11/05/2007

When women become men

Reverend Drew Phoenix, a United Methodist pastor in Baltimore, was ordained as a woman. She is now a man. [MORE]

22 comments:

Chris said...

See, this is the slippery slope we started down when we let women wear pants. ;-)

Left Coast Drury said...

Drew Phoenix--sounds like (s)he had a bit of a name change too--all set for the newspaper headlines if (s)he can't get what (s)he wants.

By the way, the Spring Arbor case settled. Here's one write-up that is still active out there:

Spring Arbor U. Settles with Mr. Julie Nemecek

Two things about Julie and his case:

1) John... um... Julie...er ...Jonlie... well... Ms. Nemecek (can I use Ms.?) is/was ordained Baptist.

A new rule could go something like--no hiring Baptist ministers with wives and children or UM ministers with little or no facial hair.

2) Ms. Nemecek also aspired/aspires to become a transgender activist and was likely hoping his/her case would become a cause celebre for transgender issues.

A new employment application could include a little transgender screen:

Gender
__ Male
__ Female
__ Uncertain/Nonspecific

shawn barr said...

What do I think? I think because I grew up Methodist this sort of event doesn't surprise me.

It's not really about legalism or having the "right" or "wrong" rules. The Bible in no way, shape, or form really had an impact on how we functioned as a church and as Christians.

A Methodist pastor I knew had the opinion that the Bible was only "one" of the sources of Scripture. He felt there were probably other sources. Not just lost Gospels, but current writing which could meet the test of new Scripture. Of course, his wife was a Mormon minister.

It's sad to see this type of confusion in the denomination.

Keith Drury said...

Left Coast nephew: I didn't figure I'd get a serious rule out of you without paying your hourly rate ;-) but actually I'm very serious here, and would like to invite you to offer something as if you were our lawyer on retainer...

In a related background story, when we first started facing the homosexual issue as a denomination it was all jokes & kidding in a "we’ll never face that." As we discovered it was a real issue we might actually face, we discovered there was no statement in the denomination's Discipline at all and under Harry Wilson one was developed and went through the entire constitutional amendment process eventually. While the transgender issue (like that one) is rich for mining jokes (I deleted several I thought were classic from the original article) we'll need to be dead serious about how one might write the actual words for a such a rule as a denomination or a college. I'd love to actually get some samples here. (…though a few jokes are fine too—we need a laugh or two also.)

Michael R. Cline said...

"Believing that GOD created humanity male and female as he saw fit for his Kingdom, and believing that gender is ingrained and given as part of original creation, we, the Wesleyan Church (or IWU) prohibit men and women from changing their gender once established by GOD. This gender is a unique gift of God and should be used to its full potential for the here and still coming Kingdom."

I dunno...I just whipped that out of nowhere. It's probably full of fallacies and theological slippery slopes.

Chris said...

That looks good, but it might be too subjective to say "their gender once established by God." The person could argue that the gender established by God is not consistent with their sex. So, our language might need to include something regarding maintaining a gender consistent with one's sexual characteristics at birth.

randy.dewing said...

This really is a thorny issue--both ethically and legally. While Keith has given us a farily clear case by including a sexual relationship in the scenario (although this is still hard to write rules for)

--but what about an individual who is single?

What about those who are born in a semi-androgenous state (with physical characteristics of both sexes)?

I'd be interested to hear an opinon from some Christian conseling/therapy types on how we should address the issue of gender identity--setting sexual relationships aside.

Is gender identity, on it's own, a moral issue?

The issue of transvestism (which, as Keith pointed out, is one of the angles we have to address with policy) is not only difficult to define (are kilts OK? can men ever wear make-up? what about earrings? exactly what is "women's" clothing? etc), but historically tough to pass off in court. Do you remember the case with a civilan secretary on an air force base who dressed like a woman? Even though that organization has a uniform dress code, definign dress, make-up, and hair cuts quite specifically for some employees, the Air Force lost the court case.

As usual, I'm full of questions with no answers to offer...but I agree that it is critical for us to think this through.

Matt Guthrie said...

Like Randy, I too wondered what we would do with hermaphrodites. There are also cases (although very rare) of children who appear to be female externally and later in life, usually school age, male genitalia become more pronounced and defined. The problem is this child has been raised as a girl for five or six years and now discovers she is physical boy.

These do bring up important issues of gender identity and their root origins. I remember when my oldest son was only 8 or 9 months old. He grabbed a toy truck for the first time ever and instinctively made engine noises why rolling it on the floor. At least we assumed they were instinctive because we had never taught him that. Then again, did we, subconsciously, without being aware of our actions because we had a son?

I know that these do not address the specific case of adults who change later in life, but once we start making rules and forming policy, we need to have as complete an understanding of the issue as possible. Like most other commenters, I don't have the answers myself, but I have spent considerable time contemplating these issues as I think they pertain to a Biblical view of sexuality.

Craig Moore said...

We UM's have open minds, open hearts and open doors. As soon as we grant full acceptance of gays and transgendered persons, we will no doubt be opening our minds and hearts to polygamists. We preach the gospel of inclusivness. Instead of deliverance from sin, we teach our people that God understands and no one needs to change. Let us help you find your own path to happiness and self fulfillment without the help of scripture.

Kevin Wright said...

Before you write up a rule, it would behoove everyone to entertain a conversation on how we are going to define gender. I view gender more as a social construction relative to any given environment. Thus, the way one society defines gender roles may be completely different than another. Thus, it becomes problematic to say that people are prohibited from changing their gender when in fact that gender might be an articial social construction and not necessarily a biological feature, which would be created by God. Chris has identified this objection in his comment. We have to be careful when we begin to attach gender to biological and sexual characteristics. After all, if we're not careful, we might find ourselves constructing a wonderful argument for why women shouldn't be ordained. There's more at stake than we may originally think.

Left Coast Drury said...

Having been chastened, I offer a more serious response--I agree that these are some of the thorniest issues out there. For those who haven't looked at any reports--Nemecek had a doctors note for his transgender disorder--that puts his problem on par with having cancer.

Christian institutions, however, are partially responsible for putting themselves in the briar patch.

By opening up to Federal programs, grants and student loans, and wanting to maintain their tax-exempt status, they are voluntarily accepting federal regulation including equal employment. Bob Jones U. seems to do alright without that stuff--so its not absolutely necessary.

My suggestion to Christian institutions is to get good advice on navigating equal employment laws and consider three ideas:

1) Insert into every university contract big or small two things:
a) an explicit employement-at-will clause which reminds all employees that they may be dismissed for any reason or no reason. And that "any reason" may include any action or circumstance in which continued employment is deemed inconsistent with the well-being or mission of the institution as determined in the sole discretion of university officials.
b)An administrative appeal system with 15 day triger dates--miss an appeal, automatically lose--and a binding arbitration clause with no discovery allowed.

This is a blunt ax solution to the problem and can be used to get rid of transgenders without much fuss. At will employment bolstered by administrative hurdles and arbitration (by nature unfair to the weaker party) stack the deck and make it easier to just quit. The problem is that this same ax can be used against professors who vote Democrat, teach non-fundamentalist views of the Scripture, or otherwise say or do something that annoys University powers. Worse someone could be let go just because he has cancer. In other words--ripe for abuse.

2) Organize a rapid response team of experts in law, church polity, higher education, and public relations who meet regularly to forecast and adress Nemecek-type problems before they happen, formulate contingency plans and be on call at a moment's notice when a Nemecek problem pops up.

This is more of a scalpel approach with appropriate cost increases in implementation. But it will tend to create a Byzantine structure of policies, procedures, and checklists that will discourage qualified applicants. In this case would likely see something come out like--"Please read the following 7 page single-spaced policy statement on Biblical sexuality and transgender issues and indicate your complete agreement by initialling every page and signing the last" It's hard enough to get folks to go along with a simple statement of faith.

3) Get rid of tenure (most conservative evangelical institutions have done this already).

This is also helpful. Imagine if Nemecek had tenure at Spring arbor and then chose to be an transgender activist while still teaching students! However, it also causes problems since almost all qualified professors receive a terminal degree from a secular or main-line institution that view tenure as the holy grail. That will always be a clash of cultures and discourage qualified applicants.

If conservative Christian universities want to plan ahead, they had better get ready for when a group like Soulforce starts giving scholarships to young homosexual activists to enroll as students--they will sign any statement of faith you put in front of them--how will you kick them out?

John Mark said...

Kevin and all,
Wouldn't it be better to use the word "sex" rather than gender, which seems to be increasingly fluid? One's sex is pretty easy to determine, just look in the mirror when stepping out of the shower.
This will not make the problem go away of course.

JustinJNierer said...

Any memorials and such concerning this or gay marriage coming up during General Conference of the Wesleyan Church 2008?

John D. Howell said...

After thinking about this, I believe that whatever answer or rule comes into play - it's got to address those that are born with physical defects (hermorphadites) and those who intentionally and willfully choose their gender (transvestites). With that said, here's my attempt at a ruling.

1.) Genetic Flaws and Disorders
a.) The (fill in the blank) Church believes that genetic flaws and disorders exists in the natural world as God created and that these flaws often times will manifest themselves in physical deformities, neurological disorders, and other disabilities.

b.) The (fill in the blank) Church believes that these genetic flaws and disorders exist to bring glory to God. Through the gift of healing that God has granted certain individuals, we believe that these physical deformities, neurological disorders and other disabilities can be treated to allow the afflicted individual to have a greater quality of life.

2.) Gender Choice
a.) The (fill in the blank) Church believes that God created both the male and the female gender with entirely separate reproductive organs, physical and emotional characteristics, and unique needs and desires. The ability to choose gender is not a choice that is available in the natural world and the unique maleness or femaleness of an individual is determined by God and is designed to bring glory to God.

b.) Because of this, The (fill in the blank) Church chooses not to permit individuals who intentionally choose to reject their natural gender and embrace the uniqueness of the opposite gender to be involved with the leadership of The (fill in the blank) Church at any level of responsibility regardless of what other institutions or previous experiences have established.

Wes McCallum said...

The church in the center of this controversy is the originator of our Elementary Principles. Rev. Drew Phoenix (Ann Gordon), is the pastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church of Baltimore. In 1830, this church hosted The Baltimore Convention of the Methodist Protestant Church that drafted 11 Elementary Principles. Later, the Wesleyan Methodists adopted 9 of these same Elementary Principles in 1843.

THE ORIGINAL 11 ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES:

1. A Christian Church is a society of believers in Jesus Christ, and is of Divine institution.

2. Christ is the only Head of the Church, and the Word of God the only rule of faith and conduct.

3. No person who loves the Lord Jesus Christ, and obeys the Gospel of God our Saviour, ought to be deprived of church membership.

4. Every man has an inalienable right to private judgment in matters of religion, and an equal right to express his opinion in any way which will not violate the laws of God, or the rights of his fellowmen.

5. Church trials should be conducted on Gospel principles only; and no minister or member should be excommunicated except for immorality; the propagation of unchristian doctrines; or the neglect of duties enjoined by the Word of God.

6. The pastoral or ministerial office and duties are of Divine appointment; and all elders in the Church of God are equal; but ministers are forbidden to be lords over God’s heritage, or to have dominion over the faith of the saints.

7. The church has a right to form and enforce such rules and regulations only as are in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, and may be necessary, or have a tendency to carry into effect the great system of practical
Christianity.

8. Whatever power may be necessary to the formation of rules and regulations is inherent in the ministers and members of the church; but so much of that power may be delegated, from time to time, upon such a plan of representation as they may judge necessary and proper.

9. It is the duty of all ministers and members of the church to maintain godliness, and to oppose all moral evil.

10. It is obligatory on ministers of the Gospel to be faithful in the discharge of their pastoral and ministerial duties; and it is also obligatory on the members to esteem ministers highly for their works’ sake, and to render them a righteous compensation for their labors.

11. The church ought to secure to all her official bodies the necessary authority for the purpose of good government; but she has no right to create any distinct or independent sovereignties.

-- adopted by the Baltimore Convention of the Methodist Protestant Church at St. John's Church on November 2, 1830.

http://www.stjohnsbaltimore.org/ourhistory

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thanks, Keith for an informative post!
I am beginning to appreciate "rules" (I can't believe it!)...because, being here in D.C., I have found untold reasons why "rules" are necessary (I have loved "freedom")! In fact, without law, there can be no "love", for it is only in understanding the boundaries that "forbid", that one understands and can fully appreciate "freedom". Absolute freedom does not exist in an ordered society....It is responsibility that reconciles freedom and law. And it is responsiblity that God calls us to as Christians. The "Divine Order" and the "Free will libertarian" debate is always the tension in our understanding as believers where it comes to questions of interpretation and conscience. And it is understanding how to interpret the "authorities" that we come to understand "truth"...

Ben Robinson said...

"The (fill in the blank) Church believes that God created both the male and the female gender with entirely separate reproductive organs, physical and emotional characteristics, and unique needs and desires. The ability to choose gender is not a choice that is available in the natural world and the unique maleness or femaleness of an individual is determined by God and is designed to bring glory to God."

This conflates gender with reproductive organs quite explicitly. Thus, this would ignore Chris and Kevin's suggestion that we undergo a conversation regarding what constitutes gender. Furthermore, this "rule" assumes that reproductive organs dictate "emotional characteristics", "needs", and "desires". Again, this seems questionable and problematic.

Most likely were this statement to be clarified with concrete examples of what is a male emotional characteristic or female characteristic, we would find ourselves entertaining constructs that are not of necessity.

If we consider Gregory of Nyssa's understanding of the eschatological transcendence of gender binaries (Butler's term, not his), then we ought to be very careful in predicating absolutely characteristics of one gender over against another. For Nyssa, gender does not ultimately constitute humanity's self-identity.

Scott's Orange said...
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Scott's Orange said...
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Pete Vecchi said...

OK, let me play "Devil's Advocate" (maybe an appropriate title for this discussion?)...

It seems to me that the Bible doesn't prohibit sex change operations. The Bible talks about people of one gender not dressing like the other gender, and not having sexual relations with someone of the same gender, but there's nothing specifically stated about sex change operations.

So how does one argue Biblically against the idea that in order to avoid sexual immorality with a person of the same sex, a person shouldn't just go ahead and change genders?

Can't you just see a denominational rule proposal: "People who want to avoid sexual immorality with people of the same gender may do so through medical and scientific sex change options."

Wouldn't THAT go over well?

(The opinions expressed in the above post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author of the post, but are meant for discussion purposes only).

Lawrence W. Wilson said...

Drury asks: "So, what kind of rule would keep a male professor from deciding next Monday to put on a wig and skirt, squirt on some Estee Lauder, attach dangling ear rings then go to classes from then on as a woman?"

Answer: No rule would prevent that.

Are you really asking "What kind of rule would cover our rear-ends when we decide to fire people for sinning?"

Probably none.

The AJ Thomas said...

The tricky thing with this issue will be when someone argues that because we live in a fallen and messed up world they were born with the wrong physical characteristics for who God meant them to be on the inside and that having a sex change is an act of obediance to God and a way of overcomming the effects of the fall - call it entire genital sanctification.