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Christian Leaders Write Anti-Christian Trans Letter

This column in Christian Today was originally entitled “Christian Leaders Write Anti-Christian Trans Letter” – they understandably renamed it.

It’s not prayer or faithful Christian teaching on transgenderism that will cause harm

(Photo: Unsplash/Rui Magalhães)

There was a time when Church leaders wrote letters that proclaimed and affirmed the Christian faith, challenged false gospels and glorified Christ. Think of Paul’s letters in the Bible or the wonderful letters of John Newton or JRR Tolkien. They are edifying, exhorting and encouraging.

This week a letter was sent from some professed Christian leaders in the UK which is directly the opposite. The Rev Canon Steve Chalke, Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury; Very Rev Rogers Govender, Dean of Manchester Cathedral; Professor Susannah Cornwall, Professor of Constructive Theologies, University of Essex; Rev Paul Bailey, Pentecostal Minister; Very Revd. Dr David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral; and several other suitably entitled church leaders.

In their letter to the Prime Minister, they lament that the government’s ban on conversion therapy excludes trans people, and it is worth examining both the background and detail of this letter.

The government itself has got into a bit of trouble over this issue. Firstly, it was announced that it was going to backtrack on the ban on so-called conversion therapy and instead use the existing laws to deal with any wrong practices.But within 24 hours of this U-turn, the government did another one and said it was going ahead with the ban – except for trans people. This U-turn was largely the result of pressure from Tory MPs who haven’t really thought the issue through and didn’t want to be seen as the ‘nasty’ Tories again. Of course, the political and media elites could hardly contain their outrage – cue Twitter ‘outrage’ and lots of stories and reports – and so the U-turn was itself U-turned.

But the latest U-turn was not enough for these Christian leaders; they want the government to go much further. And what their letter reveals is that they are a million miles away from the New Testament letters and the teaching of Jesus. In my view, there are three basic errors which remove them from Christ’s teaching.

1. They do not understand what ‘conversion’ is. Or indeed what a Christian is. The letter argues that “conversion to Christianity is the event or process by which a person responds joyfully to the glorious embrace of the eternally loving and ever merciful God”.They go on to say, “To be trans is to enter a sacred journey of becoming whole, precious, honoured and loved, by yourself, by others and by God.”

This is a classic example of people using spiritual language which sounds good, in order to undermine and change what Jesus actually said. Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). He urges us to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). He tells his church, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline” (Revelation 3:19).

There are hundreds of similar verses throughout the Bible which show clearly that the Good News is not ‘God accepts you are you are and wants to affirm you’, but rather that because God loves you, He wants to change what you are, heal you, forgive you, and give you a new heart.

This is radical conversion. The conversion described by the letter’s signatories is little more than a meaningless meme – with no substance, no love, no reality and no forgiveness. It is in a different spiritual universe from what Paul wrote to the Colossian church: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” Colossians 3:5.

Rather than heal and make whole, these signatories want to put sticky tape on the wound and pretend that people are already whole. But the gospel of self-love is not good news.

2. They are closed-minded, intolerant and exclusive. The letter argues that so-called conversion therapy is “pressure put by one person on another to fit their expectations”. Never having experienced conversion therapy, or met anyone who has, I cannot comment on that. However, I do recognise coercion when I see it. Like when, for example, Steve Chalke encouraged the government to prosecute evangelical churches for teaching ‘harmful’ doctrine. These clergy, like Saul heading for Damascus, are determined to put pressure on those who do not fit their expectation or accept their ideology.

There is no question that this anti-conversion therapy bill is aimed at evangelicals and Catholics. The Independent newspaper, for example, had no doubt who was to blame for the U-turn. It cited a “Tory source” as saying: “But the problem is he (the PM) is surrounded by nutty evangelical advisers who think that their religious views are more important than what’s right for the country.”

Apart from the arrogance of this Tory insider assuming that he knows what’s right for the country, what struck me about this was the mocking language. I wonder if any other religious group would be spoken about in such a derogatory manner?

This bill is not designed to stop coercive practices which are already illegal; it is aimed at imposing the progressive anti-Christian ideology of these clerics onto all of us. The State theological thought police are coming – and this is the UK, not Saudi Arabia.

3. They do not grasp what the church is. Or indeed prayer.According to this new religion, any prayer that does not affirm what a person truly is, is apparently manipulative and coercing. So, Jesus got it wrong when he said that we should pray “forgive us our sins”? Or that we should ask for a clean heart and a new spirit? And clearly he was being manipulative and coercing when he declared that unless someone underwent such a a radical change as the new birth, they would not even see the Kingdom of God (John 3).

The clerics behind this letter repeat their one-point sermon for the Prime Minister: “Every church should be a safe space that affirms people in who they are, without fear of judgement.”  You don’t need a degree in theology to work out that this is not the New Testament church. If you read the New Testament, you will find that there is considerable judgement within the church. I just wonder how ‘safe’ Ananias and Sapphira felt?! (Acts 5).Was Paul encouraging safety when he told the church to judge those within, rather than without? (1 Corinthians 5:12). Maybe Jesus was a little over the top when he warned about wolves among the sheep (Matthew 7:15)? Perhaps he was being ironic and really meant to say to the wolves, ‘we welcome and affirm you as you are. The fact that you are a wolf is just your nature; come in amongst the sheep’!

Again, the trouble with the words used by the clerics is that, at a superficial level, they sound nice. Of course we want safety and non-judgementalism but on examination, not only are the words in this letter meaningless and contrary to the teaching of Christ; they cause harm. While attempting to create a ‘safe space’ for some, they are making the world distinctly more harmful for others. In promoting transgender ideology, they are harming women, children and indeed, men.

Take for example the incredible story of the brave Scots woman, Sinead Watson. It is astounding that doctors are being incentivised in Suffolk with £178 per year for every adult they prescribe cross-sex hormone therapy. Surely it is this kind of ‘conversion therapy’ that should be banned?

One doctor involved in transgender surgery told me that there was an 80 per cent negative outcome – an unheard-of figure for a medical procedure. Yet this doctor cannot speak out, such is the pressure put on them by the ideologues.

Sinead’s story can be repeated thousands of times. Which is why JK Rowling, Kathleen Stock, Abigail Shrier and others are fighting for women – at great personal cost. I recall one teenage girl who came to see me after detransitioning and telling me of the pressure she came under to transition in the first place – and of the horrific abuse and threats she received when she detransitioned.

The letter from the clerics reminded me of the letters from the religious leaders in Jerusalem that Paul obtained, giving him permission to persecute the Christians in Damascus (Acts 9:1-2).The signatories to the letter appear determined to root out what they perceive as anti-trans heresy, and they write to the authorities seeking permission to do so.

The one hope I have is that Paul was converted on the road to persecute the Christians in Damascus. I pray that those who would teach anti-Christian and indeed anti-human doctrines that would cause so much harm – and do so in the name of God – would have that same conversion experience. It’s not therapy. It’s revolutionary!

David Robertson runs The ASK Project in Sydney, Australia.

Transgender ideology and the rise of the thought police – CT

 

 

 

21 comments

  1. This saddens me. Steve Chalke has long been at the slightly wacko end of Christianity, Paul Bailey is famous as (possibly the only) Pentecostal minister in the UK to openly support gay marriage, and few people care about the academics.

    But I did have a fair bit of respect for ex-Archbishop Rowan Williams — his carefully worded Anglican responses seemed to include a core of good sense.

  2. I agree with everything you’ve written here David. Thanks for consistently having the courage to point out what should be bread and butter to anyone who calls themselves a Christian, never mind a Christian leader.

    There are a lot of people in various churches who need to be told “You can believe that if you wish, but you cannot call yourself a Christian”. It would be better for them to hear it now from genuine Christians rather than from Jesus himself when he returns.

  3. For once Boris has got it, at least in part. He recognises that including trans in the ban would prevent gender dysphoric children getting specialist psychological help which they clearly need.

    Amazingly he has also just stated that men, i.e. those who have gone through male puberty, should not be allowed to take part in women’s sport no matter how they identify. But again I am sure that Boris has no trouble in working out who are women!

    Are we seeing an outbreak of common sense in no. 10? I bet Carrie is furious with him.

    One of the signatories is a professor of constructive theology. Says it all really.

  4. Excellent article. We see yet again the church harming itself from within. The Bible warn us there will be many false teachers and they are very subtle with their message. We need more ‘wee fleas’ to speak up for truth!

  5. “To be trans is to enter a sacred journey of becoming whole, precious, honoured and loved, by yourself, by others and by God.”

    Yup, absolutely being transformed by the renewing of your mind is all part of a sacred journey.

    So – I’m proud to be trans (according to that definition). And by the way the apostle Paul was proud of his ministry, so….

    And yup sadly many church leaders don’t get it. So then why waste your time with “church” if that’s what it offers?

    Ekklesia or the biblical work for church in Greek is about a gathering. So it is a gathering wiht Christ central. Isn’t it the case that church in this sense occurs whenever two or three are gather in Christ (or more) whatever day of the week that it?

    People need to understand that God is everywhere and can be experienced in anything, not just in a meeting in a building on a Sunday. And in some cases with meetings on a Sunday, God has left the building as you rightly imply David.

  6. And in Acts 20 Paul told the Ephesian elders that “from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

    It is still the same 20 centuries later.

  7. David thanks for a biblical, balanced, insightful & compassionate analysis. The media have the megaphone to promote disinformation etc. But they will ultimately fail. Meanwhile you help us to cultivate cool heads & warm hearts. May we never be ashamed of our Lord or His teaching.

  8. Yet this doctor cannot speak out, such is the pressure put on them by the ideologues.

    The ideologues are unfortunate and regrettable wherever they’re found. Truly.

    When I think about my experience within the Church (or perhaps, within various lowercase-‘c’hurches), I’m reminded of well-meaning Christians who didn’t quite know what to do with me. Beyond the poor metaphysics of self and ignoring those who wish to demedicalise the condition itself, there is a psychological experience that persists — gender dysphoria, gender identity disorder, or gender incongruence, whatever we call it.

    In a fallen world, the reality of life is that sometimes, the necessary choice isn’t the ideal choice. I grew up in the church, and I have an extensive theological and philosophical education. I saw counsellors, therapists, and psychologists for decades (still do) and was challenged deeply by any number of close Christian friends, whether they were theologians, philosophers, lawyers, apologists. (In fact, not too long ago Preston Sprinkle and I had a few good discussions.) I know the creeds, affirm the creeds, and would describe myself as theologically orthodox. Let’s not forget prayer, either.

    It just so happened, though, that I require HRT. It’s a bit of an ironic, cruel joke: the dysphoric person needs HRT. Well, so I went on HRT. Not cross-sex HRT, ‘just’ HRT. I did that for a couple of years and was miserable. So I stopped and then thought about what to do because I require HRT. I thought about that for years while remaining miserable, becoming increasingly depressed and noticing that intrusive thoughts were taking on a suicidal character. So I started cross-sex HRT.

    Hmm, no longer miserable, depressed. No more intrusive thoughts. The result of some ‘sacred journey’? I don’t think so. I’m mentally disordered and tried everything I and those around me could think of. For decades. Cross-sex HRT was the last resort, and it worked. Nothing else did. That’s an interesting biochemical question: why did ERT work where TRT failed? Anyway.

    I can’t entirely agree with Chalke. The Church isn’t a ‘safe space’. But I’m also acutely aware that judgment within the church goes far beyond pure Pauline theology. There are plenty of Christians who think they know better than I do about my own experience. They think I just haven’t believed the right way or believed hard enough. They think affirming doctrine is an answer to an existential dilemma. Well, I can affirm the doctrine, but then what? They’ll tell me what not to do but don’t offer solutions. And what about all the uniquely 21st-century social stigma, gossip, and rumours? Christians aren’t immune to these things, and these are judgments that do indeed persist.

    But I don’t exist because while one side pushes ideology, the other reacts with incredulity at the possibility that someone could be in the position I’m in and, aghast, profess faith in Christ. Well, beyond the ideological rhetoric of the 24/7 news cycle, there are those of us who are finding ourselves lost and forgotten.

    It’s not a sacred journey, but having grown up with the understanding that I’m especially sinful or that what I struggle with is far, far worse than what others struggle with, there is a process of understanding that these things were never true, and weren’t said out of love but a lack of understanding.

    1. Thanks for this Johanne – really appreciated. You are right – we live in a fallen world and that sometimes (often) involves mental as well as physical disorder. Christians of all people should recognise that. But that does not mean we have to accept the ideology that says GID is not a disorder. It is. And should be treated as such – with the appropriate health care and psychological support.

      1. But that does not mean we have to accept the ideology that says GID is not a disorder. It is. And should be treated as such – with the appropriate health care and psychological support.

        We indeed don’t have to accept anything. While I consider myself to have a disorder / to be disordered, this is a conclusion based on what I have available to me. I’m open to the possibility that the disorder could be in reverse, but it is a disordering all the same. There could be something I know about myself and that what I experience isn’t purely a psychological malady. Surely unlikely in the face of the epistemic quandaries, but my experiments with HRT don’t have satisfactory answers, either. In there somewhere is the hope that I’m not completely insane. Maybe I’m just playing out on the grandest stage of all – a particular human existence – the tension between the Enlightenment and Romanticism. I was always morbidly introspective.

        Unfortunately, while Christians should recognise the realities of a fallen world, those Christians that I have found myself surrounded by don’t seem all that keen if it means recognising a reality outside of the socially acceptable. To consider my circumstance is to become lost in rhetoric from trans advocates, and Christian thinkers who specialise in theology and detransition stories. It is to consider my person to be especially disordered, to be looked at with suspicion as if my very existence is dubious. I must justify myself where others simply shrug and say, “I am the way I am, see?” Better to have a more tolerable struggle with a more mundane sin, like lying or gluttony, or the occasional, “oops, I drank too much”. It is to be pitied because the aesthetics aren’t pretty, and I don’t think very many people are aware of just what it means for a social stigma to give rise to unbecoming thoughts and prejudices. These things are so transparent that it’s easy to confuse them for one’s own thoughts. Maybe they are.

        The Christians I know take this view that “God loves [us], He wants to change what [we] are, heal [us], forgive [us], and give [us] a new heart.” Of course, what we mean by “heal” is tricky at times. Paul knew well that God doesn’t heal everything. Or maybe they suspect that my dysphoria is impure sexual sin necessarily, ala Colossians 3:5. Perhaps it is the idolatry of self. But God doesn’t always heal everything, and is transitioning never anything but a ‘sticky tape on the wound’? I suppose that depends on the intentions of the individual. What ought we aim for if healing is not forthcoming?

        But what about Acts 5? Are we suggesting that someone like myself is in a similar position of having robbed God? How about 1 Corinthians 5:12? But we can’t forget verse 13, and so, is someone like myself doing something wicked necessarily, and sinful? The wolves of Matthew 5, perhaps? These are examples contra Chalke, but they follow on from the words above, and they’re critical of “transgender ideology” and lead into Sinead Watson, payoffs for GPs, the anecdotal high rate of failure for SRS, and detransition. There’s a connection to be drawn — right? Maybe the question is how those connections are made.

        I think there’s perhaps a social phenomenon being confused for a medical condition, and it’s a confusion mostly everyone is making. Somewhere beneath all the lobbying and (devastating) social mimetics are Christians like me. I guess I’m saying that by glossing over this potential distinction and aiming squarely at the theological target, people like myself, who struggle with dysphoria, throw themselves before Christ and aren’t divinely healed, are lost in the deluge of counter-examples and Scripture passages. Going after so-called Christian leaders is one thing, and being mindful about how that’s done and what kind of church culture it creates is another. These large-scale social arguments can have dreadful fallout.

      2. David

        I was once told by my doctor about a condition I had (unrelated, but from birth – ‘corrected’ with surgery) that it’s fairly arbitrary what is considered diversity or disorder

        I think if every trans and gay person declared themselves to be disordered then the religious establishment would still not be happy and still would oppose conversion therapy bans.

      3. I think if every trans and gay person declared themselves to be disordered then the religious establishment would still not be happy and still would oppose conversion therapy bans.

        There’s no need to think that because that’s how it is. I can acknowledge I’m disordered all I want; the unfortunate reality is that I don’t find myself surrounded by only sophisticated theologians. I’m still viewed with suspicion, I’m still told I need to be in a deeper relationship with Jesus (I mean, that’s true of all of us), and it’s still suggested I’m in sin and acting ungodly. Heaven forbid someone’s kid asks questions!

        The conversation inevitable goes something like this:

        Johanne: Yeah, I experience gender dysphoria. I tried everything I could to avoid HRT, any kind of transition, but here I am. I’ve tried to avoid this as I wasn’t satisfied that I wouldn’t be acting in sin, so there’s some context for how serious an act I view myself taking.

        Christian: Oh, so that means you’re like transgender? Are you gay? What’s like, your sexuality?

        By all means, ban coerced therapies because they’re anything but therapy. But even as someone who has remained in the church, the response I’ve received too often isn’t sophisticated metaphysics but reactions implying something like, “that’s gross, men are men, why would anyone ever want to be a woman?” (as if my ‘want’ is some arbitrary desire).

        And that’s what it comes down to: it makes people feel uncomfortable and elicits a sense of grossness from the enlightened Christian. These things simply get wrapped up in religious or theological language, and people pretend that they’re concerned for the state of my soul when it’s really something else. “Gross” becomes confused with “sin”.

        I know many wonderful Christians; it’s just that I know many, many more who aren’t. I don’t expect anyone to understand or to be an ally or affirming. But I do expect to be treated like a person, and too often, the relationship dynamics in the church don’t allow for that.

      4. Johanne – can I just thank you for posting. I find your posts insightful and helpful. At least to my own understanding. All Christians should come from a place of humility – recognising that we are all ‘disordered’ and will not be completely made whole – until we get to heaven. Your struggle is ours.

      5. I find your posts insightful and helpful. At least to my own understanding. All Christians should come from a place of humility – recognising that we are all ‘disordered’ and will not be completely made whole – until we get to heaven. Your struggle is ours.

        Thanks, David; I appreciate you writing that. I suppose I’m ranting just a bit as well. 🙂

  9. Amen. Saul to Paul conversions 🙏🏻

    This new religion of tolerance is on the road to being multi faith and Jesus as the ONLY way to the Father being rejected in place of all roads leading to the same destination though the Bible teaches there are clearly two roads and two destinations… eternal life or destruction. Nothing new under the sun… universalism once again.

    As I posted elsewhere, the correct word for the “ sacred journey of becoming whole” is sanctification. Without sanctification, a process that can only happen through Jesus washing us with His Word (Eph 5:26), you can’t have wholeness no matter how and where you try to find it.

    “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,”
    ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:25-26‬ ‭KJV‬‬

    “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
    ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:23‬ ‭KJV‬

    And as for this journey towards wholeness being about “becoming whole, precious, honoured and loved, by yourself, by others and by God.” The sanctification process happens spirit then soul then body not the other way round. Receiving God’s love is how we are able to love ourselves and others. If we reverse the Gospel and say it’s about loving ourselves first then others then God, we have the Pharisees who attended to their outer man whilst neglecting the inner man and failed to love anyone the way God does. This is not love at all.

  10. Might a free at the point of access NHS system facilitate some undesirable practices, which might never secure funding in a private system?

  11. I think it’s worth pointing out that the “conversion” in “conversion therapy” does not refer to conversion to Christianity. It refers to attempts to change gender or orientation, not religious beliefs.

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