Call for transition liturgy

30 June 2017

Susan Musgrove

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 servi...

A SPECIAL form of liturgy to mark the new identity of people who are completing gender transition will be called for at next month’s General Synod meeting in York.

The diocesan-synod motion, from Blackburn, comes after an approach was made to the parish at Lancaster Priory by a person who was reaching the end of a transition to the male gender, who asked to be rebaptised to “reintroduce himself to God, with his new name and gender identity” (News, 29 May 2015).

In a briefing paper supporting the motion, the Vicar of Lancaster Priory, the Revd Christopher Newlands, said: “We were clear from the outset that the service was not a baptism, as he had already been baptised, but it was a renewal of his baptismal vows in which he made the vows for himself, and in his newly acquired legal name he made clear his commitment to the Christian faith, and was anointed as the community prayed for him and his family. The community celebrated this new beginning with great joy.

“A similar encounter could occur at any parish church or chaplaincy, and highlights the opportunity to welcome transgender people and respond to their particular needs for prayerful affirmation. The Church of England prides itself on its welcome to everyone who lives in the parish, but the presence of a transgender person in a congregation, or with a request for ministry, requires a particularly informed and sensitive response.”

The motion calls on the Synod to recognise “the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church”, and goes on to ask the House of Bishops to consider the need for “nationally commended liturgical materials” to mark a person’s gender transition.

The motion will be the first occasion that the Synod has had to discuss the issue of transgender people, although in 2003 the House of Bishops agreed that two opposing theological views could “properly be held”: one regarded gender reassignment as “a fiction”, and the other regarded medical intervention leading to a change of sex or gender as legitimate.

The Bishops did not oppose the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, which allowed trans people to marry someone of the opposite sex in an Anglican church, but also allowed clergy the right to refuse to solemnise such a marriage.

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