Reverend Dr. Cameron Partridge made history last Sunday when he became the first openly transgender priest to preach at Washington National Cathedral. The moment is truly a historical milestone for transgender Episcopalians: Washington National Cathedral has immense historical significance as the second largest cathedral in the country and the sixth largest in the world. The massive, over-century-old, Neo-Gothic structure attracts over 1500 worshippers every Sunday.
Partridge, who spoke from the Canterbury Pulpit in honor of Pride Month, is one of seven openly transgender clergy in the Episcopal Church. He currently serves as the Episcopal chaplain at Boston University as well as a lecturer and counselor at Harvard Divinity School.
Prior to the service, the Dean of Washington National Cathedral, Reverend Gary Hall, told the Huffington Post how he hoped Partridge's presence and service would send out a powerful, important message:
As an advocate both within the Church and wider community, Cameron’s presence in the pulpit, I hope, will also send a symbolic message in support of greater equality for the transgender community, which suffers from acts of violence, discrimination, unemployment, homelessness, and financial inequality. We at Washington National Cathedral are striving to send a message of love and affirmation, especially to LGBT youth who suffer daily because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We want to proclaim to them as proudly and unequivocally as we can: Your gender identity is good and your sexual orientation is good because that’s the way that God made you.
Partridge's sermon certainly lived up to the Dean's hope of being a profound message of inclusivity. In his sermon, Partridge said,
I'm moved by how our decisions are calling us into a deeper awareness of the mystery of the human person. For at the end of the day, to respect the dignity of every human being, as we promise in our Baptismal covenant, is to actively create space for the unfolding of our lifelong growth as members of Christ's body, whoever we may be.
These decisions Partridge referenced include the Episcopal Church's vote in 2012 to allow the ordination of transgender people and as well as allowing same-sex marriage blessings. Back in 2003, Christianity's first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, was approved by the church. Bishop Robinson, an Episcopalian, preceded over Sunday's service.
Regarding Partridge's sermon, Bishop Robinson emphasized how important the message of inclusion is for those who are marginalized, especially some of society's most vulnerable members: homeless LGBT youth. Bishop Robinson said:
The most important person to hear the message of inclusion is that person who has been told for years at a time that God abhors them, that God finds them objectionable, and not worthy of God's love. And the message that indeed God does love gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children is desperately needed to be heard by those – many of whom are young people who have been kicked out of their homes when they came out to their parents and are living on the streets of our cities.
Check out a clip of Partridge's sermon along with more commentary in a Reuters report below: