General Synod vote comes after bishops overwhelmingly backed motion banning ‘harmful’ conversion therapy for gay Christians
The Church of England’s ruling body is to vote on whether to provide special services for transgender people during their transition.
The General Synod is considering a motion on the need for transgender people to be “welcomed and affirmed in their parish church” as part of the “long and often complex process” of transition.
The vote comes after bishops overwhelmingly backed a motion calling for a ban on “unethical” conversion therapy for gay Christians.
While the synod debated and voted on the private member’s motion on Saturday, an estimated 1 million people were celebrating Pride weekend in London, marking 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
On Sunday the meeting in York will decide on a diocesan synod motion on “welcoming transgender people”, tabled by the Rev Chris Newlands of Blackburn.
The church has stated its “fundamental belief” is that baptism can only be received once, therefore there is “no possibility” of the synod approving a service re-baptising individuals in their new gender.
Newlands’s motion “seeks to ensure that the C of E engages seriously with the issue of providing the opportunity of a liturgical marking of a person’s transition, which has the full authority of the C of E, as an appropriate expression of community and pastoral support to trans people”.
The motion recognises that it cannot require clergy to offer to perform such a service if they “cannot in good conscience offer support in a liturgical marking of a person’s transition”.
Should a member of the clergy not agree, it hopes that they “may have the generosity to point anyone who asks to a church where the clergy are willing to provide such a liturgy”.
The motion calls on the House of Bishops “to consider providing some nationally commended liturgical materials which may be used in parish churches and chaplaincies to provide a pastoral response to the need of transgender people to be affirmed following their long, distressing and often complex process of transition”.
On Saturday, a motion from Christian gay rights campaigner Jayne Ozannecalled on the C of E to endorse a statement branding the conversion therapy “potentially harmful” with “no place in the modern world”. The motion was backed by professional bodies including the Royal College of GPs and the UK Council for Psychotherapy.
The archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said during the debate: “The sooner the practice of so-called conversion therapy is banned, I can sleep at night.”
The bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, said: “As the world listens to us the world needs to hear us say that LGBTI+ orientation and identity is not a crime. LGBTI+ orientation and identity is not a sickness. And LGBTI+ orientation and identity is not a sin.”
The synod has in recent years made headlines as the church tries to balance opposing views on homosexuality from its liberal and conservative wings. The move is opposed by some conservative Christian groups, with one saying people seeking therapy want to “live full, Christian lives, within the natural order which God created”.
A majority backed Ozanne’s motion in both the House of Clergy and the House of Laity, while all but one voted in favour in the House of Bishops.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Newlands, a campaigner for LGBT rights within the church, said of Sunday’s vote: “It’s a huge leap, and actually yesterday synod took a leap, which nobody was really expecting, that was a tremendous boost
to those campaigning for equality for LGBTI people. That’s given me real hope that, this afternoon, when we discuss trans people that it will be met with a very warm welcome by synod.”