This weekend may just prove to be a turning point between the Christian church and the transgender community. Denny Burk, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, has drafted a resolution that will be presented when the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meets in Baltimore, MD. This resolution calls for all churches, hospitals and members of the Southern Baptist Convention to condemn any person that identifies as transgender.
I grew up in a church that belonged to the SBC and just reading this resolution and knowing the ramifications this could produce sickens me. I seriously struggled with whether or not to even discuss this as I didn’t want my emotions to get the best of me. But I felt that I can not ignore something that could do lasting damage to an already broken bridge between the trans community and the Christian Church.
This resolution reads as though it was written by someone with a forked tongue, something I have unfortunately had experience with. I know all too well the pain that comes with the ignorance and blind judgment that many leaders in the church can bring on transgender individuals. I have been burned, one way or another, in three different churches over the last four or five years. Regardless of the vale of love, this resolution will only cause further division and be a resounding reason why even more transgender Christians will fall away from the church body and possibly even turn their backs on God.
What can only be described as an extreme right wing, transphobic, political move, Burk calls on the SBC not only to deny that transgender individuals exist, which is an outrageous notion, but it also calls to work to block any legislation that would provide protections to transgender community. The resolution calls for the continued discrimination and intolerance on transgender adults and children. Part of the resolution states, “That we commit ourselves to pray for and support legislative and legal efforts to oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and other legislation like it that would give gender identity the same legal protections as sex and race. .” AND “That we call upon all judges and public officials to resist and oppose the efforts to treat gender identity as a protected class.”
It is no surprise that leaders and lay people within the church have once again fallen short of a true understanding of what it means to be transgender and what scripture says or doesn’t say about it. I find it interesting that scripture references are used through out this resolution yet when it states, “That we affirm that male and female designate the fundamental distinction that God has embedded in the very biology of the human race” it fails to point where in the Bible they get this distinction.
The Bible does describe various female and male roles, though many are antiquated and I dear say many gender roles and laws are no longer practiced within the church, ie. women being submissive and silent during worship when we now have women leading worship and many women filling the roll of pastor, though not in the SBC. We also are not stoning adulterers any more are we?.
One of the other things to take into consideration is that there is no mention of any biological terms in the scriptures when it comes to defining who is a woman and who is a man. I dare any person to point to the scripture that says that a man must have a penis to be called a man and a woman must have a vagina to be called a woman.
Not only does this resolution ignore common sense and ignore an established medical diagnosis, it cuts on a much deeper level. It ignores that we as Christians are not called to condemn. The act of condemning the trans community is an act of arrogance and judgment. We are called to humble ourselves and love our neighbor as God has loved us. When we start putting conditions on the love we show, as written in the resolution, “That we love our transgender neighbors, seek their good always, welcome them into our congregations as they repent and believe in Christ”, we move further away from the love God has bestowed on us. God’s love comes to us without conditions and without reservation.
Beck, in his failed humanity, has forgotten what Paul told the Church in Rome. “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person alone it is unclean.” Romans 14:13-14
If the SBC does pass this resolution, it will be another brick added to the wall it has already created between itself and a community that needs God as much as any community I know. This resolution is not just a doctrinal stance for the church but it is an act of spelling out discrimination and prejudice in the name of God and it pains me as a Christian.
All I can do is continue to pray for the church to open it’s eyes to the great diversity of God creation and continue to work on bridging the gap between the church and the transgender community. I know that I can take great comfort in the promise of Psalms 34:22 “The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.”
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