The Church of England says trans people should be welcomed and affirmed in church, and proposes a ritual to celebrate transition. They have just written guidance for such worship rituals. A friend held a party for me, some celebration is necessary, and I am glad that the church welcomes trans people, but am not sure I would want a church service. It involves laying on of hands, and prayer for the person, and the last time an Anglican priest did that it was to cure me of cross-dressing.
I have to imagine myself as I was, to see how someone might value such a service. A priest celebrates and leads, and says particular words and prayers for individuals or for everyone. A priest performs a ritual, and through that ritual the congregation achieve communion with God, individually and together. Now, I dislike the idea, which puts too much on the priest and reduces the congregation to his/her followers. We meet each other, we are equal, we meet God together or not at all.
It’s bad enough for weekly worship, worse for a specific service welcoming trans people. The church authorities takes a right to welcome me? Rather they should apologise. I was betrayed. I did accept that leadership, the priest able to celebrate, even to preach to us on the good life, and he rejected me.
“For a trans person to be addressed liturgically by the minister for the first time by their chosen name may be a powerful moment in the service.” I choose my own name. I do not need it to be recognised. It is not a boon he grants me, to call me by my name, but my right.
For those who have been able to stay within the church, I can see that it could be of value. Clergy can make up their own services from bits of prayers, it seems: the service could include bits of the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith, where someone renews baptismal vows. Those services are here. The press release says that it provides space for those who have undergone a major transition to re-dedicate their life to Jesus Christ. But that is not the point: it should be a celebration of the person and the decision, not more promises. It should be affirmation of the person as one of the congregation, and delight in their calling by God to transition. Transition is a step on the way of following Christ, and that needs recognised.
I don’t want to rededicate my life; I want people to see transition as fruit and proof of my dedication.
Priests who are trans were involved in creating the guidance, and they have consulted with other trans people. For someone in the Church of England, I can see it might be affirming. The media centre made a mistake: their press release has a link to the pastoral guidance, but that link does not work.
The press release was covered widely, even by the Business Times of Singapore and the Daily Monitor of Uganda, which republished the Associated Press rewording of the press release. The Open Church network, which promotes “radical acceptance and inclusion” of trans people, approved. Christian Today sought a quote from some mouthy transphobe, who said the church is denying God, but then she would say that.