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Transgender pastor is appointed minister in Minnesota

Transgender pastor is appointed minister in Minnesota

A 27-year-old Minnesota pastor who is transgendered--and the subject of a documentary on that topic--will begin a two-year appointment as an outreach minister at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis. The Reverend Malcolm Himschoot is one of only a few out transgendered clergy members in the United States. But Plymouth leaders said they chose Himschoot for several other reasons. "It speaks to us of the self-insight and courage that he has, but it was not the driver in our decision," said the Reverend James Gertmenian, Plymouth's senior minister. "He's got exceptional academic credentials.... We were impressed he spent a year doing urban ministry in Denver, and he impressed us with the depth of his own spiritual vision." Plymouth, an independent congregational church, is a liberal congregation with 1,800 members. For the past year Himschoot, a Colorado native, has been associate pastor at Denver Inner City Parish, where he worked with students, seniors, and ex-prisoners. He is getting the most attention for Call Me Malcolm, a documentary about his bodily change from a woman to a man and about finding acceptance. The film was produced by the United Church of Christ, which ordained Himschoot. The film was well-received at recent film festivals in Los Angeles and Cleveland. It will have a two-week run at the Bell Auditorium in Minneapolis starting June 24. Himschoot told the Star Tribune it will be interesting to see how much buzz the film gets before he moves to Minneapolis this summer. His job at Plymouth begins in August. "We'll see how it goes," he said. Himschoot will move to town with his wife, Mariah Hayden. At Plymouth, Himschoot will focus on community programs. He'll work on affordable housing and at a drop-in center for the mentally ill. He also will preside at weddings, funerals, baptisms and other church events. Himschoot said he's looking forward to moving to Minneapolis and working at Plymouth, a church that he said "has a terrific history of neighborhood ministry and a progressive presence in the larger community." He said his own appointment was "a credit to the church, that they looked at all applicants, including the transgender one, equally." The Reverend Pat Conover, a transgender UCC minister in Washington, D.C., and author of "Transgender Good News," said he wasn't surprised by Plymouth's decision. "It takes some thought for a congregation to work this through, not necessarily because there's hostility. For a whole lot of people it doesn't make sense," Conover said. The United Church of Christ says it became the first mainline Christian denomination to ordain an openly transgendered minister a few years ago. Conover said he knows of four openly transgendered ministers and a few seminarians. But research and his own experience suggest congregations have been led by closeted transgendered ministers for years, he said. Conover said he wasn't open as a transgender person when he worked at a parish in the early 1980s. "We did not have the word 'transgender' then," he said. Gertmenian said a number of people in the congregation have welcomed Himschoot's appointment. For others, he said, it may be harder. "Realistically, we can say this is something that people will be interested in," he said. "We'll need to do some learning and adjustment. But the end of the story will be that we'll find out it doesn't matter." (AP)

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