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The Church of England needs to make its mind up over gender transition, says Church commentator

by Cara Bentley

Prudence Dailey, chair of the Prayer Book Society, submitted the question ahead of General Synod, the Church of England's assembly.

The Bishop of Newcastle, Christian Hardman, said she didn't want to comment on particular cases at hand but that, more generally: "When a couple marry in church they promise before God to be faithful to each other for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health - come what may, although we preach compassion if they find this too much to bear.

"Secondly, never in the history of thechurch has divorce been actively recommended as the way to resolve a problem. We have always prioritised fidelity, reconciliation and forgiveness, with divorce as a concession when staying together proves humanly unbearable. In the light of those two points, if a couple wish to remain married after one partner has transitioned, who are we to put them asunder?"

The reply has been referred to as the Church 'tieing itself in knots' over the issue of transgenderism by Archbishop Jonathan Blake, who left the Church of England and co-founded the Open Episcopal Church and is pro same-sex marriage.

He wrote on his blog: "Now, apparently a gay couple can have sex, as long as they were once an 'opposite-sex married couple'. Roll on the day, when the discrimination and prejudice meted out by the Church of England, is no longer permitted."

Those on the other side of the debate have similarly pointed out the contradiction, with Rev Peter Ould, a priest in the Diocese of Canterbury and Church commentator telling Premier's News Hour: "The House of Bishops really has to decide whether they do or don't have a coherent theology around gender transition and if they do, they need to articulate it very clearly and they need to stop making pastoral and liturgical decisions until that's really clear."

Earlier this year, the Church of England introduced liturgy to be used after someone's baptism that would recognise a gender transition, with many saying the Church were changing church doctrine via the backdoor.

Rev Ould continued: "The House of Bishops don't quite know what they think about the fundamental question of, if somebody transits from one sex to another via a gender recognition certificate, does the church actually view them as the new sex or not?

"It's interesting to look at how the government approached this before same sex marriage was legal. In those circumstances if you were in a marriage - and that could only be between a man and a woman - and you got a gender recognition certificate, by definition the marriage ceased to be, it was annulled. And if we think about that, moving forward into the now in 2019, and the Church of England doctrine of marriage, it is a valid position to say that if you believe that marriage can only be between a man and a woman - and that's the current Church of England stance - then by definition, if one person changes their sex, they are disabling the marriage because they are choosing not to live in the relationship that the church recognises."

Listen to the full interview here:


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