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July 4, 2014

Hope and division during the Anglican wars

Anglicans seem to be hopeful about their flocks in the United States, even if the warring factions in their Communion keep moving further and further apart.

That was a common theme in two upbeat recent sermons preached by leaders in the progressive and orthodox Anglican bodies now competing in the marketplace of American religion.

In the first sermon, Father Cameron Partridge became the first openly transgender priest to preach at Washington National Cathedral. The June 22 liturgy was part of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride month.

"To dream that one day this Episcopal Church family, in which I grew up, might join other traditions, and inspire still others, by embracing our gifts and leadership at all levels of its life. I am so grateful and proud to be in a church that is now living into this charge," said Partridge, who was born a woman, but now identifies as a trans man.

"As we behold one another in these days of celebration, may ... we give thanks for the unfolding mystery of our humanity and may we revel in our participation in God's ongoing project of revelation."

"Revelation" was the word for the day, said Partridge, a Harvard Divinity School faculty member and the Episcopal chaplain at Boston University. Modern churches must embrace the "project of revelation" that shapes an evolving faith, he said.

Partridge recalled a "circle of oppression" rite during an Episcopal retreat he attended 13 years ago, when the leader asked oppressed women to step forward.

"I began to panic. At this point, I was known as an openly gay, partnered woman and I was just coming to terms with being trans," recalled Partridge. "I also knew that people are punished every day, in various ways, for transgressing the male-female binary -- including in church, perhaps especially in church."

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