Advocates and critics of the transgender movement seem to agree only on one new reality: More transgendered people will be showing up at American churches and will be open about their controversial lifestyle.

"There will be more and more people who are transgendered making themselves known," predicts Faith in America's Jimmy Creech. "Evangelical churches need to be motivated by understanding, not fear."

"It's here to stay," policy director Matt Barber of Concerned Women for America says of the movement. "They have attached themselves to the well-funded, powerful homosexual lobby that is fighting for the same things."

But Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council predicts the transgender faction won't gain ground quickly. "There will be resistance on the part of the public, because many find it shocking and disturbing," Sprigg says. He believes even the most tolerant evangelical congregations may find it difficult to welcome biological males wearing female clothing.

"Would a typical church be welcoming to someone who struggles with gender identity?" Warren Throckmorton, a psychologist, asks. "I think it would be a stretch."

The Nemeceks are attending a Presbyterian church; they say the leaders of the Baptist church where John had been an elder and occasional fill-in preacher asked the couple to leave. But Leo W. Cumings, pastor of that Baptist church, says elders placed restrictions on Nemecek's ministry, but never asked the couple to leave.

"They were welcome to worship with us and listen to the Bible as it was proclaimed in preaching," Cumings told Christianity Today. "Since we felt his course of conduct was contrary to our understanding of the Scriptures, we would not allow him to serve [in leadership positions]."

Cumings and the elders wrestled at length with many questions: Is it right to reject an isolated, deeply troubled person who is seeking the Lord? Is it wise to allow other members to walk out if they can't handle accepting what they perceive to be an exhibition of perversion?

"We tried very hard to walk a fine line between biblical authenticity—faithfulness to our understanding of the Bible—and compassionate concern," Cumings says. "We have no desire to attack him and we certainly do not see ourselves as his judge. But a transgender lifestyle is outside the boundaries of how God intends his children to live."

Related Elsewhere:

This sidebar accompanies "The Transgender Moment."

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