(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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