Princeton Theological Seminary hosted a controversial conference last week to explore so called "gender fluidity" and how people are "forging new gender identities" outside the norms of male and female.
Titled "Gender Benders: Theology and Gender Fluidity," the multi-day conference was presented by the seminary's center for theology, women, and gender last weekend.
The center's Director, Jacqueline Lapsley, said in a statement last month that "[g]ender identity is a topic of great interest today, especially for young people."
"They are questioning the gender binaries — male and female — and some are forging new gender identities in accordance with their self-understanding," said Lapsley.
She further claimed: "There is also a keen awareness that an appreciation of gender diversity can move our society toward real justice for women and other persons who are marginalized because of gender and/or sexuality."
Also a professor of the Old Testament, Lapsley told The Christian Post that there is "a great deal of scholarly discussion these days about gender fluidity, and about how gender is constructed and experienced."
"The prevalence of these discussions, coupled with concern over the violence perpetrated against persons who do not identify with the gender binaries, led us to hold a conference to explore this topic a bit more," said Lapsley.
The conference lacked any speakers who might be critical of the so called gender fluidity notion, an omission that Lapsley told CP was intentional.
"The 'orthodox/traditional' view on gender, i.e., the gender binary, is pervasive in our society. It is widely known. The purpose of the conference was not to hold a debate among contesting views, but to hear from voices traditionally silenced," explained Lapsley.
Founded in 1812, Princeton Theological Seminary is affiliated with Presbyterian Church (USA), a Mainline Protestant denomination that has gained headlines and suffered membership losses for its increasing acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage.
Carmen Fowler LaBerge, head of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and a Princeton Seminary graduate, told CP that she was "embarrassed by the title, subject matter, and utter lack of balance in the program."
"While it is accurate to acknowledge that 'gender identity is a topic of great interest today, especially for young people,' it is irresponsible for an institution founded on the Word of God to advance ideas contrary to God's binary design of men and women," said LaBerge.
"In Creation, gender is not confused and it is not fluid. It is Imago Dei, male and female, and by God's decree that is judged to be very good. 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."
When asked by CP if she thought events like this might influence the PCUSA denomination, LaBerge replied that "seminaries influence the pool of candidates available to churches when they need to call a pastor."
"So what is preached in PCUSA pulpits is downstream of what is taught in PCUSA seminaries. As go the seminaries, so go the preachers and as go the preachers, so go the sheep," continued LaBerge.
"Unless, as we've seen happening in recent years, the sheep flee elsewhere where they will not be brow-beat into accepting ideas that are contrary to the plain meaning of the Word of God."
Events for the two-day inaugural conference included a presentation last Friday titled "Gender. Power. Love: A (Re)Introduction to Gender Diversity" by a self-described "genderqueer activist" named Jacob Tobia.
"Tobia (who uses the gender-neutral pronoun 'they' in place of 'he' or 'she') is a leading voice for genderqueer, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people," noted Tobia's website. "As a writer, speaker, and advocate, Jacob helps others embrace the full complexity of gender and find power in living their truth — even when that truth doesn't fit comfortably within masculinity or femininity."