THE House of Bishops’ decision to offer transsexual people a way to recognise and celebrate their transition in church should be welcomed, not retracted under the pressure of a “fear-mongering and ungracious response” from conservative Christians.
This is the view expressed by 599 lay people and clerics, including a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams, in a letter to the Church Times this week.
“We write in support of the guidance provided by the House of Bishops to help those wishing to celebrate their gender transition,” the letter says, before thanking the group that is co-ordinating the Bishops’ sexuality project, Living in Love and Faith (LLF). This includes the Revd Dr Christina Beardsley, a transgender priest who resigned last week (News, Comment, 1 February).
The letter continues: “It is right and proper that the Church should make a loving pastoral response to trans people who are looking for a way to recognise and celebrate their transition in church, and surely the use of the affirmation of baptismal vows is a powerful statement of faith.”
It comes after an open letter attracted the signatures of more than 2800 laity and clergy to call on the House of Bishops to “revise, postpone, or withdraw” its guidance on adapting the liturgy for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith to mark a person’s gender transition (News, 1 February).
Other signatories to the Church Times letter include the Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Revd Alan Wilson; a former Dean of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Rupert Hoare; and several General Synod members, including the pro-LGBT campaigner Jayne Ozanne.
In a letter to the Archbishops, and all diocesan bishops, on Tuesday, she urged them to make clear their support of the House of Bishops’ guidance. “Silence sadly only hurts the vulnerable. . . Recent attempts to gather signatories to a letter that is both misinformed and inaccurate have only gone further to create a sense of hostility towards the trans community in our churches.
“We believe that this has been deeply unhelpful.”
Read the full letter here