On being Human… A Theological Framing of Gender

Dr. Cynthia Bennett Brown

31.10.2016 | Church in the Public Square, Union Theological College


Dr. Cynthia Bennett Brown has been lecturer in systematic theology at Belfast Bible College since 2011. Originally from the United States, she moved to Northern Ireland in 2005 where she attends Fisherwick Presbyterian Church. In the fifth of our On being human series of seminars on gender and sexuality, Dr. Brown will to consider the Christian metanarrative of who God is and who we are as created human persons.  She will suggest that, as pressing as issues of gender are in our contemporary context, we do well to discuss these issues within the theological framework of our God-given identity as persons in community.

In recent decades sexuality and gender often have been discussed in the church via issues surrounding gender roles, ecclesial hierarchy, homosexuality, gay marriage, and clerical sexual abuse. These subjects are sometimes where emotions and personal stories urgently demand and deserve attention.

In this seminar, however, I am steering past these issues that, in many cases, are well informed by knowledgeable and trustworthy theologians and for which bibliographies can be obtained readily. Instead, my goal is to broaden our lens widely to consider the Christian story of who God is and who we are as created human persons. It is to human beings as a whole, not just to men or just to women, that God has given his blessing, his commands, his guidance, his wisdom and his Holy Spirit.

The broad story becomes personal when we talk specifically about what it means for you or me to be male or female.  For many, the essentialist view that God created us as men and women is all we need to know in order to relate to ourselves, to each other and to God. But I suggest we do well to at least acknowledge that our gender identities are more informed than we sometimes recognise by the culture in which we live.

Finally I want to ask the question in our 21st Century context, ‘Is God still God and are we still in his image?’  How do we think about and respond to issues of gender and sexuality in a world where the boundaries to being human are increasingly undefined and gender is fluid?

Dr. Bowns’ seminar ‘A theological framing of gender’ took place on Monday, 7th November 2016 at Union Theological College, Belfast.



Consultant Psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Collins, also contributed to the seminar with a talk entitled ‘Understanding gender dysphoria.’ You can listen to it here.

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