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’.
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.