Thinking Anglicans

Open letter supporting bishops on transgender pastoral guidance

The Church Times reports on a letter received, containing 599 signatures: Support for House of Bishops’ trans rites guidance. The letter was written by The Reverend Dr Jo Kershaw.

THE House of Bishops’ decision to offer transsexual people a way to recognise and celebrate their transition in church should be welcomed, not retracted under the pressure of a “fear-mongering and ungracious response” from conservative Christians.
This is the view expressed by 599 lay people and clerics, including a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams, in a letter to the Church Times this week.
“We write in support of the guidance provided by the House of Bishops to help those wishing to celebrate their gender transition,” the letter says, before thanking the group that is co-ordinating the Bishops’ sexuality project, Living in Love and Faith (LLF). This includes the Revd Dr Christian Beardsley, a transgender priest who resigned last week (News, Comment, 1 February).
The letter continues: “It is right and proper that the Church should make a loving pastoral response to trans people who are looking for a way to recognise and celebrate their transition in church, and surely the use of the affirmation of baptismal vows is a powerful statement of faith.”

Full text of letter as published

Full list of signatories. (up to Tuesday morning)

Original text of letter (still open for signatures to be added- see the comments following)

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RichardKateSimon KershawSusannah ClarkFather Ron Smith Recent comment authors
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Susannah Clark

I very much support Jo Kershaw’s letter, to which I’ve added my name without hesitation. As some of you may recall, I wrote to all the Bishops in the Church of England in February 2017, making the case for allowing conscientious diversity in the Church on human sexuality issues. Over 40 of the Bishops kindly engaged with me, which I greatly appreciated. I am also participating in the Living in Love and Faith process. As a transgender female, I really appreciate the Bishops’ pastoral concern for people embarking on transition, and I have written to all of them again, once… Read more »

Father Ron Smith

One of the real problems here (apart from their innate transphobia) is that protesters against the Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance are mistaking the service of Renewal of Baptuismal Vows – used in Catholic Churches by everyone on Easter Eve – for the sacramental Rite of Baptism, which it is not. It is merely a reaffirmatin of Baptismal Vows – but under a new name – just like a Religious might replace their Baptismal name on taking religious Vows. There is a precendent for name-changing already.

Susannah Clark

The point about religious changing their names is a really good one, Father Ron. At a key point of embracing their identity in a new context, they re-affirm their faith, and are recognised and acknowledged with their new name, either chosen by them or chosen for them. It would be strange indeed to say, no, you were baptised with an earlier name, therefore we cannot now acknowledge this new name you have taken, at a pivotal entry point to a further stage in your life. You are, of course, also quite right to differentiate between the one-off sacrament of baptism… Read more »


Historically many British monarchs have also changed name as part of the coronation rite.

I can see why the bishops thought that the Renewal of Baptismal Vows is a suitable liturgy. It can be. But I am concerned that the guidance misses the mark in terms of tone and emphasis in this context.

Simon Kershaw

Kate writes “Historically many British monarchs have also changed name as part of the coronation rite.” I don’t think it’s true to say “many”, or indeed “any”. The kings who became Edward VII and George VI each chose to use another of their baptismal names, rather than the one they had previously used formally and informally (choosing in each case not to be Albert I), but they weren’t adopting new names. And whilst Edward VIII was known within his family as “David” he had always been styled Prince Edward. I don’t think any other monarchs have used a regnal name… Read more »


OK “many British” was perhaps inaccurate but there is also Robert III of Scotland.

And, of course, many popes including Pope Benedict XVI who definitely wasn’t baptised as Benedict. It isn’t an Anglican example but I think it still makes the point.


Queen Victoria’s first name was Alexandrina.