Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Do the Trans-gendered Need a Special Church Ceremony?

The Church of England will hold a General Synod from July 7 - July 11 this year, and one of the topics subject to debate is how to create ‘baptism-style’ services to celebrate a transgender person's transition all because someone who was going through that process felt that God might not recognize him/her/it.

The paper to be presented can be found here. The motion that is up for discussion is being presented by The Revd Chris Newlands,

Welcoming Transgender People: 
"That this Synod, recognizing the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition."
 "The Blackburn Diocesan Synod Motion was prompted by a pastoral encounter with a young transgender person that took place in Lancaster Priory. I will call him 'George' (not his real name) as he does not wish to receive any unwanted attention at this time. George was wrestling with the spiritual dimension of what was happening to him as he was coming to the end of his process of transition from inhabiting a female body since the time of his birth to his present state as a man, following the long process oftransition. He felt the need to “reintroduce himself to God, with his new name and gender identity.” 
In addition there is a separate background note from the Secretary General of the Synod. In it he states that if anything gets approved, it won't be a "re-baptism",
It is a fundamental belief of the Church that baptism can only be received once. There is therefore no possibility of the Synod approving a form of service for there-baptism of transgendered persons in their new gender who have already beenbaptised. Nor could material to that end be commended for use by clergy inexercise of their discretion under Canon B.5.2 - Canon B.5.3 since these Canons make clear that all forms of service used under that provision “shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter”.
He comes up with a clever but potentially dangerous "generous pastoral response",
"The Common Worship library of Church of England services already includes an
authorized form of service for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith.
This service refers to the fact that the individual has already been baptised, asks them to repeat their baptismal vows and re-affirm their faith. The focal point of this service is on the individual’s faith in Jesus Christ, rather than on the individual’s name or gender
– regardless of whether or not it was different from when they were baptised."
Most importantly we can't have it look like a second baptism,
"This provision responds to requests for more vivid recognition of post-baptismal experiences of personal renewal and commitment withoutgiving any appearance of a second baptism."
So is he ruling out the possibility of coming up with a new liturgy for those "transitioning"? In typical CofE style, not entirely,
"If the Synod passed the Diocesan Synod Motion as drafted, the House of Bishops would need to consider whether some additional liturgical materials should be prepared to supplement what is already provided for in Common Worship. One way of achieving that could be by the House commending prayers and other suitable material for use by the clergy in the exercise of their discretion under Canon B 5 – an approach which would not involve any formal process beyond a decision being taken by the House. Alternatively the House might conclude that existing liturgical materials provided sufficient flexibility to meet this pastoral need ,as in paragraph above."
Why, in the Church, is so hard to just say, "No"?


  1. Oh, sure! They need a blessing to mark the surgical mutilation and medically inappropriate hormone treatment for people who hate what they are. They need healing and prayer, not mutilation and drugs.

  2. "Alternatively the House might conclude that existing liturgical materials provided sufficient flexibility to meet this pastoral need ,as in paragraph above." AKA a generous pastoral response.

  3. Adding more rites just turns the Book of Common Prayer into a book of uncommon prayer.