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1,800 sign letter urging Bishops to reconsider transgender services

by Cara Bentley

The Church of England issued advice in December for parishes who wished to mark someone's gender change, saying a baptism or affirmation of baptismal faith would be the 'natural liturgical context' for recognising someone's new gender.

A service would involve using their new name and pronoun through liturgy and a baptism certificate.

This guidance has been criticised since it was published but got its most stinging blow this weekend.

1,857 vicars, lay preachers, readers and ordinands have now signed an open letter accusing the House of Bishops (one of the three houses in the General Synod) of changing church doctrine by effectively bringing in new liturgy - which is meant to reflect doctrine which has been agreed on collectively by the Anglican church.

The signatories say the services appear to be a "misuse of liturgy" as "Although reaffirmation of baptismal vows might well be appropriate at certain seasons of life, it should primarily be focussed on celebrating new life in Christ rather than a new situation or circumstance".

Rev Peter Ould, a Church of England commentator and preacher based in Canterbury diocese, signed the letter and spoke to Premier's Cara Bentley:

They say baptism should always focus on salvation, faith and repentance and not 'unconditional affirmation'.

It also highlights their concerns with "the inclusion of new biblical readings within the guidance and their suggestion that the changes of name for biblical characters in the light of God's salvific action and intervention offer a legitimate parallel to the change of name associated with gender transition."

The clergy add they are concerned the guidance didn't include hearing from people who had experienced a traumatic transition and its "potential for harm" and ends with an appeal for the bishops to "revise, postpone or withdraw this guidance until all these questions are properly addressed.

The Church of England responded in a statement to The Times, saying: "The bishops will give the letter their serious consideration, especially in the context of the preparation of a major new set of teaching and learning resources on identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality, 'Living in Love and Faith', which will be published next year.

"Transgender matters will be covered in those resources and the pastoral guidance does not pre-empt the work of the 'Living in Love and Faith' process. 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."

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