Sunday, May 27, 2007

BALTIMORE (AP) — United Methodist clergy in Baltimore are asking for the denomination’s highest legal authority to review a decision to reappoint a transgender pastor to lead a city congregation.

Bishop John R. Schol decided last week to continue the appointment of the Rev. Drew Phoenix as pastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church.

Mr. Phoenix, 48, has led St. John’s for nearly five years. In the past year, he changed his name from Ann Gordon and received medical treatment to become a man.

The Methodist church bans sexually active homosexual clergy but has no rules about transgender pastors.

Clergy of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church have asked for a decision of law on whether transgender people are eligible for appointment as pastors, said Wayne DeHart, the conference’s director of human resources.

Under church procedure, Bishop Schol would issue a decision within a month, which would be reviewed by the Judicial Council, the Methodists’ highest court. The council next meets in October. Its decisions are final, according to the United Methodists’ Web site.

UMAction, a conservative Methodist organization, has called for the General Conference, an international Methodist body that meets next year, to develop rules on transgender pastors.

“I think instinctively most church people would say there are some theological problems with gender change, but they don’t know how to articulate the arguments and expect the church to offer a teaching on the subject,” UMAction director Mark Tooley said.

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