Bishops block transgender prayers

“Welcoming Transgender People” statement from the Church of England’s House of Bishops

Welcoming Transgender People – an update


Following the debate and vote at General Synod in July 2017 on Welcoming Transgender People, the House of Bishops has prayerfully considered whether a new nationally commended service might be prepared to mark a gender transition.

The Bishops are inviting clergy to use the existing rite Affirmation of Baptismal Faith. New guidance is also being prepared on the use of the service.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, said: “The Church of England welcomes transgender people and wholeheartedly wishes for them to be included in the life of the Church.

“On the matter of whether a new service is needed, the House of Bishops has decided that the current service that is used to affirm baptism can be adapted.

“Clergy always have the discretion to compose and say prayers with people as they see fit.”

A paper discussing the decision will be published before the February session of Synod.

The service can be found here, under the full heading: ‘Affirmation of Baptismal Faith within a Celebration of Holy Communion’.


In July 2017, General Synod carried the motion [emphasis added]:

“That this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.”

The bishops voted: 30 in favour;  2 against; 2 abstentions. The background to the debate was provided by The Revd Chris Newlands (Blackburn) in his motion Welcoming Transgender People, GS 2071A, on which the Secretary General provided an explanatory note, GS 2071B. The latter stated that there is no single settled view from the Church of England on the doctrinal position regarding transgenderism [9] and

“[10].  It is a fundamental belief of the Church that baptism can only be received once. There is therefore no possibility of the Synod approving a form of service for the re-baptism of transgendered persons in their new gender who have already been baptised. Nor could material to that end be commended for use by clergy in exercise of their discretion under Canon B.5.2 – Canon B.5.3 since these Canons make clear that all forms of service used under that provision ‘shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter’”.

It concludes:

“[13]. The Church of England does not currently offer any liturgical provision for the ‘naming’ or ‘re-naming’ of an infant or any other person. There is no legal or doctrinal difficulty about a baptised transgendered person re-affirming their baptismal vows using a name different from the Christian name given at baptism. This is because whilst the Christian name given at baptism can only be changed formally in very limited circumstances – notably by the Bishop confirming the person concerned under a new name – a member of the Church of England may be known by, and use, different names from those given at baptism or confirmation provided that they do not do so for fraudulent or other similar purposes.

[14]. If the Synod passed the Diocesan Synod Motion as drafted, the House of Bishops would need to consider whether some additional liturgical materials should be prepared to supplement what is already provided for in Common Worship. One way of achieving that could be by the House commending prayers and other suitable material for use by the clergy in the exercise of their discretion under Canon B 5 – an approach which would not involve any formal process beyond a decision being taken by the House. Alternatively the House might conclude that existing liturgical materials provided sufficient flexibility to meet this pastoral need, as in paragraph 12 above.”

The update indicates that paper discussing the decision will be published before the February session of Synod. A full set of Synod papers from the first circulation was issued on 19 January 2017; a second circulation will follow, and will be available on Friday January 26.

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