Report of the Study Committee on Examination of the BPL on Sexual Identity [2021]

Report of the Study Committee on Examination of the BPL on Sexual Identity [2021]

EDITOR’S NOTE: The committee introduced this report to the 2021 Conference. Conference referred the report back to committee. They issued an amended report to the 2022 Conference, which was accepted and their proposals were approved at First Reading. Second Reading was achieved at the 2023 Conference.


Our committee was tasked to determine if and what legislation should be brought to BFC Conference regarding issues of transgenderism and gender dysphoria. We found this more challenging than expected for several reasons: (1) The phenomenon of gender dysphoria is relatively new in western culture. A full and proper understanding of what is happening in individuals who experience it, and why, is still in process. Not to mention, no two experiences are exactly alike. This issue perpetually confounds efforts at making brief, simple explanatory statements; (2) The Scriptures do not address the modern issue of gender dysphoria head on. Thus, attempting to speak meaningfully on how people perceive of themselves; what it means to honor God with our sexed bodies; how to properly care for, guide, admonish, and accommodate people suffering through this; all requires prayerfully searching out biblical wisdom and understanding the overarching plan of God for the redemption of our bodies; (3) Although we readily affirm and appreciate the clarity and simplicity of the Articles of Faith, we did not find them to be particularly helpful in providing clear theological guidance on some of the key issues related to gender dysphoria; (4) Finally, we found that many of the underlying issues with and perhaps even reasons for gender dysphoria are alive and well in the life of the church. This report will attempt to engage in serious conversation about the issue from a biblical/Christian perspective, explain in more detail the complexity of the issue, provide some recommendations to local churches, and propose legislation for our Biblical Principles of Living.

The transgender experience and the cultural moment

To be clear at the outset, the committee sees the issue of gender identity to be both a Western cultural moment and a complex issue with serious implications and consequences for those who must deal with the reality of the issue.

A growing number of individuals in American culture experience a disconnect between their internal sense of gender and their sexed bodies. Whereas their chromosomes and biological anatomy may reflect that of one sex (male/female), their internal sense of gender, their personal identity, may be that of the other. We will herein refer to them and their experience as transgender. For many transgender individuals, there is profound dysphoria or distress accompanying their experience, leading to anxiety, depression, social and family disconnect, and/or deep emotional pain. We will refer to this as the experience of gender dysphoria.

Historically, gender dysphoria was thought to have an early onset – in the developmental years as children first become aware of their gender. Only more recently, young people and even adults in remarkable numbers are experiencing this dysphoria for the first time in life at or well beyond puberty. This noticeable increase, the concern to be sensitive to those experiencing dysphoria, plus a strong reaction against the harsh treatment of transgender individuals in the past, is in part changing the way our culture conceives of and talks about gender. One example: to speak in terms of a gender binary (gender being limited to male or female), especially to young people in today’s Western cultures, is increasing viewed as a limited, outdated, insensitive, and/or naïve view of the human experience. An increasing trend among young people now is to actually reject the gender binary altogether and consider themselves pan-gender, gender-expansive, or gender-creative…whether or not they experience dysphoria.

The developments in all of this are coming fast and furious. Teachers in public schools now often list preferred pronouns next to their names. The issue of transgender rights has taken its place as the next social justice concern to confront and the next hill to conquer in our polarized culture wars. Medical professionals are racing to clarify the ethics of treatment for those experiencing dysphoria (and do so in a way that doesn’t put them at odds with the prevailing culture). Psychologists are changing the way they conceptualize and care for those who experience dysphoria. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are feverishly attempting to legislate the way transgenderism is handled in the public arena. Institutions of higher education, making their living off new and progressive ideas, advance Queer Theory, which includes the notion that gender is not so much a fixed internal identity or a biological imperative as it is a free floating, socially constructed performance or expression – all of which stokes serious concerns and organized efforts from traditionalists to preserve a way of life that seems to be quickly slipping away from them.

One glaring problem amidst all this cultural debate, theorizing, political rancor, and fears about bathrooms and women’s sports is that the actual experience of those suffering through gender dysphoria is often overlooked or cast aside. Theorists, advocates, medical professionals, and even church voices often seem much more concerned about mitigating political opposition than they do actually caring for those who might be hurting deeply as a result of their transgender experience and dysphoria. And again, for so many who experience it, the pain and difficulty is unrelenting and all too real. Not only is there the profound tension of living in this disordered, disconnected sense of self, but the painful social implications can be brutal. Numerous surveys indicate that transgender individuals regularly experience bullying, indignity, rejection by family members and friends, biased treatment in the workplace, harsh responses from their church community, etc. And the effects of this can’t be ignored. Not only are there higher rates of homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health concerns among those who identify as transgender, but the rate of attempted suicide in the population is staggering. In a survey of some 6,500 transgender individuals, 41% reported attempting suicide (in comparison to 1.6% of the general population). That percentage rises as high as 64% for those who report experiencing bullying, bias, or assault.

All of this presents the challenge for us to think carefully about not only a wise response to an ever changing cultural landscape, but also a loving and compassionate response in the name of Jesus to those, both within the Church and outside it, who suffer deeply.

What or who is to blame?

So why is it that certain individuals feel this sense of disorder within their bodies? To be expected, the list of theories or possible explanations is extensive. We can perhaps group them into three categories:

Psychological explanations

Some studies would suggest a link between the parent/child relationship in the formative years to certain cases of gender dysphoria – whether it be instances of neglect, cases of unhealthy detachment or overly enmeshed attachment to the parent of the opposite sex, experiences of resentment from a parent wishing their little girl had been born a boy (or vice versa). Other studies link gender dysphoria to cases of childhood trauma or sexual abuse. Others might view transgenderism as a defense mechanism either consciously chosen or unconsciously imposed (i.e. dissociation) for one reason or another. Traditionalists might also point to the increasing psychological confusion forced on children in the present cultural climate as parents and educators find it more enlightened to delay in their child any association with a particular gender until later in life. In Western cultures, these psychological explanations are increasingly criticized or avoided for fear they perpetuate a view of transgenderism as pathology and deepen the stigma attached to it.

Biological explanations

With the ever developing field of brain science and genetic mapping, there is a growing interest in biological/neurological factors in the transgender experience. Studies have suggested certain similarities between the brains (neurochemical activity) of transgenders and those of the sex they internally identify with, one possible cause being related to the presence or absence of certain sex-hormones (especially testosterone) in the womb. Other studies have been done on different types of twins with a resulting theory of abnormal genetic activity as a possible cause. Other research explores potential correlation to exposure to certain drugs in-utero. Biological/neurological factors continue to be explored but no clear differences have yet emerged or been established.

Socio-cultural explanations

Might a teenage boy who lacks mechanical abilities, never seems to be picked high up the list in playground sports, has little interest in action hero movies or Super Bowl parties, never quite feels like a David or Sampson or Moses, all the while growing up among hyper-masculinized males at home, school, or church struggle to internally identify as male? It certainly seems plausible. The higher percentage of dysphoria and transition surgeries among males could suggest that a hyper-masculinized, male-dominated society has effect on the identity of those unable to conform and play the part culture tells them they should.

            Though we might not properly consider the following to be causes, we can certainly point to other dynamics of culture that play into this.

Excessive individualism

For one, the pillars of meaning in our culture have long been shaken, and in most cases, all but dismantled. As God has become increasingly irrelevant in culture, we no longer find meaning by understanding what has been revealed about the mind and purpose of a creator as we once did. The universe is depersonalized and disenchanted. Life in the modern world is simply the product of accidental interactions of physical elements or else material laws of cause and effect that aim at no definable ends or purposes. So we need new sources from which to derive meaning. And whereas in more traditional cultures or even American culture in decades past, individual meaning may have been rooted in the shared convictions and moral protocols of the larger community or family structures, today that sort of moral system is at best viewed with a degree of suspicion. More often it is viewed as oppressive or smothering, a way for the empowered in a community to exploit, suppress, or even victimize those in the minority. For this and many other reasons, the starting point for meaning in today’s culture is not God or the community, it is the unique and autonomous self. I am the only true knower and final arbiter of my own truth. The rich and meaningful life is lived not in conformity to anything external. It is the expression or performance of my internal, authentic self which no one else has authority to restrict.

This puts an often unbearable pressure on individuals to actually know and understand who they are. At best this is difficult, because our internal feelings and desires are always in flux and heavily influenced by any number of uncontrolled dynamics, relationships, and events outside of ourselves. At worst, it is a wildly inconsistent approach to life. If we, including our minds and internal selves, do not bear the image of a creator and are reduced to nature, we cannot at the same time be objective knowers of the purely natural self. But even so, knowing is only half the burden. Performing or fulfilling who we know ourselves to be is the equally if not far heavier burden. In a works and achievement-based culture, not living up to our authentic selves can be crushing. We become our own worst critics.

And under the weight of that burden, we’re too fragile to withstand any disapproval or lack of validation from others as we set out to express our unique selves. Intolerance becomes the mortal sin of today’s culture. More accurately, tolerance is no longer enough even in our fragile communities.

Affirmation is now a central clause in today’s social contract. The accepted member of society will affirm all expressions of gender and embrace the efforts of social institutions to normalize the transgender experience. Words and religiously held convictions that might differ with an individual’s chosen life-expression are now seen as dangerous and as wounding as more physical forms of oppression may have been in the past. All of which is to say that the modern individual knows no other way to live than (1) fulfilling the law imposed by the self’s vacillating feelings and desires, and (2) fulfilling the law of a fragile culture that demands affirmation of all other selves.

Sexuality as self-fulfillment

It goes without saying these days that sexuality and sexual expression ranks high on the list of core components of an individual and his/her life. In our culture, the ability to freely engage in sexual expression is integral to one’s dignity, self-determination, and freedom. Sexual activity is also redefined with the collapse of the modern world in on the self. Whereas, biblically speaking, sex is designed (1) for the task of filling the earth with life and (2) for the privilege of participating in the self-donating love of Christ for the fulfillment of the covenant-other, today’s sexual activity is all about receiving and using (consuming) the other for personal fulfillment. And with sex being so closely associated with personal self-expression, personal pleasure, and personal fulfillment, to have sex parts that are unable to adequately express the desires of the inner self is to have a body that is so fundamentally broken as to cause great personal shame and distress. If you’ve ever felt in the slightest sense the shame associated with a body that doesn’t live up to certain standards in the sexual arena, you can imagine the intensely difficult feelings that might accompany life in a (self-perceived) sexually broken body in a body-obsessed and hyper-sexualized culture.

Possible Gnostic influences

Christianity has historically stood out as somewhat unique (1) with its claim that creation is the beautiful overflow of a Creator delighted to bestow good things upon men and women, (2) with its scandalous claim of incarnation – that God would take on a body, and (3) with its strange trajectory of hope – that eternity is not spent disembodied in some distant spiritual home, but is resurrection life in a physical creation reclaimed and restored. Whereas other philosophies and religious perspectives throughout history might locate the fundamental problem of existence in these physical prison cells that our true spiritual essences are forced to inhabit (our bodies), Christianity always thought of it somewhat differently. The problem, biblically speaking, is more fundamentally the uncircumcised heart, ever fickle with its love and worship, the inward or old nature that needs to die and be reborn, raised to newness of life by a living Spirit. In its insistence that the inner self is the pure and undefiled and the outer body the guilty party in any experience of dysphoria, modern culture resembles a very ancient philosophy – one that Christianity has always resisted. At the same time, it should be noted that Christianity has always had a robust understanding of the Fall’s effects on the physical creation and the physical body. And so we share a certain groaning with transgender individuals while in these broken bodies, and a certain longing for the physical body to be restored. Again, where we diverge is with the transgender’s impulse to always locate the problem of dysphoric existence in the physical body.

Moving toward a biblical understanding

Since Scripture does not specifically address these contemporary issues head on, it’s not so easy as proof-texting chapter and verse to get our answers. The task becomes applying the biblical worldview, the trajectory of redemptive history, and the wisdom and moral instruction of the biblical writers as best we can to the issue and questions raised.

In so doing, there are very certain AFFIRMATIONS we can make.

1. We can affirm that in creation, God intended an organic unity between body and spirit in those men and women He created in His own image. He uniquely and purposely designed them and gave to them physical bodies with which to express their worship, give of themselves in the context of relationships (neighbor, parent, and spouse), and complement each other’s role in the task of subduing and cultivating His creation and filling it with life. Those individuals found their identity not in isolated, individualistic self-expression, but in their purpose of imaging their creator and performing their assigned function within His creation.

2. We can affirm that as a result of their sinful rebellion and fall from their original created goodness and wholeness, men and women were alienated from a right relationship with their Creator and traded their divine purpose and identity for that of their own invention. They were alienated from a right relationship with one another and now approached the other primarily out of self-interest and self-preoccupation instead of self-giving love. And they were alienated from a right relationship with the physical creation, including their own bodies. Their existence now contained very certain elements of disorder, dysfunction, and even dysphoria. Furthermore, death, disease, and decay invaded the physical creation, including those bodies, so that all creation, including these earthly tents which we inhabit (2 Cor. 5:2), now groans, being subjected to futility, in anticipation of the day when all will be made right and new.

3. We can affirm that in the incarnation, the goodness of the physical body was reaffirmed and God’s commitment to reclaiming and restoring His creation displayed. In that body, which itself was subject to the curse upon creation, Jesus demonstrated that the purpose of men and women was yet to do the will of the Father and offer the imperfect bodies they were given back in worship to Him and self-sacrificial love to others.

4. We can affirm through the resurrection of Jesus, the first-fruits of the resurrection harvest, that these bodies sown in dishonor and weakness will be raised in glory and power. They may indeed bear the scars of the old sin-damaged creation, but its effects will be forever removed. Groaning will turn to celebration. Disorder and dysphoria will turn to wholeness and joy as men and women live in restored relationship with their Creator, His creation, and one another.

5. We can affirm that through the life-giving power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we can begin to experience, as a foretaste, the order and blessings of the new creation here and now. We are drawn into mystical union with Jesus Christ, are being renewed in His image, and find new purpose in participation with His life and mission. We are empowered to live in sacrificial, Christ-like love with one another while yet suffering the effects of a broken creation and broken bodies. We find new identity in our union with Christ and in a life lived no longer for ourselves
but for Him who died for us.

6. We can affirm that the ongoing Body of Christ (the Church) is called to self-identify and self-express first and foremost as ambassadors of King Jesus. We represent with our lives His truth, love, and kingdom values. This does not nullify our unique individual desires and drives but subordinates them to the purposes given us in the mission of Christ. It also is to say that the redeeming work of Jesus and the mission He calls us to is always the primary locus of meaning for the Church and its members as opposed to our internal selves.

7. Lastly, we can also affirm that certain biological imperfections of the broken body, which in times past, prevented men and women from participation in the worship of Israel, have been sanctified by the blood of Christ. This is demonstrated most powerfully in the loving acceptance of eunuchs (some by birth, some by choice) by Jesus and the New Testament Church.

There are also QUESTIONS to be further explored in prayer and sensitivity to the Spirit.

1. Given the extent of the curse upon the physical creation and physical bodies, given the post-fall reality that intersex conditions (having ambiguous genitalia or the genitalia of both sexes) now exist in creation, given that Jesus Himself recognizes there are eunuchs from birth, we affirm the reality that certain bodies are in fact born in ways that don’t fully or properly align with one’s internal sense of gender. Or, to put another way, it is a post-fall reality that some people simply are not born male or female. And just as we wonder how to determine “normalcy” and the gender one should live out in intersex cases, we wonder how to always determine “normalcy” and the gender one should live out in transgender cases. In other words, under a robust understanding of the Fall, is it possible that individuals are born with sex parts that don’t match God’s intended gender for them? We affirm as much in intersex cases. Might we affirm the same possibility for transgenders? In the cases of gender dysphoria, is it possible that the components of the person affected by sin or the curse are not always and only the internal components, but could extend to the external sexed parts?

– Note: the committee strongly desired to be dogmatic in our answers to these questions but found it difficult to be so from Scripture and the Articles of Faith. We ask these questions not because we doubt the conclusions this report comes to, but to encourage careful and considerate thought by each pastor and church leader.

2. Meaningful theological dialogue among opposing viewpoints on the issue of transgenderism will inevitably involve discussion of Jesus’ comments about eunuchs (by birth, oppression, or willful decision for the kingdom) in Matthew 19. Some view these comments as references to literal eunuchs and find them helpful for arguing a more inclusive approach to those who don’t fully fit the male/female norm. Others view these comments as figurative references to those living/choosing a life of celibacy and thus not directly applicable to the current debate.

So what? Some pastoral paths forward

We offer just a few recommendations for churches to consider as they pursue wisdom and develop ways of ministering to the communities and individuals to which God has called them.

Recommendations for the Church at large

1. Distinguish between gender dysphoria and the popular trend of rejecting binaries

– As has been mentioned, there is a definite trend, especially in the younger generations of rejecting sexual and gender binaries. So when it comes to sexuality, there are exponential increases in Generation Z of those identifying as bi-sexual or pan-sexual. And increasingly, they prefer to identify as gender-fluid and list “they” as their pronoun of choice. Ironically, this comes with a fairly rigid and dogmatic view of maleness and femaleness (perhaps even more so than the traditions they are reacting against) which they position at opposite ends of a gender spectrum. This trend, for lack of a better term, is something very different from gender dysphoria which is the experience of distress and deep emotional pain as a result of the disconnect between the internal sense of self and their birth sex. Churches would do well to distinguish between the two and approach each differently in ministry.

2. Educate our young people and families

– As there is a definite movement in the culture to normalize the rejection of gender binaries and even delay gender identification in the lives of young people, the Church should be actively countering these efforts by reinforcing a Biblical worldview, teaching principles of Godly wisdom, instilling a gospel-centered, and speaking the truths of His Word as it relates to these issues to the minds and hearts of our kids. We should be diligent in equipping parents to do the same.

3. Address our own participation in the underlying dynamics that feed into the transgender experience

– What will be helpful to our efforts at understanding transgenderism and responding from a place of humility and compassion is maintaining a healthy awareness and sincere remorse that we, as the Church of Christ, often find ourselves knee-deep in the problems of expressive individualism, consumeristic love, and gnostic tendencies. Our worship services can sometimes appear more rooted in the cult of the self with our self-expressive choruses and therapeutic, self-affirming sermons than in the gospel that calls us out of ourselves, reorients our worship, and empowers a life of self-denial for the mission of the King. Our relationships, programs, and activities are often approached with a consumeristic, “How will this benefit me?” mentality instead of with a desire to use our Spirit-equipping for the benefit of the other. And sometimes our brand of evangelicalism tends to focus only on the inner self or the life of the mind, much the way the Gnostics might have, and can easily disregard embodied practices of faith (habits and rituals) that the Church throughout history has recognized as deeply valuable. We would do well to acknowledge the reality that we and the transgender community breathe the same cultural air and are at least influenced by the same cultural currents. Our concern, as ambassadors of Jesus, ought to always be to make sure, first and foremost, that we are keeping ourselves “unstained from the world.” Not to mention, we want to avoid charges of hypocrisy that might come as a result of going after one particular manifestation of expressive individualism, consumeristic love, and the like in the broader culture while avoiding their manifestations in our own midst.

4. Reject fear. Pursue wise, gracious, and loving responses within the Church

– Under the banner and protection of our conquering king, fear of a shifting culture is not only out of place but can be dangerous to our witness in a variety of ways. And yet, whenever culture finds new and creative ways to explore “liberation” in areas of gender and sexuality, the temptation to all sorts of fears seems at work in the Christian  community. Ought we to be deeply concerned about the self-destructive tendencies of our culture? Absolutely! Ought we to be passionate about exhorting one another, and especially our children, to avoid idolatrous obsessions in the broader culture and confusion in matters of gender? Without question. And what will help us do that most effectively is avoiding reactions rooted in fear or mere self-preservation. Freed of fear, church deacon boards might very well consider having gender neutral bathrooms to alleviate if possible the pain and fears of those struggling with dysphoria. Freed of fear, youth groups can prayerfully consider what wisdom looks like when outsiders come in
requesting to be called by certain pronouns or names that seemingly don’t align with their sex. Freed of fear, we can lovingly welcome the sinner and point them to Jesus with word and deed.

5. Reject unbiblical gender stereotypes

– It certainly is possible that the Church has contributed to some of the confusion and dysphoria people experience by promoting versions of masculinity or femininity that are both unbiblical and perhaps unattainable by certain individuals. Does the more sensitive boy, growing up without a father, inexperienced in traditional “manly endeavors” struggle when the brave warrior king is held out as some standard of a godly man? Does the woman with ambitions of workplace leadership or creative productivity outside the home struggle with a sense of self when admonished to conform to some other version of a godly woman (which may or may not be more culturally influenced than biblically informed)? The Church should be careful not to add extra-biblical qualities to the definitions of godly manhood and womanhood. Youth ministries should pursue careful discernment when doing the ever popular character studies so as to avoid making certain character traits or behaviors normative for masculinity or femininity simply because they are exhibited by our “biblical heroes.” If the truth be told, there is only one biblical hero to whom we are called to conform: One who defied so many norms and expectations and showed us a new and better way to be human.

Recommendations for ministering to the non-Christian transgender

1. Remember what we are calling the unsaved world to.

– Our goal, first and foremost, when considering and ministering to those outside of relationship with Christ and His Church, is not their conformity to the law of God or even God’s sexual ethic (though that certainly is a goal), but for them to find the life-redirecting, dysphoria-comforting, sacrifice-inspiring grace of God through relationship with Jesus Christ by His Spirit.
– Jesus declares Himself to be the Good Shepherd who has come and laid down His own life in love so that His people may find true life and have it abundantly (John 10). He declares Himself the way, the truth, and the life (John 14). In Him is life and that life is the true light for all of us (John 1). The transgender who has never heard, considered, or believed this needs help to consider whether Jesus might offer him/her a more freeing identity in union with Him than the identity they are trying to find within themselves, more joy in living as Christ than simply expressing their authentic selves, more purpose and fulfillment in His mission of love than the world’s mission to consume, more hope in His bodily resurrection than anything the world might offer instead.

Recommendations for ministering to the Christian who struggles with gender dysphoria

1. Help them find meaning in Christ.

– The struggling Christian, alongside all of us, needs help to find their deep sense of meaning and identity in the mission of Christ. What if we genuinely viewed all that has been given to us, whether our talents and resources or our gender and sexed bodies as things to be given back in mission for Christ? Our culture has collapsed in on itself such that they can only conceive of bodies and gender as things aimed at self-fulfillment. The gospel calls us to find ourselves by losing all that we are in love for Christ and neighbor. In other words, the gospel invites us into the glorious (yet radical) life of Christ-like self-
emptying, or self-donating, in love. Therein might the struggler find a deeper sense of meaning and purpose, even amidst suffering and dysphoria, than any attempt at resolving dysphoric tension. They perhaps will even find their dysphoria something through which the Spirit of Christ can work mightily in ministry and service to other weary sufferers.

2. Point them towards resurrection

– The struggling Christian needs to be carried by the Church towards the sure hope of resurrection. The day will certainly come when any disconnect between our inner selves and our physical bodies will be restored to perfect wholeness. No longer will we groan in our weakened vessels. No longer will tears flow from shameful thoughts, Satanic accusations, cultural Pharisaism, or painful self-perceptions that can easily haunt our  minds day in and day out. All will one day be well. And what will help us press on
toward our high and sacrificial calling while we wait is being reassured regularly, through the love and liturgies of the Church family, of the accomplishments of Christ and the definite trajectory of history over which He is Lord.

3. Help them deconstruct their incorrect ideas of maleness and femaleness

– Often, in order for there to be dysphoria, there needs to be a very active understanding or perhaps even high standard of maleness or femaleness in the mind that is somehow unattainable or feels wholly unnatural for the transgender individual. What if part of the problem is that they have somehow inherited or constructed this overly dogmatic and unnecessary view of maleness and femaleness. In ministry to them, one might point out that masculinity and femininity exist on something of a spectrum in the
Scriptures. To be clear, that is not to say that physical sex was intended to be more than male and female or even that there are more than two genders, but it is to say that the performance or expression of masculinity and femininity has a broad range in the biblical characters. Masculinity has a broad range of expression in Jesus Himself. God might have a very real purpose and plan for the unique version of masculinity/femininity that feels natural to them and perhaps invites them to express that in their unique ways in kingdom service.

4. Urge them to live in covenant accountability with other Spirit-filled followers of Christ

– One thing that transgender people do well is community, hospitality, and support among each other. And certainly, so much of who we are and how we think is shaped, perhaps even conditioned, in community with others. All followers of Christ need a strong community of faith around them to help shape, strengthen, correct, and maintain their individual faith. And as there are all manner of means to alleviate suffering in this world – some to be received with thanksgiving, others which should be rejected – we need other Spirit-filled followers of Jesus to help us discern what faithfulness looks like in times of suffering. The Christian who struggles with gender dysphoria might similarly see a variety of means before them to alleviate their dysphoria. They should live and make decisions in deep accountability with others in the Church and deep dependence upon their prayers and encouragement.

5. Strongly advise against invasive physical reassignment

– Though there may be some legitimate questions as to what properly identifies someone male or female – their sex parts, their internal identities, their chromosomes, their neuro-chemical activity, etc. – and though we affirm a robust view of the fall which corrupts, distorts, and weakens our physical bodies from the moment of conception, there seems more than enough reason to maintain that the path of God-honoring wisdom is to avoid sex reassignment procedures. Scripture presents maleness and femaleness as God-assigned appointments in His kingdom mission, and it is not for us to choose our assignments. The physicality of those assignments is everywhere upheld throughout Scripture in spite of the fall. And whereas certain intersex conditions of the body might have barred individuals from aspects of the life and mission of God’s people in the Old Testament (i.e. eunuchs by birth), the redeeming work of Christ now paves the way for their full access. Not to mention, we live and breathe in a culture that (1) has little ways left of conceiving the good life apart from obsession with the inner self; (2) has all manner of confused and distorted views of what it means to be a man or woman’ and (3) has proven itself weak at best, bankrupt at worst in its efforts at figuring out the inner self and living accordingly. Given this, societal remedies should be viewed with deep skepticism in this area. Though the surrounding culture normalizes and even praises reassignment, the Christian should always normalize and praise redemption. We glory in our weaknesses, knowing that in them the power of the Spirit might be displayed. We bring our weaknesses, our sufferings, our struggles with identity, and our fear of sacrificial living all to the foot of the cross and the throne of God’s mercy to find sufficient help in time of need. We look to Jesus, who has begun the great restoration, to redeem the broken aspects of our bodies and hearts while we wait
on the final resurrection.
– Certainly, this is may be asking something very hard and sacrificial of those struggling with gender dysphoria. The church that asks for such sacrifice should be diligent in its role of graciously uplifting those who sacrifice in service to Christ. And the church should doubly make sure it is routinely admonishing all members, not just the gender dysphoric, to take up the sacrificial calling of Christ, to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Jesus as He is on mission in the world.

Recommendations (resolution) for the BFC Conference

The committee struggled to know exactly what to recommend to Conference regarding these issues. The complexity of the issues make it awkward to formulate short position statements. And as hinted at earlier, ideally we might wish for more robust Articles of Faith on topics such as unity with and identity with Christ or the effects of the fall on the physical creation/bodies or the present mission of the kingdom. Our task, however, was to determine what if any changes/additions to our BPLs might be needed to address this topic. And to that end we propose the following resolution, making addition to Article 103-3.2 on sexual holiness.

Resolved, that the following additions be made to Article 103-3.2 (in bold)

103-3.2 The purpose of sexual expression and the gendered roles we play in it has been given to mankind by his Creator. The sexual union between a man and a woman was created, in part, to image the unity of the Godhead and God’s covenantal relationship with His people. In addition, sexual union was given for the procreation of children and for the mutual enjoyment of husband and wife.

God created the human race into two complementary sexes (“male and female”) and assigns to each person their sex at birth. This distinction of male and female is the first fact mentioned in connection with mankind being made in the image of God. The first marriage, and thus the first sexual act, was a recognition, expression, and celebration of this complementary distinction. God designed sexual union such that two complementary sexual halves, one man and one woman, come together and become a sexual whole.

The Bible refers to this sexual union as becoming “one flesh.” This “one flesh” sexual union between the first man and his wife establishes the pattern and standard of sexual expression for all of humanity. The participation in, or promotion of, any sexual act other than this “one flesh” union, within the marriage covenant, or the willful neglect of this sexual union is a sinful disregard of its intended purpose and fails to glorify God in our bodies.

Sexual expression is authorized within the bond of marriage between male and female. God’s name is glorified when the sexual union between male and female within the bond of marriage is honored and protected. God is dishonored when His design for sexual union is disregarded and perverted, and He will not allow this perversion to go unpunished. In addition, sexual expression outside the biblical standard corrupts the ideal in human relationships and prevents human flourishing.

As sexual expression and sexual union are God’s design and created according to His purpose, it is not for man or woman to change the roles, genders, or sex they have been assigned.

Study Committee on Examination of the BPL on Sexual Identity: Aaron J. Susek, Chairman; Timothy S. Radcliff, Secretary; Ronald W. Reed.

APPENDIX – Additional resources

  • BOOKS we found helpful (albeit without always sharing full agreement)
    Affirming God’s Image by J. Alan Branch
    Embodied: Transgender Identities, the Church, and What the Bible Has to Say by
    Preston Sprinkle
    Gender Ideology by Sharon James
    God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker
    God, You, and Sex by David White
    The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller
    The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman
    Transgender – Talking Points by Vaughan Robert
    Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians by Austin Hartke
    Understanding Gender Dysphoria by Mark A. Yarhouse
    Understanding Transgender Identities: Four Views by James K Bielby and Paul Rhodes
    Eddy (ed.)
    What does the Bible Teach about Transgenderism by Owen Strachan & Gavin Peacock
    The Gender Conversation by Morling College
    The Gospel & Sexual Orientation, Michael Lefebvre, Ed., Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America Report
    Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Human Sexuality: Presbyterian Church in

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