Independent Catholic Church Group Ordains Its First Transgender Priest

Minneapolis just ordained its first transgender priest this week, but you probably won’t be reading a statement from the Pope about it.

Shannon T.L. Kearns (via

The North American Old Catholic Church, an independent branch of Catholicism not affiliated with the Vatican, ordained Shannon T.L. Kearns to the priesthood on January 19th. Kearns is a transgender man with a track record of advocating for LGBT people in interfaith circles.

Kearns will start a new Minneapolis parish called House of the Transfiguration, according to a press release from the church.

The Advocate reports:

“I am honored and humbled to have my calling to ministry affirmed by the North American Old Catholic Church,” said Kearns, who transitioned while attending Union Theological Seminary, where he received a master of divinity degree. “I look forward to many years serving as a priest.”

The church blends Catholic tradition with progressive values such as LGBT inclusion, according to its website:

We consider gender diversity a blessed part of life and promote the full inclusion of LGBT persons in our religious life, sacraments, and clergy. Similarly, we advocate for the full inclusion of LGBT persons throughout society.

Big day for the transgender community — and for churches who totally reject conforming to the ways of the Vatican. Congrats to him!

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at

  • Phil Cleaver

    …but why ? Isn’t this some kind of oxymoron like, “unofficial offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan accepts first African American Imperial Wizard?

    Oh well… that’s why I am an atheist, because none of it makes any sense to me.

  • Alexis

    So he gets a free pass on being a religious crackpot just because he’s transgender?

  • The Godless Monster

    Yep, that’s how it usually works here.

  • The Godless Monster

    I’m all for human rights, but this post (like many here) really has nothing to do with human rights, rational thought or atheism and those topics are why I subscribed to this blog in the first place. Gay marriage…that interests me and it should interest all advocates for human rights.
    This is about inclusion into a breakaway sect of an exclusionary and bigoted group. I see nothing to celebrate here. Oh well, it’s Hemant’s blog and he can steer it in any direction he wants to. :-)

  • Question Everything

    Well, Camille did say “Big day for the transgender community — and for churches who totally reject conforming to the ways of the Vatican” – not a big day for secularism or anything else, a big day for the transgender community.

    I agree with the post, it is a big day for the transgender community in general, and specifically for those still religious (of which there are many). I can be happy for them in that respect while still hoping they’ll come around to the secular point of view. Can’t you?

  • Lee Miller

    I think articles like this are interesting on several levels . . . like, who knew there was something called The North American Old Catholic Church? Apparently with members and priests and all . . . It also helps emphasize more of the absudity of religious life, if you read between the lines. It’s all made up, you can believe any shit you want, none of it makes any sense when you examine it.
    I wonder if the people who are members of this unknown church really wouldn’t rather stay at home and read the newspaper or pet the dog or something else equally as exciting. The continuing mystery for me is why people today continue to invest their time in religions that require any kind of time commitment.

  • Kengi

    That’s the problem with religion. You can twist the teachings to any shape you want to fit your personal agenda. Eventually the Vatican will do the same just to stay relevant in a modern society. The core is still rotten.

  • Helanna

    Well, we do complain a lot that the silent majority of Christians really need to speak up and let everyone know they’re not all gay-hating, women-oppressing loons. It would be unfair to simply not cover the more sane members that are working towards a better society.

    Besides, I like reading stuff like this. It’s interesting, and frankly a lot of the news on this site is so depressing that it’s nice to have a counter-point and be reminded that there are reasonable religious folk out there. The fact that this church is calling themselves Catholic but doesn’t buy any of the Church’s teachings isn’t exactly what I’d call sane, but it’s a step in the right direction.

  • Sids

    I think it interesting that if he’d never had his operation, he never would have been ordained. In that sense he’s not only being accepted for the way he is, he’s being rewarded for it. I bet if the church actually pondered that interpretation, they’d reverse the ordainment in a second.

  • chicago dyke


    also, the trans community is probably more hated and ignored by our society and media than atheists are.

    think of it like atheists raising money for charities. doing a good thing, like covering positive developments in the trans community, is a Good Thing. its own reward, even.

  • A3Kr0n

    How can someone say they’re an “independent Catholic church”? Could I have a group of homophobes, and say we’re an independent ILGA group? How about a group of white racists saying their an independent group of the NAACP? I mean, allowing a transgender priest equates to the same thing for Real Catholics™, right?

  • Sami Hawkins

    I’d like to once again thank Friendly Atheist for doing a better job covering trans related stories than a lot of LBGT sites.

  • jose

    It reinforces the message that only men are allowed. Hey women, want to be ordained? Become men.

    But remember male privilege is a feminist fantasy.

  • Randomfactor

    I’ve been expecting a breakaway North American Catholic Church to arise the way that the Episcopal Church broke away from the Anglican. Good to see it happening. Sure, the beliefs are still silly. But now they’re a little less harmful to others.

  • Randomfactor

    They DO ordain women.

  • Brian Scott

    The Old Catholic Church was broken away from the RCC for a long time, mainly over doctrinal issues (specifically, the OCC opposed the decree of papal infallibility).

  • Brian Scott

    As Randomfactor said, the OCC in North America do ordain women, since 1949.

  • GloomCookie613

    Except this church ordains women, but don’t let facts get in the way or anything.

  • jose

    I stand corrected. I assumed the church was catholic. Thanks for the correction, my bad.

  • LesterBallard

    So what parts of the Bible do they believe? The “good” parts? They need the Bible to tell them what is good? They need a church and priests to tell them that?

  • Anna

    I went googling out of curiosity, and it looks like the actual Catholic church is even worse on these matters:

  • GloomCookie613

    No prob. This church is the kind I refer to as Catholic-lite. :)

  • Tim

    I belong to the United Independent Catholic Church in Wisconsin. We are growing in the Neenah area if anyone is interested.SS Cyril and Methodius parish.

  • ruth

    I don’t have any problem with churches who uphold values that I hold. If our only difference is whether we believe in god, I don’t much care if they do. I also don’t care if they rationalize away the bad stuff in the bible. I rationalize too, just not about religion. We all do. We do it so we can sleep at night.

  • roberthughmclean

    What a thoughtful bunch! With so much competition for the decreasing pool of potential victims, a bit of specific segment marketing may provide a whole new stream of new victims. They’re selling the same silly stuff but with a wink and a smile.

  • Sids

    Fair enough, never heard of that particular sect. The education is appreciated.