PORTLAND, Ore. - The Epworth United Methodist Church has strong roots, dating back to its founding in 1935, but its members welcome a break from tradition.
That break can be no more easily personified than with pastor David Weekley.
"We liked him from the beginning," said church member George Azumano.
More than two years ago, the Reverend Weekley became the church's pastor. It wasn't until just a month ago, in a sermon to his congregation of about 220, that he revealed a secret.
For Weekley, "you could have heard a pin drop," he said. "It had been 27 years, but now felt like the time."
For Robbie Tsuboi, who was there in the pews, "this was the sermon, of his life."
Weekley was born a woman, but never quite felt female. In his early 20s he under-went surgery to become a man.
A few years later he became ordained - all the while, keeping his transition a secret. He said he really did not think there would be an issue.
"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 it became very stressful keeping this secret over the years. As such, he said he was essentially living in isolation. It wasn't until recently, after winning an award for his anonymous blog entries about inclusion for all people in the church, that he came out.
"The congregation accepted it without question," Azumano said.
For the congregation, they are indeed taking it in stride.
"I was surprised, because I had no idea," said 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."
Weekley said the support has been overwhelming, and he hopes his experience will help others. However, his ordination could be on the line. He said the United Methodist Church could pass legislation to ban transgender clergy in 2012.
"I hope I have time to talk to people, to help educate, to do whatever I can to be an advocate," he said.