Last summer, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) of my church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), published a report, “Gender Identity Disorder or Gender Dysphoria in Christian Perspective.” It may be found in the menu on this page: http://www.lcms.org/CTCR.
In my first post regarding this report, yesterday, I addressed the CTCR’s recognizing that intersexed people may decide in which sex they more closely identify, using medical options to provide them with the help they desire, but the CTCR did not extend the same to the person who has gender dysphoria.
Today, I take up this from the same report: “Individuals who have had sexual reassignment procedures and then come to the conviction that their actions were mistakes and were not God-pleasing will need special care and encouragement” (p. 9).
The report makes no statement regarding those who are pleased with their transition and wish to remain members of an LCMS congregation. One needs to be careful making arguments from what has not been said, so I offer the following gently. It is my impression that trans women and men are considered impenitent and, if they remain impenitent, are not in God’s grace and will not be members in good standing in an LCMS congregation.
If the CTCR did not intend to paint with such a broad brush, leaving one to feel that only the regretting trans person is able to be a repentant Christian, I hope they will offer clarification.
I can best use myself as an example of a person who in no way wants to be disobedient to the Lord, who only wants to love Him and his fellow man, who wants to know the Lord’s good and gracious will and follow it, but who is hurting so badly that he can envision himself fully transitioning, living the rest of his life as a female, yet desiring to be in the American church body that offers the best doctrine of God’s Word, along with the salutary liturgy and hymnody which is centered in Jesus Christ. If I were to transition, I would see my service to the Lord and my fellow man as this: to demonstrate that a Christian can go through a “sex change,” do so with no desire to test the Lord but as a last resort to find some measure of comfort in this earthly pilgrimage and live a God-fearing life.
Is it possible for my LCMS to agree with this?
Since retiring from parish ministry and moving to Indianapolis, I have attended several trans groups, longing to get to know people who are like me. I have listened with sadness to the accounts of Christians who, assuming they are telling their story in a fair manner, were kicked out of their congregations because they were transitioning. One was Orthodox, one Roman Catholic, and one non-denominational. In each of these cases, the church is theologically traditional. In Indy, one can find churches where trans folks are welcomed. I like to learn for myself, so I have attended services and read websites. Sadly, my assessment of these churches is their focus is on celebrating people not Christ, and the only condemnation of sins are the no-one-can-argue-with things like physically or emotionally hurting another person, and where the Gospel of forgiveness, life, and salvation in Christ is replaced with the gospel of inclusion and tolerance and justice.
I have seen three therapists. I have never spoken of the first one as I only saw her one time, leaving there thinking, “You cannot possibly transition. Stop this nonsense.” With all three, I have constantly replayed my desire not to hurt anyone or have anyone hate me, speaking of my Lord Jesus and my desire to please Him. I cry in every session, often bawling. Even in my worst struggles, when I can imagine nothing else than fully transitioning, I have told them, “If you could just help me to live as a male…”
I posed to my current therapist, “Surely, you have had other trans patients who struggle in their faith.” She pondered, then replied, “No, I haven’t. By the time they get to me, they have lost their faith. They either were told they were not welcome in church or given that impression, or their families disowned them.”
In 2013, I began telling of my condition to brother LCMS pastors, including my district president. To date, I have told ten LCMS pastors my whole story. Each man was pastoral and filled with concern for both my spiritual and physical well-being.
To generalize the response, I may not take medical steps toward transitioning and I am to bear this cross under Christ. When I tell them that I have been doing this, that I have strived and sought the Lord’s will and yet I keep getting worse, that this caused me to leave the ministry which I loved and for which I was so well-suited, and that I have become a wreck of a person, continually experiencing extreme self-hatred, and I ask them how I am supposed to bear this cross as I presently am, they either have no reply or say, “I don’t know,” or, “This certainly is difficult.”
When I told some of these pastors the research I have done to find a therapy that might work but have found none, and some of them have researched it, the only answer is: there is none. The day I was told, “I have nothing for you, Greg. There is no therapy. There is no hospital,” caused me to grieve as deeply as when I was told my son had died.
I plead with the Lord to give me direction, that I might fulfill His good and gracious will. I have told Him countless times that I only want to love and serve Him and my neighbor. These pastors know me, that all I want to do is the right thing. I am not willfully disobedient in this. I am sick. I am overcome. I feel helpless.
I want to know how He wants me to bear this cross. Does He want me to remain male, or does He want me to transition and use me to proclaim that He also loves the person who could find no better solution than to transition, just as He loves all for the sake of His Son? Is that possible? Is it possible for a Christian to transition and still be a Christian?
Our pastors and congregations and Christians who leave trans women and men with the sense that they are rejects are doing a disservice to them and might even being doing a disservice to the Lord. It is a delicate thing to balance God’s Law and Gospel, what He requires of us and how the Father demonstrates His love and mercy for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. In the end, if the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not triumph, every last one of us is defeated.
Because the process of transitioning is long and methodical, the vast majority of those who transition do not regret their decision, but find comfort from transitioning and finally are able to live a life where they are not constantly suffering and suicidal, but are able to live and to serve their fellow man through their work and take care of their families.
To summarize my reactions to the CTCR: I plead with the LCMS to listen to people like me, to acknowledge that trans people can be Christians the same as any person with any of life’s struggles and troubles.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). When I stew and sweat over the letter of the Law, I rejoice that I have a Savior who fulfilled the Law in my place, taking my sins into Himself and returning to me His righteousness.
Come what may in this life, I am already healed.