A regional body of the United Methodist Church has ordained a transgender individual who does not identify as male or female to the position of provisional deacon.
The Northern Illinois Conference commissioned M Barclay, who serves as director of communications for the pro-LGBT advocacy group Reconciling Ministries Network, as a provisional deacon on Sunday.
“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,” stated Barclay, as reported by United Methodist News Service.
“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.”
Born Mary Ann Kaiser, Barclay first gained headlines in 2013 when the Board of Ordained Ministry for Southwest Texas Annual Conference denied her clergy candidacy for being in a same-sex relationship.
In late 2014, Barclay announced that she was undergoing a “gender transition” and began to use the plural pronouns of “they” and “their” instead of “she” and “her.”
The Northern Illinois Conference is one of a few regional bodies within the UMC to openly defy the denomination’s official position against the ordination of openly LGBT clergy.
The Rev. John Bell, chair of the Northern Illinois BOOM, told The Christian Post in an interview last year that they wanted to follow the example of other Annual Conferences.
“The policy was developed in response to similar policies being adopted by other Boards of Ordained Ministry in the Baltimore-Washington, New York and Pacific-Northwest Annual Conferences,” explained Bell in 2016.
“We support their efforts on this issue and the efforts of those who are seeking to be ordained in the Northern Illinois Conference.”
In late April, the United Methodist Church’s highest court, the Judicial Council, ruled against the Conferences, stating that the Boards of Ordained Ministry had to consider all standards for clergy candidates, including sexual behavior.
Bell told CP that the new policy “does not violate the Book of Discipline” and was “simply stating publicly what already has been our practice for some years.”
Regarding Barclay’s commissioning, the Rev. Thomas Lambrecht of Good News Magazine told UMNS that he disapproved of the Conference’s decision.
“… it is premature for the Northern Illinois Annual Conference to move ahead to commission M Barclay, given the present state of knowledge and the questions her commissioning will raise in the minds of many faithful United Methodists,” explained Lambrecht.