Anger over House of Bishops’ decision on transgender liturgy

Jan 26, 2018 by

from CEN:

FOLLOWING last summer’s General Synod decision to call for new liturgies to mark a person’s gender transition the House of Bishops this week said that rite Affirmation of Baptismal Faith could be used instead.

However, their decision has sparked anger.

The Chair of LGBT Christian campaign group, OneBodyOneFaith, said the decision by the House of Bishops not to develop liturgies to mark a person’s gender transition, while clergy are already devising services for trans people, ‘could not be allowed to remain the church’s official position’’.

Canon Peter Leonard, Chair of OneBody and also a General Synod member, has said that the bishops’ latest move ‘demonstrates once more that they are out of step not just with the mind of Synod, but with the broader church and society too’.

“Our message to the bishops is simple, as it was last February: we will work with you, but we won’t wait for you,” he added.

In their groundbreaking vote last July, General Synod backed the Blackburn diocesan synod motion for new liturgies to mark transgender transition, which was passed following a vote by houses and almost unanimous supported from the House of Bishops (30 for, two against andtwo abstentions).

However, a statement from the Church of England has said that ‘after prayerful consideration’, the House of Bishops has decided it will not develop a new nationally commended service to mark a gender transition.

Instead, the Bishops are inviting clergy to use the existing rite ‘Affirmation of Baptismal Faith’.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, said: “The Church of England welcomes transgender people and wholeheartedly wishes for them to be included in the life of the Church.

“On the matter of whether a new service is needed, the House of Bishops has decided that the current service that is used to affirm baptism can be adapted.

“Clergy always have the discretion to compose and say prayers with people as they see fit.”

However, the charity representing transgender Christians, OneBodyOneFaith, accused the bishops of ‘kicking trans people into the long grass.’

Tracey Byrne, CEO of the leading LGBT Christian campaigning group, said: “It’s no particular surprise that the bishops have fallen so short of the mark, given their failure to consult with or listen to trans people’s experiences, but that’s no excuse.”

She accused the bishops of having ‘failed to step up to the challenge set them by General Synod, the Church’s own governing body.’

“This feels like kicking trans people into the long grass – just like the wider LGBT communities were kicked into the long grass by the bishops’ woeful report last February,” Byrne commented.

“More fine words about welcome – but denying trans people the services and pastoral support they themselves have told us would actually make a real difference,” she added.

Synod member for Oxford, Jayne Ozanne, tweeted:“Synod’s request for formal liturgies was to give a clear signal of welcome to our trans brothers and sisters. By now refusing to do that it effectively tells them the exact opposite!

“The House of Bishops are well aware of this, which is what’s so utterly disgraceful.”

The Rev Canon Priscilla Audrey White, Vicar of St Faith and St Laurence Church Harborne, and Area Dean of Edgbaston, Birmingham, told The Church of England Newspaper: “I feel it is a shame that this decision leaked out without us having the opportunity to hear what the House of Bishops actually said and meant.

“If it means a shut-down of discussion and thought on liturgical ways to engage with people going through transition I think it is regrettable. It does, however, enable clergy to engage creatively with resources that are currently available and to tailor-make liturgies appropriate to person and situation.”


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