By Transgender Clergy Person
My denomination is presently split over what is known as the "All Means All" campaign, essentially a grassroots effort to remove a long list of those especially welcomed in our churches to simply say, "All people are welcome in our churches." Somehow, our conservatives have interpreted this as a conspiracy to welcome LGBTQ [Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Bisexual and Questioning persons] into our houses of worship. This, in turn has resulted in a well-funded and well-published effort to stop "All Means All" before it becomes a ratified change to our denomination's Book of Discipline.
Well, I and the congregation I serve already do welcome every person who comes to worship with the welcome of Christ. How could any Christian really oppose such a statement? Unfortunately, some of the more fearful in our denomination once again attempt to throw 'traditional family values' into the discussion, wanting to connect present conventional western [i.e. American] culture--including its interpretation of what constitutes a family--as that which follows a divine plan and maintains those current values as the apex of God's plan. Discussions and evaluations of LGBTQ persons [generally without our representation] inevitably enter into the center of such discussion, where we are deemed 'abominations, unredeemed, hated by God' and otherwise unfit for serious consideration.
The truth is that current definitions are far from those in place in Jesus' lifetime. In that time, women were considered property under religious law, without rights of inheritance, vote, or other public voice. This is one reason a woman such as the judge Deborah stands out, as well as other women who are named in the Old and New Testaments. Monogamy was not the law of that day, and it was common for one man to have several wives. There was also the custom of Levarite marriage, whereby a surviving brother was obligated to marry his deceased brother's wife and produce children in honor of his brother's name. None of these values survive in today's list of American 'traditional family values' as defined by some conservative Christians.
In fact, the acknowledgment and social inclusion of gender variant persons is noted in ancient Jewish texts and interpretations of Scripture. For example: In the Talmud, the Androgynos is a person who has both male and female sexual characteristics. There are 149 references in the Mishna and Talmud, and 335 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes concerning the androgynos. Contrary to the general interpretation of the "Adam and Eve" story in the Book of Genesis, Rabbi ben Elazar, commenting on this text said: "When the Holy One, blessed be the One, created the first 'adam' [human being], God made him an 'androgynos'. As here it is written,'in the likeness of God, God created them; male and female [Genesis 5:2]
Our spiritual ancestors acknowledged the positive presence of diversity in creation, including gender variant people. Honored spiritual leaders from centuries ago were capable of recognizing the value and unique perspective that gender variant persons of faith have to offer. If we really desire to return to traditional family values, we should look as objectively as possible at what such values were around two thousand years ago. There is no parallel between marriage and family culture in that time and those of a certain segment of American culture today. It would also benefit all persons of faith to consider what other scholars, such as those I mentioned, have to offer in our current conversations.
It seems that there have been times when "All Means All" was lived out in faith communities. It is impossible to understand why today more than 50% of my denomination trembles at such a vision. This is the very denomination which affirms in our Holy Communion service that "all are welcome at Christ's table," right next to our current communications campaign slogan, "Open hearts, open minds, open doors- the people of The United Methodist Church." When will "all" really mean all?