UCC Voices Support for Transgender Persons. (News)

Article excerpt

The United Church of Christ, the first mainline U.S. denomination to ordain an openly gay clergyman, passed two resolutions in support of transgender persons at its biennial convention as officials noted that it already has "several" transgender clergy in its ranks. A spokesman said there was "near-unanimous support for both resolutions and little discussion" on the issue at the six-day General Synod meeting in Minneapolis that ended July 16.

Delegates said transgender persons should be protected from hate crimes and called on the UCC's 6,000 congregations to "encourage the participation and ministry of transgender persons in the life of the church." After an openly gay minister was ordained in 1972, the church's national synod affirmed gays and lesbians in 1985, bisexuals in 1991 and the last category in the four-group GLBT designation this year.

Three years ago, the UCC established a $500,000 scholarship fund for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender seminarians. Officials of the UCC Biblical Witness Fellowship, a conservative advocacy group, criticized the fund at the time as legitimizing "the sins of sexual license." The group's influence has been limited. Three fellowship-backed resolutions on other issues brought to the 2003 General Synod were not enacted after committee votes recommended "no action" or "disapproved," according to a UCC news release.

On the transgender issue, a resolution sponsored by the UCC's Northern California-Nevada Conference said God created some people who are "sometimes dramatically or subtly a complex mix of male and female in their bodies." The statement directed church departments to increase ministry to transgender people and to lobby for civil fights for such people. It also established a task force to report back in two years on the church's progress on the issue.

Pat Conover, a transgender minister in the UCC for 37 years, welcomed the move: "It feels so good to finally feel fully at home." Lisa Alton, a delegate from Fayetteville, Georgia, who chaired a committee that debated one of the resolutions, said, "Transgender people know God loves them. It is time for the UCC to say we love them, too."

Said Ron Buford, public relations manager for the 1. …