Queer, Trans and Intersex Christians query gender diversity in the Bible

Rainbow Pilgrims’ final panel on Wednesday (7 Sept.) was both intense interrogation of biblical texts and sharing of stories of self-affirmation: each of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14) in the “image of God” (Gen 1:27a).

From left: Ecclesia de Lange, Davis Mac-Iyalla, Small Luk and Eske Wollrad.

In the first two chapters of Genesis, God creates bird and plants, “living creatures of every kind.” But, as the panel’s moderator, Eske Wollrad of Germany, demanded, “When it comes to humans, how is it that the only variety is binary gender?”

“If only male and female are created by God, then what I am?” asked Small Luk, a Christian intersex activist from Hong Kong.

Audience members responded by affirming diversity: 

  • If God is Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, is God not also everything in between? 
  • If there is night and day, there is also dawn and dusk. 
  • There is sea and land, and there are also marshes. 

Luk was joined on the panel by Ecclesia de Lange of IAM Ministries in South Africa and Davis Mac-Iyalla, a Nigerian who works with Ghana-based Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (IDNOWA). 

de Lange, an ordained minister of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, was “discontinued” from her role in 2009 after she announced she would marry her same-sex partner. Today, “The church may be slow, but Methodist colleagues speak to me, stand with me, the ones who have gay children, or who are gay themselves.” IAM Ministries serves as a resource to southern African churches that are willing to engage over their questions.

Mac-Iyalla (left), an Anglican, was one of the first Christians in his country to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality. After leaving Nigeria in 2008, he co-authored a book, Fiyabo. In his language, Fiyabo means Survivor.
At the WCC Assembly, Luk frequently carried a banner (right) that called on Christians to bring their intersex children to Christ, not to genital surgeons.

“I’m gay and I’m Anglican and I don’t understand why my church is saying there are no homosexuals,” Mac-Iyalla said on the panel. He said the church in Nigeria is still a “locked door,” not willing to talk. In Ghana, despite efforts to strengthen anti-LGBTIQ+ legislation, the Anglican archbishop has been willing to talk with advocacy groups. 

He said events like the WCC Assembly are great, because here the west African churches “have to talk with us. We have a lot of engagement here.”

Luk said she spent a lot of time at the Rainbow Pilgrims booth in the Brunnen exhibition space, talking with passers-by. “Intersex people do not go to church because they know they will not find support. How can churches do better? Intersex babies are not the result of anyone’s sin. Stop that message. Get to know more intersex people.” 

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