I preached a sermon last Sunday on what the book of Genesis means when it says that God created us male and female.
Given our cultural moment, it was unavoidable that I address the controversial and sensitive topic of transgenderism.
This has sparked controversy on social media, and, unsurprisingly, there were many misrepresentations of what we believe.
So what does The Crossing believe? We believe that all trans people are made in God’s image. We affirm their full personhood, dignity and worth.
We believe that our government bears a responsibility to protect their lives, dignity, welfare and all other rights afforded to every other person in this country.
We reject all violence and bigotry against trans people. We are deeply saddened by the ways the Christian church has ignored, marginalized, othered and hurt the trans community. We sincerely apologize for any and all ways we may have participated in this behavior.
We are clearly not a perfect church, and it’s likely we have our own blind spots regarding how we have contributed to this hurt.
The Crossing is not a political movement or advocacy group. We don’t tell our congregation what party to register with or whom to vote for.
We advocate for love and compassion to all trans people, and we encourage the use of people’s preferred pronouns.
The irony is that we weren’t trying to throw down the cultural gauntlet, but trying to help Christians in our community grow more compassionate. Many people have shared how this sermon helped them to grow in their compassion toward trans people.
When parents ask us what to do when their child comes out as trans, we tell them you should hug them and tell them you love them, and that nothing will ever change that. Listen. Empathize. Support. Care.
If you are a sexual minority, you are welcomed and loved by The Crossing. The Crossing is for you. We believe you’ll be a valuable part of our community.
Since The Crossing began in 2000, we have tried to work for the welfare of everyone in Columbia. I’d encourage you to ask local nonprofits if The Crossing has helped them, and you might very well find that we’ve volunteered time and money to help further their mission.
Most surprisingly, we partner with organizations with whom we do not fully agree, for the sake of the community. For example, before attacking us on Facebook, one pastor of a First Ward church felt compelled to acknowledge how good The Crossing has been to his church.
Some people think that we are singling out transgendered people. Out of 1,000 sermons preached since The Crossing started in 2000, we have spoken about this topic once. That’s 0.1%. To say that we are singling out transgenderism is a gross misrepresentation of our practice.
So why now?
Because we preach through the Bible chapter by chapter, whether or not it offends us or our culture. And last week, we just happened to be in Genesis 1:27, which speaks clearly to a pressing question: gender.
More important, we believe Jesus taught that living by God’s design for sex and gender is the best way to promote human welfare.
Speaking personally, Jesus has never stopped challenging my desires, choices and lifestyle. What I’ve discovered is that surrendering my life to Jesus is always for my best, even when it doesn’t feel that way. Even when it is confusing. Even when it is difficult.
We aren’t a church that’s against people. We are a church that’s for Jesus. And Jesus believed gender is deeper than a social construct. Gender is rooted in God’s design, and our lives work best when we live in line with that design.
We don’t believe Jesus was motivated by hate, but by a desire to make all people whole.
We’ve all heard stories about transgender people who found wholeness through hormone treatments, surgeries and other interventions to align their body and their gender. But there are also heartbreaking stories in our community and beyond about those who have experienced terrible trauma, hurt and depression from these same choices.
Is it OK to ask if these choices are really what’s best for human flourishing? Some people say, “No. You can’t talk about this.”
But in New York Magazine, Jesse Singal writes: “80 percent of kids with gender dysphoria end up feeling okay, in the long run, with the bodies they were born into.”
Surgeries and puberty blockers have lasting effects on a child’s health and reproductive organs. So are we absolutely sure that’s what’s best for the child? Shouldn’t we ask these questions even if they’re unpopular?
To be clear: We are not trying to make life any more difficult for transgender people than it already is. We are not trying to impose our views on society.
All we are trying to do is give biblical wisdom to those who want it. Just remember that we are talking about a sermon in a church, not a stump speech on the campaign trail or an address to the City Council or school board.
We are motivated by love and our belief that Jesus knows what’s best. You may disagree with us, but we’d ask one last question: Can you make room for us in this community?
We are not culture warriors. We are for the welfare of Columbia.
If we disagree with you on this issue, would you consider the possibility that it is not because we are evil, hateful and bigoted, but because we’re trying to be faithful to Jesus?
Is there room for a church like us in Columbia?
Keith Simon is co-pastor of The Crossing in Columbia.