As a former Southern Baptist by birth, who also happens to be transgender, I am not shocked resolution #9, "On Transgender Identity" passed by unanimous acclimation at the denomination's annual convention. The resolution outlined why the Southern Baptist Convention "oppose all cultural efforts to validate claims to transgender identity."
The resolution's co-author, Denny Burk, a professor at Boyce College in Louisville, KY, felt so strongly about the anti-Biblical nature of the increasingly visible transgender movement, that he felt compelled to pull out the "sacred text," cite a few verses, rile up the faithful, denigrate the American Psychiatric Association and put the religious kibosh on still another manifestation of difference.
These are my "peeps." As a child, I sat through many Billy Graham sermons and watched the crowd surge forward to George Beverly Shea's "Just As I Am" altar call. I ate innumerable chicken and dumpling dinners at riverbank baptism revivals. I made Christian artifacts in Vacation Bible School. I heard over and over how I am a miserable sinner whose only way out of an eternity in hell is to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I was baptized, totally immersed, "washed in the blood" as a 9 year old. The whole notion of Biblical inerrancy was a given. Our mantra was "don't do this, don't do that" or else. Exhausting and very confusing for a child who knew she was different.
I find it hard to generate any animosity towards SBC membership. I know these people to be loving parents and grandparents and that they genuinely believe with all their might that their way to God is the only way. For crying out loud, resolution #9 includes loving language that invites transgender people to church. "That we love our transgender neighbors, seek their good always, welcome them to our churches and, as they repent and believe in Christ, receive them into church membership." What that line should read is "as they repent and believe in Christ like we do." I think next Sunday I will swallow my deep seated angst about long time exclusion, head to an SBC church and see how it goes.
I am really curious why the SBC needs to establish such sharp boundaries, so many lines that cannot be crossed. Why can't you worry about your eternal salvation and let me worry about mine? Is the sight of a transgender person or a gay couple so vexing and disturbing that somehow your world is rocked beyond repair? Why do you care if people different from you seek validation?
What really frustrates me is there seems to be no place for mutual acceptance or a meeting of the minds. Over the course of my life I have tried many, many times to find common vocabulary or places our worldviews can meet. I so want to look the Denny Burks of the world in the eye, acknowledge our commonality as human beings and agree to disagree from a place of mutual, unconditional love. When it comes down to the basics, our differences are the differences of definition, of vocabulary, of conceptuality. In the transcendent, in the nature of love and faith that we experience far beyond what our minds can comprehend, aren't we all looking for the same thing?