In a previous Thought of the Week, I suggested that there has been a deafening silence when it comes to reporting the controversial findings of Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh. They recently published the conclusions of a major research project that seems to run completely counter to current received wisdom on the Transgender issue, but very few outlets seem to have reported it. They argue for example that “only a tiny minority of children who experience gender dysphoria continue to identify as transgender when they’re adults, and that those who undergo sex-change operations are 19 times more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the population.”
That doesn’t mean they are indifferent to the struggles of those who identify themselves as transgender of course. As Dr. Mayer rightly says: “As citizens, scholars, and clinicians concerned with the problems facing LGBT people, we should not be dogmatically committed to any particular views about the nature of sexuality or gender identity; rather, we should be guided first and foremost by the needs of struggling patients, and we should seek with open minds for ways to help them lead meaningful, dignified lives.”
I can’t disagree with Dr. Mayer there. In fact, I can only applaud his compassionate conclusions. As a Pastor, I aim to show God’s love to everyone, whatever their gender, race or background. Put simply, I am committed to treating people the way Jesus did, and that means with dignity and respect even if you disagree with them.
All of which leads me on to say though that I do find myself questioning the Church of England’s wisdom in asking the bishops to consider creating new services to celebrate a transgender person’s ‘transition’.
I’m a little wary of this decision even though the call has been strongly backed by no less a figure that the formidable Archbishop of York. It seems to suggest, to me at least, that transgender people need such a service to stress that they are children of God and that they are welcome in the church.
The Bible would urge us to look elsewhere when thinking about such issues. The apostle Paul, for example, made that very clear when he wrote: “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.”
Given the social context of the day this assertion was nothing short of revolutionary. But let’s not misunderstand him. Paul is not suggesting that racial, social and sexual distinctions cease to exist when we become Christians; he is simply stressing that they no longer matter. They are still there of course, but they can’t prevent us becoming children of God and neither should they create barriers to fellowship.
We are to ‘recognise each other as equals, brothers and sisters in Christ’ and ‘resist the temptation to despise one another or patronise one another’ whatever our differences then because we have all been adopted into His family. (John Stott) Put simply, Christians need no special liturgy to celebrate their acceptance and their status. They already have a special service: it’s called baptism. Gender is not the issue. It’s faith, or the lack of it that really matters.
Rob James is a Baptist Pastor broadcaster and writer who currently operates as a church and media consultant for the Evangelical Alliance Wales. He is available for preaching and teaching throughout Wales and can be contacted at RJames2954@btinternet.com