December 2, 2015

Religious groups’ policies on transgender members vary widely

Where some religious groups stand on transgender inclusionReligious institutions are starting to formally address the participation of transgender people in their congregations, much as they have with the issue of accepting homosexuals.

Just recently, the Union for Reform Judaism approved a far-reaching resolution on the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming people, affirming its “commitment to the full equality, inclusion and acceptance of people of all gender identities and gender expressions.”

In addition to Reform Judaism, the United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist and Episcopal churches each have issued specific statements saying that transgender people should be fully included in the life of the church and that they can be ordained as ministers.

LGBT Americans say society accepts some of them more than othersLesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people generally see less social acceptance of transgender Americans than for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in the country, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2013. Among all LGBT respondents, eight-in-ten say there is only a little (59%) or no (21%) social acceptance for transgender people in society, while far fewer say there is little to no acceptance for gay men (27%), lesbians (14%) or bisexual women (21%) or men (46%).

The 2013 Pew Research Center survey also found that LGBT adults are less religious than the general public in the U.S. And large majorities of LGBT Americans say that certain religious institutions – particularly Islam (84%), the Mormon church (83%), the Catholic Church (79%) and evangelical churches (73%) – are unfriendly toward people like them. LGBT adults have more mixed views of the Jewish religion and mainline Protestant churches, with 47% and 44% of LGBT adults, respectively, describing those religions as unfriendly, one-in-ten describing each of them as friendly and the rest saying they are neutral.

When it comes to acceptance, our research about churches and religious groups’ formal positions on transgender individuals found a range of levels of inclusion.

In 2008, the United Methodist Church voted down a motion that would have excluded transgender people from joining the clergy, thus allowing transgender ministers to keep their ordination. But the church has continued to struggle with LGBT issues. In February of this year, the body tasked with articulating a vision for the future of the church proposed a “third way” on inclusion of LGBT people, which would remove punishments for ministers supportive of gay rights but stop short of full inclusion for LGBT people. The governing body of the United Methodist Church will vote on the proposal in 2016. Although the more recent debate has largely centered around same-sex marriage, the current proposal also would apply to transgender people.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has no specific statement of inclusion, but in 2010 the church did remove specific barriers to transgender people being ordained. And the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has no specific policy on the ordination of transgender people, although a transgender minister was ordained by the organization in July.

On the other side of the spectrum, some evangelical churches do not accept those who change their gender but instead look to provide special pastoral care for transgender people. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, for instance, gives advice to ministers on how to counsel transgender people and encourage them to seek treatment for dysphoria. The Pentecostal denomination Assemblies of God “supports the dignity of individual persons affirming their biological sex and discouraging any and all attempts to physically change, alter, or disagree with their predominant biological sex.” And the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution in 2014 stating that transgender people can only become members if they repent.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormon church), in its handbook for stake presidents and bishops, says that those who are considering “elective transsexual operations” may not be baptized or confirmed. (“Stakes” are similar to Catholic dioceses.) Those who have already undergone such an operation may be baptized and confirmed with approval from the church’s governing body. However, the handbook specifically states that those who have undergone surgery cannot be priesthood holders, a designation given to most Mormon boys at age 12.

The Roman Catholic Church does not recognize gender changes and says that in the eyes of the church, gender is determined permanently at birth. The church says that people who have had procedures to change their gender are not allowed to marry in the church, although also says such procedures could be morally acceptable in “extreme cases.” Pope Francis has given somewhat mixed messages on the issue. He was quoted in a book saying that gender theory, like nuclear weapons, is a danger to humanity. (Gender theory holds that gender identity is a malleable social construct.) Yet Francis also has met with a transgender man.

Many other churches, including the Presbyterian Church in America, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, do not have statements that explicitly address the status of transgender people, although many of these groups condemn homosexuality.

Correction: The paragraph dealing with the United Methodist Church has been corrected since publication.

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Gender, Religion and Society

  1. is a copy editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.

18 Comments

  1. Anonymous2 months ago

    Just throw the Bible in the trash America. God is not to be mocked. His day of Judgement is coming. PERIOD.

  2. Anonymous2 months ago

    If people are so interested in knowing the opinion of religions on the topic of homosexuality, why don’t we go to the base where all believers should stand? The Bible states in Leviticus 20:13, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination..(KJV).” And also in 1 Corinthians 9:11, ” Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idoliters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,.. (KJV).” We are not the ones to judge, that is only on God’s hand to do so. All believers are to be united in prayer for God’s mercy and grace over everything that is an abomination in His eyes now in this fallen world. God help us all.
    – Pastor Claudia

  3. Tomas Breitenstein Nowack7 months ago

    Some gods are good at sending mixed messages…

    1. Anonymous2 months ago

      No. Those who don’t understand GOD’s message, (singular, = one message), don’t have any desire to understand the truth. As for some ‘gods’ and their message, that’s the problem. Mankind has re-written the Message, to suit their own desires. that’s why there’s so many messages, (plural).

  4. Chloe Alexa8 months ago

    Pope Francis has given somewhat mixed messages on the issue. Not really, He is definitely against US as Transgender people, calling US Nuclear Weapons, and an Abomination against God. I should think that as derogatory a statement that you could come up with against US. Meanwhile Pope Francis is Getting US killed in the most Catholic Countries in the world, with the Macho Man effect. Kill US All for the POPE!!
    That being Brazil and Mexico. He does not recognize any modern up to date Information of Transgender studies [A BIRTH ANOMALY] for the past 30 plus years, and is no different than the Galileo Pope over 300 years ago. He is running with Hate information given the last Pope Benedict by, Paul McHugh [Documented Trans Hater] He is rebuked by his peers regularly as being behind the times in Transgender knowledge. Sadly Christians for the most part today no longer practice that which Christ Lived , and Taught.

  5. De Angelo8 months ago

    There are many modern Churches that has opted to ignore the Bible teachings on homosexuality in favour of the line “God is Love”, and therefore ALL are accepted by him no matter their believe and practice. In the days when the Bible was written there was no mention of transgender as this kind of medical procedure was unheard of as far as i know. Today the world faces a different kind of gender identity crisis where some people have even chosen to declassify their gender as been male or female. Christian Churches who strictly adhere to the teachings again homosexuals and lesbians, are constantly been ridiculed for their strong believe. The “norm” today is that since God created us all, we should learn to live together in harmony and adopt LGBT into the very pulpit as ministers!! No one should be alarmed at this modern day teaching opposing the teachings of the bible. Read more on my Blog about the apostate church @ yashumessiah.com

  6. Elaine Coyle8 months ago

    I am more interested in the mundane everyday problems than the lofty attitudes of
    Religions. I am concerned about men in women’s bathrooms. I don’t think that actual transgender people will be the problem but the sexual perverts who pretend to be transgender in order to get at women will be a problem.
    IMO, it can’t be prevented & will happen.
    I prefer that the transgenders endure some uncomfortable feelings rather than have
    many women raped.
    We all deal with bad feelings every day & adults get over them.

    1. Caring About Others8 months ago

      Why are you only /now/ concerned with men going into restrooms and raping women? Please don’t buy into the fear mongering, and please don’t perpetuate it. Transgender people have been using the public restrooms that align with their genders for decades without issue. Men have always been able to walk into women’s restrooms (and vise-versa) and it’s almost never ever been an issue. No one is giving men permission to do anything illegal. We don’t any right to tell trans people who they are or where they belong. Trans people will use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, period. This is about dignity and safety, and trans safety regarding restrooms is not diminishing the safety of cisgender women, it’s just not. A trans woman is far more likely to get assaulted by going into the men’s restroom, than are women if a man were to come into the women’s restroom.

      Women also go into the men’s restrooms whenever the women’s restrooms are overcrowded; these anti-trans bathroom bills would outlaw that too.

      Back on topic, I would love to see the chart fleshed out a bit more. Like other commenters have stated, it seems a little too broad. Good work so far though 🙂

    2. MrBumblepants8 months ago

      People pretending to be trans to attack people in bathrooms is a non-existent problem. Actual living trans people, however, are attacked in bathrooms. Also, this argum not is trotted out to deny all kinds of rights to trans people, so in addition to being nonsense, it ends up being malicious.

  7. Among You8 months ago

    The OTO officially does not care if one is gay, straight, trans, or what have you. The Church of Satan has an official policy of not caring what you may be or how you identify.

    It would be nice if they would bother contacting us for a change of pace…

  8. Papa Foote8 months ago

    “ALL” GROUPS’ “VARY” WIDELY!

    The OLd Mountain Goat “knows this” – DO YOU?

    Religious groups’ policies on transgender members vary widely!

  9. Rev. Jill8 months ago

    You do a great disservice to all of the progressive Baptists when all you focus on is the Southern Baptist Convention. The Alliance of Baptists and the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists both have aligned churches, pastors, and congregants who fully welcome and accept our LGBTQ community. Baptists are not covered by one big umbrella; we are very diverse.

    1. Daniel8 months ago

      I have recently relocated from New England . The very first question i was asked was ” Are y’all a Yankee? ” . I replied ” I am from New England and my family arrived on The Mayflower ” . The 2 SBC Churches i LEFT began their introductions with that absurd question . A unmannerly question such as that would never have been uttered in a Northern church .

  10. NorthernDancer8 months ago

    How in the world is Roman Catholic classified as mixed or no policy? Their official position is the transgender people cannot be godparents, cannot marry, cannot become priests. One meeting by the Pope with a transgender person hardly seems like a reason to move them up to the mixed category.

    1. Aleksandra Sandstrom8 months ago

      The final column of “stated barriers to inclusion” includes only groups for which we were able to find an official church document, preferably on a church website, that includes a mention of the word “transgender” or “lgbt” (the latter designation includes transgender people). The Catholic Church has no official statement available on either the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website or Vatican website. Additionally, we could not find a copy of the 2000 letter mentioned in the article we linked in the paragraph on Catholics (the Mormon church has no official statement on its website, but we were able to find a copy of an official church document that mentioned transgender people specifically). Groups who are listed as having “mixed position/no official position” have no official statement that mentions transgender people but either generally have statements against homosexuality or in practice act to exclude transgender people in some way but have no available official statement on their website, which covers the Roman Catholic Church. Hope that helps clarify.

  11. Majorana Fermion8 months ago

    Please explain how the Roman Catholic church gets a mixed/no position?
    The ‘trans people are a threat to the human ecology’ bit originated with PJP2 three decades ago and is a fairly strong statement. Since then the Church has made many additional statements about trans people being “delusional” and mentally ill. In addition, they simply refuse to allow trans people to be a part of the church as their post-transition selves. They’ve officially stated that it’s a sin in much the same manner as being gay; indeed they often fail to distinguish between the two. Most recently, the Vatican said they will not allow trans people to be godparents. I fail to see how these are not “stated barriers to inclusion”.

    1. Aleksandra Sandstrom8 months ago

      The final column of “stated barriers to inclusion” includes only groups for which we were able to find an official church document, preferably on a church website, that includes a mention of the word “transgender” or “lgbt” (the latter designation includes transgender people). The Catholic Church has no official statement available on either the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website or Vatican website. Additionally, we could not find a copy of the 2000 letter mentioned in the article we linked in the paragraph on Catholics (the Mormon church has no official statement on its website, but we were able to find a copy of an official church document that mentioned transgender people specifically). Groups who are listed as having “mixed position/no official position” have no official statement that mentions transgender people but either generally have statements against homosexuality or in practice act to exclude transgender people in some way but have no available official statement on their website, which covers the Roman Catholic Church. Hope that helps clarify.

      1. Majorana Fermion8 months ago

        After 2000 & around when Paul McHugh was brought on by the Vatican as “science and sexuality advisor”, the Vatican stopped all recognition of trans people. Prior, they were allowed to change their name and sex in the parish registry.

        It is possible your methodology could have overlooked something about the RCC. You won’t find any mention of, “LGBT” or “transgender” anywhere because the Vatican does not recognize either as valid even enough to use the terms. One must remember that within the Catholic worldview, ‘sex’ the act and ‘sexes’ (man and woman) are the same concept.

        Try searching for “gender”, “gender theory” and “human ecology” and you will have better luck. I’ve also noticed that in a practical sense, the Church keeps much out of the official theology that is nonetheless enacted upon, often because of the type of conceptual differences mentioned above. This allows them to be involved in politics in whatever manner fits the times.

        The following are not official doctrine, but rather the words of the church’s titular leader to his court. From an outside point of view however, and from a practical one, they are in deed one and the same.

        w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-x…

        w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/…