What’s wrong with transgender liturgy?

Feb 16, 2018 by

by Ian Paul, Psephizo:

Last July’s General Synod passed a motion brought by Chris Newlands on behalf of Blackburn Diocese, expressing the Church’s welcome of transgender people and asking the House of Bishops to consider whether they should offer some sort of liturgy to mark the transition of a person’s sex identity. In January, the House of Bishops responded saying that they had considered the question, and had decided that no such liturgy was necessary. This was not received well by those campaigning for a change in approach, and the main complaint was that, though the wording of the motion asked the House of Bishops to ‘consider’ whether a liturgy was needed, of course everyone knew that what was meant was that the House of Bishops should produce a liturgy, not simply consider the question. Such an interpretation is clearly mischievous, not least given that the modest nature of the wording was explicitly appealed to in the debate, and that the Vice Chair of the Liturgical Commission, Richard Frith, expressly warned that such ‘consideration’ would not lead to the offering of a liturgy.

One of those protesting the bishops’ decision was Tina Beardsley, a member of the Sibyls, Christian spirituality for transgender people, and a core consultant member of the Coordinating Group for the Episcopal Teaching Document on Marriage & Human Sexuality. Her response to the bishops had two parts:

I understand the theology that our identity as Christians is in Christ, and hence that to adapt the Renewal of Baptismal Vows for trans people seems fitting. Yes, indeed, renewing one’s baptismal vows, following name change or any other stage of gender confirmation, can be very healing. I know that for myself.

But what is the problem with producing a short pastoral service that could include the renewal of baptismal vows, but that also stated, on the cover, or as a heading, that this rite was specifically for use with gender variant people? Why does it appear to be so difficult to actually name us and our reality?

To explore the issues, it would be useful to have a liturgy to consider—and in fact Tina Beardsley has written one as part of a forthcoming book, and you can read it online. There are some important aspects of it that are worth noting.

Read here


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