Grace, Pine Bluff

There’s lots of misinformation floating around out there about the diocese’s response to a priest announcing that that priest is transgender. To be clear, the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas has NOT severed ties with the priest. Our prayers and support are with the priest during this time.

Here’s the word straight from Bishop Benfield:

A Letter from Bishop Benfield

Grace Church in Pine Bluff was the setting this past week for the announcement by its priest-in-charge that the priest is transgender. To be transgender is to identify with a gender that is different from the sex assigned at a person’s birth. It was the first time in this diocese that a priest currently working in a congregation has made such an announcement, and it reflects the increased attention that the issue is receiving in our culture.

After a week of serious conversations with the people involved, I decided that the long-term wellbeing of the priest as well as that of the congregation is best served by dissolving their pastoral relationship. This move will allow the priest to work on transitioning and begin a new life that will be lived with authenticity. It also allows the congregation to focus on the work that we have in every congregation: to restore all people to unity with God and one another in Christ.

I hope that we never reduce the struggles that we all face in our lives to snap judgments that are best suited to sound bites, just as I hope that we do not make decisions based on fear of the unknown. We read in the Bible that perfect love casts out fear, and I remain convinced that as we learn to love one another without fear, we will come to understand that seeing the resurrected Christ in one another will change our lives for the better and make visible the kingdom of God in our midst.

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9 Comments on “Grace, Pine Bluff”

  1. Kathryn Birkhead

    None of us can fully imagine the struggles that our fellow human beings are going through. My prayers stay with this priest and with the congregation. I remain ever grateful for the unearned grace of God’s love.

  2. Rev. Dr. Ryan A. Rush

    I am grateful for Rev. Fry’s courage. No one can know the hope she has given to so many by daring to be true in her faithfulness. God bless you, Gwen.

  3. Beth Brady

    My love and support for you Rev. Fry and for your congregation to find peace and understanding to sustain you in your new journey! May you all see Christ in each other and tolerance that is the love of the Lord!!

  4. James Herden

    Please help me to understand how dissolving the pastoral relationship between the Rev. Fry and Grace Church- Pine Bluff “will restore all people to unity with God and one another in Christ.” Indeed, “perfect love casts out fear,” yet I fail to comprehend how severing this pastoral relationship can open hearts and minds to that end. My prayers are with the Rev. Fry, Grace Church, our Bishop, and the entire Diocese. May God’s Love bring sense to all.

  5. Jill Cox

    My prayers are with Rev. Fry, as she takes this journey. I am in awe of her courage and faith, and I am confident that she will soon find a new parish here in Arkansas where she can continue her ministry. The battle for equality and tolerance is not new to The Episcopal Church. It was a hard fought battle indeed, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, as well. I am praying like crazy that we can maintain a loving dialogue in this next chapter of our history. “God welcomes all” is real.. Peace be with you.

  6. Kaki Roberts

    Nearly 11 years ago I learned with my heart, soul, and mind that the focus of the Church is to be the Church, the Body of Christ in the world. I knew it in my head for decades before that.

    My brother is a Presbyterian Minister. On the Eve of Pentecost we received calls that our Dad died. Chuck had a funeral that day and Pentecost celebration the next. He did not tell anyone in the Church about Dad until Sunday afternoon as he left town. Why? Because the focus was to be on Jesus and being the Church, not how could he be doing this when his Dad just died.

    I’m not comparing the loss of a parent to transgender. What I am saying is that I agree with the Bishop’s decision. Grace Pine Bluff can be about the work of being the Church without being distracted. The Rev Fry can be about being the person God created her to be.

    Together we all are the Church, the Body of Christ.

  7. John Gibson

    Following my home diocese from afar, I’m not equipped to judge. However, I will note that, for all its stated devotion to welcome, et al, Grace Church and the Bishop of Arkansas have met their FIRST true challenge to their baptismal covenant and their mission in the world with timidity, fear, rejection and a flight to comfortable images of themselves, rather than embracing the prophetic opening the Holy Spirit has placed in their path. Now it waits for another, bolder parish, probably in some diocese other than Arkansas, to give the Holy Spirit the room She is so explicitly asking for.

  8. Sarah Vestal

    As a transsexual Episcopalian and almost 50 year member at Trinity Cathedral in Little Rock, I am deeply concerned with how this matter has played out. The transgender community suffers from a 41% suicide rate due to societal stigma. Has this Pine Bluff congregation enabled greater stigmatization of trans folks by dismissing their suffering priest due solely to her need of therapeutic medical treatment for gender dysphoria?

  9. Pingback: Arkansas Episcopal diocese deals with transgender priest | Glad Streams

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