The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
“It doesn’t matter if we are male or female, cis or transgender”, Jo Inkpin says. The case faces Anglicans with a new doctrinal debate about sexual ethics.
An Anglican priest and history professor in Australia has publicly announced that she now fully identifies as a woman.
Jo Inkpin (formerly Jonathan), a lecturer in history at St Francis College (Southern Queensland) is married to another priest, Rev Penny Jones, rector of a parish near Brisbane.
Inkpin started a medical gender transition in her 50s and changed her name from Jonathan to Josephine. For a long time she had felt “trapped in a false costume, encased in something that doesn’t fit my spirit”.
In a published statement on July 2017, the Inkpin announced: “Today I am coming out fully as a transgender person. It has been a lifelong journey to this point and I am sure there are more struggles to come of a different nature. Tonight however I feel the deepest sense of joy and freedom - like that of Paul in his letter to the Galatians - and I know that I now stand more clearly in the imperishable image of God in which I am created”.
According to an in-depth report published on ABC Australia, Inkpin “now wants the church to focus on hearing and healing transgender people living with shame, depression, anger, self-hate and suicidal thoughts”.
The transgender priest told the Australian television broadcaster: “I think that was a space where sometimes you can exist in a way between sexes - in previous centuries they called it the third sex. And I could mix with women and be more feminine and express myself in different ways”.
‘MARRIAGE IS NOT ABOUT GENDER’
Penny Jones, Jo’s wife, was one of the first female priests of the Anglican Church. She had to go through a “period of mourning”, Inkpin explained.
— Jo Inkpin (@blessedimp) 22 de septiembre de 2017
But Inkpin told ABC she believes “we are a pretty good example of a really good marriage”.
The transgender priest adds: “It doesn’t matter if we are male or female, cis or transgender – that’s not the point of marriage. The point of it is not a construction of individuals but the quality of the relationships that are in it”.
Inkpin will now work to promote a non-binary vision of marriage, something the couple define as a“new creation”.
THE DEBATE IN AUSTRALIA
Although an internal controversy was opened with the same-sex law recently approved in Australia, the Anglican Church in the conutry still has a clear position about transgenderism.
The Sydney Diocesan Social Issues Committee said in a report presented on November 2017 that people are bron male or female: “Attempts to undergo gender transition are opposed to Christian teaching”, and, “biological sex is an objective biological fact which cannot be altered at will”.
While maintining the traditional Christian biblical definition of gender, the report also called to show compassion towards people experiencing “gender-identity” issues.
A SEXUAL ETHICS DEBATE IN EUROPE AND ELSEWHERE
The case of Jo Inkpin is just another example of the “Transgender tsunami” that many Protestant churches are experiencing - as Australian theologians Rob Smith and Claire Smith have analysed in an in-depth article.
In Europe, the debate about the new sexual ethics and its collision with Christian doctrine has led to important theological debates in countries like France, Finland, Belgium, the UK and Spain.
The European Evangelical Alliance summarised its position in fifteen ideas, in the document “A Good News approach to Gender Issues”.
The CEO of the global evangelical missional movement Lausanne, Michael Oh, defended in 2015 the need of “facilitating more open conversation about sexuality in our churches, declaring positively the good news of God’s plan for healthy relationships and family, (…) teach God’s standards clearly, but to do so with Christ’s pastoral compassion, recognising how vulnerable we all are to sexual temptation and sin” and “strive to set a positive example in living by biblical standards of sexual faithfulness”.