UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Currents

Did Jesus challenge gender norms?

By Trisha Elliott


A favourite passage of feminist theologians, Galatians 3:28, is now a scriptural cornerstone of queer theology. The juicy bit for feminist theologians, and now queer theologians: “nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It not only dispenses of traditional male and female gender roles but also makes Jesus gender-fluid.

Queer theory has been described as “an umbrella term gathering together diverse issues within a common struggle: a resistance against heterosexual knowing,” writes Lisa Asherwood and Marcella Althaus-Reid in The Sexual Theologian: Essays On Sex, God And Politics. It says you can’t take complex human beings and stuff them easily into male and female boxes. Gender isn’t either/or.

Queer theology, which emerged in the 1990s, re-examines theology and the Bible through an LGBTQ lens and challenges restrictive gender norms.

The late queer Argentinian theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid writes that God needs to come out of the closet through a process of theological queering or “deliberately questioning the heterosexual experience and thinking that has shaped our understanding of theology.” 

Queer theologians contend that Jesus was not only gender-accepting but also gender-fluid, pointing to scripture passages like Ephesians where the male Christ is said to have a female body in the church. Others reframe the Bible through queer experiences — reframing the incarnation, for example, as the divine “coming out” to humanity.

The United Church is no stranger to exploring gender issues. It recently dipped its toes into queer theology with a tool kit for congregations called Celebrating Gender Diversity

On the ground, queer theologians encourage congregations to welcome those who don’t fit binary gender roles and to support differences in dress, behaviour or family configuration. Even the use of pronouns can be touchy because gender plays a role in determining which pronouns people prefer. The United Church tool kit advises creating an opportunity for people to share their preferred pronouns and discusses what to do when someone uses the wrong ones.

The latest queer theology books explore the intersection of gender and race. Rainbow Theology by Patrick Cheng and Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology by black lesbian scholar Pamela Lightsey add a new dimension to the emerging discipline. It’s too soon to say what the lasting impact of queer theology will be. But there is no doubt that it already takes the rainbow to new heights.

Rev. Trisha Elliott is a minister at Southminster United in Ottawa.




Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Society

Sandy and Allan Wilson.

“Thank you for being my dopted parents”

by Allan Wilson

Eighteen years after his teen son died of cancer, this writer celebrates a new type of fatherhood when he becomes legal guardian of a man with disabilities.

Promotional Image

Editorials

The United Church Observer's editor and publisher, Jocelyn Bell. Photo: Lindsay Palmer

Observations: #MeToo

by Jocelyn Bell

Our hope is that by giving voice to these #MeToo stories, a new conversation about sexual misconduct can begin.

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Society

June 2018

Why some women of colour are hesitant to say #MeToo

by Jacky Habib

Three women share their stories in the hope of creating safe spaces they never had.

Environment

May 2018

A Kinder Morgan protest in photos and song

by Kimiko Karpoff

On April 28, 2018, faith leaders from many traditions, including the United Church, stood in solidarity with Water Protectors from the Tsleil-Waututh nation to protest the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion in Burnaby, B.C.. Kimiko Karpoff captured the day in pictures.

Faith

June 2018

After 93 years, this will be the United Church's last General Council meeting

by Mike Milne

When the United Church meets in July, top priorities will be a streamlined governance structure and Indigenous ministries.

Justice

June 2018

#MeToo in the United Church

by Trisha Elliott

9 women share their stories of harassment and sexual assault in the United Church.

Columns

May 2018

On grief and the healing power of gardening

by Paul Fraumeni

A writer reflects on how growing tomatoes is helping him find peace while dealing with the loss of loved ones, including his son.

Editorials

June 2018

Observations: #MeToo

by Jocelyn Bell

Our hope is that by giving voice to these #MeToo stories, a new conversation about sexual misconduct can begin.

Promotional Image