Presbyterians Today

OCT 2018

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P r e s by te r i a n s To d ay OCTOBER TRANSGENDER IN RURAL AMERICA When the rd General Assembly passed an overture arming and celebrating the "full dignity and humanity" and gifts of all people of all gender identities and sexual orientations Presbyterians in rural America rejoiced• One mother of a teen who is transitioning in an upstate New York farming commu- nity wrote on Facebook in response to the overture "I am happy to hear my church is a place where my son is welcomed•" Diversity is growing in rural communities and it is no longer just the shade of one's skin• Gender identity is also part of the changing land- scape• For example West Virginia is now home to the highest number of transgen- der teens in the nation• The Rev• Anna Pickney Straight of Old Stone Presbyterian Church in Lewisburg Virginia says that a faith campaign is currently underway for these teens• The project is spear- headed by a group called Fairness WV• But long before the rd overture was accepted this past summer Owen Gilbo experienced the love and acceptance of coming out in a rural Presbyterian church• Owen's story As I stood at the pulpit peering out at the familiar faces of our small congrega- tion my heart full of gratitude for these people I told them "Thank you for walking the walk and not just talking the talk• Several years ago you not only voted to become a welcoming church you this wonderful group of people supported me throughout my transition perhaps without understanding you were doing so• That dear friends is walking the walk!" One of my closest friends the Rev• Bruce Tamlyn a United Church of Christ pastor and I were co-preaching that day at my church Putnam United Presbyterian Church in Putnam Station New York• Bruce a chaplain at Silver Bay Spiritual Life Center in Silver Bay New York was serving as Putnam's pastor• Our theme was "All Are Welcome at the Table•" It was Nov• '"" two days after National Day of Transgender Remembrance• I wanted to include this act of remem- brance in our worship to shed light that not all are welcome in our nation especially transgender people who are murdered just for being "who they are" transgender human beings God's children• It was such a stark contrast to the welcoming loving community at Putnam• I had been attending the church since ''" and became a member in '"' known at the time as Angie• During "Joys and Concerns" one Sunday in '"" I stood up and stated my joy• I announced that I was happy to have legally changed my name to Owen and I would like for everyone to call me by my new name•They called me Owen• Some struggled to figure out which pronouns to usebut there was never a question as to why I had made the change• Fast-forward to '"˜™ While preaching that all are truly welcomed at God's table I explained to the congrega- tion that I am a transgender man a beloved child of God• And they Putnam United Presbyterian had never abandoned me as such• They know the meaning of "all are welcomed at the table•" I will never forget when one congregant Ann shot up out of her seat and very loudly stated "This is why we voted to be a welcoming church• This is who we are!" Everyone laughed when Bruce stood to deliver his part of the message and said "Wow! How do I follow that?" He did follow my message emphasizing that God did not discern who should and should not be at the table• God made us all loves us all and God most certainly wants us to include all people in our places of worship and in our lives• Bruce's brother's husband Chuck was sitting in church that day• He said to me after- wards "I had to keep looking around the room• I was scanning the room looking at all the gray hair and had to remember where I was• This wasn't Southern California this was Putnam• Wow it gives me hope•" Did I mention Putnam Station has a population of Ÿ"˜ people? Owen Gilbo and his wife Betsy moved to the Albany New York area in They are currently looking for a new PC(USA) church to call home COURTESY OF OWEN GILBO Owen Gilbo and his wife, Betsy, found acceptance and love in their rural church in Putnam Station, New York, during Owen's transition.

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