There has been a lot of discussion over an article published by Eternity this week (and also in our May newspaper) titled Welcoming a transgender woman into our church – a true story. In response to the article, sexologist and Christian counsellor Patricia Weerakoon and her son Kamal have written a response which we have published here. Below are two further responses from the original article’s writer Tess Holgate, and Eternity’s editor, John Sandeman.
Why we welcome responses to this week’s article on transgender
We are pleased that our article led to this attempt at a biblical framework for thinking through what might be the best life for a transgendered person. We are also thankful to them for making it clear that Joan’s* church acted in what they believed to be the best interests of Joan, the person at the centre of our article.
We agree with Patricia and Kamal, in their response, that each transgender person’s experience is unique, and that “there are therefore going to be as many responses as there are transgendered people.” In the story, we chose to explore only one of those transgender experiences, and Patricia’s quotes frame Joan’s experience as being at the serious end of the transgender spectrum.
For the removal of any doubt, Eternity told the story of one church and one transgender person. We were not putting it forward as a model or the only solution to the difficulties that a transgender person experiences.
Eternity has no agenda to promote Transgenderism (or any “ism”) apart from the cause of Christ. Rather, we tell the stories of many Christians, not shying away from those that will cause our audience to challenge their assumptions and turn to the scriptures. We made it clear that Joan was in a desperate situation, and that her decisions at every point were marked by consultation with medical professionals, her minister and her community. Joan has not undergone gender-transitioning surgery.
Kamal and Patricia say that “transgender identity is as varied as the people who experience it.” We recognise that Joan’s experience is only one of many possible responses to transgenderism, and we hope it has helped some people to a deeper understanding of this issue.
— Tess Holgate, Eternity writer
The tabloid lurking in Eternity
Eternity likes publishing stories about people. If we have a choice between a piece of argument or a personal story, we’ll go with the story every time. It’s the tabloid in us.
We try to have a testimony in each print edition. It is the heart of the paper, just as coming to Christ by faith is the heart of Christianity. We like those two things to be aligned.
We have told the stories of some unusual conversions. For example, a gay man (in fact an activist) so overwhelmed by an experience of the love of God that he had an urgent need to believe in Jesus, and left his old life behind. Or people in Islamic countries that have been saved after seeing a vision of Jesus.
We have not received any complaint about these. Our readers understand that while preaching, personal evangelism, or a parent’s instruction might be the usual way people come to faith, God can use other means as well.
The recent story about a transgender person being welcomed at church has drawn quite a reaction online, and yes we did expect it might. But it is the story of one person, one church and one pastor.
This story is about someone at the extreme end of a spectrum. It is not a response to transgenderism in general. If it models anything, it is about not responding in a blanket, one-size-fits-all way to a hot button issue and taking care in a difficult situation.
Some readers have taken this story as some sort of endorsement of all forms of transgenderism. But it is just one person’s story. Patricia Weerakoon’s article makes it clear how this fits in to the larger transgender conversation.
Personally, I believe the transgender industry, especially with regard to children, will be regarded in the future as a scandal somewhat like the stolen generation or the recovered memory scare.
Eternity wants to tell many more good stories of Christians responding with truth and love to those who are struggling. Yes, some of them might be about those whose marriage was torn apart by transgenderism.
As the 1948 film noir “Naked City”, put it: “There are eight million stories in the naked city; this has been one of them”.
— John Sandeman, Editor of Eternity