Thinking Anglicans

Bishops decline to request any new Transgender liturgy


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.


  • “‘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

  • Fr Andrew says:

    Hands up anyone who’s surprised?

    Thought not.

  • TP says:

    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+ says:

    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 Synod there was an amendment put forward that requested better pastoral guidelines, but Chris Newlands, who brought the motion, resisted this and it was voted down. So the C of E has no updated pastoral guidelines for Trans people. I’m sure Chris would be happy to explain his reasoning for resisting this if contacted.

  • Victoriana says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 than “Bishops block introduction of new prayer…”
    The press office had the option to use language which would have led to more positive reporting and clearly chose not to.

  • 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 says:

    “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 OneBodyOneFaith aren’t much better than the bishops when it comes to understanding things.

  • Kate says:

    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 bishops’ proposal. Indeed, not only they are unapologetic there is no sense that they even recognise that the church might owe some individuals an apology because the church fails to see gender reassignment as a correction and re-assertion of the order God intended, preferring instead one guesses to see gender reassignment as some sort of lifestyle choice (which some parts of the church condemn).

    In other contexts, the Church loves to talk about discernment. Not for gender reassignment. But for a Christian, gender reassignment is about discerning the gender role God wants, irrespective of physiology and the gender imposed by society and church. In the secular world, we call that recognition of gender identity, but as Christians we really should understand it as a special – and extremely challenging – exercise of discernment. Because the church fails to see it in those terms, it allows some Christians to stigmatise trans and intersex people, indeed in failing to offer liturgy the bishops become party to the stigmatisation.

    What we need is a service which celebrates an individual who has achieved exceptional discernment, apologises to them for misgendering them historically, and offers blessing of their commitment to live in the new gender according to God’s will. The Church is light years behind that.

  • Erika Baker says:

    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 there any one of us who does not say “yes” to that first part? Anybody? So on that first part we will say “yes”.

    “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.

    Because the first part of the motion is affirming, the need to affirm that people should be welcomed in their parish church, I want us to vote “yes”, and the second bit, because it is “considering” whether some materials might be prepared, it is provisional, and because it needs a lot of work we shall come back to the Synod from the House with what we thought, but we are going to give it very serious consideration in light of the Secretary General’s paper, particularly paragraphs 12 and 14.”

  • Evan McWilliams says:

    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 therapy.

  • David Lamming says:

    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 suggested in the Background Note from the Secretary General, William Nye: GS 2071B paras 11-12. He concluded (para 14): “… the House [of Bishops] might conclude that existing liturgical materials provided sufficient flexibility to meet this pastoral need, as in paragraph 12 above.” Moreover, the press statement does say that “New guidance is also being prepared on the use of the service.”

    Yesterday’s press release (put out as a response to the leaking of the HoB decision to the Mail on Sunday) states that “A paper discussing the decision will be published before the February session of Synod.” Whatever one’s position on the issue, it is to be hoped (and, perhaps, to be expected) that the paper will explain the reasons for the decision. Also, since some Synod members might wish to ask questions about the decision (it is not a specific agenda item in February), it would be helpful if the discussion paper could be issued by the end of this week at the latest, since the deadline for submitting questions is 12 noon next Monday, 29th January.

    Finally, in answer to TP’s post (above, 22 January 2018, 9.33am), the press statement (the full terms of which are set out above) did NOT say, “Bishops block introduction of new prayer…” Those were the words of the Mail journalist.

  • TP says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 to vow that it won’t do it again and will henceforth regard the individual as a man / woman without reservation or exception.

    I know others affected feel they want a blessing but for me the essential element is a commitment by the church to accept the gender God gave me.

  • Pete Broadbent says:

    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 is being commemorated is (for example) a new gender identity, or a recrudescence of faith, or a turning back to Christ from another religion. As soon as you build into the official liturgy of the Church special cases, you point away from the sacrament and towards the individual. There is absolutely nothing to stop pastoral prayers being offered – parish priests do it all the time. But a special liturgy is not what the CofE should move towards. I’m sure you will all disagree, but that’s the thinking.

  • 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 the possibility or reality of gender transition. So this is the real point of dispute.

  • Jo says:

    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 says:

    “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 used to force compliance. It will actually be easier for the Church to just have a mechanism for creating a new entry of baptism, which suggests liturgy and a measure is needed. I doubt anyone has given much thought to forcing that because the hope was for new liturgy, but if the bishops rule that out inevitably someone will look to the law to obtain evidence of baptism in their acquired name / gender.

    I think the bishops have the theology badly wrong but they have manifestly failed to think through the practical implications of their decision.

  • Erika Baker says:

    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 says:

    “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 says:

    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…

  • 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 says:

    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 says:

    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 the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith could be effectively shaped and used for such circumstances? It would have pointed-up the bishops’ role as teachers of the faith (which would have been a pleasant surprise) in offering clarity about sacramental integrity; as well as showing some wider pastoral sensitivity to the Church and the communities we serve. Instead, we have more negative headlines and hurt people.

  • Erika Baker says:

    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 says:

    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 you must use an authorised one.

    Whether this is an adequate response in this case is debatable. Services of Thanksgiving, mentioned above, came in as a response to clergy meeting families who asked for baptism but did not feel able to make the baptismal promises – not to replace the Churching of Women service as s often alleged.

    I wish we had a bit more liturgical policing – so that rebaptism was addressed for example. However, the GS asked the HofB to consider the matter of liturgies for e.g. trans people and it has considered. We may want to ask whether this considering was adequately carried out, but the HofB has done what GS asked.

  • Jayne Ozanne says:

    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 sends precisely the opposite signal.

    For me the real issue is whether the House of Bishops truly understand what they communicate with the their actions and inactions. It is akin to the art of diplomacy, which I fear they are sorely lacking. They should have learnt that lesson last February when the Synod failed to take note of their woefully inadequate report.

    The fact that they have yet again done something which communicates absolutely the opposite to what they think they are saying, means they really need to heed the repeated advice to have members of the LGBT community involved with their decision making.

    Otherwise we are doomed to continue in this painful and upsetting merry-go-round, where those in power are oblivious to the pain they cause. Indeed, I believe this has recently been called by one of their own past members”The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power”.

  • Kate says:

    That Andrew Lightbown piece is excellent

  • Pete Broadbent says:

    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 says:

    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 Bishops to consider whether the recognition of a transgender person’s new identity was a moment which should be marked in a particular way in worship. After taking time to consider the issue prayerfully, the House would like to encourage ministers to respond to any such requests in a creative and sensitive way. If not already received, baptism and confirmation are the normative ways of marking a new or growing faith in Jesus Christ. If the enquirer is already baptized and confirmed, the House notes that the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith, found in Common Worship, is an ideal liturgical rite which trans people can use to mark this moment of personal renewal.
    5. The Affirmation of Baptismal Faith is an existing, authorized part of Common Worship which is used in all types of churches, and can be part of services of different kinds. It points out that the candidate has already been baptized (and is therefore not a ‘re-baptism’). It provides the opportunity, requested in the Diocesan Synod Motion, for ‘a liturgical marking of a person’s transition which has the full authority of the Church of England, as an appropriate expression of community and pastoral support’.
    6. The rite of Affirmation includes the opportunity for the candidate to renew the commitments made in baptism, and for the congregation to respond. The emphasis is placed not on the past or future of the candidate alone but on their faith in Jesus Christ. The Affirmation therefore gives priority to the original and authentic baptism of the individual, and the sacramental change it has effected, allowing someone who has undergone a serious and lasting change to re-dedicate their life and identity to Christ. The image of God, in which we are all made, transcends gender, race, and any other characteristic, and our shared identity as followers of Jesus is the unity which makes all one in Christ (Galatians 3.27-28).
    7. In inviting ministers to use this rite, the House wishes to point out that everyone’s Christian journey—like the journey to find one’s true identity—is unique and encourages ministers to treat these possible pastoral encounters accordingly. This approach, familiar to all who care for people during other major life events, takes into account each person’s unique experiences.
    8. Some guidance on the usage of these resources for the important work of welcoming and affirming transgender people will be issued by the House later in 2018.

  • Pete Broadbent says:

    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 all, irrespective of gender identity) is to subjectivise the rite in precisely the way in which those who come asking for rebaptism also subjectivise it. We respond to pastoral request not by departing from the norm, but by setting the norm in pastoral context. Liturgy is not a mechanism by which we “prove” how committed we are to various people. Liturgy is the prayer and doctrine of the Church. We prove our commitment by pastoral engagement, not by inventing new formularies.

  • “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 out of CW as a political response rather than a theological one.

  • 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 would affirm it. But if this is the view of the bishops, then it clearly runs contrary to vast amount of informed medical and psychological opinion. Which is far from ideal, to say the least.

  • Andrew Godsall says:

    “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?

  • 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 says:

    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 cater for that life event too.

  • Simon Kershaw says:

    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). But immersion is so close to being a rebaptism or perceived as a rebaptism that the rite studiously doesn’t go there and it is not within the rubrics.

  • Andrew Godsall says:

    “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 says:

    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 baptism.

  • Andrew Godsall says:

    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 everything to do with this debate because it is an example of one group of people bending the rules but not wanting to allow honesty and integrity in other areas of the church’s life.

  • 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 says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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 or should be normative, and triple pouring is usual, especially for infants, at least in the circles I move in. I have never seen sprinkling (though I’m certain I don’t see anything like the number of baptisms and variety of practice that a priest or bishop does).

    Signing oneself in a cross with water from the font is clearly a different symbol, especially as it is self-administered. Sprinkling with water from the font is quite common but nothing like a baptism.

    There is no mandate for immersion or, indeed, pouring in the rubrics of the Renewal of Vows. And as has been pointed out, Renewal of Vows can be and often is, repeated. Does everyone in the congregation renewing their vows, every time, undergo immersion? Or is this limited to those who are undergoing what is tantamount to rebaptism?

  • Kate says:

    “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 says:

    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.

  • Kate says:

    Erika, thank you. There is very much I like of it but I have reservations about including gender queer and non-binary identities within the same liturgy. My personal experience is that male and female are separate spiritual states (as many in the church believe) and, with difficulty, it is possible to move from one to the other, but I believe gender queer and non-binary are gender identities. (Gender (role) , gender identity and physiological sex are all distinct, so too is spiritual gender.)

    The solution is to add a separate sacramental section at the end, to call forth the power of the Spirit to invest either a male or female spiritual state upon the person. In certain traditions, men and women sit different sides of the altar. My experience is that those traditions have accessed something profound.

    I actually understand why the bishops would reject liturgy based on that draft. Pete Broadbent’s criticism of it is accurate, in my opinion. But that criticism falls away once you make it a sacrament and understand the fundamental nature of the sacramental / spiritual change the liturgy is intended to evoke.

  • Gringo says:

    Bishop Broadbent says the Service of Thanksgiving after the birth of a child is universally available to any or all persons who might otherwise have brought a child for baptism.

    According to the notes it is for 3 situations. It is for parents who see it as a preliminary to baptism, for parents who do not want their children baptised immediately and for those who do not ask for baptism. There is no warrant for it to be used if, otherwise, the child would have been baptised, as if it were an alternative to baptism in any case where baptism would otherwise happen.

    The bishop then says it derives from the sacrament. Could someone go through the Communion Service but just use Dundee cake and whisky instead of bread and wine, to invalidate the sacrament for those who do not wish to communicate? Would that be more of a parody?

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