The Church of England is to debate plans to introduce a ceremony akin to a baptism to mark the new identities of Christians who undergo gender transition.
The Rev Chris Newlands, the vicar of Lancaster Priory, has proposed a motion to the General Synod to debate the issue, after he was approached by a young transgender person seeking to be “re-baptised” in his new identity.
The motion, which was passed by Blackburn Diocese last month, calls on the House of Bishops to consider whether it should introduce a new service to mark the milestone in the life of a trans person. A spokesperson for the Archbishops’ Council confirmed that the motion had been received, but said it would not be debated imminently.
Newlands urged the church to take the lead on welcoming a group that suffered high levels of discrimination.
He said he knew a number of trans people though his work with LGBT organisations. “It’s an absolute trauma to go through this, with the surgery, as people get a lot of transphobic bullying. The church needs to take a lead and be much more proactive to make sure they are given a warm welcome.”
The motion had “captured people’s imagination”, he said, and already gathered a large amount of support. It has been passed by the parochial church council, the Deanery Synod and the Blackburn Diocese, which covers Lancashire.
There really are no boundaries, are there?
UPDATE: A reader sends in this Orlando Sentinel story about the travails of a Methodist church in Florida. The church is in trouble with the state Methodist conference for allegedly forcing out a lesbian couple who were working in its day care facility:
The women worked for Aloma Methodist Early Childhood Learning Center, which is run by Aloma UMC. They say they were fired in March after they were asked by school Director Barbara Twachtman whether they were a lesbian couple.
Aloma Methodist Pastor Jim Govatos said the women were not fired but left voluntarily. Under church policy, unmarried employees can be terminated for cohabitating or having sexual relations.
The women’s attorney said they were told they risked termination because of their relationship.
“They were given an ultimatum of stop being gay or you are fired,” said Mary Meeks.
Govatos also said the issue was not whether they were gay, but whether they were sexually intimate while unmarried — a violation of church employment policy that applied to straight as well as gay individuals.
“The [day-care] director asked them if they were involved in a sexual relationship. Each one on their own admitted that they were,” Govatos said.
Meeks said they were never asked about whether they were sexually intimate — only whether they were in a relationship.
“My clients were never asked and never discussed that they were in a sexual relationship. They were never asked that question,” Meeks said.
Govatos said unmarried straight employees are held to the same standard and have been terminated in the past for continuing to have sex outside of marriage. According to a statement released by the church, “Sexual orientation is not a determining factor in employment at Aloma UMC; but sexual behavior by both gay and straight people can be.”
So, according to the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, to dismiss sexually active gay people, even under a policy which treats sexually active unmarried heterosexuals the same way, violates church policy. Wow. When a parish is chastised by its own state church conference for a policy that expects its employees to adhere to basic Christian sexual morality, where do you go from there?