After 27 years, transgender pastor shares secret

After 27 years, transgender pastor shares secret
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Pastor David Weekley began presiding over the Epworth United Methodist Church more than two year ago, but no one knew his secret until recently.

Just last month the pastor divulged the details of his past during a sermon to his 220 church members.

"You could have heard a pin drop," the pastor said.

Weekley told church members that he'd been born a woman. But he never quite felt right, and in his 20s underwent surgery to become a man.

A few years later, he became ordained all the while keeping his transition a secret. The pastor said he didn't think the church would object back then; he was simply not ready to share his secret with the world.

"Then I realized that the church could have issue with it and try to strip my ordination," he said. "And that's when I decided not to talk about it publicly until I discerned how to handle that."

Weekley said his secret became more burdensome over the years and drove him to seek isolation.

The pastor said he finally found himself at peace with his past just recently, after he won an award for his anonymous blog entries advocating inclusion for all people in the church.

"It had been 27 years, but now felt like the time," he said.

Weekley's news left churchgoers astounded.

"I was surprised, because I had no idea," said church member Robbi Tsuboi. "But I was really happy he was going to get this off his chest and be relieved. It's a burden to carry that all by yourself.

"This was the sermon of his life."

The church members are taking the news in stride, but they appear to retain faith in their pastor.

"We liked him from the beginning," said church member George Azumano. "The congregation accepted it, without question."

Weekley said he has received overwhelming support since he revealed his secret. But his ordination could be on the line, and the pastor knows as much.

In 2012, Weekley said, the United Methodist Church could pass legislation to ban transgender clergy. Whatever happens then, he hopes his experience will help others in the meantime.

"I hope I have time to talk to people, to help educate, to do whatever I can to be an advocate," he said.