Transgender priest’s ties with church dissolved

The Rev. Greg Fry will no longer be priest-in-charge of Pine Bluff’s Grace Episcopal Church after Friday, five days following his Sunday announcement to his congregation that he is transgender and identifies as a woman.

In a letter from the Rt. Rev. Larry Benfield, bishop of the Little Rock-based Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas, to Fry and the church’s vestry, Benfield said he had “decided to dissolve the relationship” between Fry and Grace Church effective Feb. 28. The one-page letter was dated Wednesday.

Fry met with the church vestry Wednesday night in a meeting that was closed to the media.

“The announcement by your priest-in-charge that he is transgender has resulted in our church taking a look at gender in ways that would not have likely occurred in a previous generation,” Benfield began his letter. “It is a situation that our society and culture are looking at as well, and in that church ministers in the context of the culture in which we are placed, it is only natural that such a discussion will take place in our church.”

After saying that Grace’s members have discovered the difficulty of initial discussions, Benfield wrote, “I am convinced that in the long run, open and loving conversations lead to increased health for us as individuals and as congregations, and they promote the mission of the church to restore our unity with one another and one God.”

Benfield wrote that the dissolving of the relationship between Fry and Grace would “allow the priest to transition at a pace that might not otherwise be possible, and it allows the congregation to reflect calmly on its recent discussions and reflect on how we live out our call to mission in a broken world that needs our witness.”

The bishop closed his letter by stating his “great respect” for Fry’s ministry at the church, and “equal respect for the witness of Grace Church to the people of Pine Bluff and beyond.”

Fry emailed The Commercial on Monday and invited questions on his Sunday announcement, but then did to respond to questions emailed.

Fry’s priest-in-charge post at Grace, which has about 55 members, has been a part-time assignment. Fry and his wife, Lisa Fry, also an Episcopal priest, reside in Little Rock.