Prolegomena to A Public Response to William Griffin, Ph.D.

Strap in, folks, because this is going to be a response. It is a series of posts in reference to Dr. William “Bill” Griffin of Evangel University in Springfield, MO: probably a flagship school of the Assemblies of God headquartered there.

On July 12, 2021, I encountered a Facebook post (7/25/21 edit: Bill has since blocked me from accessing his Facebook) by one of my shirttail professors, William “Bill” Griffin, Ph.D. I never had any classes with him, but we developed a sort of friendship when I passed on a joke I heard from Wave Nunnally. Griffin obtained an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School and his Ph.D. from Emory University.

Anyway, reading what I encountered, I knew I had to respond. Had he told me what he wrote in private, I probably would have confronted him privately and kept it there, within reason. That’s usually my way. He is a man of influence who stated some very dismissive things about transfolk publicly, however. So this will be public. I also consider him a friend; we’ll see how he views me after this

A quick excursus: I do not equate people’s ideas with themselves. Consider it my perverted version of “Love the Christian, hate the Christianity.” Or something like that. It is not so much Christianity I hate, so much as Bill’s evangelical version of it. I do not shy away from the fact that I, and my chosen family, have been profoundly hurt by this version of the faith, and we simply won’t take it anymore. Furthermore, Bill is a big boy, meaning he can dish out some blustery fire. If somehow, I do offend him, I will hear him out, but apologize only for my tone. I respect you, Bill; out of love, I wish to confront what I see as incredibly dangerous ideas you espouse.

My audience is pluriform: my queer family, curious Christians, my former academic trainers, and obliquely, Bill and his ilk. Note that I will constantly shift between second- and third-person when addressing him. You may also notice a fragmentation of tone. At times it is academic, at other times poetic, at still others sarcasm and diatribe. I apologize for this lack of consistency, Dear Reader, for maybe you are not used to such things.

I can save you some time if you’d like to dismiss what I have to say, for the following reasons:

1) I am queer. That’s just that. I apologize to no one about it. I won’t change it. In the closet for any amount of time sucks for so many reasons, and 38 years was just too long.

2) I am a bawdy, “debauched” (not really, just to conservative folk), coarse heathen. In other words, I like to salt my speech with a good cuss word. Funny story about that: once I took 800mg of Advil for shoulder pain and I said on Facebook that it didn’t do “shit” for me. Want to know what some pastor told me via Facebook Messenger? That using cuss words called my educational attainment into question. Great fucking bedside manner there, reverend. I can just see Jesus shining through you. Maybe this person’s seminary taught them to belittle their flock, instead of probing beneath someone’s rough exterior to his/her actual problem. Like I said, fucking funny story.

A touch about my credentials. I do not have 3 letters behind my name, only 2. I don’t have Bill’s teaching experience, and I hardly touch the Bible anymore. However….however, here is what I have to offer. I graduated summa cum laude from a now-defunct, fundamentalist college with a B.A. in “Pre-Seminary” (really just biblical languages and a lot of Bible/theology classes). The next step was seminary. I attended Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, and was a semester shy of obtaining an M.A. in Theological Studies. There I rounded out my studies with some historical courses, as well as even MORE Bible and theology classes. After that, I attained an M.A. in Religious Studies at Missouri State University.

And though this isn’t a credential, per se, I’ve read the Bible…a lot. Another funny story: when my brother was maybe 8 and I was 10, we had a contest to see who could finish the Bible first. Boy howdy, I’ll let you in on a little secret: there was a lot of stuff in there that we didn’t touch in Sunday School: so many people’s sisters were raped, creative maiming, donkey emissions, etc. It’s probably good that I encountered the Bible that way (i.e., without an outside filter), the first time anyway, for it gave me time to come to some opinions on my own. I also read quite a bit outside an ecclesial community and have for a long time.

So how this series of responses is going to work. First, his post may be found in the wild or on my blog. Then I will respond to it, though not in a formal rebuttal. I’m just not that systematic. I will intersperse my response with points theological, exegetical, humorous (to me at least), and social.

Let this be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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