A panel of senior members of the Episcopal Church on Saturday voted in favor of allowing the ordination of transgender ministers, bringing the Church one step closer to a fully inclusive LGBT environment.
The House of Bishops voted at the church’s General Convention to include “gender identity and expression” in its “non-discrimination canons,” meaning sexual orientation, including that of people who have undergone sex-change operations, cannot be used to exclude candidates to ministry.
The resolutions on gender would allow transgender individuals access to enter the Episcopal lay or ordained ministries, and extend the overall non-discrimination policy to church members.
The measure must now be approved by the church’s House of Deputies.
The Episcopal Church was of course the first within the modern Anglican Communion to ordain an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson. This sparked a fierce debate that still rages within the Anglican Church today.
Interestingly, the Episcopal Church in 2009 voted against enumerating specific classes, settling instead for a blanket nondiscrimination policy. However senior church officials now seem to have now reconsidered this position, possibly because of the several states that, in the time that has passed, have moved to adopt such explicit protections.
This change is being considered at the Church’s triennial convention which is being held in Indianapolis.
There is also expected to be a vote on standardizing liturgy for blessing same-sex unions. The Episcopal Church, while defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, gives great deference to ministers who wish to bless same-sex partnerships but there has, until now, been no agreed upon language for such blessings.
This came in the same week that the Presbyterian Church voted down a measure that would have allowed the church to recognize same-sex unions–though it was by a narrow margin that the measure failed.