DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Choose Your Own……..Gender?!

Written by: on March 13, 2019

Choose your own……gender

I wonder how many of you ever read any of the children’s books “Choose Your Own Adventure”? Essentially, they were books where the reader was able to determine some of the outcome at certain points in the story. Each decision altered the scope and conclusion of the story. Netflix has even come out with its own, rather dark, version in video form. The current title is ‘Bandersnatch’ and does not come recommended by this author.

This week’s text, ‘Homosexuality, The Bible and The Church’[1] came at a fortuitous time for Dave Watermulder and myself as it coincided with the PCUSA conference in Seattle – Next Church. This movement within our denomination is seeking to develop a way forward to become the church of the future, a more inclusive, progressive community of faith. That means that at various times during the worship and seminars one can expect some discomfort as there is a very broad range of perspectives promoted (read progressivism). This included, to even my own surprise, the encouragement to ‘choose your preferred pronoun pin’ so that conference attenders would be properly addressed. (In case you are wondering I chose He, Him, His though it was nice to consider other options for a moment. You will have to ask me privately if you want to know what Dave chose. I also heard some fantastic stories about his seminary days that I am certain he would not mind me sharing. )

Actual pins from the conference.

It should be obvious to all as a result of this week’s book and the very messy public battle in the United Methodist Church a couple of weeks ago, that with the LGBTQ issue there is no simplistic and clear way forward. One may argue that they will ‘follow the teaching of the Bible’ but even authors writing for the rather conservative Zondervan publishing house do not fully agree on what that teaching is or how it is to be interpreted. Thus, we have multiple perspectives in our text this week. Add to that the myriad other perspectives that fall all along the theological spectrum and it is not difficult to understand why there is so much contentiousness regarding this subject.

It was not that long ago that divorce was seen in a similar light, but few now would eliminate a divorcee from inclusion or even leadership in the Church. Similarly, as Colleen pointed out last week, exclusion is still practiced against single adults, people of color, and others who do not fit the ‘norm’. As I said in another post recently, I wonder which of those groups Jesus would engage with if he were present in our context today, much to the consternation of contemporary, Bible believing Christians.

Yes, I certainly do believe that there is a standard, that there are universal truths that transcend our human rules and interpretations. I believe that there will be a judgement though as I get older, I am less and less certain whether that judgement will be in line with my theological interpretations. However, I do not believe myself to be any more capable of clearly discerning the ‘truth’ in this matter than our contributors this week appear to be.

Call me a liberal, or a progressive, or simply a confused Presbyterian if you will, but I cannot find it in myself to define someone by their sexuality any more than I wish to be defined by mine, or my pride, greed, gluttony, bigotry etc. I too am a work in progress. I also do not want any of you to condone my sin and simply allow it to continue. But you and I have relationships and you therefore have the right to speak into my life as a brother and sister in Jesus. It is far more difficult for me to make pronouncements regarding my (or my church’s) stance regarding LGBTQ issues as they are not usually received through relationship. They are more likely received as exclusiveness, as unloving, as hurtful, as hypocritical, and if that is what is ‘heard’ in my message and it would prevent someone from actually hearing and receiving the love of Jesus in the midst of whatever brokenness they are experiencing I can’t bring myself to say it. I just can’t. As I mentioned last week, (and you all discussed for what seemed like an eternity) I have experienced a profound and undeserved love and it has transformed me. I cannot put any barriers in the way of someone else receiving the same even if I believe those barriers to be biblical. I am reminded that it was his own people who put Jesus on the cross for his progressiveness and that scares the hell out of me.

At the end of the conference in the corporate worship time we sang the Hillsong chorus ‘Who You Say I Am’. There, in that room there were people of all descriptions: Latino, Asian, African, European, First Nation, male, female, Bi-sexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transexual and Queer, married, single…. all singing these words:

Who the Son sets Free

Will be free indeed

I’m a child of God – Yes I Am

In my Father’s house

There’s a place for me

I’m a child of God – Yes I Am. [2]

It was a beautiful thing and I believe it to be absolutely true. Broken, imperfect, sinful, bigoted…all have a place in God’s house. That is the Church I hope to be a part of, even if it causes me discomfort. That is the Church I want to help establish, even if it costs me power and influence. Who is in this with me?

[1]Sprinkle, Preston, ed. Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016.

[2] Morgan, Reuben, and Ben Fielding. “Hillsong Worship – Who You Say I Am (Live).” Genius. March 02, 2018. Accessed March 15, 2019. https://genius.com/Hillsong-worship-who-you-say-i-am-live-lyrics.

About the Author

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Dan Kreiss

Former director of the Youth Ministry program at King University in Bristol, TN and Dean of the School of Missions. I have worked in youth ministry my entire life most of that time in New Zealand before becoming faculty at King. I love helping people recognize themselves as children of God and helping them engage with the world in all its diversity. I am particularly passionate about encouraging the church to reflect the diversity found in their surrounding community in regard to age, gender, ethnicity, education, economic status, etc. I am a husband, father of 4, graduate of Emmanuel Christian Seminary, an avid cyclist and fly-fisherman still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

10 responses to “Choose Your Own……..Gender?!”

  1. I so appreciate your focus on the importance of relationship when confronting sin. Without love, we are just a clanging gong. I’ve also been confused by the way greed and gluttony are lifestyle sins that the church welcomes (no one says you can’t be ordained if your over weight, even thought gluttony represents a “lifestyle sin.”) If we’re going to have such standards, we should at least be consistent.

  2. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Dan!

    I am worried for our Grandchildren, because of confusing messages that will come at them from an early age. Choose your own gender? Ten years ago I would have said it was preposterous, but not any more. It is a real option being expressed in our world today. I am perplexed and don’t even know how to respond for the next generations.

    Sounds like you and Dave had a great time together at the Conference. I am jealous, I think you got a new roommate. I have been replaced…

    Thanks for your input in the Zoom this week. Sorry for putting you on the spot. And thanks for this Blog, you remind me well “we are works in progress.”

  3. mm Mike says:

    Dan,
    Thanks for sharing about you and Dave and the PCUSA search for what’s Next.
    You bring up a good point for spiritual warfare researchers when you said, “It was not long ago that divorce was seen in a similar light, but few now would eliminate a divorcee from inclusion or even leadership in the Church.” Hum, I wonder. Is he really the God of this world as stated in the Bible? Or maybe society is just making all these changes on their own? I wonder.
    The only way I can function in this forced evolution is to keep on the armor of God, and love others missionally with a chaplaincy slant to get me in the Western hard to reach places. Weird right, but it works for me and allows me to retain my own beliefs with honor and purpose, while intentionally extending love and grace to others who need Christ.
    Stand firm my good friend,
    Mike w

  4. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Dan,
    While I agree that we are free to choose how to live our lives the thing I have the most difficulty in the choosing of genders is that it is forced onto children before they can even begin to fathom what that decision can mean in their life. I am thoroughly confused by choosing to call a baby a theyby, allowing a 3 year old to change their gender and thus beginning to take different hormones. Once you are at least 15 or so go for whatever but I have known 30 year olds who cannot make up their mind about what job they want so it seems crazy to me. All this to say, we are all broken as you so eloquently have stated over the past few weeks and only God can mend us. No one should ever be pushed out of church for how they believe, even the most ardent hater of God needs love….

    Thanks

    Jason

    • mm Dan Kreiss says:

      Jason,

      I am right there with you. Though I tried very hard to hide it I think it was painfully evident on my face that I was completely flummoxed when they suggested I could choose a pin to express my preferred pronoun. I am too old and set in my ways to be comfortable with that and I agree that I think there are ramifications for children that have yet to be fully understood. Yikes!! I am just thankful that my own children are mostly grown and seem to have navigated this issue in one piece, at least for now.

    • mm Dan Kreiss says:

      Jason,

      Also I loved your post. This is a tough issue and one that all of us come to with a variety of experiences, both positive and negative. I appreciate that you trusted us with your own horrific experience. I felt comfortable last week baring my soul as I think the Elite 8s are superb people and well worthy of my trust. You obviously feel the same way.

  5. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Wow thanks for sharing Dan. I especially loved hearing about this conference and how different it is from my district conference coming up in a few weeks.

    Loved this quote “However, I do not believe myself to be any more capable of clearly discerning the ‘truth’ in this matter than our contributors this week appear to be.”

    On a side note you mention gluttony, and I just want to throw out there that gluttony is not actually a sin, whether we may be known for it or not.

    I believe it falls under the permissible but not beneficial type of thingy.

  6. Greg says:

    Dan. There are moments that I feel like an old fuddy duddy…but your words, “I believe that there will be a judgement though as I get older, I am less and less certain whether that judgement will be in line with my theological interpretations. ” expresses what I often feel. Who am I to speak for the Creator, to express what will allow entrance into the kingdom. I still find we have standard to promote and a Gospel to proclaim, but how that is done is important. Also I will leave the door wide open to the knowledge that I don’t have many answers. Thanks brother.

  7. 1kng says:

    I love believing in God. I thank you too by the way

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