Transgender Passé, Meet the Non-Binary Clergy

on February 7, 2020

An increasing number of individuals who identify as “gender non-binary” have emerged among the clerical ranks in mainline Protestant denominations.

Following the ordination of transgender clergy in the United States, non-binary clergy appear to be the next wave of sex and gender revisionism.

While clergy already ministering within Christian communities have come out to their churches as non-binary, a number of non-binary identifying individuals have made headlines as the first to be ordained openly within their denomination.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, non-binary is relating to or being a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely male nor entirely female.

M Barclay
The Rev. M Barclay is commissioned as a deacon in 2017 (Photo: Northern Illinois Annual Conference UMC)

In the United Methodist Church, The Rev. M. Barclay is the first non-binary transgender individual to be commissioned and to be ordained a deacon. Barclay first made news when commissioned as a deacon in 2017. Initially Barclay, then known as Mary Ann Kaiser, was denied a commission by the board of the Southwest Texas Conference in 2014 on account of being a “self-avowed, practicing” lesbian in a same-sex relationship. Later in June of 2017, Barclay was commissioned in the Northern Illinois Conference as a provisional deacon.

Barclay explains a change in identity to non-binary, saying: “For me, once I was exposed to the reality of non-binary gender, it was for the first time recognizing who I am…and what made sense for me in how I carry my body, how I explain myself to the world and how I know myself to be internally. It’s certainly not man nor woman.”

Barclay now specifies the pronouns “they/themme/theirs.”

In the summer of 2019, Barclay moved from provisional clergy and was ordained in the Northern Illinois Conference as the first non-binary United Methodist deacon.

The Rev. Anna Blaedel is another member of the United Methodist clergy who identifies as queer and uses “they/them” pronouns. She was a pastor in Iowa before taking a leave of absence and is now the theologian in residence for the organization Enfleshed, which authors liturgies for non-binary persons.

Jess Cook
The Rev. Jess Cook delivers the keynote speech during the More Light luncheon at Presbyterian General Assembly on June 19, 2018. (Photo: Danny Bolin)

Another notable member of the non-binary clergy is Jess Cook. Cook was the first non-binary Minister of the Word and Sacrament to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in June of 2019.

Speaking about her ordination, Cook says, “I’m acutely aware of the people who worked tirelessly to make it possible for an openly non-binary person to be ordained in the PC(USA), and of the young people who feel a call to ministry and will now see themselves in a person leading worship.

Cook is currently the Program and Communications Manager at More Light Presbyterians, the unofficial LGBTQ caucus within the PCUSA.

Megan Rohrer
The Rev. Megan Rohrer (Photo: Pax Ahimsa Gethen / Wikimedia Commons)

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Megan Rohrer is a pastor and writer.  In 2006, Rohrer was ordained and became “the first openly transgender/non-binary person to be ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”  She is currently the chaplain of the San Francisco Police Department after pastoring Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco for three years.

In the United Church of Christ, according to the UCC 2019 Statistical Profile, 0.2% of ordained ministers are transgender/gender variant. Among the commissioned ministers, 0.9% are transgender/gender-variant.

A few years ago, The Rev. Ryan Dowell Baum came out as non-binary to his church in Iowa. But, according to an article Baum wrote, “The Holiness and Heartbreak of a Nonbinary Pastor,” his church asked him to resign a few months later in 2018. It seems that, despite the UCC’s progressive views, individual churches and congregations are not always of the same opinion.

These few individuals indicate the shift towards a wider acceptance of non-binary clergy in mainline Protestantism. Time will tell if this trend makes it beyond that confine.

Update [2/12/2020]: The circumstances surrounding Baum’s resignation from his position are in dispute. An interim pastor currently serving his former United Church of Christ congregation weighs in that there was “a lot more going on” before Baum came out to the church as non-binary. Baum, she suggests, was a new pastor and inexperienced. According to the Pastor’s Report for 2019, his decisions and those of the church council led to the deterioration of the church’s internal structure and support system. During turmoil following Baum’s unexpected announcement, the church provided him and his family (he is married to a woman and has two children) more than $52,000 in support, including his “transition,” in the seven months before his resignation.

  1. Comment by Eternity Matters on February 7, 2020 at 7:47 am

    People with mental disorders and/or severe unrepentant sin should never have leadership roles in the church. It is hard to believe I had to type that, but thanks to the “Christian” Left, here we are.

  2. Comment by JR on February 7, 2020 at 8:50 am

    “People with mental disorders and/or severe unrepentant sin should never have leadership roles in the church.”

    I completely agree with you.

    Of course, I don’t see these cases as fitting that criteria.
    Heck, none of them are divorced and remarried.

  3. Comment by Mike on February 7, 2020 at 12:13 pm


    When people believe things that don’t comport with reality, and when they no longer function according to “reality” (including with regard to their biological sex) in their lives and in society, that is the definition of a mental disorder.

    You are not helping these people by saying that they are normal and they don’t need help. It is amazing that in this scientific age the left has become so divorced from scientific (biological) reality. It is the (orthodox) church that is living in the real world, not these folks.

  4. Comment by Palamas on February 7, 2020 at 3:45 pm

    Biological reality is so 20th century. Now, in the 21st century, we have grown beyond biology, and discovered that whatever is inside our own minds at any given moment is so much more real. And people like JR are perfectly happy to go along with the fiction of the biologically solipsistic, because it enables them to ignore reality whenever they choose to as well.

  5. Comment by David on February 27, 2020 at 3:12 am

    “For the time will come when people will not “put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. “ 2 Tim 4

    These words have meaning; mine don’t matter!

  6. Comment by JR on February 10, 2020 at 8:33 am

    Wait a second here.

    If we’re going to stick with reality – proven scientific worldview – what are we doing talking about religion in the first place?

    The world was NOT created in a week, Eve WASN’T created from Adam’s rib, Methuselah didn’t live past 100 (let alone 1000), there was no Great Flood etc etc.

    Why does your world view limit God so much?

  7. Comment by Steve on February 10, 2020 at 8:58 am


  8. Comment by Rebecca on February 10, 2020 at 1:59 pm


  9. Comment by Gerry on February 8, 2020 at 11:36 am

    A large segment of our culture has adopted an “imagination based” worldview. They have rejected the “objective based” worlviewthat has been the cornerstone of Western Civilization for centuries.

    Ironic that in the 21st Century a large segment of our culture has rejected the objective scientific view and embraced a primitive magical view filled with superstition.

  10. Comment by Skipper on February 18, 2020 at 1:11 am

    JR, If you want a good relationship with God, why don’t you consider something wholesome?

  11. Comment by Douglas Ehrhardt on February 7, 2020 at 8:20 am

    Not Christian at all…. cultural Marxism at its finest.

  12. Comment by JR on February 10, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    Might want to watch where you throw that term about:

  13. Comment by Steve on February 10, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    ‘Essentially a Fraud’
    The Southern Poverty Law Center has less to do with justice than with fundraising
    It had to happen sometime. The Southern Poverty Law Center has made so many vile, unjustified, hysterical, and hateful accusations over the years, it was bound to pay a price.

  14. Comment by JR on February 11, 2020 at 8:28 am

    Yet here’s the wackadoo right winger view. So when I see someone chuck that term out, I know that they’ve fully indoctrinated themselves into the world of Fox News:

    *mic drop*

  15. Comment by Steve on February 10, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    Is ‘cultural Marxism real? Or is it right wing paranoia/propaganda?
    Short version: yes and no; more yes than I’d have thought, apparently originating from something called the Frankfurt school of Marxism. Apparently Marxists may not be thrilled with the cultural version either:
    Cultural Marxism: Enemy Of Real Marxism?

  16. Comment by JR on February 11, 2020 at 10:54 am

    From your first source: “As used on the right, however, this is a crass critique. It has become an ideological device to sweep barrel loads of left wing thought together under the banner of marxism. It *has* become a kind of conspiracy theory catch phrase – exaggerating the influence of left wing thinking. Used in this way it is lazy and ignorant – but draws on a thread of truth.”

  17. Comment by Steve on February 11, 2020 at 11:27 am

    Can’t disagree generally, but would quibble that one should not assume just because someone uses the term that they are lazy and ignorant.

  18. Comment by JR on February 11, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    I fully agree – just because someone uses the term, considering them to be lazy and ignorant would, ironically, be lazy and ignorant.

    And yet, when someone uses the term where it does not actually apply… well, then the proof is in the pudding.

  19. Comment by Steve on February 11, 2020 at 9:44 pm

    Actually, I think it does apply. The gist of the Frankfurt school of Marxism seems to be that Marx’s vision of the arc of history failed to occur because the individual’s life experience turned out to be of far greater significance than predicted. This is reflected in the mainlines’ insistence that the lived life experience of gay persons is deserving to be given similar or greater weight than received scripture. Cultural marxism appears to have correctly predicted how a severely marginalized group’s life experience can surmount existing social norms. Once one understands the natural forces predicted by cultural marxism exist, one is in a position to aid or impede their progress, and of course if the other side is clueless as to what is going on that makes things much easier.

  20. Comment by Mike2 on February 7, 2020 at 9:11 am

    I read the Rev. Ryan Dowell Baum’s “coming out” article. He initially presented himself male and lied about his unrepentant sin. So, at the beginning of his ministry, he lied to the church elders so he could pastor to God’s people?

    “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.” – Leviticus 19:11

    How does Baum abuse the trust and love of a congregation and then expect to led this flock as a shepherd of Christ?

    The short answer – he cannot and he did not!

  21. Comment by David Miller on February 7, 2020 at 9:18 am

    These “clergy” explain the rapid decline of these churches. Very sad.

  22. Comment by BN on February 7, 2020 at 10:52 am

    The culture has invaded and compromised the church

  23. Comment by CDR_N on February 7, 2020 at 11:47 am

    No, these churches has abandoned the Gospel.

  24. Comment by Dan Skogen on February 7, 2020 at 11:51 am

    The ELCA has a lot of gender non-binary and transgender pastors.

  25. Comment by Mike in KC, MO on February 7, 2020 at 12:01 pm

    Maybe this is why the Church isn’t bothering with real ecumenism toward Protestantism: it’s faster to just let them all implode first.

  26. Comment by Just curious on February 7, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    I am curious how these people approach issues of marriage and family. Are they willing to marry heterosexual couples? How do they do pre-marital counseling? What materials or resources do they use? How do they perform the ceremony?

    On a whole raft of issues of pastoral care it would seem these clergy might have a difficult time fulfilling these responsibilities. I hope they can do them in a proper manner.

  27. Comment by JR on February 10, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    I find your concern ridiculous.

    I would assume that one need not only go from personal experience to offer ‘pastoral care’. How could a Catholic priest offer any kind of marriage counseling, if that were the case? Or an unmarried UMC pastor, for that matter?

    C’mon, you can do better than cast aspersions on someone simply because they are different.

  28. Comment by Hopeless Hoping on February 7, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    You know, there might be some place for people in this self-chosen state to minister to others who make the same lifestyle choices, especially since the subgroup they are in will refuse to listen to people who are not ‘like’ them.

    The problem is you have to destroy the role and idea of what a clergy person is to incorporate them into what most Christians see a minister or pastor is. They, of course, would refuse to accept anything less than being called a ‘pastor’ or ‘clergy’ because the issue is all about normalizing their lifestyle choices as reasonable and moral. How they can live with a foot in two very opposed worlds is beyond me, but they are trying to have their cake and eat it too.

    Maybe there is an order, like a monastic order or something, that can be started in some denominations where people who have this belief and lifestyle can serve in their communities as a minister, but not as clergy as the word is understood.

    (If someone would be so kind, please wake me up and bring back to the real world now. This idea is as possible as ordaining a Jedi master filled with The Force into the PCUSA.

  29. Comment by Dee on February 7, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    How bout we examine the hysterics over cross-dressing women? When I started teaching in the early 1970s, my male principal required all women on faculty wear dresses or skirts (at the time, those items were “mini” skirts & dresses). Slacks or pants were menswear. Women and girls pictured in children’s reading books also wore dresses. In fact, one popular public school reading series in the 1970s (not that long ago) began with a story titled “Books”. The first page text was “Books are for boys”. The accompanying illustration was a group of boys reading a book about space exploration. Second page text was “Books are for girls”. The accompanying illustration was of little girls using scissors to cut out paper dolls.

    I’m sure women who initially challenged the gender roles by cross-dressing in menswear clothing (slacks, pants, neckties, etc) we’re ridiculed, harassed and bullied for crossing the gender line. Probably identified as mentally ill by those they discomforted. Men who grew their hair beyond their ears were also bullied. (My ex-husband was a student pastor. His outer ear was removed because of melanoma. He wore his hair long to cover his missing ear and huge scars. A church voted to refuse a call to him because his hair was long and he looked like a “hippie”.

    Susan B Anthony was ridiculed as a “she-man” when she wore bloomers.

    Get over it folks. Gender identity and gender expression do not lessen a human being’s worth, value, and ability to convey God’s love and compassion. God calls diverse folks into ministry. I’m all for open doors, open hearts, open live, open communion and an open pulpit, regardless of gender identity and expression.

  30. Comment by Michael on February 7, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    What these “oddballs” are espousing is contrary to biblical teaching – period! No wonder these “mainline” churches are losing members. Unrepentant sinners in positions of “leadership” – unbiblical lifestyles being pushed as “alternative” and even “normal” – these “beings” are obviously mentally unstable, and know absolutely nothing about what the Bible really says!

  31. Comment by Mike2 on February 7, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    Curious. Does gender identity and gender expression excuse behavior like Rev. Ryan Dowell Baum who initially presented himself male, lied about his unrepentant sin, and then at the beginning of his ministry, he lied to the church elders so he could pastor to God’s people? Do you give him a “pass” on that abuse of the trust and love of a congregation?

  32. Comment by JR on February 10, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    Wow, someone’s got a grudge here…

  33. Comment by Susan on February 7, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    Do you care at all about what God has said ? Or just your own reasonings? God is a holy God and His justice and love cannot be divorced.

  34. Comment by Joan Sibbald on February 8, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    Jesus Christ said:
    “From the beginning God made them male and female.
    (You disagree.)

    “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother…”
    (You disagree.)

    “and be united with his wife…”
    (You disagree)

    “and the two will become one.”
    (You disagree)

    “What God has joined together let no man separate.”
    (You disagree.)

    Perhaps you and I can agree you and Jesus Christ disagree.

  35. Comment by JR on February 19, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    Hi Joan!

    I fully agree with what Jesus said. Problem is, you missed the question that he was answering, and instead applied it to something else.

    Here you go:
    Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

    Context is important, Joan. What is your opinion on divorce? Does that opinion agree with Jesus?

  36. Comment by Jim on February 11, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Dee how much weed did you smoke in the seventies?

  37. Comment by Brother Thom on February 7, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    This is another example of Bishop’s who have abandoned church law (the Discipline), in favor of doing what ever they want. They make a choice to sin against God. Why do I say that, well the scripture says we should obey mans laws. When we make a choice to violate mans laws the scripture equally tells us that God will punish us.

    So Bishops that ordain gay or nonbinary clergy have sinned and they will be punished.

    The reality none of these transgendered or nonbinary individuals can’t escape is their naked image in a mirror.

  38. Comment by Steven Vornov on February 7, 2020 at 5:32 pm

    Why are you all so upset? Why not pay attention to what happens in your own churches? Just let the ‘mainline denominations continue to circle the drain.

  39. Comment by Tom on February 7, 2020 at 6:27 pm

    The mainline denominations have embraced all this because they are not declining fast enough? Do I have that right?

  40. Comment by Ted R. Weiland on February 7, 2020 at 7:25 pm

    Deuteronomy 22:5

  41. Comment by Bryan on February 7, 2020 at 9:03 pm

    This is merely attention seeking folks

  42. Comment by Charles Miller on February 7, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    It is time to stop complaining about what we have lost and plan for the future. The church needs to isolate itself from the public world so we can act Biblically. Example: We need to stop marrying couples for the government. We must only marry only our members for our internal Church purposes. If they want a tax break, let them run down to City Hall too. We need to legally become an isolated private club rather than a public institution. Otherwise, we will be required to live by the inclusive rules being put into place by the liberals. We need good legal help to help us look forward. forget looking backward.

  43. Comment by Charlotte on February 8, 2020 at 1:22 am

    God created male and female. God didn’t make junk. These people are confused, and I would say yes, appears to be a mental issue.

  44. Comment by One Trick Pony on February 8, 2020 at 8:47 am

    The future of the Protestant Church is in the independent, non-denominational congregation movement.

    Independence. Freedom. Laity self-direction. Biblically literate. Non-bureaucratic. Not hierarchical.

    Do not mourn the death of the UMC. It’s been a long-time coming.

  45. Comment by td on February 10, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    You are probably correct about protestantism. And you pinpoint the problem also. The church’s only function as an institution is to safeguard the faith so it can be passed down faithfully to future generations. Unfortunately, there is no safeguard to this among totally independent churches. And as for as the UMC and other similar protestant denominations, they aren’t safeguarding the faith either, so their reason for existing has evaporated.

  46. Comment by Eric on February 9, 2020 at 9:09 am

    There is a curious case in Pittsburgh where a woman (first name Danielle) was convicted of abusing her 3 sons, had the kids taken from her, and spent almost a year in jail. She had been a Pentecostal, but after her release she has presented herself as “Brian” and claims she found love and acceptance at a United Methodist church and is already posting sermons online. Don’t know if the UM church she affiliates with has done a background check on her or not, but this is a potentially explosive situation.

    Btw, search engines have a built-in bias in favor of trangendereds. Most search engines will not reveal that “M Barclay” is in fact Mary Ann Kaiser. It’s as if the web has adopted the Soviet Union’s practice of airbrushing history. It’s a truism that “you can find out anything on the web” – well, not necessarily, not if the search engines won’t take you to that information. The Chicago-area teen boy who sued his school district for not being accommodating enough to his new female identity as “Nova” has had his real birth name completely buried by the search engines, including the Cook County Court Records. It is not a healthy situation when courts of law effectively erase any mention of a person’s birth name.

  47. Comment by Jim Maker on February 9, 2020 at 2:39 pm

    Per a 2017 Gallup Poll, only 5% of the US population actually identifies as LGBTQ. A year prior another survey showed only 0.6 of 1 % id as transgender. Why are we catering to such a small bunch of unrepentant and very confused sinners?? The UMC will cave and spiral down into something not of Jesus’ body. Sad time.

  48. Comment by Will on February 10, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    The left destroys everything they touch. Most are atheists and want Christianity destroyed. Most of the mainline churches that buy into this cultural Marxism will be closed within a couple of decades.

  49. Comment by Douglas Ehrhardt on February 11, 2020 at 6:51 pm


  50. Comment by Lanny Garner on February 10, 2020 at 5:47 pm

    Father, now only is this wicked, but it is insane. The current understanding of human sexuality is like the shifting sand on a seashore. You created us male and female and created the beautiful gift and pleasure of sex to be shared between a male and female who have entered into a covenant of marriage with Your blessing. We have to recreate it in our own image and understanding and we have made a mess of it as we do of everything when we depart from Your Word as our guide. Open peoples eyes, especially clergy leaders to the foolishness of this and help us to return to the Biblical definition of gender and human sexuality. In Jesus Name.

  51. Comment by Anneke on February 10, 2020 at 6:51 pm


  52. Comment by Mike2 on February 10, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    “(Jesus) He said to them, have you not read that He Who made them in the first place made them man and woman? It says, for this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and live with his wife. The two will become one. So they are no longer two but one. Let no man divide what God has put togrthet.” – Matthew 1 9:4-6.

    Jesus has the final word on marriage!

  53. Comment by JR on February 19, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

    See, if you want to quote the answer, you really should be sure you also quote the answer.

    Hey, does your church allow divorce?

  54. Comment by Skipper on February 11, 2020 at 10:13 am

    People like this need to learn to obey God. They don’t see themselves as disobeying God. They need to be shown the light of Christ in such a way that they can understand. They seem to think that feelings should be their guide, not God’s Holy Word. They need to learn to respect the way God taught us to live. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7

  55. Comment by Cbbyrd on February 11, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    I’m getting the feeling some folks are mocking God and poking their finger in the face of people to further reduce “religion”!ti a late night comedy show joke.

  56. Comment by Nick Stuart on February 17, 2020 at 10:13 pm

    Not only are we living in the end times, we’re living inside a Chick tract as well.

    Liturgical purple lipstick, fabulous.

    In other news, energy needs for India entirely met by harnessing the rotational energy of John Wesley spinning in his grave.

  57. Comment by MG on February 22, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    So are we now to invent a personal pronoun for those who are neither “he” nor “she”? “It” sounds a bit derogatory, but I’m not going to adopt liberal verbal gymnastics just in order to sound respectfully im-personal when referring to “that person”. This is truly ridiculous.

  58. Comment by Keith Newell on February 28, 2020 at 10:06 am

    I just have a question as a United Methodist(presently) who became very much Wesleyan in my theology and remain so:
    How do you witness to folks with this non-binary gender perspective about how God made us “male and female” only, without being judgemental. I want them to come to a real saving faith in our Lord Jesus.

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