Gender and Theology

Hello Everyone.

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.










Until we split again?

The Christian Church lasted 1054 years before Rome and Constantinople send excommunication letters to each other – the first major split.  1054 years.

The next official split in the Western Church is often pinned to January 1521, when Martin Luther received his own excommunication letter.  This combined with other departures from the Roman Church, including the Lutherans, the Anabaptists, the Reformed, and the Church of England.

Today in Scotland there at least 7 denominations in the Church of Scotland.  In South Korea, over 100 Presbyterian denominations.

So like it or not, the Presbyterian Church in Canada comes from a long tradition of church splitting.  In fact, we’re experts in the field.  In business since at 1521.  (And no, don’t use that slogan on your church signs.)

And I see another one coming for the Presbyterian Church in Canada.   So here are my points:

  1.  Is it time for this 500 year flurry of splitting to be over?  Have the Reformation, and the associated Christian movements, done their thing and can we attach ourselves to something a little larger than an identity of breaking into pieces over nationality, worship practices, differences in theology?
  2. In the PCC right now, we have the PSALT movement and the Presbyterians for LGBTQ movement.  Must this lead to groups of churches leaving the PCC?  (It it has in the PCUSA.)
  3. Is the grace of Jesus Christ big enough for the PCC to remain together or not?  I  mean, how large is the span of the cross and how deep was that tomb?
  4. Can we in the PCC live with some ambiguity or must everything be certain for everyone all the time?  The early churches for the first 1054 years lived with a huge amount of ambiguity – with at least 10 major schools of practice and thought, including Nestorianism.  1054 years before a split.  What are we at in the PCC on same sex marriage and ordination now, 30 years?
  5. And what will a split in the PCC on this topic achieve?   Justice?  Right theology?  Until the we split again?
  6. I would like to the PCC not split over this debate.  Not have churches leave.  I would like to see the PCC to find the risen Jesus in his transformative power enough for us to stay together.
  7. And so, I would like this in the PCC to become a local decision for each congregation.  With ordinations done by the General Assembly, each year?  And then each church calling Ministers accordingly.  Or some similar working out.
  8. And I would like the PCC to put its mind on helping the poor and worshipping God in creative and strong ways that transform people.

I mean, remember, we can always split.  That’s easy.  And we are good at it.  But I really think that time is over, and the PCC needs to think about who we might join or which new churches we might plant.