The Church of England has rejected a proposal for a new service to mark a congregant’s sex change – but has given the nod to using an existing ‘reaffirmation’ baptism service, instead.
The decision by the Anglican House of Bishops to reject proposals for the development of a new special service to mark gender transitions was criticised by LGBT activists within the church.
The ruling, revealed on Sunday, comes after the General Synod voted overwhelmingly in favour of introducing such church services in July.
Though the House of Bishops rejects the writing of a new service, it advises clergy that they may use an existing rite used to reaffirm a Christian’s faith, the “Affirmation of Baptismal Faith”, to mark gender transitions.
The Bishop of Norwich, the Right Reverend Graham James, said: “The Church of England welcomes transgender people and wholeheartedly wishes for them to be included in the life of the Church.
“On the matter of whether a new service is needed, the House of Bishops has decided that the current service that is used to affirm baptism can be adapted.
“Clergy always have the discretion to compose and say prayers with people as they see fit,” the Right Reverend added.
The statement prepared by the Church of England, the mother church of the international Anglican Communion, added that new guidance will be prepared on the use of the existing ‘affirmation’ baptism service.
William Nye, Secretary General of the Church’s parliament, the General Synod, claimed that “the focal point of this [affirmation] 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.”
However, this concession on Biblical teaching failed to move the progressive faction of the church, with a senior member of the left-liberal General Synod telling the Mail on Sunday: “I am surprised that they have decided that new liturgies weren’t necessary given the force of the arguments and the feeling of Synod. You need to be able to respond to people’s life events.
“We do with birth and marriage and death. When you claim a new identity, that seems to me to be as powerful.”
The English Protestant church has been criticised by conservative Christians for its progressive abandonment of Biblical teaching and for bowing to pressure from the transgender lobby.
In November, the Church of England said schools should encourage young children to experiment with their “gender identity” in its guidance on bullying, writing: “Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgment or derision.”
Church of England bishops are working on a major “teaching document”, to be released in 2020, on same-sex marriage, according to The Christian Post.