A vain desire to eliminate all distinctions among genders and their various homosexual and heterosexual acts featured prominently at pro-homosexual events during the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) 2013 Churchwide Assembly. The revisionist worship at which ELCA’s first openly homosexual bishop, Guy Erwin, gave the sermon, previously examined by me at Juicy Ecumenism, was merely the climax in a series of events hosted at the assembly by the Lutheran pro-homosexual group ReconcilingWorks. While the group’s website hailed that the assembly events including Erwin’s presence would “make history,” objective observation of ReconcilingWorks’ presence at the assembly in Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center reveals a deeply disturbing agenda.
An introduction to ReconcilingWorks came at the “Understanding Transgender People” presentation on August 13, 2013, as listed in the group’s assembly brochure available online. Two gay staff members of ReconcilingWorks, Tim Feiertag and Ben Masters, began the event by announcing that “gender-neutral bathrooms” would be available for its duration. This would avoid the problems described in the brochure of the transgendered “Mary Ann” Horton who faced complaints at work from women coworkers for using the female lavatory. These presenters, though, set limits to the amount of understanding they would offer, with Masters saying people should “practice hospitable curiosity” and avoid “probing questions” like “what do you do in the bedroom.” Rather, the internet could answer such “lurid” questions.
Masters discussed a “gender binary system” in which people are either male or female, with corresponding sexual attractions for the opposite gender. This is an “assumption that most of us grew up with.” After all, upon a baby’s birth the first question asked has been traditionally, “Is it a boy or girl?” suggesting that a person does not exist until the gender is known.
A diagram concerning “Sex, Gender, and Sexual Orientation” handed out at the presentation, though, presented a much more complicated picture. Between the “Biological Sex” categories of “Female” and “Male” on opposite points of a line appeared “Intersex” in the middle. Masters casually cited intersex as a perfectly normal position between male and female, noting that some people “reject these categories completely.” Yet intersex refers to what the American Psychological Association (APA) describes as various “abnormalities” causing “atypical development of physical sex characteristics.” The APA, however, reports that corrective surgery can cure these sometimes life-threatening abnormalities appearing in as many as 1 in 1,500 babies, with most intersex persons growing up to be “happy with their assigned sex” and heterosexual.
Below “Biological Sex” appeared a line concerning “Gender Identity,” with “Genderqueer” occupying the position between “Woman” and “Man.” Thereby Masters and Feiertag argued that a person could have a gender identity not corresponding to their biological sex and hence be “transgendered.” Such transgenderism entailed that a person could choose the gender pronouns they preferred, with Feiertag and Masters dutifully informing the audience during their introductions that they favored the pronouns “he, his, and him.” The line below Gender Identity further showed that individuals could have a “Gender Expression” along a continuum of “Feminine—Androgynous—Masculine.”
Masters noted, however, that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association “still implies that you have a problem” being transgendered. Indeed, the DSM has historically spoken of Gender Identity Disorder (GID), a term changed in 2013 to Gender Dysphoria. Similarly, Frank Schubert, National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) national political director, rightfully notes that this “latest craze from the left concerning something they call ‘gender identity’” is just as “ridiculous” as someone claiming an ethnicity not biologically theirs. Concerning this obvious question as to how a person of one sex could spontaneously identify with another sex, Feiertag and Masters never offered any analysis.
Logical objections aside, Masters described transgendered individuals as “people who have witnessed to the Spirit’s movement for wholeness.” Masters himself felt that “for most of my life man has worked for me” but recently “less and less.” He and his male “sweetheart” once concluded that they felt “mannish.” Masters said, however, that he “tends to perform more normative when I am trying to get a job.” Masters might well do this, given that he described a “withering stare” as one of the oppressions faced by transgendered individuals.
Yet Masters concluded that “in welcoming transgendered individuals, we welcome the entirety of ourselves.” “This is not just something that we do for the gays,” but rather “something important for all of us,” something that “enlivens us.” Individuals whose sex corresponded with their gender identity, meanwhile, should not erroneously conclude that “we don’t have gender identity.” Using the Latin prefix for “next to” or cis, in contrast, such individuals should identify themselves as cisgendered.
The last line on the graph was “Sexual Orientation,” with the terms “Bisexual,” “Pansexual,” and “Queer” in between “Attracted to Male” and “Attracted to Female.” Masters explained that some people preferred pansexual to bisexual because the latter suggested that there are only two genders. Others preferred here the term queer, although this had “negative baggage.”
Masters cited in this context the six-point spectrum bell curve of sexual attraction devised by controversial sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (for an extensive expose, see here) in the 1940s and 1950s. As Robert Knight of Concerned Women for America (CWA) once analyzed, Kinsey created this scale before doing any research in which heterosexuality was “0” and homosexuality was “6”, with bisexuality as “3” in between. Kinsey concluded that 4% of the population were each exclusively heterosexual and homosexual while the other 92% was bisexual. In contrast to Kinsey’s often unethical, shoddy, and biased research, however, homosexual groups in the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision admitted that homosexual and bisexual individuals comprised less than 3% of the population. Nonetheless, Masters concluded that “sex and gender are infinite points along a continuum.”
Following the transgender discussion appeared a panel on “Marriage in the ELCA.” Participants included Erwin, Phil Soucy, the ReconcilingWorks board member later interviewed by me along with Erwin, and Soucy’s gay partner, a Lutheran pastor. Corresponding to the previous panel’s dismissal of fixed genders and their significance, one author on the panel described the “notion of complementarity” between male and female as the “number one theory” against same-sex “marriage” (SSM), something that is “so damaging.” Yet the author expressed hope that “marriage is changing, big time” and “we are going to grow up.”
Another panelist saw a similar “radical redefinition of marriage” in the Old Testament’s marriage of Ruth the Moabite to the Jew Boaz. This Gentile-Jewish human ancestry of Jesus “actually makes possible the redemption of Israel.” How an interethnic marriage justifies a truly “radical redefinition of marriage” along gender lines the panelist did not explain.
ReconcilingWorks’ assembly brochure continued with this radical redefinition, featuring, for example, “gender-neutral wedding liturgy.” Lutheran pastor Brad Froslee also wrote in the brochure about his “marriage” with Bill O’Connor and “their son, Torin.” While traveling through Canada the couple had an unexplained “little joke with the passport agent about how we decided on our little guy’s last name.” Froslee’s not so funny comments about a son’s family name paralleled the nonsensical comments of a lesbian at the marriage panel who hoped to be “able to have children” with her lesbian partner. Yet the brochure cited Martin Luther himself describing “Christian life as taking place in three ‘orders’ or arenas of activity: the household, the state, and the church. Each has been established by God for the common good.” Such divine establishment apparently did not preclude human revision.
Jarringly incongruent with ReconcilingWorks was the distinctly gendered Lutheran Men in Mission (LMM) lay group with its room just down the escalator from ReconcilingWorks’ gender rejectionists. Paradigmatic for LMM’s comparatively retro outlook were the Man Talk Playing Cards decks offered for free to assembly visitors. These conversation starter cards designed to open up Lutheran men to discussions of life and faith contained testosterone-laden questions like “Which do you like better: NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL?” and “Are you a NASCAR fan?” Interspersed with questions like “What’s the biggest gun you have ever shot?” were theological queries such as “What characteristic do you most associate with Jesus?” No “mannishness” here.
The cards contained various sexual questions, not necessarily specific to marriage, implicitly presuppose heterosexual readers. “What part of the woman’s body most turns you on?” was one question, for example. Questions such as “How would you describe your first sexual experience?”, “Have you ever looked at internet porn?”, and “True or false: Size makes a difference when it comes to sex,” meanwhile, could provoke awkward moments in mixed heterosexual-homosexual groups. Talk about “lurid.” In this context, the question “Agree or disagree: Men give love to get sex; women give sex to get love?” could only prompt thoughts about whether homosexual men “love to get sex” with each other, thus producing rampant promiscuity. Additionally, the reference to Ephesians 5:22-24 in “True or false: Men should be the heads of their households?” makes no sense among two homosexual “husbands.”
LMM’s man (or boy) talk appears quaint alongside ReconcilingWorks, like something from the 1950s or 1980s juxtaposed against the sexual revolution’s terminal state in the 21st century. ReconciliingWorks’ radicals will have little use for LMM as they seek to deconstruct all traditional gender and sexual norms. Traditionalist supporters of LMM will similarly not care for ReconcilingWorks, something that can only hasten ELCA’s already noted ongoing membership decline. Yet nothing will stop ReconcilingWorks’ drive to reduce individuals to collections of indistinct parts having no particular relationship to parenthood but capable of seeking sexual pleasure in all manner of ways. Perusal of the group’s website shows that ReconcilingWorks presence at the 2013 Churchwide Assembly was merely the proverbial tip of the iceberg.