Tag Archives: LGBTQ

The Bible and Trans People Part 1

41U4s9JARAL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_I have been steadily working through Andrew T. Walker’s God and the Transgender Debate and what I’ve found in Chapter 5 is the start of the real meat of the book. Walker’s book claims to be about what the God of the Bible has to say about trans people, which means looking at what the Bible has to say about us and about topics like gender should be the basis for everything else in the book. The problem in this case is that it’s not. Walker’s preconceptions colour what he finds in the Bible; furthermore, he doesn’t look closely enough at Scripture to see anything else, and then he uses what he does see to draw the wrong conclusion.

Before Walker even gets into his study of Scripture on the matter he has already committed a serious hermeneutical error. At the very end of Chapter 4, Walker asserts that “The Christian answer is to locate authority, knowledge, and trust where it can find a firm, stable, fulfilling foundation – in the crucified Creator. He may not always agree with our feelings or our reason – but he can be trusted, and he knows what he’s talking about, and he has the right to tell us how to live. His words are good to listen to and to obey. And, over the next three chapters, this is what we will be doing.”[1] The problem Walker has with leading into Chapter 5 like this is that he has spent Chapter 4 implicitly arguing that trans people do not take God has the authority for who they are and are therefore not truly understanding themselves. He thus has to find a conclusion in Scripture that supports such an assertion regardless of whether or not Scripture does support it. He has set his argument up in such a way that we know what he’s going to conclude before he ever gets there and that’s a problem.

One of the things you learn when studying hermeneutics is that whenever we approach a text within the Bible we all have what Klein, et al. refer to as a “preunderstanding.”[2] This “constitutes where we begin as we currently are,” and includes all of our views, opinions, etc., on a text before we begin to interact with it. As they go on to point out, “We cannot avoid or deny the presence of preunderstanding in the task of biblical interpretation. Every interpreter comes to study the Bible with preconceptions and prior dispositions.”[3] The problem, then, is not that we hold such preunderstandings but rather what we choose to do with them. To quote Klein, et al. again, “Every interpreter begins with a preunderstanding. After an initial study of a biblical text, that text performs a work on the interpreter. His or her preunderstanding is no longer what it once was. Then, as the newly interpreted interpreter proceeds to question the text further, out of this newly formed understanding, further – perhaps, different – questions and answers emerge.”[4] The point here is that if we are honest as we engage with the Bible we will modify our previously held positions in light of what we find therein. We will let the text speak for itself, regardless of what we find, and we will learn from that. Walker’s argument in God and the Transgender Debate is set up in such a way that he can’t do that.

Walker further compounds his hermeneutical problems by not looking closely enough at the Biblical text to let it speak. He draws his conclusions from Genesis 1-2, which is the logical place to begin examining the concept of gender in the Bible, but rather than ask questions like what is the text talking about when it says “male” and “female” or whether “gender” in the text is a separate concept from “sex,” he simply observes that man and woman can “physically become ‘one flesh'”[5] and from that asserts that anatomy must ultimately determine who we are in a gendered sense. As he says, “Our anatomy tells us what gender we are. Our bodies do not lie to us.”[6] And while Walker does acknowledge that “humans bear God’s image,” he attributes the “image of God” to our morality[7] and not to our gender which, in reality, is only one of several possible interpretations. Walker hasn’t even begun to properly explore the Biblical text in Genesis 1-2 and yet he is comfortable with the conclusions he’s drawn. His preunderstanding of the text won’t let him see anything else and he is, for whatever reason, unwilling to challenge the view he holds.

The result of this flawed hermeneutical approach is that the conclusion he draws doesn’t have the evidence it needs to stand on. Without ever asking whether “gender” and “sex” as found in Genesis 1 constitute the same thing, he concludes, “Christianity doesn’t sever gender from sex.”[8] He makes this conclusion without ever having proved it. And instead of closing out the chapter with more evidence, he does what he did in chapter 4. He appeals to the authority of God to support his position by asserting that those who reject his conclusion are, in reality, rejecting Jesus.[9] As a minister myself, I have found that when one has a solid argument they don’t have to prop it up with an appeal to authority. Well-thought-out and well-researched arguments speak for themselves. Weak ones don’t.

I want to close by saying that I realise it can be easier to critique than to offer substantial alternatives. I have, I hope, shown the errors in Walker’s methodology and thus his conclusion. What I have not done in this post is offered any substantial conclusion in response. In my next post here I will look at the questions Walker refused to ask and from the answers to those questions we’ll see what the Bible actually says about trans people.


                [1] Andrew T. Walker, God and the Transgender Debate: What does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity? (Epsom, UK: The Good Book Co., 2017), 45-46.

                [2] William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2004), 154.

                [3] Ibid., 155.

                [4] Ibid., 166.

                [5] Walker, 54.

                [6] Ibid.

                [7] Ibid., 49.

                [8] Ibid., 57.

                [9] Ibid., 59.


More Problems with “God and the Transgender Debate”

41U4s9JARAL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_In my last post I mentioned that there is room within the Christian worldview for trans people. In probably goes without saying that in God and the Transgender Debate Andrew Walker disagrees. Chapter 4 of the book is entitled “Making a Decision,” and the gist of it is that in the transgender “debate” there are two worldviews present. The one, in which we as trans people live, is based on “feelings and reason.” The other is based on the authority of the God of the Bible. What Walker sees as God’s view on trans people isn’t actually biblical at all (he’s using this “authority” to shore up his own position) but that’s a topic for another post. My problem with Walker’s argument here is that he makes a distinction where none exists.

To Walker, God’s authority is a better foundation for living than our own feelings and reason. Indeed, he seems to have a very strong distrust for the latter. On page 42 of God and the Transgender Debate he says, “Dig a little deeper though, and the idea of looking to our feelings or reason – to our selves – to make decisions and decide what is right starts to unravel. First, we all live in community. Every decision affects those around us, often in ways we cannot predict or do not see … Second, do I really know myself that well? I have never lived before … Third, and perhaps most surprisingly, I have to ask myself, ‘Am I really to be trust to want what’s best for me?'” Walker is just as strongly in favour of trusting God’s authority. On page 45 he writes, “[God] may not always agree with our feelings or our reason – but he can be trusted, and he knows what he’s talking about, and he has the right to tell us how to live.” The problem here is twofold. First of all, what Walker is setting up is the premise that even as Christians we are not to trust our “self” or our “heart.” This premise is not biblical. In Ezekiel 36 the Old Testament tells us that in the new covenant, referring to what Jesus does for us, God “will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Our heart, our deepest self, can be trusted. The second problem here is that Walker uses this faulty premise to set himself up as one who speaks in God’s authority. As he writes on page 45, “So when we say to ourselves, or to others, ‘You should obey God,’ what we mean is, We want what God deserves (your obedience) and we want what is best for you (your obedience).‘” In short, Walker is in the right on this and if we truly want what is best for us we’ll listen to him.

As I mentioned earlier the distinction that Walker makes between God’s authority and our “self” isn’t necessary. Whether you believe the Bible or not, there is room inside both for the authority of God and for our own feelings and desires and hopes and dreams. Everything that makes us who we are as trans people can exist there, too. And I don’t say that as a pitch to get you to “become a Christian.” Walker makes his argument as a Christian and many in the church are, unfortunately, listening to him. Any counterargument I make has to be made not just as a trans woman but as a minister and a Christian as well. You need look no farther than the Psalms for proof of what I speak. In Psalm 139:14, David writes, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Our feelings and our ability to reason are both a part of who we are. They matter. We are not complete without them. As a Christian I trust both my feelings and my reasoning and my God. The gap that Walker uses to discredit trans people doesn’t exist. 

I can also speak to this on a personal level. If you go back through my posts here from late 2016 through 2017 you’ll find that my views on LGBTQ people in general evolved. I spent that time prayerfully pondering and reasoning on how to accept these people as they are (which I believe Jesus does for all of us) in light of what my worldview, which I try to base in Scripture, taught me. Ultimately I realized that my worldview was in error and not long after that I realized that I was transgender. I wouldn’t be who I am without both my faith and my feelings and reason.

The distinction that Walker makes between our feelings and reason and God’s authority serves only one purpose. It props him up as one who speaks with God’s own voice. That is a position he does not have. Jesus says in Matthew 15:16 that “you will recognize them by their fruit.” The fruit of Walker’s position is the dismissal of our humanity as trans people, which is something that the Bible does not support.

How cracked are your eggs?

Cracked eggsThis being the holiday season the dairy department has been insanely busy and one of the things we have sold a small mountain of is eggs. Now eggs are by and large one of the most expendable items we carry. They come in packs of 6, 12, and 18 and if just one gets cracked the pack is no good. The other eggs in it can be the most incredible, perfect specimens of eggs you’ve ever seen, but the pack itself is no longer worth selling if one is cracked.

I think we can treat ourselves that way sometimes. I don’t know about you but I have, in my mind, 1 or 2 “flaws” or things I just in general don’t like about myself that are always prominent in how I see myself. I’ll write myself off in social situations, for example, because there are times I legit suck at navigating social situations or because my laugh is too loud or because I just don’t look the people think I should. I treat myself like the eggs. I think I’m no longer worth getting to know or being around because of 1 or 2 “flaws.”

Our worth goes beyond that. As I’m learning, what I consider “flaws” are things those around me often don’t even notice. They see my other eggs or they see that the ones I thought were cracked really aren’t. I believe that’s true for all of us. In Psalm 139:14, David writes, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” That’s true whether you’re trans, gay, lesbian, bi, or whatever else you may identify as. You are valuable in who you are. As we start a new year, remember that. Don’t sell yourself short and don’t let others treat you as less valuable than you are. 

A Not-so-Hallmark Christmas

Hallmark-Countdown-Christmas-2017It’s only December 1st but if you’re like me you probably didn’t even notice until you happened to glance at a calendar. The “Merry Christmas” war is already in full swing, local radio stations have been playing nonstop Christmas music going on two weeks now, and the Hallmark channel has been playing Christmas movies for at least that long. This year there’s been much focus on the symbolism of Christmas that it’s easy to forget how difficult it is for many. LGBTQ people in particular don’t always have a home to go to and if they do it’s not always a safe place. Keeping that in mind I took a look at the story of the event that started all this, the birth of Jesus, and what I found is that there wasn’t a lot of safety to be had then, either.

The story starts with Mary, who has a child dropped on her unexpectedly and which, in all honesty, she may not even have wanted (Luke 1:26-38). It’s too easy to gloss over Mary’s willingness to go along with this as given in Luke 1:38 that we can miss the emotions she had to be feeling. I’ve never been in that situation but it cannot have been an easy one or her. Did she have plans for her life? That’s all over with now. And when Joseph  finds out that the woman he is engaged to is pregnant and not by him (Matthew 1:18-19) things get more difficult still. Even though God shows up in a dream to fill Joseph in on what’s going on, the explanation is hard to believe and would likely have been so for those in their community. They would have known the child Mary was carrying was not Joseph’s and it’s not hard to imagine the reality they had to live with from then on out.

The first Christmas was not a safe place to be and it didn’t get any more so when they left for Bethlehem. Luke’s statement in 2:5 that Mary “was with child” is an understatement. That Jesus is born on this trip means that by this point Mary isn’t just pregnant, she’s very pregnant, and on the road is probably the last place she wanted to be. Whatever support system she had was in Nazareth not Bethlehem. Again, I have no idea what that feels like but it reminds me of the first episode of This is Us where Rebecca finds out the doctor who’s going to be delivering her kids isn’t the one she thought it would be. She is decidedly not happy and I can’t imagine Mary was, either.

When they finally got to Bethlehem their situation didn’t improve much, either. What is Joseph supposed to do now that they’ve arrived but the inn is full? Where will they go? Where will they stay? Several years ago my wife lost her job and we had to move out of the company housing that went with it. Those same thoughts went through my mind. Where were we going to live? What would we do? Our situation was made easier by having family close by but, as far as we know, Joseph didn’t have that luxury. He was on his own to look after Mary. I still wonder who suggested the stable first, Joseph or the inn keeper. Was it an act of generosity on the keeper’s part or an act of desperation on Joseph’s? Either way it would not have been Mary’s ideal place to give birth.

There’s one more detail from this story that jumped out at me and that’s in Matthew 2. Contrary to a lot of Christmas cards and nativity scenes, the wise men don’t actually show up the night Mary gives birth. According to Matthew 2:16 they actually arrive some two years after the fact. What’s interesting here is that by this time the census that brought them to Bethlehem in the first place should be done and over with. Aside from the fulfilment of the prophecy as described in 2:6 there is no reason given in the text for them to still be in Bethlehem. That raises the question as to why the family is still there two years after Jesus was born. As we said, whatever support and family they have is in Nazareth (as far as we know), so why stay if you don’t have to? The only conclusion I’m left with is that they had to stay. My guess is someone got sick and wasn’t up to travelling back. That, in turn, means they had to deal with the uncertainties of settling in Bethlehem and, as most of us probably know, moving is never fun.

The story of the first Christmas isn’t one with a happy ending or a kiss under the mistletoe. Instead it’s full of uncertainty, questions, and no real place to call home. This is how God chooses to come into this world, not as a king on a throne but as a baby, and a baby in a family facing all of life’s uncertainties. If you don’t have a safe home to go to this Christmas you’re in good company. Jesus is not indifferent to it (even though his church might be). He’s been through it all himself.

Time to Think for Yourself Again

di45peXBTI’ve been engaging a lot on social media over the last few weeks regarding the Nashville Statement and I’ve noticed a few things. One of these is how few Baptists there are speaking out against it. This might come as a surprise given that Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission was one of those who initially signed the document but hear me out. Dr. Moore’s Twitter has 131 000 followers. The Twitter feed for the ERLC has 26 400. The Twitter of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which is not distinctly Baptist but still definitely conservative, has 9 765 followers. That’s more than 160 000 people and yet, while all 3 feeds have continued to publish articles and support for the Nashville Statement, the number of people directly engaging with these posts is minuscule. Granted social media is not the only place for interactions regarding this issue to take place. Still, the silence is troubling.

Take the Southern Baptist Convention just by itself for a moment. By its own reckoning, there are more than 50 000 churches in the convention which as of 2016 included some 15.2 million people. I find it hard to believe that many people have a solid consensus on this issue. I was ordained in the SBC and I’ve been around it long enough to know that Southern Baptists have a wide variety of positions on a number of issues. Getting a clash over the wrong one in any given congregation can even lead to a split within that congregation. Therefore, if there’s anything the silence doesn’t indicate it’s that everyone in the SBC is in agreement on the Nashville Statement.

So why then are Southern Baptists so quiet on this? I mean, they pride themselves on being able to read the Bible and understand it for themselves. There is no centralised leadership in the Convention the way there is in the Roman Catholic church. They’re not bound to one voice and one position. And yet what we see here is essentially that. One voice speaking for 15 million people.

The only reason I can see for those 15 million people allowing that voice speak for them is fear. Fear of ripping congregations apart over this issue. Fear of losing your place in the church. Fear of destroying relationships. I mean, the Nashville Statement itself says that this isn’t an issue Christians can agree to disagree on. The Convention’s own leadership has said there is no longer any middle ground.

If I may speak directly to those people for a moment, are you that afraid of the consequences of speaking your mind? Would it be that terrible to search the Scriptures for yourselves and find that oops, the position the denomination has taken here might not be right? To question your pastor over this? And as for you, pastors, I have to say I get it. To speak your mind on this means running the risk of upsetting that one portion of your congregation that can have you out of a job within a week. I am not disparaging that in the least. What I am saying is that the Nashville Statement is pushing LGBTQ people away from Christ and maybe that’s enough reason to run that risk.

Southern Baptists have lost the ability to think for themselves. They’ve become so dependent on what church leadership says, or to afraid to rock the boat, that they don’t question it anymore. In Acts 17:11, the Bereans took what they heard and “searched the scriptures daily, [to see] whether these things were so.” Too many don’t even do that anymore, and if it does happen it’s not much more than looking up passage like Leviticus 20:13 to see that, “Yep, the Bible calls being gay a sin,” and leaving it at that. (Please hear me when I say that I don’t say these things to attack you. I was in the same position until a year and a half ago.) What needs to happen is for people to really grapple with Scripture, to dig into it and look at the contexts and original languages to see what’s really going on and then having the courage to allow your own views to be shaped by what you find. And if you do all that and still disagree with me on the Nashville Statement, that’s fine. That, at least, I can respect.

Too many people are being hurt by bad theology to let things continue as they are right now in the Southern Baptist Convention. If you’re one of those who looks at the theology and figures it makes sense on paper so it must be true just remember, the Pharisees thought they had it all figured out, too, and they completely missed the boat. Don’t let that be you.

Our Best Days Are Not Ahead of Us

AM17-logoThe 2017 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention ended a week ago, and it was the first time that I have been involved in such an event even from a distance via social media. It was also the first significant opportunity I had to advocate for the LGBTQ community with the very people who need to hear it the most. That being said, I have waited until now to give my thoughts on the event. LGBTQ rights can be an emotional subject for many people, myself included, and I wanted to let the dust settle in my own mind before commenting on the experience.

I have to say that I am amazed at how passionately Baptists tend to oppose any theological position that values gender non-conforming people for who they are. (I do realise that not all Baptists do so; it was just the general sense I got from #sbc17.) What also amazed me was the oft-repeated position that Baptists have compassion for all people but cannot and will not abandon God’s plan for human sexuality as laid out in Scripture. It is this sense of compassion, apparently, that leads Baptists to tell LGBTQ people that who they are is a sin, offensive in God’s sight, and something that must change. What I found incredulous was that no one sees the issue with such a stance. Putting it bluntly, if the best we can do to show compassion to these people is drive them farther away from Jesus than we have a seriously problem. That is not compassion. It’s discrimination hiding behind a veil of religious acceptability. If it really was compassion, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

I am becoming more and more convinced that our stance as Baptists in this country is turning us into the 21st century version of the New Testament Pharisees. Allow me to explain. One of the things I noticed when I studied the history of the Jewish people from the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC through the Intertestamental Period was that they progressively lost more and more of what it meant for them to be God’s people. The temple was destroyed (rebuilt, yes, but never to its formal glory). They were consistently subjugated by foreign peoples, and even during the brief period where they were able to rule themselves the office of High Priest, for example, became little more than a political pawn. Many of them lost the Promised Land as well when they were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire. In the end, all they had left was the Word. The Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament. This is the climate in which the Pharisees came to be. When all you have left is the Law, rigorous obedience to that Law becomes everything.

We see the ultimate expression of this in John 8 when the Pharisees bring the woman caught in adultery to Jesus and ask Him what they should do with her. As we’re told verses 3 and 4, the woman has been caught in the very act. She is obviously guilty, and the Pharisees are very much aware of the penalty given in Leviticus 20:10 for this situation. (Before you point out that Leviticus 20 applies to the man as well and that the Pharisees are just using this woman as bait to test Jesus, I am aware of that. I have another point to make here.) By the letter of the law, so to speak, the Pharisees are correct in what they say. That they can make the request, however, without any evidence of guilt, shows just how focused they are on obeying the Law. They actually think they’re doing the right thing.

Are contemporary Baptists that different? We have lost so much in this country of what made us who we are. We no longer have prayer in schools. We no longer really have the voice to speak to societal issues, and when we do speak, fewer and fewer people still listen. We are now but one voice in a sea of voices, many of which are given more respect than our own. All we really have left is morality. It’s the one area, as I see it, that we feel we can still speak to. We have, in Scripture, the reality of sin and judgement, of forgiveness through Christ’s death on the cross, and of God’s moral law in the Old Testament. This is a basis that no other group has, at least as far as we’re concerned, which gives us the confidence to still speak out on moral issues. The problem is that when morality becomes all you have left it can easily become the whole point and it’s not supposed to be.

Many of those I spoke with through social media during #sbc17 were quick to point out that the Bible calls same-sex relationships a sin. And, technically, they’re right. Leviticus 18:22, amongst others, says as much. While I disagree with that interpretation (I believe there is plenty of room in Scripture for same-sex individuals the way they are without it being sinful or something “they have to repent from”), it is the interpretation held by many Baptists and by the Convention as a whole. Our focus on morality means that Baptists can share that stance with LGBTQ people, people who as I’ve written before have gone through so much and given up so much just to be who they are, and actually think they’re doing the right thing. Baptists tell them God rejects them, too, and like the Pharisees in John 8 they have no guilt about what they do. We actually have the gall to think we’re being compassionate.

(As an aside, I do still say “we” and “our” when referring to Baptists. Obviously I disagree with the Convention on a number of issues, and the voice of discrimination against LGBTQ people is not one I share. That being said, I was ordained in a Baptist church and I feel that I still have a voice within the Convention even as an ally of the LGBTQ community and an advocate for their rights. I have a foothold, so to speak, in both worlds, and I plan to use that position, and that voice, as much as I can in situations like this.)

Someone, and I can’t remember who, tweeted out during the Annual Meeting that our best days as a denomination are before us. I could not disagree more. As long as we can justify marginalising an entire group of people then our best days are definitely not still to come. Even a brief look through the Gospels shows that Jesus reached out and identified with the outcasts of His society. And what do we do? We make gender non-conforming people into the outcasts of ours. If as a Convention we can’t see that then we have a very big problem indeed.

A Year After Pulse

1-40I almost wasn’t going to write this. I mean, my own life has changed a great deal because of this tragedy, more so than I ever thought it would, and I love the people I’ve had the chance to meet and get to know, but… I wasn’t there. I wasn’t directly affected by it. And I don’t want this anniversary to be an excuse to prop myself up. Too many of us as Christians did that a year ago.

Still, I wouldn’t be who I am today without having made the decision to reach out and engage with LGBTQ people in the wake of the shootings. And I am well aware that in many ways this wonderful community is worse off now than it was then (it’s not lost on me that we as Christians are to blame for much of that).

So with that in mind, this is the open letter I wrote a year ago in the week following the shootings. I bring it up here just to say that what I said then still stands. You are always welcome here. This is one minister who will never judge and never condemn. You are beautiful, wonderful people and my voice will always be one of support  for you as I engage with my denomination. Over the last year I’ve found different ways to use that voice on your behalf. I’ve also learned that you don’t need anyone to speak on your behalf, least of all me. That being said, as a Christian and a Baptist I have inside access, to so speak, and I will continue to use that access and that voice. On that you have my word.

For what it’s worth my prayers are with you all today.

Let’s Discuss a Few Things

AM17-logoWith the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting starting this week I’ve been more active than usual on social media recently in an effort to raise awareness regarding the negative impact that the Convention’s position on LGBTQ issues has on LGBTQ people. While I am pleased to see organisations like Faith in America taking a very bold approach to directly engaging the Convention on this problem, I have also seen concerns raised by Christians as to just what those of us who support the LGBTQ community are trying to accomplish in raising these issues with the Convention. I wanted to take a few moments to address those areas in hopes of clarifying a few misunderstandings.

Area # 1 – We Want to Rewrite Scripture

The issue here, as I understand it, is that as the Bible calls homosexuality sin (see Leviticus 18 and 20) and we want the Convention to treat LGBTQ people in general, and LGBTQ youth in particular, with the same openness and respect they show to everyone else, we must therefore want to rewrite Scripture in order to remove these passages and any others similar to them.

Speaking for myself, I have no desire to rewrite Scripture and I would not support anyone who does. I have spent the last year praying and searching through the Scriptures in order to find room there for LGBTQ people as they are and for who they are and in a positive light. We have room in a “Christian” worldview for everyone else, so why not them, too? It’s a sad commentary on our Christian culture today that I had to do that, but I am grateful for the experience because it’s given me the confidence I need at times like this to speak out. I wanted to be able to love them for who they are and as they are without trying to force them to change anything (because I strongly believe they don’t have to) but at the same time I wanted to remain rooted in the core tenants of my own beliefs (such as respect for the authority of Scripture). For me, it was Romans 1 and 2 and Genesis 1 that opened my eyes. In addition, there are interpretations of Scripture, valid interpretations, that provide positive room in the Christian worldview for LGBTQ people. Again, it’s sad that we even need to be told this, but there you have it.

I’ve heard it said many times in church, “Come as you are.” We even have worship songs along that line. All we’re asking is that the Convention take LGBTQ people as they are, no strings attached, without trying to force them to change or trying to convey the idea that they even need to.

Area # 2 – God Said It So It’s Binding

I’ve heard this one repeated often in the last few days, and it honestly pisses me off. The gist of it is that God has said in His Word that same-sex attraction is a sin and sorry but if we’re going to obey Him than we have to tell LGBTQ people that who they are is sinful in God’s eyes and they need to repent of it.

If you ever have the privilege of meeting and getting to know members of the LGBTQ community, you’ll find very quickly that they have been through hell. Many of them have spent years coming to terms with who they are and how they feel. Some have spent most of their lives doing so. And once they have come to terms with it, they’ve given up everything to live as who they are.

When we come across a person like this, who’s quite likely been rejected by everyone close to them, the best, most-loving response we have is, “I’m sorry, but I’m bound by obeying God to tell you that He hates who you are?” (Or something to that effect.) I mean, really, that’s the best we’ve got? Not an ounce of compassion or understanding or even the slightest effort to see life through their eyes? Not even the tiniest attempt at respecting them enough to say hey, maybe you are born this way? If that’s the best we have then I fear we’ve become no better than the Pharisees of old, who “load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11:46 NLT) The really sad part is that we actually think we’re being loving when we do this.

In Conclusion

If we really want to be loving, if we want to really represent this Jesus we claim to know, then we need to change the Convention’s policies to let these people into our churches as they are and without trying to force them to change. Talk to them. Get to know them. See life through their eyes. They are truly beautiful people, made in God’s image just the same as you and me. Any response we make that values the legalities of Scripture more so than the heart of the person in front of us only makes us more into Pharisees (the one group in the New Testament, remember, that Jesus opposed more than any other; not a group I want to be a part of).

Now that we’ve clarified a few things, what’s stopping us from loving and accepting these people as they are?

An Open Letter to All Those Attending the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting

AM17-logoMy name is Mike Shewfelt. I am an ordained minister with the Southern Baptist Convention, and I work with Church for Misfits, a small online community dedicated to reaching out to those marginalised by mainstream Christianity in this country. Through this ministry I have been privileged to get to know many members of the LGBTQ community. I am also aware that the Convention as a whole does not view these people in a favourable light and, furthermore, that much of what is discussed and decided upon by you at the Annual Meeting will have an impact on these people. For all of those reasons, we need to talk.

Let me begin by saying that I understand both the Convention’s general position on matters relating to the LGBTQ community and the logic behind it. To summarize as I understand it, we think they’re living in sin and for that reason being at all charitable towards them would be blasphemous on our part. We don’t accept their position on who they are. We don’t accept that they have rights just as we do. To do so would put us in a position we’re not going to get into and force us to answer questions we don’t necessarily have answers to. And I fully understand that for us these are not easy questions with easy answers. I have spent the last 18 months praying through these questions trying to find a position that both respects the authority of Scripture and respects the position of the LGBTQ community. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” There is no condition put on that offer, and yet we can’t seem to stop putting one on the Gospel as far as the LGBTQ community is concerned. They are people, too, just the same as you and me, and the fact that I’ve had to spend 18 months praying through issues just to be able to treat them with basic respect and human dignity is pathetic. The reality that we as a Convention continue to refuse to do this is even more so. We are marginalising an entire group of people in this country because we can’t entertain, even for a moment, the thought that they might be people to, just as they are and without having to change to be accepted by God. (It should go without saying that no one should feel they have to change to be accepted by God because no one can be accepted by God on the basis of their own efforts.)

So here’s the deal. As messengers attending the Convention’s annual meeting, you have the opportunity to change that. Southern Baptist churches are largely autonomous, yes, but on an issue like this they will not act without the support of the Convention. Change our policies. Let these people into fellowship in our churches, just as they are and without any conditions. Stop pursuing religious liberty at their expense. Stop trying to take away their rights. The Church is now largely irrelevant in today’s culture. You want to change that? There’s how. And I am not asking you to go against Scripture. I am simply asking you to treat your fellow human beings, created in the image of God just like you and me, with the respect and love they deserve. You can chose to act in a way that gives hope to this community.

You can also choose to double down on our traditional positions. Our stance is such that for many of us the questions raised by the LGBTQ community are ones we’ve never even had to consider. This can be a scary thing, one that keeps us from engaging with those we’re supposed to love the most. I would plead with you not to let that fear continue to drive our actions. If our God is who He says He is, what do we really have to be afraid of? If you choose this route, however, be aware that you will not only shatter whatever little credibility we have left in this country but you will also inflict even more hurt on those who have already endured far too much suffering at our hands.

The choice is yours. I can only hope and pray you will make the right one.

In Christ,

Reverend Mike Shewfelt

Transgender Day of Visiblity


So as I found out last night, yesterday was Transgender Day of Visibility. I hadn’t known this, and I wish I had. I think it’s a great idea. My own views on the LGBTQ community in general, and on trans people in particular, have changed largely through getting to know you on social media. Anything that gets you out there and gets your stories heard is a good thing.

There’s another aspect to it that also makes it a great idea, at least potentially. It’s an awesome opportunity for us as Christians to stand up and say to you as trans people, “We see you. You matter. You have value as you and for who you are.” Our God is the God who knows us fully. For us to show you that same love and affirmation is the least we can do.

That being said, when I found out how important yesterday was I went hunting through Facebook to see if we had done this at all. There were individuals here and there reachng out, with the odd church or two, but by and large we were silent. From my own denomination there were crickets. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and we couldn’t even say hi on a day like yesterday? (A quick Google search showed that this wasn’t just on Facebook, either.) That’s sad. It really is. We blew a huge opportunity to at least show a little respect.

This may be a day late and a dollar short, but from one Christian to any trans individuals reading this, I see you. You matter, you really do. You have value as you are right now. Period. Don’t let anyone else tell you different, especially those who claim the name of Christ.