Churches should be among the first to include, welcome, support and accept transgender people, says one of the world’s leading evangelical Christians.
In his new eBook published today, Rev Steve Chalke highlights that in the New Testament, the first non-Jewish convert to Christianity was someone with sexual and gender minority status.
‘The Gender Agenda: Towards a Biblical Theology on Gender Identity, Reassignment and Confirmation’ will attempt to ‘heal the hurts’ inflicted on people who are transgender and help Christians form an inclusive theology which the author argues is both Christ-like and Biblical. It is written by Rev Steve Chalke, the founder of the global Christian charity, Oasis. In 2013, Steve Chalke became the world’s first prominent evangelical Christian to publicly declare his support for same-sex relationships.
Rev Steve Chalke says, “There are some within the Church who loudly proclaim their opposition to the ‘sin’ of transgender expression, let alone of transition, whilst other more nuanced responses, which begin with tones of pastoral concern, only later reveal that they too are playing the same ‘traditional’ binary tune. The subtle shift from viewing transgender people as ‘depraved sinners’ to ‘unfortunate victims of psychological pressures and mental illness’ camouflages the fact that, in the end, as numbers of trans people have learned to their cost, the environment it creates is just as toxic for them.
“I am convinced that the standard we are called to advocate beyond all others is that of grace; of God’s radical inclusion as most clearly demonstrated through Christ. Put simply, our task is to be the indisputable proof that God is love – and that, to the extent in which we fail, we model, quite literally, ‘dis-grace.’”
The book argues that the theme of inclusion is consistent throughout the Bible, most notably in the ministry of Jesus who reached out to people ostracized by the society and religious authorities of the day. It then proceeds to illustrate the specific example in the book of Acts. In this passage, Philip, a leader of the early Church, baptises an Ethiopian Eunuch even though Jewish theology would not then have deemed him worthy of it due to his status as a foreigner and a Eunuch.
Steve Chalke continues, “For the record, I am not suggesting that a 1st century eunuch is the exact equivalent of a 21st century trans or intersex person. In my experience, some trans people find it a helpful analogy, whilst others don’t see it that way because the story doesn’t really go to the question of gender identity as such. It is, however, an extraordinary example of the early Church’s understanding of the principle of radical inclusion as central to their mission and purpose.
“The point is this. Before the theological questions have even been surfaced – let alone been debated and resolved – Philip goes out on a limb. Why? Finding himself in this unprecedented situation, he can only be guided by his understanding of the teaching and example of Jesus – through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – as he understands it and as the text makes plain.”
The book also provides an overview of what it can mean to be transgender and the hurt, pain and mental health damage that can arise when people feel they have to suppress their true gender identity.
For more information and to download a copy of the ‘Gender Agenda’ eBook visit: www.openchurch.network/GenderConversation
Resource for churches
To accompany the release of the eBook, Oasis is also releasing a new resource for churches entitled ‘TRANSforming churches: A practical guide for the inclusion of trans and gender non-conforming people in the church.’
Written by inclusion specialist, Dr Christine Rose, the guide is designed to help churches begin the conversation on the inclusion of transgender people, containing a detailed guide to appropriate language as well as suggestions on practical steps. The guide includes:
- Testimonies of people’s ‘lived experience’
- Practical ways to ensure trans inclusion in churches
- Exploring what the Bible has to say about trans people
- Questions for churches / leaders to consider
- Useful definitions and a glossary of terms
The guide can be accessed at: www.openchurch.network/GenderConversation
The Guide has received useful input from Stonewall, Europe’s leading LGBT rights charity.
Oasis – the charity led by Steve Chalke – and Stonewall have today announced a partnership which will involve Stonewall offering specialist training to Oasis on LGBT inclusion. The two charities will work together to create helpful resources which explore issues of faith and LGBT inclusion in an education environment. This partnership will serve to promote the good work that is happening around LGBT inclusion in some faith communities and highlight how much more work there is still to do in this arena.
Oasis was founded in 1985 and exists to help people lead full lives through strengthening communities. Currently working in 11 countries, Oasis is involved in projects as diverse as helping people trapped in poverty in India to pioneering education in the UK. Through its educational trust, Oasis Community Learning, Oasis is one of the largest providers of academies in the UK, currently responsible for 49 primary and secondary schools.
Created by Oasis, the Open Church Network is a virtual gathering place for people seeking an open conversation about Christianity, Church, the Bible and faith; a web portal rich in content and resources for those with a personal interest in Christian life or theology as well church leaders. Besides other content, the Network has a strong focus on the inclusion of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender within the Christian Church.