Photo Credit: Church of England
The Church of England’s House of Bishops have rejected a request from the province’s General Synod for “nationally commended liturgical materials to mark a person’s gender transition.” The request came in a motion passed by the Synod at its meeting in York last July. It called for the bishops to consider such a move in recognition of “the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church.” In a statement today, the C of E said that the bishops had “prayerfully considered whether a new nationally commended service might be prepared to mark a gender transition” and had decided against.
“The Church of England welcomes transgender people and wholeheartedly wishes for them to be included in the life of the Church,” the Bishop of Norwich, Graham James, said on behalf of the House. “On the matter of whether a new service is needed, the House of Bishops has decided that the current service that is used to affirm baptism can be adapted.
“Clergy always have the discretion to compose and say prayers with people as they see fit.”
Today’s statement follows a report in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday newspaper, which quotes an un-named General Synod member saying: “I am surprised that they have decided that new liturgies weren’t necessary given the force of the arguments and the feeling of Synod. You need to be able to respond to people’s life events. We do with birth and marriage and death. When you claim a new identity, that seems to me to be as powerful.”
The original motion was put forward by the Revd Christopher Newlands on behalf of the Blackburn Diocesan Synod. Opening the debate, he said that while it was possible to use existing liturgy, the Church could do better, as it had done in the wake of recent tragedy, or terrorist attacks, with specific prayers, names, and details of the event, the Church Times reported. “An authorised liturgy of welcome and affirmation would stand as a prophetic sign to all people that the Church accepts the reality of gender dysphoria and the situation of trans people,” he said.
At their recent meeting at Lambeth Palace, the Bishops are inviting clergy to use the existing rite Affirmation of Baptismal Faith, and will prepare new guidance on the use of the service. The C of E said that a paper discussing the bishops’ decision will be published before the February session of Synod, which is due to take place in London from 8 – 10 February.