CHURCH AND SOCIAL CHANGE
Jaimie first arrived at our ministry in Grade 9. I engaged her in conversation during our registra- tion night and she began to tell me her story, including how her last youth group experience had
been really difficult. She was looking for
a safe place to belong. I immediately
introduced her to some of our leaders and
other students, and after an awkward
start, Jaimie ended up in a small group
with my wife and another fantastic leader.
Like all of us Jaimie was on a journey,
but hers had a complexity we hadn’t been
aware of in our ministry before. Jaimie
was wrestling with her gender identity.
Back then, we were just waking up to the
idea that students in our midst might have
been struggling with sexual orientation
– gender identity or gender dysphoria was
not even in our vocabulary.
As with all our students, our leaders
(and many of our students) committed
themselves to loving Jaimie right where
she was. Jaimie’s journey was difficult in
many ways, but she stayed with us through
high school. Our leaders and her friends
continued to journey with her both during and beyond high school.
After high school Jaimie began gender
reassignment therapy. I remember the
first time she entered our home as a man.
I’m not sure I was completely prepared,
but I was thankful Jaimie felt he was still
welcome in our home.
A few years ago, we received a very sad
phone call telling us Jaimie had died. The
pain was great for Jaimie’s family and
community, and for my wife and I as well.
Since that time I’ve reflected on how I
journeyed with Jaimie. There are elements
of the journey about which I am thankful,
and many parts I wish I could have a “do
over.” It has forced me to think about what
it looks like for churches to be a place of
redemption for all people, including sexual minorities.
Specifically, it has me thinking about
how we can be communities where
people experience redemption, even in churches where
we believe God’s design for
gender is male and female,
and believe sex is to be experienced within the context of a
heterosexual marriage. My
thoughts on this are by no
means the final word on the
issue, but they might be a starting point
for an important conversation we need to
have, and that I am sure is happening in
churches across Canada.
Remember, we don’t just want to
speak the truth. We want people
to hear the truth.
Certainly we need to be people who are
clear on our beliefs and theology. We need
to do our homework, and we need to have
convictions. But when it comes to declaring or sharing our convictions, we need to
do it in such a way that we could be heard
redemptively, which means we need to
watch what we say and how we say it.
Perhaps Galatians 6:1– 2 is helpful for
us. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any
transgression, you who are spiritual
should restore him in a spirit of gentle-
ness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too
be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens,
and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
• We need to be spiritual, not “holier than
thou.” There is a difference. By spiritual
I mean people whose character reflects
the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithful-
ness, gentleness, self-control. The more
we enter the conversation (and relation-
ships) with this disposition, the better
we will be heard.
• We need to seek restoration with
gentleness. This means we do what we
can to help people see we are for them,
not against them.
• We need to be humble. We all have our
own issues to work through, and none
of us have arrived. We are all marred by
sin and in desperate need of the gospel.
• And we need to persevere. The journey
of truth is a long one. We need to fight
to “bear one another’s burdens.” At the
very least that means staying
available for the long haul.
I remember when one of
our leaders gently asked
Jaimie the question, “Do you
need me to affirm the decisions you are making to
know that I love you?” Jaimie
said no. Jaimie experienced no tension
between truth and love with that particular
leader because the truth had been lovingly
and clearly communicated over a long
period of time.
Seek first to understand before
For those of us who believe God’s design
for gender identity is binary (male and
female), and God’s design for sex is in the
context of a heterosexual marriage, and
especially if we are enjoying a healthy
marriage relationship ourselves, we need
to accept the fact that we are in a privileged position.
Things might be easier for us. We probably don’t fully understand how our position is heard and experienced by those
not in our position. So we need to listen.
We need to fight for understanding. We
need to acknowledge where God’s design,
His plan – while a good plan – is at times
a very hard plan to pursue. We need to be
emotionally present and engaged with the
people in our care.
Jaimie heard me speak a fair amount
IN OUR CARE
Gender fluidity is
confusing and challenging
to churches. How should
we respond? BY SID KOOP