I am disappointed Presbyterians say they will ‘hold to unchanging Biblical principles’ on transgenderism

Focus: The Identity Trust is disappointed, if not entirely surprised, by the stance apparently being taken by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and by the Church of Ireland with regard to ”unchanging Biblical principles” in relation to questions of gender, and specifically transgender identity.
Letter to the editorLetter to the editor
Letter to the editor

We call for greater understanding of the following three issues.

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The fact that creation embraces males, females and people who are born with intersex conditions.

The way in which the term ‘transgender’ is understood

The message of love and not of judgement that underpins the teaching of Christ.

Focus: the Identity Trust does not endorse the definition of the term ‘transgender’ as an umbrella for several different conditions. We regard transgender to be a permanent, not an intermittent, condition. We take this stance not to seek to undermine the rights of others but in the interests of clarity of both expression and understanding.

Transgender identity should not be confused with other conditions. Transgender individuals may, like anyone else, also be gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, asexual, heterosexual or non binary, for example.

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We commend the facts that the Church of England has for twenty years accepted that priests who transition may continue to work as ordained ministers, and has ordained individuals of transgender history.

In England, the Methodist Church appointed a transgender minister three years ago, as has the United Reformed Church.

The Church of Scotland has published Diverse Gender Identities and Pastoral Care, a booklet providing guidance on gender identity.

Rev Dr Linda Ballard, CEO of Focus: the Identity Trust, asks, ‘Are we not given an example of “changing Biblical principles”, for instance in the debate about circumcision described in chapter fifteen of the Acts of the Apostles?

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“Do we expect, for instance, a menorrhagaic woman to seek a priest to ‘make atonement for her before the Lord for the uncleanness of her discharge’, as required by Leviticus 15:30?

Do we insist on the provisions of Deuteronomy 23:1, or do we turn instead for theological guidance to Isaiah, who tells us these are the words of the Lord, “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant-to them I will give within my temple … an everlasting name that will endure forever”. (56:4 and 5)’.

Focus: the Identity Trust respects the right of all people to hold true to their own belief systems and calls for theological leadership that provides space in which the complex question of gender identity may be better understood by those who profess Christianity.

Rev Dr Linda Ballard, CEO of Focus: the Identity Trust, & minister in the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church