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Dear Justin Welby, we're looking to you for a stronger Christian voice on transgender issues
Following Justin Welby's criticism of a Christian couple who removed their children from school after boys were allowed to come to class wearing dresses, James Mildred gives his opinion in an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury
Dear Archbishop Welby,
I listened to your recent interview on LBC and in particular your comments about the case of the Rowe’s and their six year old son. While I can appreciate the complexities of the case and your own feelings on it, I was staggered at what you said. Could you not find any words of encouragement to these two faithful Christians who are simply doing what they think is right? And do you really think it is right to encourage children as young as six to cross-dress? Is it right, under God, for Christian parents to expose their children to such behaviour which is the ultimate product of muddled thinking? Surely not!
Having done media interviews on the transgender issues myself; I know how difficult it is to communicate with clarity and compassion a strong, biblical view. I do not doubt that as the most senior church leader in the land, it will fall increasingly upon you to communicate the church’s view on the transgender issue. With all I am about to say, let me assure you of my prayers. It is a big responsibility, far beyond any of us.
As Archbishop, you have a platform few other church leaders have. Opportunities will come your way that will not fall into the lap of others. Many, many Christians (Anglicans and others) are looking to you in desperate need of clarity and help. What is the CofE’s position on transgender issues? What is the message of the church in the face of this challenge?
As a committed Christian, who loves God’s Word, surely you will agree with me that the Bible offers us a firm foundation when it comes to responding with truth to the transgender debate. While all of us need wisdom when it comes to the sensitive and complex pastoral realities, our stating point must be God’s word. I ask you as a church leader to use your platform to make the following truths known.
Firstly, the Bible is not silent about gender, it explains where it originated and this needs to be proclaimed. Genesis tells us that God made them male and female. Jesus himself had a high view of Genesis and especially God’s pattern for gender and marriage. In explaining the Christian view, this must be our starting point.
Secondly, we must explain the diagnosis the Bible offers which explains the brokenness of our world. Romans 8 talks about creation groaning in frustration, under God’s curse. Difficult conditions like gender dsyphoria are part of this brokenness. For some, gender is between the ears. But we need to remember that God has made us body, soul, mind and spirit – we form a coherent whole. A Church of England position paper on this issue from 2003 rightly pointed out: "We are not simply people who inhabit bodies; rather our bodies are part of who we are".
Thirdly, as of course you will know far better than I, in Christian thought, transsexuals are made in God’s image. This means, like every human being they have an irreducible value. We must never forget this. This truth, alongside others guides our response to people in genuine distress because of strong feelings of being trapped in the wrong body. Alongside this high view of human dignity, it is the inevitable outcome of this view that we also utterly reject and abhor bullying and denigration of transsexuals. The Christian worldview is reliably consistent. Can I plead with you to make that clear?
Finally, tell the truth about the false idea that gender transitioning inevitably helps those who struggle with the awful problem of gender dysphoria. There are those who regret their decision. We must realise there is another side to this whole debate that our mainstream media simply ignores. For many, transitioning from one sex to another did not bring peace, joy or comfort but only further misery and pain.
I know how deeply complicated this debate is. But what I have outlined seems to me to be fixed lines in the sand that should not be crossed.
The best news for anyone, be they transsexual or not is the scandalous love and grace of God that is revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Christian message holds out the promise of reliable hope that one day, if we trust in Christ, all will be put right.
Rather than encouraging transitioning, surely we must be compassionately helping those affected to come to terms with their birth sex. Archbishop, when you go on LBC and other media outlets, will you commit to speaking the truth in love? Will you stand firm, courageously proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only answer for lost sinners? We need strong, clear leadership on this issue. I pray that you will be able to provide it.
James Mildred is the co-host of the Holy Political Podcast
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