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UM JUDICIAL COUNCIL UPHOLDS BISHOP'S APPOINTMENT OF TRANSGENDER PASTOR

The UM Church's supreme court has upheld a bishop's decision that a pastor who changed gender from female to male remains eligible to serve the church.

In combining two separate docket items related to the Rev. Drew Phoenix, pastor at St. John's UMC in Baltimore (formerly Rev. Ann Gordon prior to having surgery and hormone therapy to become a male), the Judicial Council stated that it was not ruling on whether changing gender is a chargeable offense or violates minimum standards set by the church's legislative body, the General Conference. Rather, the court said "a clergyperson's standing cannot be terminated without administrative or juridical action having occurred and all fair process being accorded."

"The adjective (in this case 'transgender') placed in front of the noun 'clergyperson' does not matter," the court stated in Decision 1074. "What matters is that clergypersons, once ordained and admitted to membership in full connection, cannot have that standing changed without being accorded fair process."

Phoenix will continue to serve St. John's UMC. But the subject of whether transgender clergy are eligible for appointment is likely to be among issues debated at the 2008 General Conference when it meets in Ft. Worth next April. The UMC bars practicing homosexuals from being ordained but has nothing in its polity about transgender persons.

The name change alone was not reason enough to require the consent and recommendation for approval of the conference Board of Ordained Ministry and the Conference Relations Committee. The Discipline has no provision mandating such review. The matter could result in administrative or judicial proceedings (formal complaint) concerning the "good standing" of Rev. Phoenix. For the full story and other actions of the Judicial Council, go to: the umc.org website.

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