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Baptist leaders applaud transgender athlete decisions as victory for reality


LAUSANNE, Switzerland (BP) – Recent decisions by World Aquatics, requiring transgender men to compete in an “open” category rather than against women, are examples of common sense prevailing in the transgender debate, according to two Southern Baptist leaders.

The international governing body for swimming announced in 2022 that biological men will not be allowed to compete in women’s events. Last month, the organization said it will start a new “open” category for transgender athletes. More details about the new competition category are forthcoming.

“It’s pleasantly surprising to see that these world bodies have acknowledged what is obviously evident to us from nature and from God’s natural law that men and women are different and they’re distinct,” said Daniel Darling, director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. “They’re equal, but they’re distinct, and it actually hurts human flourishing to try to pretend that they’re not.”

Katie McCoy, director of women’s ministry for Texas Baptists and author of the newly released book “To Be a Woman,” said the World Aquatics decisions have acknowledged that the differences between males and females go beyond just their reproductive system and have returned fairness to women’s sports.

“No matter how much (a male athlete) pumps himself with estrogen, that doesn’t change the muscular and skeletal differences between males and females,” McCoy said.

Other world athletic associations have taken similar steps in recent months by prohibiting biological men from competing against females, including cycling, track and field and rugby. Several states have also passed measures for college and youth athletics, requiring participants to compete against others of their biological sex.

“This was a real threat to women’s sports to have biological men competing against them, cutting in front of the line, pushing down women who have worked hard to get to this place,” Darling said. “As Christians, we believe God’s creational design is good. God created men and women distinct and beautiful and good.

“Masculinity and femininity are both good things to be celebrated,” he continued. “And we also pray for people who are confused. We think about them with love and compassion, but we want to speak truth, that there’s a better way for their flourishing than to go against how God has designed them.”

McCoy said the trend up until recently of allowing men like Lia Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania to compete against women “is showing that the feelings of a biological male matter more than the achievements, the autonomy, the personhood of all women.” She hasn’t been terribly surprised by the recent decisions of the world sports governing bodies, because other countries are not aligned with United States on transgender issues.

“Western culture and the rest of the world are on two different tracks with this, and western culture is beginning to shift back,” she said. “We’re seeing it in more progressive European countries, and it’s going to slowly make its way here to the United States. We’re seeing progressive countries backtrack on gender affirming care for minors, which is a good thing. Time will tell if that takes place here in the United States.”

For McCoy, the sanity of the World Aquatics moves is proof that Christians need to continue to engage on transgender issues.

“There’s this feeling that maybe this will blow over. Maybe we can sit this one out,” she said. “The truth is, we can’t. Wherever there is social media, these messages are pervading your community, your churches, your youth groups, your Christian schools, your homeschool co-ops, and this is impossible to completely insulate ourselves from.”

The solution is not for Christians to disengage and ignore, McCoy said, but to present the truth before the next generation grows up hearing a constant barrage of lies.

“It’s really the proverbial ‘how to learn a counterfeit dollar bill,’” she said. “You study the original so well that you can spot the counterfeit, and that’s what we have to be doing.”

Darling said Christians should continue speaking out and should be encouraged by these levelheaded decisions, especially when it seems like the cultural tide is constantly moving against traditional, historic Christianity.

“Sometimes reality breaks in,” Darling said. “Sometimes people acknowledge what they see in the world. Sometimes the law that God has written on people’s hearts becomes evident.”


Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.

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  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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