Saturday, 2 December 2017

Opinion - 2 December 2017

Jamie Fletcher Christian Today WWJD about ‘Transgender’? A trans Christian responds

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Speaking of size

George Pitcher New Statesman Don’t let the cosy stable fool you – the Virgin Mary’s story is brutal

Madeleine Davies Church Times Can the tide turn in Blackpool?

Anne-Marie Naylor Church Times Rich parish, poor parish — time to choose

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes Advent is a feminist issue (and so are posh Advent calendars)

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 2 December 2017 at 11:00am GMT | TrackBack
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Good article by Jamie Fletcher. As she says, trans people are not a 'theory'. This is our lives.

That important point reminds me of G Bauer's 2009 research paper entitled: "I don't think this is theoretical, this is our lives" - how erasure impacts health care for transgender people.

Too often people try to tell us theologically who or what we are supposed to be. Whereas what would be most valuable - in the Church of England for example - would be a 'reverse discourse' based around the actual lived experience of trans people.

Chris Dowd's paper reflects that reverse approach: "Transfaith: an Exploration of Gender in the Church from the Margins."

http://www.etheses.bham.ac.uk/5936/1/Dowd15ThD.pdf

A Church of England approach like this could be really valuable, to counter ignorance, and as a reversal of the top-down way of doing theology, where we can end up being defined by others and told who we are. There is a lack of knowledge and insight of the actual psycho-social challenges of living daily life as transgender people; and as with lesbian and gay people, too often the critics of trans people presume they are "choosing a lifestyle". No. This is actual life. This is who a person is.

The General Synod has affirmed gender transition, and hopefully we shall move to a point where gender identity (which after all, almost everyone has) is not defined as a problem but a potential, leading to the prospect of 'transgender emergence' and empowerment in faith communities.

At the crisis point of transition, please believe me, a welcoming faith community can literally be a lifeline. It also speaks of God's welcome, love, respect, and hope. It's not just trans people. God hopes the same for each person, to uniquely be who they are in all their potential.

There is, of course, well-meaning uncertainty - over pronouns, even over toilets. The toilet thing is so basic, so tiny in the whole life of a person: but basically, no church anywhere in the UK should decline correct gender toilets to trans people - and no, they should not be segregated in disabled toilets. They just need to have a pee, like everyone else. It is not a sexual thing. To deny this, is to misgender, or erase gender, and is deeply subverting. Rest of the time, we teach, we nurse, we fly planes etc – we just live our lives.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 2 December 2017 at 3:11pm GMT

Such a relief to find an unsentimental piece of writing on Mary's story, from George Pitcher.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Sunday, 3 December 2017 at 4:16pm GMT

Seeing Janet Fife's comment, I thought I would give the George Pitcher article a read. Very interesting.

Along the lines of a non-servile Mary, I recommend a section of Raymond Brown's, The Birth of The Messiah, the section on the genealogy of St. Matthew which includes four OT women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba.
Brown notes a possible purpose in Matthew doing so:

"The third proposal...finds two common elements that they share with Mary: (a) there is something extraordinary or irregular in their union with their partners--a union which, though it may have been scandalous to outsiders, continued the blessed lineage of the Messiah; (b) the women showed initiative or played an important role in God's plan, and so came to be considered the instrument of God's providence or of his Holy Spirit."

(Birth of the Messiah. Section 3 A, Matthew's Purpose (3) Why Bring on the Ladies? (pp. 71-74)

So much for being told to sit down and shut up. ( :

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 3 December 2017 at 5:31pm GMT


A Church of England approach like this could be really valuable, to counter ignorance, and as a reversal of the top-down way of doing theology, where we can end up being defined by others and told who we are. There is a lack of knowledge and insight of the actual psycho-social challenges of living daily life as transgender people; and as with lesbian and gay people, too often the critics of trans people presume they are "choosing a lifestyle". No. This is actual life. This is who a person is.

The General Synod has affirmed gender transition, and hopefully we shall move to a point where gender identity (which after all, almost everyone has) is not defined as a problem but a potential, leading to... '

a shared deep, wonderful future for all.

Susanah Clark's comment is tremendously 'on the ball and helpful -- as always.

And this comment really speaks my mind, and surely the mind of a loving, wise and adorable GOD....


Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Sunday, 3 December 2017 at 8:20pm GMT

Indeed, a good article on the BVM by George Pitcher but isn't Our Lady usually referred to as "Queen of Heaven" rather than "Mother of Heaven". That being said, it always amazes me that those who would blench to have a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in their churches seem quite happy to have her there in their Crib scenes. I can't quite see the difference! Anyway, I am enormously looking forward to seeing the traditional Nativity play next Wednesday (6th December - the Feast Day of St. Nicholas) at our excellent local Church of England School. Elsewhere I was pleased to learn that at their C of E Primary School in Warwickshire my grandson will be a shepherd and my granddaughter an angel in their Nativity Play.

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 3 December 2017 at 9:39pm GMT

for "Father David". The difference between having a statue of Mary in a church and having her in a 'crib scene' is huge. In the crib, Mary was a major player in the event and to omit her would make nonsense of the story. But I would personally object very strongly to having a statue of her in any of our churches as I do not believe she is somebody to 'adore' or 'venerate'. But I appreciate that there are others who disagree with me, for whom such statues are helpful. Just another area where the C of E is a broad church where we learn to disagree agreeably. Enjoy your nativity plays!

Posted by: Anne Lee on Monday, 4 December 2017 at 11:52am GMT

I think some of the veneration of Mary can be attributed to the masculine image of God in patriarchal Christian times. She fills a space for the feminine, and a female expression of God's nature.

In reality, and speaking only personally, I regard God as the Queen of Heaven - however that doesn't stop me reflecting on Mary as Jesus's mother, or praying sometimes for her intercessions.

I believe in the omnipresence of the eternal country - what I like to think of as the Land of the Saints - where we dwell with God after our lives here on earth. It's easy to forget we are in communion with all the saints who have ever lived, not just those who are transiently present on earth while we're briefly alive.

I believe in the prayers and intercessions that keep going, in the land of the saints, that are maybe sometimes unexpectedly accessed or activated (in ways I have no understanding of). To me, Mary is a real and living person. Not God, but a deeply intimate member of the Holy Family and the eternal household of God (to which we are all called to belong).

But then again, I regard God (Godde) as deeply female in nature, even if gender itself gets transcended: capable of feeling female, expressing female, and perhaps most valuably, capable of opening ourselves up to all that female impulse.

Mary then becomes an icon of God's nature and person, in a similar (though different) way to which Jesus is the 'visible image of the invisible God'.

I believe it is possible - on many and various levels - to interact... with Jesus, with Mary, with the saints who have gone before.

Mary speaks volumes of the motherhood of God, a God who holds us to breast like babes in arms, a God who waits the long wait of space-time, pregnant with all our individual possibilities, for our own emergence and coming alive on earth.

Mary, the mother who knew the tenderness and delight of the Child Jesus, saw his aliveness, his growing, his love and ministry, and the burden of tears when his body was wasted like garbage.

We badly need Mary, and awareness of the female Godde behind her, if we are to discover and unlock our own full humanity and calling to live in the image of God.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 4 December 2017 at 1:30pm GMT

Guess it was only a matter of time before the Logos incarnate was accused of "mansplaining" (or, to give Pitcher his due, the obvious-but-passing-amusing "messiahsplaining"). Next up: the Almighty's told to check his privilege.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 4 December 2017 at 3:52pm GMT

I do find it sad that no-one has responded to Anne-Marie's article (and by association that of Madeleine). Where is our 'bias to the poor'? Surely this is something DDOs and training institutions should be focussing on? The 'gritiness' of Mary only underlines this. I do live in the prosperous SE (lay) but being politically aware, can see the dire need of other parts of the UK, which feel marginalised and forgotten. As an example, it takes me less than half an hour to go by train the 40 miles to London. How long from Manchester to Leeds? 30 or so years ago 'Faith in the City led the way. We've lost it as the country becomes more polarised. Oh for prophetic witness?

Posted by: John Wallace on Monday, 4 December 2017 at 4:40pm GMT

The most likely answer to your comment John is that the 'prophetic witness' is coming from those actually getting on with it rather than talking about it endlessly on Thinking Anglicans.

Posted by: William on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 12:52pm GMT

Christianity Today has published a response from David Robertson to Jamie's response to his original article. You can find links to all the articles at https://theweeflea.com/2017/12/04/what-should-the-church-do-about-transgender-a-response-to-a-response/

Posted by: Andy on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 1:15pm GMT

You know, I look forward to the day when we no longer have to put up with bigots accusing their victims of bullying.

Posted by: Jo on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 7:24pm GMT

Thank you to Andy for the link.

David Robertson: "I hear the voice of the doctor who tells me that they have given up doing sex change operations because the outcome is 80 per cent negative."

A doctor - a surgeon? - said that? If he cannot name a name, this just comes across as trans-critical propaganda to me. Reason: I know James Bellringer and Phil Thomas - the two most experienced gender surgeons in this country, who have simply done thousands of these operations. Their clear view is that there are high levels of satisfaction after surgery, not to mention the enhanced lives and psychological ease they bring to people. Some surveys suggest the satisfaction % is around 95%, and then some of the remaining 5% have the kind of post-op problems you get in any category of surgery, or else had hoped for an improved cosmetic effect. But the surgery itself is highly endorsed by those who have had it.

The figure quoted - 80% negative is simply untrue and fantasy.

There are very few surgeons with the skills to carry out gender surgery in the UK. The two I mention have probably carried out about 75% of all such operations in the past 20 years. They have vast experience.

Do we listen to an anonymous and unverified claim, or do we listen to the actual experts?

I find David's whole response misguided and frankly disrespectful to the actual, lived experience of thousands and thousands of trans people I this country. The NHS endorses the surgery. Successive governments have endorsed and upheld the surgery. The main UK bodies have endorsed the surgery. Trans people themselves (contrary to the anonymous 'doctor') overwhelmingly endorse the surgery if they have sought it. Schools accept it (I work in one as a nurse for 1200 students, some of them trans).

I'm afraid I feel David's agenda-driven anecdotes don't stack up against the overwhelming evidence and actual experience of so many people more expert than him.

Nevertheless he is entitled to his opinion.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 10:27pm GMT

I found George Pitcher's article almost unreadable. Does neither he nor the New Statesman believe in the basic rules of grammar or proof reading?

Posted by: Disgraceful on Friday, 8 December 2017 at 1:39am GMT
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