New advice regarding how to help transgender people mark their transition has been delivered by the Church of England.
One piece of advice suggests modifying the Affirmation of Baptism service in a way that permits transgender Christians to celebrate their new sexual identity.
During the service, they would be addressed by the name they have chosen instead of their birth name.
According to BBC, “it follows pressure at the general synod last year to go further in welcoming the transgender community.”
The Church has faced past criticism for not taking sufficient action to guard against transphobia, and for failing to prevent transgender students in faith schools from being bullied.
Various conservative theologians, however, insist that God is the one who assigns gender and that humans should refrain from attempting to change the gender they were born.
The guidance encourages that the Church “welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the body of Christ, and rejoices in the diversity of that body into which all Christians have been baptized by one Spirit”.
The Reverend Dr. Tina Beardsley, a former healthcare chaplain, is one of the three transgender clergy who reviewed the guidelines.
She mentions that although several trans Christians had previously taken part in similar services informally, herself included, receiving official endorsement by the Church was particularly momentous.
She stated to BBC News: “For me the most important thing was actually having this certificate to say that I had renewed my baptism vows and it had my chosen name on it.”
She went on to say that the new guidance would take away whatever doubt remained for clergy leading services.
On the other hand, she revealed disappointment the new guidance did not introduce a certain liturgical form of words to signify transition.
The House of Bishops gave the guidance the seal of approval to be added into Common Worship.
Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn who chairs the House of Bishops delegation committee, stated: “We are absolutely clear that everyone is made in the image of God and that all should find a welcome in their parish church.
“This new guidance provides an opportunity, rooted in scripture, to enable trans people who have come to Christ as the way, the truth and the life, to mark their transition in the presence of their Church family which is the body of Christ.”
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