The Church of England’s governing body met in York on Sunday, July 9, 2017, to discuss their stance on transgender identity. Passing a motion to welcome transgendered people in their parishes, the synod will also consider preparing material to help a person going through gender transition.
“As the world listens to us today, the world needs to hear us say that LGBTI orientation and identity is not a crime, not a sickness and not a sin,” the Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend Paul Bayes stated during a debate surrounding the motion.
Officially, the move to welcome transgender people into the church was articulated this way, in a motion presented to the General Synod:
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 motion passed with clear majorities in the three houses that comprise the governing body of the synod (the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity). There was an amendment to the motion, presented by Dr. Nick Land of the Diocese of York, which implored the House of Bishops to “consider the theological, pastoral and other issues around gender transition,” as reported in the press release about the motion’s passing. Dr. Land’s amendment was rejected by all three houses.
Despite their acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle, however, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, says the church will continue to uphold their definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. This stance is in contrast with the Scottish Episcopal Church, which approved same-sex marriage in June.
Welby also told BBC News the church will take three years to develop a new stance on sexuality.
As the debating at the four-day-long meeting proves, some members and leaders in the Anglican church do not see this as a positive step forward. Signs of a schism have been presenting themselves for a while. Following the Scottish Episcopal Church’s decision to approve same-sex marriage, the Global Anglican Future Conference appointed a “missionary bishop” to assist parishes in England who wish to take a more conservative stance toward things like marriage and sexuality. The missionary bishop, Andy Lines, hails from the Anglican Church in North America and was appointed to help play “an important part in the renewal of orthodox Anglican Christianity in Britain and further afield.”
Indeed, the global Anglican Church is divided on the most recent moves of the Church of England to redefine marriage, and we can assume, on this most recent decision to affirm transgenderism. The Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, who oversees the Anglican Church in Nigeria, calls the decision to approve same-sex marriage a “struggle for the integrity of the gospel in our time.”
To some in the Anglican church, these decisions on sexuality go beyond human behavior and the doctrines of the church—their implications affect how we understand the gospel itself.