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  • Timothy Cockes

ERLC releases practical guide for addressing gender confusion

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has released a practical resource to help churches navigate difficult questions and scenarios surrounding the topic of gender confusion.

The resource, released Monday (Feb. 26), is titled “God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion.”

The guide contains a theological framework addressing the topic of gender from a biblical worldview and offers answers to practical scenarios that churches or pastors may face or have faced regarding the topic. The guide also contains links to additional resources on the topic of gender confusion from a variety of Christian sources.

In the guide’s foreword, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood spoke about the need to address the topic in the church today.

“The rate of teenagers who identify as transgender has doubled in the United States according to one estimate,” Leatherwood wrote.

“Nearly one-third of Generation Z (the youngest generation for which we have statistics) identify on the LGBT spectrum. It may have (arguably) taken longer for the sexual revolution to reach our churches, but the time is long gone when we could assume it would pass us by completely.”

Alex Ward, ERLC research associate and project manager for the ERLC’s research initiatives, said the guide is meant to point to God’s good design for gender and sexuality.

“Churches are grappling with contemporary gender challenges, navigating questions and scenarios inconceivable just years ago,” Ward said.

“‘God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion’ is a resource for addressing these issues, offering a theological framework for fidelity to scripture on sexuality, masculinity and femininity. Developed with input from theologians, ethicists, policy experts and ministry leaders, it provides guidance to practical scenarios derived from real church experiences. While not exhaustive, it serves as a guide for churches navigating their unique contexts amid cultural shifts.

“The theological framework created by these experts also can help orient ministries as they create policies and procedures for how to respond in the future. In a time of many perspectives that err away from God’s desires, the ERLC aims to provide a hopeful message that adhering to God’s design for our bodies and sexuality is ultimately for our good.”

To create the guide, the ERLC gathered a team of subject matter experts in theology, ethics, public policy and law, as well as a group of pastors and ministry leaders. The team worked together to create a framework for the topic of gender based upon Scripture and theological categories found in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

The group then uses the theological framework to address 20 different practical scenarios and questions related to the topic of gender that could take place in a local church.

The points of the guide’s theological framework are:

  • God created humanity

  • God intentionally created humanity with physical bodies

  • God’s good design for bodies is sexed: male and female

  • God created men and women to complement one another

  • The Fall affects how we see our body and sexuality

  • God meets the refugees of transgender ideology

  • The Church compassionately proclaims God’s design for gender and the body.  

Some practical scenarios addressed in the guide include:

  • If you had a transgender woman (biological male) come to your church on a Sunday and it was obvious that this person was really a male, how would your average churchgoer respond? How should church members be coached to prepare them for this?

  • If your children’s ministry had a child (age 7) visit who wished to be called a different name than the one they were given at birth (and dressed in accord with their preferred gender identity), and the parent also desired this, how would your children’s ministry respond to the child and parent? Would the request be followed? Why or why not? What is said to the child? What is said to the parent?

  • A couple in your church has an adult son, age 25, who is going through a gender transition. They are heartbroken but practicing “tough love” with the child and have cut off all contact. How would you counsel them?

  • Imagine you had an unrepentant transgender individual wish to be baptized. How would the church’s leadership respond?

  • A teen in your church has confided in a youth minister that they are experiencing bouts of gender dysphoria. What action plan is in place to help this teenager?

Leatherwood closed out the guide’s forward by offering a word of encouragements to Southern Baptists ministering in the midst of the society’s confusion surrounding gender.

“It is our hope that this theological framework and the practical scenarios will start (or continue) the conversation in your churches about how to serve those broken by the sexual revolution with the hope of the Gospel,” Leatherwood said.

The full guide can be found here.



Timothy Cockes is a writer in Nashville.



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