News from AllianceQ: September 2023

Reflections from Rev. Ari Douglas, primary author of GA-2352, as Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) unanimously passes resolution to oppose anti-trans legislation

Council Secretary Elijah Burton (he/they) speaks in support of the resolution at General Assembly.

On August 1, 2023, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada unanimously passed resolution GA-2352 to oppose anti-trans legislation and affirm the dignity of transgender and gender-diverse people.

Rev. Ari Douglas, the primary author of GA-2352, reflects on the assembly and shares a formal letter with us.

Rev. Ari Douglas (they/them) introduces the resolution at General Assembly.

Rev. Ari Douglas in conversation with our Executive Director + Minister

How do YOU FEEL in your spirit after General Assembly?

I would like to say that my spirit is feeling fully refreshed, renewed, and ready. To some extent that’s true. General Assembly tends to be a time for me to find that peace and I need the connection with other Disciples. There is some peace in my soul knowing that our resolution was unanimous and that there were no voices against it. I do feel that there is a lot of work undone. In the last four years I have not seen a lot of work done (outside of the Alliance) to seriously undertake GA-1929 (An Invitation to Education For Welcoming And Receiving The Gifts of Transgender And Gender Diverse People). So this gives my spirit some concern. I also deeply value and appreciate all of the voices that spoke in support of our resolution but I do wish that more of our (transgender and gender diverse) stories could have been shared.

What do you truly hope this resolution does for the DOC and for transgender individuals?

It is my prayer that the DOC continues to become a more safe and affirming place, and that people come to know our denomination as a place that is safe and affirming for the expressions of all of G-ds people including and especially trans and gender diverse people. There are always people who will feel persecuted because others being treated more equitably seems to them like there being less of the pie for them. Now, I love pie…but this isn’t pie. There is enough for everyone. We need to continue to educate, but we need to move beyond simple education to affirmation of the sacredness of trans folx. What this looks like to me is trans and gender diverse people being involved in the life of the church at every level. I hope that this resolution, which was in a manner a love letter to the DOC, be read in legislatures and city halls, churches, and community centers. That people, ministers, members, and others both within the Disciples and outside of it take this resolution and use it as the tool it was intended to be; to create justice, to speak against hatred, to spread love.

How do you imagine we (you, supporters of the resolution and AllianceQ) can provide accountability and resources for living into this resolution?

Unofficially, a group for transgender and gender diverse people within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has formed. This is something of a support group but I hope that an official expression of such an organization can also be formed so that transgender and gender diverse people might have a place where we can learn, celebrate, and take solace. As long as there are men’s and women’s groups within the DOC, there will be those of us who feel like we can’t go to either. It would be wonderful for us to have a space where we could go.

Additionally, I am hoping to help start a program for our churches to be recognized not only as Open + Affirming, but Safe Spaces for Trans and Gender Diverse folx, perhaps this could be a part of the O+A process or it could stand on its own. In the meantime, congregations inviting Trans and Gender Diverse people to speak, open themselves to education (such as using the pronouns lab that was cited in the resolution) around pronouns.

I am hoping that we (myself and others who feel comfortable doing so) can offer assessments for churches that are interested, that help make their spaces more inviting to transgender and gender diverse people.

The resolution has a number of helpful resources, in addition to the one previously mentioned, tracks anti-trans legislation in the United States.

Ari’s formal letter

Greetings friends,

I hope that if you attended General Assembly you are well and rested, if not I hope that this good news from General Assembly in Louisville meets you well! For those who don’t know me, I’m Rev. Ari Douglas (they/them), pastor of Portsmouth Union Church a union of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Methodist Church. I have been ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) since May 2015.

I began my ministry at PUC on February 1st of this year, in May of this year I started asking around about whether there might be a resolution to support transgender and gender diverse people in light of the anti-transgender legislation that has been sweeping the United States (and as of July 1st New Brunswick Canada). Unfortunately, there was not. So I decided to do what I had been reared by my Anabaptist peace activist parents to do, step up and speak out. I began the work of organizing an emergency resolution knowing that we met the threshold for what an emergency resolution would call for as the anti-transgender legislation in the United States and Canada had not started until early February of 2023. Not only did I know that this legislation was taking place but I knew so many people who had started making plans to escape more dangerous states in pursuit of being in loving and supporting places. In some respects I could be seen as a refugee from the Midwest to the loving embrace of the Northwest as well.

Being in a safer place was all well and good for me, but I still have friends, loved ones, and people who see me as their pastor across the country who are under threat from the anti-transgender legislation. Former congregants of mine had been physically assaulted by pastors in other traditions for being transgender, and my own coming out as nonbinary (agender) has strengthened my ability to live into my call. So my concern is not only for myself, but certainly I am part of the community for which the resolution was written in support of. In previous years, in my parents denomination the Church of the Brethren, people who support the Queer community had been threatened and knowing that we do have some aspects of our movement that are more conservative I was concerned that I might be met with similar.

Knowing that there might be opposition we were very strategic, sharing the emergency resolution with a smaller number of people than we might otherwise. I brought the resolution to my own congregation and was met with the warm response of “this is why we called you,” and other pastors that I shared the resolution with were similarly met with warm encouragement. After hearing Rev. Melissa’s talk at the Alliance Dinner I was struck with inspiration, we would take a page right out of ACT UP’s playbook and stage “die ins” in front of the red mic’s and procedural mic, representing the transgender people who had been murdered in the last ten years. I was struck by further inspiration during an art and activism workshop and hearing Craig Hoffman talking about how the Alliance in the early days would sing “We Are A Gentle Angry People” so I asked several individuals to lead in singing that as well. We were intentional in our speaker lineup as well, as primary author of the resolution I was happy to present the resolution followed by Rev. Chris Wilson of St. Andrews Christian Church who had assisted in crafting the resolution. Our next speaker was Rev. Monica Cross a trans-woman of color, followed by Micah Burton a trans-youth. Our speaker line up was primarily made up of transgender and gender diverse people of various races, ages, and geographic locations.

It should be noted that the first day that the resolution went to the floor it was met with a friendly amendment from the Regional Minister of Canada to include Canada due to the actions of New Brunswick. It had not been the intention of the author of the resolution to exclude Canada only that there had not been any anti-transgender legislation in Canada when the resolution was first written in mid-June. It should also be mentioned that due to it being moved to the next day, the first words on that second day were from Rev. Cross, followed by the youth of our denomination. It is also my deep happiness and pride in our movement to say that when it came time to vote, there was not a single nay vote. The vote to pass our resolution was unanimous and the applause was like thunder in my ears and in my blood. I could not be prouder to be a Disciple.

In grateful thanks,

Rev. Ari Douglas (They/Them)

Primary Author of GA-2352 Invitation To Oppose Anti-Trans Legislation and Affirm the Dignity of Transgender and Gender-Diverse People