Friday, October 27, 2006

The High Road...

Tempting as it is to write about how predictable it is that Bush and the Republicans are using the NJ court ruling of Tues. granting gay rights to whip up their voting base for the elections next week, I will instead let it ride.

Instead I will share this letter from the Ex. Director of More Light Presbyterians who helped to lead a conference on welcoming transgendered persons into the church which sounds so full of hope and also good resources for those who may need them:

From Michael Adee:

Hello from Corvallis, Oregon. History has been made in Corvallis, Oregon as the first national faith conference for and about transgender persons, their families and friends was offered here October 20 - 22. Transforming Faith: A Transgender Witness is the title of this national conference inspired by the vision and passionate commitment of Rev. Tara Wilkins, Executive Director, The Community of Welcoming Congregations. Keynote presenters and preachers included: Virginia Mollenkott, Justin Tanis, Malcolm Himschoot, Maurice Harris and our Erin Swenson, National MLP Liaison on transgender education and former Co-Moderator, More Light Presbyterians.

Erin and I offered 2 workshops, "Becoming & Being a Trans-Welcoming & Affirming Congregation: First Steps and Next Steps," along with a MLP educational resource table. MLP educational resources of particular interest to our conference participants include: More Light on Transgender, More Light on Intersex, and Pastoral Care in Transgender Experience written by Erin Swenson. Many pastors seeking help with pastoral care for transgender persons came to our workshops. I kept thinking how helpful this information and these pastoral care skills would be for all Presbyterian ministers and pastors. Over 250 people participated throughout the weekend joining the 120-plus conference participants. Virginia Mollenkott's keynote "Omnigender and a New Reformation" challenged all of us to consider our connections to and place in the transgender and intersex family and movement. Rabbi Maurice Harris led our Shabbat service from the Jewish tradition. Malcolm Himschoot, UCC minister, responded to the film about his life, faith, gender transition and ministry -- "Call Me Malcolm." Justin Tanis, National Center for Transgender Equality, addressed the justice issues for the trans community in both church and society. Erin preached on Sunday morning at the host church, First United Methodist Church, Corvallis, a Reconciling Congregation. Not a dry eye in the sanctuary as Erin shared her own story of faith, call to ministry, family and gender transition as a Presbyterian minister and dreams for a church and society embracing transgender persons and their families. Joining Erin and me, other Presbyterians participating in the conference were Sara Herwig, Lisa Larges, Dave Dornack and Barbara Campbell. Barbara is pastor of St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, Portland, a More Light Church, _ ( and on the Board of the Community of Welcoming Congregations.

This conference experience was truly transforming and life-changing for me. I found myself in the place of ally -- as an ally, friend and advocate with my transgender sisters and brothers. Usually I am working to get heterosexual Presbyterians to recognize the sacred worth of LGBT persons and to step up to the plate as advocates for justice. This time I found myself being asked to step up as a ally and advocate with the transgender community. It was an honor and delight to spend the weekend with so many transgender persons and their families. I am deeply grateful for the insights gained and lessons I am learning in this remarkable life and faith journey with transgender persons and their families. Portland, OregonCascades MLP Chapter. After the conference, 24 Presbyterians from five churches in Portland and Salem met for a "Celebration of All God's Children" sponsored by More Light Presbyterians. Hosted by Rose City Park Presbyterian Church, the celebration included a community meal with the sharing of prayers, hope and dreams for LGBT persons in our Church and world. Donald "Perk" and Carol Ann Purkey were special guests honored during this Cascades MLP Chapter gathering. Perk has been part of More Light Presbyterians, a faithful ally and advocate since its origins in 1974. After the Transgender conference in Corvallis and the MLP Chapter celebration in Portland, Erin, Tara and I met to begin evaluation of the conference and consider a future transgender conference. This conference was a life-giving and life-changing experience for all of us fortunate enough to be there and possibly a life-saving one for some. I told Tara that she could count on MLP and me again for another transgender faith conference next year. Transgender awareness, education and ministry in your congregation, MLP Chapter, campus or seminary community? Check out resources now at _www.mlp.org_ ( and contact Erin Swenson, MLP National Liaison on Transgender Education - _erin@erinswen.com_ ( .

with hope and grace,

PS - Organizations supporting the Transforming Faith: A Transgender Witness Conference included The Community of Welcoming Congregations, The Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (PSR), The Religion & Faith Program (HRC), The Institute for Welcoming Resources (NGLTF), and More Light Presbyterians

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