I recently wrote about the relatively unremarked issue of gender dysphoria and believers opting for gender reassignment. I wrote that I had communicated with Assemblies of God leadership about this issue some years ago, and that I believed a position paper is in order — now, not at some later date when it becomes a “real” issue.
And it has begun. I’d say the issue is now real.
While it hasn’t surfaced within the Assemblies of God yet, I suspect it will within the next few years. Meanwhile, The Church Report Online released a special report in its May 2007 issue, titled: “Identity Crisis: A Transgender Minister Reappointed to Lead Church.” MinistryToday magazine’s weblog quickly picked up on the story. And the story threatens to go national now that a CBS affiliate has featured the item (includes video).
On May 25, at a previously unheralded United Methodist Church in Baltimore, the Reverend Ann Gordon announced her gender reassignment and consequent name change to the Reverend Drew Phoenix. And while the UMC has rules of discipline regarding “sexually active gay clergy,” there’s nothing on the books about transgendered clergy. So, for now, for the next year at least, Phoenix remains pastor.
(It is no coincidence that the timing of the announcement syncs with Pentecost Sunday, when we celebrate the founding of the Church and the empowerment of the Spirit for ministry.)
Meanwhile his more clear-headed colleagues from the Baltimore-Washington Conference are calling for a review of the decision. Good luck with that. And a conservative UMC group, UMAction, is petitioning the UMC General Conference to come up with a position paper. Good luck with that, too.
As Ann Gordon/Drew Phoenix said, “I want to be the face for an issue.” Phoenix will get his wish. And the issue is going to steam-roll the United Methodist church. If anybody thought that the Gay and Lesbian clerical issues were difficult to resolve (and largely remain unresolved), wait’ll this hits the debate floor.
Here, for your consideration, are the comments I posted to the Ministry Today blog, which asked: “How should the Methodist Church respond to this situation? What would you say?”
I’ve blogged about this nascent issue on my own weblog. Churches simply aren’t prepared for this. And the mainline churches who gave up the struggle on ordaining homosexual ministers will probably have to roll over on the issue if they’re going to be consistent in their rejection of orthodox Biblical values.
While the Bible does not directly speak to sexual dysphoria or sexual identity issues, I believe there is a Biblical foundation for rejecting the claims of the transgendered proponents.
The creation account clearly depicts the inception of two sexes: male and female — not some admixture of the two. And as God created man in his image, clearly expressed gender identity is very likely a part of that imago dei. Any confusion regarding one’s innate gender would, therefore, be a result of the Fall, sin, and its many effects. To surrender to the dysphoria and adopt a new sexual identity does not clarify the chaos, rather, it cements it.
The Apostle Paul makes it clear that our identity in Christ is not tied to our “meat space” identity. He encouraged the Corinthian believers not to waste their energy in changing their social or psychological circumstances:
“Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. … Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.” (See 1 Corinthians 7)
I’m sympathetic to circumstances where gender dysphoria arise from true hermaphroditism (having both male and female sexual characteristics) or where sexual genitalia are opposite one’s genetic endowments. In such circumstances, I believe acting out a sexuality or gender that is at odds with oneâ€™s innate physical genitalia creates a self-contradictory gender image — and this does violence to the “image of God” within.
Our denominations will have to wake up to this issue, like it or not. I’ve called for my own Fellowship to respond to this — years ago, and it hasn’t happened yet. But the trend is inexorable and we must respond now.
Notes from around the Blogosphere and Web
- The Albert Mohler Radio Program: “Gender Identity Disorder In The Pulpit” (with MP3)
“When the former Rev. Ann Gordon returned to her congregation at St. John’s United Methodist Church as Rev. Drew Phoenix, the regional leadership of the United Methodist Church was faced with something of a dilemma. Their decision to reappoint Gordon/Phoenix has ignited a firestorm of controversy and we’re joined by Mark Tooley, of The Institute on Religion and Democracy, to analyze the issues involved in the case.”
- Teflon at MoltenThought says, “We are created with the proper gender, and those afflictions of body, mind, and soul not self-inflicted do not excuse us from proper behavior. … Is it not more likely that the creature is twisted and the Creator straight and true?”
- The Baltimore Sun: “Transgender minister is reappointed”
“In explaining yesterday’s decision to the conference, [Bishop John] Schol said he looked at the Book of Discipline, talked with fellow bishops and other experts and ‘learned that there is nothing in our discipline that speaks to transgendered persons, learned that there is nothing in our policies or guidelines that speaks to transgendered persons.’ According to the Book of Discipline, to be a pastor, ‘the person has to be of good character, and faithful to the church and effective in ministry,’ Schol said in an interview. Phoenix is all of those things, he said.”
- UMC.org: “Pastor speaks of transgender experience“
“Phoenix believes his transition is making him “even more effective” as a pastor and said his greatest concern “is that the congregation continues to grow and thrive.””
- Darrell at Dow Blog in “Post-Modern Gender Confusion” writes: “Is there any doubt that we are living in an era of sexual and gender confusion? In our post-modern mind, we ourselves determine what it means to be man and woman, to be human. The Author of creation is cast aside as the goddess science is enthroned and worshipped, even in the ‘church.'”
- MBT at Right Pundits in “Transgender Methodist Minister Is Reappointed” comments: “I wonder if a pastor with a conservative bent would even get ordained anymore in the Methodist church, let alone become Bishop?”
- And more…
[tags]1-Corinthians, Albert-Mohler, Ann-Gordon, Assemblies-of-God, Assembly-of-God, Baltimore, Baltimore-Sun, Baltimore-Washington-Conference, Biblical-values, Bishop-John-Schol, Bishop-Schol, BlogRodent, body-image, Book-of-Discipline, charismatic, Church, Church-Report, clergy, controversy, creation, deviance, DNA, Drew-Phoenix, dysfunction, dysphoria, ethics, female, Gay, gay-clergy, gay-minister, gender, Gender-Confusion, gender-dysphoria, gender-identity, Gender-Identity-Disorder, gender-reassignment, General-Conference, genitalia, GLBT, hermaphrodite, hermaphroditism, identity, Identity-Crisis, identity-in-Christ, imago-dei, John-Schol, Lesbian, mainline-church, male, male-and-female, Mark-Tooley, Maryland, Methodist, minister, ministry, MinistryToday, Pentecost, Pentecostal, perversion, Phoenix, position-paper, Protestant, psychology, Reconciling-Ministries-Network, Religion, Reverend-Phoenix, sex, sexual-identity, sexuality, sin, The-Church-Report, The-Fall, The-Institute-on-Religion-and-Democracy, theology, Transgender, transgendered-clergy, UMAction, UMC, United-Methodist, United-Methodist-Church[/tags]