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Diocese of Blackburn seeks new liturgy for trans service

29 May 2015


Affirmed in her parish church: Susan Musgrove (right) with her daughter Sophie Summers, in St Andrew's, Corbridge, Northumberland, in 2013, at a service to celebrate her gender transition

Affirmed in her parish church: Susan Musgrove (right) with her daughter Sophie Summers, in St Andrew's, Corbridge, Northumberland, in 2013, at a ser...

A LITURGY to "mark a person's gender transition" should be devised to help the Church welcome and affirm transgender people, a motion from the diocese of Blackburn suggests. The motion was sent for consideration to the General Synod last month, after being carried by the diocesan synod.

Its origins lie in a service led last year by the Vicar of St Mary's, Lancaster, the Revd Chris Newlands, after a young man had asked to be "rebaptised", explaining that he had been baptised as a girl.

"He said: 'I don't think God knows me; so I would like to be introduced to God as a man,'" Mr Newlands recalled on Tuesday. A liturgy was devised, drawing on the initiation service, which enabled the man to reaffirm his baptismal vows.

"It was just a very simple pastoral response to something which came out of the blue," Mr Newlands said. "It was really moving, as he felt he was in a proper relationship with God. He just wanted God to know his new name."

Mr Newlands believes that more transgender people may request such a service, having heard about this from the media, and that a liturgy would send out a "very positive message to people who are trans that they are welcomed and affirmed by the Church".

On Tuesday, the Priest-in-Charge of St Nicholas's, Burnage, in Manchester, the Revd Dr Rachel Mann, who is transgender, welcomed the proposal. "As trans people, we feel powerfully called to be recognised in our 'chosen' names," she said. "An opportunity to be publicly introduced to God is therefore significant. I think this is what a proposed liturgy would aim to do. It will be symbolically and sacramentally powerful."

She said, however, that her "only anxiety" would be about "treating trans people as those who are talked about rather than talked to. . . I would not want trans lives to be further objectified without trans representation in the discussion."

The motion reads: "That this Synod, recognising 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."

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