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

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR–WHOEVER IT IS

Written by: on March 16, 2017

Adrian Thatcher—God, Sex, and Gender: An Introduction

This book is a great educational resource in which Adrian Thatcher provides readers with complex, comprehensive, and compelling arguments surrounding the theological implications of sex and gender as they have been understood and controverted throughout ancient times and the history of the church. I think the overall value of the topics discussed in the book for me relate to the way they inform the general populace of the critical need to understand the dilemma of sexual minorities and thereby, aid in advancing important dialogues with the church and wider community. As a former Baptist minister, and currently a professor in theology, and an Anglican (Episcopalian) practitioner, Thatcher holds to the veracity of the biblical text, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27). Nevertheless, he asks the question, “How many sexes are there?” [1] The question is asked in recognition of the fact that there are numerous individuals who are unable to identify with either category. As he phrases it, “There are bisexual, intersex, and transgender or transsexual persons who cannot easily say they identify with the binary (twofold) division of humanity into separate biological sexes.” [2] Thatcher characterizes them as follows:

Bisexual individuals respond to people of either sex with desire. He comments that, “Christian bisexual people should not find themselves marginalized in churches, or told that their desires are sinful, or fallen, or that they might struggle against themselves for the rest of their lives in order to be acceptable to God. They are acceptable to God already.” [3]

Intersex individuals are born with ambiguous genitalia. Intersex is, “A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of male or female. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types.” [4] Such a person might be born appearing female on the outside, but possess primarily typical male anatomy on the inside of the body, or vice versa. Thatcher maintains that since distinctions of race, class, and sex have no relevancy in Christ, not only are intersex individuals not misfits in the Body of Christ, they are accepted and loved by God.

Transgender or transsexual people “are usually born with typical male or female anatomies but feel as though they’ve been born into the wrong body.” [5] Thatcher feels this sexual minority group probably suffers the most social ostracism in their personal lives.  “They require a social environment where sexual binaries and norms are not felt oppressively. Any theological thought about transgender people . . . must also acknowledge that past theological efforts easily resulted in inflicting more pain upon them, in failing to honor real difference, in reinforcing gender norms and condemning behavior that threatened these.” [6] Gender reassignment surgery appears to be indicative of the unbearable predicament some transgender people find themselves in. For Thatcher, “Their membership in the Body of Christ ought to be a liberating, transforming experience. Here is a body that is truly androgynous with men and women each performing masculine and feminine roles, in a Body that represents the suprasexual God and the suprasexual Christ.” [7]

Thatcher has made me realize the intensity of the pain, frustration, and struggles that sexual minorities experience. He has also brought to light how callously insensitive and prejudicial I had been toward this segment of the population as a whole (not specific individuals), and had developed a dismissive attitude regarding their persistent strides for legitimacy as human beings of value. It is humbling to admit that I have lacked compassion and empathy for their dilemma and forgotten that they too are created in the image of God and are to be loved by me as my neighbor. It doesn’t matter whether their condition is the result of anatomical aberrations, neural-chemical imbalances, socio-cultural influences, damaged psyches, victimization, or anything else, my duty is to value them and love them as God does.  To love God and neighbor has been a dominant theme throughout our cohort readings. If I do not love God, then I cannot love my neighbor as myself. If I do not love my neighbor as myself I cannot minister in God’s name.  It seems that I should have come to this conclusion long ago as an African-American minority having a heritage of enslavement and experiencing institutional discrimination/segregation in which a devaluation of our humanity has caused us to suffer a lot of pain and agony.

After reading Thatcher, I have a better understanding of why some Christian churches and seminaries are embracing those sexual minorities who claim to be orthodox Christians and desire to worship, fellowship, and be discipled in Christian congregations, and learn in Christian educational institutions. But, I don’t see the point of seminaries allowing them to set up special clubs or organizations on campus. If inclusivity is what they want, then why are they showcasing their distinctiveness.  Additionally, a caution to churches is that it must seriously evaluate if or under any conditions sexual minorities will be permitted to hold church leadership positions. Unlike Thatcher, I don’t believe that God necessarily wants all sexual minorities to remain as they are, especially if their condition is derived from some psychological or sociological event, and they are actually in some form of spiritual bondage. This means deliverance would have to be consummated prior to any leadership if allowed.

Notes

  1. Adrian Thatcher, God, Sex, and Gender: An Introduction (Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011) 6.
  2. Ibid., 3.
  3. Ibid., 252.
  4. Ibid., 12.
  5. Ibid., 254.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.

 

About the Author

Claire Appiah

8 responses to “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR–WHOEVER IT IS”

  1. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Claire,
    Great explanations of sexual terms found in Thatcher’s book. You highlighted how people are marginalized because of their different sexual orientation. Looking through the lens of biblical Christianity, it does make sense because scriptures are clear. However, I’ve learned that these people are cultural Christians because they don’t practice everything that the Bible teaches. There is no gray area regarding sin, and we can never regard bisexuals as biblical Christians, but I do believe they are cultural Christians. With that being said, cultural Christians are not guaranteed a space in heaven until they practice ALL principles outlined in the Bible.

    Garfield

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Garfield,
      Thanks for replying to my blog and educating me about “cultural” Christians. But, you must be careful not to broad stroke all sexual minorities under this one characterization. Setting up a dichotomy between “us” and “them,” “the saved” and “the condemned,” “the authentic” and “the phony” is potentially creating a stumbling block for engagement, conversation, and mutual trust and understanding between the two groups.

      According to Andrew Marin, “Evangelical churches . . . all across the country are being challenged by the GLBT community. The dichotomized relationship between evangelicals and the GLBT community has a traumatic history and continues to grow further apart. Each group talks past the other.” (p. 21) “Over the years, I’ve learned through experience . . . all the GLBT community wants from God is to have the same intimate relationship with God that evangelicals claim to have and to safely enter into a journey toward an inner reconciliation of who they are sexually, spiritually, and socially.” (p. 30)

  2. I really appreciate your honesty and transparency is this particular blog. Thank you!
    I am more and more landing next to you my Los Angeles friend: Love God, love neighbor! The rest seems to all be minor under those two major commands.
    One of the best things about being in a cohort is all the different perspectives. I really admire and respect your perspective on this topic.

  3. Claire Appiah says:

    Thanks Aaron,
    There’s a reason why these are identified as the two greatest commandments in the Bible from which all others emanate.

  4. Pablo Morales says:

    Claire, I agree with your views as described in your blog. Our challenge is to learn to live in grace but also in truth. I’m reminded of Jesus, who did not stone or condemn the adulterous woman, but still told her not to sin anymore. He spent time with prostitutes and tax collectors but did not approve of their actions. My concern with Thatcher’s book is that he is not only asking me to live in grace but also to redefine truth. He wants me to even be opened to the possibility that Jesus and John had a homosexual erotic attraction. This is where I draw a line that I cannot cross.

    As you pointed out, many people who struggle with their gender or sexual identity have been wounded by life experiences. A large group among homosexuals have been abused as children. I have met people who have left that lifestyle because they worked on their deeper needs and decided to embrace their new identity in Christ. Homosexual desires may not go completely away, but they no longer become the primary defining factor in their identity. As one Christian man said in his testimony, God did not call him to have heterosexual desires, but He did call him to live in holiness. I have found the testimonies and ministries of former practicing homosexuals to be a helpful tool as I attempt to minister in grace and truth.
    Pablo

  5. Claire Appiah says:

    Pablo,
    Thanks for replying to my blog and sharing your experiences and insights from the biblical narratives. We should never lose sight of the power of God and His ability to effect His salvific regeneration and transformation to EVERYONE who is lost. I must admit that Thatcher came off as a mixed bag of biblical truth and outright heresy/blasphemy. At one moment, he is saying something profound and the next moment he is saying something totally off the chain. I like much of what Andrew Marin says in, “Love Is An Orientation: Elevating the Conversation With the Gay Community.” (our reading for next week)

    Marin states, “By and large, evangelicals know gay people only in a narrowly focused, two-dimensional light, and the GLBT community is left to search for God without the body of Christ to assist them, encourage them and validate their human existence as children of God.” (p. 21).
    Marin further states, “We’re called to build bridges informed by the Scriptures and empowered by the Spirit. We’re called to let a just God be the judge of His creation. We’re called to let the Holy Spirit whisper truth into each person’s heart. And we’re called to show love unconditionally, tangibly, measurably.” (p.187).

  6. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Claire,

    You wrote, “But, I don’t see the point of seminaries allowing them to set up special clubs or organizations on campus. If inclusivity is what they want, then why are they showcasing their distinctiveness.”

    Point well taken.

    You also said, “Unlike Thatcher, I don’t believe that God necessarily wants all sexual minorities to remain as they are, especially if their condition is derived from some psychological or sociological event, and they are actually in some form of spiritual bondage.”

    This point, also, is well taken.

    Do you think a person who loves Jesus what wishes to remain same-sex attracted should be allowed to join the church?

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Marc,
      Thanks for your question. I do not believe a person who desires to remain same-sex attracted (remain in sin) should be allowed to join the church no matter how much they think they love Jesus. That’s an oxymoron; that person has not undergone a Christian conversion experience of salvation through faith in the blood of Jesus that leads to redemption, regeneration, transformation, and sanctification. And if they have not gone through that process, what might be the basis of their love for Jesus? A community of believers would be remiss in their duty to preserve the integrity of the Body of Christ in permitting such an individual to gain membership in their congregation. That individual does not meet the requirements of Christ-likeness. To be a Christian literally means to be like Christ, to come under His Lordship and authority in all things, to obey His commandments, adopt His lifestyle and character, and follow the paths where He leads.

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