Washington National Cathedral Taps Transgender Priest for Sermon

Monday, 09 Jun 2014 08:55 PM

By Joe Schaeffer

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Washington National Cathedral, one of the most celebrated houses of worship within the Episcopal Church, has announced that it will welcome the first transgender priest ever to give a sermon on its altar.

"Join us for the celebration of Holy Eucharist on the second Sunday after Pentecost [June 22]. The Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge is the guest preacher and the Right Rev. Gene Robinson is the guest presider in honor of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community's Pride Month," a notice on the cathedral's website says.

"The Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge is an Episcopal priest, theologian, and openly transgender man. He is the Episcopal chaplain at Boston University and lecturer and counselor to Episcopal/Anglican students at Harvard Divinity School," the announcement reads.

In a statement sent to The Huffington Post, the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the cathedral, said: "We at Washington National Cathedral are striving to send a message of love and affirmation, especially to LGBT youth who suffer daily because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We want to proclaim to them as proudly and unequivocally as we can: Your gender identity is good and your sexual orientation is good because that's the way that God made you."

In a 2013 interview with Religion News Service, Partridge discussed his transformation from lesbian to priest to male priest. He asserted his strong sense of belonging within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.

"Being Anglican is just in my bones. It was such a fantastic experience to discover in college that the tradition in which I grew up was the one I wanted to embrace as an adult," he said.

"[M]ost of all I appreciate what's called 'Anglican comprehensiveness,'" he said, "which often calls us to embody ambiguity. Sometimes that causes us discomfort, even conflict, but it's at the heart of who we are as Anglicans. I love that."

The reverend also found the hand of God in how he came to choose his new masculine name Cameron.

"In a way, the name chose me. I was at a point in my life when my previous name (which I prefer not to publicly disclose) felt like it no longer fit. I wanted a name that conveyed some sense of gender complexity, since I consider gender in general and my own in particular to be less than straightforward," he says in the interview.

"Then one day when I was getting sushi takeout, the person behind the register 'misheard' my old name as Cameron.

"It was a bolt from the blue. I thought, 'I think I'll take that to go too, thanks.'

"Eventually I looked it up. It turned out to mean something slightly askew: bent nose, crooked stream, or craggy rock," the interview continues.

"I recalled being struck by a line from Ecclesiastes that I once heard the former Episcopal presiding bishop, Frank Griswold, preach in connection with the scandalous quality of the Christian gospel: 'Consider the work of God: Who can make straight what God has made crooked?'"

A conservative Anglican voiced his outrage over the cathedral's move.

"A few short years ago, such an invitation would have been unthinkable," David W. Virtue wrote at Virtue Online, which bills itself as "The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism."

"Nobody in their right or left mind would have entertained the notion that a priest, claiming to be a man (of God), who was formerly a woman, could suddenly announce to his bishop -- in this case Massachusetts Bishop Tom Shaw, a homosexual -- that she secretly felt herself to be a woman trapped in a man's body, obtain a sex-change operation, (euphemistically called sexual reassignment surgery), keep her/his job as a priest, and then go on to preach in one of the nation's most prestigious pulpits," Virtue writes.

"The Episcopal Church has raced ahead of the culture and historic Christianity and pushed this abomination right into the pulpit. A church whose deepest theological utterances have been reduced to sound-bite words like 'inclusion,' 'diversity' and 'oppression' is a church that has surgically operated on itself."


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