‘Watershed in Christian Discipleship’?

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The Church of England has published “Pastoral Guidance for use in conjunction with the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith in the context of gender transition.”

The document offers guidelines for how the existing rite of baptism may be adapted into a service of welcome.

The guidance says clergy may address transgender people by their chosen name:  “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 guidance says water and oil may be used to signal that the Church of England “welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the body of Christ.” It says the church “rejoices in the diversity of that body into which all Christians have been baptized by one Spirit.”

Proposals for full liturgical blessings for transgender people met with opposition in the General Synod and the matter was referred to the House of Bishops. The guidance stresses church teaching that Christians are baptized only once.

The Rt. Rev. Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, is chairman of the bishops’ Delegation Committee, which oversaw production of the guidance.

“We are absolutely clear that everyone is made in the image of God and that all should find a welcome in their parish church,” he said. “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.”

The Rev. Peter Ould, who writes frequently on sexuality from a conservative perspective, expressed concern about the document.

“We appear to have suddenly moved to a position where, with little theology and zero scientific evidence, the C of E accepts that the trans narrative is true,” he said. “I’m afraid the House of Bishops have jumped the gun in the absence of good theology or scientific evidence.”

John Martin


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