Rev. Drew Phoenix and the United Methodist Church (UMC)


In 2006, the Rev Drew Phoenix announced his gender transition to St John's United Methodist Church of Baltimore, the congregation he was serving at the time. The congregation accepted his disclosure and both Phoenix and the church requested his continued service at the church for the coming church year.

The United Methodist hierarchy was duly appraised of changes in Phoenix's life. Given the absence of any church policy prohibiting people of transgender experience from serving, presiding Bishop John Schol handled the situation with care and professionalism.

Nonetheless, other forces in the United Methodist Church charged that Bishop Schol mishandled the situation. The complaint against the Bishop was heard by the Judicial Council (like the Supreme Court) of the United Methodist Church in October 2007 and upheld that Phoenix could not be removed without appropriate due process.

The Judicial Council case was widely seen as a proxy on the role of transgender clergy in the United Methodist Church, but really only addressed basic issues of due process. Nonetheless, having Phoenix's clergy credentials sustained was a historic win.

Reactions to Phoenix's disclosure continued at the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Transfaith Partner: United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion (UMATI)

Judicial Council in the News

Transgender pastor's new test of faith (LA Times, September 2007)

Methodists Vote to Keep Transgender Pastor (NPR with video, October 2007)

Other Followup

Transgender Pastor Raises Issues Among Methodists (NPR with audio, November 2007)

United Methodists to Debate Transgender Clergy (RNS/Christianity Today, April 2008)

Drew Phoenix interview (video, After Ellen, July 2008)

Meet Drew Phoenix, Identity, Inc's New Pastor (KTVA, Alaska, with video, January 2014)