A New Jersey Lutheran church held a renaming ceremony for their transgender pastor, comparing the event to God’s renaming of Abraham and the apostle Peter.
St. Matthew Trinity Lutheran Church held the renaming ceremony Sunday for Rev. Rose Beeson, a woman who identifies as a man and who henceforth goes by her new, chosen name of Peter, according to The Huffington Post on Tuesday.
Rev. Tracie Bartholomew, the bishop of the New Jersey synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), conducted the ceremony as a public show of the congregation and church leadership’s blessing for Beeson’s gender transition, which a Huffington Post writer conflated with the purpose of God’s renaming of Abram to Abraham in the Old Testament and His renaming of Simon to Peter in the New Testament.
“The renaming ceremony provided an opportunity … for us to show the broader world that there are faithful Christians who support LGBTQ+ people and offer a counter message to the one of fear and hate so prevalent today,” Beeson told HuffPo.
The church issued an announcement for the event in advance, extending invitation to those “who believe in promoting inclusion and diversity” to bear witness to and affirm “one of the first times a minister of a congregation in the ELCA has transitioned from female to male while serving as pastor.” Bartholomew conducted the ceremony much like a christening or dedication ceremony, blessing Beeson with water from the baptismal font and calling her by her newly-chosen name.
A writer for the Huffington Post compared the event to scriptural instances of God changing people’s names, specifically those of Abraham and Peter. In Genesis, God changed Abram’s name, which means “high father,” to Abraham, which means “father of a multitude.” The change was part of God’s covenant with Abraham, as described in Genesis 12:1-3.
Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
God also changed the name of Abraham’s wife from Sarai, meaning “my princess,” to Sarah, meaning “mother of nations.” Descendants of Abraham, who is known as the father of the Jewish people, carried this covenant with God throughout the Old Testament. Jesus Christ, who Christians believe to be the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant with regard to Israel’s eventual redemption and restoration with the Second Coming of Christ, also changed the name of His apostle Simon, meaning “he was heard,” to Peter, meaning “rock.” Christ renamed Simon to Peter to signify that he would be the rock upon whom He would build His church.
Beeson’s decision to change her name from Rose to Peter bears little real resemblance to scriptural examples of God changing people’s names for several reasons. Unlike the examples of Abraham, or Israel, or Peter, Beeson, not God, decided to change her name. Her new name also does not portend any covenantal promise from God to His church, and rather than signifying a spiritual calling and destiny from God for her, it merely fulfill’s Beeson’s desire to change her gender.
Church leadership acknowledged these criticisms from other Christians, saying that the event had garnered “a lot of negativity,” but remained stalwart in their acceptance of transgenderism and LGBTQ lifestyles.
“[Gay and trans individuals] have every right to be their authentic selves as anyone. God didn’t make a mistake,” Daniel Stoll, a church council member, told HuffPo. “Jesus teaches us to love every individual. The hate has to stop.”
Stoll said those who criticized the event are people “think they can judge for God.”
Dan Skogen, a former church member and ELCA seminary student, disagreed and wrote on his website Exposing ELCA that the church was embracing sin and had done so before.
“You cannot change your sex. You cannot change your gender. Those are facts. Trying to do so goes against God’s will for you and is a sin against God,” Skogen wrote. “It is also a sin to encourage sinful behavior. The ELCA is guilty of this. They do this regarding homosexuality and transgenderism.”
ELCA leadership has a history of supporting transgender individuals and has adopted the view that sexuality and gender is not binary.
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