The annual Southern Baptist Convention voted yesterday 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.
"We condemn efforts to alter one's bodily identity (eg cross-sex hormone therapy, gender reassignment surgery) to bring it into line with one's perceived gender identity...[and] we continue to oppose steadfastly all efforts by any court or state legislature to validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy."
This is not an altogether surprising move from a group known for its socially conservative views; theologian and President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, Albert Mohler, recently condemned suggestions that there can be a "third way" between acceptance and rejection of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
"There is no third way. A church will either believe and teach that same-sex behaviours and relationships are sinful, or it will affirm them. Eventually, every congregation in America will make a public declaration of its position on this issue. It is just a matter of time (and for most churches, not much time) before every congregation in the nation faces this test," he writes in a blog post.
"That moment of decision and public declaration will come to every Christian believer, individually. There will be no place to hide, and no place safe from eventual interrogation. The question will be asked, an invitation will be extended, a matter of policy must be decided, and there will be no refuge."
Similarly, this latest proposal, affirmed during yesterday's meeting, positions the Southern Baptist churches as firmly conservative on the issue of transgender; the resolution expresses a commitment "to pray for and support legislative and legal efforts to oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and other legislation like it that would give gender identity the same legal protections as sex and race".
Progressive Christian blogger John Shore has condemned this stance, however, writing that the proposal suggests transgender people are "crazy" and "delusional", and if only they would "pray more they'd stop being transgender".
He also suggests that in doing so, the Convention has thrown "transgender people under the bus".
Following yesterday's announcement, Rachel Held Evans joined the debate, tweeting: "To those condemned by the Southern Baptists today: There are people & churches ready to welcome you with the open arms of Christ".