There continue to be developments in the campaign against the House of Bishops’ guidance on transgender services which we first reported here, and then here. Reports of the criticism are first of all here, and subsequently here.
More recently, this petition has appeared: A Response to the House of Bishops Guidance on Transgender Welcome.
This was reported in the Church Times: Letter urges House of Bishops to ‘revise, postpone or withdraw’ its trans guidance
…The open letter, which has been signed online by members of the clergy and laity, is being circulated by critics of the guidance, including the conservative Evangelical organisation the Church Society (full text below). It is understood that the letter was intended to be made public in the week before the General Synod’s sessions next month.
Everyone should be welcomed in churches, the letter says, but “we do not believe that the Guidance is the right way to do this, since it raises some significant issues for the Church’s belief and practice.”
It continues: “The House of Bishops previously stated that no new liturgy would be offered. The title of ‘gender transition services’, the focus on the use of a person’s new name, the use of oil and water contrary to previous rubrics in Common Worship, and the description in the later explanatory note confirming that this service is to be used to ‘mark gender transition’ amount to the offering of a new liturgy, since existing wording is now being put to a new purpose…”
And has also been reported in the Sunday Times [£] Church of England faces backlash over services for trans people
This statement was issued by Church of England (as reported in the Sunday Times):
“The bishops will give the letter their serious consideration, especially in the context of the preparation of a major new set of teaching and learning resources on identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality, ‘Living in Love and Faith’, which will be published next year.
“Transgender matters will be covered in those resources and the pastoral guidance does not pre-empt the work of the ‘Living in Love and Faith’ process. The guidance is not a restatement or a new statement on matters relating to gender, nor does it change the Church of England’s teaching.”
Two of those involved in organising this petition have written about it:
- Ian Paul A plea to the bishops on trans guidance: please listen and respond
- David Baker Bishops always say they’re listening: are they listening to us about transgender?
GAFCONUK has now chimed in: “Transgender Baptism” – How Should We Respond?
Noted conservative Evangelical Church of England Theologian, Ian Paul – who blogs at ‘Psephizo’ – here speaks for the contingent members of the Church of England who disagree with the House of Bishops’ recent Pastoral Directive which states that Trans-Gender people should be welcomed by the Church, without discrimination.
Here is the reason Paul gives for the rebellion against the Bishops’ Directive:
“We ask to be heard because the voice of the church, of which we are part, right across the world and through history, speaks mostly with a different voice on these matters to what we now hear from you. We cannot simply ignore the voice of brothers and sisters in Christ in other denominations, in other continents, at other times and places. And we ask to be heard because the voice that should be heard above all is not ours but the voice of God through Scripture – and we do not believe the existing guidance has yet engaged with that fully”
The same sort of arguments were put forward earlier on matters pertaining to the need for recognition of other groups of the disadvantaged – slaves and women for example – all based on an outdated understanding of the mission of the Church to ALL people without discrimination of race, colour, social class, ethnicity, gender or sexual- orientation.
It is perhaps only natural that those whose theology and praxis are inextricably wedded to traditions of the past – irrespective of any new understanding of the world as we now know it to be (infinitely complex and socially and biologically variable) – should cling to a former and now outdated model of creation and God’s work of redemption, based on an outdated hermeneutic which takes no account of the new understandings of human development.
It is important to realise that this culture of theological recidivism is currently being harnessed and abused by some people whose own lives are less than perfect. For instance, the current US President, Donald Trump, is engaged in a campaign to overturn legislation in the USA that was brought about to allow LGBTI+ people to serve in the US Military – signalling a retrograde step that has become dear to the hearts of Republican fundamentalists – with whom Trump now has an unholy alliance – which will, sadly, restore the problems of discrimination against a marginalised minority that had been released from the grip of public institutional prejudice.
Just when the English Bishops have begun to make a stand against the extant sins of homophobia and sexism in the Church of England – this vocal cadre of protesters are trying to turn back the clock – on grounds of theological and moral certainties that no longer hold water.
The transgender community is here with us and will not go away. Some are already active as clergy in the Church of England, bringing a sense of balance and credibility to the variety of human beings created by God – to serve the Kingdom and to bear witness to the manifold gifts being exercised by those called into ministry whose innate sexual identity happens to be different.
The personal identity of a transgender person is now legally allowed to be assigned a different name from that of their original baptismal ceremony. By undertaking a Renewal of the Baptismal Vows made on their behalf at their Baptism (commonly undertaken by many Christians on Easter Eve) – but under the new chosen name – a transgender person is doing nothing more radical than a candidate for religious orders whose Christian name can be changed at their postulancy to the order they become a part of.
This is a storm in a teacup. Let’s all get over it.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand (ex-Brother Ronald Anthony, N/SSF)