Church of England faces calls to withdraw trans welcome ceremonies

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 29 January 2019 19:12 GMT

A priest wears a rainbow ribbon during a vigil against Anglican Homophobia, outside the General Synod of the Church of England in London, Britain, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

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The public guidelines were intended to offer transgender church members a 'celebratory' ceremony to mark their transition

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, Jan 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Church of England is facing pressure to withdraw guidance for ceremonies welcoming transgender worshippers following a transition after more than 2,000 members signed a letter of protest.

Clergy members were among those who signed the open letter saying the "notion of gender transition is highly contested in wider society" and the guidance for baptism-style ceremonies raised significant theological concerns.

"In the light of these significant concerns, we ask that the House of Bishops revise, postpone or withdraw this guidance until all these questions are properly addressed," it said.

The Church of England has said bishops will give "serious consideration" to the letter.

"The guidance is not a restatement or a new statement on matters relating to gender, nor does it change the Church of England's teaching," a spokeswoman added in a statement.

Sarah Jones, a transgender priest who helped formulate the guidelines on welcome ceremonies, said she believed only a minority of Church members were opposed.

"It is sad because in all of this there are real transgender people who are marginalised and hurt," she said.

"Some people getting are so worked up about this when there is so much else we could be doing."

The Church of England, where the Anglican tradition originated, has in recent years moved towards greater acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people, including addressing homophobic bullying in schools.

The public guidelines were intended to offer transgender church members a "celebratory" ceremony to mark their transition, the church said when it announced them in December.

They say ministers should address trans members by their chosen name, though some traditionalists in the church argue that gender cannot be changed as it is assigned by God.

After protests by some church members, Justin Welby, the principal leader of the Church of England, said clergy members would not have to offer the ceremonies.

Issues of sexuality and gender have divided the wider Anglican body since 2003, pitting liberal churches in the West against their conservative counterparts, mostly in Africa.

(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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