Thursday, 25 January 2018

Responses to 'Welcoming Transgender People'

Updated again Friday evening

See previous items for response from Tina Beardsley, and from OneBodyOneFaith.

At ViaMedia Giles Goddard has written: Shooting Ourselves in the Foot – Again!

…This is inadequate on so many levels. The Affirmation of Baptismal Faith is designed for use in a parish church after, say, a baptism as part of a confirmation service in a cathedral. It does not allow for the adoption of a new name or a newly gendered identity. To squeeze the liturgy to make it fit such a purpose would be hard – it would sound like a patched together piece of work, rather than a seamless and exciting whole, created specially for the occasion.

How hard would it have been to have listened to the request of Synod and asked the Liturgical Commission to come up with something? Not very – and I am sure that there are many on the Liturgical Commission who would be delighted to accept the challenge, and to consult widely with trans people about what they would like to see. Further, I have been told on good authority that the issue was not ‘considered prayerfully by the House of Bishops’ but was dealt with by a subcommittee which made a brief recommendation – to the dismay of many members of the House…

Harry Farley at Christian Today has reported on this and added new information:

…But questions were also raised over whether the Church of England had been misleading in how the decision was made. In a press statement it said ‘the House of Bishops has prayerfully considered’ the issue.

However Christian Today understands the issue was not debated by the House of Bishops in full and instead the verdict was reached by a sub committee of nine bishops. That committee, including the Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent, and the Bishop at Lambeth, Tim Thornton, then briefed the remaining bishops who rubber-stamped the decision.

A spokesman for the Church of England said that, because the House of Bishops only meets twice a year, decisions that require more thought are made in a sub committee and brought to the others for approval.

‘The House of Bishops Delegation Committee considers issues relevant to mission, ministry and general public policy, so is an ideal forum to give this question detailed consideration,’ the spokesman said.

‘The full House of Bishops was briefed on the committee’s recommendation and accepted it at the December meeting.’

Church Times Special liturgy for transgender people not needed, Bishops say

…A statement issued by Church House on Monday said that the House of Bishops had “prayerfully considered whether a new nationally commended service might be prepared to mark a gender transition”. It emerged on Wednesday, however, that the Synod’s request had been considered by the Delegation Committee, made up of nine bishops. A spokesperson said that the committee “considers issues relevant to mission, ministry, and general public policy, so is an ideal forum to give this question detailed consideration”. The committee’s report was listed as “business for deemed approval” for the December meeting of the House and was accepted without debate…

Andrew Lightbown Bishops, rites and people; some thoughts.

Jeremy Pemberton Honouring the whole Body

Richard Peers Of bishops, trans people and liturgies

Ian Paul On welcoming transgender people

Martin Davie A failure to take sex seriously: A response to GS Misc 1178

Christian Concern Bishops display an appalling lack of leadership in affirming transgenderism

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 25 January 2018 at 10:31am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

Having read the sample liturgy from the DLT publication mentioned in an earlier thread (which, I suspect, may now become the default option in the absence of anything else), it makes Giles Goddard's question of 'How hard would it have been to... ask the liturgical commission to come up with something?' all the more germane. A vacuum has been created, and it has been filled by something that is not entirely an expression of the Faith and Order of the Church of England.

More broadly, did we expect anything different, given the current composition of the House of Bishops and the lack of theological competence therein to provide a trustworthy path through the complexities and sensitivities of this issue? It was inevitable that they would bungle it. Issuing a statement (in predictable Nye-speak), before being able to offer a concrete and worked liturgical example of what they are promising, was bound to compound the hurt and consternation it evoked.

Posted by: Michael Mulhern on Thursday, 25 January 2018 at 11:20am GMT

There seems to be a frustrating reluctance for the liturgical commission to do anything useful at all. I had to prepare a Liturgy for the closure of a church building a couple of years ago, and found abundant resources online from the US, but nothing at all here. I asked someone who had been on the commission why they couldn’t do this, and he told me that they wouldn’t create these sorts of specific liturgies. I can’t remember the reasons given, but it does seem to create vacuums and the reinvention of many wheels. Having said that, given the bland result of Liturgy by committee that the CofE often produces, I don’t mind too much being forced to other more creative sources for stuff.

Posted by: Jeremy Fagan on Thursday, 25 January 2018 at 1:12pm GMT

Here's the full list of members of the Delegation Committee

Bishop of Blackburn
Bishop at Lambeth
Bishop of Stockport
Bishop of Ely
Bishop of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich
Bishop of Portsmouth
Bishop of Lichfield
Bishop of Sherborne
Bishop of Willesden

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 25 January 2018 at 4:40pm GMT

The bishops were asked to consider the question. They did. They were asked about nationally recommended liturgical materials, and have pointed to some which already exist and can be adapted for the purpose. They weren't asked to produce a new liturgy and refused, yet everyone seems to have taken their cue from the Daily Mail and retreated to the trenches. Rowan Williams once commented that the media only has 2 narratives for the church, split or decline. Anything that doesn't fit into either category is either shoehorned in, or ignored. And time after time the church takes the bait, and lets the media frame the terms and tone of the debate, instead of Jesus.

Posted by: David Keen on Thursday, 25 January 2018 at 6:01pm GMT

Martin Davie's response to GS Misc 1178 is basically advocating conversion therapy for trans people, even though all the therapeutic bodies, including the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, condemn it as unethical and dangerous. My understanding of the Blackburn Motion, as passed, was that the majority of General Synod had set itself against such a view. One can't stop someone from believing that people should not transition, or that they should de-transition, but one can and should point out that it is an extremely harmful and ill-informed line to take. Martin is a gracious and gentle man and I look forward to working with him again later this summer as I did last year. He is meticulously thorough but he is mistaken about the current position of the Church of England since one's having transitioned is not necessarily a bar to ordination, for example. Similarly, under the Gender Recognition Act 2004, someone with a gender recognition certificate and amended birth certificate may marry a person of the opposite sex in their parish church, provided there is no legal impediment. There exists, and he alludes to it, a conscientious opt out for clergy with theological objections to conducting such a marriage, and I was expecting,(in my case dreading, as he was, something similar in GS Misc 1178. Its absence is a positive as far as I'm concerned - a sign of learning and growing understanding of trans people's reality - and I do hope that it will not reappear in the subsequent 'guidance'.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Thursday, 25 January 2018 at 6:27pm GMT

In response to Jeremy Fagan:

I'm afraid you are confused over how liturgy is produced in the Church of England. The LitCom cannot produce any texts off its own initiative but can only produce what the HoB asks it to produce. (Sometimes what the Commisssion produces is not, though, what the bishops were expecting.) Secondly, not all C of E liturgy needs to come via that route and get approval in that clergy and Readers can create their own services where no authorised texts are provided. (This is why the H of B has advised people to create their own welcome liturgies for trans people - you can still argue that a commended text is needed to show welcome at an institutional level, but the bishops are right to say it is not strictly speaking needed. There might be more to this, though, than what is strictly needed. Finally, we do not write texts by committee. Texts are written by one or two authors and revised by a small group (including the authors usually) then eventually put through GS where we long ago stopped revising things line by line in full Synod.

Posted by: Charles Read on Thursday, 25 January 2018 at 10:07pm GMT

The usual scientific illiteracy from Martin Davie and Ian Paul that we have come to expect from ‘conservatives’ on trans issues.

The blog from Martin Davie is a good example of this nonsense, and particularly worth exposing. Thus, Davie writes: “the claim that transitioning to live as a member of their desired sex is the best way forward for people with gender dysphoria is called into question by the available evidence, which fails to demonstrate that transition is successful in resolving the mental and physical health issues experienced by transgender people”.

To back up this erroneous statement, Davie references a 2011 Swedish study (Cecilia Djehne et al, ‘Long-Term Follow-Up of Transsexual Persons Undergoing Sex Reassignment Surgery: Cohort Study in Sweden,’ PLoS One, 6 (No.2), 2011), the full text of which is available online (just google the title).

Look at the Djehne pape itself, however, and it is clear that it does not support the claims that Davie makes. The Djehne study compares mortality, morbidity and criminal rates for transsexual persons after surgical sex reassignment with comparable non trans members of the general population. The conclusion is that after sex reassignment, trans people are still more prone to suicidal behaviour and psychiatric morbidity than members of the general population, and should therefore be offered greater help following sex reassignment.

But the study does not investigate the reasons for continued suicidal ideations or psychiatric morbity (societal discrimination might be one plausible factor). And the authors are very clear that the study does not bear upon whether gender transition is an effective treatment in reducing psychiatric morbidity or not. As the authors state explicitly:

“It is therefore important to note that the current study is only informative with respect to transsexual persons health after sex reassignment; no inferences can be drawn as to the effectiveness of sex reassignment as a treatment for transsexualism. In other words, the results should not be interpreted such as sex reassignment per se increases morbidity and mortality. Things might have been even worse without sex reassignment.”

(part one of two)

Posted by: Revd Dr Charles Clapham on Friday, 26 January 2018 at 12:27am GMT

(continued from previous post)

To assess the effectivenes of gender reassignment on reducing rates of psychiatric morbidity, you would need to compare post-operative trans people with pre-operative trans people, not with members of the general population. As Djehne et al. explain:

“For the purpose of evaluating whether sex reassignment is an effective treatment for gender dysphoria, it is reasonable to compare reported gender dysphoria pre and post treatment. Such studies have been conducted either prospectively [here the authors reference 2 academic papers], or retrospectively [here the authors reference 8 academic papers] and suggest that sex reassignment of transsexual persons improves quality of life and gender dysphoria.”

In others words, according to Djehne at al., the scientific evidence suggests clearly that gender reassignment contributes positively to a reduction in psychiatric morbidity. Gender reassignment is, in short, an effective treatment. Davie has entirely misrepresented the findings of the study.

Let me say this bluntly. You don’t have to be specialist in the field to understand what this scientific study was actually saying - you just have to read it carefully with a modicum of scientific understanding and a commitment to truth. Martin Davie, it appears, is lacking at least one of these.

Posted by: Revd Dr Charles Clapham on Friday, 26 January 2018 at 12:29am GMT

Ian Paul’s article is marginally more eirenic and less misleading that Martin Davie’s. But his understanding of the issues is still very far from adequate.

When Tina Beardsley asks what the problem is with producing a short service for use with gender variant people, Ian Paul describes her as ‘ignorant of the complexities’, her question as ‘at best disingenuous’, and suggests that such responses by Beardsley and others to the bishops are ‘quite unreasonable and lapse into propaganda’. He is sceptical of her view because it would (in his view) affirm ‘a particular philosophical, psychological and theological view of an issue about which there is little agreement, either within or outside the church.’

But is it true that there is little agreement on these issues, either within or outside the church? The reference that Ian Paul provides to substantiate this claim is a book written by Mark Yarhouse, entitled ‘Understanding Gender Dysphoria’. Yarhouse is a Christian psychologist who is a professor at Regent University in Virginia, and his book is intended as an introduction to trans issues for christians, not as a contribution to scholarly medical or psychological debate. Yarhouse is good as describing the range of perspectives on trans issues that exists in the church, and on the issue of aetiology.

But on the issue of treatment - and specifically on the effectiveness of gender reassignment - even Yarhouse’s book shows that there is far less scientific disagreement. Yarhouse’s preferred option is therapy that helps gender dysphoric patients reconcile their identity with that ascribed at birth ‘if possible’ (his words). But even Yarhouse, from his evangelical perspective, quotes scientific studies which makes it clear that such therapy is not always (and in fact, seldom) effective; Yarhouse also points to academic studies which indicate the success in gender-reassignment surgery, in terms of the improved psychological welfare of those receiving treatment. This is, in fact, the consensual view amongst the medical and therapeutic communities.

To be blunt (once again): Whilst there is certainly disagreement about gender transition in the church, it really is not true to suggest that there is serious disagreement about it in the scientific, medical and therapeutic professions. And one might describe it as ‘disingenuous’ and ‘a lapse into propaganda’ (to use the words that Ian Paul himself uses to describe others) to suggest otherwise.

Posted by: Revd Dr Charles Clapham on Friday, 26 January 2018 at 9:53am GMT

Thanks for this Charles, and this selective use of scientific literature is typical of most anti-trans Christian theology, starting with Oliver O'Donovan's Grove booklet of 1982, on which much subsequent argument is based. My collaborator Chris Dowd cites many examples in our forthcoming book and the dissertation on which it is based - see page page 47 of the latter: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/5936/1/Dowd15ThD.pdf

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Friday, 26 January 2018 at 10:32am GMT

I'm sure Ian Paul understands this well enough: he simply disagrees with the underlying justifications.

If nothing else, this barely-veiled dissent from a member of the CoE's own executive body shows that the supposedly settled position laid out last year is anything but. As so often, a rush to declare unity masks deep divisions, which end up rising to the surface.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 26 January 2018 at 12:37pm GMT

Some of these articles don't make pleasant reading. Should there really be space in the church for those views? How can we accommodate what is naked transphobia in our church? We would not tolerate racism or sexual harassment so how can Ian Paul and Martin Davie be tolerated? Don't they realise how much hurt and harm they do? How can treating us like that in any way be Christian?

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 26 January 2018 at 5:57pm GMT

It should not be necessary for a journalist (Harry Farley of Christian Today) to inform readers of the composition of the Bishops Delegation Committee or that it was they who prepared a report for the House of Bishops (presumably what is now GS Misc 1178) in response to the resolution of General Synod in July 2017.
Farley says that "The full House of Bishops was briefed on the committee's recommendation and accepted it at the December meeting." That should have been transparent from the GS Misc 1178 paper.

Further, there is no reference at all to the matter in paper GS Misc 1179, "House of Bishops: Summary of Decisions", circulated to General Synod members on 26 January 2018 and setting out very briefly the matters considered by the House of Bishops at its meeting on 11-12 December 2018.

General Synod provides a full verbatim record of its proceedings (albeit not as instant as the House of Commons and House of Lords 'Hansard') and the House of Laity has provided a similar record of its recent meetings. I suggest it is time that the House of Bishops provided proper minutes of its meetings.

Posted by: David Lamming on Saturday, 27 January 2018 at 1:17am GMT

Is it me or has the Christian Concern article got orthodox theology backwards? Andrea Williams seems to be prioritising the body over the immortal soul. Most of Christian history has been about denying the body in order to focus on the soul.

At one point she refers to ‘many ex-transgender Christians’. Can someone explain that to me? Does she mean transgender ex-Christians? Judging by the negative view that some within the church have for trans people I would not be surprised by trans people leaving the church.

Posted by: Ann Reddecliffe on Saturday, 27 January 2018 at 1:43pm GMT

David Lamming is correct: the discrepancy between GS Misc 1178 and GS Misc 1179 is alarming to say the least. What is becoming clear to me is that we have an absolute crisis of governance in the H of B, which is descending into a crisis of episcopacy. It is extremely worrying that the bishops seem to fail to realise that they had “business for deemed approval” for the December meeting of the House and this was accepted without debate. It is extremely worrying that very few bishops understand that they separately as well as collectively have a responsibility to ensure the highest standards of governance.

Posted by: Andrew Lightbown on Saturday, 27 January 2018 at 9:01pm GMT

I understand that a question to the Chairman of the House of Bishops at General Synod next week will ask when the House of Bishops Delegation Committee (HBDC) was established, what its membership is, and what are its terms of reference.

Posted by: David Lamming on Tuesday, 30 January 2018 at 9:45am GMT
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