In Landmark Sermon, Chris Oberg Discusses Science of Sex and Gender

In a watershed sermon on gender and sexuality, La Sierra University Church Senior Pastor Chris Oberg explored reproductive asynchrony and gender dysphoria with her husband Kerby Oberg, a scientist and professor at Loma Linda University. The sermon came during a series titled "The Skin We're In" in which the La Sierra Church pastoral staff wove conversations with congregants and community members into their sermons.

Chris Oberg delivered her sermon, "Make it Pink! Make it Blue!" on Saturday, March 11. The sermon pushed into territory the Seventh-day Adventist Church has avoided, certainly from the pulpit. She addressed transgender people and gender and reproductive discontinuity from both a scientific perspective and the perspespetive of the faith community.

She called the La Sierra University Church a church that "believes in truth telling," and framed the sermon series with the words “candid,” and “going deeper.” The sermon series addressed the complexities of humanity from citizenship to race and from mental health to mortality, gender identity and sexuality.

Oberg shared the cover of a recent National Geographic magazine with the words “Gender Revolution” above a picture of people representing a range of gender identities. She suggested that had her parents seen that cover of National Geographic, they would have said, incredulous, “Really, we have to talk about this?!”

“Really, Church Family, we have to talk about this,” Oberg said, pointing to what she characterized as a void of conversation on the topic of gender identity within the Adventist Church.

Reading from Genesis 1:27—“God created humankind in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”—Oberg said the story is easy in one sense. “There is male, there is female...get on with your life.” But she hastened to say, “it is simple until it’s not.” As recently as five years ago, conversations about gender could be expected to be about difference between men and women and nurturing and caring for one another. But referring to the National Geographic cover on gender, she noted how the conversation on gender has shifted.

Some might say discussing gender can bring no satisfying solution, Oberg noted, “but silence is worse,” she said. “This is our world, and this is the world God so loves."

At the 10:00 minute mark in the video, she introduced Kerby Oberg, her husband. “I live with a scientist,” she said. “It’s been going on a few years.”

Kerby Oberg teaches medical embryology and developmental biology at Loma Linda University. His specialty is rare within Adventist higher ed.—perhaps two people, one at each medical university, focus on developmental biology, he said.

The title of her sermon, “Make it Pink! Make it Blue!” derived from a scene in the Disney film Sleeping Beauty in which two fairy godmothers were fighting over the color of Princess Aurora’s ball gown. One wanted to make it pink, the other blue. Chris and Kerby’s daughters watched that scene of the film over and over, Chris said.

Biology should be this easy, Chris suggested to Kerby—make it pink (female), make it blue (male). Kerby provided a precis on reproductive development and how chromosomes determine sex. “It’s far more complex than that,” he warned. Males and females begin the same, he said, with “undifferentiated or uncommitted” gonads. “It’s like before you make cookies, this is the cookie dough,” he said. Approximately 25 genes are involved in transforming undifferentiated gonads into either testes or ovaries (at about the 7th week of an embryo’s gestation), he noted. Local hormones are responsible for the formation of the internal reproductive “plumbing” and systemic hormones are responsible for external features—appearance. Those systemic or “global” hormones also imprint “femaleness” or “maleness” on the brain. Those hormones are present at their highest level at about the 17th week of gestation. All this, Chris said, is if this proceed “according to the script.”

“If things don’t go according to the script, you have ambiguity,” Kerby said. Both Obergs shared stories of people who presented as female but had male internal organs as well—stories from field work in Kerby’s case, and shared from National Geographic in Chris’s case. Kerby said that between 1% and 5% of the population (depending on the study) have some form of “reproductive discontinuity.” In a population of over 7 billion people, that means as many as 370 million people experience disunity between physical traits and gender identity. For every Adventist person in the world, there are 20 people who have some “disconnect,” as Chris put it.

Kerby expressed concern over the treatment of people who have reproductive asynchrony (or differences) and the language that is used to discuss their experiences. Chris offered a range of ways of describing the phenomena: “Do you say this is a variation on God’s plan? This is diversity? This is a mistake? This is a handicap (or malformation) like cleft lip and palate? This is sin?”

“For me,” Kerby responded, “this is not the typical developmental pattern, and that’s where I would leave it.”

Making an analogy to a child missing a leg but who wants to run, Kerby said the goal is helping all people (none of whom embodies God’s ideal) get closer to God’s ideal. “We will try to help that child figure out how to run.” For the church, Kerby said he would hope to see further exploration, further dialogue and listening to the pain that people have.

“Could you imagine if this were Amanda or Alisa (the Obergs’ adult daughters)?” Chris asked.

“Yes,” Kerby said, as both teared up.

“Me too,” Chris said.

“It’s a lot of people,” Chris said.

“It is,” Kerby replied.

Chris thanked her husband for sharing. As he left the platform, Chris said to the audience, “This is proof that faith and science can live together.”


WATCH: "Make it Pink! Make it Blue!"

Jared Wright is Southern California correspondent for

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This is truly marvelous on so many levels. First, modeling the helpfulness that science can be in discussing an issue that for so many is either theological, or ethical, or problematic or all three. How can church theology be consistent with the gospel without understanding the science? And this is true for other identity issues as well.

Second, It should not be overlooked that a female pastor/mother/wife decided, in prayer and reflection, that this needed to be addressed within the sacred space of congregational worship and not simply in administrative committee rooms. Were I still teaching I would require my religion and ethics students to watch this video and discuss it in the context of faith in Jesus the Christ.

Third, were more worship experiences and pulpit presentations as relevant as this one must have been to its hearers, there is no way young people would abandon the church as “irrelevant.” As their fascination with prophecy and doctrine recedes, their passion about caring for all God’s creatures, regardless of their particularities, would become a powerful wave.

Lastly, what a message of inclusion, love and acceptance would such services send to the most maligned, misunderstood and persecuted members among us, as well as those in the larger society who have given up on the “church” as judgmental, harsh, and without understanding and compassion.

God bless the Obergs and thanks for posting this.


Thank you,
Please could Kerby tell us more! He only touched the beginnings of the story. Jim


Pr. Oberg isn’t the first to raise this topic from the pulpit nor will she be the last. I agree wholeheartedly that this conversation is relevant. However, we must guard against being “relevant” that leads to popular agreement with culture over God’s word.

No Christian who is a committed child of God would call a malformed reproductive system or even interal desires a “sin” (see quote in this article). We can attack false arguments and straw men and then subtly interject a controversial view. That is both manipulative and modeling the serpent in the tree of “knowledge.” Caution!


Amen! What a beautiful sermon. This is the true direction that our push for gender equality should be taking - equality for ALL genders and non-exclusion of all regardless of their sexuality or Identity. Chris Oberg and the spouse have just taken a giant leap forward.

This is the trajectory that we will go on as our churches in the Pacific Union seek to push forward with ordination without regard to ANY gender.

This sermon, as well as Dan Jackson’s candid Q and A session, gives me hope that in Southeastern California at least we might see the ordination and full acceptance of all genders and of the entire LGBTQ community, not just within this lifetime, but within the next year or two.

May our churches soon fly the rainbow flag of full equality!!! I couldn’t be more PROUD than I am right now of this Conference!

Actually, I could be more proud… Now is the time for Pastor Oberg to put her words into action and marry a same-sex couple at the University Church at the next opportunity.

It’s one thing to talk about equality, and another to followup and do something to show the world what it really means to treat people with equality.


There is a difference between people with developmental issues who didn’t develop according to the usual timeline, and otherwise normal people who decide at some point in their life that they are the opposite gender, or an in-between gender, or an invented gender or no gender. We cannot make a theology out of mental issues.

Can anyone actually prove that the majority of the so-called transgender people have any genetic or developmental issues? I don’t think so. Society is pushing the “identity” card - it’s all about what you identify as, no proof necessary.

Can I identify as an indigenous woman (as a white male) and claim benefits from my government available only to them?


This is an outstanding development that I have been w-a-i-t-i-n-g and w-a-i-t-i-n-g and w-a-i-t-i-n-g for (thank you Chris, Kerby, and Jared!). Very well done segment to a sermon, and by the one couple in the denomination that has the know-how and opportunity to do it right. Now if only the Church’s most relevant leaders would pay attention.

It saddens me the extent to which so many SDA’s and evangelicals in general choose to disregard and poo-pooh science. Sure, science has its missteps, but over time it is self-correcting and gets things mostly right. We still have much to learn about the science of gender differentiation, gender identity, and sexual orientation, but the pieces of the puzzle are steadily coming together with modern science. What’s clear is that the utopian notion of a binary condition for gender remains a fantasy perpetuated only by blissful ignorance.

Only God knows our true condition; let’s let him be the one who judges us.


If this were true, we wouldn’t have suffered thousands of suicides…


Your point would only be valid on the condition that you disclose at what age you made the decision to be heterosexual. After all, if this were true to those who decided to be “the opposite gender,” this should be true in your personal case.

Interesting concept but very revealing. Are you proclaiming that your theology is based on anatomy and physiology instead of behavior and mental?


Now I am nearly 80 of age. I never decided to be heterosexual - thanks God I am ! When I remember whart kind and intensity of hostility would have met me for at least seventy years, what bad words, what whistleblowing ! What Church gossip !! - - But there is the myth , proclaimed by some judges, about “deciding to be homosexual” And then comes the “scientific” argument that no genetic material yet has been found to explain the deviation - well - do you know people who are lefthanded , and rightbrained or even with a situs transversus ?

There should be extra weeks of prayer for all those happy to be heterosexual with special worships of thanks for their “right” orierientation - even if their fate is to be and to stay single !

Post scriptum : Sorry I cold not specialize. But anyway I have eight SDA lives n my observation - closet homosexuals, dear, friendly, helpful, polite, charming personms with one gerat issue in their life : To under all circumstances - hide . Four of the ma re ministers or out of a ministers family. (Of course there is quite a number on non - SDA hmosexuals also in m yfiles.)


One of the many unexpected invitations that have blessed my life was the invitation to teach a Summer course on the Sabbath for the new Masters Program that had been established at La Sierra University some years ago. What made the teaching of that course memorable was that I had the good fortune to have Chris Oberg as one of the students. Her contributions to the class were invariably outstanding. It was only natural for me to be interested in what she would do with her life. From then on I have been very happy to see how her life, her professional service and her ministry have revealed all the talents she possesses for the benefit of others. Her recent landmark sermon is just one more demonstration of the way in which she has been using her talents in the service of her Lord. I am sure that even greater things will come from the life and ministry of this wonderful woman. May God continue to bless her and her family. We are all better off because of her ministry.


Interesting sermon. Thank God there are ministers who are not afraid to speak out on controversial subjects. More pastors should approach this subject, not just SDA’s. We need to be compassionate and loving to all humankind. I’m 80 and I still am learning tolerance and mostly from my grandchildren. They make me see the world in a different light. Pastor Oberg should tour the US churches and perhaps some of her words will sink in to those minds that are closed off.


great sermon…one of the best i’ve heard in a long time…


What are these differences you mention? Also, much (if not most) of our theology is mental (“of the mind”), and the mind is indeed part of the body. Why can’t we have a theology of mental issues, in any case?

Have you looked into the issue? The video did feature an expert on the subject and so the major terminologies and specific vocabularies are presented for further inquiry. What would you think if someone was able to “prove” that a majority transgender of people have genetic or developmental issues? How would that change your attitude toward the subject?

Certainly you may. I would invite you to make such an attempt and inform the rest of us here regarding your experiences and conclusions.




The young women in the La Sierra University Church are extremely privileged to have Pastor Chris Oberg as their role model.

With forty per cent of all pastors in the NAD scheduled to retire in the next ten years, hopefully some of these young women will follow Pastor Oberg into pastorships.

That said, Adventism is woefully behind the United Methodist Church which has been ordaining women pastors since 1956.

The Methodists are also ahead of us in their inclusivity of transgender individuals and members of the LGBT community.

Many Methodist churches openly identify themselves as RECONCILING CONGREGATIONS.

Churches which identify themselves as " reconciling " or. " affirming " are signaling to gays/lesbians that they will be welcomed and not humiliated with negative body language— raised eyebrows, elbow nudging, smirking, or tepid handshakes, should they attend a worship service.

Knowledgable Christian LGBT, when travelling to a strange city, will GOOGLE
" affirming congregations " to see which church to attend to ensure that they will be accepted and comfortable. Those Adventist churches which would like to extend a welcome to this community, should be sure that they are on the Google list of "affirming congregations " for their city/locality.

The Methodist Church I attend, has the following announcement printed prominently in every weekly worship bulletin, and also on their web site:
(This is not recent — it was voted by their membership many years ago. )


How many more decades will pass before the La Sierra University Church , and other Adventist congregations will print such an announcement in their weekly worship bulletins?

Kudos to the First United Methodist Church of Portland, and their superb senior pastor, Donna Pritchard!


I am so thankful for this hopeful sign of growth in our church. May God hasten the day when we are willing to fully accept this present truth.


My observation is that the graduates of non-religious universities are far more accepting of the LBQT population than those who have limited their higher education to religious fundamentalist schools. Making friends of all different racial and ethnic backgrounds is an important part of education. Accepting those with differences and the willingness to listen to life stories of those who are quite different is the opening of our minds and hearts to everyone, not simply those come from very similar backgrounds.


Bless you Chris. What a wonderful and timely message to share with Adventism right at this moment. I have ventilated enough on this forum so I won’t take up peoples time with my rants, but this could very well be a life saving message for so many… I personally knew two transgendered people who found the lack of acceptance so painful that they both took their own life. So this actually is a life or death matter.


I agree, we have to talk! But are all sides allowed to talk? We should also mention the 40% suicide rate among transgender people. That is really terrible. And it cannot be explained by some assumed un-acceptance by other people. Not even the Jews in Nazi Germany had such a high suicide rate. According to the Anderson school at UCLA even among accepted transgender persons and even after hormon treatment and surgery, the suicide rate is just as high. That means for me, that they need help. But is it really a good idea to give large amounts of hormons to teenagers while we know, that 80% of those who are confused about their gender get over it when they reach 20. Talking is good and necessary but who will be allowed to speak? Look what is happening to Jordan Peterson…


That assessment is a bit “walk-on-watery” for me to accept.

The truth regarding the consequences of ignoring sexual boundaries is not exclusive to some supercouple. The mental trainwreck that we are witnessing is a natural result of indulging in that which is forbidden. A giving over, if you will. The natural results of sexual anarchy as described in Romans 1.

I disagree with Chris. Sin is the ultimate cause, and Christ is the chain- breaker, (which Chris failed to mention in this landmark sermon.)