Well I am at present drawn into the very detailed and deep discussion at the University of Toronto on gender identity and expression.
The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s approach to this topic since 1994, has studied and agreed on some things, and study continues. (Here is a list, by the way, of all the official documents on the topic published by the PCC and the recent multi-speaker forum.)
In any case, the uproar at U of T, with Professor Jordan B Peterson, is such a fascinating window into ways a church like the PCC and others may be working through the theology and practice of gender identity, expression and practice.
1 For one thing, I am amazed at how scared he admits he is to even bring up his point of view, in his lecture “Fear and the Law”.
2 Another thing, is that he understands it to be an infringement on the Ontario Human Rights Code to not refer to someone by a their chosen name or gender specific pronoun when asked. He then deduces that it is essentially illegal not to do so.
What this opens up for me is that in the Presbyterian Church in Canada, I find little to no common space where topics of gender and identity and theology can be discussed openly or freely.
Our church has been impacted by the huge ‘it must be this way’ approach that Peterson identifies in this lecture and others. So, to even say, that we are as a church, are interested in a corporate wisdom that comes through conversation and discussion becomes a real stretch. When I listen to debates at General Assembly I never get the sense that one person is open to being convinced by another person’s opposing view (isn’t that true dialogue?)
As soon as one raises their hand in question or support of an area on gender, for example, decided by or to be revised by the church, the tidal wave of ‘you can’t or shouldn’t say that’ begins. (Lights in the darkness include a minister who openly shared that he was a gay man at a recent General Assembly, as well as the multi-speaker forum referred to above, where people really were so open and honest in their arguments and it seem people really listened.)
But the overall sense that I get in the PCC is to not talk about it. And this is bad. It is better to talk, and for everyone to feel very safe and free to talk about gender and theology. Anecdotal following of FaceBook conversations among PCC colleagues makes it pretty clear pretty fast that our own unofficial version of what Professor Peterson examines above, is alive and very well.
And I don’t see a way forward unless, by the grace of God, this changes.