21 May 2015

Re-Named In The Church Of England?

"It's a girl!"

I sent a "birth" announcement beginning with that line after I woke from my gender-reassignment surgery. For the time of my "birth", of course, I mentioned the date and hour my surgery was completed, and that I was "born" a healthy girl who weighs "I won't tell you how much".

Of course, that message was meant to be humorous--at least somewhat.  You see, I felt as if I had been born.  Surprisingly, a female colleague  who had given birth not long before then believed, perhaps more than anyone else, that I had indeed been born.

Now it seems that some clergy in the Church of England understand--and want to recognize--our births into our lives as the people we really are.

Reverend Chris Newlands, the vicar of the Lancaster Priory, has proposed a motion to the General Synod to debate plans to introduce a new ceremony.  That rite would be akin to baptism and mark the new identities of those who undergo a gender transition.

Rev. Newlands was spurred into action by a young trans man who asked whether he could be re-baptized.  "Once you've been baptized, you're baptized," the priest said.

"But I was baptized as a girl, under a different name," the parishioner explained. 

As I understand it, the Church of England is much like its American offshoot, the Episcopal Church, in that the official church view on transgenderism, or many other issues, is that two opposing views "can be properly held".   That gives local church and parish officials a lot of leeway to interpret doctrine.  So while there are priests like Reverend Newlands who see the need for a re-baptism ceremony, and individual parishes that welcome trans people, there are still conservative clergy, officials and congregations that will not accept gay clergy or same-sex marriage. 

So, while I am glad Reverend Newlands has trying to start a discussion of the issue, I think it will be a while before we can tell whether the motion he proposed has any chance of passing, let alone whether the church will adopt the ceremony he has in mind.

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