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Church of England Considers Official Ceremony to Commemorate Transgender Transitions

Christian cross on an LGBT rainbow flag.

On Sunday, the General Synod of the Church of England overwhelmingly passed a resolution asking the bishops to draft a ceremony for affirming a gender transition. The author of a new book on Christianity and transgenderism condemned this move as a rejection of biblical teaching on sexuality, a surrender to idolatry, and a shameful act bringing "great disrepute" on the Church of England.

The resolution declared that "this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person's gender transition."

The resolution passed by a vote of 284 to 78, with 26 abstaining. "I hope that we can make a powerful statement to say that we believe that trans people are cherished and loved by God, who created them, and is present through all the twists and turns of their lives," Chris Newlands, the man who proposed the motion, said, according to Britain's The Guardian newspaper.

Those unfamiliar with "high church" or "liturgical" traditions like the Roman Catholic or the Church of England might not understand just how monumental this is. The synod didn't just vote to have one service for transgender people — they voted to create a set service of prayers and worship focused around transgender identity, for churches to use as frequently as members might change their gender identity.

This vote extended the imprimatur of the Church of England on transgenderism, setting up a service not quite as important as baptism or communion, but a stunning move nonetheless. It is also important to note that this decision only applies to the Anglican Church in England, not the global Anglican church, which is a separate entity.

Newlands told the synod a story about the son of two members of a big evangelical church, whom he called Nathan. At age five, Nathan "transitioned" to become Natalie, and returned to school "much happier .. and with very little fuss from staff, pupils and parents."

Newlands said he hoped the debate "will help to inform the church, and many other churches, of the challenges children with gender dysphoria face." He cited data from the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which reported that while 97 children in Britain were referred to gender identity clinics in 2010, that number rose to 1,400 by 2016. He condemned hate crimes against transgender people, and emphasized the need to show Christian love to them.

But Newlands' approach isn't the only Christian position, and many would argue the exact opposite, while still encouraging a loving response. The Guardian reported that this alternate position was not expressed in the debate.