In a 2019 talk given at Compass Bible Church in Aliso Viejo, Calif., Denny Burk spoke about how “unbiblical” it is to state that one’s brain is experiencing a disconnect with their bodily gender, but then cited Genesis 1:26-28 as the basis for that idea — which is nowhere to be found in that text.
Burk, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, is guilty of projecting ideology into a text where it was not intended and then teaching it as biblical “truth.” This is dangerous and purely evil.
He also completely ignores the beliefs of the Jewish traditions (from which the Old Testament derives) to take a literalist approach that ignores the context of the word “אָדָם,” (adam) which can be translated as “mankind” — a gender-neutral term. The term “and female” also may be described as non-prescriptive. Yes, there are two biological genders for procreation purposes, but a spectrum of masculinity and femininity as personality dictates.
Burk’s theology and teaching about this subject also ignores that this creation story takes place before the fall — in God’s “perfect” world. But yet, ask Christians why God created cancer. Why good people die horrific deaths. The answer is always the same: “God didn’t create cancer; he simply allowed it because we live in a fallen world.”
“We take physical action to bring our eyesight in line with what God intended, just as I am taking physical action to bring my masculine body more in line with the female one that God intended.”
Is it too much to ask, then, Professor Burk, that the male body I was born with — the one we are taught as Christians will pass away — is a deformity that God “allowed” but didn’t intend? After all, I believe God intended we have perfect vision, but that’s not the case. As a result, we take physical action to bring our eyesight in line with what God intended, just as I am taking physical action to bring my masculine body more in line with the female one that God intended.
If, then, that is a possibility, why would you continue to espouse theology that is harmful to our community? Why do you use your interpretation as a means to say yours is the “only biblical way of thinking about it”? Why do you work so hard to build barriers that separate us?
One of the many accusations I’ve had thrown my way by conservative Christian pastors is that I am guilty of “eisegesis,” the twisting of the Bible to make it fit my own desires. Yet the points raised during the Burk seminar all were based off short passages that were twisted and forced to prove a point that wasn’t even a part of the intended language or context. So if that’s the case, why should those accusations of eisegesis not be made toward the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood? Perhaps it’s because the church is more invested in its own political ideology and power than in accurately teaching the word of God.
“Why should those accusations of eisegesis not be made toward the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood?”
Christian missionaries would tell you that in order for them to go overseas, they have to learn the culture and how not to be offensive. How to live in the world of those they want to serve. Yet you refuse to learn and have instead built a living on offending and teaching people how to build walls that teach families and children how to live isolated lives that openly discriminate and vilify the LGBTQ community.
This is why it hurts so much that Brad Bell and the team at The Well Community Church have invited you in. Because by allowing your teachings to be taught as “biblical fact” without any room for conversation, you have closed the door to an entire community and have deemed those who believe differently than you “un-Christian.”
You have told us in no uncertain terms that we are not welcome. And the churches that invite you to speak? The ones who have signed your Nashville Statement? They might as well put a sign out in front saying, “LGBTQ people are NOT welcome here.”
That is antithetical to the gospel. It is an affront to Christ and goes against everything Jesus demonstrated when he walked this earth.
“Maybe some people wouldn’t feel that disconnect with their identity if you would stop prescribing gender roles that aren’t biblical.”
Another thing to think about: Maybe some people wouldn’t feel that disconnect with their identity if you would stop prescribing gender roles that aren’t biblical. Stop telling boys that if they play with dolls that they’re “sissies.” Stop teaching girls that their place is in the kitchen, not with tools and machinery.
When I was a part of the Men’s Fraternity group at The Well Fresno, I couldn’t relate because I didn’t understand the football metaphors. I didn’t watch the action movies. I watched sappy romance movies. And that didn’t work for The Well.
When I first came out as transgender, I requested a meeting with Lead Pastor Brad Bell and instead was pawned off on one of his associates, Christopher Schultz. It makes me wonder if Brad has ever had the opportunity to sit with someone like me who at one time considered the Bell family to be a friend. As it stands right now, the sign out front no longer reads, “A church for every neighborhood,” but “A church only for those who think and look like us.” And that breaks my heart.
Thanks to Simon Biasell-Moshrefi for allowing me to be a part of their community. The folks over at Woven Community were truly Christ to me when The Well Community Church, NorthPointe Community Church, CrossCity Fresno, Clovis Hills Community Church, New Covenant Community Church, Northwest Church, and so many others told me no.
A huge shoutout to Kimberly Williams for befriending me and for allowing me to teach and minister to her community at Grace Community Church, UCC, and to Akiko Miyake-Stoner and the people of the United Japanese Christian Church for allowing me to minister while coming out and beginning my transition. Also, a plug for my recent interview with Pastor Paul Swearengin, who took the time to listen to and care about my story.
Why does this matter?
Teaching that my existence is a threat to the church and our country as Denny Burk does is one of the things that has a direct correlation to the attacks and murders of trans people across our country. Rather than explaining to children that people like me exist, they’re being taught I am a danger to their families. The moves by Christian groups like the Family Research Council to take away my health care and to remove health protections for me in certain parts of the country directly threatens my life. So no, I can’t just “leave it alone,” as some friends suggest I do.
To leave it alone flies completely in the face of everything Jesus stood for, and the fact that my friends are being taught to see me as the enemy of their faith when I love Jesus too is offensive and hurtful.
Ellie Dote lives in Pasadena, Calif., with her partner and their four cats, and is the author of “Walking Towards Cordelia,” a memoir based on her journey of self-acceptance. After spending 40 years as a father, brother, husband and son, she came to terms with who she really is, embraced it, and began the journey to become Ellie. In 2017, she launched her own business, EllieGirl Creations, a boutique website and graphic design studio specializing in helping entrepreneurs learn how to discover and embrace their identity, allowing them to use it to build strong, authentic brands along with strategic plans for websites and marketing. Her business helps support the work of ministry that she does with Christians and parents of children who are coming to terms with their LGBTQ identities and learning how to reconcile that with a biblical worldview.
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