Priest resigns in transgender-pupil row

31 May 2019

Christian Concern

The Revd John Parker

The Revd John Parker

A RECTOR in Essex has resigned as both parish priest and governor of the local primary school after a row over an eight-year-old pupil’s gender transition.

The rector, the Revd John Parker, accused both the Church of England school and the diocese of silencing his concerns over transgender issues and how the school’s leadership was handling the topic.

The clergyman and the other governors and staff were informed earlier this year that the eight-year-old wished to return to school as a girl, not a boy.

Concerned by the school’s approach, Mr Parker secretly recorded a training session at the school led by the transgender education charity Mermaids.

In the recording, Mr Parker can be heard trying to ask questions and challenge some scientific and legal issues that are raised, but is told by the head teacher and others that he should not speak out and instead send his concerns in an email.

“Throughout the training session, there was an implicit threat to us that if we did not implement Mermaids’ ideology and affirm LGBTQI+ children, it would result in children committing suicide, self-harming, and police and OFSTED would enforce the policy,” Mr Parker said later.

“After the head told us about the plan to allow the pupil to transition, the school suddenly turned into a place where you did not even have the freedom to question or express a view. I felt it was no longer a Christian place of truth but a place of fear and intimidation.”

A spokesperson for the school said that they were “very sorry” that Mr Parker had resigned as a governor. “We respect that everyone will have their own opinions regarding transgender pupils and how a sensitive issue should be managed and communicated.

“As a church school, we believe that, if we have disagreements around personal choice and individual rights, these are managed respectfully.”

Besides standing down as a governor at the school, Mr Parker also wrote to his bishop resigning his incumbency, and saying that children were being “sacrificed on the altar of trans ideology”, and that the C of E was heading down the same path as the school.

In a letter to his congregation explaining why he had resigned — seen by the Church Times — Mr Parker said that he could no longer remain in the Church, because he believed that it was teaching and promoting a “false” and “unscriptural” message on gender.

The release of new pastoral guidance on how to hold a service celebrating someone’s gender transition in December showed that the C of E had an “unquestioning acceptance of a particular kind of politically correct transgender ideology”, he said.

The director of education for the diocese of Chelmsford, the Revd Tim Elbourne, said that all church schools should comply with the requirements of the Equality Act and the Church’s own policy on transphobia.

“Church of England schools are inclusive environments which nurture pupils to respect diversity of all kinds,” he also said.

In a statement, Mermaids said: “We are surprised to see that a Church of England rector is complaining about our training when we are included in the C of E guidance on support for transgender people. We’re delighted to say that, following our training, we received an email from the school offering sincere thanks for our informative, helpful, and fun presentation.”

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