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The topic of gender raises questions for the church today in an unprecedented manner. A biblical and traditional understanding of man and woman is no longer assumed in our culture, embedded in our laws, or reflected in many forms of media. As a result, parents, pastors, school administrators, and camp directors face challenges that were never before considered.

 

It is critical to recognize that gender identity challenges are different than those stemming from sexual orientation and therefore need to be considered differently.

 

DEFINITIONS

 

An understanding of the ever-expanding and evolving gender definitions is not only helpful but necessary to engage with those identifying in nonbiblical/traditional ways. Emerging Sexual Identities by Mark Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky provides a constructive list. The following definitions can be a good starting point.

  • Transgender/Trans: Umbrella terms for various ways people express their gender identity when it does not correspond to their birth (or biological) sex.

  • Trans man: A biological female who identifies as male.

  • Trans woman: A biological man who identifies as female.

  • Gender Dysphoria: Experience of significant distress caused by the incongruence when the gender someone identifies with does not match their biological sex.

  • Affirmed gender: Culturally defined as the sex/gender with which a person identifies.

  • Assigned gender: The sex category (i.e., male, female, intersex) that is identified for an infant at birth by medical professionals and parents.

  • Intersex: A rare group of conditions when a person is born with a discrepancy between their external and internal genitals.

 

CULTURAL CONTEXT

Sex, gender, and masculinity or femininity all play a role in understanding gender.

Sex is determined by whether a person has an X and Y chromosome (a man) or two X chromosomes (a woman). God created men and women with significant differences. The primary distinctions present at birth are the complementary sexual organs and reproductive systems between men and women. A variety of secondary characteristics develop later, including differences in height, muscle mass, body hair, and bone density.

 

Gender, according to the modern world, is not determined by physical distinctions but rather by how you feel inside and how you express yourself. Gender could align with your biological sex, be the opposite sex, be both, neither, and/or something entirely different.

 

Masculinity and femininity are another point of controversy. Characteristics considered masculine or feminine can vary widely between cultures or across generations. These different representations have led to a belief that masculinity and femininity are more socially constructed than determined by our biological sex. In modern culture, masculinity and femininity, as social constructs, are thought of as categories that can be deconstructed and then reconstructed to fit a person’s affirmed gender.

 

WHAT DOES THE ALLIANCE BELIEVE?

 

We believe that God created people as male and female and that we bear his image (Genesis 1:27). We believe that our created body is an essential part of who we are and is good. We believe that we are to honor God with our body (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). As such, we believe that God’s design is that our created biological sex determines whether we are male or female.

We believe that God’s purposes in his creation are often beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8) and that we can trust his design for each human being (Psalm 139:13–16), including their created sex.

We believe that God graciously and mercifully offers redemption and wholeness to everyone who repents and submits to him. We believe that God has committed to us the message of reconciliation to those who don’t yet believe (2 Corinthians 5:19).

 

We believe that while Christians are set free from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:1–14), we are still impacted by our fallen nature and will continue to be transformed until we enter eternity (2 Corinthians 3:18).

As we engage people with the grace and truth of Jesus Christ (John 1:17), we must be people of prayer who seek biblical wisdom through the guidance of the Holy Spirit (James 1:5). We believe that the gospel compels us to accept and welcome everyone with respect and warm hospitality, regardless of their gender identification. However, we believe that acceptance is not the same as affirmation. Acceptance recognizes and cares for others as created image bearers, while affirmation of their gender choices may lead us to honor something not honored by God (1 Cor. 13:6).

 

Responding to gender issues requires pastoral wisdom and discernment and will vary depending on the specific facts and circumstances. What should we expect from someone for church membership, baptism, or those serving in significant leadership and teaching positions? Is it pleasing to the Lord to use pronouns that don’t match their biological sex? How do we determine bathroom use? How will the church respond to and love someone who has had reassignment surgeries, later repents, and yet cannot undo the physical transformation? Can this person serve as an elder or a Sunday school teacher? These decisions provide opportunities to glorify God and love those who are part of our church family.

 

Finally, as is the case for all ministry, it’s important to provide wise pastoral leadership, guidance, and support to all who are in relationship with a transgender person.

 

As followers of Jesus, we are called to love our neighbor without conditions. Many of us have close relationships with people who are wrestling with their gender identity or other issues related to their sexuality. That should cause us to show Christlike empathy toward others involved in similar struggles. We may be the answer to the prayers of a believing family member of a transgender person when they move into our neighborhood or visit our church. Our opportunity to exercise spiritual influence is dependent on treating these individuals with love and respect as fellow human beings created in the image of God. In so doing, we honor Jesus.

 

Written by the C&MA President’s Cabinet and endorsed by the Board of Directors to guide and encourage Alliance leaders to shepherd in both truth and love.

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