At a baptism, the baptized person is given a name. That’s not all that happens, but that’s what a lot of people associate with the rite. So in the Church of England, some transgendered individuals have asked to be re-baptized, so as to have the Church affirm their new name and new identity. So far, a sympathetic vicar decided not to repeat the baptism but has devised a new liturgy to bestow the new name. The Church of England is discussing how to handle this.
A “transgender baptism” service is to be considered by the Church of England for the first time.
The idea is to bless into God’s family the new identities of Christians who have undergone gender transition.
The proposal was welcomed by the Church’s most senior trans priest. Rev Rachel Mann, Rector of St Nicholas Burnage and a minor canon at Manchester Cathedral, told Christian Today: “Trans people feel powerfully called to be recognised in their ‘chosen’ name. An opportunity to be publicly introduced to God is therefore significant. I think this is what the proposed liturgy aims to do. It will be symbolically powerful. The extent to which it is [a form of] baptism will be debated by General Synod of course, but this liturgy is a welcome move to affirm Trans people.”There is no guarantee the proposal will succeed. It is in the form of a diocesan motion to the General Synod and needs to wait its turn to get debated on the floor. But it is certain to generate contention in a Church still struggling with its position on sexuality.
Rev Chris Newlands, vicar of Lancaster Priory, called for the change after he was approached by a young transgender person born a girl but transitioned to a boy seeking to be “re-baptised”, the Guardian reports today. The vicar had at first thought the rule of one baptism sufficed, but changed his mind after discussing issues of identity with the young man.
He created a new service to affirm the original baptismal vows of the individual who was “introduced” to God with his new name and identity.
The motion, passed by Blackburn Diocese last month, states: “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.”