The Church of England is in line to offer ‘trans-baptisms’ to those of its followers who change sex.
The idea will be discussed at the church’s General Synod next month after a motion was tabled by the Reverend Chris Newlands, vicar of Lancaster Priory in northern England.
He told the BBC of a case two years ago where a female parishioner who had chosen to become male “didn’t think that God would know who he was and his new name having been baptized as a girl…”
Having created a special service to help this particular parishioner by adapting an official initiation booklet from the Church of England, the priest now wants a formal liturgy to be introduced.
But the different interpretations of gender reassignment – whether someone adopts the appearance of the opposite sex or actually has a full sex change – has caused some unease within the church’s ranks about the idea.
The Rev Ian Paul, a theologian, said the Bible “says a lot about sex and sex identity” but identified the main problem as far as he is concerned as being a difficulty in appreciating the Bible’s teachings in the light of contemporary scientific understandings.
He said: “I think two issues are being confused. One is the very real pastoral issues and the challenges and the mental health problems which arise from that very small group who I think most people in the field would describe as suffering from gender dysphoria. That’s one issue. How do we help and support those people? And actually I think the scientific community itself is not agreed. There’s no agreement as to what the actual issue is…It’s making a huge number of assumptions about what sex identity is, about how society construes sex identity, and so I think the wording of this motion actually makes a whole series of assumptions which many people will say are unwarranted and which many people have shown can be quite harmful, so our pastoral care needs to be extended to the whole of the community.”
He added that one of his major concerns is that those who change sex can later regret it.
The Reverend Chris Newlands said he is “cautiously optimistic” the Synod’s vote would back the proposal.
The Reverend Ian Paul said the bishops would have to decide what is “caring and healthy for the wider church and the wider country as well.”