5:31 PM 06/10/2017
The United Methodist Church — a mainline Protestant denomination boasting some 12 million members worldwide — has commissioned its first brazenly “non-binary trans person” as a deacon.
The newly-minted “non-binary trans” deacon is the Rev. M Barclay, according to United Methodist News Service.
That’s her first name: M. She’s a woman — born with the name Mary Ann Kaiser — who refuses to identity as either female or male. She’s totally just neutral.
Also, she wants everyone to use plural pronouns — they, them and theirs — to refer to her.
Barclay received her commission as a provisional deacon from the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church on June 4.
“For so long, I’ve longed to be a pastoral presence in the world — and certainly you can do that without a collar — but we have ordination for a reason, and part of that is that I can publicly identify as a pastor now,” Barclay told United Methodist News Service.
Barclay is really, earnestly focused on wearing the white plastic band that constitutes the modern clerical collar.
“I know it’s not particularly common in The United Methodist Church, but I intend to wear a collar every single day because for a person like me to navigate society in a collar provides some profound and urgently needed pastoral opportunities, particularly for queer and trans people,” she told the Methodist news outlet.
Discipleship Ministries, a United Methodist Church agency, notes that United Methodist clergy members typically choose not to wear a special collar. They want to be humble.
“Many of our clergy would never — under any circumstances wear a collar — probably because they feel the collar would ‘put off’ the laity or because they resist any association with ‘priestly’ images,” Discipleship Ministries explains.
The Book of Discipline, the governing agreement of the United Methodist Church, describes homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The United Methodist Church has forbidden “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from clergy positions since 1984.
At the same time, the denomination’s primary governing document takes no position on transgender people or, in Barclay’s case, “non-binary trans persons.”
Also, back in 2009, the United Methodist Church ordained a clergy member who used to be male but had since undergone various surgical procedures to appear fully female.
“While M’s journey over the last few years has included gender identity, all of those who were commissioned or ordained on Sunday have been on some kind of journey that has brought them to new places of faith, life and relationships,” Bishop Sally Dyck told United Methodist News Service.
Barclay’s day job is as director of communications for Reconciling Ministries Network, a gay-focused United Methodist group which exists to “celebrate the sexuality and spirituality of same and opposite gender loving persons” — and to end “institutional oppression,” especially “racism, transphobia, and the history of colonialism.”
Barclay “served for two years as staff liaison to United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion” and “they have served as justice associate and youth director at University UMC in Austin, Texas and as Faith Network Coordinator at Texas Freedom Network.”
On its staff directory webpage, Reconciling Ministries Network helpfully provides the preferred pronouns for each of the 13 listed staff members.