The Church of England’s guidance on services to celebrate the transition of transgender people has been met with opposition from senior church leaders.
Ten bishops and a number of priests have urged the CofE to rethink its guidance as they say it is a “misuse” of baptism, which should be about affirming faith, rather than ‘gender identity’.
The guidance says services should have “a celebratory character” and allow an opportunity for the congregation to “affirm them in their identity”. It suggests a service renewing baptismal commitment as the most appropriate setting.
Several senior clergy say they would refuse to conduct such services, with Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield, calling for a conscience clause.
Bishop of Maidstone Rod Thomas said the CofE needed to consider the theological basis for the “unconditional affirmation of trans people”.
He added that affirming transgender people was problematic, as the CofE would have to decide what to do if a transgender person requested a marriage service, as they do not conduct same-sex weddings.
Betrayed, abandoned, bereaved
Revd Ian Paul, a member of the Archbishop’s council, urged senior figures to “stop allowing themselves to be hijacked by these very small special-interest groups”.
He added: “What would it say for the church to ‘celebrate’ gender-identity change to the spouse who feels betrayed, to the children who feel abandoned, to the parent who feels bereaved – and even to those who have undergone transition and now regret the decision?”
Former Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali said: “The church should be compassionate and sensitive towards those who experience gender dysphoria, but its fundamental teaching must be based on a revealed truth and objective biology and its relation to social structure.”
A statement by the Church of England said: “There is no obligation on the clergy to offer the service”.