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US Presbyterian denomination ordains first non-binary minister

Lydia Smith June 28, 2019

The largest Presbyterian denomination in the US is set to ordain its first non-binary clergy candidate this weekend.

Jess Cook will be ordained at a ceremony on June 29 at the Ginter Park Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia.

The presbytery is the governing body of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) in Virginia, with more than 100 member churches.

Cook is the first non-binary person to complete the PCUSA’s ordination process.

After being ordained, they will take the position of programme and communications manager for More Light Presbyterians, an LGBT+ advocacy group which supports the inclusion of LGBT+ people into the PCUSA.

Alex Patchin McNeill, More Light Presbyterians executive director, said in a statement: “Jess is an exceptional pastor. I am thrilled Jess will be able to serve as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in their position as Programme and Communications Manager at More Light Presbyterians.

“Ordaining Jess to this role also expands their capacity to be a colleague and ministry partner to congregations and leaders who seek to live out commitments to LGBTQIA+ inclusion.”

Jess Cook will be ordained.
Jess Cook will be ordained at the Ginter Park Presbyterian Church in Virginia (More Light Presbyterians)

Cook added: “Ordination marks the turning-point of a lifelong journey of faith, and the beginning of a journey as an ordained minister.

“I’m acutely aware of the people who worked tirelessly to make it possible for an openly non-binary person to be ordained in the PC(USA), and of the young people who feel a call to ministry and will now see themselves in a person leading worship.

“I am steeped in gratitude for these communities, for the community of More Light, and for the opportunity to live into this call.”

Cook is a native of East Texas and a lifelong Presbyterian, according to a biography on the More Light Presbyterians website.

They hold a Master of Divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary, a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the University of North Texas, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art from Baylor.

Prior to joining MLP, Cook was the Youth Programmes Director at Side by Side, an organisation in Richmond serving LGBTQIA+ youth.

Cook also delivered a TEDxTalk on what faith communities can learn from LGBT+ youth.

More: gender, non-binary, presbyterian, Religion, US

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