Progressive Christian blogger and pastor Rev Erin Wathen has lashed out at the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) decision to denounce transgender people, suggesting that Jesus himself wouldn't meet their standards of "biblical manhood".
The SBC voted last week to oppose the moral validation of transgender people, approving a proposal that affirms "God's original design to create two distinct and complementary sexes".
Drafted by Denny Burk, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the resolution asserts that "gender identity should be determined by biological sex and not by one's self-perception – a perception which is often influenced by fallen human nature in ways contrary to God's design".
It continues: "We affirm distinctions in masculine and feminine roles as ordained by God as part of the created order, and that those distinctions should find an echo in every human heart".
The resolution has received widespread criticism, perhaps most notably by blogger John Shore, who has suggested that it deems transgender people as "crazy" and "delusional", and if only they would "pray more they'd stop being transgender".
Wathen, of Foothills Christian Church in Arizona, has now also joined the debate and condemned the SBC's stance, noting that "Gender and sexuality are tricky things" and should thus be handled with care.
"Much of what we THINK we know about sexuality and gender identity, we got from magazines and movies more than we drew from scripture," she writes for Patheos.
"I know the Bible has some things to say about men and women, and who does what (and who's allowed to say things in church). However, the cult of manhood/womanhood, as such – these images of biblical man and righteous woman that the traditional 'church' seems devoted to upholding – sorry, but that comes straight out of Victorian Literature. And modern day Hollywood...Let us not confuse that with the gospel.
"Outside of the cultural, the iconic, and the black and white, most of us have little understanding of what makes us tick when it comes to gender identification. And yet, an aging institution feels comfortable enough with its own doctrine to sanctify their condemnation with a formal resolution," she adds, sharing that this is "troublesome".
Wathen, whose church describes itself as "an open and affirming congregation" that welcomes "all people in the life of the church, regardless of what you look like, where you come from, how you vote, or who you call 'family'," criticises the SBC for allowing "faith leaders with little to no background in actual science...strike moral poses about how people's brains and bodies work".
She also notes that though insisting on the importance of "God-intended human relationships", the SBC is cultivating "rhetoric that will destroy those relationships".
"Is it worse that they can go on about being created in the image of God; while failing to recognize that God's creative powers might run far deeper than the surface characteristics we use to define each other?" she adds.
Despite her criticisms, Wathen defends members of the Southern Baptist Church, whom she notes to be "kind and compassionate...fiercely loyal and unfailingly generous".
"This hateful resolution emerged from corporate fear of 'other,' and runs utterly counter to the actual people I know who count themselves as members of this body," she says.
Moving forward, Wathen contends that churches and congregations willing to welcome transgender people into their communities must do so; particularly making space for former Baptists who feel rejected by their own church family.
"We can also tell our SBC brothers and sisters that we love them anyway...that we know there is more to their faith story than this painful moment on the wrong side of history," she writes.
"As people of faith, we are called to embrace the ambiguous."
Concluding her blog, Wathen makes her most controversial statement, suggesting that "Jesus, himself, did not exactly fit the mould of 'biblical manhood'".
"He did not father children; he was not 'the husband of one wife' (maybe); he did not toil the fields, nor was he a deacon in his Baptist church," she writes.
"By contemporary – and totally superficial – standards, Jesus was a pretty androgynous sort of dude. I mean, he didn't even play FOOTBALL.
"In other words...'I do not believe that Jesus himself would entirely meet with their approval.' How many times has he been turned away for failing to meet the dress code?" she finishes.