Report of the Study Committee on Examination of the BPL on Sexual Identity [2022]

Report of the Study Committee on Examination of the BPL on Sexual Identity [2022]

EDITOR’S NOTE: The committee previously introduced a report to the 2021 Conference, which Conference referred the report back to committee. The report found below was issued to the 2022 Conference and their proposals were approved at First Reading. Second Reading was approved at the 2023 Conference.

BPL 103
FIRST READING – 2022 Yes – 138; No – 15. Minutes
SECOND READING – 2023 Yes – 157; No – 1. Minutes

BPL 154-2
FIRST READING – 2022 Yes – 136; No – 9. Minutes
SECOND READING – 2023 Yes – 151; No – 1. Minutes


            The initial report of this committee was presented at the 138th BFC Conference in October, 2021. The Conference voted to return the report to the committee for further revision, with the request that the report more clearly indicate the biblical and theological grounding for the recommendations in the report. The committee was appointed several new members to share the work and met four times between October, 2021 and February, 2022, with the goal of gaining consensus on what Scripture teaches about gender and sexuality, writing a report that more explicitly outlines Scripture’s teaching, and providing additional resources for member of the BFC Conference.

This revised report seeks to provide answers to questions raised at the 138th BFC Conference as well as a biblical and theological framework for addressing the topic of gender and sexual identity. At the same time, the committee considers that the issues of gender dysphoria and sexual identity in our society are widespread enough that they will present new and complex challenges to evangelism and discipleship, and so our report also seeks to provide important information and context that will help BFC churches and leaders as they seek to faithfully minister in a society increasingly affected by confusion about sexual orientation and gender identity issues. Additionally, while it was not presented for consideration at the 138th Conference, the original report did propose a resolution that would amend Biblical Principles of Living 103-3.2. The committee considers that this resolution is still appropriate and recommends that the Conference consider it, and so it is also included in this report.

            Gender dysphoria and transgenderism raise at least three pressing issues for the church. The first might be called the Ecclesial Problem, the problem of clearly articulating the biblical and theological teaching regarding gender and sexuality and its implications for believers. The major concern here is to equip believers in the church with a clear understanding of the biblical teaching on these issues. The second issue is the Pastoral Problem. This involves providing spiritual care for those who commit sexual sin in these areas, or who have done so in the past and are seeking spiritual guidance in dealing with disordered desires or faithfully following Christ as they deal with the consequences of having acted on those desires in the past. The major concern with the Pastoral Problem is how to understand the spiritual, psychological, and physical issues and implications of gender dysphoria and transgenderism in order to wisely and lovingly shepherd believers seeking healing in these areas.

The third issue is what we might call the Apologetic Problem, which considers how to present the gospel as good news to a culture that has rejected God’s design for humanity and biblical morality. The major concern here is our faithful, loving, and gracious witness to Jesus Christ and His truth to a fallen world. All three of these problems need to be addressed by the church, and each problem has its own concerns and considerations. But all three must address their specific concerns from the same biblical and theological framework. These three problems are ones that churches should be prepared to handle with love. The committee recognizes in a work of this magnitude there are questions and concerns that arise out of the topic at hand that cannot be fully addressed in a single report. The committee has compiled and written several resources to try to help churches and pastors work through Ecclesial, Pastoral, and Apologetic problems connected to these issues. Copies of these will be available at 139th BFC Conference. This report will present the theological framework and offer resolutions that the committee believes rise out of this understanding.

A Biblical and Theological Framework for Approaching Gender Dysphoria and Transgenderism

God as Creator

God’s design and purposes in creation reveal the meaning of the world, including the meaning of human life and purpose. As creatures, humans receive their purpose and identity from God, our Creator (Genesis 1:26-28; Proverbs 20:24; Ephesians 1:11). Because the Bible does not directly address either the phenomenon of gender dysphoria or the ideology of transgenderism, in order to faithfully address these issues the church needs to root its approach in a theological understanding; specifically, in a biblical anthropology. This begins with the understanding that God is the Creator, and as such He has authority over all creation, including humans (Isaiah 45:9-10, 46:10; 2 Chronicles 20:6; Revelation 4:4).

Human Nature and Purpose Defined by God

            Genesis 1:26-28 gives God’s intentions and purpose for humans, and the implications of this for human sexuality are further spelled out in Genesis 2:4-25, as Jesus makes clear in his reference to these passages in Matthew 19:4-6. Here we see that humanity was designed by God specifically as embodied beings who are either male or female. Male and female share a common nature, including such things as being bearers of God’s image, finitude, dependency on God, the need for relationship with God and with other humans, a need for meaningful work, etc. God has also designed men and women with specific, complementary differences specific to their male or female embodiment. These natural aspects of humanity are givens, rooted in God’s design, and to seek to deny them or alter them is a refusal to accept God’s design for oneself and for the world. It is also clear from these accounts (specifically Genesis 2:7) that humans are by nature embodied beings. We are not essentially immaterial souls, but were intended by God from the beginning to exist as creatures with both material and immaterial aspects (body and soul). The goodness of this is affirmed in Genesis 1:31, and is definitively underscored by the incarnation of Christ, who is now embodied forever, having taken to Himself a fully human nature, and also by the resurrection, in which all humans will enter the eternal state as embodied beings (see John 5:28-29; Revelation 20:11-15). The heresy of Gnosticism denied the goodness of the material aspect of humanity, and in many ways the ideology of the transgenderism in our day follows this Gnostic denial of the body as given, good, and essential to our humanity.

            In creating humans as male and female, God has established that sex is an essential aspect of human embodiment and identity. Sexuality therefore cannot be severed from its embodied manifestation in each person. The description of the woman as a “helper fit for” the man (Genesis 2:18) carries the idea of complementarity. The woman “corresponds to” the man and is thereby able, with the man, to fulfill the command to “be fruitful and multiply,” a command neither could fulfill alone or with another of the same sex. The physical differences indicate that men and women have different and complementary roles in fulfilling God’s purposes for humanity. At a minimum, the woman’s body is designed by God to bear children and provide for them as they grow. The Bible also indicates that other aspects in which men’s and women’s roles differ relate to leadership in marriage and the church (Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Timothy 2-3). Beyond these things, cultures throughout history have associated other roles and activities with males and females in varying ways. For this reason, it can be helpful to distinguish gender (cultural expectations for male and female behavior) from sex (biological distinctions between men and women). However, based on God’s design of humanity as seen in the creation account, Christians must not allow the socially constructed meaning of gender to overshadow the essential given-ness of one’s natural sexual identity. Also by God’s design, dominion is essential to human nature. Dominion is clearly associated with human sexuality in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion.” It is clear that sexual differences are God’s design for humanity, blessing them with intimate, fulfilling, joyful, and fruitful relationships within the marriage covenant, and that this design is intended for the flourishing of all creation under God’s sovereign care. Departing from this design vandalizes the shalom of God’s original created order.

The Effects of the Fall on Human Sexuality

            The rebellion of the first couple brought great ruin to the created order, including all of Adam’s descendants (Genesis 3). While these results are far-reaching in many areas, we will focus here on how the fall has affected human experience in relation to sexuality. One result that is immediately apparent is alienation in all human relationships. The relationship between humans, specifically between the man and the woman, was disrupted, introducing fear and shame into the relationship that had been so recently characterized as without shame (Genesis 2:25, 3:7). The relationship between humans and God is clear from the couple’s attempt to hide themselves from God’s presence (Genesis 3:8). The curse also put enmity between the couple and creation, making the woman’s task of childbearing painful (Genesis 3:16) and the man’s task of tending the ground toilsome and futile (Genesis 3:17-19).

In the Fall, the first couple turned away from a communal identity rooted in God’s design and purposes for humanity to a self-focused and self-determined identity. The autonomous individual has become the default understanding of the self in Western societies, and this basic turn inward lies behind all of humanity’s relational sins, many of which are manifested in confusion or rejection of God’s sexual design for humanity. Gender dysphoria and transgender ideology are both manifestations of how sin obscures human identity and alienates humans from themselves and from their bodies.

Another result of sin is the disordering of human desire. Though sexual desire in God’s original design is a good thing, the Fall has disordered that desire and humans seek to fulfill it in ways that no longer lead to the glory of God and our intimacy with Him. While Paul’s instructions on the marriage relationship in Ephesians 5:22-33 indicate that the marriage relationship is ultimately a sign pointing to the union of Christ and the church, humans have dissociated sexual relationships from their God-given meaning and context, and sexual desire and activity no longer finds its place in the integrity of all we were made to be. Fallen humans tend to commodify sexuality, seeing sexual activity as something to be exploited and traded upon, and pursuing it for personal gratification and expression rather than protecting and expressing it within the context of the committed, one-flesh, covenant relationship of marriage. Prostitution is a particularly offensive and dehumanizing example of this, but our society has raised this commodification and exploitation to an extreme degree in other ways: advertising, entertainment, and pornography. This commodification of sexuality and its dis-integration from the whole of the person can also be seen in the ideology of transgender advocates, which further sows confusion about identity and sexuality in a culture which rejects God’s design and authority.

Disease and disability are also results of the Fall. Sin has subjected the created order to futility (Romans 8:20), such that creation now groans, and we along with it, as we await the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:22-23). As a result, some of the issues we wrestle with relating to sexual sin may involve some measure of disease or disability. Intersex conditions would be one type of manifestation of disease with a bearing on sexuality. The question is still open as to whether same-sex attraction, gender dysphoria, and other issues involve a biological component, but given that we are embodied beings, it shouldn’t surprise us if they do. The problem is whether this would serve to normalize these sins. As we have understood God’s design and purposes for humanity above, we see these kinds of biological conditions as an effect of the Fall, which may have implications for how we minister pastorally to those who are dealing with sexual sin. This does not negate the moral responsibility of a Christian to live in obedience, however, but rather helps the church to understand better how to support a believer in a walk of obedience.

One further result of the radical selfishness of fallen humanity that can affect issues of identity and sexuality is abuse. In abuse, one person objectifies another and uses them as a means to their own ends. Any situation in which someone does this constitutes abuse of the one so used, and this results in various levels of harm to all involved. For those who have been victims of sexual abuse, identity and relational consequences are common, and while these situations, as in the case of disease or disability, do not negate the Christian’s moral responsibility to live in obedience, it is important to recognize the nature of these problems and consider carefully how to minister pastorally to those who have suffered abuse.

Christ’s Redemption and Sexual Sin

            The remedy for sexual sin is the same as for any sin: Christ’s redemption. One of many places Scripture makes this clear is in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, where Paul recounts a litany of sins of various kinds—including sexual immorality in several forms—as well as idolatry, greed, drunkenness, abusive language, and theft. Paul then tells the Corinthian believers, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Christ’s redemption is able to justify sinners of all sorts, and the Holy Spirit is able to sanctify them. It is imperative that the church grasp firmly that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16), and to faithfully, lovingly, and boldly hold forth the gospel of salvation to those who struggle with sexual sin.

            As the church fulfills its call to make disciples of all who come to faith in Christ, we need also to faithfully teach and support believers who struggle with sexual sin and its consequences with the goal of seeing them live out the obedience of faith. Working against commodification, we need to revive our understanding of the virtue of chastity, which is properly-ordered sexuality (see Hebrews 13:4), a character quality that is proper to all people, single or married. This will be best accomplished through the redeemed community building one another up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 3:12-17). Much of the confusion about identity and sexuality in our society arises in the disintegration and disappearance of traditional community structures, which have traditionally nurtured young people’s understanding of themselves and their sexuality. The church is tasked with being a community which forms God’s people in a Christ-centered understanding of identity and purpose.

Eternal Perspectives

            Finally, a proper Christian eschatology is also important as part of the theological foundation for understanding sexual sin. While the sexual relationship in marriage is central to God’s purposes for humanity in this era, Jesus taught that this will not be the case in the eternal kingdom. “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). Christians are chosen by God in order to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), which will be realized when we are resurrected and glorified (1 John 3:1-3) and united with Christ for eternity (Revelation 19:6-9). Viewing life from the perspective of God’s final accomplishment of His purposes in the new creation relativizes the importance of sexuality to our identity, as well as temporal suffering through temptation, disability, and disease, thereby freeing disciples to focus on the call to live now in obedience to God’s calling, knowing that our eternal identity in conformity to Christ is secure (Romans 8:23-25; 1 John 3:2-3).


Legal Challenges

The committee’s focus has been on the theological framework and on providing help to churches. At the same time, it was clearly communicated that local churches also have legal concerns around these issues. The committee has consulted with legal representation on the resolutions it will present and has asked the BFC Executive Board to take the lead on a closer reading of the legal protection provided by the BFC Articles of Faith and BPLs.

Proposed Legislation

Whereas, the Study Committee on Gender and Identity has produced and agreed on the theological framework presented in this report, therefore be it

Resolved, that the following additions be made to BFC BPL article 103-3.2 (additions in bold and underlined)

103-3.1 A life of sexual holiness is a life lived by faith, believing that what God says about the purposes and parameters of sexual expression is both true and good.[i] When a believer’s thoughts and actions are not in conformity to the revealed will of God, they are to repent of their sin, submit to His lordship, and pursue delight in what God has ordained.

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.[ii] In addition, sexual union was given for the procreation of children and for the mutual enjoyment of husband and wife.[iii] 

God created the human race into two complementary sexes (“male and female”) and determines each person’s sex at conception. This distinction of male and female is the first fact mentioned in connection with mankind being made in the image of God.[iv]  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.[v]  The participation in, or promotion of, any sexual act other than this “one flesh” union, within the marriage covenant,[vi] or the willful neglect of this sexual union is a sinful disregard of its intended purpose and fails to glorify God in our bodies.[vii]

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.[viii] God is dishonored when His design for sexual union is disregarded and perverted, and He will not allow this perversion to go unpunished.[ix]  In addition, sexual expression outside the biblical standard corrupts the ideal in human relationships and prevents human flourishing.[x]

As sexual expression and sexual union are God’s design and created according to His purpose, it is sinful for a man or woman to seek to change the sex or gender they have been given by God. 

103-3.3 There is hope in Jesus Christ for the sexual sinner, not only for forgiveness but also for the transformation and redirection of life.[xi] The battle against improper sexual desires may persist until our weak and fallen bodies are raised anew with Christ, but the present resurrection power of the indwelling Holy Spirit enables the repentant sinner to overcome the controlling influences of sinful fleshly impulses.[xii] When a person comes to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, he is freed from sin’s guilt through forgiveness and liberated from sin’s tyrannical power by the Holy Spirit.[xiii]

103-3.4 We are to approach all sin, including sexual sin in the Church, with humility and sacrificial resolve.[xiv] We need to recognize and convey that we are all fallen creatures[xv] whose present joy and hope lies in the result of Christ’s persistent and tender mercy on our behalf. We need to demonstrate that same mercy with one another as we heal and grow together as rescued sinners into the fullness of Christ. In love, we must also exhort all who profess faith in Christ to obey His commands and pursue His holiness in all facets of their lives. If that appeal is rejected and sexual sin persists without repentance, we must be willing to pursue loving discipline with the hope of restoring the sinner and guarding the life of Christ’s body.[xvi]

And be it further Resolved, that the following change be made to BFC Article 154, Sexual Immorality (addition in bold and underlined).

154-2 The Bible teaches that activities such as adultery, bestiality, fornication, homosexuality (i.e. indulging in a lust for or engaging in a sexual act with a member of the same sex), incest, polygamy, transgenderism, and sexual lust are perversions of God’s created order.

[i] Gen. 1:27, 2:24; 1 Cor. 6:19-20.

[ii] Gen. 2:24; Mark 10:6-9 (cf. Deut. 6:4); Mal. 2:14-15; 1 Cor. 6:14-19; Eph. 5:30-32.

[iii] Gen. 1:27-28; Song of Solomon 7:6.

[iv] Gen. 1:27.

[v] Gen. 2:24; Mal. 2:14; Matt. 19:4; Mk. 10:7-8; 1 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 5:31.

[vi] Mal. 2:14.

[vii] 1 Cor. 6:20, 7:2-5.

[viii] Gen. 2:24; 1 Cor. 7:1-5; 1 Cor. 6:9-11, 13, 18-20; Eph. 5:30-32; Heb. 13:4.

[ix] Lev. 18:1-30; Ex. 20:14; Matt. 5:28; Rom. 1:25-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5-6; 1 Thess. 4:3-8; 1 Tim.

1:10; Heb. 13:4; Jude 7; Rev. 21:8, 22:15.

[x] Gen. 19:30–38; 2 Sam. 11:3–12:23; Ps. 51; 2 Sam. 13; Matt. 14:1–12; Mk. 6:14-29.

[xi] 1 Cor. 6:11.

[xii] Gal. 5:16-25; Titus 2:11-14.

[xiii] Rom.8:12.

[xiv] Gal. 6:1.

[xv] Rom. 3:9, 23; Prov. 20:9.

[xvi] Matt. 18:15-17.

Study Committee on Examination of the BPL on Sexual Identity: Aaron J. Susek, Convener; Timothy S. Radcliff, Secretary; Clyde D. Bomgardner, Jr., Joseph Kim, James D. MacArthur, Donald Maurer, Ronald W. Reed, Alan Russell.

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