Spiritual exile

Posted on 03 Feb 2017 at 7:35am

Transgender minister says her faith continues to grow and change

Robinson.Allyson

Allyson Robinson

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Allyson Robinson is your ordinary West Point graduate transgender Baptist minister who began her transition at Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor.

Robinson wasn’t brought up in the church but occasionally attended Bible school and Sunday worship with her grandparents. It was while she was at West Point, she said that “I took responsibility for my young faith.”

Robinson said she almost didn’t make it through West Point’s grueling hazing program. The last activity after six weeks of hazing was a long march carrying a backpack filled with rocks. The march ended with a climb up a hill. Make it or not, she was determined to quit.

As she was nearing the top, pulling herself up by her hands, she heard a voice. At first she thought it was an upperclassman taunting the cadets to make the experience worse. Instead, she discovered it was the West Point chaplain.

At that point, she said, “I made a deal with God, if God would get me through this thing.”

That deal included graduating from West Point and serving in the Army. Her career extended into the Gulf War where she served as an air defense artillery officer, operating Patriot missiles to shoot down Iraqui Scuds.

“I was in the middle of my military career,” she said, “when God wanted me to go into Christian ministry.”

So Robinson left the Army and enrolled at Baylor. Everything was fine, she said, up until the time she could no longer deny that she was transgender.

“In divinity school, I reached the point when I couldn’t pretend it was going to go away,” she said. “I was on the verge of taking my own life.”

Robinson said she was sure coming out would cost her her ministry, career and family. But, “turned out I was wrong about that.”

Robinson said she always loves coming back to Texas. “I came out in Central Texas where I found support and community,” she said.

“Loving and affirming people in Central Texas saved my life.”

After her ordination, Robinson admitted that she never expected her ministry to succeed. But when the pastor of the church she was attending, Calvary Baptist in Washington, D.C., left, Robinson was asked to step in temporarily.

“I never imagined I’d find myself in ministry again,” she said. “It opened my eyes to how much things changed.”

Calvary, founded by abolitionists has been at the forefront of activism and advocacy through much of American history and recently called a lesbian couple as its new pastors. Robinson served that congregation about a year.

“My faith has changed so much,” Robinson said. “My theology’s changed so much that I’m not quite sure where my institutional home is right now. I’m in spiritual exile.”

Robinson’s exile has taken her in a number of directions through her career. She was the first transgender person to work at Human Rights Campaign doing diversity and inclusion work. After the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Robinson served as the director of OutServe-SLDN, when those two organizations merged. And she now does diversity consulting work.

On Sunday, Feb. 5, Robinson speaks at Royal Lane Baptist Church on Royal Lane at Hillcrest Road. That church was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Conference until they added a few words to their website that said, “Everyone is welcome.” The church is now affiliated with Alliance of Baptists.

The Alliance of Baptists split from the Southern Baptist Convention in 1987 on issues of ordaining women, autocratic pastoral leadership and piety without social and economic justice. It remains the only Baptist body that is LGBT-inclusive from its founding documents.
Robinson speaks at Royal Lane Baptist at the 10:55 service followed by lunch and conversation. Everyone is welcome.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2017.

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