(By John Lomperis, Juicy Ecumenism). 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).
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For the religious left, personal markers of identity and purpose; Gender, sexual orientation are matters of personal choice, fluid, and are non-fixed in their cosmology and anthropology. People in their universe are fee to adapt gender identities, or increasingly none at all, depending on ones choices at that moment. Sexual preference and gender is like a shirt, one is free to take on and off, change as one develops in life. “Non-binary” gender identity should not be thought of as either a life long choice or even definitive in any descriptive way. The person in question is free to move across the spaces of sexuality and/or gender depending on personal choice and an understanding of autonomy totally divorced from any established concepts of male/female. It is not a matter of biology or sex specific physical characteristics, but a matter of personal feelings. and what feels comfortable to them. And of course in the tribal/sex/identity obsessed religious left, any new or otherwise different method of personal identity or tribe is of course not only to be welcomed, but celebrated as a dramatic new work of God in Christ. Another group or class, to be nurtured and protected with the full effect of ecclesiastical and civil law.
And in the religious left, Christ is what you choose and want him to be at any given, LGBTQ, married, single, maybe Jesus never really identified as a biological male. maybe like the Gnostic’s, he was a non-sexual disembodied spirit, beyond the limits of human flesh. Very convenient for all concerned.