The Church of England is set to debate plans for a ceremony akin to a baptism for people who have recently undergone gender reassignment surgery.
Rev Chris Newlands, vicar of Lancaster Priory, has put the motion to the General Synod, the Church’s governing body, after he was approached by a transgender person wanting to be “re-baptised” as a man.
Recalling the conversation, Newlands told The Guardian: “I said: ‘Once you’ve been baptised, you’re baptised’. He said: ‘But I was baptised as a girl, under a different name.’
“I said: ‘Let me have a think about it’. So we did and then we created a service, which was an affirmation of baptismal vows where we could introduce him to God with his new name and his new identity.”
The result was a “really joyful occasion”, Newlands added.
It comes after Susan Musgrove, 62, had a “public affirmation” service at St Andrew’s Church, Corbridge two years ago after becoming a woman. She said Rev Newlands’s motion was “no big deal”, adding: “In the day and age of same-sex marriage, same-sex parenting, for the Church of England to acknowledge this, to want to take it to the House of Bishops – it’s fantastic.”
However, conservatives in the Church of England have raised concerns about the motion. Andrew Symes, executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, said:
“The Christian faith has always taught that people are created male and female. We speak for the conservative traditional point of view. We are aware there are a number of people who want to change from one gender to another and that’s a new thing for the church to deal with. It would be something that would go against the teachings of the church up till now. It would be something that would cause controversy.
“To recognise all people is something the church should be doing but to have a service of blessing for someone to change their gender is a new idea. It’s not been discussed before in the Church of England. It would need a lot of discussion and debate by theologians and I would need to know whether there are other agendas by the people bringing it. I would be very surprised if the diocese has passed the motion without a lot of discussion and debate.”
The motion reads: “That this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.”
It has already been passed by the Blackburn diocese, but will have to wait to be debated by the General Synod. There is also no guarantee that it will pass.
A spokesman for the Archbishops’ Council said: “Any of the 42 diocesan synods is free to propose items for debate at the General Synod. The Blackburn motion will join a queue of motions for debate and is therefore unlikely to be debated imminently. As the motion itself makes clear, any motion passed at General Synod would be the beginning not the end of a process.”