Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear took heat last week for saying Christians can use preferred pronouns when speaking to transgender individuals.
“If a transgender person came into our church, came into my life, I think my disposition would be to refer to them by their preferred pronoun when we want to talk about gender,” Greear said in a Nov. 18 episode of his podcast Ask Me Anything. He said arguments among Christians over pronoun usage go basically along two lines: telling the truth or a generosity of spirit. “Personally, I lean a little bit toward generosity of spirit,” said Greear, a concept he defended as Biblical.
Critics saw the comments as a surrender to gender ideology.
“The pronoun issue is not merely a matter of courtesy,” columnist and author Rod Dreher wrote. “It means something substantively. … When religious and cultural leaders concede this territory for the sake of being nice, they surrender more ground than they realize. They are laying down arms in the face of the ideological colonization of our collective moral imagination.”
But Greear, the senior pastor of the multi-campus Summit Church in Durham, N.C., prefaced his comment by saying gender is hardwired in human DNA and is not determined by a subjective identity: “Our identity is formed by our Creator. We are who He has declared us to be.” Greear also said he leaned heavily on two conservative thinkers who reject gender ideology: Ryan T. Andersen, a fellow at The Heritage Foundation and author of When Harry Becomes Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, and Andrew T. Walker, a professor of ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of God and the Transgender Debate.
In a 2017 column, Walker explained how he would respond to transgender family members, co-workers, and church visitors, generally recommending Christian avoid using pronouns at all, but acknowledging circumstances where it might not be necessary to disagree with a person over their pronoun usage. —K.C.