Thinking Anglicans

Further opposition to the bishops’ guidance on transgender services

There continue to be developments in the campaign against the House of Bishops’ guidance on transgender services which we first reported here, and then here. Reports of the criticism are first of all here, and subsequently here.

More recently, this petition has appeared: A Response to the House of Bishops Guidance on Transgender Welcome.

This was reported in the Church Times: Letter urges House of Bishops to ‘revise, postpone or withdraw’ its trans guidance

…The open letter, which has been signed online by members of the clergy and laity, is being circulated by critics of the guidance, including the conservative Evangelical organisation the Church Society (full text below). It is understood that the letter was intended to be made public in the week before the General Synod’s sessions next month.

Everyone should be welcomed in churches, the letter says, but “we do not believe that the Guidance is the right way to do this, since it raises some significant issues for the Church’s belief and practice.”

It continues: “The House of Bishops previously stated that no new liturgy would be offered. The title of ‘gender transition services’, the focus on the use of a person’s new name, the use of oil and water contrary to previous rubrics in Common Worship, and the description in the later explanatory note confirming that this service is to be used to ‘mark gender transition’ amount to the offering of a new liturgy, since existing wording is now being put to a new purpose…”

And has also been reported in the Sunday Times [£] Church of England faces backlash over services for trans people

This statement was issued by Church of England (as reported in the Sunday Times):

“The bishops will give the letter their serious consideration, especially in the context of the preparation of a major new set of teaching and learning resources on identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality, ‘Living in Love and Faith’, which will be published next year.

“Transgender matters will be covered in those resources and the pastoral guidance does not pre-empt the work of the ‘Living in Love and Faith’ process. The guidance is not a restatement or a new statement on matters relating to gender, nor does it change the Church of England’s teaching.”

Two of those involved in organising this petition have written about it:

GAFCONUK has now chimed in: “Transgender Baptism” – How Should We Respond?

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Kate
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Kate

‹But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.›

Do the signatories really not understand?

Kate
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Kate

I will say one more thing, echoing something I said ten days ago. The GafCon document says “Galatians 3:27-28 speaks of equality in Christ, not the removal of all distinctions.” This is important because I think this is a terrible misreading of Galatians because they have removed the context. Let’s set out that context: “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, huntil the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was iput in place through angels jby an intermediary. 20 Now kan intermediary implies more than one, but lGod is one. ‘”Is… Read more »

Laurie Roberts
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Laurie Roberts

Thank you, Kate. Thank you.

William
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William

Are you seriously suggesting that St Paul was approving gender fluidity here?

Neil
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Neil

Except that Genesis wasn’t part of the Law. Galatians 3:17 makes it clear “the law” that is in view is the Mosaic covenant, introduced 430 years after the promises to Abraham. So the distinction between male and female in Genesis 1 and 2 is both pre-Fall and pre-Law.

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

But Paul tells women to be quiet, Kate.

Laurie Roberts
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Laurie Roberts

I wonder why the editors have approved a personally pointed comment, which is also impolite. I wonder why a minister has chosen to pen it.

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

Do you belong to the same Church which appointed a bishop specifically to minister to those who accept only male headship? Such people prefer women to be quiet. Ridiculous, I know. But the CofE allows people to practise inequality

Charles Read
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Charles Read

What Paul is doing, I think, in Gal. 3 is not saying the distinctions do not exist (there manifestly were still slave and free, male and female etc.) but that the distinctions have lost their power and are therefore of no theological significance in so much as you can’t use them to put other people down.

crs
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crs

Certainly my position on the similar texts found in Colossians (Colossians, Brazos, 2014).

Kate
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Kate

I think we are agreeing? Sex / gender is a purely human preoccupation and has no spiritual relevance.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

I like your insight here. More may be said about “distinctions [that] have lost their power”. Distinctions are often created or skewed so as to allow one group to have power over another, i.e. the power to define others from the outside. Here we have social classes, with one in each pair deemed by someone or other to be inferior. In each pair there is then a juxtaposition which is transcended ‘in Christ’. (We see an ad hoc praxis model of the slave/free thing being worked out in Philemon.) What is nascent in the NT develops with the evolution of… Read more »

William Fisher
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William Fisher

It seems to me that what Paul is saying here is that, since Christ has made us sons (and daughters, understood) of God, we are all equal in the sight of God, regardless of our race, our civil status or our sex, not that those characteristics or situations have now ceased to be real ones. Furthermore, if there really were no longer any distinction between male and female, a desire to move from one to the other would be quite meaningless. I think that we can leave Genesis out of it here. The biological distinction between male and female and… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

It isn’t changing sex: it is recognising that the wrong aspects were highlighted when sex was originally assigned so that it can now be assigned more accurately. “Furthermore, if there really were no longer any distinction between male and female, a desire to move from one to the other would be quite meaningless.” It is certainly not a big thing that ought to be an issue for anybody else, but it isn’t meaningless. The recognition of truth is never meaningless. But also, in my case, I could have done nothing and been a burden on others because I was ill,… Read more »

William Fisher
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William Fisher

But people’s sex isn’t assigned to them by anyone; they are born with it. My birth certificate states “Sex: Boy”. That entry doesn’t indicate that the male sex was assigned to me by a doctor, midwife, my parents or the registrar, who had decided that it would for some reason be preferable. It is simply the registration of a biological fait accompli, over which no-one had any control. I agree that the recognition of truth is never meaningless. The truth is that, if the distinction between male and female no longer had any real existence, then the desire to move… Read more »

Jo B
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Jo B

Of course your birth certificate records what sex was assigned to you. You may be in the happy position of that happening accurately, as I am, but it’s not true of everyone. Not just trans folk either, but people who are intersex too. Is someone with XY chromosomes but a traditionally female body (due to, for example, androgen resistance) “biologically” male or female?

William Fisher
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William Fisher

My birth certificate doesn’t record the sex that was assigned to me, nor could it, since my sex wasn’t assigned to me by anyone. The certificate records the sex with which I was born. Yes, I am aware that error is possible in exceptional cases, as in that of androgen insensitivity, and that there are rare anomalies like intersex, but I don’t know why you have brought up those red herrings here. They are quite a different matter from inability to accept one’s biological sex.

Ian
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Ian

Gosh… Ive rarely come across a worse handling of this passage. Its absolutely nothing to do with sex or sexuality per se. It’s that as far as faith is concerned these differences do not count in that direction. All are equal before God…. not mashed up into one amorphous mess.

The accusation of others twisting scripture is incredible!

Marshall arguments by all means but this isn’t one.

Kate
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Kate

But, Ian, if a slave became a freeman (freewoman) that would have no impact on their standing before God, nor in the Church. Isn’t that the parallel – that a change of gender / sex is equally irrelevant to God and should be equally irrelevant to the Church? And, taking the analogy further, that newly freed slave might well want some sort of service to celebrate their freedom, be acknowledged in their new estate (and possibly a new name) by the fellow members of their Church and probably to give thanks to the Lord and to reaffirm their faith. That… Read more »

crs
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crs

No, the very point of the passage is that in the state one is in, one is being declared new in Christ. It is decidely not about transitioning from free to slave or Jew to Greek (whatever that might mean) or male to female. Whether male or female, and as men and as women, one has a status of being gifted into Christ Jesus as a new creation.

rjb
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rjb

And yet, of course, there *is* male and female: you only have to open the newspapers or watch television for a few minutes to note that gender distinctions haven’t melted away in the glow of the new covenant. I suspect Christian slaves (like Felicity) and slave-owners (like Perpetua) also noticed that slavery hadn’t ceased to exist as an institution – or to matter for people’s lives. (Paul notably didn’t think that slavery should be abolished any more than he thought gender norms should be eroded). Certainly these differences are *relativised* – they are diminished in light of the unity of… Read more »

Laurie Roberts
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Laurie Roberts

Try telling that to (the) slaves….

Charles Clapham
Guest

A disappointing petition, which (predictably) makes some misleading claims, including for example, that evidence regarding gender dysphoria from the medical and social sciences “is often conflicting and of poor quality”, and that “there is no scientific or medical consensus that surgical and medical interventions (‘gender transition’) effectively address the complex symptoms associated with gender dysphoria over the long term.” As a description of current medical and scientific research, neither of these claims made in the letter is accurate: the truth is that there is very substantial scientific research to support gender transition as an effective and in some cases necessary… Read more »

Evan McWilliams
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Evan McWilliams

Given the diversity of points of concern provided in the letter, it seems to me that there are many reasons one might have chosen to sign it. Points 1-3, for example, relate only tangentially to transgendered individuals. I would be cautious about assuming too much about the motivations and intentions of the signatories.

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

Actually the “how should we respond?” question should not be addressed as a technical point. The first point of contact is with a human being loved by God. The gospels are full of stories of people marginalised as different yet met by Jesus as human beings – including lepers, whose technical status as outcasts could be justified from the Old Testament. When Jesus touched a leper or a “dead body”, for example, it was not the uncleanness which polluted the clean, but – as a completely different dynamic – the transmission of holiness extended the Kingdom. There are issues around… Read more »