Church of England Approves Pastoral Guidance for Welcoming Transgender People

Traditionalists have fought against such a step.

A new pastoral guidance has been published by the Church of England on the procedure to welcome transgender individuals into Anglican faith. This guidance was approved by the House of Bishops and follows a certain motion adopted at a 2017 General Synod.

It does not offer any particular blessing or a new service but advises the Anglican clergy to call transgender individuals by the name they have chosen themselves. The House of Bishops approved the document on the night of December 10, and it will now be included in the common worship of the church. The text encouraged Anglican clergy to be both sensitive and creative when it comes to enabling people to mark the transition of gender in a “celebratory” manner.

The guidance advises the Anglican clergy to be respectful towards gender pronouns. It suggests that if a transgender worshiper is not baptized, then the person would be encouraged to do the needed ceremony. The document describes such steps as “natural liturgical context” when it comes not only to recognize but also celebrate their identity. The move comes a year after a general synod held in York on the necessity of trans-people to be affirmed and also welcomed by congregations and church leaders.

The document was authored by three transgender reverends, Rachel Mann, Tina Beardsley, and Sarah Jones, and the three noted that such changes will permit any trans-person to be called liturgically by their minister by the name they have chosen for themselves. This will be a first in church history.

When asked, the three reverends elaborated on the rationale behind the content. Their aim was to offer a space for trans individuals to locate their respective lives in the existing liturgy for Affirmation of Baptismal Faith. Julian Henderson, the bishop of Blackburn, oversaw work to produce this guidance. He said the church has made it clear that every person is made in God’s image and will be welcomed in the parish church.

Traditionalists within the church have hit back. They have earlier stopped plans to change the liturgy and to adopt a blessing for all transgender individuals. This guidance stressed that as per the church, the baptism sacrament could be undertaken by any person only once in a lifetime. In a compromise, it went on to explain how to tweak the existing liturgy to adapt to those who have made the gender change. The gender change can be marked by using the existing Affirmation of Baptism right.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter