Methodist minister who has changed gender since being chosen
to lead a congregation in Baltimore will be
reappointed there, church officials announced Thursday
at a regional convocation. The Reverend Drew Phoenix
told the church's Baltimore-Washington conference that he
had gone through ''spiritual transformation'' in the
past year, since changing his name from Ann Gordon and
receiving medical treatment to become a man.
bars sexually active gays from the clergy but does
not have any rules about transgender pastors.
''It is my
intention and hope that by sharing my story that we commit
ourselves as Christians and as United Methodists to become
educated about the complexity of gender,'' said
Phoenix, the only known transgender minister in the
conference. ''Each of us is a beloved child of God--no
Phoenix, 48, has
led St. John's United Methodist Church for nearly five
years. His term expires in July, and one of the purposes of
the regional meeting is to reassign ministers for
periodic terms with churches.
Bishop John Schol
said that the church's 50-member congregation was fully
supportive and that no objections were raised during a
closed-door meeting of the clergy. St. John's, a
church that describes itself as diverse and inclusive,
has more than tripled its membership since Phoenix
The meeting was
already scheduled when the Institute on Religion and
Democracy, a conservative think tank, issued a statement
saying it objects to any acceptance of sexual identity
The group, which
has no authority over the church, did not specifically
call for Phoenix to be removed. But Mark Tooley, director of
the group's United Methodist project, said a change in
gender identity conflicts with ''God's order of
periodically renews ministers' appointments or reassigns
them, encouraged ministers and church members
attending the annual conference through Saturday to
discuss the decisions of church leaders with their
congregations and urged church members to pray for Phoenix.
''This isn't an
issue. This is a human being,'' Schol said.
denomination has no transgender policy, a minister from
Baltimore quit the church after a sex change in 2002.
Rebecca Ann Steen said at the time she would rather
withdraw than ''submit the church, my family, or
myself to any more struggle.'' (Brett Zongker, AP)