October 5, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner’s “Renaming” Ceremony

Transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner found religion last month, or at least vague traces of it. On the E! Network reality show “I Am Cait” Jenner participated in a “re-naming” ceremony in which gathered friends affirmed Jenner’s newly-adopted female identity.

The ceremony, which took place July 23 in Malibu, California, was presided over by Allyson Robinson, a Washington, D.C.-based transgender activist who recently pastored Calvary Baptist Church on an interim basis.

In her homily, Robinson compares transgender persons to the patriarch Jacob in Genesis Chapter 32, whom God re-names Israel:

“Our whole lives can be marked by struggle — the struggle to survive, the struggle to fit in, the struggle to carve out a place for ourselves in a culture that can seem like a foreign land,” Robinson preached. “We stand at the boundary between man and woman, a boundary we’re often told simply cannot be crossed, and we struggle to live out a destiny written on our hearts as surely as a calling from God Almighty.”

“We struggle, and we don’t let go, and we boldly demand of God a blessing,” Robinson charged. “Today, dear one, God says to you, ‘Yes. I will bless you. I have blessed you. I have blessed you with a new path, a new vision, and new purpose. And with it, I offer to you a new name. Bear it well. And whenever you hear it, remember this struggle, and remember your purpose. Remember who you are and who I am. And remember those who struggle still.’”

The service then went on with a receiving and affirming of Jenner’s new name and a brief closing prayer.

Robinson credits Lutheran Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber with authoring the litany for re-naming service, but the text of the two services is different. In re-naming Jenner, Robinson borrows opening and closing prayers as well as the brief “Receiving and Affirming the Name” section.

Bolz-Weber originally developed the renaming rite for a member of her own Denver congregation, Asher O’Callaghan, the first regularly ordained transgender minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

However, unlike Bolz-Weber’s service, all but two references to Christ have been excised from Robinson’s, and all of the references to the Trinity have been removed. While I obviously disagree with the intent of the rite, Bolz-Weber was clearly attempting to draw from traditional liturgies in crafting her own. Robinson’s editing pen did away with most of this. It is worth noting that Bolz-Weber’s litany also gave thanks for O’Callaghan’s old name and life as Mary Christine. In Robinson’s rite, Bruce Jenner is nonexistent.

Religious ceremonies marking gender identity changes have begun appearing in recent years, with the Church of England recently rebuffing requests to “re-baptize” transgender persons with their newly-chosen names. Likely there will be more services appearing in the near future with religious tones seeking or declaring God’s affirmation for gender changes.


10 Responses to Caitlyn Jenner’s “Renaming” Ceremony

  1. Rainbow Rose says:

    Unless you identify at transgender, and are able to discern each person’s religious level, what might be your issue…as I understand pastor/lay relationships they are confidential so I’m just thinking that Rev. Robinson and Ms. Jenner worked the details of this spiritual service…I for one thank them for letting me have a glimpse of something so wonderful…peace and may it be so 😉

  2. Dan says:

    So is this an example of “(re)name it and claim it” theology?

  3. Dan Trabue says:

    If you can believe in “born gay” but not in “born male,” you are seriously out of touch with reality.

  4. Kamilla Ludwig says:

    Can we get one thing straight? Jenner and Robinson are still both “he”. Every natural cell in their body proclaims this fact. Every hormone they take, every surgery they have, every deportment lesson seeks to efface this truth, but they still know the reality proclaimed by every cell in their bodies.

    • Mike Ward says:

      Jenner hasn’t even had gender reassignment surgery. He’s a women because he wears women’s clothing–even though in today’s world there supposedly isn’t any such thing as women’s clothing–and because he took a woman’s name–even though in today’s world there’s supposedly no such thing as a woman’s name–and because he “identifies” as a woman which just means he says that he is a woman.

      That’s all it takes today. Just say you are a woman, and you are a woman. Want to be a man? Say you are a man. You can change you gender, change you race, become disabled, whatever you want with just a word.

      • Carlos IMG says:

        The very day that Jenner announced that he wanted to be called “Caitlyn,” Wikipedia immediately switched his name to “Caitlyn Jenner.” If you go to Wiki and type in “Bruce Jenner,” it will “redirect” you to the article on “Caitlyn Jenner.”

        I agree with you, it’s a bit bizarre since he hasn’t even had the required surgery yet, that we’re still supposed to play along with his attention-seeking masquerade. Makes me wonder if he never has any attention of going through with it.

  5. Robert Swanson says:

    “and we boldly demand of God a Blessing.” I didn’t know we could demand a blessing. Interesting view of our power over God.

    • Mike Ward says:

      But I did appreciate the blunt honesty of it.

    • Mark Whiting says:

      An obvious reference to Genesis 32: 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.

      26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
      But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

      27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
      “Jacob,” he answered.

      28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,t because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

      29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
      But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

      30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *