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Transgender ministry, gender roles discussed

COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) — The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood hosted a breakfast panel discussion in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which addressed issues surrounding biblical complementarianism, including gender roles in the church and how churches can effectively minister to individuals who identify as homosexual or transgender.

Daniel Akin, a CBMW council member and president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., opened the June 15 discussion by defining the term complementarianism as “a perspective that is grounded in Scripture that understands that men and women equally bear the image of God and yet God in His wisdom has given us different assignments and different functions.”

CBMW President Owen Strachan noted the significance of the topic, saying, “We’re in this because fundamentally we have a complementarian Gospel.” Citing Ephesians 5, where the apostle Paul describes gender roles in marriage as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His church, Strachan said, “We have this Gospel that we put on display in practical and tangible form.” He said men and women flourish best when they align themselves with God’s design, and the “competition between men and women” ceases in the Gospel.

Questions from the audience zeroed in on the issues of transgenderism and biblical roles for women in the church.

Homosexuality and transgenderism

Thomas White, president of Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, pointed to Psalm 139 to say God does not make mistakes in creating individuals, so they do not get to choose their gender or sexual preference. At the same time, he said, Christians should treat the topic with grace and respect rather than find it something to joke about.

Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble, Texas, said a few transgendered people attend his church, which has brought the topic close to home. While the church has made its position on the matter clear to these individuals — who are not members of the church — Lino said the church works to give them “time and space to hear the Gospel.”

“We have no reason to be alarmed or panicked about the rise of transgenderism and what that means for ministering to people. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the solution to all matters. … The solution, in my opinion, is we must return to teaching a fully explained, Gospel-based explanation of complementarianism.”

Lino admitted the church has had to work through some practical concerns, such as not allowing a woman who self-identifies as a man to be involved in the church’s men’s ministry. At the same time, Lino said he has worked to help church members understand that homosexuality and transgenderism are violations of God’s design the same that pornography, pre-marital sex, adultery and heterosexual sins are.

“The mission of the church is not to ‘un-gay’ people,” Lino said. “The mission of the church is to win people to Jesus Christ. And the struggle with the unbelieving homosexuals in your church is not that they’re homosexuals; it’s that they’re unbelievers. And homosexuality is just one of a million expressions … of what unbelieving can look like. … Lead them to Christ, and He will redeem them in due time — given time and space to hear the Gospel — and voluntarily submit themselves to it.”

Women’s roles in the church

When asked about the permissible roles for women in the church, all panelists agreed with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 article on “The Church” that “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

Jason Duesing, editor of the Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and provost at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., said CBMW has addressed the issue well in the past, and it’s something he would like to see emphasized more in the present, especially from female voices.

“There are many strong, evangelical, complementarian women that CBMW can benefit from and use and resource, and I don’t think we’ve done that as well as we could.”

Strachan said women can be teachers and leaders in the church, provided that they’re teaching and leading other women. At the same time, women should not view this as holding them back from ministry.

“We have the most stake in raising up women of God as complementarians,” Strachan said, adding CBMW is not sheepish or shy about women in ministry. “Not at all. Within biblical parameters, we want to unleash women for ministry.”

The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, according to its website, is a Christian organization that “proclaims the complementary differences between men and women who share equally in the image of God.”

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  • Keith Collier