LONDON -- The Church of England has issued new guidance saying that it "welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people" and offers clergy ways to help them celebrate the sacrament of baptism in a meaningful, inclusive way.
The pastoral guidance will be incorporated into a revised edition of Common Worship, the Church of England’s service book, and has already been published online. The revised print edition of Common Worship will be issued early next year.
The document includes advice to ministers regarding how to celebrate baptism with a trans parishioner and how to sensitively use preferred gender pronouns during the ceremony, which are to be dependent on “the individual concerned.”
“If a transgender person is not already baptized, then baptism itself would be the natural liturgical context for recognizing and celebrating their identity in Christ and God’s love for them," the new guidelines state. "The image of God, in which we are all made, transcends gender, race, and any other characteristic."
Before the ceremony, ministers are encouraged to meet the person to “understand better their personal journey." Clergy should also meet with their family in order to “be sensitive to their pastoral needs.”
This means that the service will have a “celebratory character,” according to the guidelines.
The move follows a motion in 2017 from the General Synod of the Church of England that sought to welcome the LGBT community into the church. As well as laying the groundwork for the advice published today, the motion recognized the "need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church.”
The news has been met with a mixed reaction by some Anglican groups.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the conservative evangelical group Christian Concern, told ABC News that the guidance demonstrated a "devastating trajectory towards an outright denial of God and his word."
But the Reverend Canon Dr. Rachel Mann, who was instrumental in issuing the new guidelines, said that “this is about God’s love being made more visible for all” and that the move was “absolutely” a sign church attitudes were changing for the better.
“There will always be individuals and interest groups who will respond to this guidance negatively,” she said. “However, in my experience, they represent the margins rather than the mainstream. I expect this guidance to be warmly welcomed by the vast majority of people in the Church of England.”