Comments: Electronic Voting Results

The voting patterns are interesting, especially in light of the role of the Bishops in the new pastoral advisory group and the new teaching document group.
In the motion about Conversion Therapy - item 12 - the bishop of Coventry was the only bishop to vote against it. He, of course, is in overall charge of the new teaching document group.

Posted by Ann Reddecliffe at Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 9:56am BST

But the Bishop of Coventry is not good with buttons. Bishop of Willesden voted against the motion for affirming transgender Christians. Isn't he a big wig on the group charged with the new teaching document as well?

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 2:26pm BST

Can anyone shed light on why Synod voted to support the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK of November 2015, and not the second Memorandum of 16 January 2017, which appears to have been proposed by Jayne Ozanne?

So far as I understand it, the second memorandum is understood to include 'conversion' therapy for those who identify as trans, whereas the first is concerned only for those who present as gay.

I believe there is some background politics here, particularly in the Royal College of Psychiatrists who have refused to sign the second memorandum, and have been seen as unsympathetic to trans issues.

Happy to be corrected on any matters of fact if I am wrong on the above. But curious if anyone can explain why Jayne Ozanne's motion was not carried?

Posted by Revd Dr Charles Clapham at Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 6:42pm BST

Further to my last post, I note that at the very outset of the General Synod debate, Jayne Ozanne indicated that she was willing to accept Jamie Harrison's amendment, to support the first memorandum of understanding (which excluded trans issues) rather than the second (which included them). (I confess I haven't yet had time to watch the entire debate.)

It is also rather surprising to see that the OneBodyOneFaith website refers to this change at a 'slight alteration'. I would have thought it was significant and highly regrettable - and against the intended aims of OneBodyOneFaith, which include the affirmation of transgender Christians.

Am I wrong to think that trans, intersex or non-binary gender people have been ignored here, despite the debate on welcoming trans people elsewhere at Synod?

Posted by Revd Dr Charles Clapham at Wednesday, 19 July 2017 at 10:59pm BST

Charles - I cannot speak for those who voted to support the Harrison amendment, but its terms were to replace the whole of Jane Ozanne's original motion after the words "That this Synod". Thus, once the Harrison amendment was passed (as it was in all three houses) it became the main motion. It was then further amended by the addition of the words proposed in the Andrew Dotchin amendment, which was also passed in all three houses. Thus it was only Jayne's motion as so amended that was put to the final vote.

Posted by David Lamming at Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 10:41am BST

Thanks for the voting details.
I did a short analysis of the Chichester votes.

Conversion therapy
In favour including the bishop - 5
Against 4
Abstain 3

Trans people welcome
In favour including the Bishop 3
Against 5
Abstain 3

Only the bishop and two lay people voted in favour of both motions
Three lay people voted against both motions
One clergy person abstained on both motions
Others show various combinations of abstaining and voting against.
One person voted for the first motion but appeared to be absent for the second.

If this indicates anything it is that people are either in denial or don't understand Trans issues. Though why anyone would want to deny trans people the benefit of a formal welcome into the church in their new identity is beyond me.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 1:01pm BST

Dear Charles, the Harrison amendment was a compromise; considered likely to succeed; and closer to Jayne's original motion than the amendment (again a replacement motion in effect) proposed by Sean Doherty. The attempt to suggest that the Royal College of Psychiatrists might have doubts about the harmful effects and ineffectiveness of conversion therapy for trans people was totally misleading and, in some cases, mischievous. If the College is so minded then it should come out and say it, but this is not going to happen given that the College produced the UK clinical guidance on the treatment of trans people which publicly endorses the Standards of Care of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. These standards clearly state that is ineffective and unethical to attempt to alter someone's gender identity. So yes, I agree, as do many others, that it was a significant and highly regrettable change to drop gender identities. It might have undermined the Blackburn Motion as it was even said, during the conversion therapy debate, that the scientific community was divided concerning gender identity and that this was why the the Royal College had not signed the 2017 Memorandum. The truth is, of course that there is an overwhelming multi-disciplinary consensus about the evidence base for trans people's experience and the few who disagree are discredited amongst their peers. Why the Royal College has delayed signing the 2017 Memorandum is not public knowledge. One argument for Synond aligning with the 2015 Memorandum was to separate sexual orientation and gender identity, and the voting for the Blackburn Motion did indicate overwhelming support for trans people in general terms, though the specifics are not as clear as if Synod had chosen to align itself with the 2017 Memorandum. For a scathing critique of what happened see this blog post:

Posted by Christina Beardsley at Thursday, 20 July 2017 at 2:26pm BST

If I've counted correctly, 35 laity and 17 clergy voted against both substantive motions. That the laity tallies were identical (127-48) for both motions is something of a coincidence.

Posted by Bernard Silverman at Friday, 21 July 2017 at 6:28pm BST

I think part of the reason for adopting the earlier motion is that it was addressing a very specific form of psychological treatment that was found to have been used in abusive ways.

However, in reality, people's perceived gender identity and sexual attractions do change - especially in teenagers and women in their twenties (although it is also not unknown for middle-aged men to discover they are gay).

So although these motions rightly condemn abuse, they are also to some extent an assertion of value-judgements regarding the moral equivalence between cis- and trans- identities, and between hetero- and homo- sexual attractions.

In reality, given these things are fluid in many people, it wouldn't be surprising if it were eventually possible for some people to work at becoming more heterosexual and cis-gendered, without risk of significant harm, if they wanted to.

Posted by RevDave at Sunday, 23 July 2017 at 6:36pm BST


Attempting to 'convert' somebody back to their gender assigned at birth, when that is not their correct gender identity, is one of the most psychologically brutal things you can do to a human being... all the more so, if wrapped up and motivated by religious and moralistic dogma. Just imagine if someone pressurised *you* to acknowledge you were a woman, and pressured you to live and dress as a woman for the rest of our life.

Having said that, yes, some people's exploration of their gender identity can be fluid, especially in the formative years of youth. I know. I am a teacher and a nurse. I work at a large state secondary school with over 1200 pupils, and we have a surprising number of students who repudiate the gender norms imposed on them at birth. Some have clear convictions about the need to correct the gender assigned to them at birth, and are demonstrably clear in their identity. For others it is an exploration, a search for where they reside psychologically with most ease on the gender scale.

Exploration is one thing. The morally or religiously-driven attempt to 'convert' someone to a socially imposed gender identity is something quite different. It is as brutal as trying to 'convert' a lesbian woman into liking sex with men on religious grounds. It is repudiated by Colleges of psychs, by the NHS, by government and politicians of all kinds. It is brutal, unnatural and weird.

In our Church, it has to be inadmissible.

When I started to make public my need to transition, back in 1993, attempts were made by certain people in my church to send me for 'conversion therapy'. It would have been catastrophic. Almost certainly it would have ended in more self-destruction, quite possibly in suicide.

As it was, I also found other Christians who understood and 'got' my issue, who listened, who gave me space to make sure, to seek help, to open up and express, to find ease.

It is hard to adequately describe the huge psychological ease that takes over, when a person finally opens up to who they really are. It is life-transforming, albeit still a hard and sometimes lonely path. But the outcome for a trans person is greater wholeness, including wholeness in relationship with God.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 24 July 2017 at 9:30am BST

Hi Susannah, I think we are agreeing on most things (I did agree that the psychological technique referred to as "conversion therapy" was found to have been used abusively).

I know two people who have transitioned, so I know that gender dysphoria is a miserable condition that can cause terrible distress. Where I would disagree with you is that I do not think there is a simple solution. I guess you too know that many if not most people who transition still struggle with identity and other psychological issues, even in the most liberal social settings. Part of the problem is that we are in fact biological creatures, not just psychological entities; so we can change the externals but we cant fully "be" the other sex biologically or even physiologically... And then I've also seen psychological distress, and even very serious depression, caused in family members when someone transitions.

Those are some of the reasons why I think that, if it were eventually possible (and safe) to treat people who are more fluid, they might well seek psychological rather than surgical treatment to reduce the dysphoria.

Posted by RevDave at Monday, 24 July 2017 at 11:03pm BST

Dear Dave,

I'm grateful for your reply, and its decent intent, and careful thought and reflection. Also, I fully respect people who disagree with gender transition. If I seek respect, I ought to respect other people's right to conscientious belief (providing they're not abusive) - it's a fundamental principle.

I have, through a support network, probably engaged with about 200 people who have transitioned. Not all seek surgery. Not all even see themselves as exclusively one gender. But the majority of the people I've been involved with *have* undergone gender surgery as part of a social and physical transition. Of the 120+ who have, I have really only known 3 regretters - and the evidence suggests that the large majority gain *better* mental health and wellbeing by the resolution of the earlier incongruence between their sense of gender and their physical sex organs. The reality for many, many trans people is that they faced huge mental stress when they submitted to societal demands and expectations on 'who' they were 'supposed' to be. But when they transitioned (and this was my powerful experience) they discovered profound psychological ease and wellbeing.

I would disagree that trans people have more mental health issues than other people, apart from the stresses that arise from the fundamental incongruence and pressures of society to conform. I know trans airline pilots, trans doctors, trans teachers, trans lawyers, trans police officers, and trans nurses (like myself). And being trans simply does not equate with being mentally ill (per se). We are balanced, ordinary citizens contributing to society. Not everyone is professional of course. Same as everyone else, we all do different jobs.

I actually think - for many people - hormone therapy and gender surgery *is* a relatively simple solution: it has huge impact and enables a person to open up to themselves, including the biological reality of the impact hormones have. Having a congruent vagina and clitoris is a biological reality too, and overwhelmingly joyful.

Your point about family members is very very true. They often have huge challenges to overcome. This last point should not be glibly overlooked. It is one of my concerns about the proposed services to affirm transition in church. Family members deserve support when they struggle with a relative's transition.

The process of transition can bring a person alive, physically, spiritually, psychologically, creatively. It can also save a person's life.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 10:29am BST
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