London, England, Dec 12, 2018 / 16:50 pm
The Church of England has published pastoral guidelines for liturgical services that would celebrate the completion of “gender transitioning” by those Anglicans who identify as transgendered.
The guidelines, titled Pastoral Guidance for use in conjunction with the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith in the context of gender transition, were approved by the Church of England’s House of Bishops Dec. 10, and published Tuesday.
The guidance applies only to the Church of England, and not to other branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The guidelines state that baptism is the “natural liturgical context for recognizing and celebrating [a transgendered person’s] identity in Christ and God’s love for them” and encourages ministers to accept and use “the preference of a transgender person in respect of their name and gendered (or other) pronouns” in the baptism of transgendered persons.
Baptized members of the Church of England are to be offered specially adapted rituals “to recognize liturgically a person’s gender transition,” the guidelines say.
Such liturgies would allow an individual to affirm a new gender preference while renewing baptismal promises.
The guidelines note that the Church of England “welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmations of trans people” and state that services to recognize their new identity should have a “celebratory character.”
The document offers guidance on the appropriate use of pronouns during the service, explaining that ministers “should be guided by the wishes of the candidate” with respect to acknowledging the actual sex of the person at birth.
The guidelines follow a 284-78 vote last year in the Church of England’s General Synod, calling for consideration of special liturgies which “might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.” The newly published adaptation of existing liturgies for baptism and baptismal affirmation is thought to be a compromise agreed among Church of England bishops divided over the creation of new liturgies particular to “gender transition.”
But Fr. James Bradley, a former Church of England deacon and now a Catholic priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, told CNA that the move represents a dramatic shift in Church of England teaching.
“It appears to represent not simply a further change in Anglican practice, but a fundamental shift in the Church of England’s understanding of the human person and the sacrament of baptism,” Bradley said.
The Church of England’s Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, led the House of Bishops’ committee that developed the guidelines. “We are absolutely clear that everyone is made in the image of God and that all should find a welcome in their parish church,” Henderson said in a Dec. 11 Church of England press release.