Thinking Anglicans

Bishops decline to request any new Transgender liturgy

Updated

Jonathan Petre reports for the Mail on Sunday that: Church of England bishops throw out Synod demand for prayer celebrating a transgender person’s change of sex.

Church of England bishops have blocked the introduction of a new prayer celebrating a transgender person’s change of sex.

The House of Bishops was strongly urged to draw up the ‘baptism-style’ services for sex-change Christians by the Church’s ‘Parliament’, the General Synod, last summer.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, was among senior figures who implored Synod members to vote for a motion asking the bishops to consider new official liturgies designed to welcome a transgender person under their new name.

The Reverend Chris Newlands, who proposed the motion, said it was ‘a wonderful opportunity to create a liturgy which speaks powerfully to the particularities of trans people, and make a significant contribution to their well-being and support’.

But The Mail on Sunday has learned that the bishops rejected the move at a private meeting at Lambeth Palace last month.

One senior member of the Synod said: ‘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.

The Reverend Christina Beardsley, a transgender woman and a Church of England chaplain who attended the Synod debate, said she was ‘very disappointed’.

Dr Beardsley, a member of the transgender group the Sibyls, said many Christians would be hurt by the decision, which showed that the bishops ‘don’t seem to be engaging with transgender people’…

The Church of England has today issued a news item: Welcoming Transgender People – an update

Following the debate and vote at General Synod in July 2017 on Welcoming Transgender People, the House of Bishops has prayerfully considered whether a new nationally commended service might be prepared to mark a gender transition.

The Bishops are inviting clergy to use the existing rite Affirmation of Baptismal Faith. New guidance is also being prepared on the use of the service.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, said: “The Church of England welcomes transgender people and wholeheartedly wishes for them to be included in the life of the Church.

“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.”

A paper discussing the decision will be published before the February session of Synod.

The service can be found here, under the full heading: ‘Affirmation of Baptismal Faith within a Celebration of Holy Communion’.

Update

OneFaithOneBody responded to this statement on Sunday evening: Into the long grass – again

Campaign group accuses bishops of ‘kicking trans people into the long grass’

The leading LGBT Christian campaigning group, OneBodyOneFaith has accused the Bishops of the Church of England of ‘kicking trans people into the long grass’ following their decision not to commend special services of welcome following gender transition and naming, despite General Synod passing a Motion in July which called for them to consider such a move. The news was leaked to the Daily Mail and had Church House officials scurrying to issue a clarifying statement today, Sunday 21 January.

Tracey Byrne, CEO and a General Synod member said, ‘This feels like kicking trans people into the long grass – just like the wider LGBT communities were kicked into the long grass by the bishops’ woeful report last February. More fine words about welcome – but denying trans people the services and pastoral support they themselves have told us would actually make a real difference.’

She went on to say, ‘It’s no particular surprise that the bishops have fallen so short of the mark, given their failure to consult with or listen to trans people’s experiences, but that’s no excuse. Officially authorised services would have sent a strong message from the very top of the institution that trans people really matter; that was the message at July synod. Sadly once again the bishops have failed to step up to the challenge set them by General Synod, the Church’s own governing body.’

Canon Peter Leonard, Chair of OneBody and also a General Synod member, said that he already knew of many positive examples of clergy devising beautiful and moving services for trans people, and that he felt it likely they would continue to do so, but that such a situation could not be allowed to remain the church’s official position. He said, ‘All those of us who want to see a church which reflects the radical inclusion of Jesus will stand alongside our trans sisters and brothers who are once more being let down by the church of which we’re a part. Our message to the bishops is simple, as it was last February; we’ll work with you, but we won’t wait for you. This latest move demonstrates once more that they are out of step not just with the mind of Synod, but with the broader church and society too’ He said OneBody would be working with its partners and allies on General Synod and in the wider church to continue to press for change, and to ensure that the voices of those who had most to add to the debate – trans people themselves – did not continue to be relegated to the sidelines.

52
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
52 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
25 Comment authors
GringoKateErika BakerSimon KershawSimon Sarmiento Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Leonard Clark
Guest

“‘don’t seem to be engaging with transgender people’… The Reverend Christina Beardsley

and COUNTLESS others…in our hemisphere too they, the bishops, often are shifty, sneaky and afraid when dealing with the reality of other human beings…what positive pastoral *things* is it they do/do for people on the edge of being shunned and despised/worse?

Leonard Clark
Guatemala

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

Hands up anyone who’s surprised?

Thought not.

TP
Guest
TP

Will any bishop who was present be prepared to say “While of course I will abide by the wish of the majority, in fact I didn’t support this decision”? Or are we in Pyongyang territory here? Though it is interesting that the House went against the expressed views of ++Sentamu, or have I misunderstood something? Certainly the optics of this are not good.

Peter K+
Guest
Peter K+

TP, the motion was to ask the bishops to CONSIDER liturgy, not to deliver it. This the bishops have done, and a considered report will be given in February. My guess is that the nub of their thinking is that in liturgical terms the sacrament of baptism is the church’s ‘red carpet treatment’, so there is no stronger liturgical welcome that we can offer a Trans person than the renewal of baptismal vows in the person’s new name…and of course there’s nothing to stop a priest locally writing a few prayers to ‘fine tune’ things depending on precise circumstances. At… Read more »

Victoriana
Guest
Victoriana

If you’re a regular Church of England communicant, now is the time to start writing to your MP. Parliament is capable of trumping synod, so maybe it’s time the spectre was raised.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Victoriana, it is this kind of talk that makes anglicans worldwide wish that the role of the ABC in respect of the Communion be altered. How can a polity that asks the Parliament at Westminster to overrule Bishops be one that functions properly globally?

Then again, the matter may take care of itself if this continues.

Sean D
Guest
Sean D

This is very unfortunate:
1) That this decision has been made in such a high handed way
2) That it has been communicated so badly
3) That it once more lowers the credibility of Church of England bishops.

One small positive – it seems the vote went against an Archbishop – at last revealing what we always knew, and despite what the bishops say, they are, thankfully, not as united as they like us to think.

TP
Guest
TP

Peter: Thanks for your generous take. My only thoughts are these. Firstly I take “consider” to be a polite form of instruction or direction, just like saying please and thank you. If the Church of England is “synodically governed” then that more or less means the bishops have to do as they were asked. Secondly, if the bishops’ reasons were as you say, then the press release could have made that clearer. Your own “red carpet” phrase could have been used for example. Then the press would have said: “Bishops decide to give red carpet treatment to transgender people” rather… Read more »

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

To the trans community ‘we welcome you,’ to deeply conservative Christians ‘nothing has changed.’ Liturgical insincerity at its worst. It isn’t courageous and it isn’t liturgy. Its a political solution of the worst kind. Re-appropriating an existing and seldom used liturgy for a specific group of people just says we regard you as second class. Awful.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“My guess is that the nub of their thinking is that in liturgical terms the sacrament of baptism is the church’s ‘red carpet treatment’, so there is no stronger liturgical welcome that we can offer a Trans person than the renewal of baptismal vows in the person’s new name.” Can we please drop the inaccurate references to trans / transgender people in this regard? Whilst some affected are trans, at least some are intersex (and there is little agreement on who falls within which label). Let’s not airbrush entirely intersex people who might also change gender role. It shows that… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I think there are two entwined issues behind this. Firstly, recognising a change of gender is contentious in some parts of the church and, secondly, the church has never really developed an understanding of the the theological and liturgical consequences of such a change. Correctly viewed, a great wrong was done to some people in childhood. It might be understable that doctors, parents, society and the church misgendered someone for years, but, even if unwitting, it was still a great wrong. The liturgy needed is, in part an apology for that wrong. There is no sense of that in the… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

That the bishops couldn’t envisage a stronger welcome than baptism liturgy is not surprising – considering they didn’t ask a single trans person about what they want from a welcome liturgy. This is what happens if people stay solidly in their own echo-chamber and only ever affirm their own thinking. Sentamu was not really supportive at all. What he said at the time was: “Chair, members of Synod, there are two parts to this motion and they both have to be taken with equal weight. The first is the need to welcome and affirm in their parish transgender people. Is… Read more »

Evan McWilliams
Guest
Evan McWilliams

It seems to me that one must ask what the liturgy is intended to do. If it’s meant to ‘introduce a person to God’, I would venture that baptism does that already and a legal change of gender isn’t going to confuse the Lord. If it’s meant to ‘introduce a person to the congregation’, again, I’d suggest that’s already happened in baptism as well. If, however, what’s in mind is a ‘therapeutic’ liturgy, I sincerely question the intellectual integrity of those suggesting such a thing. Liturgy is not, and never has been, used by the Church as a form of… Read more »

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

In quoting Archbishop John Sentamu’s undoubtedly influential speech at General Synod in July 2017, Erika Baker has pre-empted the point I was going to make, endorsing that made earlier in this thread by Peter K, namely that Synod passed a motion calling on the bishops “to CONSIDER whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.” That is what they have done, and the HoB decision, set out in the C of E Press Statement of 21/01/2018, to invite clergy “to use the existing rite Affirmation of Baptismal Faith” was one of the options… Read more »

TP
Guest
TP

David Lamming: I never suggested that the headline was written by the press office. The journalist obviously came to the same conclusion as some of the other people who have posted on this site. A different press release would have had a different effect, no doubt.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

Victoriana,
I wonder why you suggest only regular communicants, rather than all citizens of England (if not the Uk), should express their views to their MPs on the matter?

Kate
Guest
Kate

Evan, I found your reference to “therapeutic” liturgy rather insulting. Ministers can refuse to marry someone who has followed a process of discernment and changed gender. That is a wickedness which must stopped and the best way of doing it a through liturgy so that the church recognises the change of gender. That liturgy must then bind every minister in the church. Liturgy isn’t, to my mind, needed by the person who will be the focus of the liturgy: liturgy is needed for the church itself to repent of how the church has treated the individual and for the church… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

I’m happy to defend our decision. Sacraments are objective. The liturgy around them declares what is true – we are baptised, and water and the Holy Spirit operate in that context. It’s not CofE practice to devise special circumstances liturgies for particular people, however much we wish to be welcoming and pastorally sensitive. What takes place when someone renews their baptismal vows is that they are pointed back to the unrepeatable sacrament that was their initiation into Jesus Christ. It would not (in my view) be appropriate to devise a specific liturgy around that renewal, whether the life event that… Read more »

Revd Dr Charles Clapham
Guest

I think the argument from a trans perspective is that baptism also involves naming: a person is baptised under a specific name, which also carries a particular gender identity. And what is being asked for therefore is not re-baptism, but a renewal of baptismal vows under the new name, with the implicit recognition of the new gender identity (and the issuing of a new certificate as appropriate). Offering this as an approved liturgical option would therefore imply formal recognition by the church (and God) of gender transition. The corollary is that by refusing to offer this, the bishops are denying… Read more »

Jo
Guest
Jo

It’s also worth noting that the language of “pastoral prayers” as a substitute is tainted in the area of LGBT recognition by association with the refusal to recognise equal marriage and similar recommendations there. It tells trans folk that their experience is unworthy of recognition by the church, and that “normal” clergy shouldn’t concern themselves with it.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“and the issuing of a new [baptismal] certificate as appropriate” Thank you for raising this. Regardless of the question of liturgy, a new baptism certificate is needed and parish records should reflect the new name and gender. If no liturgy is offered, then the original parish records will need to be updated. There is an issue here under s9 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. If someone requests a copy of the original register, then the new name and gender should be substituted. The Church of England is *not* excepted from this and the Data Protection Act could possibly be… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Pete Broadbent,
no-one was calling for a new sacrament. People were asking for a formal welcome liturgy. The vast majority of our liturgy is not sacramental.

If the HoB had consulted trans people, it would have discovered what they were asking for and why.

It’s astonishing that after the Not Taking Note vote last February it was promised that never again would the church talk about people without including them in the conversation. And at the very first possible occasion, this promise was broken.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“no-one was calling for a new sacrament. People were asking for a formal welcome liturgy.”

Why do you say that?

As part of the mutual flourishing, the Church recognises that some people see men and women as spiritually interchangeable but others see the two genders as different in nature. If someone with the latter belief changes gender, then s/he needs more than welcome, s/he needs a sacrament to underpin the change.

Sean
Guest
Sean

In a modern generation hasn’t the time come for the minutes of the House of Bishops, and details of how Bishops voted, to be available publicly. (With a confidentiality option only for sensitive material).

This then gives church members an opportunity to support or question their bishop’s stance.

After all we know how synod members vote…

Erika Baker
Guest
Simon Kershaw
Admin

Pete Broadbent:

This has been done in the past, e.g. the invention of a service of thanksgiving after the birth of a child. Or a service after the adoption of a child.

These are examples of significant life events that the Church of England has devised new liturgical material for. Not a new sacrament at all, but formal liturgical recognition of a significant life event. And perhaps importantly, not one that is linked to a faith event, but to a new context for a life being lived.

andrew Godsall
Guest
andrew Godsall

Pete: I wonder then how it is that a significant number of C of E Churches – probably exclusively Evangelical Charistmatic ones – re-baptise adults
who have preivously been baptised as children? Is anything being done to address that matter? It seems to happen in the sea, in swimming pools, and even, sometimes, in the presence of a bishop. Is that a sacrament? Is it a disciplinary issue? Do we just ignore it because it is occurring in the growth area of the C of E?

Simon R
Guest
Simon R

Pete Broadbent has got it right. I can’t quibble with the theological and liturgical rationale he outlines. So far so good. The problem is that the precedent has already been set by the decision to provide a combined marriage & baptismal liturgy about a decade ago. Would it not have been a generous gesture, without diminishing the sacramental objectivity of baptism, to have simply composed a Collect-type prayer (Psalm 139.12ff would have been a good starting point) to include in the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith (with some suggested readings, perhaps), and to have provided a more positive commentary about how… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Kate,
I say that no new sacrament was requested because the Blackburn motion reads:

“That this Synod, recognizing the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.”

Tina Beadsley and Chris Dodd’s forthcoming book Transfaith will offer 7 liturgies for different key events in a trans person’s life.
None of them are about a new sacrament. All of them are about formal liturgy.

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

There does seem to me to be a lot of confusion here. Essentially +Pete is correct that we do not produce liturgies for any and every conceivable situation. Clergy and Readers can write their own and indeed much of CW is commended (not authorized) thus giving a possible liturgy but not the only one a C of E church could use. (Hence all the Good Friday material is commended – i.e. here is a set of resources we commend to you but feel free to adapt it or use some other). This is not true of e.g. eucharistic prayers where… Read more »

Jayne Ozanne
Guest
Jayne Ozanne

Dr Charles Clapham: The corollary is that by refusing to offer this, the bishops are denying the possibility or reality of gender transition. So this is the real point of dispute. Spot on, Charles! The real issue here is whether the Church of England are prepared to take practical steps (not just speak words that few trust) to prove to our transgender siblings that their transitioning, which for them is an extremely important “rite of passage”, has been recognised and affirmed by the Church. Cobbling something together, and “making do” with another form of liturgy intended for a different purpose… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

That Andrew Lightbown piece is excellent

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

I’d be surprised if there were any evidence of rebaptisms. I and many others immerse people with the renewal of baptismal vows on the basis that baptism is unique. That isn’t rebaptism. Which is precisely the analogy with what the bishops are recommending.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Further to my post at 3.03 pm yesterday, a paper GS Misc 1178 “An update on ‘Welcoming Transgender People'”, has just been e-mailed to General Synod members and will be available electronically shortly. The paper is short (just over a page) and the material paragraphs are these: 3. The House of Bishops welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the Church, the body of Christ, and rejoices in the diversity of that one body, into which all Christians have been baptized by one Spirit. 4. The motion also called on the House of… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

There is a crucial distinction to be made between liturgy that is (potentially) universally applicable and liturgy for specific and particular persons. Precisely the service of thanksgiving after the birth of a child or a service after the adoption of a child are provisions which are potentially universally available to any or all persons who might otherwise have brought a child for baptism. The services *derive* from the sacramental act which the Church offers. To suggest that we should make specific official liturgical provision for people who have already been baptised (which is the start of the Christian journey for… Read more »

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

“Then the second bit talks about the House of Bishops. It is the House of Bishops being asked “to consider whether” and “whether materials might be”. Actually, the motion has been very carefully crafted. I welcome it because it allows us to do what Dr Land was trying to suggest without kicking it into the long grass. The theology has to be done but that cannot be done very quickly. And here in lies the problem – the response has been quick in C of E terms and the theology hasn’t been done. A seldom used liturgy has been plucked… Read more »

Revd Dr Charles Clapham
Guest

I think behind this lies the bigger ethical question on which it would be good to hear the views of Pete Broadbent, and indeed the other bishops. Do you believe that for those who present with gender dysphoria, gender transition can be an ethically and psychologically appropriate form of therapy? Or do you think it is just a mistake? The suspicion that I (and many others) have is that the bishops ultimately think that gender transition is morally wrong (or at least, irresponsible) – and that this is what lies behind the decision not to prepare a specific liturgy that… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

“I’d be surprised if there were any evidence of rebaptisms. “
The evidence is of the numerous candidates who say that it has happened to them. They will explain that their infant baptism did not count because they were not able to respond with a personal profession of faith. So they agree to be re-baptised in the manner I have suggested. Surely you must be aware of that Pete?

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

It might be worth recalling the words of the motion which was overwhelmingly endorsed:”That this Synod, recognizing the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.” Gender transition is the issue which the motion asked to be addressed and for which a liturgy might be written.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Reaffirmation of baptismal vows assumes that the person involved is ready and willing to do that. It is not appropriate for someone who is not ready to take that step but would still appreciate a liturgical rite. And that is partly why I drew the parallel with thanksgiving after birth or adoption, which don’t require a statement of faith, and are not rites of initiation. Similar we do not require that couples getting married in church make a statement of faith, even though they are the ministers of the rite. And we subsequently added prayers after a civil marriage to… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Bishop Pete Broadbent said “I and many others immerse people with the renewal of baptismal vows”. I’m obviously very naive and under-exposed, but I am rather shocked by this. The forms of reaffirmation of baptismal vows make no provision (so far as I can see) for immersion, and this is very carefully avoided in the rite. There is a mention of the high-church practice of the “candidates” (an unfortunate word to use perhaps) signing themselves with water from the font, or for the president to sprinkle water on them (presumably with an aspergilium or a sprig of rosemary or similar).… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

“I’d be surprised if there were any evidence of rebaptisms. I and many others immerse people with the renewal of baptismal vows on the basis that baptism is unique. That isn’t rebaptism.”
The more I reflect on this the more astonished I am at it. Immersing people IS baptising people. That’s what the word means. Renewal of vows does not require immersing in water. The clues are in the words.

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

This is a bit of a tangent to the debate, but the volume of water used around a renewal of vows exactly parallels to same question of the volume of water around a baptism. You can be baptised by sprinkling, pouring or submersion; similarly you can renew your vows by crossing yourself, asperging, splashing or submersion. I do all of them in different contexts. It ain’t the volume of water. It’s the very important question of words(which does bring us back to the debate we’ve been having). Renewal of vows points back to the once for all time character of… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

Pete: you are missing several points here. 1. Whatever *you* might intend with use of particular words, what is perceived is a baptism. And that is what is intended by many who perform the rite. 2. I’d be astonished if this ‘renewal’ that you so rigidly maintain is what you perform is performed every year at, e.g the Easter Vigil. You perform it once. 3. You must be very well aware that this ‘immersion’ is used in many places as a form of believers’ baptism. Dressing it up as a renewal of vows is simply being dishonest. 4. It has… Read more »

Revd Dr Charles Clapham
Guest

Like Pete Broadbent, I am not very interested in the volume of water that is used in baptisms or the renewal of vows (the more the better, in my view). But I am interested in what Pete or the other bishops think of the ethics of gender transition and why – beyond a generic statement that all are welcome in the church, and we are all sinners in our different ways. It is a reasonable question to ask, surely?

Tiffer
Guest
Tiffer

Simon R

The CofE did not publish a liturgy for a combined service of Baptism and Marriage. Instead the liturgical commission published an outline order suggesting how it might be done using existing provision because of increasing numbers of requests by clergy. This is *precisely* what the HoB have said they will be doing later in 2018 in response to this motion.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

For the record, 2 bishops voted against the Blackburn motion and two abstained. 30 voted in favour. (Clearly, some HoB members didn’t vote at all.)

The two who abstained were Julian Henderson and Alistair Magowan. The two who voted against were Jonathan Baker and Pete Broadbent.

There was one recorded vote on an amendment which was defeated. In that vote eleven bishops supported the amendment, and two abstained.

http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/007613.html

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Thanks for that clarification Pete (which I assume is addressed at both Andrew G and my earlier comments). I agree that this practice is not technically baptism if it does not use the words “I baptize you in the name of …”. But it is still a very confusing thing to do, and especially where it is arguably deliberately misleading, either to the renewer, or to the congregation. I don’t think I agree about the use of the word “sprinkling”, which I have never seen used as a mode of baptism, even if it is canonically valid. Triple immersion is… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Tina Beadsley and Chris Dodd’s forthcoming book Transfaith will offer 7 liturgies for different key events in a trans person’s life.
None of them are about a new sacrament. All of them are about formal liturgy.”

Erika, I think I am the only directly affected person posting here and, based on personal experience, it should be a sacrament.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Kate,
apologies if I sounded as if I knew better than you!

Truth is, though, that the motion didn’t ask for a sacrament.
And if you, and presumably others, are asking for one, then that is just extra evidence for me that not talking to trans people and including them in the process was ignorant, negligent and completely indefensible.

Have you seen the liturgy for renaming the editors of Tina and Chris’s book Transfaith have made available?
I’d love to hear what you make of it.

https://www.booksonix.com/dlt/PressRelease/Transfaith%20liturgy%20sample.pdf