Thinking Anglicans

CofE publishes pastoral guidance on gender transition liturgy

The House of Bishops of the Church of England has today published this:
Pastoral Guidance for use in conjunction with the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith in the context of gender transition.

The press release about it is headlined: Guidance for gender transition services published. The full text of that is copied below.

New guidance for parishes planning services to help transgender people mark their transition has been published by the Church of England.

The pastoral guidance, which will be incorporated into Common Worship*, encourages clergy to be “creative and sensitive” in using liturgy to enable people to mark a major transition in their lives.

It formally commends the incorporation of the existing rite for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith into services which mark gender transition.

It details how elements including water and oil can be incorporated into the service and, crucially, makes clear that trans people should be addressed publicly by their chosen name.

As part of the service they could also be presented with gifts, such as a Bible inscribed in their chosen name, or a certificate.

It is important, the guidance adds, that the occasion should have a distinct “celebratory character”.

“The Church of England welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the body of Christ, and rejoices in the diversity of that body into which all Christians have been baptized by one Spirit,” the guidance emphasises.

The document – approved by the House of Bishops, which is currently meeting in London – follows a motion overwhelmingly adopted at General Synod in 2017 recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in churches.

It was produced in consultation with the Revd Dr Tina Beardsley, the Revd Sarah Jones and the Revd Canon Dr Rachel Mann, who have a personal interest in this matter and who have also consulted widely with those directly affected, and their clergy.

They said: “Collectively, we have sought to ensure that these new Pastoral Guidance notes provide a rich and generous space for trans people to locate their lives in the existing liturgy for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith.”

The rite for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith is not a second baptism. The Church of England teaches that the sacrament of baptism is only to be undertaken once.

But this service enables people to renew the commitments made in baptism and in a public setting and provides space for those who have undergone a major transition to re-dedicate their life to Jesus Christ.

As a central part of the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith the minister lays their hands on the candidate or candidates, addresses them by name, and prays for them.

The guidance notes: “For a trans person to be addressed liturgically by the minister for the first time by their chosen name may be a powerful moment in the service.”

The Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, Chair of the House of Bishops Delegation Committee, which oversaw work to produce the guidance said: “We are absolutely clear that everyone is made in the image of God and that all should find a welcome in their parish Church.

“This new guidance provides an opportunity, rooted in scripture, to enable trans people who have ‘come to Christ as the way, the truth and the life’, to mark their transition in the presence of their Church family which is the body of Christ.

“We commend it for wider use.

*Common Worship is the Church of England’s library of services in contemporary language.

View our Common Worship texts.

Further information about the July 2017 General Synod motion.

The House of Bishops published an update in January 2018.

Read a background paper from the House of Bishops setting out the theological thinking.

The text of the service can be found here, under the full heading: ‘Affirmation of Baptismal Faith within a Celebration of Holy Communion’.

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Kate
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Kate

https://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/womens_rights/3448596-Church-of-England-transgender-blessings?pg=1&order= That’s the sort of prejudice thrown at those who go through gender transition. Notice that even when male pronouns aren’t used, people like Rachel Mann are “they” and “their” to avoid the use of female pronouns. That’s the world trans people and those who change gender occupy. That’s part of why acceptance by the Church is important. And that’s why I dislike the pastoral guidance because it talks about transgender people rather than accepting them as simply men and women. Simply put, the pastoral guidance is highly othering and an huge disappointment. Little better than those on MumsNet who… Read more »

NJB
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NJB

Sorry if this misses the point – but grammatically (in the context of the paragraphs in the press release) what other plural word could have been used instead of ‘their’? Also, what is the substantive difference between references to ‘trans people’ in the press release, and ‘the world of trans people’ in the comment? As someone who does not have a high degree of personal experience, but would like to be affirming, I struggle with some of the objections and seek to understand them fully.

Kate
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Kate

The decision was taken not to have separate liturgy ie not to treat people differently. The pastoral guidance completely undermines that principle. To be consistent with the policy decision the guidance should only speak generally of affirmation of those whose personal circumstances have changed since baptism. There should be no mention of gender reassignment in the guidance.

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

Surely the guidance is in response to a need identified by some transgender people and has been developed in consultation with them, Kate, just as men and women may have other pastoral requirements for which a particular liturgical response is appropriate? Those trans people who would not find it useful would presumably not request it.

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

I should probably add, as well as men and women, those who identify as non-binary – good to see pastoral guidance increasingly recognising the diversity of God’s children.

Kate
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Kate

Savi, this guidance deligitimises those who have had their correct gender recognised by labelling them as transgender. It is hugely regressive.

Michael Mulhern
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Michael Mulhern

Forgive me if I seem a little off-topic here, but has anyone else noticed that, as Britain is descending into the worst (and entirely avoidable) political shambles for over half a century, the Bishops end their House of Bishops meeting by throwing out a few appeasing crumbs on gender transitional liturgy when the media is otherwise occupied? Then they remain stony silent on the crisis at the heart of our national life. I thought Welby’s big thing was leadership. I thought Sentamu, who’s rarely short of words (peppered with references to ‘Her Majesty The Queen’ of course) couldn’t get enough… Read more »

PaulWaddington
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PaulWaddington

Another nail in the coffin of the Church of England!

David Rowett
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David Rowett

Just to say that someone who is transitioning in my part of the world is absolutely delighted by the C of E’s provisions (I countersigned her new driving licence application yesterday). The pronoun problem etc etc are all features of wider society coming to terms with what’s perceived as a new phenomenon (everyone seen ‘The Danish Girl’?) and a source of fierce debate in the world beyond Church circles – eg the events at London Pride, the discussion over the Women Only swimming pond. For once we seem to be doing tolerably well – or at least my transitioning friend… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

I think the approach to liturgy is fine, it is the pastoral guidance which is needlessly regressive.

Susannah Clark
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Some of these threads are getting tedious and, although I’m trying to stand back from commenting on TA during the 2 years I have set aside for retreat and reflection, as an openly trans female here at TA, I’m going to make a few observations. Take them or leave them, but I am trans, I am Christian, I am lifelong Anglican. So maybe I have a voice. When I transitioned – which was a hugely difficult, painful and isolating decision… I lost friends who cut me off, I lost my family, I lost my home, I was forced out of… Read more »

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

Thanks for this moving comment, Susannah, which puts the new guidance in perspective – and glad things are so much better for you now.