Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan condemns Catholic stance on transgendered people in church

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The Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan has responded to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Marquette’s document “An Instruction on Some Aspects of the Pastoral Care of Persons with Same‐Sex Attraction and Gender Dysphoria” by affirming their support of gay, lesbian and transgendered persons within the life and ministry of the church.

On 21 July 2021 the Catholic diocese released a guide to clergy and lay leaders on how to navigate and respond to the current hyper-sexualized climate in America, by affirming the church’s traditional teachings. Among the recommendations in the paper were: 

“3) A person who is publicly living in a same‐sex sexual relationship (or in any sexual relationship outside of an ecclesiastically recognized marriage between one man and one woman) may not serve as a sponsor or a Christian witness for the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.”

“Similarly, a person who publicly identifies as a different gender than his or her biological sex or has attempted “gender transitioning” may not serve as a sponsor or a Christian witness for Baptism and Confirmation, unless the person has repented. Repentance does not require reversing the physical changes to the body that the person has undergone. The experience of incongruence in one’s sexual identity is not sinful if it does not arise from the person’s free will, nor would it stand in the way of the person serving as a sponsor or a Christian witness. However, deliberate, freely chosen, and manifest behaviors to redefine one’s sex do constitute such an obstacle.

“4) A person who is publicly living in a same‐sex sexual relationship (or in any sexual relationship outside of a marriage between one man and one woman) may not be Baptized, Confirmed, or received into full communion in the Church, unless the person has repented and withdrawn from the relationship. In danger of death, if there is evidence of repentance, these rites may be celebrated without withdrawal from the relationship if formal separation is not possible or is gravely inconvenient.”

On 15 December 2021 the Diocese of Upper Michigan which consists of 21 congregations and an average Sunday attendance in 2019 of 385, rebuked the Catholic diocese for its stance on these issues.  

The Upper Michigan statement read:

“We, the leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan, are gravely disappointed and saddened by the news that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Marquette has called upon its clergy to withhold baptism and other sacraments from persons who are Trans, Transgender and Non-Binary until they deny their personhood and repent of who they are. This is does not reflect the loving, liberating and life-giving God we know.

We believe and proclaim the Good News that all people are created in the image of God and that all people are beloved children of God. Because this is true, we are called to advocate for and protect the rights of and respect the dignity of all persons. We assert that our fellow children of God who identify as Trans, Transgender, and Non-Binary are whole and fully dignified: worthy of love, respect, support, and inclusion. We assert and affirm that no one needs to explain themselves: their bodies, their pronouns, and who they love–or meet any other requirement—to be God’s beloved. 

We in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan, as a member diocese in The Episcopal Church, are called to do the work of loving, supporting, and advocating for Trans, Transgender and Non-Binary persons. The General Convention of The Episcopal Church, in 2018 called the Church to, “…support legislative, educational, pastoral, liturgical, and broader communal efforts that seek to end the pattern of violence against transgender people in general and transgender women in particular, calling attention especially to the rising violence against transgender women of color and gender non-conforming people…” (General Convention Resolution 2018-C022)

We understand that we as a Christian body have much to learn and must let Trans, Transgender and Non-Binary persons lead the way. In accordance with another General Convention resolution passed in 2018, we strive to “… engage in the complex realities for transgender and non-binary persons in our churches, schools, and camps, and not yield to the temptation to ignore those realities….” and to… “recognize and accept our responsibility to protect the privacy of transgender and non-binary persons…” (General Convention Resolution 2018-C054)

To those who identify in this way: We recognize our world as a dangerous place for you. You are often treated as though you do not deserve respect unless you apologize for and deny who you truly are. So often you suffer verbal and physical abuse, and all too frequently: death. This is unjust, wrong, infuriating, and heartbreaking. We would like this to change for you and are willing to stand with you and to help. We will not always get it right, but we hope to do our best. 

We here in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan not only pray for your safety, good health, and happiness. We not only hope you know that you are beloved. We pledge ourselves to the task of making your world a safer place in which to live. We desire that you prosper and thrive just as you are. 

To those who identify as LGBTQI or who identify in any way that has caused you to be excluded, please know that the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan embraces you and people of all expression of personhood as part of the family of God.We welcome you to come and join us. 

We welcome conversation and an opportunity to learn how we might support and get to know you.“

Signed, Lydia Bucklin, David Carlisle, Jane Cisluycis, Marna Franson, Susan Harries, Gin Mannisto, Bradley Pickens, Rayford Ray, Suzanne Ray, Rick Stanitis

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