At the General Assembly 2018 a task force was commissioned to prepare a statement on gender and sexuality for the denomination. This most recent General Assembly saw that document adopted. May it be a blessing to the denomination and people.
A Statement on Gender and Sexuality
This statement has been written as an attempt to provide a harmonisation of love and truth in our context regarding gender and sexuality so that our people may have some pastoral guidance in dealing with these issues.
Christians at the dawn of the twenty-first century find themselves living in a period of historic transition. Our society has become increasingly post-Christian and has begun to reinterpret what it means to be human. By and large the society we live in does not discern God’s design for human life nor delights in the beauty of being image-bearers of God.
Our societies’ unbelieving worldview denies God created human beings for his glory and denies that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female. Therefore, the Church once more must strive to declare to the world, “that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his.” (Ps. 100:3)
This unbiblical worldview contends that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preference. At its root, this view believes that the pathway to satisfaction is found in the ‘self’ and not in God. In contradistinction, Grace Presbyterian Church of New Zealand (GPCNZ) declares that the only pathway to true joy and satisfaction in this life and the next is by understanding God’s good design for his creatures and seeking a personal relationship with the Creator.
A humble loving attempt at a scriptural response
As we (GPCNZ) speak truth into this situation we acknowledge that we must do so with love. We must have hearts full of compassion and empathy as we dialogue together on the issues of sexuality, gender, and the humanness that is common to us all. We commit ourselves as a denomination to hold together in our speech both truth and love, in glad submission to the Word of God and in humble reliance upon the Holy Spirit.
The Scriptures declare that God created Adam and Eve. That they were the first human beings, and that God created them in his own image. Therefore, they were equal before God in dignity and worth, but distinct from each other as male and female. As children of Adam and Eve all humans share in the great privilege of being image bearers of God, the true definition of what it means to be human.
Unfortunately, this beautiful God-given privilege of image bearing has been marred by the fall into sin. Therefore, the glorious differences between men and women – relationally and creationally – has been negatively impacted. The desire of the fallen human heart for immorality and sexual sin is not a fulfilment of our humanness but rather a denial of it and a violation of what it means to be sexually male and sexually female in God’s image. However – praise be to God – through redemption in Christ, and the transformational work of the Holy Spirit, our position as image bearers of God, the outworking of our gender differences, and our celebration of sexuality can be restored even while we may continue to struggle with unlawful sexual desires.
We acknowledge that because of the fallen world we live in there are irregularities in the created order. However, the differences between male and female reproductive structures are an integral part of God’s design. This difference is a vital part of our self-identity as male and female. When there are irregularities, they do not undermine our worth as humans, rather those born with a physical or psychological disorder are nevertheless still created in the image of God and have dignity and worth equal to all other image bearers. Our Lord Jesus himself acknowledges this when he said that some people are “eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb.” They – like all image bearers – are welcomed as faithful followers of Jesus Christ to embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known. Therefore, they are fully able to live a fruitful Christian life in joyful obedience to Jesus Christ.
Male and female sexual relationships are clearly defined, bounded and celebrated by the Scriptures. The sins of homosexuality and transgenderism are no worse than any other sin, yet they are still sinful. They are a result of being part of a broken world where all of our sexuality has been damaged by sin. In a world labouring under the curse of God and the sin of humankind we are not free to do with our bodies as we wish. Therefore, this is not primarily a clinical issue, but rather a moral one. Sin has affected us all in different ways and homosexuality and transgenderism are just two of the ways that some people struggle. Some of these struggles we may wrestle with until the redemption of our bodies at the return of Christ. Until that time we all must strive to celebrate sexuality and gender within a heterosexual marriage union or live a celibate life. Life-long celibacy in Christ for a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction should not be understood as a punishment, but just like all believers who wrestle against sinful temptations, should be an opportunity to display God’s glory for our joy and growth in holiness.
Given that we live in a world which was created according to God’s specific design and yet has been marred and broken by the fall, what hope does the Church have to offer for those whose brokenness is expressed in the specific areas of gender and sexuality? The only hope the Church can offer is that which itself has tasted, the good news of great joy for all people that is centred in Jesus Christ.
In Christian communities we strive together to adhere faithfully, and consistently, to the requirements to be holy in our sexuality in accordance with God’s standards. Thus, we fulfil our human identity and display our Christ-like image bearing to a watching and confused culture. We join the infinite creator in celebrating human sexuality the way God celebrates it to his glory and our joy. In such a community of the Lord’s people the one struggling with homosexual desires will find opportunity to develop God-glorifying relationships with both men and women as they experience the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ continually set before them by word and example.
We confess that at times we have failed in communicating that message faithfully to those who struggle with gender identity and sexual dysfunction. The Church of Jesus Christ should be the place where hope, restoration and peace are found and where all people can find love, support and help. As the Lord’s people we are committed to reach out with care, understanding and compassion as we struggle and groan together until the redemption of our bodies.