FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Alex McNeill
Jess Cook, More Light Presbyterians Program and Communications Manager Approved for Ordination
Historic first for an openly non-binary person to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.
Richmond, VA, June 18, 2019 / More Light Presbyterians is overjoyed to announce that today The Presbytery of the James approved Jess Cook for ordination to Minister of the Word and Sacrament to the validated ministry position of Program and Communications Manager at More Light Presbyterians.
50 years ago this month, the Stonewall Inn riots catalyzed a movement for LGBTQIA+ people’s visibility and equality. More Light Presbyterians celebrates that Jess is the first openly non-binary person to complete the ordination process and be ordained within the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. We rejoice that Jess’ visibility as a non-binary faith leader has already made room for LGBTQIA+ people to see themselves as image-bearers of the divine. Jess’ ministry as a non-binary faith leader invites all of us to name and celebrate who God created us to be.
More Light also honors and rejoices with those who are serving or have served as Ministers of Word and Sacrament and have claimed the fullness of who they are as non-binary. More Light laments that many faithful followers of Christ whose gender identity and expression fell outside of conventional gender norms of their day either were denied from service in ministry or had to remain silent about the fullness of who they are. We at More Light affirm along with the 223rd General Assembly of the PCUSA, “Honoring the breadth and variety of our gender identities and expressions is one of the ways we can come to an even deeper understanding of who we are created to be in relationship to God and each other” Overture 11-12, Affirming And Celebrating The Full Dignity And Humanity Of People Of All Gender Identities
Alex Patchin McNeill, More Light Presbyterians Executive Director, praised the action of the Presbytery of the James:
“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 Program and Communications Manager at More Light Presbyterians. Ordaining Jess to this role honors what is already true, that Jess serves in such a way so that the “ministry of the whole people of God may flourish” (Book of Order G-2.0102). 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, More Light Presbyterians Program and Communications Manager reflected on what ordination means to them:
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.
Amy Kim Kyremes-Parks and Rev. Scott Clark, More Light Presbyterians Board Co-Moderators expressed their joy on behalf of the More Light Board of Directors:
“The Board of More Light Presbyterians is delighted that Jess Cook has been approved by the Presbytery of the James for ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. This culminates Jess’s faithful ordination journey, and confirms what we have long known: Jess is gifted and called by God to serve the church and the world with abundant “energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.” We look forward to celebrating Jess’s ordination in just a few weeks – and to celebrate the PCUSA’s first ordination of an openly gender non-binary person to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. Jess’s work already contributes so much to the ministry of More Light, and their ordination helps us live even more deeply into our commitment to work for the inclusion of all people in the full life of the church.”
The Presbytery of the James and More Light Presbyterians will celebrate Jess Cook’s ordination at Ginter Park Presbyterian Church, Saturday, June 29th at 2:00 PM. Rev. Dr. Brian Blount, President, Union Presbyterian Seminary will preach, a reception will follow.
More Light Presbyterians engages over 250 congregations and thousands of individuals in the Presbyterian Church (USA), enabling Presbyterians to lead LGBTQIA+ service and advocacy in communities nationwide. More Light’s mission has always been to empower and equip individuals and congregations to live into their welcome for LGBTQIA+ people.