Thursday, February 27, 2014

This has to make Integrity grind their teeth:
The Rev. Greg Fry will no longer be priest-in-charge of Pine Bluff’s Grace Episcopal Church after Friday, five days following his Sunday announcement to his congregation that he is transgender and identifies as a woman.
In a letter from the Rt. Rev. Larry Benfield, bishop of the Little Rock-based Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas, to Fry and the church’s vestry, Benfield said he had “decided to dissolve the relationship” between Fry and Grace Church effective Feb. 28. The one-page letter was dated Wednesday.
Don’t think Benfield took sides with the knuckle-draggers who didn’t want join Fry on his/her “journey” - the bishop was, in fact, on everybody’s side:
The bishop closed his letter by stating his “great respect” for Fry’s ministry at the church, and “equal respect for the witness of Grace Church to the people of Pine Bluff and beyond.”
All in all, a sorry episode for the Diocese of Arkansas, the Episcopal Church, and especially Bishop Benfield and his Canon to the Ordinary, The Rev. Jason Alexander. The bishop and his office appear to have put a man known to them to be on a “journey” - in this case toward becoming a woman - into the top spot of a church with whose members they evidently didn’t share that little bit of information. Now, even with canonical cover from nothing less than General Convention, they remove him for… well, the reasons aren’t stated. Only some vague mumblings about “allowing a transition” at “a pace that might not otherwise be possible.”
The wrongness of the particulars of this episode, the fact remains that under the canons of the Episcopal Church, an injustice has been done to The Rev. Gwen Fry. She is guilty - again, in the context of the rules of the Episcopal Church - of nothing, and indeed protected by its canons.
While I don’t expect we’ll hear anything more from this, no matter how one feels about Fry’s lifestyle or decisions, it’s hard to escape the feeling that she’s been railroaded here in clear violations of Resolutions D002 and D019, which state, respectively:
“Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That Title III, Canon 1, Sec. 2 of the Canons of the Episcopal Church be hereby amended to read as follows: No person shall be denied access to the discernment process for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age, except as otherwise provided by these Canons. No right to licensing, ordination, or election is hereby established.
“Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That Title I, Canon 17, Sec. 5 of the Canons of The Episcopal Church be hereby amended to read as follows: No one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or and expression, disabilities or age, except as otherwise specified by Canons.”
Note the explanation of D002 [emphasis mine]:
This resolution would revise this canon by adding “gender identity and expression” to this list of protected categories of access, but not of right. As we continue to grow in our understanding and embrace of all human beings, it is important for us to be specific in our naming of difference. This proposed revision is based upon our increased understanding and practice to respect the human dignity of transgender people - transsexuals, and others who differ from majority societal gender norms. Gender identity (one’s inner sense of being male or female) and expression (the way in which one manifests that gender identity in the world) should not be bases for exclusion, in and of themselves, from consideration for participation in the ministries of the Church.

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