patient was still experiencing mental illness. He went on to do an extensive study of the mental status of patients who had undergone a sex change that proved that, by providing sex change operations, all the hospital was doing was buying into the patients’ mental illness.

  2. Comment by Eternity Matters on June 7, 2017 at 11:26 am

    “In your face, God!” – Northern Illinois Conference of Wolves

  3. Comment by John on June 7, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Sad…so sad. Where does this stop or does it until the final return of Christ? I am afraid we have totally lost our church. There is not and will never be again (at least on this side of glory) a United Methodist Church. The question now is: how do we go about separating? It is clear that the church leadership is hell-bent on changing the existing church into a worldly institution where anything goes and “I’m OK, you’re OK” is the major theme. Be what you want, do what you want and ignore any restrictions/guidance that may be found in the Bible. In fact, how long will it be until there will be a total rewrite of the Bible? Or do we just toss it out? Sad, so sad.

  4. Comment by Diaphone64 on June 7, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    So that’s why the Bishop got all pissy about replacing all “brothers and sisters in Christ” with “friends in Christ” during the ordination service.

  5. Comment by Jim on June 7, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Romans 1: 18-32 is really all you need to know. It’s really that simple. The UMC has a very long history in the majority of their congregations of not preaching the gospel. They have and continue to opt for pulpit messages that amount to “five easy steps to a better life and being a better person.” The expository preaching of scripture is the only thing that changes a willing repentant heart. Else, as Paul says, the “become fools…. and their heart is darkened.”

  6. Comment by Karen Lemke on June 10, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Though the Romans passage gives more detail about varieties of sin, it is really even simpler than that. Genesis 1:27b – “male and female created He them.”

  7. Comment by Joyce Russell on July 18, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    I have attended a Methodist Church
    for almost 30 years and I have watched them for over 4 years debate
    the issue of Homosexuals being married in the church or being ordained. I never understood why
    It was a issue when the Bible is
    so clear in Romans, Jude, Leviticus.
    God doesn’t make mistakes either.
    You are created a man or woman.
    And before l am accused of hating
    I hate no-one which the Methodist
    Conference hammers with it’s use
    Of love and letting in a stranger.
    God will not be mocked and his
    Word is pretty clear. Those Bishops
    who honor God with their lips but
    hearts are far from God are like
    the Saducces and Pharisees. Lukewarm. So was the church of
    Laodicea in Revelation. Rev.3-14,15.
    I am heart sick and have left the church.

  8. Comment by Donna Oliphint on June 7, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Before we split (with the conservative Methodists leaving the UMC), why don’t we apply the Bible’s method of dealing with those in the church who persist in sin. Rather than the churches who abide by the Book of Discipline leaving, why not push out the offending conferences? (i.e. “for the destruction of the flesh in order to save the soul.”) That would be beneficial in 3 ways, hopefully 4:
    1-keep us from fracturing our Christ-following conferences in Africa and Asia
    2-give fair warning to other conferences that chose to operate in rebellion
    3-keep us from being locked in expensive lawsuits regarding property
    4-potentially cause the offending conferences, when left out of the flock, to repent
    It’s time for us to make a stand– be salt and light– rather than taking our toys and leaving. We don’t have to split, we just have to practice biblical discipline.

  9. Comment by John Smith on June 8, 2017 at 7:32 am

    The liberals won’t leave; this is where the money and prestige is.
    The conservatives (at the denominational level) won’t push them out; they lack discipline, firmness of their convictions (who am I to judge) and possess a desire to “just get along “.

    Thus true conservatives (those who adhere to biblical standards many of which would normally be liberal or progressive) holding to biblical authority go to other denominations or adopt an independent status in an attempt to honor God and avoid funding/promoting further heresy through the UMC.

  10. Comment by Tom Lambrecht on June 12, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    It’s not so much a matter that conservatives will not push out those who can no longer live within the boundaries of our Book of Discipline. There is no mechanism to make anyone leave the church, particularly on a national scale. We don’t have a UM police force that can execute the laws of the church. We can vote that progressives are no longer part of the church, but they will not leave willingly. And there is no way in the way our church is structured to force them out. The annual conference is the primary body of the church, and it is these annual conferences that are in rebellion against the church’s teachings. We don’t have a way to dissolve an annual conference. And if we did, we would also be hurting the evangelical churches that exist within each liberal annual conference. It’s a mess!

  11. Comment by Kevin on June 15, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    There may not be a mechanism to force out wayward conferences but there are methods which can be used to make the oath breakers among us feel less welcome. We can simply stop the dialogue and move on. The 21st century version of kicking the dust off our sandals. Do not associate with them. Do not recognize their credentials. And do not contribute funds that simply keep on supporting them. Sounds ugly and unchristian but I am sick of the squabbles and the defiance. If you cannot help come to an organizational settlement then I will vote with my feet.

  12. Comment by Mark on June 9, 2017 at 9:32 am

    This is NUTS, what is the church thinking ? And now the UMC can see members leaven the church by the 100’s if not the 1000’s. The Bible tells us in the last day’s Good will be called Bad, Bad will be called Good. I pastor a church that left the PCUSA with 8 members 2 years ago. Today a community church that preaches the BIBLE and we are running 40. If we stayed with the PCUSA the doors would be closed. The UMC the next town over run 90 on Sunday 4 years ago, they forgot the BIBLE and now have 10 people on Sunday. Churches need to know, Forget God, Forget the Bible and the people will forget your Church. I can name 30 churches that have gone down the road with the PCUSA’s new way of thinking, ALL. . not 1, not 5 or 10 . . . ALL
    will be closing the doors in the next year. People run out the doors and not coming back, and no one is coming in to the church. I will talk with the pastors and say, you had 100 two years ago and now your church is running 30, the pastor will look you in the eyes and tell you the church is doing GREAT. How sad, the pastor’s and the churches have lost it’s way.

  13. Comment by Byrom on June 9, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Just when I thought the whole sexual orientation controversy could not get more bizarre….

    Last time I looked, from even a biological view, there are only two physical genders – male and female. I’m also pretty sure that God created them with the mental viewpoint to go along with each of them. But, then again, we have a tendency to screw around with God’s creation, a weakness which goes back a long, long way!

  14. Comment by Marco Bell on June 9, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    I’m delighted, and somewhat surprised that you were less fervent in denying transexuality in the Church…Thank you!

    As for this natural condition being labeled as a “mental disorder”, I think that is wrong! Human sexuality and all of its nuances are not to be diminished to only two-binary opposites, as with most of Nature, there are variables that occur which make those polar opposites seem indistinguishable. Just ask any of your Transgendered friends or family mambers.

    I suppose this must seem like another ‘slippery-slope’ to many traditionalists, but this too shall prove to be just another step forward in understanding that God wishes for us all to be welcome in His arms.

    It’s NOT about being sexual, it’s just about BEING!

    Thank you John Lomperis for this thoughtful article.

  15. Comment by Richard benitez on July 11, 2017 at 12:16 am

    Don’t be stupid. As a minister, deacon or Sunday school teacher, it is not a question of “being” to represent God’s great variety in creation. It is a matter of teaching the Gospel of Christ effectively, forthrightly, in a spirit of prayer to lead children, adults, and people of all nationalities to Heaven.

  16. Comment by Chuck on June 9, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    We have gone completely insane in the UMC. Annual Conference this year was so poorly attended providing a real sign of our decline. There is absolutely no hope but separation. The Episcopacy lack conviction, leadership and an understanding of Methodist doctrine. It will only get worse. The keynote speaker in the NYAC stated, and I quote, that “the Bible is not God’s word” and “Jesus never read the Bible.” This is what it is coming to.

  17. Comment by Ted Gruebbel on June 9, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    The UMC has lost its way! False teachers and false prophets. Pablum preaching. My wife and I left our local Methodist Church about a year go for these reasons. We both taught Sunday School and could no longer be a part of the church re-writing the Bible. It’s God’s agenda God’s way or the highway! We hope the UMC and its leaders are looking forward to eternity in the Lake of Fire!! We pray daily for the UMC to come back to Christ!!

  18. Comment by Ray worsham on June 9, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    On the evening news here in Austin Barclay said she will be “fully ordained” in two years. After this, Bishop Carter’s statement, and the BoOMs in two conferences defiance of the JC rulings anyone that believes the US Bishops were honest about the Commission on a way forward being anything more than buying time is naive at best.
    May God have mercy.

  19. Comment by Apriluser on June 9, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    If I declare that I’m 25 years old (but am really 62), must others confirm my declaration? If I declare that I’m African America but am really white (as in the case of Rachel Dolezal), are you required to endorse my ethnicity? At what point does a lie become truth? I don’t even have to refer to Scripture to make this point. Even those outside Christian faith recognize falsehood but, ashamedly, some in the Church have endorsed the lie.

  20. Comment by Don Wiseman on June 10, 2017 at 6:28 am

    Is M Barclay really ready to accept being referred to as an “it”? Denying human sexuality is to deny humanity.

  21. Comment by Ilze Haire on June 10, 2017 at 9:12 am

    It looks like that if the UMC continues on this path, it will have to burn all the Bibles and rewrite a “completely new one” without God.

  22. Comment by Jwlung on June 10, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Paul Ramsey lamented that the only conceivable purpose for imprecise and “avant guarde” language in the 1968/72 Social Principles was to allow what we now call “progressives” the opportunity to take the language and “run with it.” Thus it was and thus it will be.

  23. Comment by Naomi Lackey on June 11, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    I, honestly, do not understand the non-thinking of not being male &/or female. How can it be clouded by the ridiculousness of not being male or female? Where did the term ‘Non-Binary Gender’ even come from? Who thinks up these ridiculous terms? How do they get anyone to, seriously, listen to them? We don’t even like to hear what is sensible — so we are to let sensibility go out the window, for the non-thinking of other people? I don’t think so. God created us — male & female, In HIS image. Why are we even considering things that are not His ? Genesis is NOT that hard to understand– Baal is, certainly, still working. Right? God have mercy on us. He, surely, is shaking His head, in wonderment. We should be ashamed–

  24. Comment by Mike Ward on June 12, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    “Who thinks up these ridiculous terms?”


  25. Comment by Mike Ward on June 12, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    I saw an article about her that referred to her as a “former lesbian”, best I could tell she’s “former” not because she’s actually ceased to be a lesbian, but as she now identifies as a “they” (not sure how else to describe her identification) she isn’t a woman, and since she isn’t a woman, she can’t be a lesbian as lesbians are by definition women.

    So I think Proposed Amendment #2 is probably an attempted end run the issue or ordaining practicing gays and lesbians.

    It’s pointless to say that a man is not to lie with a man if the people you are talking about are accepted as being neither men nor women.

  26. Comment by John Morris on June 13, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    “What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.” John Wesley

    John Wesley is my hero. He was right. Sad….but true.

  27. Comment by Penny Bagby on June 17, 2017 at 1:15 am

    My husband and I were both raised in Baptist homes but we joined the Methodist denomination shortly after we married. We had already decided that if the Conference approved Oliveto we would have to leave. Now we will probably leave after all.

  28. Comment by Theresa on June 20, 2017 at 10:06 am

    When is this perverse, godless nonsense going to stop? How are these “so called” bishops allowed to conduct such things that contradict the Word of God?? How are they allowed to remain bishops when they so openly support this?? It should not even be an issue!! None of these gay and gender issues should be! It is settled forever in the Word of God. I was angry when I read this, actually sickened. How is our Church supposed to be salt and light to a dying world when we are no different than they are?? When we accept sinful lifestyles and even ordain those who live and support such things as deacons, elders and bishops?? It’s wrong!
    This Church needs a spiritual awaking and fast! I am so thankful that many if not all of the newly elected Judicial Council members are born again Bible believing christians! We must not go along with anything that is contrary to God’s Word. I pray they stand firm. I fear a split is coming if it continues to get worse, yet I pray for a revival. I am reminded of these verses.. Matt. 7:22-23
    “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out Devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
    May God have mercy.

  29. Comment by A. Fellow on April 24, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    As Paul says in Galatians 3:28 “…there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

    God may have made Adam and Eve male and female, but He made M Barclay one in Christ Jesus.

  30. Comment by Colleen M on April 25, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    Amen, friend in Christ!

    I’m praying for the UMC and everyone here. May we all listen as Jesus taught us to, and come to see the full beauty and diversity of the world God created for us. Humanity in all our divine glory.

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