Sunday, July 10, 2022

My Objection to Alliance Canada's 2022 Moratorium on Licensing Transgender Persons for Ministry

I left Alliance Canada's 2022 General Assembly buzzing with hope for our church family, largely because of the reports from our interim President about churches doing very good work in their communities, and because of a number of new voices, relationships, and promising conversations. 

And yet I also left deeply saddened by our Board's moratorium on licensing transgender persons (seen to the right), which was instituted without anything more than a 3 minute objection. I pray its harm can be mitigated at local levels, but am feeling a heavy burden on the conscience. 

Below is my objection to the denomination's moratorium on licensing trans persons for ministry. It's exactly as read from the floor. Despite how some have characterized it, it's not a position statement but is an outline of problems and questions that need consideration. 


1. The reference to an “historic and consistent pattern of the denomination” is unclear and thus debatable because both egalitarianism and complementarianism represent a shift from ancient and pre-1960s patriarchal views of the relationship of sex and gender, as is most explicit in the Guideline which says the “old hierarchies” are replaced “with new freedom (Galatians 3:28)”. This is not to suggest that these positions on gender roles decide the transgender question for us, but is to argue that the words “consistent pattern” are debatable and unclear enough to not provide precedent for a moratorium.
Since this pattern is debatable, it is unbefitting for a report that calls for further study to identify one posture as “unwise”. Such language inadvertently prejudices the discussion in favour of a tradition that has not yet been sufficiently defined or discussed. It is not clear why this should be the posture of a Protestant denomination that does not afford authority to Tradition as a matter of default. This is not to suggest we grant authority to every trend, but is to suggest that if the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom then a formal judgment should be postponed until we have sufficiently sought the Lord on it together.
I am not standing here to take a position on the matter, but to ask the Assembly to consider whether this moratorium puts us in a situation where, if the Ethiopian Eunuch sought to lead a church in the Alliance, he would be turned away. It is still a matter of debate how eunuchs inform this conversation, but please note that Acts 8 does not specify whether he was “born that way,” or had been “made” that way “by others,” or chose it “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” – which are the three kinds of eunuchs Jesus accepts in Matthew 19:11-12. What does it mean when Isaiah 56:4-5 says “eunuchs who keep [the LORD’s] Sabbaths” would be given “a name better than sons and daughters”? Did reading Isaiah lead the Eunuch to ask “What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” Would we?
2. Lastly, and as briefly as possible, the “moratorium” is inadequately defined on 3 points:
a) It is unclear whether this applies only to new candidates for licensing or leadership or whether it might be applied to renewals of licensing as well. Rather than prevent retroactive un-licensings, it seems this moratorium could already cause them.
b) It is unclear how we are defining “transgender persons”. Could it be applied to those who are merely perceived as such, or whose biological designation is “intersex”?
c) It is unclear when “a decision of Assembly” is expected, this moratorium could be indefinite and effectively binding – thus making it policy de facto.


Epilogue and explainer (added in 2023): I have yet to hear of any response to this objection, despite twice sending it to the Board for comment. A year before Assembly I was drafted onto the committee the previous President had assembled to decide how to proceed with this issue. To serve on that committee I had to sign a confidentiality agreement. In the end I formally dissented from the decision it made to recommend the above-mentioned moratorium. The Board did not ask to hear about it. At Assembly, once it became clear that the Board was also not bringing the moratorium before the membership, I felt it was my responsibility to ask if I could give what Robert's Rules calls a "minority report". The Rules committee instructed me I had to ask for "Chair's privilege" to give a three minute comment on something not on the agenda. I did so, as per the above.

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