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Church of England bishops face backlash after boycotting trans baptisms

Church of England bishops face backlash after boycotting trans baptisms

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is head of the Church of England

Several Church of England bishops have announced they will boycott the new transgender baptism policy.

Ten bishops have criticized the ceremony intended to welcome and affirm trans Christians.

The bishops have also denounced the ritual as they believe gender is assigned by God.

Bishops boycott new transgender baptism policy

Reverend Ian Paul urged bishops ‘to stop allowing themselves to be hijacked by these very small special interest groups’.

Julian Morris, a vicar in Sheffield, claimed he would also ‘oppose any disciplinary action’ that would result from his refusal to conduct a service.

The Church of England has already said priests are free to refuse to perform a trans baptism.

A spokesperson for the Church of England said: ‘There is no obligation on the clergy to offer the service … to anybody in any context (whether in connection with a person identifying in a new gender or for any other reason).

‘The only services that the clergy are under an obligation to provide to individuals are baptism, marriage and burial. This does not change the doctrine of the Church of England.’

Backlash

Several have criticized this decision online.

‘Surely the church should be doing everything it can to keep its members?’ one said on Twitter.

‘Alienating them is not going to help attendance rates.’

Another said: ‘Typical religious bigots.’

And one other said: ‘Why does anyone even want to listen to these deluded men anyway?”

The guidance, approved by the House of Bishops, follows a motion adopted at General Synod in 2017.

‘The Church of England welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the body of Christ, and rejoices in the diversity of that body into which all Christians have been baptized by one Spirit,’ begins the guidance.

The guidance advises clergy to be respectful of gender pronouns. If a trans worshipper has not been baptized, it suggests a baptism ceremony. It describes this as the ‘natural liturgical context for recognizing and celebrating their identity.’

As one of its holy sacraments, the CoE says people can only undergo baptism once. However, if the trans worshipper has previously been baptized, they can undergo a ‘Affirmation of Baptismal Faith’.

It suggests using this to celebrate the parishioner’s new identity. It encourages clergy to respond to such requests from trans parishioners in a ‘creative and sensitive way.’

‘The image of God … transcends gender’

Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, oversaw work to produce the guidance.

He said: ‘We are absolutely clear that everyone is made in the image of God and that all should find a welcome in their parish Church.

‘This new guidance provides an opportunity, rooted in scripture, to enable trans people who have “come to Christ as the way, the truth and the life”, to mark their transition in the presence of their Church family which is the body of the Christ.

The General Synod voted 284 to 78 to produce the guidance. Traditionalists opposed the idea of producing a specific blessing to issue transgender parishioners.

The guidance is also unlikely to be embraced by some of the wider factions of the worldwide Anglican community. Many of these remain divided over the ordination of women (accepted by the Church of England), the ordination of gay people, and same-sex marriage.

The Church of England itself does not conduct same-sex weddings. However, it does allow for its clergy to be in same-sex civil unions. It also allows for clergy to conduct blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.