Reconcile – Handout #1

How do Episcopalians read the Bible? what is our hermeneutic?

1) We read the Bible seriously, and frequently. Our daily morning prayers include at least two readings from scripture. we have four readings in every sunday morning worship: one from the old Testament, one from the Epistles or from the Revelation; one from the Psalms, and one from one of the Gospels. They are all usually read sequentially, and in a three-year cycle, so that by the end of each cycle most of the Bible has been read aloud in worship.

2) We read the Bible as the word of God, but we also understand that Jesus, not a collection of texts, is the ever-living Word. we do not generally read the Bible literally, since it is clearly not intended to be read that way. It is, for us, a true story of God’s activity in the world, and the responses of believers to God. Every witness, every author of every part, told the truth about his experience, understandings, and convictions about God, from his own perspective, from his own culture, in his own historical context, in his own language. Those witnesses do not all “agree.” The reports are not “flat.” We believe God uses them all. We believe the holy Spirit is active in them all, and in the hearers in every generation.

3) We respect the kind of literature that each part represents. Psalms are poetry, not science or history, even though they so often reflect on God’s acts in Jewish history. The “historical” books tell the story of Israel, but they do not even report the same events in the same way; they do not agree on what happened as the people moved into the land and became an independent nation. Each point of view is important. The “prophetic” books, far from primarily predictive, were written by men who heard the heart and mind of God and spoke it to a people that had strayed from God; they served as both rebuke and reassurance of the unending love of God. We recognize that the two different creation stories reflect two different perspectives; we also recognize their similarity to other creation stories from the ancient world and more importantly, the differences between them and the others; we are aware that no Jewish leaders ever thought it was necessary to reconcile the two accounts or avoid the “contradictions.,, The letters of Paul were “occasional” letters. That is, they were written to specific churches (and to one individual within a church – Philemon) to respond to specific questions, issues and concerns. They don’t always offer the same advice, praise, rebuke or instruction, because each church was different. Revelation is a piece of “apocalyptic” literature that was never intended to be taken literally, but poetically, to encourage believers to trust that no matter what, in the end, God wins. Parables are just that – short stories, fiction, which Jesus used to make a point.

4) The four Gospels tell the good news of Jesus christ, but they do not tell that good news in the same way, or even in the same order, and not every event is recorded by every writer. Mark is the earliest, and the shortest; it was written to christians suffering those early persecutions; Luke and Matthew borrow large chunks from Mark, but tell the Jesus story differently because of their different audiences. Matthew is constructed in five chunks of teaching, reflecting the five books of the Torah, where Jesus is seen as the second Moses, deliverer, prophet and priest. Luke was composed for a Gentile audience where non-Jews, foreigners, the poor, the outcast, women and children are the focus; Jesus came for the whole world. John is a theological reflection on the Jesus story – the last written. A good way to see these differences is to look closely at the first chapters of the four gospels: Notice that Mark doesn’t include any story of Jesus’ birth; it begins with Jesus’ call to ministry. Matthew does tell a birth story but begins with Jewish history, and pays attention attention to the foreign magi/wise men, as outsiders who believed and trusted God even when king Herod did not – a theme common in the prophets; Luke’s is the famous story we all know, where attention is on Mary, Elizabeth and the birth of John the Baptist, Joseph, angels, the shepherds – those unexpected messengers of God’s act in sending Jesus. John has no interest in Jesus’birth at all, but begin in prehistory – theologically, “In the beginning was the word – and the word was with God – and the word was God.” That’s a theological statement, not a historical one.

5) We say that everything we need to understand and to come to experience salvation is in scripture; we do Not say that everything we find in Scripture is necessary for salvation.

6) We do not accept a contemporary and western understanding of “inerrancy.” we accept the limitations of the Bible as an authority to scientific, historical or sociological fact. In fact, it is often simply not accurate, if we look to impose those standards on it. The Bible was not written to a 21st century American audience; it does not seek to argue for or against contemporary scientific understanding of the universe, human sexuality, guns, or to approve the structure of any human government. It has nothing to say about the United States of America. We believe the Bible is about God. period.

7)We believe that all scripture must be read in its original context, with a view to understanding what it meant to its original hearers first, and only afterwards to consider what it has to say to us today. We cannot rightly read it as if it were written in English to Americans. We do believe that it is as challenging to us and to our society as it was to Israel’s.

8) We also believe we need to trace an idea, such as “freedom/salvation” through the whole Bible, not just verse by isolated verse – so that we can see the pattern of God’s acts of saving and freeing, rescuing God’s people – from literal Egyptian slavery in the Exodus, all the way through the Bible into and beyond the expanded and deepened freedom that God offers us in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

9) We accept that there are many valid and differing ways to interpret particular passages of scripture; and we welcome those varieties of interpretation, but we do Not accept that there is ever one “required” interpretation.

Reconcile – Handout #2

“Mothering God, you gave me birth in the bright morning of this world. Creator, source of every breath, you are my rain, my wind, my sun.”

Does this sound as if they’d been written recently by a feminist pagan?

Actuary, these words are part of a song written in the fourteenth century by an English Benedictine nun, Julian of Norwich, whose vision of God, and whose experience of God, was not limited to a grandfatherly or male image – She even dares to call Jesus, “our Mother.” This sounds strange to many Christians, since we have been so restricted in our imagination to the idea of God as Father, which God undoubtedly also is. But biblically-speaking, God is also Mother. And our experience shows us, too, if only we dared to trust it. lf God is real, and if God is revealed to us in the love of those who have loved us, we know that our knowledge of God is not limited to “Father.” lt is only because we have heard the most common formulation of the Trinity again and again and again that we have come to think that’ despite what we know in our hearts, that “Father” is the only acceptable description of God. The only intimate thing we can call God when we speak in prayer. God is beyond gender, and privileging masculine language is unnecessarily limiting, and it isn’t even always very helpful to us. Many images work: God is creator and sustainer. God is Protector and Defender. God is our Rock and our Fortress, our shield and deliverer. God is the redeemer of the world’ God is Mother AND Father. No single metaphor is complete when describing God, or our intimate knowledge of God. Consider Hosea, where the Prophet says this about God: “When Israel was a child, I loved him and called him out of Egypt as my son…l was the one who taught Israel to walk. I took up my people in my orms, but they did not acknowledge that I took care of them…l picked them up and held them to my cheek. I bent down and fed them.” (Hosea 11:1-4)

Before that, Israel wandered in the desert because of their stubbornness, even after God had delivered them from Egyptian slavery. But Moses, weary of this, argues with God, and says, ” l did not create these people, or bring them to birth.’ (implied, YOU DlD!) “Why should you osk me to oct like a nurse and carry them in my arms like babies?” (implied -These obnoxious children are YOUR problem ! I am NOT a nursemaid) (Numbers 11:12)

God was their mother, but masculine Moses was not prepared to imitate that God-quality! In Isaiah, the mothering image is applied even more boldly to God – as God says of Israel, struggling to find their way, “But now, like o woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.” (ls 42:14)

ln the same book, farther on, Israel says, “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” And God replies, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even those may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

And a few chapters later, God says to his humiliated, defeated people in exile in Babylon, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you'” Is 66:13)

Even Jesus refers to himself as a mother – an anguished mother hen in Luke 13:31-35, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often hove t desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you were not willing.” perhaps you have seen stories where this has literally happened – where, perhaps in a fire, the mother hen dies, but the chicks under her wings manage to survive, Jesus wanted, he said, to spread his wings – as a mother hen instinctively does – to protect God’s people in Jerusalem. The hen would, and in Jesus’ case, literally did, sacrifice its life for the vulnerable little ones”.

Most of you know Mother Virginia. She tells the story of celebrating the Eucharist as a young priest on a Sunday morning when she began active labor with her first child, Ben. She commented that not only was that a moving experience for her to celebrate Jesus’ offering of himself for the world’s rebirth and for its joy as she was suffering the pangs of childbirth herself but that others were moved as well. Many of the women and men in her congregation were enabled for the first time to see Jesus like that: a mother who will go willingly into suffering to bring children to birth – a God who would die to give us life – For many, that changed their perception of God forever, In an age where some Christians are giving the world a frightening picture of God as hyper-masculine, sometimes cruel, unmoved by your hunger or poverty or suffering, eager to force you and everyone else into some narrow vision and version of what the gospels call the “good news”, which looks to the world and maybe sometimes to some of you – like a pretty awful image of very bad news – shifting our internal image a bit may be the most helpful things we can do for ourselves and for others. lf I asked you, “Tell me about your image of God…” What would you say? Think deeply about that. What if God’s care, concern, and deep love were not limited to an image of “father” for you? What if God’s tender compassion and no-matter-what forgiveness, God’s deep determination to protect you and never to let you go, is beyond even the very best of the mothers among us – or the best mothers you remember from your own childhood?

What if that is really the case?

What if we accepted that as reality?

How would that change the way you treated others, and equally importantly, how you treated/ forgave/ nourished Your own tender self?

Here again is the lovely prayer/hymn by Sister Marie Therese winter that I printed for you in the bulletin:

Mother and God, to You we sing,             Wide is Your womb, warm is your wing,            ln you we live, move and are fed             Sweet flowing milk, life-giving bread.      Mother and God, to you we bring               All broken hearts,      All broken wings.       

Try praying that for a few days – See what it adds to your vision of God.     

 As the medieval mystic, Julian eloquently summarized, “As truly as God is our Father’ so truly God is our Mother.”

Reconcile handout #3 –

A complementarian view of relationships between women and men, vs. an egalitarian view – and a third way complementarianism – see the second page of this document for an article the woman who helped men coin the term, complementarian to express the theological idea that although men and women are equal before God, in worth and value, God has designed that women and men should live and move through the world differently due to their different genders. She offers a theological reason for this: She says that women should not lead men; women are intended to submit to men in order to demonstrate Jesus’ willing obedience to his Father at his willing death for the world; men are designed to read to demonstrate Jesus’ headship over the Church and Jesus’ love for the Church of which he is the head.

Egalitarianism – means a position in which Women and men are equal before God, not only theoretically but practically. An egalitarian would say that there are no social positions that women cannot fulfil, in the religious as well as political and social arenas. They would also value marriages in which roles and responsibilities are divided according to the skills personalities and interests of each person, not by gender. Women tend to like this, and more and more young women take it more or less for granted, both within and outside religious societies.

Both can be, and often are caricatured – but both are actually acceptable ways for human beings to function. You will find both ways of looking at the relationship between men and women in every society – Christian, Jewish and Islam – as well as in societies that have no particular religious beliefs. lt is not necessary to defend it by religious ideas for it to function; and men prefer it simply because it gives them authority in every sphere – ultimately even over the sphere that is supposed to be the woman’s: the raising of children, and the management of the household.

But is either actually the way in which women whose stories are told in the Bible actually lived? We have to take their stories at face value – as they are told by the MEN who wrote them down. When we do, we find something entirely different.

A third way – which has no name, as far as I am aware – begins with the notion that each individual, as part of a society, individually responds to God according to what God asks of each one – and that God’s call is not based on gender. This seems to better fit the stories we actually find in the Bible.

lf we look at the following women in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, we do not find that they live according to some predestined or predetermined plan. They are each unique. And each woman responds in her own way, in her own situation, to God and to others around her. And often, they undermine, not support, the view that roles are gender-based. They actually play a pivotal role in subverting man-made power structures, social and religious. They also don’t respond by saying, “l can do whatever men can do.” lt’s altogether different. (Whether you believe that these are literal and historical biographical stories or not, doesn’t matter. In either case, the words on the page are what we have.) In no particular order: Mary, the mother of Jesus – Read her song, echoing Hannah’s in ancient times – She is obedient to God by her choice; but she does not surrender her life to Joseph. She and Hannah and Elizabeth and for that matter, Sarah, are all found “impossibly” pregnant. None of these are traditional marriages. They make it clear that traditional expectations don’t mean anything to God. Hannah, Elizabeth and Sarah became pregnant explicitly to show the men that their ability to procreate was limited; that nothing is impossible to God. They are God stories. As is the story of Mary – who had no business turning up pregnant before her marriage to Joseph.

Deborah – “the judge” – Judges 4,5 –

Deborah was, like the other “judges” in Israel, a charismatic military leader. She is also depicted, as none of the other judges are, as one who actually settles disputes, too, among the people. And she is called a prophet/prophetess. (So are Miriam, Huldah, the unnamed wife of Isaiah and Noadiah) And she calls herself a “mother in Israel.” – a leader of the people. Far from submitting to gender expectations, she defies them. She sends her general to battle, but he refuses to go without her. She shames Barak by saying that the people will remember that God delivered the people by the hand of a woman. And she was right. God uses her quite happily, it seems. The story ends with the enemy General Sisera escaping to hide in an Israeli woman’s tent – Jael – whose name means “God is the God” – who then lulls him to sleep and murders him with a spike through his temple.

Esther – See especially

Esther 4-5 She initially obeys her uncle, which is gender-normal, and yet in the end, she makes her own choices and decision, and takes her own risks to save her people. And Mordecai and the king and others obey her commands. There is nothing passive or submissive in her relationship with her husband. And in the end, political power is concentrated in her hands.

Mary of Bethany – as well as Martha – lt says they are sisters of Lazarus, unmarried. There are no men they seem obligated to obey. Martha, however, does follow gender-normative behavior when Jesus comes with his friends to dinner. And she wants Mary to do it, too. But Mary had chosen her own part, which was to sit with Jesus and his friends, his male disciples, to learn, to listen, to participate. And Jesus does NOT send her to the kitchen. He rather tells Martha that Mary has made her own choice, “which will not be taken from her.” She was NOT sitting there piously praying, but actively engaged along with the other disciples, on equal terms.

Mary of Magdala – All of the “women” who followed and financially supported Jesus defied gender norms. They spent their own money to go where Jesus went and to care for him. We know nothing about their husbands, parents or children. They don’t seem to have cared what others thought about them. And there were many such women. (cont.) And after the resurrection, Mary of Magdala was the only one who dared go to the tomb and see what had happened – and when she returned, it seems none of the men believed her message – Peter finally went to see for himself. But clearly she was the first to report the resurrection – She proclaimed it. She preached it. She was, in ancient words, “apostle to the apostles.”

We do not see in Jesus any sense at all that women were somehow different in their ability to, or responsibility to, respond to his teaching. The Samaritan woman was the beneficiary of a theological conversation, although it was NOT gender-normative for Jesus to engage her that way; and she was sent to proclaim Jesus to her whole community. Both men and women came to Jesus on equal terms and received healing, freedom, and commission on equal terms. The basis was faith, not gender.

Reconcile handout #4

Women in Acts and in the letters of Paul. How do they actually behave and live their lives? How does the church view them? what do the male authors say about them? Look at the first chapter of Acts, where the Holy Spirit came to “all” – and there is no distinction between men and women: This is what Peter said: (1:16-18) – … “This is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ln the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour our my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy… Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour our my Spirit and they shall prophesy.”

Dorcas 9:36ff “Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and to charity” No mention of a husband or family. She became sick and died, so the disciples sent to get Peter to come pray for her to be raised. He came. She was raised up and “shown to the people to be alive.”

Note: Paul follows local customs – In the Roman world, women would not have normally traveled alone, and so men were sent. But even men had to conform to custom. Out of respect for Jews, for Jewish Christians, Paul had Timothy circumcised (16:3), even though it was not necessary for Christians to be circumcised and this requirement was explicitly denied this in response to some Christian Jews who said, “they must be circumcised.” (See chapter 15 – ) Why? So that there would be no social scandal regarding the gospel. No other reason.

Later in this chapter, 16:14ff , we meet Lydia, “a worshiper of God (a non-Jew who nevertheless believed in God as Jews preached God), was listening to us; she was from Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth.” [a wealthy woman, a business woman.] She was the convert – and clearly the leader of her household: “when she and her household were baptized…” Married? No mention. But Paul stayed at her home. And the new church met there – see 16:40 “After leaving the prison they went to Lydia’s home; and when they had seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters there, they departed.”

ln chapter 18 we find Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth – As fits tradition, in the second verse, they are introduced as “A Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife, Priscilla because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome.” – but by verse 18, Paul leaves for Syria accompanied by “Priscilla and Aquila.” It is traditional to mention the man first – unless the woman is the actual leader – the person in focus – and form now on, clearly Priscilla is. By the time Paul reaches Ephesus with this couple, they meet a man, Apollos, who has heard only part of the gospel message. “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately. ” (18:26)

The author of Acts also has no hesitation about mentioning the four daughters of Philip the evangelist, “who had the gift of prophesy” – (21:9) The gift of prophesy means, simply the gift of proclaiming the truth, the gift of preaching – lt not really about fore-telling future events.

The Letters of Paul

I am interested here not only in what Paul said to specific churches or individuals, but in what he actually DID – that is, how he worked alongside women and honored them.

This is often – very often – at odds with what we think we understand by his statements about women or wives in general.

This next section is by Mary Mowezko, an Australian Bible scholar. You can easily find her work online. “Paul was not a misogynist. He did not hate or mistust women. Far from it! Paul valued Priscilla, Euodia and Syntyche as his co-workers in gospel ministry He refers to Junia as a fellow Jew, his fellow prisoner, and as “outstanding among the apostles.”

Paul commends Phoebe to the church at Rome as “our sister,” as a minister or deacon of the church at Cenchrea, and as a patron on many. He also entrusted to Phoebe his letter to the Romans. This means that she would also have been the one who read it aloud, answered questions and explained the mind of Paul to the hearers.               

He positively acknowledges the ministry labors of Mary of Rome, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and of Persis, whom he said he loved. He warmly mentions no fewer than ten women in Romans, chapter 16. Paul had met some of these women when his and their journeys had intersected. Other women in Romans chapter 16, such as Julia, hosted house churches in Rome. He took seriously a report from Chloe about problems in Corinth.

He passed on greetings from Claudia of Rome and sent greetings to Apphia of Colossae.

He recognized the house church of Nympha in Laodicea and asked that greetings be passed on to her and her church.

He accepted the hospitality of Lydia in Philippi and held meetings of the fledgling Philippian congregation in her home.

He respected the teaching and faith of Lois and Eunice.

Paul valued the ministry of women and even compared his own apostolic ministry to that of a breast-feeding woman.

At least eighteen women are mentioned in Paul’s letters; sixteen are identified by name.

Paul uses his favorite ministry terms, co-worker, deacon/minister, and apostle for both women and men who are his colleagues in ministry.

Here is a list of the eighteen women in Paul’s letters, plus Lydia:

Apphia (Phlm 1:2)     Chloe (1 Cor 1:1 1)

Claudia (ZTim 4:21)

Eunice (2 Tim 1:5)

Euodia (Php 4:2-3)

Julia (Rom 16:15)

Junia (Rom 16.7) – in order to avoid the striking recognition of a woman as an apostle, some translators have changed her name to Junius – but that is a deliberate error)

Lois (2 Tim 1:5)

Mary (Rom 16:6)

Nereus’ sister (Rom 16:’15)

Nympha (Col 4:15)

Persis (Rom 16:12)

Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2)

Priscilla (Rom 16:3-5, 1 Cor 16:19; 2Tim 4:19, Acts 18:1-3, 18-19)

Rufus’ mother (Rom. 16:13)

Syntyche (Phil 4:2-3)

Tryphena (Rom. 16:12)

Tryphosa (Rom 16:12)

Lydia is mentioned in Acts 16:13-15,40

I believe if these verses were the starting place and focus in discussion on women in ministry, more so than 1 Cor 14:34-35, or 1 Timothy 2:12,13-14 – we’d be in a better place. (Those were written to address a local situation, perhaps even in regard to one woman or couple. Whatever was happening in Ephesus or Corinth was not intended to silence all women for centuries. That is clear from what Paul DID in his own ministry, supporting and praising women in theirs)

My objective is simply to acknowledge every woman who Paul mentions in his letters, plus Lydia, and note how he speaks of them and interacts with them. lf there is a main point it is that Paul trusted women and valued their ministry.

In the New Testament, the prerequisites and the means for ministry are giftedness, grace, faith and character. Gender doesn’t come up in Paul’s general teaching on ministry (Rom 12:3-81 Cor 12:1ff ,1 Cor 14:26, Eph4:4-13, Col 3:16, etc)

On the other hand, gender is plainly mentioned in Acts 2:17-18. Here it is clear that Spirit inspired, prophetic ministry is open to both male and female ministers.

Reconcile handout #5

The Biblical passages that are sometimes used to condemn homosexuality

The primary passage in the OT used in this way is Genesis 19. This is the familiar story about the punishment upon Sodom and Gomorrah. But it actually has nothing to do with consensual sexual relationships, homosexual or heterosexual. And God’s outrage precedes the visit of God, (“the men”, or the angels) to Sodom. Remember that they have just left Abraham where they were welcomed, refreshed, their feet washed, and fed. That is how strangers in the desert are always to be greeted.

18:20-22 Then the Lord said, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very great their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me, and if not, I will know.

So the men went from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.

Verses 23-33 recount Abraham bargaining with God for the people in those cities. Repeatedly he challenges God to repent of his determination to destroy them, by saying, “Would you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” And he whittles away at God’s resistance: “Suppose there are fifty righteous…”, all the way to “Suppose there are ten…” and every time God repents.

V 33 “And the Lord went on his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.”

The story continues immediately at Chapter 19, when the “two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground/ He said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet; then you can rise early and be on your way.“ They said, “No, we will spend the night in the square.” But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.”

This is exactly the same response Abraham had given, It is “desert hospitality.”

V.4 “But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house, and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.” Lot went out of the door to the men, and shut the door behind him and said, “I beg you, my brothers do not act so wickedly. Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you and do to them as you please; only do nothing to the men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they replied, “Stand back!”

And they said, “This fellow came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you then with them.”

Then they pressed hard against the man, Lot, and came near the door to break it down.

But the men inside reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. They struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they were unable to find the door.”

The next part of the story consists in the angels/men/God warning Lot to gather up everyone who “belongs to you” because the Lord was going to destroy the city – It includes the part about Lot’s wife who turned around to look as they were fleeing the next morning – and the total destruction of the cities – and the story of the two daughter who each slept with their drunken father so that they would bear children –

The sins of Sodom are inhospitality, threat and attempted rape. Their intention is to humiliate the men.

To protect his guests, to whom he owes a sacred obligation since they have put their lives in his hands by entering his house, Lot offers the mob his virgin daughters. That’s horrific too, but it makes the point.

Ezekiel 16:49 reads, “This was the sin of your sister, Sodom; she did not support the poor and needy.”

The same scenario is repeated in Judges 19, where a Levite and his concubine seek shelter in Gibeah, but no one welcomes them. Finally, a man from another tribe, like Lot a foreigner in the city, sees the strangers in the open square and invites them to lodge with him.

So now the locals seek to “know” the Levite (Judges 19:22)

The host protects the visitor by offering them his virgin daughter and the Levite‘s concubine – (Sexual abuse of men, even today, is considered worse than abuse of women, because it humiliates them: it makes a man into a woman, an inferior.)

Eventually the host throws out the concubine, who is abused until morning – until she died.

And the Levite was disgusted –

Judges continues with the story of how the Levite cut up her body into pieces and sent it to all the tribes, asking “Has such a thing ever happened since the day that the Israelites came out from Egypt?” And the next chapters are all about revenge on Gibeah…

Nothing in either of these stories has anything to do with homosexuality – or heterosexuality, either. They are about rape. And rape is the opposite of the safety expected when offering hospitality.

Leviticus 18:22; 20:13

Leviticus 18:22 translated literally says, “and with a male not will you lie in the lyings (bedding) of a woman; it is an abomination”

Leviticus 20:13 says the same thing, but adds the penalty of death.

We don’t know what the “lyings of a woman” are, and the term appears nowhere else in scripture. We are simply speculating to assume this means male sexual (anal) intercourse. But we can guess that this is its intended meaning.

Liberal arguments say this forbids men to engage in sexual intercourse with men because that is what Canaanite men were doing, or, possibly some prohibition on “temple prostitution” but these are both unlikely. There is no evidence of either.

Some assume it is a prohibition on rape of men in the context of war. But nothing suggests that.

Another view is that this is forbidden because male sex cannot lead to procreation. Again, no. The Bible never forbids sex with post-menopausal women, for example.

We simply have no clear idea what was going through the mind of the author.

But Dr Amy Jill Levine, a Hebrew scholar of the NT says, “I think Lev. 18 and 20 are concerned with categories, organization and separation. Genesis starts with the organizing: separating night and day, the waters above from the waters below, the Sabbath and the work week. It goes on to separate Israel from the nations. For much of the Bible such separation is the way to organize life and avoid chaos.

Thus in the biblical view, men do what the culture considers appropriate, and the same for women. Today we call these concerns, “gender roles,” culturally constructed patterns of behavior. For a male to lie with a man, puts one of those males in a women’s role, which would be category confusion.

However, Leviticus says nothing about lesbians. For Leviticus, no penis, no ejaculation of semen, no problem. Thus we see how the biblical text has a different definition of sexuality than we do.

Second, Levitical passages are geographically limited to the land of Israel. This point does no good for my gay friends in Tel Aviv, but it should be good news for those in New York or Nashville.

These commandments are addressed to Israel, not to the gentile nations. Since Christians today are generally Gentiles, the ;laws given specifically to Israel are irrelevant. Christians need no more to attend to Leviticus 18 and 20 than they need to attend to Leviticus 11:10 which prohibits the consumption of shellfish.”

(Dr Levine does not mention this – but the debate between Paul and Peter regarding what is asked of non-Jews becoming Christians is that obedience to the Law is not required – not even circumcision. And that Gentiles are “grafted in” against nature, to Israel, without the Law)

Romans 1:26-27

Paul had never even visited Rome when he wrote this. He explains that despite not having the grace of Torah, they should have recognized that there is one God through the wonders of creation or through the promptings of their own conscience. But the Gentiles instead “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” (Romans 1:25)

For this reason, Paul says, God handed them over to “dishonorable passions,” so that “females exchanged natural use for contrary to nature, and likewise even the males, giving up natural use of females, were inflamed with passion for each other, males with males engaged in shameless acts.” (Romans 1:26-27)

The primary problem with this text is that Paul is arguing from nature, not revelation. And what he means by “nature” is what we today think of as “culture.“ He doesn’t even argue from the Law, since it doesn’t apply to Gentiles anyway.

In fact, nature doesn’t prove that same sex relationships are unnatural. Same sex relationships are present in more than 1,000 animal species, including sheep, lions, and penguins.

(Remember Paul refers to “contrary to nature” (paraphrasing) in another context to reveal a miracle: Roman 11:24 describes how Gentiles “have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree.“)

The Romans 1 passage continues, about those who had worshiped the creation instead of the Creator: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, foolish faithless, heartless, ruthless.

They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die – yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.”

This turns out to be true of all kinds of people, after all.

Now notice – Gentiles who did not acknowledge God did these things – all of them – not just those engaging in “unnatural acts.”

Notice again: The POINT of this whole passage written to Jewish Christians in Rome is in the beginning of chapter 2: “Therefore, you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another, you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things…“

Reading the whole rest of the chapter is instructive. He is going after the Jewish self-confidence.

Paul doesn’t mention sex again, but says: “While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? You that boast in the Law, do you break the Law? For as it is written, the name of God is blasphemed because of you.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, pornoi, idolaters, adulterers, malakoi, arsenokoitai, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers, – none of those will inherit the kingdom of God.”

We do not know exactly what those Greek terms mean, or why they were included.

Pornoi – has something to do with improper sexual behavior – but we do not know exactly what that means for Paul. What is proper changes with time and circumstances. IS sex apart form marriage included? Is speaking with a woman (as in Jesus and the Samaritan woman ) forbidden? Is flirting? A kiss? We do not know what Paul had in mind.

Malakoi – translations include “male prostitutes”, “effeminate,” “homosexuals” –

But malakos in Greek simply means, “soft” – It can mean men who spend to much time in self-indulgence and not enough time in disciplined physical training. There is no context here and no reason to assume it has anything to do with sex.

Arsenokotai is a new word – a made up word combining arson (male) and koite (bed) which may mean “homosexuals” – but it could also mean pimps or procurers of women or men who put others “in men’s beds” for sexual gratification.

Paul invented the word. We have no clear idea what he even meant by it. NONE of these words are properly translated in any way that condemns voluntary, adult, consenting sexual relationships.

1 Timothy 1:10

We have another vice list – whether written by Paul or in Paul’s name. The list includes pornois, and arsenokoites but adds a new one: andrapodistais. This comes from andros – male and pous – foot – which in Greek literature refers to kidnappers, or slave-dealers.

Taken together they seem to imply coerced, commercial transactions – where boys or men are captured or enslaved for sex. Read this back into 1 Corinthians.

Jude 6-7

“Like Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, which with the same customs, acted in a sexually immoral way, setting an example by suffering in a punishment of eternal fire.”

Genesis 19 is about the attempted rape of strangers who are actually angels. Jude reverses the motif, because it refers to angels who are engaging in appropriate sexual conduct with women. For Jude, the issue is divine-human sex, sex with angels, which is contrary to the nature of angels. The text has nothing to do with homosexuality.


Finally: Those who argue that the Bible speaks against same-sex sexual , are, in some case, correct. They must not be condemned as bigots or haters without other evidence to support that. They are doing the best they can with the theological perspective they have.

It sometimes helps to point out that the Bible also supports the legitimacy of slavery and the second-class status of women – even within the very passages they quote (Leviticus, Judges).

In the 21sr century those passages have been repudiated as immoral in our culture and century.

We do not generally assume that enslaving other humans for any reason and regardless of their treatment is moral, even if it was common in Israel and in Rome. We rightly condemn the American enslavement of Africans.

And most of us do not believe that under threat of homosexual rape, it is appropriate to throw out a woman or girl to satisfy the would-be rapist.

We cannot rely on isolated Biblical passages without interpreting them, including reflecting on both science and also personal testimony and experience.

We know perfectly well that gay persons are no more likely to fit into any of the sin-categories that Paul raises in Romans than heterosexual ones. And Paul knew it too, which is why he included all Gentiles and all Jews in his argument.

We do not live in either ancient Israel or in the Roman empire – Even after we discern as well as w can what these passages may have meant to them, we still have to assess the degree to which behavior of all kinds – including accepting enslavement, the treatment of women, the treatment of foreigners, or the condemnation of gay sex apply to us in our own day.

We cannot make the Bible an eager partner in EITHER condemning consenting lgbtq relationships OR in fully embracing them. That isn’t fair to the text as we have it.

1)We do not know and cannot know what was in the mind of the authors and redactors of those passages. We do not know and cannot know what the first hearers understood. And we do not even know for sure what the text refers to.

2)What we DO know is that Jesus hadn’t the slightest interest in these questions or issues. And we know also that Paul raised them only in making another point.

3)We know that there is every scientific evidence for fully acknowledging gay and lesbian persons as “real” and not as malformed or distorted heterosexual human beings, to be cherished in their own selves, rather than being “fixed”, forced or coerced to change who they are.

4) And we know perfectly well by testimony and broad experience that in fact there ARE faithful, loving, holy, gay and lesbian Jews and Christians, just as there are female rabbis and Christian clergy – It is impossible to say there “can’t be.”

It is up to us to accept those realities. Denying them simply causes pain to others and diminishes our own capacity to enjoy God’s creation in all its richness.

Reconcile Handout #6

Amber Dlugosh

One day soon after my college graduation, I came out to my car in a Kansas City parking lot to

find a flyer stuck behind my windshield wiper. Kelly Clarkson, Ingrid Michealson, Heart, Sarah

McLachlan, and more were going to be in concert… for 10 dollars. My budget-friendly,

music-loving heart could not be more ecstatic! I called my dear friend Sara. “Want to see Kelly

Clarkson for your birthday? … I dunno, some festival called ‘Lilith Fair.’” We loaded up the car

and made the trip months later.

We took our seats in the blazing heat of the outdoor venue, and I immediately leaned over to my

friends and whispered, “Do you think they’re together-together?” while nodding at two women

sitting in front of us. The women were affectionately sitting close. While it should have been

none of my business, they were certainly “together.” Over the next fifteen minutes, I asked that

same question many times. With each question, my eyebrows furrowed a bit more, and my

curiosity turned into something more akin to panic. I looked around and realized most of the

women were “together-together.” I was at a lesbian music festival.

And I panicked.

For years, my biggest fear was that people would think I was gay.

Let me unpack that a bit for you, because there is quite a bit hidden within that sentence.

First, let’s look at the fear component. A lot of people are afraid of a variety of things: losing

someone they love, snakes or spiders, flying in an airplane, being attacked by a dog, public

speaking… the list goes on. What we know of fear is that it is our body’s way of alerting us

when perceived danger or threat is present. Fear signals us that we are not safe. To be afraid

that people might think I was gay says that my body knew to be gay meant I was no longer safe.

But how does that belief form?

I grew up in fundamentalist Evangelicalism, and I loved it. As a child, I took my Bible to recess

and set up one-on-one conversion sessions underneath the slide. In middle school, I got myself

up at 6am to go on prayer walks. In high school, I started leading worship and Bible studies.

The foundation of my belief was that I was trash, bloody rags, a wretch, a sinner, untrustworthy.

I struggled with self worth from infancy, so the Evangelical narrative aligned with what I felt in my

own heart and mind. They gave me a way out, though: Jesus. Because of Jesus, I had access

to God. He could finally love me, in spite of who I was. Jesus was the lawyer I needed in front

of a big scary judge. I could finally have access to worth, sound judgment, and love. I finally felt

like I belonged.

Everyone was dubbed as wretched and sinful, but the expectation was that once you accepted

Jesus, you would sin less and less and serve God more and more. This is why I led playground

revivals. Certain lifestyles were listed as evidence that people were not truly living in a way that

was Christ-like. These sins removed you from the safety Jesus offered. Homosexuality was the

leader of this charge. I heard the scoffs and gags from my family any time a same-sex kiss was

featured on tv. I heard the phrase “gay agenda” as if the gays were cooking up some sort of

secret contagion. I saw the newspapers my school used to cover our gym coach’s window

because she was gay and could not be trusted to monitor our behavior in a locker room. I heard

what my peers said about her and other gay kids in our school. It was clear that being gay

meant you didn’t belong anymore. Not even Jesus could protect you. And not belonging is

unsafe. My body feared being cast out and ostracized. So I feared that people might think I

was gay.

But let’s also look at the idea that I didn’t fear that people would know I was gay. I feared they

would think I was. Spoiler Alert: I’m married to Monika. She is a girl and I am a girl. We are

gay. Together. But my story is not one where I knew this all along and concealed it. I had no

idea. I believe my body did, or the fear for my safety would not have been present. I had

enough attraction to men, though, that I could funnel any sexuality in that direction without any

conscious effort. I had the privilege to keep myself safe in that way.

Then I fell in love with my friend.

My friendship with Monika was one of the only spaces where I felt like I could be honest. I was

met with unbelievable support without an ounce of expectation to change in order to please her.

I could vent, unfiltered, and she would call me out on my bullshit in the kindest way. She would

let me share hard things and also respected my desire to hold some things closer to my chest. I

could bring fears, questions, doubts… and I could also brag on myself without shame. I often

refer to her as nutrient-rich soil for me to grow in. In that soil, I grew in self-confidence, trust in

myself, self-love, and courage. The messages of being a wretched sinner kept melting away

and I dared to entertain the idea that God was Love and I was a human. That being human

meant I would fail, but it didn’t mean I was a failure. As this growth occurred over time, I

became more and more of a safe place for myself. Pieces of me that I had shaved off, hidden,

or changed started to rise back to the surface. Including parts I had never met: including my


And as I belonged within myself, the fear of losing belonging became less strong; I wouldn’t

ever lose the belonging I was finding within me, even if I lost my place with others.

And lose those places, I did. When I came out, I lost friends, I lost the respect of family

members, I lost the welcome to volunteer with at-risk youth through a local church

, I lost the ability to hang a wedding picture in my office without fearing backlash, I lost a true

welcome in most churches within this town, and I lost credibility with many.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t second-guessed myself along the way. At times I wished I could

have shoved pandora back in the box… or closet. But what I lost were places that couldn’t hold

space for me. They didn’t want me; they wanted a pretend version. And that’s the antithesis of

what God demonstrated throughout the Bible. He doesn’t ask us to hide. He asks, “Who told

you you were naked?”

However, if I were hearing this talk 8 years ago, I would 100% be responding with “Yes, but what

about…” statements likely filled with proof-text scriptures I’d pluck from the Bible to defend my

discomfort. For example, I was appalled when same sex marriage was legalized. II thought it

was dangerous to provide this as an option because it would lead so many down a path of

destruction. I know that thought process all too well.

I heard Jen Hatmaker speak about this same tension within herself as she began

deconstructing beliefs about LGBT issues. She chose to turn to Jesus’s instruction to look at

the fruit of a thing before making any value judgments. Not “work fruit,” though. We often say

“Well, they are involved in church, they lead groups, they chose to stay married, and they keep

a consistent tithe! Those are good fruits!” No, those can just as easily be lies covering up

unrest, self-indulgence, harshness, pride, and harm. We must look deeper. From my

experience, the fruit of labeling homosexuality as “disgusting, unnatural, and sinful” resulted in

shame, fear, hiding, and lying. For others, it results in death. If God is Love and perfect love

casts out all fear, then I’m making the judgment that this is bad fruit. So something must


In the Garden of Eden story, I always imagined God as an angry dad who stumbled upon two

kids who really made some large mistakes that he now has to clean up after. That he would be

angrily stitching together animal hide, mumbling things like “I wouldn’t have had to kill this if it

weren’t for you two. Do you see what you’ve done?” I heard his question about nudity as a

passive aggressive question. One in which he already knew the answer; he only posed the

question to point out a fault. The fruit of that God’s actions in my life was perpetual shame. If I

look at that fruit, I have to consider that maybe I interpreted the story wrong.

Now, I see the Garden story filled with tenderness and love. A god who strolled through the

garden and found his beloved humans hiding, which broke his heart. Up until this point, nothing

had caused them to conceal anything from him. I imagine his question filled with concern. It

was less about the actual messenger and more about the message. Up until now, they had no

idea they were naked and that it could be shameful. It was as if he urged, “Who told you to


With regards to the topic of sexuality, I believe the Church–in often good intention–has become

the voice telling people to hide. It has pointed out a God-created aspect of humanity and called

it shameful. It has cast out instead of welcomed in and embraced. It has resulted in bad fruit.

Leaning into my sexuality as a piece of how God has made me, how I get to experience and

share love in the world has resulted in different fruit. Sure, on the surface, it has resulted in

some ostracizing and some hardship. The path has not been easy. You could easily label that

suffering as “bad fruit” if you’d like. But, below the surface, it has resulted in honesty, love,

peace, joy, self-control, and growth. Fruit that strangely resembles what we call the Fruit of the

Spirit. So, if that is true–maybe–just maybe–we have been reading the text wrong. Maybe we

have misinterpreted God’s heart here. It is scary to admit, and it unravels many other things.

But what fruit is our desperate clinging to certainty providing us? What is it causing in the lives

of other people? And what aspects of God is it potentially preventing us from experiencing?

Reconcile Handout #7

Monika McClellan

As a child I understood love. I was the youngest of 6 in a close European family. I was doted on by my older siblings and was my dad’s favorite sidekick. My mother was nicknamed the Hungarian Crusher, not because of any reputation for violence, but due to her slightly overzealous hugs and aggressive cheek pinching. While my childhood was far from perfect, one thing I knew was that I was loved.

I was also taught about God’s love. But this love was harder for me to grasp. I didn’t feel this love deep in my bones like I did the love from my family. We went to a conservative church. One that taught more about the dos and don’ts than about the big picture. So, while I sang “Jesus loves me” proudly every week in Sunday school, the deepest part of me simply couldn’t understand it. I knew I could never do enough to earn this kind of love. I knew I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t follow the rules well enough. I was too selfish, too rebellious, too much of a free thinker to earn a love like that.

So while my teenage years were marked by a back and forth of rebellion and “walking the straight and narrow”, at the ripe old age of 18 I decided my rebellious days were over. I was going to buckle down and become the submissive woman I knew would make me lovable. So I got married. I married a kind, Godly man. One who would accept that I struggled with this free thinking rebellion, but also had the ability to reign me in when my wild heart began to drift toward anything sinful or worldly. Because I just knew, if left to my own devices I would fail at this whole being a good Christian thing.

So I built a life. A life inside a box I was sure Jesus needed me to be in. I worried about making sure everything looked good on the outside so my unlovable inside wouldn’t show through. I combed my kids hair before church, taught Sunday school, and voted a straight Republican ticket every. Single. Time. I hid the ugly parts of myself (and there were some VERY ugly parts of myself) and presented the Monika that not only I wanted the world to see, but the Monika I thought could maybe gain the approval of a far away God that would one day make the decision if I would go to Heaven or Hell. A God I wanted so desperately to love and for Him to love me back.

But there was a problem with that. The real me refused to stay in the damn box. After 15 years of marriage my faith began to fall apart. Not because I lost interest in the love of God, but because I was trying so hard to understand it. It was so confusing to feel like the harder I tried to hang on to God, the further it took me from the faith I knew. The more I tried to understand God’s love, the more it slipped through my fingers.

Fast forward a few years. I was on a journey of self discovery, but my faith had all but completely dissolved. The God questions were too big, but I started to understand myself. I began to embrace honesty in a way I never could before. Since I wasn’t sure anymore what I thought about God, I no longer felt the need to impress Him quite so much. Not knowing if he existed gave me the freedom to take a break in the striving for his love. So I came clean. I confessed things to my friends and family that I had kept hidden for years. I filed for divorce, and let my kids see their far from perfect mother, with all her flaws for the first time.

During all of this, I also was falling in love with my best friend, who was helping me process this self discovery. We’d been friends for years, but all of a sudden there was an attraction there neither of us could ignore. So we pushed aside our internalized homophobia and acknowledged that attraction to each other. At first I was sure this was going to end badly. This was just my rebellion, that old restlessness wanting something new and exciting. I was sure we would damage our friendship and hurt those around us. Even though I struggled to know who God was, I prayed that this attraction, this deep love and comfort I felt with Amber would go away. That he’d show us somehow it was wrong.

But instead, the opposite happened. While she and I were in a weird state of having acknowledged

attraction but never having acted on it, we went to Colorado to an Evolving Faith conference. If you’re not familiar with Evolving Faith, it’s an interfaith conference where everyone is welcome. It was at that conference that the pieces of my faith began to come back together. At the end of one session, the speaker led a moment of meditation in which we were encouraged to let God love us. Just to sit there and let the love of God wash over us. So here I was, this raw, newly honest, maybe gay version of myself. My guard was completely down for the first time. And you know what? I felt that love deep in my bones. Like sun on my face, a warm mug of soup, and my mothers tightest squeeze all at the same time. God loved me. Not the “deny myself” version of me, but the wholly human, free thinking, raw and honest version. I closed my eyes and sobbed as I received it. I was different after that moment. My eyes were opened to a new awareness of love and acceptance from a god who loved me all along.

That evening, as I described this feeling to Amber, she held me. Even though we’d hugged many times as friends, in this embrace as more than friends, I waited to feel condemnation. I waited for a knot in my stomach or fear to creep in. But I only felt that same sun-on-my-face love. In fact, I felt love more deeply and fully than I had ever experienced outside of the love I felt for my children. I was blindsided.

You see, I thought for sure over the last few years that I had been walking a straight line away from God. I thought in embracing every part of myself, I was putting more and more space between myself and my creator. I don’t know if you know this, but sometimes God surprises us. It turns out that in discovering “me”, I was actually on the road to discovering exactly who God created me to be. And in that discovery, He also gave me a taste of genuine love here on earth. A kind of love that gives us a glimpse of what his love is like for us.

So I’ll ask you the same question I asked myself in that embrace with my now wife. How can a love like this be wrong? How, when I tried frantically for so long to earn that love and couldn’t receive it, do I find it in the kind of relationship most of the Christian world condemns?

I don’t have all the theological answers, but I know this. God. Is. Love. And where there is love, there is God. And there is definitely love in my home and in my relationship with my wife. So we will continue to love and to let God in. Hopefully those who choose to hate and condemn can open their eyes to God’s love as well, and their lives will also be changed forever.

Reconcile Handout #8


Everybody fits into a “letter”. You’re either LGB or T.

In reality I think we’re all a little “Q”. Sexuality is a spectrum.

Not being straight makes you unsafe to whatever gender you are attracted to.

Can we just start having consent and self control talks instead of the don’t be alone with someone of the opposite sex talk?

We’re sex addicts.

Nope. Normal sex lives, just like yours. OK, maybe not. We’re newlyweds. But pretty much.

We were abused or have some trauma that “made us this way”.

This is hard to prove scientifically because there does seem to be a correlation between not being straight and maltreatment in childhood. But did abuse cause a change in sexual orientation? Or, as some studies suggest, does being gay cause others to inflict abuse? But lots of anecdotal evidence. It’s not true for us, and there are lots and lots of straight people out there with a history of trauma or abuse.

You can pray the gay away.

Every reputable health and mental health organization or association hold a clear position on conversion therapy. These include the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American College of Physicians, the American Counseling Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the American School Health Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the World Health Organization, the World Psychiatric Association…and many many more! Their stance is that in effect there is zero evidence that conversion therapy works or has any positive effect on members of the LGBTQ community and that it in fact can cause substantial harm. Every one of these organizations states that a specific sexual orientation is not any kind of disorder but is in fact normal.

There is however evidence that an environment that does not support this population does cause harm. For example, research on the issue of family acceptance of LGBTQ youth conducted at San Francisco State University found that “compared with LGBTQ young people who were not rejected or were only a little rejected by their parents and caregivers because of their gay or transgender identity, highly rejected LGBTQ young people were 8 times more likely to attempt suicide, 6 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs, and 3 times as likely to be high risk for HIV and STDs.

Again, these statistics are not about being gay or transgender. They are about gay and transgender individuals being supported!

That it’s a sin. And that you can love the sinner and hate the sin.

Gay and lesbian college students are 38% more likely to contemplate suicide if they are heavily involved in faith communities. (52% if you only look at lesbian students!)

It is impossible to say you love someone while at the same time would vote against them to have basic

rights like marriage or adopting children.

That there needs to be a masculine and a feminine role in the home.

This goes back to outdated concepts of traditional gender roles.

That it is “unnatural”.

Often referred to as puzzle pieces—because the parts don’t fit together, they are “unnatural.” This neglects female pleasure and evidence found within the animal kingdom.

Sex is not only about procreation.

Reconcile Handout #9


What Does the Bible Say About Transgender People?

produced by the HRC Foundation


For several decades, political and theological debates related to LGBTQ+ issues have centered around same-sex relationships for lesbian’ gay and bisexual people. While an exploration of that topic is important, the volume of faith resources dedicated to it have often excluded reflection on the unique considerations related to gender identity. Mistakenly, some Christians have suggested that taking the Bible seriously requires people of faith to stand in opposition to the existence, health and humanity of transgender people. Consequently, gender-expansive people of all demographics and Christian traditions have been made to feel that they must choose between their faith and living a whole, healthy and authentic life. Whether you are a ministry leader, the family member of a transgender person or a trans person of faith yourself, this page seeks to serve as a brief overview of the Bible’s precedent for affirming the full inclusion of transgender, non-binary and other gender-expansive people in the full life of christian community.

The language we use

Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to learn new terms and new concepts, especially if we see those terms change in meaning or use from one context to another. Whether we are talking about transgender issues or about faith, this seems to be true. This resource aims only to offer a starting place for a dialogue on both. For the purposes of our writing, when we use gender identity we are referring to one’s internal sense of being male, female, both or neither. When we use the phrase “sex assigned at birth”, what we mean is the sex that was assigned by a doctor at birth based on some combination of sex chromosomes, genes, gonads and internal and external genitalia, as well as physiological hormones. When we use the word transgender, we are describing a person whose gender identity is different than the sex they were assigned at birth. lt is an adjective, a descriptive word, and can encompass any variety of non-binary and gender-expansive identities. For example, consider Josh, a transgender man who grew up with his parents assuming he was a girl. For as long as he could remember, he knew himself to be a boy. But he didn’t know about transgender people until he was older and could finally see himself in their stories and come out. Or consider Sam, a non-binary person who uses they/them pronouns. Sam grew up being told they were a boy but they never knew themselves to be a boy. They came out as non-binary to reflect their authentic experience with their gender identity.

When we use gender expression, we are talking about the way that a person may outwardly reflect their internal sense of gender through presentation, such as through clothing, hair, voice and body language. Sexual orientation, which describes whom a person is physically and/or emotionally attracted to, is a separate category, and doesn’t influence someone,s gender identity or gender expression. It’s important to understand that gender expression and sexual orientation are different from gender identity. In our examples above, Josh could be a transgender man who is gay, bisexual or straight. Sam could be a non-binary person who expresses their gender consistently in a more traditionally masculine or feminine way, or neither or both at the same time. If you’re looking to answer what the Bible has to say about same-sex relationships, you can find that on an additional resource page here.

When we use the term affirming, what we are referring to is the theological view that all expressions of gender are an integral part of God’s design for diversity within the created order. When we use non-affirming, we are referring to the theological view that transgender and other expressions of gender variance are either a) sinful within themselves or b) that they are morally neutral but nevertheless a kind of disorder, mental illness or other brokenness. Whether you already feel confident in your position or are searching for new possibilities, our hope is that researching, studying and wrestling with the scriptures and questions most relevant to trans experiences are part and parcel of what it means for christians to “love God with ail of one’s heart, soul, and mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37, Luke 10:7).

Wrestling with Scripture

Creation and the Gender Binary – Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:18-24

When Christians think about gender, they tend to go back to the beginning. ln Genesis, we find two stories about how things came to be, one of which says “so God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, NRSV). lf you grew up hearing these stories and living with people who seemed to fit inside these gender boxes, the existence of transgender people might seem to fly in the face of God’s created order. However, when we look just a little closer at each of these passages we find a much more complex and beautiful world. For instance, when God creates men and women in Genesis 1, it’s after creating opposites in every other corner of creation-day and night, land and sea, flying birds and swimming fish. Humans then, are also created in an opposite pair-male and female. But the problem with a literal reading of this text is that even though Genesis 1 sets up these binaries, God’s creation exists in spectrums.

In between day and night we have dawn and dusk; between land and sea we have coral reefs and estuaries and beaches; between birds and swimming fish we have penguins and high jumping dolphins, not to mention that uncategorizable platypus! No one would argue that a penguin is an abomination for not fitting the categories of Genesis 1, or that an estuary isn’t pleasing to God because it’s neither land nor sea. ln the same way, God gives every human a serf that is unique and may not always fit into a box or binary. Among cisgender people that is those whose gender identities align with the sex they were assigned at birth, or non-transgender people – there is a wide variety in height, strength, hair distribution, size and shape of reproductive organs, and nearly all other physical characteristics, which makes it hard for every single person on earth to fit neatly inside one culture’s categories of man or woman. There is, too, a diversity among transgender and non-binary people when it comes to bodies, personalities, beliefs and experiences. But rather than writing Genesis 1 off as fiction, hat doesn’t match reality, many affirming Christians recognize that the stories set down in this chapter were never meant to catalog all of creation (in which case, it would just be an encyclopedia), but rather to point us towards God’s power and love. Not every microbe and constellation must be named chapter in order to have a purpose and a blessing.

Genesis 2 gives us a different perspective on the creation story, and here a non-gendered human is created first and then later a of the first person, Adam, is made into the second person, Eve. Based on the order of creation in this story, some theologians argue that this passage upholds a structure called gender complementarity. Gender complementarity asserts that God created two fundamentally different genders which have strict corresponding societal roles; in short, men were created to lead and women were created to follow. We don’t have the space here to explore the rich biblical scholarship that has demonstrated pastoral the theological and need for Christian Egalitarianism, but suffice to say these views, even when held with the best intentions, have a consistent history of leading to emotional, spiritual and physical violence against anyone, regardless of their assigned sex or their gender identity or presentation, who does not completely and unwaveringly conform to gendered expectations. Alternatively, moving away from gender complementarity frees Christians up to explore other biblical alternatives for identity, community and relationship- alternatives based on the example Jesus set and called for in his teachings, rather than on gender difference.

One of the ways that Christians have historically understood the existence of suffering in the world is to attribute it to the idea that things are not as they were originally created before the sin of Adam and Eve later in Genesis. Since the Fall, humans have experienced and caused things that are out of sync with God’s plan, and some may question whether the existence of transgender people may be a result of the Fall, rather than something that God intended from the beginning. However, it’s important to know that transgender people have existed across cultures and times – dating back thousands of years. We also know that when it comes to the suffering that transgender and non-binary people experience, most is linked to the stress and oppression caused by other people. Studies show that when transgender people are affirmed and loved, their well-being also benefits. With this in mind, it would be more likely that sin is at play in the oppressive and damaging ways we treat each other, and not in the very fact of someone’s existence.

Clothing and gender expression – Deuteronomy 22:5

Deuteronomy 22:5, ” A woman shall not wear a man’s apparel, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does such things is abhorrent to the Lord your God,” (NRSV) is the only verse in all of scripture that directly references gender-based notions of clothing. While in many cases transgender people are not in fact “cross-dressing” (a term that implies one is crossing their gender identity rather than confirming it), but instead are affirming and reflecting their gender identity through the clothes they wear. This verse has still served as a stumbling block for enough christians to warrant some exploration. Both affirming and non-affirming biblical scholars have a range of views on why this prohibition was written for its original audience. some are convinced that forbidding the Hebrew people from dressing in clothes associated with a gender different than their own was a way to be set apart from prohibition was more of a way to reinforce previous instructions from the Torah that forbid “mixing” (for example, not blending fabrics, planting variations of seed or-eating shellfish), given the way Israel’s national purity and their maintenance of rigid categorical differences were bound together. A third perspective is that Deuteronomy 22:5 was written to keep a gender-segregated society truly segregated. This would prevent things like men and women engaging in various forms of forbidden sexual contact, women from entering the temple, men evading military service, women signing up for military service and other behaviors perceived as contrary to the boundaries between the distinct parts of God’s created order.

Beyond understanding why this verse was originally penned, a more pressing question for Christians to ask is whether or not we are supposed to follow the prohibitions present throughout all of Deuteronomy. The answer for most Christians today would be no, on account of the theological conviction that Jesus, through his life and death, has fulfilled the requirements of the laws Moses presented at Mt. Sinai in the story of Exodus and because they do not believe that maintaining the integrity of God’s creation prohibits mixing. ln fact, the incarnation of God as Jesus, the mixing of the fully divine and the fully human, is often viewed as the necessary context for humanity’s salvation altogether. Christians who maintain non-affirming perspectives on transgender and non- binary people must ask themselves why it is that this command is being upheld when they believe that most, if not all, of the other directives around it have been nullified.


Changing names – Genesis 32:28; Numbers 13:16; Matthew 16:17-18

Names are very important and in many cultures they are inseparable from how people connect with one another and establish meaning for their lives. While some transgender and non-binary people do not feel that affirming their gender identity requires a change in name or pronouns, many do. To this end, it feels important to lift up the way that Scripture is filled with stories of people having their name changed as well as stories of people changing the name by which they called upon God. These stories demonstrate that name change can be about proclaiming who one is to become, recognizing and confirming who one has always been or some combination of the two. ln Genesis 32 we read of a fearful patriarch, Jacob, on a pilgrimage back to his family from whom he was estranged several years prior as the result of his own wrong-doing. The night before he returns, Jacob is awoken by an attacker, a man whom he wrestles until daybreak leaving him with a displaced hip, a new name and a blessing. Through the violent encounter Jacob is told he will now be called Israel, because he had “struggled with God and with humans and [had] overcome” (Gen 32:28, NIV). While the name Israel is interpreted differently from scholar to scholar, for the most part, it seems to confirm the longer character arc of Jacob, and perhaps the nation of Israel as a metaphor for a community that has indeed long struggled with God and yet persevered.

ln Genesis 16 Hagar, the slave of Abram and Sarai, runs away after severe mistreatment and in the wilderness encounters an angel of God. The angel offers encouraging words and consequently Hagar changes God’s name to El-roi, meaning “one who sees.” This does not shift God’s identity so much as it confirms something poignant about God’s character that Hagar had not fully recognized before. Immediately following this story, we see in Genesis 17 a reaffirmation of the promises God made previously to Abram and Sarai. In this passage, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “father of many nations” and the name of Sarai to Sarah, possibly meaning “princess of many”.


ln Numbers 13 we read the story of Moses changing the name of Hoshea, son of Nun, to Joshua, and from there becoming the second-in-command to Moses. Similarly, Matthew 16 describes the interaction between Jesus and Simon where his name is changed to Peter, as a signal that he is to be “the rock” and foundation of the church. The Bible establishes a precedent that name changes can be either an uncovering of who God has always seen a person to be, or as the recognition of a new identity and a new beginning. These too are important principles at play for many transgender and non-binary people in being able to affirm their gender identities with themselves, with their communities and ultimately with God.


Eunuchs as an example of gender diversity-Deuteronomy 23:l; Isaiah 56:1-8; Matthew 19:12; Acts 8:26-40

The word “transgender” is relatively new, but it speaks to a host of age-old experiences. lf you got in a time machine and interviewed people in the Bible, you wouldn’t find anyone who would use this word, because it didn’t exist, but you’d still find transgender and non-binary people. Some trans biblical scholar’s today are especially interested in the experiences or people in scripture referred to as “eunuchs”.

Typically, eunuchs were people who were assigned male at birth who had their reproductive organs changed or removed prior to puberty, but the word “eunuch” in the ancient world would also sometimes be used for those who we would now call intersex. Trans scholars today aren’t interested in these individuals because they believe that eunuchs identified as transgender, but rather because some of the things the eunuchs in scripture experienced are similar to what trans people – and intersex people – experience today, particularly in terms of discrimination, oppression and dehumanization.

ln Deuteronomy 23:1 a law forbids people assigned male at birth who had their reproductive organs crushed or cut off from being part of the community of Israel. This meant that there were probably relatively few eunuchs in Israelite communities for many years, they’re mentioned rarely. However, once the Israelites were captured by Babylon and Persia, two cultures in which castration was more common, we begin to see more stories concerning eunuchs and their position in society. We see that eunuchs are allowed to move back and forth between men’s and women’s spaces, that they take on tasks and roles related to both genders, and because intersex or physically changed before puberty they often looked different from cisgender men and women. This was normal in Babylonian and Persian society, but still looked down on by the Israelites.

Once the people of Israel are freed from captivity, several prophets, including Isaiah, guide them in the rebuilding of their homeland. In Isaiah 56:1-8 God speaks through Isaiah and says that even though Deuteronomy 23 outlawed the participation of eunuchs in Israelite society, in the new Israel they will have a special place-God says, “I will give, and in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off, (Isaiah 56:5, NRSV). This wide welcome would have been a relief for the eunuchs, but warring theological factions meant that as far as we know, this was never fulfilled.

Many years later, Jesus mentions eunuchs in Matthew 19:12, where he notes that there are many kinds of eunuchs, including “eunuchs who have been so from birth,” “eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others”, and “eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (NRSV). While the first group might include intersex people, and the second group people who were castrated by force, Christians have been arguing for centuries about who might be included in that third category. Regardless of whom he was referencing, what we do know is that in this moment, Jesus first of all does not denigrate eunuchs like others in his society may have done, and beyond that he actually lifts eunuchs up as a positive example. The fact that Jesus positively mentions people who are gender-expansive in his own time and place gives hope to many gender-expansive people today.


Finally, we see another important eunuch in Acts 8:26-40 who travels all the way from Ethiopia hoping to worship in the temple in Jerusalem, who meets Philip, one of Jesus’ followers, on the way home. Up to that point, we don’t have a record of eunuchs becoming part of the early Christian church, but in this story in Acts we hear about this Ethiopian eunuch who, after hearing about Jesus, asks Philip “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36, NRSV). While Philip could have said that there was no precedent for this situation-that the Ethiopian’s ethnicity as a non-lsraelite or his identity as a eunuch might indeed prevent him– instead, Philip baptizes him with no questions asked and no strings attached. This story of a gender-expansive person of color welcomed as one of the first christian converts is a powerful part of our spiritual history.

Being wonderfully made – Psalm 139:13-14

Psalm 139:13-14’s reference to “being wonderfully made” in the “womb”, is frequently referenced within non-affirming theologies to support the idea that being transgender or non-binary and pursuing medically necessary health care is a rejection of God as the designer of life. But that is a severely limiting interpretation, with implications well beyond transgender experiences. Psalm 139 implies that we are all created with love and intention and that every part of us was divinely formed with dignity -both our bodies and our inner knowledge of self. There is no textual reason to believe this excludes our gender identities or gender expressions. While it is true that physical transformation can be rooted in shame, unrealistic beauty standards and body-negativity generally, for many people it can also stem from a position of love, care and stewardship for their body. Transgender and non-binary people pursue physical change, not as an act of revulsion, but as an expression of being committed to integrity in body and spirit. They are acting on the conviction that being “fearfully and wonderfully made” means that peace and wholeness is actually what God wants for us and for the world, whatever that journey looks like to each person.

Often times, transgender people know God through their transgender journeys. Trans experiences can be a rich source through which God speaks different words both to that person and to the people around them; a message that God loves diversity and variation; a message God invites people into collaboration and co-creating how we will move in and shape the world around us; a message that sometimes knowledge about who we are and who God made us to be-can come in different stages and evolve over time.


Gender in Christian community – Galatians 3:28

One of the most difficult things human beings have had to learn how to do is to work together despite our differences, and that’s no less true in the church. There are times when we emphasize the things that we share, and times when we have to emphasize our different gifts and talents even when they seem to put us at odds. We see this tension play out in many of the Apostle Paul’s letters to the early Christian churches, and in his letter to the Galatians he toes this line again when he says, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NRSV). While on the surface this verse may suggest that we ignore or even try to get rid of our differences, it’s also clear from the rest of Paul’s letters that he took these differences seriously during his ministry. He probably was not suggesting that a person ceased to be male or female after baptism, and yet perhaps, when we die and rise again with christ, we might be made free from the cultural power dynamics that cause one person to oppress another based on race, ethnicity, class, ability, gender or any other difference we may have. Instead, rather than trying to destroy or ignore a facet of humanity that makes us all different, we might consider dissolving the harmful power dynamics that tear us apart. This balance between sameness and difference, between the individual and the communal, is necessary for life together in Christ.

But what if these interpretations are wrong?

The answer to this question will be different depending on the tradition of the person asking. For example, for some Christians, affirming or not affirming transgender and non-binary people is connected to salvation and eternity. For other Christians, the afterlife isn’t their main concern, but instead their focus is determining what it means for Christians to contribute to human flourishing and to the moral integrity of the church. Whatever is at stake for the person asking, it is important to note the role of humility, grace and having a consistent standard to apply in discerning what is true of God. We read in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that until Christ returns we are bound to see truth in a way that is incomplete, a mere reflection, “as in a mirror, dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NRSV). The Bible calls its interpreters to the awareness that even if the ultimate truth about any subject isn’t always in our grasp, we can still remain committed to the task of trying to find it.


As we wrestle, though, we can find solace in knowing that our salvation is not based on our ability to read God’s mind, or our ability to be absolutely perfect and hold all the right views–we are saved by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8, NRSV). Additionally, for many Christians, the metric Jesus provided in the Gospel of Matthew about good fruit and bad fruit is one of the most important tools for interpretation: “[E]very good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:17-18,NRSV). A quick survey of the destructive fruit that has come from non-affirming teaching on transgender communities demonstrates the need to explore what other theologies might have to say. Conversely, the outcome of affirming theologies on gender identity lead to words and actions that are reconciliatory, restorative and profoundly “good news” – not just for individuals, but families, churches and entire communities.


lf you are new to this conversation, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, or fearful that other people will accuse you of affirming transgender and non-binary people merely because it seems politically correct or trendy. However, even though it is true that there has been an increase in transgender and non-binary visibility in media, our society has never seen as many trans-exclusionary bills in state legislatures, public faith statements made against transgender people in churches or higher rates of recorded crimes and

violence committed against transgender people. Having the biblical and theological precedent demonstrated throughout this writing doesn’t guarantee anyone protection from continued discrimination. lt is always a profound act of courage to come out to yourself and to your community. Similarly, for the fridnds and family of transgender and non-binary people, to publicly express your love and support in many.contexts can be an act of critical solidarity.

In the midst of fear, stress or confusion, it’s important to remember that we are invited to pause, breathe and simply observe what God is already doing. The experiences of gender diversity can be found in nearly every culture throughout recorded human history. Traditionally gender non-conforming people were given communal roles as spiritual leaders, healers, conflict mediators and cultural conduits.

While not all of these experiences map perfectly on to contemporary trans experiences, what we do see similarly today are countless examples of transgender and non-binary people across denominations operating in specialized roles within the church whether formally recognized or not. Transgender and non-binary people are actively preaching, teaching, leading, pastoring and offering their time, energy and various gifts for ministry and service. What this tells us is that the real issue here is not whether a person can be transgender and Christian, but whether the church will acknowledge and empower those whom God is already working through to enrich the whole life of the body of Christ. As we all approach this topic with compassion, humility and courage, we may call to mind the words of Gamaliel, a teacher who defended the persecuted apostles of the early church:” …[l]f this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them-in that case you may even be found fighting against God!” (Acts 5:34-39, NRSV).

Read what the Bible says about homosexuality here.

Austen Hartke (Co-Author)

Founder and Director of Transmission Ministry Collective

Master of Arts, Old Testament/Hebrew Bible Studies, Luther Seminary

Myles Markham (Co-Author)

Christian Educator

Master of Arts of Practical Theology, Columbia Theological Seminary

Michael Vazquez (Lead Editor)

Religion & Faith Director, Human Rights Campaign

Master of Theological Studies, Duke Divinity School

Additional Resources:

This Is My Body: Hearing Theology of Transgender Christians by Christina Beardsley

(Darton Longman & Todd Ltd 2017)

Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians by Austen Hartke (Westminster John Knox Press, 2018)

Transgender Welcome by Bishop Gene Robinson – The Center for American Progress

An Affirmation Guide to Trans and Gender-Expansive Identities by Taj Smith, edited by Q Christian Fellowship

Nicole Garcia on Being a Trans Latina Pastor – 2020 Q Christian Fellowship Conference

La Familia: Una Conversación Sobre Nuestras Familias, la Biblia, la Orientación Sexual y la Identidad de Género – The Institute for Welcoming Resources

Reconcile Handout #10


Transgenderism: Not A Choice September 23rd, 2022

GENDER – two components

Gender identity– a person’s basic internal sense of being a man,woman or another gender

Gender expression – conveyed through appearance, behavior, personality styles; often culturally defined as masculine or feminine. Variable to individual.

Sex – biological construct based no anatomical, hormonal, genetic basis (assigned at birth based on anatomy)

Sexual orientation – relates to types of partners an individual is attracted to romantically and sexually

Disorders of Sexual development (DSD) – medical conditions (Klinefelter Syndrome, XXy; Turner Syndrome,45XO; Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome) in which anatomical, chromosomal, gonadal sex varies from typical male/female;

INTERSEX Transgender – is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or gender expression does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Some who do not identify as either male or female prefer the terms, genderqueer, gender non-binary, gender-neutral, agender, gender-fluid “cisgender” describes people who identify as the gender that matches their assigned sex. Transfeminine is a term for a person assigned male at birth (AMAB) identifying as a female transmasculine is a term for a person AFAB that identifies as male.

Gender diversity is NOT a mental illness – American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, World Professional Assoc for Transgender Health, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, AAFP, ACOG, American College of Physicians and WHO.

Growing medical evidence supports a neurobiological basis for gender diversity and many scientific studies are ongoing to further research the best way to care for transgender people. Current estimates are that there are 2 million transgender people in the U.S alone. Transgender individuals have existed in every culture and time period throughout the world. Unfortunately, gender non-conforming individuals suffer a lot of discrimination and condemnation in the U.S. and around the world currently. We need to understand gender diverse individuals so that we can better care for them as a society. Gender non-conforming people are more likely to be the victims of violence, murder, and more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression and to commit suicide due to the lack of support and acceptance and discrimination. Currently many states are passing laws that restrict medical care and insurance coverage for gender-affirming care. Texas has made laws that allow prosecution of parents who seek gender-affirming treatments for their children. Last month Florida became the ninth state to bar trans people from using Medicaid to help pay for gender-affirming care.

Children as young as 18 months have articulated gender expression and identity preferences. Research shows that children recognize their own gender and gender in others starting when they are very young. You may notice children behaving in ways typical of their gender as early as two or three years old. By the age of five, most children can identify the gender of other people. Children whose gender identity doesn’t match the gender they were assigned at birth may behave in ways that don’t match their assigned gender. For example, a child who was assigned female at birth might prefer to play with “boy toys” like trucks and tools. This can start when children are toddlers. By early grade school, children may be able to express that their internal gender is different than the one they were assigned at birth. This is known as gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is the distress someone feels when there is a difference between their gender identity and the anatomy of their body. People with gender dysphoria are called transgender. In a 2020 study of transgender adults, 73% of transgender women and, 78% of transgender men reported that they first experienced gender dysphoria by age seven. Typically, gender dysphoria gets more serious if the person continues to live in the gender they were assigned instead of their internal gender identity. Gender dysphoria is upsetting to children who experience it. It is not a phase and continues indefinitely. Experts say children have diagnosable gender dysphoria if they have experienced significant distress about their gender for at least six months.

They also exhibit six or more of the following behaviors:

-Expressing the desire to be the other gender or insisting that they are the other gender

-Strong preference for wearing clothes of the opposite gender

-Strong preference for make-believe play or fantasy play where they role-play the opposite gender

-Consistent preference for toys, games, or activities typically preferred by the opposite gender

-Consistent rejection of toys, games, and activities typically preferred by their assigned gender

-Primarily chooses playmates of the other gender

-Expresses dislike of their sexual anatomy

-Expresses a desire for physical sex characteristics of the opposite gender

In teens, gender dysphoria symptoms must be present for at least six months as well as six or more of the following:

-Able to express a sense of disconnect between their preferred gender and their physical sex characteristics

-Consistent desire to change their sex characteristics to those of their preferred gender

-Consistent desire to be their preferred gender

-Consistent request to be treated as their preferred gender

-Strong conviction that their emotions and thoughts are those of their preferred gender

More and more experts agree that gender isn’t as simple as male and female. They believe that those two gender identities are the endpoints of a spectrum of possible gender identities. Some people’s gender identity falls in the middle of that spectrum. They don’t embrace either the identity of male or female. These individuals may describe themselves with words like non-binary, genderqueer, gender-non-conforming, or androgynous. They may use they/them pronouns or newer pronouns such as “zie”.

Growing medical evidence supports careful listening, thoughtful discussions and patient centered approaches to gender exploration. lt is important for families to listen to a child who experiences gender dysphoria and supports the development of their gender identity. Potentially HARMFUL approaches – wait-and-see (assumes gender is binary and becomes fixed at a certain age – pathologizes gender fluidity; redirection (positive reinforcement to align with ASAB) reparative or conversion therapy

For young children, decisions must be made to create safe environments that promote healthy growth and development.

Gender non-conforming children may or may not continue into adolescence or adulthood with transgender identities or gender dysphoria. Studies note that increased intensity of gender dysphoria predict future transgender identity. Some recent research reports good mental health among transgender children supported in their asserted gender.

All children are more likely to have a healthy self-image, self-esteem and general well-being when their authentic identity is recognized,supported and loved.

Early on, transgender children may undergo social transition:

Social Transition – changing external appearance (clothes, hairstyle) and possibly name and pronouns to match internal gender. Social transition and affirmation among children age 6 yo 14 decreases anxiety and depression It is important to tailor the medical, mental health care and approach to each child individually. GNC youth can experience trauma at onset of puberty. Often gender dysphoria coincides with puberty onset. There is often a high frequency of mental health challenges including anxiety, depression, social isolation, self-harm and substance use. Gender dysphoria present since childhood that intensifies with the onset of puberty rarely subsides.

The next step in treatment of gender diverse individuals might be to suppress puberty with hormones. This is a reversible treatment pioneered by VU university Medical Center Amsterdam – gonadotropin releasing hormone (GNRH) analogues to delay puberty safely for decades. This has been going on previously in patients with precocious puberty – medical condition of too early onset of puberty. Preliminary results show behavioral problems and general psychological functioning improve. Not for long-term use as it affects bone mineralization.

The next step in gender-affirming treatment is treating the individual with exogenous hormones that help align them with their felt identity. The Endocrine Society guidelines start gender-affirming hormones about age 16. Some specialty clinics/experts recommend decisions be individually determined (all therapies currently require parental consent under age 18). Testosterone or estrogen or similar hormones are administered to patients and the hormone levels are monitored carefully. This treatment is partly irreversible and has more side effects. Sterilization is one potential risk and the patient may be able to consider preserving fertility before starting treatment but this can be very costly. Endocrine Society Guidelines and World Professional Association of Transgender Health currently recommend that gender-reassignment surgery be deferred until age of 18.

The important take away here is that we need to listen to transgender people. They alone understand the way their body and mind work and we need to support and understand their lived experience. No matter what decisions are made medically by the patient, it is their decision to make and the medical community and society at large should support them and offer them respect and consideration to help them live their full, best lives.

A joint statement in April 2021 from six major medical associations including the AAP noted the following:

Our organizations, which represent nearly 600,000 physicians and medical students, oppose any laws and regulations that discriminate against transgender and gender-diverse individuals or interfere in the confidential relationship between a patient and their physician. That confidentiality is critical to allow patients to trust physicians to properly counsel, diagnose and treat.

Our organizations are strongly opposed to any legislation or regulation that would interfere with the provision of evidence-based patient care for any patient, affirming our commitment to patient safety. We recognize health as a basic human right for every person, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. For gender-diverse individuals, including children and adolescents, this means access to gender-affirming care that is part of comprehensive primary care.

Further, we strongly oppose any effort to criminalize or penalize physicians for providing necessary care for their patients. Physicians must be able to practice medicine that is informed by their years of medical education, training, experience, and the available evidence, freely and without threat of punishment. Patients and their physicians, not policymakers, should be the ones to make decisions together about what care is best for them.

You can also reach out for help to trusted national organizations. These include:

–PFLAG offers resources for families and friends of trans people, and focuses on building a network of allies in communities across the country.

–The Trevor Project has trained counselors to help young people who are in crisis, feeling suicidal or in need of a safe, judgement-free place to talk. Call TrevorLifeline (1-866-488-7386) or text START to 678-678

–Trans Lifeline offers direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis. It was created for the trans community, by the trans community. If you are in crisis, call the Trans Lifeline 1-877-565-8860

Reconcile Handout #11


“Fearfully and wonderfully made:” Abortion, Family Planning, and Family Health in a Wholistic Theology of “Life” and “Dignity”

Presented by Marshall C. Johns, Fall 2022

An (overly optimistic?) Outline:

● Who I am

● Christian Ethical Framework(s)

● Realities and Statistics

● Q&A

● As an “individual”

● As a localized community member

● As a national community member

● As a “global” community member

Christian Ethical Framework(s)

● Deontological

● Teleological

● Virtue/Narrative

Realities and Statistics

● Infant Mortality

● Maternal Mortality

● Family Services Stats

● Family Services Stats (2)

● Prevention vs. Reaction

● Oftentimes states that have the most restrictive approaches to abortions are the “extreme negatives” (i.e. leaders in infant and maternal mortality, lowest funding for governmental “family services,” etc.)

● The overwhelming majority of abortions are “early term” and many are medically necessary for the

health of the mother.

● Planned Parenthood Stats

● Abortions by the Numbers

● 90.6% of maltreatment is from one or both parents

● Physical and Sexual abuse

● Two leading risk factors for victims living w/ caretakers: Domestic violence and Substance abuse

● Highest %’s in single parent homes         (F ~23%, M ~37%)

● KY DCBS stat sheet

● US DH&HS 2020 Child Maltreatment Report

● US DH&HS 2020 AFCARS Report

● ACEs and their effects

● In KY: ~8700, ~1200 in SBR

● Av. Age of entrance: 7

● Av. time in care: ~25 months (~25% of life)

● ~52% of case goal of reunification w/ av. re-entry into care ~1200 days (~3.33 years) and av. 3 placements

● Per day per child ~$76.65

● Substance use: over 1 of 3 (~34%) as opposed to roughly 1 of 5 (~21%)

● Homelessness: 31-46% before 26; 20-25% within 1st year of exiting care.

● Incarceration: Over 60% once homeless, ~25% in or exiting care

● Suicide: ~4x more likely

Reconcile Handout #12


Abortion – from the point of view of the Bible

Abortion is never mentioned in the Bible. Abortion, infanticide, infant abandonment (“exposing” the child) were all permitted under Roman law.

Scripture verses that might speak to the question: Psalm 139:13-14 “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Is. 44:24 “… The Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb.” Jer. 1:5 “before I formed you in the womb I knew you… I set you apart as a prophet Gal. 1:15 (Paul) – “But when God who had set me apart before I was born, and called me through his grace…”

Exodus 21:22-25 “When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judge determines. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

This is an accidental miscarriage – not a planned abortion, but there is a clear difference between the fetus and the woman. For the fetus – a fine is paid; but if the woman dies, it’s “life for life.” There is no parity between the two. The woman is treated as a person, but the fetus as property.

Numbers 5:11-31 – Abortion is actually the expected consequence of adultery on the woman’s part. If a man suspects that his wife has been unfaithful and is pregnant by that other, he is told to take her to the priest, who will make a beverage for her to drink. If she has been unfaithful, “her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry.” If she is innocent, the drink will have no effect. Clearly, a fetus that does not “belong” to a married man has no “right to life” at all.

The Bible connects life and breath – A fetus has not breathed, is not yet “human”.

“Thou shalt not kill” did not even apply to many living human beings, let alone to a fetus.

The Law of Moses commanded killing for cursing one’s mother or father, (Ex 21:17) or for being a stubborn son (Deut 221:18-21) – or even for picking up sticks (working) on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-35).

The Bible promotes capital punishment for conduct on 21st century civilized society would consider criminal at all. Mass murders were committed or approved of routinely – See Numbers 25:4-9 where God ordered Moses to kill 24,000 Israelites.

The injunction against killing forbade only the murder of already born Hebrews who were otherwise in faithful relationships with the community –

See Psalm 137:9 “Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock.”

Deuteronomy 2:34 “At that time we captured all his towns and, in each town we utterly destroyed men, women and children.”

1 Samuel 15:3 (Samuel said to Saul…) Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all they have; do not spare them but kill both man, woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey…”

Is. 13:16 (concerning Babylon) – “Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; …”

Belief that “a human being exists at conception” is a matter of faith not fact.

It is also unreasonable to think that the biblical writers – any of them – thought that abortion was a terrible evil but simply forgot to include anything about it. The law included some 600+ laws about everything from clothing to food, to behavior – but not one word about abortion, even though it was known and practiced in every society.

Abortion and the church

Abortion is not condemned by Judaism – and wasn’t by Protestant Christians either until recently. Episcopalians never forbade it, but urged women to make abortion decisions in consultation with other people, medical and religious, and not to do so lightly.

Roman Catholics opposed abortion – and do still. But this wasn’t really as clear-cut as it seems. Sex itself is a complicated issue in a Church where all power resides in celibate males. Sex between men and women were traditionally tolerated only if the possibility of having babies existed. Sex for pleasure alone was deemed to be sinful, even for married couples. That is why it also opposed/opposes contraception. Abortion was opposed because it nullified the only reason for having sex: procreation.

BUT – A fetus was not considered to be “ensouled” even by medieval Catholics in the time of St. Thomas Aquinas until “it was formed” – which he thought happened at 40 days for males, and 80 days for females – or until “quickening” – when a pregnant woman feels the movement of the fetus. Even in the Catholic Church abortion was NOT considered wrong until after that time – until there was a “soul”. Nevertheless, abortion was widespread and socially accepted in Europe – St. Antonius, Archbishop of Florence in the 15th century, defended abortions that were medically necessary for a pregnant woman or before “ensoulment”.

Not until 1588 when Pope Sixtus V came to power was it absolutely forbidden – at any state of pregnancy. However, he did not make any effort to enforce this – and he explicitly did not want women who had procured abortions to be treated as if they committed homicide.

In 1591 the new pope reversed that stance – and Pope Gregory XIV said that it was only forbidden after “ensoulment” which he determined to be 166 days into a pregnancy – well over halfway through the second trimester.

Pius IX reversed the decision yet again in 1869 and made any abortion after conception a sin that automatically excommunicated anyone involved in it – He believed that a fetus was not a person until ensoulment, but that it was a potential person – and so should be protected.

However even within the Catholic Church today many clergy and lay people point to the traditional “primacy of conscience” – which requires each adult to listen to the voice of God in their own conscience and make decisions based on that in complex circumstances.

Protestants traditionally have supported the individual conscience as well – and even conservatives like the SBC supported Roe vs. Wade when it was passed.