Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Navigating new dialogue

Written by: on March 5, 2020

Last year, I found myself in a conversation that was new to me. I was on the phone with a student inquiry who was born male and had always been attracted to females. However, he felt the lesbian lifestyle “told his story better,” so he fully transitioned (through medical and surgical procedures) to female. S(he) is now raising a daughter with a lesbian partner. At that time, she was very active in her local church congregation and wanted to pursue a seminary education. At the close of our conversation, the student felt our seminary was not the best fit for her, but she did express gratitude that her story had been heard without judgment. I was keenly aware of the weight of that moment.

Preparation for this week’s post has left me with few words. Reading stories of struggling teens and parents making irreparable choices for themselves and their children whose full identity is just emerging is gut-wrenching. I am left with an overwhelming sense of responsibility, frustration, and compassion. I am more aware than ever of the responsibility I have to my sons and all children and teens I interact with to be a safe place to process difficult thoughts and feelings, searching for Godly wisdom together. I am frustrated by political and social agendas attempting to force me into boxes I never asked for, knowing there will be harsh judgment no matter how I attempt to remove myself from these boxes. I am filled with compassion for every individual and family facing difficult consequences from questions and decisions related to gender dysphoria; as well as every person who is struggling silently, trapped in their own thoughts, unable to make sense of it all.

Brunskell-Evans states that adolescents choose transgenderism in “defense against an unbearable present reality to provide something transcendent to bridge the impasse.”[1] It seems the pain these teens are dealing with resides much deeper that the presenting issues. The church has a beautiful opportunity to bring hope and love to these desperate situations. The church alone has the transcendent truth about identity that will fill pain that runs this deep.

My research calling for the gifts of women in ministry leadership to be developed and showcased seems buried in the larger issue discussed in this week’s reading, one of gender stereotypes. On one hand, we are challenging decision-makers to look beyond gender stereotypes when promoting and developing leaders. On the other, parents and caregivers are making choices of gender based on these same stereotypes. I am sure those who have gone before me, searching for equal opportunities for women in the church, never dreamed that the female opportunity dialogue would be trumped by dialogues of female definition.

This is such a complex issue. I am left with only one prayer. Jesus, have mercy.


[1] Heather Brunskell-Evans and Michele Moore, eds., Transgender Children and Young People: Born in Your Own Body (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018), 118.

About the Author

Rhonda Davis

Rhonda is passionate about loving her Creator, her wonderful husband, and her three amazing sons. She serves as VP of Enrollment Management & Student Development at The King's University in Southlake, TX.

13 responses to “Navigating new dialogue”

  1. Sean Dean says:

    Rhonda thanks for your reflection. I think you’re right that there’s a deeper issue happening beyond all the ideological back and forth. Listening closely for the whispers of that deeper truth is a start because it is so easily missed. Thanks again for your thoughts.

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Thanks, Sean. Yes, it seems a great deal more listening will be required to get to the root of this pain. We must all settle in for the journey.

  2. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the humanity and candor of your post. While you certainly are a gifted and compelling Christian leader, your wrestling with the underlying dynamics as a female leader is so insightful and thought-provoking. I so respect and applaud your passion as a Christian leader, a woman, a mother, and a developer of other Christian leaders. Yes Jesus, have mercy on us all as we strive to honor you and our calling.

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Harry. These are certainly complex times, but I am thankful for leaders like yourself who life-giving sources of wisdom. I’m curious as to how issues of gender present themselves in you coaching. What are you noticing?

  3. Rev Jacob Bolton says:


    My first thought is to lift up the sacred moment you had with the person who called you, discussing potential acceptance to further their education. As you said, the student “did express gratitude that her story had been heard without judgment. I was keenly aware of the weight of that moment.” A non judgemental response was just what this student needed and just what you provided. Hats off!

    My second thought is to acknowledge your point regarding leadership and women. Complex, nuanced, and ever so important, so many of us can’t wait to learn from you and your research.

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Jacob, it’s startling how often I must remind myself to take the long view in these discussion and listen a while longer. These conversations aren’t easy, and require a good balance of courage and humility.

  4. Karen Rouggly says:

    Really insightful post, friend. I appreciated your context and I think it’s a conversation we’re having to have more and more frequently. I see this consistently in higher ed, especially those of us with residential campuses. How do we navigate that?!

    You also tied this into your research (well done) and I thought of you while reading this work. The constant back and forth about femininity and femaleness was so interesting and I can’t wait to hear more about how you interpret this in light of your research topic!

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Karen, these conversations seem like a lose-lose scenario for campuses like ours. There are certainly no easy answers with so many stakeholders involved. Let me know when you’ve found the solution, ok?

  5. Jenn Burnett says:

    Thanks Rhonda, you have raised one of the key questions we must ask surrounding transgender rights and that is what it does to women’s rights/feminism? If creating space for women’s voices and experience is key to empowering women, what happens when men start identifying as women, rather than as transgender?

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Exactly, Jenn. We have the difficult task of keeping our focus on the spiritual and leadership of women in a cultural climate that seems to go wherever the tide takes it in terms of gender definition. As many have stated this week, remaining rooted in both grace and truth seems to be the only way forward.

  6. Rhonda, you’ve demonstrated and modeled for us how to have difficult conversations with those who hold different views from our own. In my post I mentioned the challenge of speaking in grace and truth. In our culture today, if Christians speak even just an ounce of truth into the matter, while ensuring a proper tone and posture, believers are still vilified for weighing in. That being the case, it’s tempting to ignore truth. Truth and grace must be held up together and trust God for the results. And this could take the form of listening intently and showing compassion. Then prayerfully discerning a time to lovingly speak truth into the matter.

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Thanks, Harry. These are complex times to be sure. Thank you for the reminder that grace and truth are paramount. I’m grateful for your insight!

  7. Rhonda, there’s a lot to learn from your handling of the transgender student which you must have done with grace and love. As the church, we’ve a duty to be different by extending grace to all.

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