Saturday, May 26, 2007

"POMO"-Sexuality in the Church

In ecclesiastical news, the United Methodist Church has installed the Rev. Drew Phoenix as pastor of St. John's United Methodist Church in Charles Village, Maryland. Why is that a problem? Well, until recently the Rev. Phoenix was known as the Rev. Ann Gordon. You see, while Methodists allegedly draw the line with non-celibate gay clergy, they have no rules dealing with transgendered ministers.

"This is about more than me," said Phoenix. "This is about people who come after me, about young people in particular who are struggling with their gender identity. I'm doing this for them."

Phoenix went on to say, "The gender I was assigned at birth has never matched my own true authentic God-given gender identity, how I know myself. Fortunately today God's gift of medical science is enabling me to bring my physical body in alignment with my true gender."

Well, first, it isn't science that determines gender. Historic Christianity links physicality and gender. God creates man and woman and assigns distinctive biological traits and gender roles (see Genesis 1 and 2). It is we who turn this inside-out with our misguided and sinful conceptions of the alleged fluid and subjective nature of sexual identity. Such gender confusion is called an "abomination" in Scripture (Deut. 22:5).

Is there any doubt that we are living in an era of sexual and gender confusion? In our post-modern mind, we ourselves determine what it means to be man and woman, to be human. The Author of creation is cast aside as the goddess science is enthroned and worshipped, even in the "church."

Of course, such a thorough-going rejection of Genesis 1 and 2 begins by tossing aside biblical prescriptions concerning church leadership. That Rev. Ann was shepherding St. John's before becoming the Rev. Drew was simply a necessary first step in undermining biblical authority.

The wholesale rejection of biblical manhood and womanhood within the culture has largely been accepted within the institutional church. Having swallowed the egalitarian presuppositions of the Enlightenment, Christians routinely deny that there are in fact God-ordained sexual roles.

Take as one example the leadership of Willow Creek Community Church, one of America’s largest and most influential evangelical bodies. In January, 1996, John Ortberg, then a teaching pastor at Willow Creek, authored a position paper distributed to staffers at the Illinois mega church. Mr. Ortberg wrote that on the issue of gender equality, the church "has sought to insure an appropriate level of consensus on this issue with new staff members" in order to avoid a divisive environment that "would be destructive to authentic community and effective ministry." Ortberg goes on to say that "when the Bible is interpreted comprehensively, it teaches the full equality of men and women in status, giftedness and opportunity for ministry."

Christians who aren't embarrassed by their Bibles might beg to differ, and can claim the authority of the Apostle Paul:

If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus (I Tim. 3:1-13).

The elimination and obliteration of distinctions between the sexes is rooted in rebellion against God's order. Indeed, such egalitarianism denies the very principle of order and attempts to arrange creation on its own terms. Equality thus becomes a philosophical and religious faith that demands the fidelity of every individual and institution. And since "conservative" evangelicals have been loath to do battle with the egalitarian ethos in our homes and churches, why are we surprised at the confusion endemic in our culture?

Where are the pastors, teachers and evangelists who will have the courage to proclaim the full counsel of God and call this confusion what the Bible deems it--an "abomination"? Where are the teachers who will call the doctrines of equality and radical individualism what they are—heresy?
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