Transgender UMC Pastor Comes Out to Congregation to “Thunderous Applause”

The United Methodist Church has a second trans pastor and his congregation couldn’t be happier. Rev. David Weekley of Epworth UMC in Portland, Oregon came out in his sermon yesterday after 27 years in the closet.

Standing behind his pulpit, Weekley began his usual worship service. About halfway through, he paused to share a personal message he called “My Book Report.” He told them that in 1984, just nine years after undergoing extensive sex-reassignment surgeries, he was ordained by the Methodist Church without telling anyone of his original gender at birth.

Following his story, the congregation, who had remained silent throughout his talk, broke into thunderous applause. Church members then proclaimed their support for their pastor.

“It doesn’t change him; he’s still Reverend David, and that’s what counts,” says congregation member Robbie Tsuboi, who has been attending Epworth since 1964. “I think it was a really, really positive reaction. From what I understand, it was 100 percent support within the church.”

Image by Pamplin Media Group
Image by Pamplin Media Group

I can’t tell you how touched I am by the Epworth congregation. Their reaction is exactly what a Christian reaction to bravery and honesty should be.

“We at Epworth support him,” says congregation member Kazuko Hara, who has been attending Epworth’s services for more than 50 years. “I am supportive of him and will stand by him.”

“I think that they’re looking at his heart,” adds Kaau Ahina, who has been attending Epworth for three years. “They love him for who he is, and (his wife) Deborah.”

Following Sunday morning’s service, Weekley answered questions from the congregation about his decision and his life. One member asked: Was he relieved to have revealed the truth about his life? Weekley exhaled. “Extremely,” he answered. “Twenty-seven years is a long time,” he says. “I have a lot to say and now I can finally say it.”

Despite anticipating that some of his congregation would leave the church, Weekley actually heard that some members plan to become more involved following his disclosure on Sunday.

“I don’t think I anticipated that so much,” he says smiling.

Please read the rest of the article at the Portland Tribune website. There are a few inaccuracies in the article as to policies in the UMC regarding LGBT people, but that’s to be expected with the complex maze we’ve constructed.

Special thanks to Tribune writer Christine McFadden, not only for the story, but for getting the pronouns right. That’s usually a problem for trans people in the press, but from what I can tell she got it exactly right!

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