11 December 2018

Africa: Church of England Paves Way for Ceremonies to Welcome Trans People

London — "This new guidance provides an opportunity, rooted in scripture, to enable trans people ... to mark their transition in the presence of their church family," said Julian Henderson, who worked on the guidelines

Transgender members of the 85-million-strong Anglican faith community will now have the support of the Church of England, after it released guidelines on Tuesday for ceremonies to welcome them.

The Church of England, where the Anglican tradition originated, has in recent years moved towards greater acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people, including addressing homophobic bullying in schools.

The public ceremonies aim to affirm the new identity of trans worshippers, according to guidelines published on the Church's website on Tuesday.

Julian Henderson, head of the committee that produced the guidelines, said the decision was "rooted in scripture".

"We are absolutely clear that everyone is made in the image of God and that all should find a welcome in their parish church," said Henderson in a statement.

"This new guidance provides an opportunity, rooted in scripture, to enable trans people ... to mark their transition in the presence of their church family," he added.

The new guidelines say ministers should address trans members by their chosen name, though some traditionalists in the Church of England argue that gender cannot be changed as it is assigned by God.

The wider Anglican body has been divided since 2003 over arguments about gender and sexuality between liberal member churches in the West and their conservative counterparts, mostly in Africa.

Though the Church voted against blessing same-sex marriages last year, Canada's Anglican Church has been doing so since 2002. The Episcopal Church, its United States branch, ordained Gene Robinson as its first gay bishop in 2003.

The new guidance was devised after the legislative body of the Church voted last year to welcome transgender people into the Anglican community.

The Beaumont Society, a leading British transgender support group, welcomed the decision.

"It's encouraging and a positive approach because it's an important stage in someone's life," its president Jane Hamlin told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"And I do appreciate that they have chosen to use the appropriate name and the correct pronoun."

Only about 14 percent of Britons now identify themselves as Church of England, the British Social Attitudes survey found this year, down from 31 percent 15 years ago.

(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and slavery, property rights, social innovation, resilience and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

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