When I lived in Washington, D.C., one of the first places that I would take visitors and family to visit was the National Cathedral. Officially, the Episcopal National Cathedral is called The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington. It is architecturally beautiful, and I consider the cathedral to be a sermon in stone to the glory of God. The cathedral has long been a place of importance in American history. I remember it best for the first part of former President Reagan’s funeral in June 2004, and for the worship service held on the Friday morning after the September 11, 2001, attacks when the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham comforted our nation.
In a curious way, the Cathedral made history again this past Sunday. The Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, the Episcopal chaplain at Boston University, was the first openly transgender priest to preach from the Canterbury Pulpit at the cathedral. The Rev. Dr. Partridge is also lecturer and counselor to Episcopal/Anglican students at Harvard Divinity School. The Right Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual Episcopal bishop, presided at this service. The service was part of the cathedral’s celebration of LGBTQ pride month. The service included readings and prayers from members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the cathedral, said that he hoped that Rev. Dr. Partridge’s participation would “send a symbolic message in support of greater equality for the transgender community.” And for that symbolism, I am sure that the Very Rev. Hall is correct.
Many of my readers know that the Bible is not supportive of transgender priests. A number of Holy Scriptures find “an abomination” for those who attempt to transform their masculinity into femininity. (See, e.g., Deuteronomy 23:18.) St. Paul, in I Corinthians 6:9, includes a group called “malakoi” or “soft men” in his list of those who “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Of course, effeminate or soft men are not solely homosexual, and I have observed that some lesbians seek to appear overtly masculine. But during Sunday’s services at the cathedral, those present prayed the following:
Gracious God, have mercy on us. We confess that we have turned from you and given ourselves into the power of sin. We are truly sorry and humbly repent. In your compassion forgive us our sins, known and unknown, things we have done and things we have failed to do. Turn us again to you, and uphold us by your Spirit, so that we may live and serve you in newness of life through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.
That is a profound confession for all of us, including those in attendance on Sunday morning, and we continue to pray and work for our national repentance. If you wish to watch Father Partridge’s sermon, you can watch here.