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Religious Legalism Meets Cross-dressing
The ridicule and rejection of cross-dressers as expressed by mainstream society is so strong that the most consistent advice I have received from others was to never tell anyone! There is an incredible fear that we will lose our wives, our children, our jobs; everything of importance. That fear becomes even more palpable for those who wish to have a personal relationship with God.
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Are We Being True to Our Faiths?
Every four years the United Methodist Church (UMC) has a general conference
where church rules and future plans are established. The UMC has generally been
regarded as a more liberal denomination but, at the 2000 conference, it took
a strongly conservative stand against homosexuals. Since then the more
conservative portion of the church has become highly mobilized and plans on extending
its theology. At the impending conference, changes include beginning to roll
back some of the previous advances for women, minorities, social programs and
homosexuals. They are also seeking to establish narrowly-defined doctrinal
standards that will severely limit tolerance for alternative theological thought.
I believe the direction the UMC is taking is in basic conflict with the
Gospel message. As a follower of Jesus and a member of the UMC, I felt compelled to
encourage others to re-examine their positions and begin dialogs to bring the
entire denomination into alignment with the Gospel message. Instead of my
normal newsletter, I drafted the following message and sent it to nearly 20,000
United Methodist clergy and laity.
While I wrote specifically to the UMC, similar conditions exist throughout
much of Christianity. Recently my wife pointed out a poster that asks the
question, "Who does not want to be treated with love?" The poster contains quotes
from the heart of many world religions: Bahai, Christianity, Islam, Jainism,
Judaism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. Each quote reflects the same message of love
for others. So, in a very real sense, the basic message applies to all of us.
We all should ask ourselves if we are being true to the faith we profess. Are
we acting in concert with God's vision as revealed in our sacred manuscripts?
Only you can answer. In today's world, the question cries out for a positive
Must Stop the Battle of General Conference
and Return to the Gospel Message!
The Battle of General Conference
The hype regarding General Conference 2004 contains all the elements of a
national presidential convention. The conservatives, fresh from a resounding
victory in 2000, are preparing to expand their influence substantially. The
liberals dazed by their prior defeat and still in a state of relative disarray, are
scrambling to mitigate the damage. Issues have been defined, delegates aligned
and voting rights determined in such a way that a conservative victory seems
virtually assured. Within the United Methodist Church, conservatives have
become a formidable political machine intent on adoption of their version of
The key changes will roll back previous advances for women, minorities,
social programs and gays. They will establish doctrinal standards that will
severely limit tolerance for alternative theological thought. These are not fringe or
wedge issues but fundamental changes that will dramatically shift the
character of Methodism.
The Gospel Message
In the Gospels we read about religious leaders who repeatedly tried to trap
Jesus into saying something that would justify condemning Him. They asked Him
what the most important commandment was, and His reply encapsulated the Gospel
message. The first commandment is to love God with our whole heart, soul and
mind. The second is to love all people as we love ourselves. If we do these
things we will find that we are being faithful to the intent of the law. Jesus
didn't create a new code of conduct but reminded people of a long-standing
tradition. The Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus demonstrating that what God
wants is our hearts. He denounced the mere outward appearance of holiness. He
denounced the judging of others. He befriended those who were treated as
outcasts and sinners by self-righteous religious leaders.
The Gospels say that The Father loved us so much that He sent His Son Jesus
to die for our sins. If God judged us, we would all fail miserably because none
of us is worthy of God's love or capable of earning it. But we don't have to
be worthy or earn it because He gave it as a free, unconditional gift. He
loved us first, just as we are. Now He wants us to demonstrate that same love
towards Him and others. He said that His followers were to be known by their love
for each other. If love is to be our identifier, how many of us could be
readily identified as Christians?
What We Must Do
Perhaps the most difficult task in following Jesus is to take personal
control over our faith and belief system. This step is extraordinarily difficult
because we have been taught to rely on our church and ministers for spiritual
guidance. Their authority provides the comfort of apparent certainty that
alleviates our fear of the unknown. That process works fine in ordinary situations,
but when fundamental issues arise that spark serious disagreement and make
certainty an elusive target, we need to be able to think for ourselves. By
thinking logically and clearly about our faith, it becomes our own personal, deeply
ingrained belief system; not just something that someone in spiritual authority
To find the truth in the current situation, you won't be able to simply ask
your bishop or pastor. You will also need to talk to others who will provide
you with differing points of view. You will need to uncover the real issues and
understand the underlying assumptions. Extensive dialog is essential to
understanding the truth. If someone tells you that you are wrong to question what
they say, then you are listening to a very dangerous person. People whose ideas
can't stand the light of reason are not seeking the truth.
In solidifying our faith and belief system, we need to go beyond just reading
the Gospels and allow the contents of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to
permeate our very beings and direct our actions. The concept of Open Minds, Open
Hearts, Open Doors provides a wonderful frame of reference. The time-tested
Quadrilateral provides an outstanding tool kit. Following Jesus is a simple concept
but not an easy task. Yet, attempting to follow Him is ultimately what makes
Because of our presumed Godly focus, the church is supposed to be
fundamentally different from worldly focused organizations. If that is so, why do we act
so much like other organizations? We are supposed to act like Jesus, yet the
conservative agenda and the tactics being used in an attempt to win the battle
of General Conference are decidedly foreign to what He said and did. If we are
truly followers of Christ, we must ensure that our goals are consistent with
the Gospel message. We must cease using political tactics to achieve our
goals. We must confront this situation boldly if the United Methodist Church is to
remain a relevant component of God's Gospel plan.
Stop the Battle of General Conference
And Return to the Gospel Message!
Miller is a heterosexual, male cross-dresser
and author of the community best seller, The Bliss of Becoming One! Since
1996 Rachel has been
a voluminous contributor to the transgender press regarding spiritual and
social issues that affect everyone who is discriminated against, especially
gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or questioning. With his wife Marsha
they demonstrate that gender variances can be integrated into every day lives.
Rachel publishes Email newsletters with a circulation in excess of 6,000.
Copies can be found at:
has also assembled an
extensive list of spiritual and social resources that
support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
Copyright © 2004 by the author
All Rights Reserved
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