The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors is planning what it calls evangelical Christians’ first-ever conference on transgender issues.
But don’t expect to hear from any transgender voices at the conference.
The association will co-sponsor “Transgender Confusion and Transformational Christianity” with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood on Oct. 5 on the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
All the speakers have agreed to a statement published last year that rejects “that a human being could possess a gender other than the one indicated by biological sex.”
“I think Christians need to be concerned about this because Christian care demands that we be able to help the people all around us who are struggling,” said Heath Lambert, executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and assistant professor of biblical counseling at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We’re in a culture where Christians are the only ones that can teach moral sanity in the midst of the moral craziness we’re in,” he added.
Psychologists generally have not been trained to work with transgender people, who have unique concerns, including stigma, said Clinton Anderson, associate executive director for public interest and director of the American Psychological Association’s office on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender concerns.
That’s why the American Psychological Association last month released its own Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People, he said. And in the last few years, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders also has changed its diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” to “gender dysphoria,” he noted, a move to distance its language from that stigma.
The DSM, published by the American Psychiatric Association, defines gender dysphoria as when a person’s gender at birth is different from the one he or she identifies with.
People have the right to their religious beliefs, said Anderson, who had never heard of the biblical counselors group. But he added that he was concerned that the mix of worldviews between religion and science is one “we don’t feel works very well for people.”
“We want to be very careful to keep what psychology has to say from its knowledge distinct from what religion may have to say from its knowledge,” he said.
The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors had planned its conference last year, Lambert said. But nobody could have predicted what has happened since then. Stars such as Laverne Cox of “Orange Is the New Black” and Caitlyn Jenner have turned the national spotlight on transgender issues, and the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
It’s important that seminary students understand the world they live in, he said. And it’s important for Christians to learn to think about the issues in a way that is “not just informed by Christian thought, but informed by Christian care.”
That’s what he said he thinks is missing from the conversation about transgender issues.
The topic of this year’s Association of Certified Biblical Counselors annual conference is “Homosexuality: Compassion, Care and Counsel for Struggling People,” which the association also called a first of its kind for evangelicals.