Approximately 2,155 clergy and lay members of the Church of England have signed a letter opposing recent guidelines regarding rites sacralizing gender transition in the church.
In December, the church issued a “pastoral guidance,” recommending use of an adapted baptism ritual to mark a person’s gender transition and celebrate his new name and sexual identity.
The occasion of gender transition should have a distinct “celebratory character,” the guidance states, and suggests presenting gifts, such as a Bible inscribed in the chosen name, or a certificate, as part of the service.
The letter requests that Church of England (C of E) bishops revise, postpone, or withdraw the guidance, stating that “the notion of gender transition is highly contested in wider society.”
“Gender dysphoria is an emotionally painful experience that requires understanding, support and compassion,” the letter reads, adding:
In recent years controversial new theories about the relationship between biological sex and the social meaning of gender have been linked to gender dysphoria. These ideas continue to be widely contested, with well-intentioned and thoughtful people on all sides of the debate.
The letter further states that many parents and teachers are concerned about these new theories and do not wish to harm potentially large numbers of children by “imposing untried and untested ideas” on them.
One signer, Edward Dowler, the archdeacon of Hastings, said church leaders “might have been more circumspect about appearing to lend their support to an increasingly high-profile ideological movement whose aims and methods sit uncomfortably with the Christian gospel and are now being increasingly questioned throughout western society.”
The Rev. Ian Paul, a member of the archbishops’ council, suggests that church leaders are “allowing themselves to be hijacked by these very small special interest groups.”
The Church of England Evangelical Council said in a statement that the guidance was “highly divisive and theologically and pastorally questionable.”
The LGBT guidelines and the reaction they have elicited reveal a rift running through the Church of England on the issue of gender theory.
The Rev. Tina Beardsley, who was born a biological male but later transitioned, says the church should give the guidelines official recognition.
“This guidance arose from a decision at the general synod which was passed by an overwhelming majority. The signatories to the letter can’t accept this decision,” Beardsley remarks, adding that the letter has an “anti-trans narrative” that is “unhealthy, stigmatising and fear-mongering.”
A spokesperson for the Church of England states that the bishops will give the letter “serious consideration” while insisting that the guidance “is not a restatement or a new statement on matters relating to gender, nor does it change the C of E’s teaching.”
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