Panel calls for love, grace and clarity regarding gender confusion and the church
March 5th, 2019 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
IRVING—A panel at the SBTC’s Empower conference Feb. 25 affirmed clarity and grace in churches’ responses to issues of gender confusion.
Moderated by Lance Crowell, SBTC church ministries associate, the panel featured Cindy Asmussen, SBTC Ethics and Religious Liberty advisor; Wes Hamilton, pastor of Fort Worth’s Hulen Street Church, and Robert Lopez, professor of humanities at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Raised by a lesbian couple, Lopez formerly identified as gay but has renounced the lifestyle. He and his wife, married since 2001, have two children.
All panelists suggested gender confusion has roots in the elevation of self-image over the acceptance of humans as created in God’s image.
Even the innocuous character Elsa in Disney’s “Frozen” becomes a paradigm of the “sovereign self” when she sings, “No right, no wrong, no rules for me / I'm free,” Hamilton proposed.
Lopez, who said he was “initiated into gay sex at 13,” described a “gay movement” or “network,” employing tactics convincing young people of their LGBT orientation because they are different or bullied.
“People are not born gay. You can change. People get out of it all the time,” Lopez said.
When individuals come into churches convinced they are gay, Lopez urged giving them time to “slowly reveal what is really going on.” Most times, gay males will not tell the whole story because of the shame and pain associated with homosexuality.
Teenagers who claim to be gay are often victims committed to protecting their abusers, Lopez added, calling the situation “tough” for churches required to report abuse but unable to convince the abused to tell the whole story.
Asked about assumptions regarding masculine v. feminine stereotypes, Lopez referenced Genesis: “biblically, God created us male and female,” but admitted that “another layer of stereotypes about masculinity and femininity” obscures the issue.
Lopez said he was recruited into the gay scene because he was effeminate. He lisped. Schoolmates made fun of him, raising his profile to predators.
“I didn’t have a dad. I acted like a girl,” he said. “When you are 13 and getting made fun of…you are very vulnerable to messages from older people.”
Excessive focus on traditional masculine and feminine stereotypes encourages insecurity, Lopez said. Teasing fuels feelings of inadequacy, rendering youngsters susceptible to adults who assert, “Look, you’re gay. I can tell. I’m gay.”
Lopez recommended parents celebrate their children’s non-traditional gifts and talents, such as encouraging a sensitive, artistic son to pursue art.
“Don’t sexualize it,” Lopez said, mentioning his daughter, who likes taekwondo, an activity he encourages. Successes boost confidence, rendering kids less vulnerable to questioning their sexuality.
Churches can be at fault promoting “rigid gender stereotypes,” Hamilton noted, mentioning student ministries that seek out popular kids—football players and cheerleaders “so others will come”—rather than embracing teens with diverse interests.
“David was a man. He wed Bathsheba. He killed a giant. But he also wrote poetry and played a harp,” Hamilton said, suggesting student ministries must transcend the typical and create safe places where kids can be who they are. He called for churches to teach the “broader idea of masculinity and femininity as represented in the Bible” rather than rigid stereotyping.
Lopez said the LGBT acronym, which actually lumps together very different characteristics, springs from the gay male movement’s determination to promote gay sex as normal.
“Homosexuality and transgenderism both come from a denial of the biological reality,” he added.
Asked about current movements toward “Christian transgenderism,” Asmussen called them attempts to create a theological justification for humans to “self -create” regardless of biology. Such attempts distort Scripture to justify inclusion.
Hamilton described the church’s proper response to transgender individuals, some of whom have attended Hulen Street while transitioning.
“My first response is I am going to thank God that they are there,” Hamilton said, praising the courage it takes for transitioning individuals to come to church.
“I want to surprise them with love and grace,” Hamilton said. “Look at how Jesus interacted with the individuals. Jesus never fell back into a formula. He never went back into a rote presentation of the gospel. He had the [supernatural] ability to look right into the heart of that person.”
Hamilton urged the church to do this “relationally” with LGBT persons, calling for open conversation, listening and patience, without forsaking biblical clarity.
“The times I went to churches that were more biblical, I went there because I knew something was going wrong,” Lopez said. “I wanted to be free.”
But negativity stymied his recovery. Conservatives had little positive to say about heterosexuality but only condemned homosexuality.
Some transgenders will come to your church because they know they are wrong and want help. Others will be convinced they are right and want the church to change, Lopez said. With the former, he recommended being “your cheerful, Christ-loving self,” offering hope and practical advice. With the latter, he said, “You have to go into the conversation realizing that this person might not have a future in your church. They might walk away. You have to tell them the truth.”
Peace is essential, but not peace at any cost, said Hamilton, adding that the “terms of reconciliation” with the Lord, themselves and others, must be clearly presented to transgender individuals.
“You cannot opt for silence,” Lopez said. “You cannot avoid the issue. Silence is deadly,” he added, noting the error of pastors who claim to “opt more for love than for truth.”
Asmussen also cautioned against complacency, warning that a dire outcome of normalizing gender dysfunction may even be the acceptance of pedophilia, “the next domino in identity politics to fall.”
She further commented on current legislation regarding gender identity, including bills filed by Texas Democrats to amend the state’s civil practices and amenities and property and labor codes by forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, changes which could force government contractors and faith-based colleges, shelters, businesses, therapists and medical professionals to violate their religious views.
Note: The SBTC is hosting a complimentary Gender, Identity and the Family event on April 4 to help church leaders. For more details, go to www.sbtexas.com/family.