ATSS: Esther Loewen, “Blessed Are the Trans People”
18 May 2022 |
The Beatitudes represent many things to many people. This passage in Matthew 5 is understood as a vision of an alternate community (Walter Brueggemann), an indictment against the most powerful (Jim Wallis), an illustration of the bodily dimensions of faith (Barbara Brown Taylor), and God’s proclamation of His good favor as ultimate reality (N.T. Wright).
For Ellen G. White (whose devotional, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, features largely the Beatitudes), this portion of Jesus’ speech is “Christ’s greeting to the human family” (p. vii).
Some Christians might be tempted to grasp for an authoritative interpretation of this text, as they do for others. In the case of the Beatitudes, this would be a mistake, leading ultimately to the loss of hard-won wisdom. In my presentation for the Adventist Today Sabbath Seminar, I will reflect on my own interpretations of this important reading over time.
As a woman of transgender experience, an Adventist pastor, and a male-presenting Caucasian person in America, my perspectives on the Beatitudes have taken decided shifts over my still-unfolding journey. While I might’ve once vociferously defended a perceived orthodox viewpoint, I now hold this teaching with delicate respect for its mystical wayfinding to truth.
Because the process of changing gender-expression and outward identity is so far-reaching and consequential (especially when it takes place at middle-age and within Christian culture), I have found myself with a bird’s-eye view of a deeper reality: identity shapes hermeneutic. Who we are in context deeply affects the ways in which we read and understand the Bible. And while the focus of this week’s Adventist Today Sabbath Seminar conversation is on this specific passage from the Book of Matthew 5:1-12, I think this principle applies to the whole of inspiration.
Please join me at the ATSS for a presentation that could draw some tears, but will also leave us walking away scratching our heads, and hopefully will inspire us to continue searching for the Spirit of joy.
If you wish to prepare for the conversation, first reread the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. Then you could take a look at the late Dallas Willard’s lecture on the Beatitudes which is also from the seventh chapter of his book The Divine Conspiracy. Also, I like the timshel translation of Bible passages, a stunningly beautiful and arresting idiomatic interpretation which includes a powerful reading of the Beatitudes from Matthew 5 .
Esther Loewen (or “Elle,” as her friends call her) is a California transplant from Walla Walla, Washington. She lives to create inclusion, always making more room at the table of love. Elle’s professional life has been filled with 16 years of full-time pastoral ministry (including a decade at the Walla Walla University Church), publishing a book about keeping secrets, and earning a master’s degree in leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary. A transgender woman, Esther shifted career paths when she decided to transition. She is currently a full-time student preparing for her next phase of life as a family therapist. She is married to Paige, her life partner of 17 years. They have the joy of parenting two brilliant, creative, energetic, and empathetic children, Sawyer and Finley. Elle can be reached through twitter and instagram or via her website: www.estherloewen.com.
Loren Seibold is the Executive Editor of Adventist Today.
How to join:
ATSS starting time depends on where you are. If you’re on the west coast of the United States, it’ll be 10:30 AM. On the east coast, 1:30 PM.
Times around the world:
- Reykjavík: 6:30 PM
- College Place: 10:30 AM
- Lincoln: 12:30 PM
- Denver: 11:30 AM
- Bracknell: 6:30 PM
- Loma Linda: 10:30 AM
- Nairobi: 8:30 PM
- Gackle: 12:30 PM
- Hosur: 11:00 PM
- Waco: 12:30 PM
- Tulsa: 12:30 PM
- Helsinki: 8:30 PM
- Stockholm: 7:30 PM
- Hamburg: 7:30 PM
- Cape Town: 7:30 PM
- Madrid: 7:30 PM
- Paris: 7:30 PM
- Honolulu: 7:30 AM
- Cooranbong: 5:30 AM (Sunday)
- Perth: 2:30 AM (Sunday)
The class is intended to last about 2 hours, though the conversation often continues to 4 PM on the east coast of the United States.
About our class:
- The AT Sabbath Seminar is intended to be a courteous forum. We discuss and ask questions politely. We don’t accuse, get angry, or put people down.
- Stick to the topic in both comments and chat discussion.
- Make your comments and questions short—don’t dominate.
- Keep your microphones muted unless you are called upon to make your comment or ask your question.
- Indicate your interest in speaking by raising your electronic hand—under the “reactions” button.
- Please use your name when you sign in! Not your phone number, not your initials. This will help us differentiate you from unwelcome guests who want to disrupt us. You can set your name after signing on by clicking on the 3 dots next to your picture, which drops down a menu.
- If it should happen that we are attacked so that we have to stop the meeting, we’ll quickly post a new meeting link on our AT Facebook page.
We look forward to getting acquainted with you!
- Mathilde Frey
- Charles Scriven
- Austin Archer
- Marko Lucik
- Jim Walters
- Reinder Bruinsma
- Bryan Ness