The church body in which I was a minister, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) publishes a magazine for its lay people, The Lutheran Witness (LW). In LW’s January, 2017, issue, two pastors made passing references to the issue of transgender. (LW does not yet have the January issue available for reading free online.)
On February 11, I mailed a letter to both pastors. I sent a copy to the president of the LCMS, Rev. Matthew Harrison, and also wrote my second letter to him; the first was last October. Both times, I requested a meeting with him, expressing my concern for where the LCMS is regarding this topic and might be heading with resolutions in its upcoming district and church-wide conventions. In short, I fear that the LCMS will declare gender dysphoria to be no more than a mental illness and transitioning to be sinful, and be done with it.
I have not yet heard from any of these men to whom I mailed letters. My fear is that I will not. If I do not, I will have to decide how to proceed. Be assured, I will not remain still or silent.
Here is the letter which I wrote in response to the two LW articles.
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I am writing in regard to both of your articles in the January, 2017, The Lutheran Witness. The entire issue was timely and helpful. The theology, as always in the Witness, right on the mark.
In your articles, which I almost entirely thoroughly appreciated, you both made quick reference to the issue of transgender. Pastor A, your reference was “denial of body gender” and, Pastor B, yours was, “Transgenderism is humanity’s triumph over ‘male and female he created them.’”
For a portion of the American population, these might be true statements. They are not true for me, nor are they true for other Christians in LCMS churches whom I have gotten to know and who suffer from gender dysphoria.
In such a topic as transgender, quick, short comments are not helpful. Even more, they can do damage, as they might cement prejudices in those already prone to putting all trans folks into a box, and it can make it appear that there is no room in the LCMS for seeing the big picture on a terribly complex subject.
Until 2014, I was your fellow pastor in the LCMS (Fort Wayne, 1996). For my entire life, I suffered from gender identity issues, which erupted into crushing dysphoria in 2013. I dug deep into learning what might be behind it, why I might always have had this disconnect in my identity, undergoing therapy so that I might be able to remain living as a male without killing myself, without going insane, without finding the only way to calm the fire in my brain to be heavily medicated on psychotropic drugs which would leave me a shell of a person and unable to fulfill any of my vocations.
I went on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), hoping that the reversing of my male and female hormone levels would give me mental stability. The fire in my brain was eased. Without getting into details in this letter, I went off HRT and crashed, resumed HRT and again experienced physical relief. I repeated this pattern two more times, finally resuming and remaining on HRT early in 2015.
My study informed me that there are many more intersex conditions than to the genitals, which is the only intersex condition referred to by the CTCR in its 2014 document, and the only basis for which they allow a Christian to surgically address the condition, which they affirmed when I communicated with them in 2015. Yet, there are intersex conditions of the chromosomes and of the hormones, which also manifest themselves in the body even if they likely do not affect the outward appearance or function of the genitals. Regardless, they are just as physical, just as real, and can tear apart a person just as truly.
Sadly, there is at this time no test to prove my hormonal intersex condition but, I hope you can agree that does not have put the kibosh on it being categorized as such. Medical science is largely in the dark as to causes of autism, but no one would ever use that as reason to deny its physical nature or to label it a mental illness.
I believe my intersex condition happened to me as I formed in the womb, my endocrine system being disrupted by medicine my mother took and the undue stress in her life in those months, both which are known endocrine system disruptors. I do, indeed, have some outward manifestations in my body. And, that HRT gave me physical relief, and that I lost that relief when I stopped taking it, informs me that the origin of my ailment was not that of nurture, which resulted in mental illness, but that of my nature, not simply male or female as the Lord originally created man but a confounding combination of both, and one of the countless expressions of the profound affects of Original Sin.
I was ordained on June 23, 1996. As a pastor, I tenaciously taught God’s Word according to the doctrine of my vows. Since retiring in 2014, I remain doggedly determined to believe, teach, and confess the doctrine of the LCMS. Now, even more so because the world and, especially, Christians in traditional church bodies, are uneducated about intersex, gender dysphoria, and transitioning, all trans folks getting lumped into LGBTQ whether they identify with the prideful ones of that abbreviation, and my going public was scandalous to many. Thus, more than a desire to educate, I found it my duty to use this that I not hurt my neighbor, but to help.
I do not deny my body gender, nor is my transitioning a matter of triumphing over the Lord’s created order. Rather, in the manner of our Lord Jesus’ teaching in John 12, I hate my sinful flesh. I despise that I suffer this condition which sought to kill me or drive me out of my mind, and in which I have found healing by transitioning. On my blog—eilerspizza.wordpress.com—is posted an essay entitled, “Happy to be transgender?” which reflects the attitude I have, which can also be found on many other of my blog posts.
As this topic directly affects you as parish pastors, my concern is for what you preach, and how you instruct and write newsletter articles and hold private conversations. If your comments are kept to concise, black and white phrases as in the LW articles, those members of yours who are suffering, or have a family member who is, will not feel they can talk with you. Even more, they might only hear the Law, finding the Gospel too good for them, because of the too-wretched-to-be-lovable weaklings that they have been made to feel. Further, they might find the Lord to be an unfair God, one who allowed them to be in this life-threatening predicament but having no vision for a way out of it because they certainly could never transition, while they also know that talk therapy very rarely provides relief (as Scott Stiegemeyer affirmed in the CTQ). And, they know the statistic: 41% with gender identity issues will attempt to end their lives. Indeed, they might already be among the 41%.
More than ever—even after having preached 150 funeral sermons, pointing the hearers to Christ’s resurrection and to the coming of ours—I look for the resurrection of the dead. With Job, I declare how my heart yearns within me to see my Savior in my own flesh, with my own eyes, which will be transformed in the four blessed ways described in 1 Corinthians 15, and I will finally be the male that I would be if not for The Fall.
During this earthly pilgrimage, the Holy Spirit keeps me strong in Jesus Christ, fighting the good fight of the faith, determining me to use this terrible transgender situation for good, educating as to what it really is, proclaiming God’s Word fearlessly and the Gospel in its truth and purity, and demonstrating that not all of us deny our body gender or believe we are triumphing over how God originally created man.
I have sat down with a number of pastors for the purpose of discussing theology and everything behind a person’s being transgender. I would gladly drive to where you both are, to do the same in the spirit of Christ and with the desire to glorify Him. My email address and phone number are on the letterhead.
I have copied President Harrison, to whom I have previously written and because I am concerned about what is promoted in LCMS publications.
The Lord be with you both, and with the flocks for whom you are undershepherds of the Good Shepherd.
Sincerely yours in Christ,