March 16, 2018

By Rev. Ginny Wheeler, Community UMC in Huntington Beach, South District

Ephesians 1:22-23

And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

The preschool director stood in my office doorway and said that she would like to introduce me to a young mother and her four-year-old. The mother and her child had just been asked to leave another church preschool. Apparently, the child was in the process of transitioning from a male to a female when the former director discovered this and asked the family to leave. She apparently added, “This is not natural” and “This was Satan’s issue.” I invited the two in…noticing the little one (‘Satan’s issue”) headed directly to the jelly bean jar and directly began picking out the pink ones. The young mother was very knowledgeable and quite direct. “Would we welcome her child?” I assured her we would be quite welcoming. “You may have a reaction from other parents,” she said. I responded by saying that we would take care of handling any other parents. All she needed to do was concentrate on raising her children. Then I asked, “How else can we help you? Perhaps a support group or educational opportunities?” She said, “YES!” The closest family group was across the county at five o’clock in the evening. Our local campus would be a life saver.

So it began. Once a month, the Transparenting Group for parents met. Young parents, a few befuddled grandparents, and an interested teacher or two joined the monthly gatherings. Their emotional stories are all different, and all the same: worries about prejudices, concerns about being ostracized, remarks made in ignorance, family’s reactions, physical treatments, legal issues. The church hall was filled with a multitude of emotion. Healing was always evident in the helpful resources of psychologists, therapists, and medical professionals we brought in to educate and bring assurance. I learned an incredible amount about the physical body, the mental processes, and the spiritual components of a human. Terms such as gender dysphoria, gender assessment, cisgender, and transgender therapy broadened my understanding of the diversity that is the body. How comforting it is to learn and experience all this in a church hall!

Did the writer of Ephesians know how pertinent his words would be 2000 years later? That the church is the BODY of Christ. That we would be sitting in a church hall discussing and sharing our new revelations of the physical body, and our identities as children of God? We who claim to be the body of Christ, still have much to learn about it. Discussions about sexual harassment, poor body image, unequal medical care and resources, and lack of shelter (homelessness) are all vitally important topics for the church. It begins with a healthy respect for the diversity of all God’s creatures.

Prayer: The bus stop advertised a hospital whose slogan is appropriate for us in the ministry business, too: ”We are here for every BODY.” Let that be our Lenten prayer. Amen.