Gender fluidity conference at Theological Seminary faces public opposition from school's graduate
Carmen LaBerge, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, publicly opposed the Seminary's handling of gender identity and fluidity during a conferenceon gender and theology.
In an interview with the The Christian Post, LaBerge said that the Seminary is “irresponsible” for advancing ideas that run contrary to Biblical beliefs. She explained that gender is not confused or fluid in Creation.
“It is Imago Dei, male and female, and by God’s decree that is judged to be very good,” she told the Post, "The sexual and gender confusion experienced today is not godly. The idea that individuals would forge new gender identities is not new nor is it God honoring.”
LaBerge is the president of The Presbyterian Lay Committee, which supports various congregations across the country through giving legal counsel.
She did not respond to requests for comment.
The conference, titled “Gender Benders: Theology and Gender Fluidity”, was held by the Seminary’s Center for Theology, Women and Gender on March 18 and 19. The Center’s Director, Jacqueline Lapsley, explained that the purpose of the conference was to vocalize the experiences of gender non-conforming people, as their voices have been silenced for so long.
"Persons who do not conform to the gender binary are a vital part of our seminary community. This is not surprising in that they are found everywhere in society. Like many other institutions, Princeton Theological Seminary is working to make everyone in our community, including genderqueer people, feel that they are welcome," she said in an emailed statement, noting that one of the tasks of the Seminary is to seriously and equally engage in both LGBT and heteronormative experiences.
Lapsley added that the Seminary's Center would be interested in hosting future conferences that address the relationship between theology and the gender binary.
“I was excited to be a part of something that was looking at gender in a more diversified way, and really what that meant within a theological space,” Jessica Rathbun-Cook, who participated in the conference as a panelist, said.
Rathbun-Cook is a youth programs director for the Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth.
She added that the stories shared during the conference were a positive step in discussing what it means to question gender identity. She said that she was excited for the future of the Church, since leaders were having thoughtful discussions on the gender fluidity.
Rathbun-Cook also said that she believes religious institutions like the Seminary are in the right for addressing this topic.
“I think, in so many instances, religious communities have been most-strongly working against the flourishing of LGBTQ people. I think it’s essential that those communities have conversations about gender nuance and diversity,” she added.
Communities of faith, she said, should make strides to welcome LGBTQ people by re-examining their own religious traditions.
Reverend Charles Wiley, coordinator of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s office of Theology and Worship, said that the Church must engage in and understand the topic of gender identity the same way that other issues — such as poverty, inequality, sin and reconciliation — are discussed.
“Seminaries as academic institutions explore critical issues and challenge the church,” he said in an emailed statement, “That’s one of their roles. The [C]hurch is enriched by the conversation, hopefully learns from it, but it is not bound to follow any particular conclusions of these conversations.”
Wiley added that the Church needs to be constantly learning how to minister faithfully to the public.
Cook noted that those who disagree with the gender identity exploration movement may hold a narrower view of religion and of God, and she encourages dialogue between the two sides so that they may understand each other better.
“Our faith may call us to different conclusions concerning the nature of gender, but we should never be afraid of learning more,” Wiley said.
Lapsley added that disagreement is necessary for honest, intellectual debate.
"Deep listening with respect must accompany, and even precede, debate. We are just beginning to listen to genderqueer persons in our communities," she saidThe Princeton Theological Seminary is the largest of ten seminaries associated with the American Presbyterian Church.