You Will See Signs: Transgender Priest at National Cathedral

There was a time when churches and cathedrals across this country were signs of the American populace’s devotion to God in their everyday lives.

Perhaps we’re all less attached to our communities, more prone to a drive-by lifestyle, but it seems that an increasing number of churches are more empty than full on any given Sunday, and biblical religion is taking more and more of a backseat.

I can’t help but feel it’s left a void in this country’s heart, and when there’s a void left behind by the disappearance of something good, it’s inevitable that something else entirely will fill the empty space.

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So what are we to think of the Washington National Cathedral inviting a transgendered priest to give a sermon at what was formerly a symbol of national piety?

Cameron Partridge, described as a “transgendered man,” which I’m guessing means a woman dressing as a guy, will give the sermon on June 22.

Partridge is an Episcopal/Anglican priest, Episcopal chaplain at Boston University, and lecturer and counselor to Episcopal students at Harvard Divinity School.

The dean of the cathedral, the Rev. Gary Hall, said in a statement, “We at Washington National Cathedral are striving to send a message of love and affirmation, especially to LGBT youth who suffer daily because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We want to proclaim to them as proudly and unequivocally as we can: Your gender identity is good and your sexual orientation is good because that’s the way that God made you.”

At some point, aren’t priests, ministers and other clergy supposed to read the Bible? I find myself wondering because Hall’s statement doesn’t seem to reflect either biblical or worldly reality.

“Male and female He created them.” That’s the line from Genesis. It seems pretty straightforward. Not “male and female and other.” Not “male and female and female-male or male-female.”

The rest of the Bible is specific also, not just about gender but about what you’re supposed to do with it. Homosexuality is a sin. And homosexual “marriage”? No way.

“For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Again, no real room for personal interpretation there. Not that there haven’t been some monumental efforts, employing remarkable skill in word parsing, real “depends what the definition of ‘is’ is” type stuff.

But at the end of the day, the Bible’s clear and it’s not changing.

Which brings us back to Partridge, purportedly a minister of Christianity, which would seem to be at odds with Partridge’s pretense of being a man.

As I understand the whole transgender concept, it’s not just a case of a man wanting to dress like a woman or vice versa, but it starts when a person holds the belief that they exist in the wrong body, that they were actually meant to be the other gender and have the other gender’s body parts. In other words, it starts from the idea that God made a mistake.

Which means Hall’s statement is an outright lie. By telling transgender people “that’s the way God made you,” he’s either saying that transgenders need to accept the gender they were born as (clearly not his intent), or he’s saying that God made a mistake (closer to what he means), or he’s saying that God likes to torment people by doing things like putting male souls in female bodies (bingo). In the next breath, Hall (and others like him) will insist that God is love and throw out everything else the Bible says.

So how does a person like Partridge, who believes that God is cruel enough and imperfect enough to want to torture his creations, seriously suggest that God is loving? How does someone like Partridge, who puts her own judgment above God’s, seriously think she can lead people toward salvation? Is there even such a thing for people who believe transgenderism is “normal”? They seem to have done away with the concept of sin, or at least most sins, and without sin there’s no need for salvation. How can people like Partridge and Hall justify Jesus’ mission if human suffering is God’s fault?

In a 2013 interview, Partridge discussed her transformation from lesbian to lesbian priest to lesbian priest pretending to be a man, though she didn’t put it in those terms. She said, “Most of all I appreciate what’s called ‘Anglican comprehensiveness,’ which often calls us to embody ambiguity. Sometimes that causes us discomfort, even conflict, but it’s at the heart of who we are as Anglicans. I love that.”

David W. Virtue of Virtue Online, which bills itself as the voice of orthodox Anglicanism, protested the Cathedral’s allowing Partridge to speak there. He wrote, “The Episcopal Church has raced ahead of the culture and historic Christianity and pushed this abomination right into the pulpit. A church whose deepest theological utterances have been reduced to sound-bite words like ‘inclusion,’ ‘diversity’ and ‘oppression’ is a church that has surgically operated on itself.”

Christianity used to fill the pews and halls of the National Cathedral. What’s filling it now looks like something radically different.


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