On Sunday, the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle in Manhattan debuted a new display titled “God is Trans: A Queer Spiritual Journey."
As expected, the controversial topic of the exhibit has drawn widespread outrage from members of the congregation, other religious groups, and the national media.
Is a New York City church actually arguing that God is trans?
The Queer Spiritual Journey
The exhibit contains three paintings by artist Adah Unachukwu that are intended to depict the faith experience of LGBTQ Christians.
“God is Trans maps the queer spiritual journey by three significant points,” reads the description of Unachukwu’s art. “Sacrifice, Identity, and Communion.”
Accompanying each of these points is a painting, each evoking Christian imagery like saints in stained glass or the crucifixion.
The ‘Sacrifice’ painting evokes “the need to shed an old life and personhood in order to be able to focus on your spiritual need. There is no devil, just past selves.'”
“Identity is the most impactful part of the exhibition,” reads the display. “What does holiness look like? What does your god look like? Are those two portrayals that can be merged?”
And Communion “rounds out the spiritual journey, by placing God and the mortal on the same plane to speak to one another. This part of the installation is about a spiritual home and the ways we can achieve this home in our everyday lives.”
Soon after its unveiling, the display was picked up by media outlets and quickly became the target of criticism.
The Archdiocese of New York, which oversees Church of Saint Paul the Apostle, is pleading complete ignorance on the controversial exhibit.
"We had no knowledge of it beforehand," a spokesperson for the Diocese stated. "If media reports are accurate, then we would have concerns. We are investigating and looking to speak with the pastor of the parish to get more information."
Amid the widespread outrage online, the congregation at the progressive church seems to have torn feelings about the exhibit.
Parishioners Speak Out
Despite the church's history of supporting LGBTQ rights and being one of the more gay friendly parishes in the city, some congregants weren't happy with the decision to feature "God is Trans."
“The church should not be promoting this,” said one church regular. “I understand there are transgender people. I pray for all people but enough is enough. It seems like they are trying to force the agenda on others.”
This individual also lamented that church leadership seemingly refused to comment on the exhibit. "You can’t put this out on the altar and then hide," they said. "That’s what gets the church in trouble."
However, other parishioners were more supportive. “I don’t understand the art, but this church is very liberal, which is why I love this church,” said one churchgoer. “The queer community has been accepted here for a long time now,” added another parishioner. “It’s wonderful having this here and a wonderful church.”
What is your reaction? Is drawing parallels between God and the transgender experience a sincere attempt at inclusion for the trans community? Or should the church have consulted its congregation before introducing an exhibit with an intentionally controversial title?