Gender Identity

Fully Human Jesus

By Rev. Mindi

On Palm Sunday, I went to the last show of a six-week musical run at our local little theater.  I went to the last show of Jesus Christ Superstar.   I really wish I hadn’t gone to the last show only so that I could urge others to go see this fantastic production, but the last show was incredible. Amazing. The band rocked, the voices were incredible, and many numbers received applause afterwards or reverent silence.

Did I mention that it was an all-female cast?

I have seen passion plays and other productions of Jesus Christ Superstar that were good, but this is the only production that has ever left me with tears in my eyes, unable to speak.

Just as in Shakespearean days with the actors being all men playing both parts, so in this production, the actors were all female and played all roles. They didn’t change the words of the songs. They still referred to each other as “he,” referred to Jesus and Judas as that “man,” but they told this old story in a new way, even new from the original production.

As I watched this Jesus, beaten, stripped, covered with blood, raised up on a cross writhing in pain and crying out, I saw Jesus. Maybe at first it was the just-below-shoulder-length brown hair, the way this Jesus looked at others, or the crown of thorns, but for a moment, I forgot that this Jesus was a woman.  At first I thought this was powerful: an image of Jesus that transcended (trans-cended) gender.  But then, as this Jesus became a victim of violence, I saw

the woman who was raped in Steubenville

Malala Yousufzai, shot by the Taliban in Pakistan

Mollie Olgin, killed and her partner Mary Chapa injured last summer in Texas

and countless others, named and nameless women raped, injured and killed every day in our culture of violence, specifically the culture of violence against women. 

This Jesus was no longer gender-less, but fully human, male and female.

The suffering of this Jesus was raw, emotional, and right in front of us. Not a story we could skip the page, not a name we could forget, not a newscast we could pass over.  This was Jesus, in front of us, bearing the wounds and scars that go forgotten by so many.  This Jesus that first impressed me by being portrayed in line with traditional renditions, then surprised me by seeming to go beyond gender, lastly brought me to tears because this Jesus was a woman.

This Jesus showed the horror of violence, but specifically because Jesus was being played by a woman, and the actress was phenomenal in her keeping to the role as traditionally played while showing her genuine, raw emotion—no one could ignore the fact that this production seriously calls into question our glorification of violence in our culture, and specifically, our culture that encourages violence against women. 

As we near the Cross of Good Friday, and the empty tomb of Sunday, I know I will visualize the story differently, and I hope as a pastor, I will tell the story differently. No more will I see the women on the sideline until the resurrection.  No more will I only see a crucified man up on the cross. I see Jesus, beyond and inclusive of gender, taking up the fullness of humanity in life and in death, overcoming our violence that leads to destruction and death in the resurrection.  In Jesus, I have hope that we will end our violence, both the spoken and unspoken, both violence against men and women, young and old, violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—violence against all people. Jesus came in the fullness of human life. All too often, we tell the story of Jesus as God becoming a man, instead of the Word becoming Flesh, God entering our humanity. We must tell the full story of Jesus, and to do so, we must acknowledge the fullness of humanity that has suffered, the same suffering that Jesus went through, in Jesus’ death on the cross.

Calling the People of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to Be a People of Grace and Welcome to All

What follows is the latest copy of the resolution that has been submitted for consideration at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Orlando, July 13-17.  It is a resolution Calling the People of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ to be a People of Grace and Welcome to all . . . regardless  of "race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, or physical or mental ability."  This iteration of the resolution has undergone a number of revisions.

Since there continues to be much speculation about what such a resolution might look like, we thought it might be helpful to release the resolution that has already been submitted for consideration by the General Board, with the understanding that because of the process such a resolution must go through, it is fairly certain that some revisions will be made to the content.   However, this is the text of the document submitted by the congregations listed below.

Additionally, here is a link to a Description of the Need for a Resolution, along with some FAQs.  

~ (Derek Penwell)

WHEREAS, we, the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), understand ourselves to be a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, called to welcome others even as we have been welcomed by God [1] and to practice hospitality to one another,[2] as well as to strangers;[3]

WHEREAS, Holy Scripture affirms that all people are created in the image of God and share with all others in the worth that comes from being unique individuals,[4] which has been reiterated at past General Assemblies (2001, 2005, 2011);

WHEREAS, we affirm that as Christians we are many members, but are one body in Christ.  We are members of one another, each with different gifts.[5] We affirm that each of us is called by Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves,[6] and that we are called to the ministry of reconciliation and wholeness within the world and within the church itself;    WHEREAS, Disciples affirm baptism as the primary call to ministry, and offer baptism to all who profess their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior;

WHEREAS, Disciples profess that the nature of Christian discipleship is profoundly informed by a common table, which is central to the act of worship. This emphasis on communion calls attention to the radical nature of the hospitality extended by Jesus, who welcomes all to be received at the Lord’s table of grace. In centering our worship on the Lord’s table, Disciples  recall that our very birth as a movement came at Cane Ridge in reaction to limitations being placed on this welcome;

WHEREAS, Disciples emerged as a movement centered on a call to Christian unity as our “polar star.”  We recognize that cutting off anyone who seeks the hospitality of the Lord’s table is an act of disunity;

WHEREAS, Disciples have been engaged in a process of discernment on the question of the participation of all Christians regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the life and ministry of the church since 1997 with mixed results; WHEREAS, we know there are people who are devalued and discriminated against within society, and more sadly within the church, because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity;

WHEREAS it is also recognized that we find our identity around the table, holding each other dear even when we disagree; and that the church from its beginning has understood that God’s Spirit leads congregations to differing interpretations of scripture, but that each are called to transcend our difference and to claim one another in unity;

AND WHEREAS, it is understood that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) operates with a congregational polity whereby local congregations have final say in matters of conscience;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly calls upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)  to recognize itself  as a people of grace and welcome to all God’s children–inclusive of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, or physical ability;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Assembly calls upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to affirm the faith, baptism and spiritual gifts of all Christians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that neither are grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church, but are a part of God’s good creation;

FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly calls upon all expressions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), as a people of grace and welcome, to acknowledge their support for the welcome of and hospitality to all Christians, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or cognitive ability.

[1] Mark 12:31 [Statement of Identity of the CC (DOC), Disciples.org]

[2] 1 Timothy 5:10; 1 Peter 4:9

[3] Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2

[4] Genesis 1:26–7

[5] 2 Corinthians 5:18–20

[6] Matthew 7:12

Douglass Boulevard Christian Church (Louisville, KY)

Midway Hills Christian Church (Dallas, TX)

Chalice Christian Church (Gilbert, AZ)

Fireside Christian Church (Denver, CO)

Little White Chapel (Burbank, CA)

First Christian Church (Eugene, OR)

Tapestry Ministries (Berkeley, CA)

St. Andrew Christian Church (Olathe, KS)

Lafayette Christian Church (Lafayette, CA)

First Christian Church (Concord, CA)

University Christian Church (San Diego, CA)

First Christian Church (Vallejo, CA)

New Covenant Community Church (Normal, IL)

First Christian Church (Lynchburg, VA)

Central Christian Church (Indianapolis, IN)

First Christian Church (Orange, CA)

Open Hearts Gathering (Gastonia, NC)

Bethany Christian Church (Tulsa, OK)

Pine Valley Christian Church (Wichita, KS)

Foothills Christian Church (Phoenix, AZ)

GLAD-Pacific Southwest Region (Irvine, CA)

GLAD Alliance