Almost a year ago, Bishop Shannon called for a gathering of representatives from our Church Schools to discuss the reality of transgender students in our schools. At that time we were not aware of any transgender students in our schools and believed our conversations would put us a step ahead of a quickly coming change. By the time Bishop Susan convened a gathering of 42 representatives of our six schools and our summer camps on April 27, 2016, some of our schools were already in conversation with students who are transitioning and with their parents. We moved from the hypothetical to the concrete in a short time.
While we do not yet have an exhaustive policy about the inclusion of transgender persons in the life of our schools, congregations, camps and other institutions, your bishops have articulated eight principles that guide our continuing work:
- We believe that all people are created in the image of God and that all people are beloved children of God.
- Because that is true, we will not reject, judge, abuse, belittle or in any way dehumanize transgender persons.
- We will not ignore or disengage from the complex realities for transgender persons in our churches, camps, schools and other institutions.
- We will acknowledge how complex, challenging and sensitive these matters are.
- We will acknowledge how difficult providing for transgender persons in our institutions might be for the transgender persons, for those who support them and for those who disagree with our decision to be inclusive.
- We believe that one’s gender identity is a personal matter and that we have a responsibility to protect the privacy of transgender persons.
- Any decisions we make about transgender minors in our institutions must be made in concert with their parents.
- We must remain flexible in response to the complex ramifications of this work by remaining open to relevant stories, to emerging information and to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
As an immediate follow up to our April meeting, we have asked that a representative from each school be designated to serve on an advisory team. This team will share in the work of creating an education program for school faculty and staff, perhaps with a segment for parents, that can be taken on the road to each school. The education program will reflect the learnings of physicians, psychologists, educators and theologians who have experience and expertise in issues relating to transgender persons.
Thank you for your leadership and commitment to this important work, and to the journey ahead as we do the work together.
The Rt. Rev. Shannon Sherwood Johnston, Diocesan Bishop
The Rt. Rev. Susan Ellyn Goff, Bishop Suffragan
The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. “Ted” Gulick Jr., Assistant Bishop