A legislation that opens the door to transgender ordination passed its final hurdle on Monday and was approved by leaders in The Episcopal Church. The measure passed both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies.
The Episcopal General Convention voted to amend church laws to state: "No one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age."
"This proposed revision is based upon our increased understanding and practice to respect the human dignity of transgender people – transsexuals, and others who differ from majority societal gender norms," an explanation for the legislation states. "Gender identity (one's inner sense of being male or female) and expression (the way in which one manifests that gender identity in the world) should not be bases for exclusion, in and of themselves, from consideration for participation in the ministries of the Church."
Sarah Hey of StandFirminFaith.com, which supports traditional Anglicanism in America, blasted the adoption of the measure as it promotes transgenderism or cross dressing as "good and healthy."
"It has been clear for some years now that the people leading us at the national level-90% of bishops, lay and clergy deputies to General Convention, and those serving on national commissions and committees-are not competent, healthy, or ordered in their theology or foundational worldview," Hey said in a statement before the legislation was approved Monday.
On a practical level, she said, parishes won't be able to rule out priests simply because of their different gender identity or expression.
"Those men with perfectly good xy chromosomes but who imagine that they are really women, and then undergo surgery and take hormones in order to further foster their beliefs or who simply cross-dress or otherwise 'differ from majority societal gender norms' cannot be 'not considered' because of that disorder in gender identity."
Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, however, has argued that parishes will not be forced to hire transgenders.
"This resolution talks about access to the ordination process. It does not command anyone to affirm anyone in the ordination process but does say that all members of this church, including those whose gender identity and expression are perhaps different from the norm, have that access," said the openly gay bishop, according to Episcopal News Service.
A.S. Haley, also from StandFirminFaith.com, meanwhile, had harsh words to express her dismay with the decision.
"Who appointed less than one-half of one percent of the population to dictate to local parishes what they can and cannot do, in hiring people to work with their souls and with their children?" she posed.
"I feel completely betrayed by my Bishop, and by the deputies from my diocese who will choose 'to follow their own consciences' in this matter, rather than the will of the vast majority of pew sitters who elected them, and who will be stuck with the bills for their lark. In so acting on their own, those deputies repudiate the naïve expectation that they could be counted on to represent, at least on these matters of substance, the overwhelming consensus of the diocese that sent them off to Indianapolis."
The General Convention is the highest legislative body of The Episcopal Church in the U.S. It meets every three years. At its previous meeting in 2009, Episcopal leaders passed a measure that opened the ordination process to all individuals, which was interpreted to include practicing homosexuals. They had also considered a transgender legislation similar to the one approved Monday.
The Episcopal Church's liberal direction on Scripture, particularly homosexuality, has prompted thousands to leave and form their own group (Anglican Church in North America). It has also forced Anglicans in the Global South to reconsider their communion with the U.S. body.
Membership in The Episcopal Church has continued to decline and is now under 2 million.
The 77th General Convention is meeting in Indianapolis until Thursday.