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United Methodist Church appoints first transgender deacon

M Barclay has been working 12 years for this

United Methodist Church appoints first transgender deacon
Instagram / mxbarclay
M Barclay is the first openly trans deacon in the United Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church has ordained a non-binary trans deacon.

On Sunday (4 June) M Barclay was commissioned by Bishop Sally Dyck at the Northern Illinois Conference.

Barclay, who identifies as neither male nor female and uses they as their pronoun, worked 12 years to achieve this.

They are the first non-binary trans member of the United Methodist Church to become a member of the clergy.

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But while bishop Dyck made sure everything reflected the newest deacon’s identity, including the ordination, others have not been so welcoming.

Barclay grew up in a conservative community in Pensacola, Florida, and told the Washington Post they identified as a straight woman when they made the decision to enter ministry.

In 2005, they started at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Texas.

After about a year of reading theology, including feminist and queer theology, Barclay realized they were not straight and they came out as lesbian.

They struggled with whether they should stay in the church, Barclay told the Washington Post, because of ‘how much harm the church had done, not only to LGBT people but to all marginalized people’.

Following seminary Barclay worked as the youth director at a United Methodist church in Austin, where they gave sermons and continued to participate in worship.

And they realized they still wanted to be ordained.

In 2012, they decided to pursue ordination in Texas.

At the time, Barclay was still identifying as a woman and in a relationship; because of this, they were sure they would be disqualified.

While they were approved for the following round of interviews, the responsible board refused to meet Barclay.

Instead, they had a public debate about their clergy hopeful’s sex life.

‘There was a conversation of 400 clergy in Texas about whether or not they could prove I was having sex,’ Barclay said.

‘It was terrible.’

They left Austin for Chicago, where they worked for Reconciling Ministries Network who work for the inclusion of trans and gender-nonconforming people in the church.

There, Barclay came out as trans. But something else happened, too: their candidacy for the clergy was approved.

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Now that they have been officially commissioned, Barclay enters a two-year provisional period.

If they pass, they will be ordained in 2019.

And although United Methodist Church clergy are not required to wear their collar at all times, Barclay intends to do so.

‘I feel very called to do that,’ they said.

‘A visibly trans person who is an extension of the church — queer and trans people need to see that. They need to see themselves reflected in the life of faith.’

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