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Amid Fiery Debate, A Baptist Pastor in Dallas Wants To Learn About Transgender People

Krystina Martinez
Mark Wingfield is an associate pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas.

This month, Mark Wingfield of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas wrote a blog post for a semi-obscure website called Baptist News Global. It was titled “Seven Things I’m Learning About Transgender Persons.”

"I don't know much about transgender issues, but I'm trying to learn -- in part because I want to understand the way God has made us," Wingfield wrote.

While some conservatives, like Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, were at the state GOP convention attacking school restroom policies for transgender students, Wingfield took a different tack. Wingfield talked with KERA about what he's learned in the past few weeks.

Interview Highlights: Mark Wingfield…

…On why he wrote the post:

“Our congregation, since last fall, has been in the midst of a very detailed and thoughtful study on how to respond to the wider issue of LGBT, and it’s a very difficult process we’ve been through. But within that conversation, we learned that we were talking a lot about gay and lesbian issues, but we really had not dealt with transgender at all.

"A few weeks ago, a pediatrician in our congregation and a geneticist spoke to us about this issue. I listened to their presentation and my mind just exploded. Why have I never understood these things? Why have I never heard these things before?"

…On opponents of transgender bathroom policies who happen to share his faith:

“Just because you are the loudest voice in the Christian community doesn’t mean you’re the majority voice or the correct voice. There are people who speak on behalf of Christianity or speak politically while claiming a Christian mantle who may not be reading the Bible the same way the rest of us do.”

…On his biggest takeaways:

“There are a number of people across the country I’ve been hearing from who are transgender or the parents or friends of transgender people who deeply want to have faith, and they feel like there’s not a place in organized religion or in the church for them. They struggle with this. They’ve been kicked out of churches, they’ve been ostracized from churches and it breaks my heart to know that the dominant message people are getting is what the church is against more than what the church is for. We need to speak the love of Christ and the warm embrace that the church is a place for all people and we’re not going to exclude people just because they’re different from us.”

Mark Wingfield is an associate pastor atWilshire Baptist Church in Dallas.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.