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Shannon Kearns was recently ordained in the North American Old Catholic Church, a small liberal denomination that follows some of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church, but is not connected with it. (Photo: David Joles/Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Shannon Kearns was recently ordained in the North American Old Catholic Church, a small liberal denomination that follows some of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church, but is not connected with it. (Photo: David Joles/Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Despite significant nods to homosexual groups and individuals at the recent Presidential Inauguration, I couldn’t help but notice some dissatisfied tweeting from activists lamenting that the “B and T” of “LGBT” went unacknowledged. IRD has already noted that both transgenderism and polyamory are going to continue to be more openly proclaimed and celebrated in old-line Protestant circles.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports about a transgender person who was ordained to minister in an offshoot Catholic denomination this past Saturday:

One of only a half-dozen or so transgender clergy members in Minnesota, Shannon T.L. Kearns will set about starting the state’s first North American Old Catholic Church congregation following his ordination at Plymouth Congregational Church.

Established in 2007, the North American Old Catholic Church (NAOCC) is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, though Kearns says he hopes to attract disenchanted Roman Catholics to his new, more liberal-leaning Minneapolis congregation.

Two weeks ago I blogged about transgender clergy, noting that several come from conservative/traditionalist backgrounds and wondering aloud if this is the norm for transgender clergy, rather than the exception. Consistent with this theory, the Minneapolis priest, Kearns, reports that he grew up in a ‘fundamentalist evangelical church.’

As the article indicates, this group that claims a Catholic identity is not particularly common in the United States. When you do encounter a dissident Catholic group that is outside of the Church, they are almost always pre-Vatican II ultra-conservatives, not liberals. The liberals are usually content to do (literal) puppet/clown masses just on the edge of the Church, but not outside it.

At first, I (mistakenly) assumed that the NAOCC was a geographic branch of the Old Catholic Church, a European group that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church after the first Vatican council over differences about Papal Infallibility. That group is in communion with the U.S.-based Episcopal Church and Swedish Lutherans, among others. The NAOCC, on the other hand, claims only 21 congregations and is independently organized.

I’d be interested in learning why Kearns chose to join a tiny splinter group, instead of going for a larger, transgender-affirming denomination such as the Episcopal Church or United Church of Christ. Surely, the liberal Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota would welcome this person to their clergy roles with open arms (along with Buddhist liturgies and other innovations).

Expect more visible emphasis on transgender matters in the coming year, as the groups seek more public acknowledgement and affirmation within our churches.