Critics of transgender guidance blame ‘rushed process or inadequate theological reflection’

31 May 2019

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SIGNATORIES to a letter that asked the House of Bishops to “revise, postpone, or withdraw” its guidance on liturgy to mark a person’s gender transition (News, 25 January) have expressed concern about the Church’s “systemic ability to resist the very strong cultural and ideological pressures in this area of thought”.

The statement was released after a meeting between representatives of the signatories — the Revd Dr Ian Paul, a member of the Archbishops’ Council; the Archdeacon of Hastings, the Ven. Dr Edward Dowler; the Vicar of All Saints’, Ealing, the Revd Rachel Marszalek; the Rector of East Dean, in the diocese of Chichester, the Revd David Baker, and three bishops: the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, who chairs the Living in Live and Faith project, the Bishop of Newcastle; the Revd Christine Hardman, who leads the Pastoral Advisory Group; and the Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, who chairs the Liturgical Commission.

“It was acknowledged that part of the problem with the guidance had been a presentation issue,” a statement issued by the representatives said. But concerns about the wording of the guidance remained. “This may have been the result of the rushed process or inadequate theological reflection. . . We remain concerned about the Church of England’s systemic ability to resist the very strong cultural and ideological pressures in this area of thought.”

They reiterated their request that the guidance — which they argue has been influenced by “highly contested gender ideology” — be withdrawn.

“Questions were raised about the procedures that had been followed in the production of the Guidance, and it was illuminating to hear of some of the complexities involved, as well as to gain a clear understanding that things could have been done differently,” the statement says. “Nevertheless, there remain questions about proper procedure.”

The Bishops had given “assurances . . . that the provisions of the Guidance, even in adapted form, were totally inappropriate for those under the age of eighteen.”

The Bishops had agreed that the press release that accompanied the Guidance had been “unhelpful”, and had agreed to remove it from the C of E website, the statement said. But, this week, the press release remained online, with a note saying that it had been “adapted” with “clarifying information”.

The original press release said that the Guidance “formally commends the incorporation of the existing rite for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith into services which mark gender transition”. This has been removed, as has reference to the Guidance’s emphasis on the occasion’s having a “celebratory character”.

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