Church of England to offer baptism-style services to transgender people to celebrate their new identity for first time
The Church of England has encouraged its clergy to create baptism-style ceremonies for transgender people to welcome them into the Anglican faith. The decision was approved by the House of Bishops.
New pastoral guidance, published on Tuesday, advises clergy to refer to transgender people by their new name, though it stops short of being a baptism. The guidance, which was approved by the House of Bishops on Monday night, also details how elements including water and oil can be incorporated into the service.
The guidance notes: “For a trans person to be addressed liturgically by the minister for the first time by their chosen name may be a powerful moment in the service.”
As a central part of the new service, called the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith, the minister lays their hands on the candidate or candidates, addresses them by their new name, and prays for them. However, it is understood that traditionalists in the Church blocked a change in the liturgy and stopped this from becoming a new blessing.
The guidance also advises that as part of a special service, they can be presented with gifts such as a Bible inscribed in their chosen name, or a certificate.
While the Church is clear that this does not constitute a second baptism, it explains that the Affirmation of Baptisimal Faith enables people to “renew the commitments made in baptism and in a public setting and provides space for those who have undergone a major transition to re-dedicate their life to Jesus Christ.”
Instead, the guidance shows how existing liturgy can be used to accept transgender people into the Church and welcome them with their new name. The existing right to an affirmation of baptism is in this case used to mark their change in identity.
The bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, chair of the House of Bishops delegation committee, which oversaw the guidance 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.