May 8, 2023
General Minister and President Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens with Rev. LaMarco Cable, President of Division of Overseas Ministries, and Rev. Chis Dorsey, President of Disciples Home Missions, join their voices with other leaders across the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to denounce the rising violence against LGBTQIA persons, the communities that hold them dear, and any legislation that causes harm to trans youth and LGBTQIA persons across the United States.
There have been 461 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in state legislatures this year. 119 of these bills ban gender-affirming healthcare for trans and non-binary youth. This places more than 54,000 trans youth receiving life-saving medical care at risk. Upon the release of this pastoral letter, that number continues to grow. This is not entirely new: at the 2019 General Assembly, GA-1929 noted the increase in legislation aiming to “devalue, punish, and erase transgender and gender-diverse identities in the recent past.” The current climate confirms those concerns. We have witnessed an increase in violent rhetoric and actions aimed at trans youth, their families, and the communities that support them, including many congregations across the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States.
The work of GA-1929 is not new but an extension of GA-1327, which celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year. At the 2013 General Assembly, GA-1327 called “upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to recognize itself as striving to become a people of grace and welcome to all God’s children though differing in race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, political stance or theological perspective.”
Violence in any form – physical, rhetorical, legislative – is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which calls us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. There is no exception or caveat, no room to cultivate hatred or distrust of the neighbor. Prejudice has no place in the kindom of God. Trans youth and their families deserve the human dignity to seek medical care and build lives of joy and thriving.
The 2019 General Assembly, by adopting GA-1929, called on all expressions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) “to grow in the embodiment of God’s generous welcome for transgender and gender-diverse people and their families through education, shifts in institutional language and practice, and the cultivation of trusting relationships with transgender and gender-diverse people and their families.” The invitation to educate, shift and cultivate trust is a call to recognize the beloved status of all of God’s creation, continue to allow our faith to be informed by science, as well as imagine a path towards greater understanding and full inclusion. As followers of Jesus Christ and as part of the one body of Christ we welcome all to the Lord’s table as God has welcomed us.
As leaders across the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) we encourage the church not only to take increased steps towards education, welcome and cultivating trust but to consider the ways in which the church can be a force for wholeness in communities across the United States, decrying violence and encouraging the full inclusivity and thriving of all of God’s beloved children.
Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada
Rev. Chris B. Dorsey, President and CEO, Disciples Home Missions
Rev. LaMarco Cable, Co-Executive Global Ministries, President, Division of Overseas Ministries
Rev. Dr. Todd Adams, President, CEO, Pension Fund of the Christian Church
Mark D. Anderson, President and CEO, National Benevolent Association
Joel Brown, Ph.D., President, Disciples of Christ Historical Society
Gary W. Kidwell, President, Christian Church Foundation
Rev. Chung Seong Kim, Executive Pastor, North American Pacific/Asian Disciples Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Brad Lyons, President and Publisher, Chalice Media Group
Rev. Angéle Saunders Johnson, Executive Director, Disciples Women’s Ministries
Tamara Rodenberg, President, Higher Education & Leadership Ministries
Rev. Paul S. Tché, President, Christian Unity and Interfaith Ministry
Valerie Melvin, Regional Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in North Carolina
Rev. Dr. Teresa Dulyea-Parker, Regional Minister and President Illinois/Wisconsin and Michigan
Rev. Bill Robey, Interim Regional Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Northern Lights Region
Rev. Dr. Rick Spleth, Regional Minister, Region of Indiana
Rev. Bill Rose-Heim, Regional Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Greater Kansas City
Rev. Joan Bell-Haynes, Executive Regional Minister, Central Rocky Mountain Region
Rev. Ken Marston, Co-Regional Minister, Christian Church in Kansas
Rev. Tom Stanley, Co-Regional Minister, Christian Church in Kansas
Rev. Dean Phelps, Interim Regional Minister, Christian Church Capital Area
Rev. Bill Spangler-Dunning, Regional Minister for the Christian Church in Virginia
Rev. Dr. Jay R. Hartley, Regional Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Arizona
Rev. Dr. Christal L. Williams, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Tennessee
Rev. Christopher B. Morton, Regional Minister, Christian Church in Nebraska
Rev. Allen V. Harris, Regional Pastor & President, Christian Church in Ohio
Rev. Sandy Messick, Regional Minister, Florida Disciples Regional Church
Rev. Dr. Andy Mangum, Regional Minister, Christian Church in the Southwest
Rev. Joshua J. Patty, Regional Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Upper Midwest
Rev. Dale Braxton, Interim Regional Minister, Christian Church in Alabama and North Florida
Rev. Dr. Paul Koch, Regional Minister, Mid-America Region
Rev. Dr. Nadine Burton, Executive Regional Minister, Great River Region
Rev Dr. Don Gillette, Regional Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky
Rev. Dr. Cathy Myers Wirt, Regional Co-Minister, Christian Church in Oregon and Southwest Idaho
Rev. Dr. La Taunya Bynum, Regional Minister, Christian Church of Northern California/Nevada
Rev. Pamela Holt, Regional Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma
Jim Lawler says
The initial tone of this message simply turned me away from finishing it. I know of no legislations introduced limiting any life saving medical treatments of any kind. The statement ended my serious consideration of your proposal. Violence against LGBTQIA persons is abhorrent. But the tone of this letter is not going to get me “on your side” it causes me to question the legitimacy of the statements you make. A more moderate tone would have me listening.
J Leigh Tarzian says
Jim, I agree with you. I have been affiliated with the Disciples of Christ church since I was 10 years old and left my mother’s church. I am now deciding whether or not I may need to make a total and complete shift to The Anglican Church of North America (Not England) due to these views. While the violence is truly abhorrent, the above letter says to me the way I read it, the DOC agrees that children whose brains are not yet fully developed can move forward with surgeries which may not be beneficial in the long run. Granted, surgeries which are necessary to saving a life are different, however, I have yet to read of a case where transition was critical to saving that life.
Rev Robert Blair says
From The National Institute of Public Health: Data indicate that 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide, with suicidality highest among transgender youth.
How do you “moderate “ tone with these troubling numbers?
Susan King says
I agree with your statement, and additionally was wondering about the “violent” legislation. I
Wesley King says
So because YOU hadn’t heard of any such legislation, you question the legitimacy of this statement? Do you think they’d put out a public statement like this without even a shred of evidence?
State legislatures across the nation have been passing bills limiting access to gender-affirming care. This is healthcare that has quite literally saved many trans and non-binary individuals lives. Trans folks are more likely to commit suicide and this type of healthcare can greatly reduce those attempts. My own state of Tennessee has restricted the government funds meant for helping treat and prevent HIV which is, again, ending life-saving healthcare, and not just for LGBTQ individuals as now straight folks make up the majority of people living with HIV.
Instead of questioning the entire legitimacy of the statement when you came across something you knew nothing about, get curious and that which you do not know.
Susan King says
Thank you for that link. I have been researching and do not believe my comment was in anyway hateful or aggressive. I am curious on learning more about differing viewpoints, and as a Christian, I have love for all. The legislation that I have found, while I may not agree with all of it, I would not call violent. That is why I said I am wondering about it. It is my opinion some of the wording in this letter is misleading, or at least some what exaggerated. Perhaps using the word aggressive or discriminatory , rather than violent would be more accurate in my viewpoint. Again, thanks for the link, I will use that in my research. I am saddened by the aggression in some of the responses here. We may not all agree but being open in our questions and sharing viewpoints in love is how we form relationships.
Michael W says
Yes. I’m perfectly happy that a group of preachers from my church are taking a stand against violence of any form against anyone. Likewise, I’m glad this group affirms the acceptance and welcoming of all people.Both of these positions seem consistent with my interpretation of the Gospel. It is concerning, however, that they have chosen to endorse a set of particular medical practices – implicitly, at least – about which at this point, there is little long-term data available to allow even physicians to comment upon with confidence, much less clerics. This statement, at the least, lacks nuance, and at worst, may be promoting medical procedures and practices, which in the long-run, may prove to be harmful in a variety of ways. Whatever happened to the DOC adage: “Where the Bible speaks, we speak. Where the Bible is silent we are silent?” It seems prudent to me at least, that a general policy of silence upon issues of medical science and bio-engineering from folks with Divinity degrees would be more appropriate. For what it’s worth, I have never, nor shall I ever, consult my pastor about anything concerning a medical procedure my doctor recommends for me. Is such advice commonly sought of our clergy?
Karen Barr says
Thank you for this important message to the church. We must be clear in our witness that ALL are beloved children of God.
Robert Southard says
I applaud your faithful witness of the Gospel in our times. The legislation is discriminatory and unholy. God has created gender-fluidity. Look inside yourself to see the masculine and feminine shading (small or dramatic) you feel at any point in your life as well as over the whole of your life to say nothing of those born genetically different than the norm. Open your heart and mind to your neighbor and yourself.
Bob Southard, Retired American Baptist Pastor
Brian Morse says
Thank you for speaking out. Missouri is harassing trans people and their loved ones. Here is just one example.
Brian Morse says
Thank you for this. My state of Missouri is pushing for all kinds of terrible anti-trans legislation. It is distressing. I appreciate this shared it on my Facebook page and on Twitter.
Haven Mankin says
I have been a disciple for 55 years, taught adult Bible study 44 years. I know of no Christian that would be against inclusion of all people as we are all sinners before God. But where is the separation between the person and the sin? Can we include all and still not condone a non-biblical lifestyle? Jesus, showing compassion and sensitivity, tells the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more. We must stand for righteousness while being loving and opening our doors.
Luann Clark says
I didn’t find the statement on bills targeting youth to be extreme. It did focus on the suicide rate of youth in the LGBTQIA2S+ community. That is a life threating medical issue. Focusing on this alone is drawing attention away from the real issue – the mental and physical attacks on this community. This is not a new issue, unfortunately it is now being done in the name of God in worship services across the United States. It is being done out of fear of the unknown by individuals and institutions with a great deal of influence. Focus on accepting those in LGBTQIA2S+ community as individuals deserving of respect and love, just as Jesus would. Then the discussion on the pros and cons of gender-affirming healthcare (which includes mental health), can be held without the shadow of hate currently seen. Not easy to do sometimes but that’s what were supposed to do, right?
Rev. Bruce Baker-Rooks says
As an Ordained Minister and Pastor within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who is gay, I applaud this statement of support for our LGBTQIA2S+ siblings and I am grateful for our brave and courageous leaders who are willing to take a stand, that for many within our denomination and in society at large may seem unnecessary, but is in reality vitally important and life-saving. As states such as Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Missouri, are passing laws greatly restricting gender-affirming care for youth and adults alike, and even more states, such as North Carolina considering such laws, it is imperative that we who accept the Biblical mandate to “love your neighbor as yourself” stand up and speak out in support of Christ’s love and against all forms of bigotry and violence against anyone. Bigotry of any kind = violence, no exceptions. My husband, son, and I are truly grateful for the Spirit-led leadership of our Church. Blessings Abound!