Monday, May 6, 2013

When the Transgendered Serve the Eucharist

At the closing Eucharist service at Synod Assembly, I went to the woman pastor who was representing the bishop of the national Lutheran church.  I have so few opportunities throughout the year to receive the elements from an ordained woman that I walked right by our two bishops who would have been happy to serve me and went to the station with a woman presiding.

You may wonder why it matters to me.  You may ask me about all the lay women who have served me the sacraments through the years.  Isn't that enough?

It's certainly better than it was when I was a child.  When I was a child, the only females whom I remember seeing in positions of authority in the front of the church were organists and choir directors.  I don't even remember women reading the lessons.  I'm not even sure I remember lay men reading the lessons.  And of course, the church of my childhood had no female pastors.

It's hard for some of us to remember that we didn't always ordain women.  My Lutheran denomination only started ordaining women in the late 1970's.  In fact, it's a relatively recent development in most denominations, and some Protestants still don't ordain women--and of course, Catholic women can't be priests.

I thought about the first time I received the elements from someone who looked like me, and how deeply moving it was.  I am not the first feminist to make this observation.

This time at Synod, I thought about transgendered people, and how long will it be before we receive the sacrament from hands that had begun life as another gender.  Would it make a difference to most people?  Would we even know?

At first I thought that maybe it's a non-issue.  The transgender surgery is expensive, and in the case of female-to-male surgery, it's still imperfect; it's hard to create a working penis.  The surgery also takes a lot of time, and how many of us can afford that kind of time off?

But even those who can't acquire surgery would still be considered transgender.  There are all sorts of ways a transgendered person could present him/herself to the larger world.

I feel certain that a transgendered clergy member who was completely open about being transgendered would be a blessing for many, many transgendered people in more ways than we can imagine.  One of those ways would be sacramental. 

What about the rest of us?  I'm sure there are still people who are deeply uncomfortable receiving the elements from homosexual leaders.  But we can't allow the discomfort of others to prevent us from doing what's right.

We declare ourselves to be a welcoming church.  And with each passing decade, we get closer to that ideal. 

Some have thought that homosexuality is the last frontier, but now we're wrestling with transgender issues.  What will be the next frontier?


Anonymous said...

So long as you can think of ways to include freaks and feel guilty about what are issues to barely 3% of the population, you will keep dreaming up resolutions and programs and statements; and you and the Missouri Synod will both continue to shrink away to irrelevance.

Kristin said...

I would argue that including those whom society has condemned as freaks is precisely what Christ has called us to do, as shown by his example of communing with the freaks of his day. And if it means that the Church is less relevant to the larger culture while it is modeling this Christian love, then I can live with that.

Anonymous said...

I would love for this day to come--thank you for bringing up the trans* community in your blog. I hope you can find a trans* Lutheran to talk to about this subject :)