Integrity USA and TransEpiscopal are sad to report that the Rev. Gwen Fry, who came out last weekend as a transgender woman, is no longer the Priest in Charge of Grace Episcopal Church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. We stand behind her leadership, courage, and integrity during this time. We also recognize and applaud the support offered to her and to Grace Church by the Right Rev. Larry Benfield, Bishop of Arkansas.
For those seeking background information on this situation, we commend you to read the statements both Bishop Benfield and Gwen have shared, which are on the Diocese of Arkansas web site.
The Episcopal Church is committed to the full incorporation and equality of transgender and gender nonconforming people. As Bishop Benfield noted in a local news article, at its 2012 General Convention the Episcopal Church passed resolution D019, which stated "that no one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of the Episcopal Church" on the basis of gender identity and expression. It also passed resolution D002 which barred discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in access to the ordination process. As a church we have declared, as our former Presiding Bishop the Most Rev. Edmund Browning once said, that "there will be no outcasts."
In her initial announcement, Gwen described "an amazing opportunity to learn, to grow, to seek out and find the risen Christ in one another in ways we might never have expected." We hope that the whole church will seize this chance to learn, to be vulnerable, to know one another more authentically, to deepen their membership in Christ’s body.
Voices of Witness: Out of the Box.
Gwen's commitment to living honestly, to letting her light shine, to growing into her full stature as a member of Christ’s body stands as a beacon of inspiration to all of us as we seek and serve Christ in all people, loving our neighbors as ourselves.
This weekend, Transfiguration Sunday will be observed across The Episcopal Church. We will hear the story of how Jesus walked up a mountain and was gloriously transformed beside Moses and Elijah as three bewildered disciples looked on in amazement. Only in Matthew’s gospel does Jesus bend down, touch them, and say, "get up, and do not be afraid."
This message could not be more timely today. As we stand together on God’s holy mountain, may we be strengthened to walk together through the challenges that lie before us, confident that in the process we will be changed into Christ’s likeness "from glory to glory."
A Statement from the Rev. Gwen Fry
I would like to express my sincere and deepest thanks to all of my family, colleagues, and friends who have reached out in support of me, of my family, and of our respective parishes. Not all of life’s journeys are ones we expect to take. They can be both challenging and filled with wonder. On Sunday I began a journey of conversation and education, of vulnerability, of transition. Because gender transition is something with which many are unfamiliar, it is only natural that there are questions. There may be anxiety, and at times we may stumble. But we also have an amazing opportunity to learn, to grow, to seek out and find the risen Christ in one another in ways we might never have expected. To do this well, I would like to engage with a spirit of respect, patience, peace, and prayer. Everyone needs space and time to talk and listen, to make adjustments, to make mistakes and ask forgiveness, to trust in the communal power of our membership in the body of Christ. My prayer is that we actively cultivate trust, patience, and respect, that we might rediscover the peace of Christ. I invite us all to continue prayerfully walking together in faith.
The Rev. Gwen Fry