On Tuesday 11th December the House of Bishops published ‘Pastoral Guidance for use in conjunction with the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith in the context of gender transition.’ Whilst sharing the desire to show pastoral care, the content of the Guidance causes me deep concern and I support the request from the Bishops of the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda for the reception of the Guidance to be reviewed. I note too the personal reservations expressed about it by the Chair of the House of Bishops’ Delegation Committee, The Rt Rev’d Julian Henderson, and commend the recent critiques produced by the Church Society and the Church of England Evangelical Council.
The Guidance represents a way of accommodating the request from the General Synod that the House of Bishops consider devising a liturgy for the welcome of transgender people. However, in doing so it has raised many more questions than it answers. These include:
- The appropriateness of this Guidance for the range of circumstances in which transgender issues might be raised with clergy;
- The theological underpinning for the unconditional affirmation of trans people
- The nature of the services within which the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith is to be set
- The pressure that might be felt by clergy to conduct services that would raise issues of conscience for them
- The wider implications of such services (eg where transitioning has been a factor in a family break up or where those who have requested such services subsequently request a marriage service)
- The relationship of this Guidance to the work currently being undertaken in the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) Project.
Accordingly, I would support any move to change the status of this Guidance so that it is seen as a contribution to the LLF Project, rather than a finished product of the House of Bishops.