Note: I sent this letter to the Church Times this morning (5.2.19) and so no more names can be added to the letter.
Thank you for your support. There’s nothing stopping you writing to the press, or to the House of Bishops yourself, and indeed I’d encourage you to do so!
If you wish to read the House of Bishops Guidance, more can be found here:
We write in support of the guidance provided by the House of Bishops to help those wishing to celebrate their gender transition. We thank the House of Bishops, and all those who were consulted during the process, particularly the Revd Dr Tina Beardsley, the Revd Sarah Jones and the Revd Canon Dr Rachel Mann, for their hard and sensitive work. This was undertaken after General Synod overwhelmingly voted for a motion affirming the need for churches to welcome and support trans people. We welcome the fact that trans clergy and laity played a major part in the production of the guidance. Criticism that the Guidance does not present a fully worked out theological anthropology misses the mark – this is not what Synod asked the House of Bishops to do. Doubtless more could be said, but it is not necessary, nor would it be desirable, to wait for that before making a response to pastoral need.
Although trans and genderqueer people are a small minority, they have always been part of the life of the church, even though the church has not always been – and, sadly, still is not always – a welcoming place. It is right and proper that the church should make a loving pastoral response to trans people who are looking for a way to recognise and celebrate their transition in church, and surely the use of the affirmation of baptismal vows is a powerful statement of faith that however our identity may seem to change, or however it might be misunderstood by others, the core identity of a Christian is to belong to Christ, who knows us better than we know ourselves.
We have been saddened by the anxious and at times fear-mongering and ungracious response the Guidance has received. At the moment the trans community is enduring increased criticism and hostility. We are glad that the Church of England has produced this sensitive and helpful guidance, and would be deeply saddened and disappointed if those calling for the House of Bishops to disown it should have their way. The Guidance should be widely welcomed, and we hope that, when the dust settles, it will be. Meanwhile we rejoice that the Church of England now offers a means to help trans people give thanks for their transition.
The Rev’d Dr Jo Kershaw, Associate Priest, Outwood, Stanley, and Wrenthorpe, Diocese of Leeds.