A Missouri pastor’s Bible-based sermon on transgenderism has sparked vocal opposition from the local LGBT community and several local businesses to cut ties with the church.
The Oct. 13 sermon by Keith Simon of The Crossing Church in Columbia, Mo., was based on Genesis 1:27 and examined what the Bible says about gender. It also critiqued the current cultural debate over transgenderism.
“It all comes down to, ‘Is Jesus my authority or is culture my authority?’” Simon said.
The Bible, he told the congregation, is clear on the issue: There are only two genders, male and female.
“Genesis 1:27 teaches that God created two genders,” Simon said. “... Gender is not a social construct. Men and women are foundational to God’s plan. God is not pleased when we blur genders.”
But Simon also said Christians must approach the issue with compassion for others because everyone – believers and transgender people alike – is broken.
“Maybe that should be our reaction to anybody – compassion,” he said. “Maybe we don't have to have anything to say right away. Maybe we can just listen and learn and empathize.”
Further, Simon said, Christians should use the name a transgender person wants to be called.
“It’s just kindness – love your neighbor,” he said.
Simon’s sermon prompted a Change.org petition urging the True/False Film Festival and Ragtag Cinema – both of which are sponsored by the church – to cut their ties with the congregation. The church began the sponsorships a decade ago as a way to partner with the community.
“It's hate speech, and it's harmful,” the petition said of the sermon. The petition pledged a boycott of the festival and cinema until they severed their partnerships.
Last Friday, the True/False Film Festival and Ragtag Cinema both cut their ties with the church. Earlier in the week, Sager Braudis Gallery also ended its relationship. The church had sponsored an exhibit at the art gallery, according to the Columbia Missourian.
“We have always known that there are many places where the values of The Crossing and our organization diverge, but a recent sermon has crystallized an unbridgeable difference between us,” wrote the Ragtag Film Society, which holds the festival. “The message, premised on the idea that trans and gender-nonconforming people are broken, has caused tremendous pain in our community. We do not believe that expression of authentic gender and sexual identities makes any person broken; it makes them whole and contributes to the richness of our community and lived experience.”
The film society further said it “will not give a sponsor’s place of prominence to any organization that discriminates or explicitly devalues LGBTQ+ citizens.”
The church, on its website, listed a series of frequently asked questions, with answers, about the sermon. The term “broken,” the website said, applies to everyone.
“In Christian circles, ‘broken’ is a broad term for how society is not the way it’s supposed to be, and how our individual lives are not the way they’re supposed to be,” the church said. “Sometimes ‘brokenness’ refers to sinful desires or sinful actions. More often, however, it refers to the ways our hearts, minds, and social experiences are not whole. We believe that all people, without exception, are broken. In our view, no one’s mind, body, sexuality, volition, or social lives are whole. … Yet, we believe that Jesus said he came to rescue those who know that they are not whole, that they are broken and in need of his love. This is our heart behind using the term ‘broken.’”
The church intentionally partners with “those who do not share our worldview, because we appreciate what they bring to our community,” the church’s website said.
The sermon, Simon wrote in a newspaper column, was intended to help Christians be more compassionate to transgender individuals.
“The irony is that we weren’t trying to throw down the cultural gauntlet, but trying to help Christians in our community grow more compassionate,” he wrote. “Many people have shared how this sermon helped them to grow in their compassion toward trans people.”
The Crossing Church isn’t a congregation “that’s against people,” he added. Instead, it’s “a church that’s for Jesus.”
“And Jesus believed gender is deeper than a social construct,” Simon wrote. “Gender is rooted in God’s design, and our lives work best when we live in line with that design. We don’t believe Jesus was motivated by hate, but by a desire to make all people whole.”
The church is the same one that made national headlines in September by helping low-income Missourians cancel $43 million in medical debt.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Nito100
Video courtesy: The Crossing
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.