Arkansas stands down transgendered priest from his parish


Arkansas stands down transgendered priest from his parish


George Conger

The Bishop of Arkansas, the Rt. Rev. Larry Benfield, has stood down the priest in charge of Grace Episcopal Church in Pine Bluff, Ark., after the Rev. Gregory J. Fry announced he wished to be considered a woman.

On 24 Feb 2014 Mr. Fry told the congregation of Grace Church he wished to be treated as a woman. In a letter to his congregation he stated he had known all his life that there was “something different about me and the way I felt inside. It has been like my inner self was out of sync with my outer self and so I have always experienced (to use a technical term) dysphoria.”

“As a child I prayed that I would wake up some day the whole person that I felt myself to be on the inside. I need to tell you that after years of self-searching and therapy I have come to accept in myself that I am transgender. And now I need to be honest with myself and all those I care about which includes you. I am going to begin the final stages of transitioning and I would like you to invite you to join me in this journey.”

Mr. Fry asked the congregation to “walk with me as I complete (finalize) the transformation that has been working on me from the day I was born.”

Ordained in 1990 for the Diocese of Lexington, Mr. Fry has served as priest in charge of Grace Church for less than a  year. His wife of over 20 years, the Rev. Lisa Fry was ordained in 2011 by Bishop Benfield and serves as curate of St Mark’s Episcopal Church in Little Rock. According to his Facebook page, he will now be known as Gwen Fry.

On 26 Feb 2014 Bishop Benfield met with the vestry of Grace Church to discuss their priest’s announcement. Following the meeting he released a statement saying that Mr. Fry remained a priest in good standing, but in the interests of the congregation and for Mr. Fry it was best that he step down as priest in charge.

“After a week of serious conversations with the people involved, I decided that the long-term wellbeing of the priest as well as that of the congregation is best served by dissolving their pastoral relationship. This move will allow the priest to work on transitioning and begin a new life that will be lived with authenticity. It also allows the congregation to focus on the work that we have in every congregation: to restore all people to unity with God and one another in Christ.”

Little Rock television station KARK reported a local Gay rights advocacy group, the Center for Artistic Revolution applauded Mr. Fry’s decision, and urged the diocese and congregation not to dissolve their pastoral relationship with the priest.

"Remember that this is the same person they knew yesterday, last week, last month, and she's just chosen to share some new information about herself with them," said Jeana Miracle-Huie of the Centr for Artistic Revolution.

The 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Indianapolis approved a change to the "nondiscrimination canons" to include "gender identity and expression" making it unlawful to bar from the ordination process those born as one gender but lived as the other.