A plea to the bishops on trans guidance: please listen and respond

Last December, the House of Bishops issued guidance on the use of the liturgy for Reaffirmation of Baptismal Faith in order to ‘mark gender transition’ in a ‘celebratory’ way. I wrote then identifying a wide range of problems that it raised in relation to the use of liturgy and scripture, the lack of evidence of any theological thinking, and the failure to take into account some key pastoral realities or the debate in wider society around the issue. A subsequent statement was issued but addressed none of these major issues.

Because of this lack of adequate response, a group of people from across the traditions of the Church have written an open letter to the House of Bishops, asking them to ‘revise, postpone or withdraw this guidance until all these questions are properly addressed’. You can read the letter here, along with the more than 1,700 names of those who have signed this (and the text is also reproduced below). The letter has now been publicised in the national media, and is sure to attract more signatures—if you share these concerns, do add your name too. I commented to Christian Today:

This is an area of debate that people are very cautious about commenting on. The fact that so many, from a wide range of traditions in the Church, have been prepared to ‘put their heads above the parapet’ is an indication of the strength of concern expressed here.

‘The letter has been signed by 800 clergy, including area deans, archdeacons and retired bishops, as well as 700 lay members, including members of Synod, Church wardens and PCC members. But the most important thing here is not simply the numbers, but the fact that the letter highlights really important doctrinal, liturgy and pastoral issues that have not been adequately addressed. The bishops really need to think again and consider these things properly.’

David Baker adds his view that, if the bishops value listening so highly, they need to listen and respond to these concerns:

We ask not to be heard because of our numbers – though those should give pause for thought. We ask not to be heard because we are ‘right’ – for we do not claim to have all the answers. We ask not to be heard because we bring threats – for we come in the peace of Christ. We ask not to be heard at the price of excluding others – for by all means hear the voices of those who think differently from us, and especially those who experience transgender issues personally.

No: we ask to be heard because we believe the detailed theological questions we raise merit close examination. So we ask not to be dismissed with soundbites (‘this is not compulsory’) nor with platitudes (‘this does not change doctrine’) – for we have heard the soundbites and the platitudes, truly we have, and yet we still come to the table now with our voices, our questions, and the detail of the issues we raise. And we will keep coming until the details are answered.

We ask to be heard because the voice of the church, of which we are part, right across the world and through history, speaks mostly with a different voice on these matters to what we now hear from you. We cannot simply ignore the voice of brothers and sisters in Christ in other denominations, in other continents, at other times and places. And we ask to be heard because the voice that should be heard above all is not ours but the voice of God through Scripture – and we do not believe the existing guidance has yet engaged with that fully. We ask to be heard because we wish to walk with you, our shepherds in Christ, our bishops, to the Word of God once more and to say to you, ‘Show us – please show us, how may our questions be answered from these pages?’

So respectfully, and from our hearts, we ask you to listen. To engage, point by point, in detail, with the matters being raised. To listen from the heart, with minds engaged, and in so doing to hear the questions well. And as you engage with us, listen to us, pray with us, we assure you of our prayers. We are fellow pilgrims together, walking as part of his church, under the authority of his ever-speaking Word. For it is his voice and his voice alone that counts – not ours.

Here is the full text of the open letter for ease of reference. Add your name at the letter’s web page.

Gender dysphoria is an emotionally painful experience that requires understanding, support and compassion. Because it has affected a very small proportion of people, evidence from the medical and social sciences is often conflicting and of poor quality. Although gender dysphoria has been recognized for many decades, in recent years controversial new theories about the relationship between biological sex and the social meaning of gender have been linked to gender dysphoria. These ideas continue to be widely contested, with well intentioned and thoughtful people on all sides of the debate.

The many ordinary parents and teachers who now express concern about these new theories do not wish to cause harm to the tiny number of children afflicted by gender dysphoria; but neither do they want to harm the potentially larger numbers of children by prematurely imposing untried and untested ideas on young children. Given the many instances in the history of medicine where under-researched interventions, introduced prematurely, have caused more harm than good, our guiding principle should be ‘first do no harm’.

This is the wider medical, social and political debate into which the House of Bishops have introduced their brief ‘Guidance for gender transition services’. The document is undoubtedly well intentioned but lacks the serious theological analysis required to address the philosophical, anthropological and social issues in play in public discourse.

We, the undersigned, are unreservedly committed to welcoming everyone to our churches and communities of faith, so that all might hear and be invited to respond to the good news of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. But we do not believe that the Guidance is the right way to do this, since it raises some significant issues for the Church’s belief and practice.

  1. The House of Bishops previously stated that no new liturgy would be offered. The title of ‘gender transition services’, the focus on the use of a person’s new name, the use of oil and water contrary to previous rubrics in Common Worship, and the description in the later explanatory note confirming that this service is to be used to ‘mark gender transition’ amount to the offering of a new liturgy, since existing wording is now being put to a new purpose.
  2. We are deeply concerned at what appears to be a misuse of the liturgy by which we celebrate one of the dominical sacraments, which are the founding markers of the Church itself (Articles XIX and XXV). Although reaffirmation of baptismal vows might well be appropriate at certain seasons of life, it should primarily be focussed on celebrating new life in Christ rather than a new situation or circumstance, as set out in Common Worship: Christian Initiation, and should always centre on salvation, repentance and faith rather than ‘unconditional affirmation’.
  3. We are similarly concerned at the inclusion of new biblical readings within the guidance and their suggestion that the changes of name for biblical characters in the light of God’s salvific action and intervention offer a legitimate parallel to the change of name associated with gender transition.
  4. The possibility of celebrating gender transition appears to be based on the rejection of physical differentiation between male and female (known as ‘sexual dimorphism’). This dimorphism is not only an almost universal biological reality (with the exception of a very small number who are biologically intersex) but has also been the basis of the Church’s understanding of Christian marriage, is seen as an important feature of God’s work as creator, and is a symbol of God’s covenant relationship with humanity. The guidance offers no theological reflection to justify this sort of revised narrative.
  5. Although the guidance presents itself as ‘pastoral’, there does not appear to have been any consideration of the enormous and often traumatic impact of gender transition by an individual on immediate friends and family, including spouse and children. On the principle of ‘not talking about us without talking to us’, there should have been careful consultation with these groups and consideration of the impact on them of such a service before issuing the guidance. In addition, there is no recognition that novel and largely untested theories about sex and gender also carry potential for harm in terms of the psychological and developmental needs of children and young adults.
  6. The notion of gender transition is highly contested in wider society. There is widespread concern at the idea of biological males claiming to be women when they have not shared their personal and social experience; there has been a worrying increase in rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD) particularly amongst girls who appear to lack confidence in their identity as female; there are concerns about the long-term effects of ‘puberty blocking’ hormones given the poor quality of the research; and there is no scientific or medical consensus that surgical and medical interventions (‘gender transition’) effectively address the complex symptoms associated with gender dysphoria over the long term. The bishops’ guidance offers no recognition of the wider issues at play here.
  7. We are grateful for the clarification that the offering of such services is not mandatory, contrary to the public statements of those involved in formulating the guidance. However, the guidance remains a new policy statement by the House, to be incorporated into Common Worship, and if it stands will be appealed to in the future as signifying a change in liturgical and therefore doctrinal understanding, whether or not that was intended.

In the light of these significant concerns, we ask that the House of Bishops revise, postpone or withdraw this guidance until all these questions are properly addressed. We assure the House of our prayers as they consider the best way forward.

Add your own name here.

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255 thoughts on “A plea to the bishops on trans guidance: please listen and respond”

  1. In the comments under your post in December last year I asked you a ‘what if’ question;

    “And if they do neither? If there is no response from the HoB, what then? Is their silence enough for you?”

    You responded by saying;

    “I think it would be worth anyone concerned about this to ask every bishop they meet at every opportunity. I think there might be a formal challenge to the addition of this to Common Worship.”

    Which I thought was fair.

    I repeat the question now, and add a further one.

    1. If there is still no response from the HoB, or if the response is inadequate in that it fails to address (or worse, adds to) the issues this letter raises, what then?

    2. Can you elaborate on the nature of a ‘formal challenge’, and what this might look like in terms of a next step.


    • Thanks Mat. I know no more about the formal challenge, but it has been mooted that this contradicts both liturgy and canon on marriage, which assumes a sex binary, so would be an illegal addition. I know that, behind closed doors, all attempts to introduce some sort of blessing of same-sex unions has fallen at just this hurdle, so the Pastoral Advisory Group will now fold up without producing anything here.

      What will happen if the HoB do not respond? We will keep asking—in a friendly but insistent way. I think David Baker puts it extremely well on Christian Today:

      ‘We ask not to be heard because of our numbers – though those should give pause for thought. We ask not to be heard because we are ‘right’ – for we do not claim to have all the answers. We ask not to be heard because we bring threats – for we come in the peace of Christ. We ask not to be heard at the price of excluding others – for by all means hear the voices of those who think differently from us, and especially those who experience transgender issues personally.

      No: we ask to be heard because we believe the detailed theological questions we raise merit close examination. So we ask not to be dismissed with soundbites (‘this is not compulsory’) nor with platitudes (‘this does not change doctrine’) – for we have heard the soundbites and the platitudes, truly we have, and yet we still come to the table now with our voices, our questions, and the detail of the issues we raise. And we will keep coming until the details are answered.’

  2. Great initiative Ian.

    The problem is I’m not sure how much the bishops care anymore. Since 2014 a new philosophy seems to have taken hold from the top down, where theology takes second place to ‘pastoral’ inclusion, and it’s all about accommodating difference and making space for the LGBT agenda. Much like with Francis in the RC Church in fact, and with the changed nature of Lambeth – theological rigour and doctrinal fidelity just don’t seem to matter to most of the bishops anymore, including the archbishops. They’ve gone full postmodern on us, happy for considerable dissonance to develop between official teaching and ‘pastoral’ practice.

    One of the oddities of the trans debate in particular is that key steps were taken without any of the careful theological reflection characteristic of the sexuality debate. For instance, the CofE hasn’t yet permitted clergy to be in same-sex marriages, yet has permitted trans people to be priests since 2000. Isn’t trans the horse that bolted well before anyone even thought to close the stable door?

    • In your comment below you note that “Trans isn’t in the same category as intersex”. You’re absolutely right about that: it isn’t. Neither is it in the same category as homosexual or bisexual. That is why clarity of thought on this matter – assuming that that is what we genuinely want – would be greatly assisted by ditching the artificial, illogical and misleading initialism “LGBT” (and all its tiresome variants, such as LGBT+, LGBTI, LGBTQ etc.) and by forgetting “the [sic] LGBT agenda”, whose existence is imaginary.

      • Yes. Also ‘trans’ isn’t a single thing (trans what?) and is a prefix that goes with different suffixes. As a diagnosis it is not especially scientific or susceptible of proof.

        I often use the use of ‘trans’ as proof that a thinker is imprecise.

  3. David Baker is quoted as saying: “We ask to be heard because the voice of the church, of which we are part, right across the world and through history, speaks mostly with a different voice on these matters to what we now hear from you. We cannot simply ignore the voice of brothers and sisters in Christ in other denominations, in other continents, at other times and places. And we ask to be heard because the voice that should be heard above all is not ours but the voice of God through Scripture – and we do not believe the existing guidance has yet engaged with that fully. We ask to be heard because we wish to walk with you, our shepherds in Christ, our bishops, to the Word of God once more and to say to you, ‘Show us – please show us, how may our questions be answered from these pages?’”

    What kind of a shoddy argument is this? Its an appeal to the good old “voice of God through Scripture” again! So, tell me, what do we imagine that scripture could possibly have said about gender dysphoria or being transgender itself? Such a criterion of truth in this case is plainly nonsensical because the books of the Bible are bound to know as little about these subjects as they could about microprocessors, rocket science, the internal combustion engine and 21st century world politics. It is an appeal to a book that could never have provided guidance or answers on such questions because those writing the books would not have even understood or recognised the questions being asked. And so it is very poor form and, frankly, vaguely absurd to stick to some wholly dogmatic notion about the Bible just because you are barmy enough to believe that the Bible is some kind of guidebook to all of life anywhere ever. This is a belief which is absolutely not sustainable and is very easy to disprove, not least by exposing the tortuous way in which its adherents attempt to bend and twist texts thousands of years old to subjects they could never have dreamed of.

    By all means say that you personally have problems with the issues for whatever rhetorical reasons you wish to muster. But leave the Bible out of it. Its got really very little to do with the specific subject because it couldn’t possibly have.

    • The principle complaint David Baker makes is not that the debate hasn’t ‘gone to the proof texts’ so-to-speak, or that it failed to give a justification from scripture, but rather that it hasn’t gone to any texts, of any kind, at all. A complaint echoed by Ian Paul. To avoid the current articulations in liturgy, based on the historic understanding of scripture, and pretend that they do not exist -or are insufficient- is inconsistent with Anglican thought and practice at best, and downright hypocritical at worst on the part of the Bishops. That’s the core motivation for the letter.

      So weather you hold scripture as authoritative in any meaningful sense is undeniably important, but somewhat irrelevant to the point; what matters here is the disconnect between Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy. Isn’t it? Especially so given this is the exact same disconnect muddying the waters of the SSM debate…..

      You will note that David Barker does not begin with an appeal to the bible either, but an appeal to the wider church family. “We cannot simply ignore the voice of brothers and sisters in Christ in other denominations, in other continents, at other times and places.” The appeal to scripture is secondary.

      To repeat, no-one is arguing that the Bishop’s guidance is false because it does/doesn’t appeal to ‘X’ scripture, but rather that it appeals to, well, nothing at all; that the recommendations were seemingly plucked from thin air, or more cynically, from the mouths of lobbyists.

      I draw your attention to two observations that would seem to put the lie to your characterisation:

      1. Of the 7 points in the letter, the greater number of them are appeals to science and/or reason, or calls for pastoral issues to be addressed. Only point 3 specifically mentions the bible, and none at all are asserting a doctrinal position, but rather asking for clarity…

      2. It seems to me that a greater portion of commentary on the subject of human sexuality/sex here on Psephizo, of which I presume you are somewhat acquainted, is on the nature of scientific consensus, medical practice and of associated pastoral application, rather than on your caricature of people slinging mud at each other on the grounds that ‘my bible says X and you must be wrong’ (though of course, there is occasionally some of that)…..

      Clearly, to you, we’re all fools too stupid and/or ignorant to realise that the bible is worthless and should be discarded in favour of your own interpretation of social consensus?

      Methinks thou dost protest too much. 😉


      • Hello again Mat. Baker’s essential appeal is to things “historic”, including the Bible, as if the past itself, an always contested and hermeneutically disclosed idea, is in some way determinative and as if we moderns should be bound by those of the past. I don’t know if you believe this but I regard it as essentially absurd. Whilst a historiography of either Christianity or biblical interpretation is always interesting, the idea that we must be in line with people of the past is muddle-headed and strives after a false consistency at the expense of contemporary relevance. God is the God of today and not merely the God of yesterday. God speaks today and not merely through someone’s ideologically constructed creation of either the past or the Bible. Bishops are contemporary leadership figures. Their authority, at least notionally, although I admit that much ecclesiastical doctrine is often barely believed even by those tasked to propagate it, is derived from God. Therefore, I’m not sure I understand why they have to justify anything and everything they do by reference either to texts or to the past. If you believe they are appointed by God and spiritually empowered then, to be blunt, that is enough. All else is merely accommodation to current practices of good manners.

        Of course, it may be that you don’t believe that and I think a lot who pretend they do actually don’t. Either way, it is time for the hypocrisies to stop. Can we imagine that Paul, who claimed that God gave him his gospel directly and that he didn’t ask or need others to tell him what to preach, would have stood for people telling him to justify everything he said and did? The moral there is that God speaks to his chosen leaders directly and their authority is his.

        On the wider issues, Mat, I think its more a matter of an ugly tone. Transgender issues here on this blog are treated like a “debate”, as Will Jones even refers to it above, rather than as a matter of actual, genuine, real people. Lip service is paid to compassion and understanding each other but none of this seems to me to be that genuine and people of a trans kind seem to be regarded as those with some kind of disease. Ian Paul’s talk here of “gender dysphoria” seems a nod in this direction as if trans people have something wrong with them rather than being authentic individuals within themselves. Such “dysphoria” is, in fact, only worsened by those who hide behind the Bible as a reason to reject human beings. Its not only wrong, in my view, its cowardly and unseemly. I would argue that, in fact, the Bible, or rather a certain way of reading it that has more to do with the post-Reformation era than anything else, is often in the background of this even where it seems not to be. It is quite coherent to imagine that people talk science or medicine or pastoral applications because their thinking in the first place has been guided by barely sustainable fictions based on how the Bible is read by them. The clue to this is seeing how those who talk in a certain way about this issue then talk about and use the Bible.

        Yet I do not think such people are fools. They seem to know what they are doing and so should be made responsible for it. Neither do I think the Bible is “worthless”(otherwise I wouldn’t read it every day or write books about) although I do note you have chosen not to rebut my idea that the Bible has nothing to say about transgender issues and nor could it. Yet the choice remains simple: you are either welcoming of trans people or rejecting. There is no halfway house. The Bible and the past are largely irrelevant to this because this is an issue neither of them ever was aware of or had to face. Their knowledge and relevance is, thus, highly limited. This is about how you treat people pure and simple.

        One last point. I wonder how many people who seem so worked up about this issue have ever met or actually know anyone who is transgender? I suspect it is virtually no one. I then wonder if they are not like the Brits who live in remote constituencies of the UK where there are virtually no immigrants but who dislike immigrants nevertheless and vote strongly in favour of anything that gets rid of this menace that they have never even seen but most vividly imagine? I was myself very privileged a couple of years ago to meet a transgender person through a shared interest in electronic music. Having done so, it confirmed to me at least that such people are not the walking abominations that some clearly imagine them to be. In the final analysis, however it is a matter of who you are: you are a person who sees another person or you are a person who sees matters of doctrine. And if you see matters of doctrine then that tells me everything about you because it tells me that you do not see transgender people as people first and as people worthy of respect and dignity at all. Indeed, in seeing doctrine first, you attempt to erase them from history as authentic human beings and seem to regard them, instead, merely as problems for doctrine of your own choosing.

        • Well, we’re never going to agree on this (matters biblical, ecclesial, or doctrinal) so I’m not going to respond at length. In fact, there’s so much I want to say in response to this (especially the latter two paragraphs) that I simply don’t even know where to start.

          I wont bother. It is pointless. Our starting positions are evidently so far apart, that even an endless sea of dialogue here wouldn’t find us reaching much common ground. I imagine the feeling is reciprocal? There’s a time and a place for that conversation (probably several ‘times’ actually, it’s a long one) and the comments section of this blog isn’t it. We’ll spar in the comments on something else, I enjoyed our exchange on Resurrection.

          I will however answer the direct challenge/question, so as not to be rude.

          “although I do note you have chosen not to rebut my idea that the Bible has nothing to say about transgender issues and nor could it.”

          I agree the Bible has very little to say about the phenomenon of transgender specifically; it’s a concept I doubt anyone in the ancient world considered as anything other than a philosophical abstraction. I’d stand corrected on that though, as I’m not a historian or classicist. I likewise agree that people who try to interpret the Bible as if it does speak authoritatively on explicitly trans issues are misguided, (such as levitical laws against cross-dressing) though I do think the issues overlap to at least a small degree and should be handled with care..

          But, reservations about being too dogmatic aside, the Bible has a good deal to say about human nature, and about human purpose, rooting such ideas in the explicit physical realities of male and female. It is where the transgender phenomenon sits uncomfortably with these concepts (which are not unique to scripture, or any revealed text) that the issues around the Bishop’s guidance lie, hence the desire to question it.

          The two issues -human nature and sexuality/sex- are interconnected.

        • Andrew, I’m not sure there is any need for recourse to rhetoric (there never is) nor even on this occasion to Bible or theology, because the science, logic and common sense are clear enough.

        • Hi Andrew,

          So, by setting aside what you call appeals to the things ‘historic’, then we need to ask why the bishops see any value in re-purposing baptismal liturgy for unconditional affirmation of trans people.

          I mean, if “the past itself, an always contested and hermeneutically disclosed idea, is” not “in some way determinative” of modern approaches to engaging with transgender people, nor something by which ‘moderns’ should be bound, then that includes tradition. So, there’s no reason to re-purpose baptismal liturgy when, instead, the bishops could announce a bold and innovative purpose-made gender transitioning rite.

          Beyond just theological consideration, it would be great if you could engage with what the Open Letter describes as “concerns about the long-term effects of ‘puberty blocking’ hormones given the poor quality of the research; and there is no scientific or medical consensus that surgical and medical interventions (‘gender transition’) effectively address the complex symptoms associated with gender dysphoria over the long term”.

          For instance, the 2011 peer-reviewed study of 324 trans people by Dhejne, Lichtenstein et al (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3043071/)

          Key results: “The most striking result was the high mortality rate in both male-to-females and female-to males, compared to the general population. This contrasts with previous reports (with one exception) that did not find an increased mortality rate after sex reassignment, or only noted an increased risk in certain subgroups.

          Mortality from suicide was strikingly high among sex-reassigned persons, also after adjustment for prior psychiatric morbidity. In line with this, sex-reassigned persons were at increased risk for suicide attempts.”

          So, in addition to the lack of research into the long-term effect of puberty blockers on bone mineralisation and adolescent brain development, I’d ask you whether you’re aware of this evidence of overall higher post-transition mortality, death from cardiovascular disease and suicide, suicide attempts, and psychiatric hospitalisations among gender reassigned people.

          Do the supposed benefits of transitioning upon which the bishops have decided that the Church should pronounce divine affirmation outweigh this hard evidence of serious health risks posed by puberty blockers and cross-sex hormonal treatments and gender reassignment surgery?

          • David, unless you are suggesting that such people as were researched upon, or any others, live in isolation, and so that social experiences and and their effects have no role to play in the considerable psychological challenges that those transitioning can face, I wonder about the value of your question. Were I in receipt of constant bigoted hate and told I’m not who I think I am I’d feel suicidal too. I think that the bishops have rightly taken a view, as leaders, that they should in fact lead. If they are affirming transgender people as human beings like the rest of us then they have a standing ovation from me. I know where God stands as regards the outcast and I’ll be right there with them come what may.

          • The trouble is that you judge ‘such people’ from an encounter with one. There are probably as many different types as there are individuals. We should as ever eschew generalisation. Your own generalisation says nothing to the suddenly multiplying and hugely disproportionate numbers of ‘transsexuals’ who just so happen (??) either to live in Brighton, or to be autistic, or to be children of activists, or to be in the position of having such ideas fed to them, not least at impressionable ages. It will be agreed that it is naive to apply the term ‘transsexual’ without inverted commas in many such cases.

          • Hi Andrew,

            You wrote: “Were I in receipt of constant bigoted hate and told I’m not who I think I am I’d feel suicidal too.”

            That’s called the minority stress theory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minority_stress) and, in fact, the onus of proving causality (instead of just correlation) is on those who advance it.

            Even so, you’ve missed the point of the study, which is to investigate whether the well-being of those with gender dysphoria is improved by transitioning as a medical intervention.

            The answer is no, but you still want what the HoB described as the “liturgical recognition of gender transition”, instead of just, as you’ve said, “affirming transgender people as human beings like the rest of us.”

          • Jehovah’s Witnesses are more widely unpopular than transgender people whose popularity varies widely. (And Catholics and evangelicals are unpopular among the media and the media-influenced.) So by rights they should be ‘suicidal’, yet largely they are nothing of the sort.

            Anomie or losing one’s centre of meaning; being mixed up or out of kilter with oneself; feeding one’s body or mind with unhealthy things – these things could understandably cause depression etc..

        • Andrew,
          ‘One last point. I wonder how many people who seem so worked up about this issue have ever met or actually know anyone who is transgender? I suspect it is virtually no one.’ Please be careful with sweeping statements like this. This is not true in my case. I have personal, painful experience, and have had to deal pastorally with the consequences in a family and a church. I shudder to imagine the additional damage that would have been done had this repurposed service been used in this case. (I’ve hidden behind an initial in this instance as it remains a live situation.)

        • ‘One last point. I wonder how many people who seem so worked up about this issue have ever met or actually know anyone who is transgender? I suspect it is virtually no one.’ Andrew, I think I am happy to engage with you in debate.

          But do you realise how arrogant and patronising this comment is? Do you presume to know that I do not have a trans person in my family? A trans person in a family, members of whom come to the small group I lead? Trans people amongst the friends of my children at school, and in the school where I was a governor?

          The notion that ‘If you don’t agree with me, you clearly can’t know what you are talking about’ is the height of hubris, and it lowers the tone of the debate.

          • Exactly.

            I’m not a fan of the comparison to immigration rhetoric either, and laying out so clearly that compromise is impossible, “there is no halfway house” tends to shut down opportunity for listening before it even begins.

          • Ian, I wrote that I “suspect” not that I know. I manifestly do not know and am happy to make that clear. Much, in fact, as you do not know if I am “arrogant” simply because you believe it to be so or have read it as such. I have my thoughts and you have yours and I’m sure they both come from very specific lives and experiences. From what I read of your thoughts, they are nothing to be proud of much as you think of mine. If you, and those like you, do not like being compared to ignorant racists then I suggest you do not act in ways which make such comparisons feasible in the minds of others. Such racists may themselves have seen one or two “foreigners” in their time and regarded them with contempt or spite or simply as outsiders. Having seen them or been in contact with them changes little of importance. So it is this comparison that seems so very apposite to me and, really, it is not my job to change it if it represents some truth to me. Yet it is the job of those I think it fits to make it impossible for them to be seen in such a way – should they care to do so. But since such people seem to judge doctrine and dogma more important than people I do not hold out much hope.

            PS is it not the case for anybody that “not agreeing with me” indicates some lack in the understanding of others which you see but they do not? Agreeing means exactly seeing things in tolerably the same way. Not agreeing means finding some lack in others. You may be polite enough not to show this. I, I must confess, am sometimes blunt enough to do so.

  4. Hold up a sec, Ian: you’re a member of the Archbishops Council, the CoE’s executive! Surely this should’ve been raised long before the guidance was published?

    • Of course; and I have asked a number of private questions in that role. BUT the AC is the executive only of Church’s central functions, and not of individual dioceses (and their bishops) nor the House of Bishops.

      This is House of Bishops business, so the AC has no formal say on this. The relationship between the motion in 2017 and the result is one between Synod and HoB only. It is one of those strange things arising from the different ‘silos’ of the C of E.

  5. The obviously untrue idea that signing up to a point of view makes that point of view valid has happened within my lifetime, a time of supposed increase in knowledge and intelligence. It happened either in the time of Mrs Thatcher or Mr Blair, and I thought it was odd at the time.

    Together with this there has been the seachange in policing so that mere complaint (without objective reasoning or standards) has been sufficient.

    This has always been logically unsustainable and we see here the end game of it. People just select their ideal scenario and say that it is their opinion. Whether it makes sense or has been arrived at by reason is not considered. Therefore mere wishful-thinking ideologies and research conclusions have been confused together and put on the same level as one another, because both are views, both are ‘opinions’. It was obvious that this would cause chaos, and so it is proving.

    • I was just watching an hour long Q+A with the satirist Ian Hislop. In the video he complained at those people who complain that the things we are now witnessing, things like “signing up to a point of view makes that point of view valid, ” are the demise of civilisation and the end of common sense. Such people also seem to imagine that “fake news” is new and “rhetoric” and PR spin are similarly novel. This is utter nonsense. The Sophists were being criticised for essentially similar “faults” over two millennia ago as only one relatively obvious example. If you want further examples read the collected works of George Orwell, as I often do, which reminds us that even 70 or 80 years ago all of these phenomena were felt as clear and present dangers.

      Yet what disturbs me more than your clear lack of historical perspective is that you would choose to bring this up under a blog about transgender issues. Having interacted with you fairly extensively over the last 5-6 weeks I, of course, know where this comes from since in all things you seem to believe that “the right presuppositions”, which are always providentially the same as your presuppositions, are the ones that should be held.

      I think you should forget your presuppositions. And I think you should forget them not because they are wrong, which I think they are, but because there are more important things than our presuppositions. No one will be getting into the kingdom of God because they had the right presuppositions. In fact, no one will be getting into the kingdom of God because their “science, logic or common sense” was right either. In knowing everything, you seem to have forgotten the central thing.

      • So if it is not an especially good thing to be accurate, which of the N billion inaccurate positions ought we to choose?

  6. Where to begin with this poor letter? In a rush, so I’ll just go through the individual numbered points:

    1. The title of the service hasn’t changed. The focus of the service is ‘recognizing and celebrating their identity in Christ and God’s love for them’ and ‘The emphasis is placed not on the past or future of the candidate alone, but on their faith in Jesus Christ.’ (Bishops’ pastoral guidance).

    The [quote] ‘use of oil and water contrary to previous rubrics in Common Worship’ is plain wrong. Water and oil have always been allowed in the affirmation of baptism service. I have a copy of the initiation services book dating back to 1998, and it’s in there (eg ‘the use of chrism is therefore also allowed in these rites after baptism, at affirmation of baptismal faith and at reception’ p.196).

    To sum up – it isn’t a new liturgy, it’s using an existing liturgy, and to claim otherwise is specious.

    2. The letter can’t make up its mind whether its a new liturgy or misusing an existing one. The letter admits that reaffirming baptismal faith ‘might well be appropriate at certain seasons of life’ – but no particular reason is given as to why not this one. I note that the letter misplaces the guidance’s ‘unconditional affirmation’ from a general statement to a specific one about this liturgy, which is deeply misleading, as if the bishops are replacing salvation, faith and repentance (which they are not).

    3. Apparently some parts of the Bible aren’t fit for reading at a service. I’ll go with the unexpurgated Bible, thank you.

    4. At least those who are intersex are acknowledged. But what this does to claims of ‘dimorphism’ is ignored, or why transgender people aren’t in a similar category. There then follows a paragraph which would make it seem that dimorphism is credal in importance. It isn’t.

    5. This is odd; families and friends are to be considered. Do the signatories also want similar considerations for those converting? Or those whose families are atheists? But it is also potentially deeply hypocritical:

    Quote: ‘On the principle of ‘not talking about us without talking to us’…’ Unless transgender Christians were involved in drawing up this letter, then this is the highest hypocrisy. Whoever wrote this sentence ought to be ashamed. I hope to be surprised.

    6. This is playing into the moral panic currently being whipped up. There was a similar moral panic in the 80s. It is also again misleading about how much consensus there is scientifically and medically.

    7. Not much to comment on here, other than that the change in ‘doctrinal understanding’ (I don’t actually see a change in doctrine, but that’s another matter) happened years ago (eg when the CofE agreed to marry people who are transgender).

    The letter also expresses the usual innuendo – ‘ordinary parents and teachers…’

    The letter may talk of understanding, support and compassion but it offers none, instead serving up a dish of prejudice, mistakes, and potentially vast hypocrisy.

    • Jonathan, you use the category ‘transgender people’ as though it was without problems. Coining a phrase does not make the phrase coherent. Why do you think that so many are *suddenly* putting themselves in this category
      -in cultures where such ideas are being put into people’s minds, rather than in those where they are not?
      -precisely in Brighton rather than anywhere else?
      -precisely at suggestible ages rather than at other ages?
      -precisely among autistic people?

      • Indeed. I happened to listen to Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 a while a go (I had a lie in!) and they were talking about transgender. One of the speakers said around 33% (I cant quite remember the exact stat) of children referred to a particular clinic for gender reassignment had autism. Even the ‘liberal’ presenter was rather shocked at that.

        • It is remarkable that peer pressure, conformity and fitting in are being sidelined as though they did not exist. They not only exist but are irresistible forces for *many*.

          • It is about 2.5%. The points you have not responded to are:

            (1) This is vastly different from what would have happened in almost any other age, or previously in the UK, and your idea that it is not a story is therefore not correct, because the way we measure what is newsworthy is by how striking or different it is.

            (2) The location being Brighton tends to confirm that the more you present something as normal the more people will treat it as normal and act accordingly. It is just something that’s especially fashionable in that town. So, the more fashionable and spoken-about something is, the more people will treat that thing as part of normal life. This is a truism. Other things occur whether people speak about them or not. You treat gender nonconformity as an endemic condition, being something called ‘trans’ likewise. I treat them as behaviours, and behaviours, like suggestions, will inevitably affect people’s minds. The way to find out which party is correct is to see who predicts best. I predict that these things will happen in proportion to how far they are presented as being part of normal life.

            (3) Trans is not a firm medical description or diagnosis, and even if it were it would be a sliding scale, whereas you speak of discrete categories of gender nonconforming and trans. Do you not believe in sliding scales?

        • That’s probably due to the ignorance of the radio presenter. Autistic people who are trans are more likely to identify as such because they find it difficult, if not impossible, to dissemble. People who are not neuro diverse find it easier to hide their true identity – whether it’s LGB or T.

          • So why do they congregate around certain locations / milieu and not others? It doesn’t stack up.

            And why are those locations / milieux the ones where this line has been being pushed?

            And why didn’t they fail to dissemble in every other age when they did not queue for gender reassignment?

            Three questions.

          • Christopher

            I had no idea ‘they’ congregated around certain locations. Brighton has a lot of gay people. Does it have a lot of trans people?
            I don’t believe those locations are places where any ‘line’ is being pushed. Marginalised people often congregate in places of greater safety, often cities.
            How do we know that autistic people in the past weren’t trans? How might this have been recorded? Both ‘conditions’ weren’t properly understood until recently. Indeed, still aren’t. The judiciary still thinks autism is a mental health issue. It isn’t.

          • No, I am not talking about self-styled ‘gay’ or ‘trans…’ people who have moved there. I am talking about schoolchildren. It is axiomatic that they inhabit a milieu where such things are on the menu of possibilities. And that they are impressionable, vulnerable, and at a formative age, still meldable.

          • Will
            Absolutely positive.
            Autism is being neuro diverse.
            This has nothing to do with mental health.
            There is a great deal of ignorance in the press, the church, social media and some institutions.

          • Also, Will,
            Terrible article. Though the writer presents autism as a disability rather than as a mental health issue.
            Yes, there can be associated disabilities.
            No, most people don’t want to screen out neuro diversity, or ‘cure’ it. Perhaps neuro typical people could modify their attitudes and behaviour instead.

          • Ah, so, is Brighton full of gender non-conforming children?
            If so, most will carry on being non-conforming (or not) but will not become trans, be referred to a clinic or receive any medication.
            Those few who do believe they are trans will have a long wait for an appointment at the Tavistock or one of its satellite clinics. Some may desist in the meantime.
            Of those who are referred to a clinic, only a minority will go on to take puberty blockers and/or transition.
            So, not much of a story really.

          • If you are gender non-conforming that is a dominant feature in your life.

            1. Childhood is a great and important time. Are you happy that people are spending it that way, with that particular thing as a dominant feature?

            2. Would it be a feature at all unless the adults and their surrounding culture had suggested it?

            Happiness for children. Security for children. No abusive sexual-revolution being imposed on children.

          • Christopher
            We’re discussing gender not sexuality.
            I have no idea how many children (or adults for that matter) identify as non-binary or gender neutral. What does it matter?

          • What has that to do with the point of the discussion: that those claiming such things seem suspiciously to cluster round certain locations and milieux. Which they would not if this were primarily either a biological reality or a mental reality.

          • Christopher
            What are ‘such things’? This is a very imprecise statement. If you mean trans, I would be interested in seeing research which shows that trans children cluster in particular areas. If they do, then we might ask why?

          • Dorothy Stringer School in Brighton has 40 children who do not own/acknowledge their gender (as at 2 months ago).

            Out of all the towns in UK. One view says these claims are random, another that they are being put into children’s minds. Adherents of the latter view would have predicted that Brighton would be the town (at hundreds to one odds) and successful prediction is what characterises correct theories. But brainwashing children is a serious thing, hence the claims of maltreatment of children.

          • Well I cannot compare this with other schools in other areas, nor do I know what proportion of pupils in this school that is. As I said above, some will no doubt desist, others might waitbyears for referral to a clinic. Of those who are referred only a minority will actually transition,
            So, again, not much of a story.

          • ?

            Explain how it can be ‘not much of a story’ when 5 years ago it would have been a 9day wonder if 4 pupils did that, let alone 40. That’s quite a big story isn’t it?

            Wouldn’t the press have picked up on any school with larger numbers?

            What would count as a story? 100 pupils?

          • What might count as a statistically significant story would be a larger proportion of pupils presenting as trans, who, after waiting years for a referral to a clinic, started taking puberty blockers, then cross sex hormones, and then when they reached adulthood, surgically transitioning. This wouldn’t necessarily be ‘bad’, but it would be a story. It isn’t a story because it isn’t happening.

          • No, that’s wrong. 40 pupils in a single school saying they are at the opposite end of the gender spectrum from what their biology indicates (not by coincidence, at the very time when that issue is all over the news, and is fashionable in their town) is extremely distant from the experience of
            the vast majority of schools
            in the vast majority of countries
            in the vast majority of eras.

            And that is how you gauge whether, and how far, a story is significant.

          • Penelope, you wrote after Christopher…. “Well I cannot compare this with other schools in other areas” which is classic behaviour because you can very, very easily compare with the national average. This is so far above the national average that what becomes obvious is that you are wilfully choosing not to consider the facts.

          • So then Penelope you wrote …..”who, after waiting years for a referral to a clinic, started taking puberty blockers, then cross sex hormones, and then when they reached adulthood, surgically transitioning….”
            But then then said they aren’t which as proof doesn’t work at all because they aren’t proscribed puberty blockers and they certainly aren’t given cross-sex hormones and they very definetly won’t get surgery unless they go abroad like the expert in IT who is head of Mermaids and now calls herself a child expert (what IT has to do with Paediatrics is anyone’s guess) who took her own child to Vietnam (some reports say Thailand) for the surgery and who’s own parents accuse her of child abuse and have been threatened with violence by the trans supporters if they don’t shut up.

            Your proof isn’t proof at all.

          • Christopher
            How big is the school? What percentage of the school is 40?
            How many will actually be referred to a clinic?
            How may will transition?
            You are catastrophising.

          • Clive
            Your rhetoric is a little confused but I will try to respond.

            Susie Green took her child abroad for an operation which is illegal in the UK at the age the child then was. I make no comment on the ethos of that, except to point out t hat her daughter seems to be well adjusted and happy.

            In the UK protocols are very conservative. There are long waiting lists for the Tavistock and its satellite clinics. Some gender non conforming children desist naturally because they are not trans. A minority of children referred to a clinic will be prescribed puberty blockers. A minority will later be prescribed cross sex hormones. No child in the UK undergoes surgery.
            So yes, some children do eventually get referrals. A few, eventually, go on to transition. No one has surgery before the age of 18, in the UK.

          • Penelope

            You are a little confused on basic, simple facts.

            You wrote:
            “How big is the school? What percentage of the school is 40?
            How many will actually be referred to a clinic?
            How may will transition?
            You are catastrophising.”

            Except for 40 peoples at a school to equate the expected level of 0.017% in the general population means that the school would have to be so large as to have 40*100/0.017 = 235294 pupils (not counting the teachers which would also be a huge number) ….. it’s simple mathematics really …. and that is far, far larger than any conceivable school.
            It is certainly NOT Christopher who is “catastrophising” but rather that you seem to have lost any rational sense of logic in your argument.

          • Clive
            About 0.2%. Roughly, 1 in 500

            Not that numbers matter. My point to Christopher, of course, if you had bothered to follow it,mis that of those 40 pupils only a small % would transition. Do the numbers are neither shocking nor surprising.

          • No Penelope

            Christopher’s comment is about 40 pupils, not just one. So please instead of erroneously dismissing Christopher’s point a real argument would be to offer actual and real evidence for your dismissal.

            At your idea of 0.2 % this requires a school of more than 20000 pupils – It’s not realistic at all. (marginally better than 235000 pupils of course)

          • Clive

            This is my last response because I suspect that you are being deliberately obtuse.
            What part of my observation that of 40 pupils only a minority might go on to transition, did you not understand?
            Only you and Christopher are having fantasies about schools of 20,000 or 200,000 because you imagine that 40 children presenting as gender non-conforming will all transition. This is absurd.

          • Penelope

            It is YOU who has declined to look up the Dorothy Stringer School and it is YOU who has chosen failed to give any rational, competent or numerically literate evidence to support any claims you make. You spend your time instead calling others names by nonsense such as “It just makes you look foolish.”

            If you really wish to have any genuine conversation then you need to offer evidence because emotion and unsubstantiated rhetoric is not enough.

          • Clive

            I haven’t ‘declined’ to look up the Dorothy Stringer school. I haven’t questioned Christopher’s assertion that there are 40 gender non-conforming children in the school. Are you suggesting Christopher’s information isn’t accurate?

            I agree that emtion and unsubstantiated rhetoric is futile, which is why I said I wouldn’t engage with your comments any further.

            But, one last try.
            Of the 40 gender fluid kids in this school, only a tiny minority will go on to transition.
            This is because:
            a) some will desist naturally
            b) some will desist during the up to 30 month wait for an appointment st a clinic
            c) some who do, finally, get an appointment will, with expert guidance, not go on to transition
            d) a few may receive puberty blockers, then cross sex hormones
            e) of these few, some may choose to surgically transition when they are 18 or older.
            So, out of 40 pupils, very few may transition to the the other sex/gender.

            Is this clear enough? What other evidence do you require?

    • Sexual dimorphism is doctrinal as it is stated clearly in scripture (‘male and female he created them’) and is implicit in the doctrine of marriage and the church’s biblical teaching on sexual ethics.

      Trans isn’t in the same category as intersex because sex is a biological phenomenon first and foremost whereas transgenderism is a psychological issue only.

      Intersex doesn’t undermine dimorphism because the existence of two biological sexes is tied to the requirements of sexual reproduction, under which nature produces two sexes each with a distinct role in the reproductive process. That some people are born without certain limbs say doesn’t alter that the proper form of the healthy human being has four. The proper form of nature is crucial to a right understanding of biology, medicine and of God’s purposes in creation.

      The House of Bishops have stated that the guidance is for using a liturgy ‘to mark gender transition’, which is re-purposing a liturgy for a highly controversial end that implies a change in doctrine.

      I think you are right to suggest that earlier steps (eg ordination and marriage of trans people) may already imply this change, though these could perhaps be understood (as we have become accustomed to) as ‘pastoral’ provisions, whereas this is clearly linked to sanctioned use of liturgy.

      • Hi Will,

        Trans isn’t in the same category as intersex because sex is a biological phenomenon first and foremost whereas transgenderism is a psychological issue only.

        I would suggest that the starting point is that gender is a social constuct. I’m taking gender to be related to ‘masculinity’ and ‘feminity’, compared with sex as ‘male’ and ‘female’. While the latter is reasonably clear and objective in its definition, gender is much less so, and its formulation is relatively recent.

        With sex, there are secondary sexual characteristics which are more common in men or in women. For instance, men tend to be taller and stronger. However, this does not mean that you do not have tall or strong women, and short or weak men. A tall woman is no less a woman because she is tall, nor a short man less a man because he is short. The same comes with the even less well defined attributes which define ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’.

        Then there is the difference between gender roles and gender stereotypes. The relation bewteen the former and sex can have some sensible basis. In an environment where there is hard work outside the house, and unweaned infants to feed at home, the man working in the fields and the woman doing the work in the house makes sense. Other allocations of roles to men or women have a less rational basis.

        Our modern western society has reduced significantly, at least in theory, the difference in roles which men and women can do. However, I suspect that this has led to a greater emphasis on gender stereotypes, where unimportant or superficial differences between the sexes become emphasised. For example, how teenagers dress is evidently based on what is ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. Men (and thus teenage boys) have to be muscular and ‘ripped’.

        Significantly, psychological researchers are finding that in more equal societies there is a greater difference in how men and women think, than in societies which are less equal in opportunities. E.g. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/patriarchy-paradox-how-equality-reinforces-stereotypes-96cx2bsrp.

        So, yes, transgender is a psychological issue. I would suggest the issue is with how an individual sees themselves compared with gender stereotypes, and not with their sex. But this disconnect is at least partly due to societal expectations. It would seem that our more equal society is actually having the effect of dividing these expectations. The logical outcome would be to allow feminine men and masculine women: four categories. But the transgender position is to insist on just binary division, and to privilege self-perceived gender over obvious, physical sex. Then drastic medical procedures are initiated to attempt to make a body seem as if it is of the other sex. But this is only superficial, as feminists have pointed out.

        The mind is far more plastic and malleable than the body.

        • Thanks David.

          Some male and female characteristics are well defined albeit in terms of statistical distribution rather than in every individual – but many natural phenomena can only be defined in terms of statistical distribution (even on the quantum level).

          Speaking statistically then the human male is larger, stronger, taller, deeper voice, hairier, more emotionally resilient. The human female is smaller, shorter, fairer, weaker, higher voice, smoother, less emotionally resilient.

          A major psychological difference is that the male is statistically more thing oriented the female more people oriented.

          From these characteristics flow many secondary characteristics that affect how masculine and feminine is expressed practically and culturally. Individuals can defy these statistical distributions but crucially populations cannot – this is the key point that many liberals fail fully to grasp.

          The propriety of transgenderism turns on the extent to which the statistical norms rightly underpin moral norms. The Bible, in common with most cultures, says they should quite strongly. It is right to behave in conformity with the norms of your given sex. But how much flexibility is there in that? Now there’s a question.

          • Of course there are also the basic differences that the female bears and nurses the children and those that testosterone produces in the common behaviour of the male – ardour, aggression, fortitude, recklessness. And the differing sexual anatomy and corresponding different roles in intercourse. I’m sure there are more, all grounded in biology.

          • Yes. Of course, brain science (among other things) reminds us that each of these differences affects everything else that it is related to. So even a single difference (e.g. hormonal) is effectively multiple differences because of all the other things that it touches and relates to.

            Cf. how with the sexual revolution or Brexit advocates for change may have thought that they were changing just one thing but ended up changing practically everything.

          • Can you define “Emotionally Resilient” please Will, as right now it sounds like the subjective ‘black sheep’ in your otherwise objective list. 😉

          • By emotionally resilient I mean a propensity to be emotionally affected by situations, particularly to become upset about them eg to cry. Statistically a female is more likely to be more emotionally invested in things than a male. Linked with empathy, which some feminists use to commend an ethics of care as a more distinctive female ethic.

      • Will
        I answered this, but you didn’t respond. Perhaps you didn’t think it was a response to you. The sexual dimorphism of Matthew’s gospel,is closely followed by the much more nuanced and intriguing passage on eunuchs. So not ‘stated clearly’ then.

        • I assumed it was just a passing remark since you seemed to be criticising ‘proof texting’ by – proof texting.

          I don’t see how a reference to ‘eunuchs who have been so from birth’ affects dimorphism. Jesus doesn’t say God made them that way. It’s just a recognition that such people exist. As I say above, the existence of congenital disease doesn’t alter our understanding of the nature of the proper healthy form of the human being.

          • Will
            I was being ironic. The passage about eunuchs shows that God’s creation is not sexually dimorphic; indeed this is a very modern belief.
            It is you who are asserting what God makes and what is a ‘proper healthy form of the human being’. That is, in my opinion, idolatrous as well as offensive.

          • The passage about eunuchs doesn’t show God’s creation is not sexually dimorphic since 1) it’s meaning is pretty unclear but assuming it is referring to what we now call intersex people 2) it doesn’t say God made them that way, and creation is fallen.

            Sexual dimorphism is not a ‘very modern belief’. I have pointed you before to evidence that male and female were included in the Pythagorean table of opposites. And it is well-known that the Torah places great weight on the male-female distinction and the forbidding of mixing kinds.

            I’ve asked before but please can we refrain from calling one another’s views offensive, which isn’t really helpful.

            Besides, there is nothing idolatrous or offensive about formulating conceptions of the proper healthy form of the human being – an enterprise on which biology and medicine depend. Do you think it’s idolatrous and offensive to say that the healthy, well-formed human being has two arms, two legs and twenty digits? But even if you do think that, there’s no scriptural reason to regard such a thing as idolatrous.

          • Penelope,
            For humans, biological sex is binary. There are some slime moulds and fungi which have many sexes, but two sexes is the rule in the vast majority of organisms which undergo sexual reproduction. Sex is fundamentally a property of gametes, and is determines by which of the two gametes passes its mitochondria to the resulting fertilised cell. (With more than two it might be that A always wins, B loses to A but otherwise wins, C loses to A and B, but otherwise wins, etc.)

            There are some organisms which produces gametes of both types, and some where an individual will produce one type a one stage and then produce the other at a later stage. However, for us humans, an individual produces only one type of gamete, and so the sex of the body is directly related to the sex of the gametes it carries. This then affects the morphology, for the carrier of the female gamete also nurtures the resulting offspring, both inside the body and then through feeding. Of course, the apparatus which enables the male gamete to meet the female gamete is correspondingly dimorphic.

            Any discussion of more than two sexes is actually off the point in a discussion of gender transition. As far as I know, that is almost always someone with a male body who wishes it to be female, or vice versa.

          • Will
            Yes and we saw what other things were in the table of ‘opposites’.
            I am sorry, but if I find your theology offensive, I am going to say so. Sexual dimorphism is not the only interpretation of this text, or other ancient sources, and there is no indication that Jesus (or Philip or Isaiah) thought eunuchs were fallen (nor tystbthese are intersex people, though they could be. That is your inference based upon your belief that God created binaries and that binaries are good.
            As for textual readings, it is interesting that some of the rabbis wrote of there being seven genders.

          • David
            I agree, transgender and intersex are too often confused. Most trans people are binary, but some are of course not gender binary.
            And no, human sex is not binary. It is much more complex than that.

        • The eunuchs passage is typical Matthew, as it answers questions people had been asking since Jesus’s teaching with a rabbinic attention to detail.

          As for ‘more intriguing’ that is clearly subjective so invalid.

          As for ‘more nuanced’ – yes, but that does not make it truer or more accurate, since there are times when the realities are less nuanced and times when they are more, and the thing is to be accurate to the realities, not over-nuance or under-nuance them.

          • Christopher
            In what way is it typical?
            What questions does it answer?
            Why does it not nuance Jesus’ earlier ref to the Genesis narrative?
            Do you think the ref to the Genesis narrative is ‘truer’ than the eunuchs passage?
            Do you not find parts of scripture intriguing?

          • I find parts of Scripture intriguing and call them ‘intriguing to me’.

            It does nuance it, by raising extra special cases that might have been thought not to be covered by the blanket rule.

            Exactly the sort of thing that would happen in the rabbinic process as people post-70 pored over Jesus’s teachings and sought guidance on how to apply them.

            Truer? It may be – but it certainly has much better claims to go back to Jesus. The divorce logion is perhaps the best attested logion of all.

            It is typical because Matt is scribal,
            has a detailed knowledge of OT,
            focuses on the legal side,
            and unpacks and expands (e.g. three times expands one-line apophthegms found in Mark into parables).
            The very same tendency can be seen at work earlier in his version of this teaching, when he adds ‘for any cause’.

            The core teaching on divorce is in Mark and Paul (and affirmed by Luke, affirmed and expanded/qualified by Matt). The eunuchs bit is in Matt only. Further, had we predicted which writing would contain it, our prediction would be Matt.

          • Christopher
            Thank you, very interesting.
            But the eunuch passage does not ‘raise extra special cases’. Jesus (or Matthew, but more likely original) is offering some difficult teaching which the early Church attended to, but which the Church finds more problematic today.

          • On what basis do you call it ‘more likely original’?
            1. Matt is not prone/apt to have new first-hand information in Mark contexts.
            2. The addition fits his redactional interests.
            3. It is not found elsewhere.
            4. He is apt to expand on a Mark kernel, vide the 3 parables based on a Jesus aphorism found in Mark.

            Jewish teaching developed by means of glosses/expansions on a kernel. Targums; Mishnah; Talmud. If the gloss is a good one, you have 2 choices – omit it or include it. The first choice is intolerable, for then it will be lost forever. So you include it.

          • Authentic? Its improbability. And, although I tend to avoid ‘counter cultural’ with regard to Jesus (Jewsish but not that Jewish, as Crossley writes), it does go against the grain.

          • So difficilior equals potior? Yet every atom of it can be accounted for by a rabbinic commentator wanting to cover all bases. *Better* accounted for, given the 4 patterns (1-4) which I noted, which would otherwise have to be given other explanations.

            The argument ‘improbable, therefore authentic Jesus’ does not at all stack up. There are plenty of reasons why things can be improbable, and there are also plenty of people capable of saying/writing/thinking improbable things.

          • Sorry to intrude on this discussion, but Penelope (or do you prefer Penny?), you say:
            some difficult teaching which the early Church attended to, but which the Church finds more problematic today.
            Really? The important word is ‘eunuch’. That has a clear and unambiguous literal meaning: a male person who has had his testes removed. This was not an uncommon practice in the ancient world and do not forget that the practice survived into the 19th century in Europe. Perhaps you have heard the scratchy recording of the last castrato.
            The OT is generally mostly about eunuchs. The emasculated were not to be part of the people of God. That some would become eunuchs was part of the punishment of the exile. The eunuch would see themselves as “a dry tree”, it is the lack of fruit – descendants – which is the punishment. There is a glimmer of hope,however in 2nd Isaiah (which, perhaps, is the reason that the Ethiopian eunuch was reading Isaiah in his chariot).
            So, the surprising thing in the Matthew passage (and its point) is that there should be those who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom. Does this mean those who emasculated themselves? Or does it simply mean those who choose to be celebate for the sake of the kingdom? Those who dedicate themselves to second births rather than first births.

          • Hi David

            I’m usually Penny! Thank you for your comments on eunuchs. The term doesn’t always denote castrated men in antiquity; there were different types of Eunuchs. Of course Isaiah and Acts reinstates them in God’s Kingdom. The Matthew passage is more enigmatic. We’re eunuchs from birth, intersex people? And, as you say, were eunuchs for the Kingdom those who chose asceticism over marriage and procreation?

          • 1. Is an extremely well-attested divorce saying that makes existing regulations more not less stringent an anti family context?

            In addition, there are so many other dimensions to this.
            2-Characteristic of the scribal/rabbinic Matt.
            3-Not found elsewhere (why?).
            4-Does Matt have access to new authentic nonMarkan material in Mark contexts?
            5-The way in which Jewish teaching accretes to a kernel.

            All one can do is add the factors on authenticity/inauthenticity sides and see which wins. We then get into weighing the factors (very complicated, but in general it is not likely that factors will mass on one side as opposed to the other if that side is not the right one).

          • Hi Penny,
            It was a busy weekend, hence the delay in a response, although I did find time to dig a bit into ‘eunuch’. The word seems to come from:
            (1) someone in charge of a (king’s) bedchamber, although this seems to flow in two directions:
            (2) an emasculated man (the king does not want a randy man in charge of his women…),
            (3) a more generic term for a royal official (this does not preclude a preference for emasculated men, as these would have a different temper and also no children who thet might wish to promote, thus the eunuch would be more loyal)
            [Potiphar is a ‘eunuch’ in the LXX, and has a wife, which might suggest that he was not castrated, or it might be that his wife’s lack of attention from her husband led to her pursuit of the handsome young Joseph!]
            One reference I found states that the word can be used of animals – clearly (2), and of dates without stones, again related to (2).

            Although Deut. 23 does not use the term, the Isaiah 56 passage with its promise to eunuchs and foreigners does seem to be a revocation of the Deuternomic prohibition. The cry of the eunuch, and the promise they receive is telling:
            “I am only a dry tree” (i.e. one that produces no fruit)
            “to them I will give within my temple and its walls
            a memorial and a name
            better than sons and daughters;
            I will give them an everlasting name
            that will endure for ever.”
            One’s name was carried by one’s sons and daughters (hence levirate marriage), but the eunuch (in this text) was one who could have no offspring. Just as it was felt sameful for a woman to be barren, true masculinity was seen in begetting. There are cultures today where you are not regarded as a true man until you have fathered a child. The eunuch, correspondingly, is seen as diminished man, i.e. emasculated.

            The Matt. 19 passage does seem to allude to the promise. It certainly does not work for “some are born royal officials”. I agree that it could be that those who are eunuchs “out of their mother’s womb” could be those we might identify as intersex – ambiguous external genetalia would not be unknown. But they key thing about this verse is that the other two categories of ‘eunuch’ arise though an action. The literal use of the verb unambiguously means castration, as far as I can see. However, it is probably right to treat the reflexive use of the verb as more figurative.

            The context is marriage, and the disciples’ comment that if the teaching about divorce is true, then marriage is not so attractive. Thus v12 seems to me to be saying: there are those who do their nature from birth or as the result of human action cannot marry and produce children. But there are those who do not marry through choice and for the kingdom, and so do not produce children. Jesus’ choice of words could be deliberate to allude to Isaiah 56, with its promise of a better blessing that children.

            Then v13 takes us to Jesus blessing children. Rather than children being a blessing, Jesus is a blessing to them.

            So, I’m not sure how this passage relates to trans people at all, except that, perhaps, that if one is a man who does not feel very masculine, there can be a blessing better than that offered to the world to those men who match the stereotype of a ‘real man’.

          • David

            Thank you. I think the Ethiopian eunuch links to the Isaiah, not least because he is reading the prophet.
            The Matthew passage is, I think, more enigmatic. If by those who were eunuchs from birth, Jesus is describing a physical reality, this might be what we now understand as intersex (rather than trans), though some gender non-conforingbreaders have taken this and the Acts passage as speaking to them.
            Halvor Moxnes has an intriguing reading of this (together with the gospel of Thomas an Luke’s saying about barren women) which includes the children and barren women as pre-sexual or asexual beings who will, in an upturned world, inherit the kingdom.

    • Jonathan…

      “The letter can’t make up its mind whether its a new liturgy or misusing an existing one.”

      Its misusing an existing liturgy and disguising it as “not a new one” . Same words but entirely different purpose… If it quacks like a duck etc.

    • Hi Jonathan,

      The devil is in the detail. In one breath, (and I agree that) the guidance states that that the liturgy is ‘recognizing and celebrating their identity in Christ and God’s love for them’ and ‘the emphasis is placed not on the past or future of the candidate alone, but on their faith in Jesus Christ.’ however, in the next breath, the guidance explains of such rites: whether the liturgical recognition of gender transition takes place in the context of baptism, confirmation or Affirmation of Baptismal Faith, the House of Bishops encourages ministers to respond to all requests with as much creativity and sensitivity as the rubrics and Notes allow.

      Whatever the title or overt purpose, the guidance inadvertently admits that such rites are actually focused on liturgically recognising (and celebrating) gender transition as consonant with the will of God.

      So, it may well be true that “the letter admits that reaffirming baptismal faith ‘might well be appropriate at certain seasons of life’ – but no particular reason is given as to why not this one. Well, the ‘why not’ is due to the fact that no other guidance portrays the rite as providing liturgical recognition of a specific season of life.

      This guidance goes way beyond just providing a personal context for affirming the recognition of our redeemed identity in Christ.

      Even back in 2013, the Sybils’ response to the Pilling Report revealed the dearth of theological reflection on transgender issues:
      “We are also convinced that there must be a greater openness to, and a wider understanding, of the extensive range of scientific and theological work that has been, and is currently being undertaken on transgender issues, as well as same-sex issues, in addition to those relied upon within the report. We believe that what is presented there is insufficient to provide a strong and reliable foundation for the proposed conversations.”

      That statement holds true today, which is why the Open Letter encourages “that the House of Bishops revise, postpone or withdraw this guidance until all these questions are properly addressed”.

      So, while your point-by-point criticisms ‘strain at a gnat’ of dismissing most of the Open Letter, they ‘swallow the whole camel’ of the HoB guidance’s admission that the rite should contain liturgical recognition (and, therefore, representative affirmation) of gender transition, however it’s labelled otherwise on the outside.

      In fact, dress it up all you like, but the HoB guidance is little more than an ill-considered and thinly-veiled attempt to overcome the Church’s negative PR on LGBT issues.

      Any theological considerations were a distant second to that.

    • Hi Jonathan,

      On your point 3, your unexpurgated bible contains such texts as “a woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.” (Deut. 22:3)

      Perhaps more significantly:

      “For you created my inmost being;
      you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
      I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
      your works are wonderful,
      I know that full well.
      My frame was not hidden from you
      when I was made in the secret place,
      when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
      Your eyes saw my unformed body;
      all the days ordained for me were written in your book
      before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

      These verses speak of reverence for one’s body as formed in the womb as it is formed and known by God. Any problem with a (well-formed) body would seem to be a rejection of God’s work.

      In contrast, the places in the Bible where people are given new names are occasions where the names are given by God or Jesus. (Saul becomes Paul without explanation.)

      Anyway, Baptism is not a naming ceremony, and a reaffirmation of baptism vows is even so. Therefore readings about changing names do not really fit the liturgy at all.

    • “What on earth is the difference between a proof text and a text? Is the former just a text that one does not like?”

      what a brilliant comment – so grateful for your gifts

    • Was this a response to me?

      I used the term ‘proof text’ to describe Andrew’s parody of Christians who when faced with an issue -no matter how debatable- will go to their bible, search for the first verse that they feel justifies their opinion and goes “aha, case closed!” ‘Proof texts’ aren’t an objectively different thing from ‘texts’, but rather an attitude to a certain type of dogmatism that plenty of Christians are guilty of.

      I wasn’t loading the term any other way.

  7. Regarding the letter, it puts the traditional/conservative position as reasonably and with as much sensitivity as is possible. I don’t believe that any framing can mitigate the burdens it imposes, but disagree as I do, credit for that.

    I won’t try and litigate the issues here, since our undergirding theology’s simply too distant for any meeting of minds. That this is so is yet another reason for me to believe that the Anglican Communion is simply too strained to hold together.

  8. How droll.

    For years, traditionists have characterised liberal calls for equality for LGBTI Christians as being a social, rather than spiritual, position. Yet in this letter traditionalists are enlisting the views of “many ordinary parents and teachers” ie a societal rather than spiritual position.

    Truth is, there is no Scripture which supports the letter but Galatians 3 clearly sets out that Christ freed us from the Law so that the sexual dimorphism of Genesis is swept away and there is now “neither male nor female”.

    • I would agree with you that Genesis does indeed teach sex dimorphism. But Paul doesn’t appear to think that there is no differentiation between Jew and Gentile, nor between slave and free—only that the differences there do not inhibit their welcome into the new covenant community in Christ. I am unclear as to why this shouldn’t also be the case in relation to male and female.

      • Ian
        You are quite right that there is differentiation between male and female and husband and wife. Galatians 3 is about salvation, not family and ministry. See Ephesians 5:18-33 for instance. But with respect to ministry I remind you of our long-standing disagreement – the ball is in your court on another thread.
        Phil Almond

      • Indeed. I think the message is that God treats all people the same, even though they are not the same but different. Last time I looked, I was still male and not female. Personally I can sympathise with transgender people as being gay I can understand not always feeling ‘normal’. Yet I think God calls all of us to live in His identity, which is a child of God.

  9. Thank you Ian and colleagues for your leadership and initiative on this matter. When the guidance came out I honestly wondered if it was some kind of spoof or satire. It read like something out of Private Eye. What a shock to learn that it was actual news and not fake news.

    My bishop has repeated the “it’s entirely optional” and “it doesn’t change doctrine” lines in a recent ad clerum. I am meeting with him soon to explain why his words fail to reassure. The post above is very helpful. Praying the open letter attracts many more signatories and leads to a rethink and decisive change of direction.

  10. When invited by Church Society to sign the open letter I responded as follows to Lee Gatiss:
    “Dear Lee
    I support all that you and Church Society are doing in the defense and proclamation of the Gospel but I hope you don’t mind if I make a candid observation: Your invitation to sign up is to an open letter that ‘A number of us’ have put together. A blind spot in your approach is that there is no easy way to explore and discuss what ‘The rest of us’ might think should be in an open letter to the House of Bishops and indeed to all ordained persons. Deeper and wider that the same-sex disagreement (important though that is) is what I think (I would be humbled but glad to be proved wrong) is the most serious disagreement of all: that only a minority of ordained ministers in the CofE believe and preach the terrible truths that we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards and are born with a nature inclined to evil. As I keep on saying, the time has surely come that an open letter should be sent to all ministers challenging them to say whether they do believe and preach these truths alongside the wonderful invitation to submit to Christ in his atoning blood and life-giving resurrection and so be delivered from that wrath and condemnation and brought into a new and life-giving relationship with God. I would welcome a discussion forum to explore whether there is any support for such a challenge.
    Phil Almond”

    • Philip – I have long thought your repeated provocation on this is right and proper. These themes are seldom spoken about, even in so called evangelical contexts, yet the Biblical doctrines of sin and the fall and how such has every part of God’s good creation touches on most of the topics we debate here. Nothing is quite as God intended because of sin & the fall is a necessary starting place for all ethical reflection and, far from leading to judgment as some fear, leads I think to comprehension & compassion. Adam has a lot to answer for.

        • Philip Almond,
          The Fall is crucial to understanding all that is going on in the world and the church., and its affect on fallen sexuality. And crucial for the Good News need for the “promised seed”, the last Adam, Jesus Christ and a new humanity in him.
          This point needs to be pressed home. Dead in our trespasses and sins, or alive in Christ. We need new Spirit- breathed life in Christ.

          • Geoff
            Thanks. How to press the point home? An open letter? Perhaps Ian could be persuaded to start a thread on the committments made by those who have made the Declaration of Assent?
            Phil Almond

          • Hello Philip,
            Don’t think I can help with this, as I am but lay and half in half out of Anglicanism, at present.
            I’ve commented on another thread on the integrity of vow, assent making by the clergy, but there are those of deeply liberal persuasion who can/will not voice, say, the Nicene creed with committed belief. This is the last comment I made to Adrew Lloyd in relation to the bdlily resurrection of Jesus, blog post of Ian:
            “A belated response to your comment to me above:
            1 You have failed to answer the particular points of substance, set out your beliefs, your god, the Trinity, your testimony of conversion, the Good News of Jesus Christ, let alone the quotations relating to form/redactor critics and responded in a slightly puerile, miffed, high-handed way to the whole CS Lewis essay: a man whose intellect and testimony “Surprised by Joy” in your estimation falls far below yours.

            2 I’ll give this from CS Lewis in response: “The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing up nature with Him. It is precisely on great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left.” (God in the Dock)
            3 You argue that it doesn’t really matter whether Jesus was physically resurrected. You are wrong. This is from Francis Schaeffer:

            “The Bible says that Christ rose physically from the dead, that if you had been there that day, you would have seen Christ stand up and walk away in a space-time, observable situation of true history. The materialist says, “no, I don’t believe it. Christ was not raised from the dead.” That is unbelief. Liberal theology is also unbelief because it says either that Jesus was not raised from the dead in history, or maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t because who knows what’s going to happen in this world in which you can’t be sure of anything. The historic resurrection of Christ doesn’t really matter, says this theology; what matters is that the church got a big push from thinking he was raised in history… Now I would say that the old liberalism, the new liberalism, and materialism are basically the same. To all of them finally the same word applies: UNBELIEF.” (Complete Works of Francis A. Shaeffer.)

            4 And this:

            “The chief modern rival of Christianity is “liberalism.” An examination of the teachings of liberalism in comparison with those of Christianity will show that at every point the two movements are in direct opposition.

            The many varieties of modern liberal religion are rooted in naturalism–that is, in the denial of any entrance of the creative power of God (as distinguished from the ordinary course of nature) in connection with the origin of Christianity.

            Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity–liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man’s will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God.

            It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men.” Gresham Machen “Christianity and Liberalism”.

            5 Yesterday, at an Anglican Communion service we all said the Nicene Creed together. From all you have written, it doesn’t seem likely that you could affirm the truths therein with any integrity of belief. There indeed would be no true communion, in relation to the elements or commonality of belief, a unity in Christ, a unity in the Holy Spirit.”
            And on another blog post a comment I made on integrity of vows/assent on ordination drew a comment from Andrew Godsall who would not deign to answer my questions, probing his beliefs.
            To me this all goes to the roots of all of this…. starting with the reality of the Fall. Surely, although you seem to be a lone or rare voice in this,(which I’ve noticed in the 12-18 months I’ve visited this site) there are others such as Gatiss, who are reformed in their Christian theology adhering to the thoroughly great Good News of Jesus Christ. Obviously it is Ian Paul’s blog and only he can answer.

  11. I thought I would look up what commentary on the reaffirmation service. I found:
    I hope it is OK to include the whole of the section on ‘Affirmation of Baptismal Faith’:

    “The tradition that confirmation is unrepeatable and normally administered in adolescence to those baptized in infancy has meant that significant developments in people’s subsequent growth in faith go unmarked in the public life of the Church. Other Anglican churches, and also the British Joint Liturgical Group, have made liturgical provision for some of these moments. These are reflected in new provision for a public Affirmation of Baptismal Faith. Many people make an important step of personal commitment after they have been baptized and confirmed, and feel the need for God’s grace to be acknowledged before the Church. The form prescribed gives opportunity for this to take place in public worship and relates the person’s new commitment to the grace of God pledged to them in their past baptism. This form may be used at a service led by the bishop or as part of the regular worship of a parish.

    This provision responds to requests for more vivid recognition of post-baptismal experiences of personal renewal and commitment. It draws on examples found elsewhere in the Anglican Communion as well as in significant ecumenical material. The possibility of candidates signing themselves with water from the font or being sprinkled with water by the bishop or president picks up practices common in some sections of the Church and enables a stronger ritual sign to be used without giving any appearance of a second baptism. If candidates use significant amounts of water with which to sign themselves (or even dip themselves), it is important to remember that however significant for the person, this is a personal reminder of the baptism that has already taken place, and that no words are used. ”

    I struggle to find anything in here which can be related specifically to the new status and name of someone who has transitioned. Rather, the emphasis is that this affirmation relates firmly and specifically to the persons original (and sole) baptism, being a repetition of the commitments which were made then.

  12. It is difficult, isn’t it, to love someone very different to ourselves? Jesus addressed that in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

    It is very hard too to see in ourselves the priest and Levite who walked by. At our most hopeful we see ourselves as the Samaritan.

    The thing is, the Samaritan wasn’t passive. He did something to succour the pain of the other traveller. He could have walked by, could have argued that he had irreconcilable philosophical differences with the Jew who needed succour. But he didn’t. He gave freely according to the needs of the Jew.

    That’s what loving a neighbour means.

    • Yes, it is difficult. That is why it is important that the letter includes the unreserved commitment to welcome everyone.

      But the difficulty here is perhaps illustrated but the vitriolic response to the letter from Rosie Harper on the Via Media blog. She does appear to be struggling to love those who hold different views from hers.

      • A perhaps more gentil response is from Tina Beardsley on the same site.

        Your website and its commenters can elicit a response in kind though. Maybe it’s worth reflecting on your use of language and how you keep on provoking and bullying people?

          • Maybe check out the Wikipedia definition of bullying? It talks about intimidation and habitual behaviour and bullying done by a group. You regularly write negative articles about LGBT people and then let the usual commenters pile on in saying awful things about us. You do this again and again and again. Maybe you should try writing a kind article about us?

  13. Here are the facts of the matter.
    Justin Welby doesn’t care what evangelicals, conservative or “open”, think. You can say what you like – but he isn’t going to change. HTB (with early morning glossolalia) was the flag under which he sailed into Lambeth, and along with a couple of appearances at New Wine, he took evangelicals for a ride.
    Welby and the bishops he has promoted have made it patently clear they are not for turning.
    Liverpool, Manchester and Oxford are intent on following the TEC line, only doing so by creating “facts on the ground”.
    The appointment of a new Archdeacon to the Isle of Wight who is welcomed along with his civil partner is the latest appointment following a numerous of partnered Cathedral Deans. Welby has also – very discreetly – appointed two partnered homosexual bishops, one a man, the other a woman. Of course all this was kept under wraps. (I will say nothing here about the shocking Bell affair, but that is part and parcel with his modus operandi.)
    So let’s be honest. There are only two ways to deal with them. Polite pleas cut no ice.
    If you have ANY hope of maintaining biblical orthodoxy in the Church of England you must do the following:
    – announce that you are appointing godly faithful bishops in their place.
    – STOP PAYING them.
    Then you will get a very quick response.

  14. Brian,
    Looking through the list of signatories of the letter, I find quite a few names of those who are in the general area of HTB and New Wine. If some names from that nexus are not there, perhaps they have been too busy doing church/kingdom work to have heard of this letter and the possibility of signing.

    Also, I do wonder the extent to which ++Justin has control over the appointment of bishops. CEO of the Canterbury province he is not, merely primus inter pares. It is the Queen who appoints bishops, and for diocesean posts she does this on the recommendation of the Crown Nominations Committee received via the Prime Minister. The CNC for the vacancy has 15 voting members, with the two archbishops simply being two of these, and neither holds the chair.

    The appointment of suffragan bishops is done by the diocese itself. It does seem that the archbishop of the province should ‘concur’. However, the main criterion for this seems to be that the appropriate procedures have been followed. It is not clear that the archbishop can veto on tholeogical grounds.

    (I might also comment that your jibe about glossolalia does not sit that well alongside the promotion of biblical orthodoxy. Within the pages of Scripture we find St Paul himself commends the practice!)

    • David, nobody becomes a bishop without Welby’s assent. He is rebuilding the senior leadership of the Church of England in a basically progressive (so-called) way. All his signals and appointments point that way. The slandering of George Bell and the appointment of John Shepherd are part of this. You now have a church with numerous partnered gay deans, gay archdeacons and two openly partnered gay bishops- to say nothing of the reality in the leadership of the St Wilfrid’s Society. My reference to glossolalia was alluding to Welby making a thing of it in his Premier Radio piece – really a shout out to New Wine to say “Support me – I’m one of yours” – which he isn’t. Welby is taking charismatics for a ride.

      • Brian,
        nobody becomes a bishop without Welby’s assent.
        If you can point me to some evidence in the procedures that the ABC has a veto on the appointment of diocesean bishops and any say in the appointment of suffragans in the Province of York then I will defer to your greater knowledge.

        (Also, I don’t think the ABC has much input into the appointment of cathedral deans or archdeacons).

        Welby is taking charismatics for a ride.

        Then why did you not include charismatics in the evangelicals to whom Welby pays no heed?

        (I’m not sure this discussion is actually helpful to the matter in hand. How are we as a Church to show towards ‘trans’ people the understanding and compassion which Simon refers to above, in a way which is consistent with a biblical anthropology? The bishops have failed to do so. However, personal criticism and threats do nothing, rather they tend to show the Church as divided but also uncaring.)

    • David you write ‘If some names from that nexus are not there, perhaps they have been too busy doing church/kingdom work to have heard of this letter and the possibility of signing.’
      Are you implying that the signatories are not busy doing church/kingdom work?

      • Simon,
        I’m sorry if I gave that impression! I meant nothing more that in order to have signed the letter one would have had to have known that one could (still) sign the letter. I suspect that some groups would have sent an email around saying “sign this”. But if one did not get such an email, and was too busy to spend time looking at blogs such at this, then one might not know that signing it is still an option.

  15. Can I suggest the response from Tina Beardsley to this letter to the Bishops needs careful reading here.
    She raises very serious questions about it.
    ‘A Trans Priest’s Response to the “Harmful” Open Letter’.

    • David, Geoff
      As I see it The Fall and its consequences are the basic terrible facts of the human condition. Agreement on the fact of the Fall and agreement about its consequences, both spiritual and physical, are essential prerequisites to a discussion/disagreement on most topics on this website.
      Would you both like to give your views on what those consequences are, or do you want to start this discussion by me giving my views?
      Phil Almond

    • Philip,
      1. As you are aware, the Beardsley article does not gainsay the point you are making.
      2. (Neither does it address the inception of reception of trans into the CoE through a new liturgical baptismal-derived service – the main point of the letter.)
      3. Certain theological scholarship presuppositions may, however, do so, to such an extent the Fall is a known unknown, or an unknown known (as in, there is no understanding of what is meant) or is expunged.
      4. And the point you are making, from memory, seems to have been ignored in David Runcorn’s earlier attempt to advocate for a scriptural warrant for the position he espouses.

    • David, Geoff
      On reflection:
      On the thread ‘Is the Bishops’ policy on civil partnerships sustainable’ I made a post on November 6 2018 which sets out my view of some of the consequences of the Fall. This was challenged by Penelope Cowell Doe and in reply I invited Penelope to give her views on the results of the Fall. In a later post she promised to do that in due course. If you want, subject to Ian’s agreement, we could continue discussion at that point in that thread?
      Phil Almond

      • Hello Phil,
        I’ve returned to read your comment on 6 Nov. It would be interesting to have PCD’s comments on the Fall and the Fall-out and enjoin any discussion from that point. It is a large topic – the fallen human condition and creation.
        In the context of this present topic, I wonder how many trans people subscribe to the doctrine of the Fall and find their true identity either in Adam (1) or in the last Adam (2)and in either case would not require a new liturgical service for sexual identity. In the first instance (1) there would be no true change of primary identity, notwithstanding gender change. In the second instance (2) there would be no change in primary identity either, which would necessitate a new liturgical service.

  16. Phil I posted a link to Tina Beardsley’s article and invited comment. It is significant because until this point no trans voice has been included in this discussion. Meanwhile a large number of people have been presuming to speak for or about them and to assert what is right and good/right for them. [Which makes the line in the letter to the bishops appealing to the principle of ‘not talking about us without talking to us’ the more staggering. Talking ‘about’ is exactly what this letter has done with regard to trans people.]
    You do not seem interested in commenting on the article. But I note a discussion is opening on the via media thread (including some contributors from here). That is that I am interested in so if you don’t mind I will stay with that.

  17. Hi David

    I read Tina Beardsley’s article and do not see that it added anything new & insightful that would modify anything in the letter to HOB.

    Your point is surely right that we must ‘talk with’ and not presume to ‘talk about’ Trans people.
    You are surely wrong if you presume those who wrote or signed the letter have not done so.

    Do you not think that the letter’s signatories will have been personally involved pastorally with people with gender dysphoria and who in today’s society could have failed to read, reflect, engage, discuss such matters? I have friends and family in the LGBQT community including Trans. I have listened and prayed and indeed cried with them. I signed the letter, conscious of them and how they might perceive it. Most do not agree with my theology and ethics (though most once subscribed to the same) but few would want to circumscribe my integrity and theology and freedom to express such.

    I fear your line of reasoning whilst rightly wanting to give voice to trans people, subtly negates the voice of 1000 priests who signed the letter in good Christian conscience.

    • Hi Simon
      Really struggling with your response here.
      Wanting to give more voice to trans people is what it says it – not a subtle way of negating anyone else’s voice – least of a 1000 priests who don’t agree with them. This is about trans people. It is trans voices that are absent from this letter not the other way round. They need to be in the room. The approach here appals me. Not least because this was supported by a massive majority in General Synod – not, as implied, a small ideological pressure group bending the ears of the bishops.
      I have made no claim that all those who signed have first hand pastoral knowledge of trans people. Nor can you. I am sure some, like you, have. But the letter made a number of more general points. 1-3 could be supported by people without requiring any firsthand pastoral knowledge. People sign for different reasons.
      But this line really took my breath away: “I read Tina Beardsley’s article and do not see that it added anything new & insightful that would modify anything in the letter to HOB.” Simon, it was a thorough-going, highly informed, sharp critique by someone on the inside of this debate. But you think she adds nothing ‘new or insightful’? But of course how would she know better than you or I or a 1000 priests?

      • Tina’s letter added nothing ‘new and insightful’ to those who have read, reflected and sat with Trans people over many years. Of course the testimony of Trans persons must be heard in the church, however those stories (however pained) in and of themselves do not per se have more say than the tradition. I did not think Tina’s letter was as you saw it a ‘thorough-going, highly informed, sharp critique’ – but I realise we read through our own lenses. I certainly am not wanting to silence Tina’s voice, but I certainly think many wish to silence those who wrote/signed the letter David. I suspect that’s why I suspect you criticise it, would rather it were not written and exhort us instead to heed Tina’s letter. Your reply ends with a sarcasm that is unbecoming of you.

    • The link to atheist cultural Marxist agitprop tells us all we need to know and further explains why the Church of England is going down the toilet, following the Church of Sweden, Tec, and liberal Protestantism generally. What I didn’t anticipate in my early days as a Christian was that self-described “evangelicals ” (like Gerry Adams ‘ “cafeteria Catholics”) would be the ones pulling the chain.

        • Pretty much OK as any sinner can be, How about you sweetie? Or has making ad hominem attacks taking the place of rational discourse? Or even to reading carefully. The “survey” is cultural Marxist agitprop. If you don’t know what cultural Marxism is, I haven’t the time to explain. But do be politer in future, please.

          • Brian I was actually trying to offer a balance here to the fascist, evangelical fundamentalist, Zionist-vegan dominated views on this discussion thread. (note to self David – do remind readers this is a joke).
            Your repeated claims about cultural Marxism here are complete nonsense of course – but when it comes to rudeness …..

          • “….Brian I was actually trying to offer a balance here to the fascist, evangelical fundamentalist, Zionist-vegan dominated views on this discussion thread. (note to self David – do remind readers this is a joke).”


          • Brian
            I still don’t understand. A survey conducted by a reputable university is cultural Marxism? Why? Maybe because you don’t like its finding about transgender people having good outcomes.
            On the other hand, the letter to the bishops contains one glaring inaccuracy. The percentage given of ‘true’ intersex individuals. This was a survey based only on genitalia, and did not include all instances. No clinician uses this figure nowadays. Would you say this matters. If not, might it be because you agree with the letters premises and intention?
            And, are you OK hun is not an ad hom!

          • It’s common practice for federal bureaucrats to design and then publicize biased studies to promote their preferred policy. We outlined this practice in our new book, Deconstructing the Administrative State: The Fight for Liberty. The process is simple: (1) issue requests for research proposals slanted in favor of a particular outcome, (2) fund studies that reach the expected conclusions, and (3) cite that research in subsequent studies to claim that a “growing body of evidence” favors the preferred policy.

            These techniques are now being deployed in a new area: treatment for gender dysphoria. Dr. Quentin Van Meter, an Atlanta pediatric endocrinologist with extensive experience in the science of gender dysphoria who trained at Johns Hopkins Hospital, states flatly that there is “zero point zero zero” evidence that the concepts of gender fluidity and gender identity have any scientific basis. But it takes a courageous physician to risk opprobrium and accusations of insufficient compassion by rejecting the new dogma.

            Some doctors forge ahead with this “compassionate” (read: lucrative) care, but others are more cautious; they would welcome research into the physical and psychological effects of the “affirmation” therapy advocated by LGBT activists. Specifically, there is a clear need for research into the safety and efficacy of puberty-suppressing drugs and cross-sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) administered to children and adolescents suffering from the mental illness of gender dysphoria. So the federal government, via the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is stepping in, funding a $5.7 million longitudinal study of kids who are treated with such therapies.

            Unfortunately, multiple aspects of this study indicate that it is intended to produce evidence supporting a particular conclusion: that transgender affirmation therapy is safe and effective for gender-dysphoric youngsters. And once the federal government speaks, states and other institutions will fall in line.


          • Penelope – so many of these studies are biased in purpose, design and interpretation. That has been well-established. Almost none are random controlled trials and therefore are little better than anecdote. Simply providing links to large numbers of studies sadly proves nothing these days.

          • Will

            All studies are biased? Especially if you don’t agree with their findings?
            I find it so amusing that studies of various kinds are always being batted around on this blog. Interesting too that the letter, of which you approve, says that the notion of gender transition is highly contested. Is it? By whom and in which studies?

          • So you have adopted the position Penelope that studies are NOT biased if you happen to agree with their conclusion. Where do you think your argument is even leading?

    • David don’t forget that we’re still waiting to hear your scriptural justification for regarding pre-marital sex as part of ‘honest, moral living’.

      Also, the biblical scholars you’re relying on for your assertions about the original meaning of biblical texts relating to same-sex sex, ideally with a brief summary of their arguments for why they feel justified in setting aside the consensus of all the leading scholars in the field.

      • Will ‘We are still waiting’. You are not actually. After engaging very fully with you I told you I was withdrawing from the debate here.

        • How is withdrawing from a discussion instead of answering the key questions ‘engaging very fully’? It invites the suspicion that you do not have a biblical argument for your position deeming premarital sex part of honest moral living, or that you are not in a position to summarise the arguments of the biblical scholars you are relying on for your claims about the original meaning of key texts.

  18. I may have missed this but who exactly actually wrote the letter to the bishops. Who is this ‘group of people from across the traditions’. Wh is the letter not actually signed by anyone?

    • David, in case you hadn’t noticed, the letter has been signed by 2,750 people, including 1,000 licensed clergy. They come from open evangelical, catholic, conservative, charismatic and central traditions in the Church.

    • Actually you didn’t: you wrote ‘Why is the letter not actually signed by anyone?’ It is: signed by nearly 3,000.

      The letter captures a wide range of concerns that had been expressed, and was drawn together by a group from across the traditions of the Church. Given the contentious nature of this subject (so that very many people are unwilling to ‘put their head above the parapet’) it is remarkable how many have been prepared to add their names.

      The letter clearly articulates a very widely-felt set of profound concerns about this poorly-conceived move, issued in the name of (though without the proper consideration by) the House of Bishops.

  19. Come on Ian – ‘who exactly actually wrote the letter to the bishops’ is surely clear enough? You are sounding evasive.

    • I am not being evasive; I am just focussing on what matters. The important things are the substantive issues raised in the text (to which no real response has been offered) and that fact that there is very widespread support across the Church to ask the bishops to think again–and this time think more carefully.

      • Exactly Ian – this is not a letter from an author(s) – it is a letter from the concerned church at episcopal push on theologically & pastorally ill considered liturgical developments being rushed through and pushed on us. Already over 1000 serving ordained clergy across the traditions, representing 10% of the clergy have signed, and most clergy other may not even have heard of the letter and many will/would sign if/when they do.

        • Simon I have read the letter. I clearly hear the levels of concern too – though the points in the letter are very wide ranging (as Ian notes), so without knowing more, I think the actual concerns may be quite wide ranging too.
          Meanwhile so much for ‘this is not about numbers’. Numbers are being highly stressed here all the time.
          As to my actual question:
          ‘this is not a letter from an author(s)’ – well it didn’t write itself Simon! Of course it is by authors who have put it out publicly effectively saying – ‘We have written a letter about an issue we are very concerned about, please join us by signing it if you agree’.
          All I am asking is who actually wrote it? Who is responsible and accountable for the initiative and content? No reply so far.
          Throughout my working life I have made a point of not responding to anonymous letters. So even if I agreed with this letter I would not have signed it without first seeking more transparency.

          • David… I agree about not responding to anonymous letters but, while it doesn’t disclose the authors, it’s clearly not anonymous. I don’t think for one moment that they (and it’ll be more than one pen) are not among the signatories. Was the HoB document anonymous? Who penned that? They didn’t all come up individually with an exact same script…

            I can’t see that it matters and merely distracts from the substance of the issue or (I’m not accusing you) or facilitating playing the “man” not the ball.

            I can’t get my head around (whoever in) the HoB thinking that this was an uncontentious response to the issue raised at Synod. Some of them seem *incapable* of taking the temperature… this is a really damaging approach. It’s supremely clear and was always, that this is hugely contentious…

            In a commercial organisation this would be classified as a management failure. Bishops heads rarely roll. I can only recall one resigning from his post and it was one that should never have been accepted.

          • Hi Ian Thanks for this

            I am clear the letter has tapped in to anxieties that need responding too. In that respect it is a helpful initiative. There is no distracting from that – nor do I wish too (though whether some here believe that ….).
            The guidelines it is responding to are plainly not anonymous. They come from the House of Bishops. This letter knew precisely who to address its concerns too. I know who I can write to if I choose. Synod too can challenge and debate. They are accountable.
            The quality of the guidelines is important – but a separate issue here.
            But if, as is the case here, there are aspects of the content on the letter that need challenging, correcting or that I wish to discuss further – well there is no one to take it to and discuss it with. It is not accountable. No one has taken responsibility for what is written.
            I am not playing the man not the ball. Rather, if you like, a large ball has arrived on the pitch from somewhere and no one has turned up to have a game with …
            Ian tells us the authors are ‘a group of people from across the traditions of the Church ‘. Well there would surely be every advantage in their names being public at this point. It would strengthen the case being made. (Simon’s defensiveness simply baffles me at this point). I am genuinely puzzled at this evasion. I am also suggesting there is a basic principle here. I don’t think this models well how Christians do business ‘in the light’.

            Well I have made my case. I suspect I am clearly not going to get an answer. I hope this is followed up well. Happy to leave it.

          • David

            Letters like this, signed by numerous people, rarely say who drafted them since that would detract from the idea of the initiative which is to be not such and such’s letter which others have then associated themselves with but a letter from a whole group of people who all share its concerns. Anonymity of drafters takes personalities out of it and makes it about substantive issues and those who are concerned about them.

            Your comparison with the HoB is not right because the HoB is a powerful corporate body capable of taking formal concerted action whereas this is a large informal group attempting to express itself directly. The identity of the drafters would not aid this process but rather would likely hinder it.

            In terms of you responding, it is a public letter so a public response would seem appropriate.

          • Will ‘Letters like this, signed by numerous people, rarely say who drafted them’. Perhaps you give me some examples please?

          • Any letter to a national newspaper for example signed by a large group of people. The draft has been passed around but the original drafters are not publicly identified as that would detract from the idea of it being a letter from all the signatories.

          • Will Give me an actual example. You presumably know some? In my experience they are always signed. Where they are not the editor has agreed to anonymity and notes a reason for their remaining unnamed. And this is not a letter to a newspaper which comes under some form of editorial control.

          • David it’s not clear what you are criticising here. Those sixty people are the signatories. This letter also has signatories. Above you appeared to want to know who had drafted it so you could write to them to respond. That information is similarly lacking here – in both you have multiple signatories but no drafters. Who would you write to to respond in this example?

            It really isn’t clear what you are saying is a problem, or what the critical difference is between this letter and other similar open letters with multiple signatories and anonymous drafters.

          • Will The example you give is not a petition at all. The signatories were clearly the co-authors of the letter. Any other examples?

          • David both are letters, neither is a petition. What do you mean by ‘clearly the co-authors of the letter’? All 60 didn’t draft it. It would have been drafted and passed round for them to sign. The only real difference here is the number of signatories. In both cases the drafters are anonymous.

            I’m still unclear what you are finding problematic. Is it the number of signatories?

          • Will One last go …. A group of people drafted the letter to the House of Bishops but chose to hide their identity. In the example you have given those involved in drafting the letter have plainly signed it. It went public as a signed document. The letter to HofBs went out unsigned seeking signatories from those not involved in its drafting.
            But we are not going to agree. I am as stubborn as you. And I’m sure you have a day job as I do …

          • But David, you have no idea how many of those 60 were involved in drafting the letter, and it is most unlikely to be all of them or even many of them.

            I think perhaps this point about being closed or open to signatories once public is the crux of your point? It is worth bearing in mind that the letter was intended by the drafters to remain private among signatories until the week before Synod, gaining signatures without being public. Unfortunately it was (perhaps inevitably) leaked to the press. So it is true that signatories after that point could not have been involved in drafting it, which is a difference. But all who signed it before it became public could, like the 60 of the other letter, potentially have been involved in drafting. I still don’t see what the substantive point is that is exercising you and making you feel that some important principle of transparency normally observed is being neglected. Is there an upper limit to the number of acceptable signatories before a letter becomes a petition? Must it be closed to new signatories once public?

          • ‘A group of people drafted the letter to the House of Bishops but chose to hide their identity.’ Not true at all. See my comment below as a reply to your earlier one. No-one here is hiding from anything.

  20. Ian It is a simple question. Who wrote the letter? That is to ask -who is actually accountable and responsible for its content and the process of promoting it publicly? Who, if I wished to engage with it is content, should I write too? Is that really so difficult? You commend people who bravely ‘put their head above the parapet’ by signing – but the authors remain hidden.

    In one respect the letter is misleading. The bishops issued these guidelines precisely because they have ‘listened’ and ‘responded’ to a thorough debate and overwhelming majority vote in the General Synod on this issue. That debate was led by (generally conservative) Blackburn diocese who had first debated it carefully among themselves. So I was concerned to in the Guardian, on the launch of this letter, that ‘one member of the archbishops’ council, the Rev Ian Paul, suggested church leaders were “allowing themselves to be hijacked by these very small special interest groups”. This is a complete distortion of the facts.

    • It seems wise for the author(s) not to be named – were it to be so it could be naysay’ed as being a merely letter from so & so. By not naming the author(s) it cannot be dismissed so lightly, ad hominem. It puts the focus on the content & number of signatories – several thousand concerned church leaders.

    • David, thanks for continuing to engage–but none of the things you say is true.

      Those who initiated the letter are not ‘hiding’; they have signed, in public. In the version published in the Sunday Times, myself, Edward Dowler, Rachel Marszalek and David Baker headed the list of now nearly 3,000 signatories. You will also have noticed that some of the concerns were first set out in my blog post in December; Edward expressed his concerns in the Church Times; Rachel was on Radio 4’s Sunday; and David wrote about it at Christian Today. So any of us would happily engage in conversation.

      On the process, the debate was not at all thorough, as I noted at the time. It was highly emotionally charged, and theological preparation and content in the debate were entirely lacking. Many in Synod privately admit it should never have been brought in the form it was. The wording was ‘weasely’, in that it didn’t ask for anything at all to be produced, merely that the bishops should ‘consider whether’ any liturgy should be produced. They decided it should not; but then they did. The motion only came because the Bishop of Blackburn judged he should not use his veto because the issue was so emotionally charged. And in the debate, Chris Newlines justified the need because of someone who had transitioned who thought God ‘might not now know him by his new name’.

      The proposals were drawn up by Robert Attwell, a long-term friend of Tina Beardsley, without full consultation with the Lit Comm, and when they did see it, it was not circulated in advance, but tabled and removed, in between the group being told it was a ‘done deal’. It was then not considered at all by the House of Bishops in their meeting. That looks very much like a hi-jack–and it is certainly a multiple failure of process. If I had been involved in any of those meetings, I would certainly have called ‘foul’.

      If you weren’t aware of all these facts, I am not sure on what grounds you could claim ‘distortion’.

      • Greeting Ian. I am sorry you feel you have wasted your money on Lings. Well we don’t all drink from the same well. I too have ended up with some odd stuff on my shelves by following other’s reading lists.
        I don’t find your summary of his approach entirely even handed. I do not follow everywhere he goes. But his approach via to the texts translations I found helpful and relevant in this context alongside the range of other standard studies.
        ‘He has an agenda’. And who doesn’t here Ian? But it is always loaded way of speaking of the convictions of others we disagree with.

        ‘So I remain rather curious as to why you point to his work as offering us insight?’
        Well Ian that would be because I found insight in his work.

        • Except David in recommending it you said:
          The most exhaustive view of the range of views that I know of is:
          Renato Lings Love lost in Translation – homosexuality and the bible (2013 780 pages).
          I think that is all I can offer at this point here.

          That made it sound like some kind of authoritative overview of scholarship that would support your assertions about the original meaning of the texts. I’m still yet to be pointed to a biblical scholar who supports your view on the original meaning.

          • David by ‘stop digging’ you appear to mean something like ‘stop asking me to give the biblical scholars I am relying on for my reading of the texts and their arguments for why they dissent from the scholarly consensus’. I don’t really see why this is such an unreasonable request given you are a high profile proponent of an affirming position and, in support of that, frequently state your reading of the original meaning of the texts as though it is uncontroverted fact. Instead of talking in code and then promising silence, why not just give a straightforward answer to a legitimate question?

          • Will More out of curiosity than anything else …
            what is it about these words:
            ‘withdrawing from the debate here’
            that you don’t get?

          • I understand what withdrawing from the debate means and you are naturally entitled to do so but it doesn’t remove the importance of the question and its answer. Should you decide to return to the debate at some point I continue to be interested in the answer.

            Does this mean you will also be refraining from any further claims about the original meaning of biblical texts that you are not prepared to defend in debate?

        • David, am I getting you right here? Are you commending an approach that proceeds by comparing translations? Any scholar or half-scholar would laugh at that. The reason is that without going back to the original language text at all, any judgment one made would not be worth a lot.

          But from what Ian said, it is considerably worse even than that. The way he chooses between translations is according to whether they fit his own ideology!! A self-centred consideration, and also one that has nothing at all to do with the main point of whether the translation is accurate or not.

          He also wants John to reflect an erastos/eromenos situation??

          It is no good saying we drink from different wells if one of the wells is scholarly and the other is not. We all know people drink from different wells. How logical is it to assume the wells are equally good? Is it likely that they would be?

          • Christopher

            ‘Am I getting you right here?’
            No you are not.
            Nor Ling’s study method either.

            I refer you back to how I actually described the book – quote by Will above.
            But I will not be discussing further here.

          • Christopher

            Interesting that so many people, scholars and otherwise, still write about ‘homosexuality’ in scripture, although that word did not appear in any English translation until the 1940s. All translation is interpretation.

          • David, I (and not I alone) have often come across the ‘get out of discussion rather than show capability of addressing points raised’ move; not to engage is to concede.

            If I am not getting you right, then you need only to say wherein I am not getting you right. You seemed to be commending an approach that proceeded by comparing translations. If you are not, say wherein you are not.

          • Penelope, we are talking about whether something real is spoken about in a text not whether a verbal concept is in the text. The reality ‘Trinity’ is in the NT but the word ‘Trinity’ is not. Likewise with ‘homosexuality’. Likewise with many other things.

            However, the biblical writers are not compelled to agree with the idea that things should be classified as orientations. Much of the science today questions the very idea of fixed orientation (apart from the orientation already written in by biology), so the Bible seems on the right tack there. Scientific analysis is in terms of what cannot so easily be denied, namely actual behaviour. So the Bible and science agree in emphasising the realities of behaviour over claims of orientation. The former are a more measurable and scientific matter, where truth is more easily come by.

          • Christopher

            What is it you do not get about in this statement?
            ‘I refer you back to how I actually described the book – quote by Will above.
            But I will not be discussing further here.’

          • No Christopher. The trinity is eternal, immutable. Christians see trinitarian patterns in scripture because we believe in a God who is revealed as triune.
            But, as you have said, the concept of homosexuality is mutable. Science and social science do not agree on whether orientation is fixed or changeable.
            So, scripture can hardly reflect something which is so culturally and ‘biologically’ contingent.
            You can’t claim the hat the Bible condemns homosexuality and then say that homosexuality doesn’t exist!

          • David, I never said I didn’t understand the words (unless you can find a place where I said that?). The words are plain English. But the implication of the words is that people are allowed suddenly to stop debating as soon as they could be in danger of falling behind. Is that how people interested in finding the truth operate?

          • ‘Science and social science do not agree on whether orientation is fixed or changeable’?

            Point me then to any science that says that orientation (orientation period) ‘is fixed’, period.

          • What you say on the Trinity, Penny, is assertion. The Trinity is, on the contrary, a very controversial topic, on which debate is rightly plentiful.

      • Ian

        Sorry – my response to you on Lings went in the wrong place.

        Thank you for revealing the names of the ‘group of people from across the traditions of the Church’ who actually drafted the letter. And yes, I not have missed how many others have signed it. I have also acknowledged it has tapped into real concerns that need responding too.

        I also criticised the letter and its publicity for not making clear that it was the outcome of a proper synodical debate and decision making process. The HofB were doing what they had been asked to do. I stand by that. That is no comment on the quality of debate itself or of the guidelines that emerged. But a democratic process was followed. And that is very different from claiming that bishops have been ‘hijacked by these very small special interest groups’. That is where I would use the word ‘distortion’. You misrepresent my point here.

        At the time of the debate I followed it closely. I also talked to a number of people who were part of it and of the related processes. I simply note here that your take on it here is only one interpretation of several. The rest of your post, and its claims, is heavily based on insider information and I prefer not to go there.

        But thank you again for the names of the authors.

        • I can only reiterate that we must assess arguments piecemeal for their consistency and their conformity to the facts. Secondly, we can take soundings re how a book has been received by the guild (or by such reviewers as go into detail). What we can’t do is say ‘Lings is good/bad’, ‘Gagnon is good/bad’. After all, where a book contains many different arguments, we can all see that such generalisations are sweeping and potentially ideological.

          For someone to write a xhundred-page book invites their ‘advocates’ to crow ‘Author X has written an xhundred page book therefore his perspective is correct’. But maybe that was the plan all along. When Matthew Vines wrote, he knew what he wanted to conclude. Vicky Beeching when first writing about her PhD topic wrote already as though she knew broadly what she was to conclude. This is more the case when the author happens to be among the 1-2% who self-identify as homosexual (and this does often happen) because that seems beyond chance.

          Will is right that you can almost always raise a small amount of doubt about one subtopic; and it is a mere tactic to raise a small amount of doubt about a subtopic and then conclude that the whole topic is therefore up for grabs!

          David R says that everyone has an agenda. That is no different from the imputation that everyone is dishonest. There are signs that one can look for to determine whether or not people are being totally honest. But conscience (which resists lying) and intellectualy integrity are powerful forces working against agendas. Indeed scholars properly so-called view agendas and ideology as the enemy, in whose company they would not be seen dead.

    • David, on a related matter, you recommended in another thread the book ‘Love lost in Translation’ by Renato Lings. So I bought it and read it.

      His methodology is quite odd, in that, rather than studying meaning in the conventional way, he does it through comparing translations. To see how odd this, take his study of a relatively neutral issue, the possible differences between agapao and phileo in the dialogue between Jesus and Peter in John 21. He notes that 13 out of the 14 translations he looks at do not make a distinction–and decides on the basis that the difference is ‘obvious’, that only 1 of these translations is right because it is the only one that agrees with him. What he fails to do is consult any commentaries, explore the use of the words in contemporary Graeco-Roman literature–or even look at the way the two verbs are used earlier in John. If he had done that, he would have realise that the Fourth gospel actually uses the terms interchangeably, which you could discover in five minutes using Accordance or any other electronic text.

      But of course, he has an agenda, and it trying to sexualise the relationship between Jesus and his disciples, and so decides (against all the evidence of the text, context and history of interpretation) that Jesus and the Beloved Disciple are an erastos/eromenos gay pairing.

      For another example, when it comes to interpreting Lev 18.22 and the phrase ‘do not lie with a man the lying of a woman’, he notes that there is disagreement as to whether this is a general prohibition, or whether it might refer to the specific act of anal penetration–and therefore we cannot know what it means and so dismisses it. That is a bit like claiming that, because we cannot specific what precise act is involved in the phrase ‘sleeping with someone’ then the phrase has no actual meaning.

      So I don’t think this is very good scholarship–and it is certainly not the kind of ‘scholarship’ which is likely to influence those wanting to take the texts seriously in the ways that evangelicals do.

      So I remain rather curious as to why you point to his work as offering us insight?

      • Such weaknesses of method being presumably why the book was self-published?

        His main method seems to be introducing doubt – any at all, however tenuous – then using that to dismiss the text entirely or make it mean what he wants it to.

        • Possibly–which also explains the very poor page layout and text. I am tempted to say ‘I wasted my money’, but David cited it as an important source, and it is always worth the effort of understanding the arguments of others.

  21. Washington Post 3.2.19 (USA 2.3.19) reports that practically 2% of grade 9-12 are reporting themselves as ‘transgender’, an astronomical rise, and part of the longer term even more astronomical rise that has been seen over the last 5 years.

    Of these 35% have reported suicidal. Not a misprint. Not a surprise either to those who think that suicidality is connected to mixed-up-ness (in psychology-biology ‘fit’ or otherwise) or to harm done at one’s roots (some kind of uprooting).

    So unless you believe the impossible (that a lot of transgender people are suddenly being born) then they are reporting themselves as such because that is what their culture and adults are telling them is one of the central options.

    The graph of transgender as a topic in culture is precisely the same as the graph of transgender self-claims. Unsurprisingly.

    And either it is doing their psychology fierce harm, or they are the ones who had a harmed psychology in the first place (and the adults are fuelling the fire and stirring up the embers). Or both. The second option reminds us that in teen years in western cultures a certain number are studiedly rebellious, and this is a very fundamental (and therefore delicious) way to rebel which is also often being suggested to them, which unlike other rebellions can gain rewards of respect and funding from adults and institutions. Very tempting.

    So my theory (and why should I or anyone else lie?), and probably the commonsense theory, is that the culture-change gurus and adherents are responsible for the kids’ suicidality. A very serious thing, and they need to stop now.

    • Exactly so. And the Stonewall LGBT activists – aided and abetted by the UK Government – are *extremely active in British schools, setting up groups for kids – or recruiting among troubled teenagers. And since teenagers typically have mixed up feelings in puberty, what better occasion than to tell them they’re “really” homosexual – and to encourage them to act it out? The school are the frontline in the cultural-spiritual war going on today. Don’t expect the Bishops of the Church of England to help.

        • They did. To help prevent gender non conforming and sexually non conforming kids being bullied. Which still happens. All the time.
          And rhetoric about ‘recruiting’ shows how fallen conservative ideology can be. This sort of language has no place in a debate about Christian sexual ethics. This is the not about authentic views honestly felt; it is the language of othering, of demonisation, of slur.

          • Anyone who has worked in any school knows that bullying happens for a variety of reasons and it is virtually never ever about “gender non conforming and sexually non conforming kids”. that is the fundamental problem with the LGBT advocacy from groups like Stonewall who do not have the actual evidence to back up their claims but make the claims anyway.

          • Clive

            I suggest you do some research before making these ridiculous claims.
            And this does not answer my point about hateful rhetoric.

          • It won’t be any surprise that people are bullied for being ‘different’ in some way (e.g. looks, ethnicity, or anything else). The bullies here are requiring the same mindless conformity (to what exactly?) that we are always calling out when we find it among liberal (culturally conformist) Christians.

            Broadly, the following percentages have been found in recent bullying surveys:

            Among schoolchildren, 50+% have experienced bullying about their appearance.

            Bullying for being ‘gay’ etc is experienced by 3%. So it is well down the list. But being self-identified gay etc is a definite minority pursuit, so it is also relevant that of those who do so self-identify, most are bullied to at least some degree.

            Many of those bullied for being ‘gay’ etc are *not*. This means that actual self-identifying gay being bullied as gay is a lower percentage than the 3% quoted.

            As Stonewall reminds us, ‘gay’ has been for a while used as a synonym for ‘rubbish’ in schools. So the term is bandied around rather haphazardly, and if someone uses ‘gay’ disparagingly towards you, this may have no connection with homosexuality.

            Despite all this, there is no other subcategory of bullying that gets its own special attention. This is eccentric (but there are reasons behind it). Had the chosen subcategory been appearance, that would have been understandable.

            The reason for this is that the bullying/suicide narrative is what is constantly being plugged, since that is the Trojan horse that enables entry and then imports the rest of the agenda.

        • Yes! It was just like something out of Animal Farm or 1984 (or do I hear Blackavar from Watership Down bleating ‘The Council were merciful [for not killing me]!’), a Press conference to defer to Stonewall (a non-academic advocacy/pressure/lobby group, which often says the exact opposite compared with Christians). The word appeasement (which since Chamberlain we associate with weakness and perhaps also lack of principle and of heart) has been cited.

          You are so right, Brian. The most utterly hellish aspect of it is that in some circles even friendship seems unknown (maybe because people are taught to act in self-interest) so that when a strong friendship emerges it is sometimes classified as sexual.

          Just like the cynical sexual revolution was about widening the pool of potential sexual partners, so the Stonewall pansexual message is about the removal of the boundaries and definitions that accompany stability (and then creating the expectation that we will have to pick up the pieces from an unnecessary self-caused breakage), which has a similar effect.

  22. Wow! 200 posts on transgender issues in the Church, and as far as I can see, not a single comment is by someone who is trans.

    “A plea to the bishops… please listen and respond.”

    My plea would be for signatories of this letter to listen to the actual views and experiences of trans people, and whether they would find a service of affirmation helpful at the commencement of transition.

    Starting transition is an incredibly vulnerable time for a trans person. They face abuse on the street. They are still racked by the dysphoria arising from incongruent genitalia (and will probably have to live in that no-man’s land for 3 years prior to surgery. They face rejection from family and ‘ghosting’ by friends. They also face distancing and cold stares of unacceptance from more moralistic Christians. They may lose their jobs or face discrimination finding work. When trying to get housing, they may get repeatedly turned down because of prejudice. Because of hostility on the street, some trans people may end up indoors and isolated. Kids on the street may ridicule them. Others spit on them. It is not always as harsh as this for all trans people, but appearance and location can make life desperately vulnerable. I’ve known trans people who’ve been beaten up, and others who have had dog shit posted through their doors. Not all trans people live in comfortable middle class environments. At pub closing times the streets are dangerous for trans people, because of the combination of alcohol and testosterone that makes some young men hostile and aggressive. And because of many of these pressures, the trans individuals themselves may often find themselves suffering from despair and depression, loneliness and abandonment.

    It should be obvious that this is not some facile lifestyle choice, because really, why would anyone choose to inflict these kind of circumstances on themselves unless the dysphoria had made them absolutely desperate?

    And in these contexts, at the incredibly vulnerable outset of transition… for a decent and compassionate church community to stand up and affirm them – by name, and by understood gender – in church, before God… and to say “You are not alone. We value you and respect you. We affirm who you understand yourself to be. We rejoice in your courage to try to be true to who you are”… and “We will journey with you through this journey”…

    …that would have been HUGE for me as a transgender female (well, just female these past 10 years, it being no longer an issue, just my life and my journey with God).

    At that point of isolation and public hostility and many interfaces of loss and stigma, it would have been HUGE for my church to have done that. Or, if there were other family members impacted, to have found a church that would do that.

    I almost despair at the visceral obsession with sex and gender that gets expressed by groups like ‘Christian Concern’ and I think I’m understandably extremely doubtful about the motives of Ian and the handful of friends who he may have consulted in the drafting of the letter to the bishops. Because behind some valid points (yes, other family members who are impacted need as much pastoral support as the transitioner) I strongly suspect there is a deeper and wider vendetta against the actual principle of transition itself: that when it comes down to it, it’s gender transition itself that is the driver for opposition on grounds of dogma.

    In the same way that we hear gay people are ‘welcomed’ and ‘loved’ but their sexual relationships are still condemned and they are supposed to be celibate for life (in other words outright hostility to who they are)… so similarly, words like ‘welcome’ for trans people ring hollow, when the underlying premiss being asserted is that actually trans people are defying God’s creation order, and transition is wrong.

    Research is indeed thin (through lack of care about trans people in the past, and lack of pharmaceutical profit to be made from them). So listen to trans people themselves. The overwhelming majority of trans people would say that their lives are better when they have got through the initial ordeal of transition. That is my experience too. Like most trans women who have undergone surgery (now many years ago) it was part of an amazing and wonderful healing and liberation. The transfer from testosterone to oestrogen was hugely helpful on a psychological (and indeed physical) front. The surgery was a triumph – in appearance, in sensation, but above all in the psychological ease it brought. This was the ultimate test and outcome of transition: psychological ease and happiness after years and tears of torment.

    My transition was 10 years ago. I hardly need to think about it now. I am just living my ordinary life, my more productive life, my happy life. I re-trained as a nurse and have found deep fulfilment in that calling. My spirituality and relationship with God has deepened. Above all, I am a more functional, happy human being. A human with more reserves and energy to love. In God I have felt more whole, more authentic.

    I know, from speaking to probably 300 other trans people, that this is the dominant experience of people who transition IF they get through the initial ordeal. And I truly believe that God and other Christians can rejoice at that. It is not everyone’s journey, but for transgender people it is our lives, and we are not a problem to God, we are not just objects for theological talk over our heads. We just want to get on with ordinary, decent lives.

    I find the opposition and hostility towards transition rather petty-minded and often rooted in dogmatism rather than genuine pastoral concern. I do respect that people can sincerely hold various doctrinal views on issues of sexuality and gender. I want respect for my conscience, so other people’s consciences should be respected too.

    However, I am deeply sceptical about the motives behind this letter to the bishops. From the point of view of trans people, the bishops’ initiative was deeply compassionate and in some cases potentially life-saving. I agree it needs some fleshing out, but that doesn’t convince me that the fundamental motivator for this letter was a kick back against the principle of transition itself. And sadly, I think that plays on ignorance, and prejudice, and pivots people to sign up on specific points, which then add weight to the wider agenda of repudiating gender transition. I could be wrong, but I wasn’t born yesterday.

    I’ve witnessed the wretched hostility towards trans people (and indeed lesbian and gay people) on forums run by Christian Concern and the Christian Institute, organisations that seem totally obsessed by sex and gender, and seem to massage their supporters hysteria with similar articles again and again and again. In a more nuanced way, I suspect the same driving motivation behind some of your articles and this specific ‘letter’ Ian (which I presume you were instrumental in drafting).

    But my point in posting now, after 200 previous posts from cisgendered people, is to say: listen harder to people who are actually transgender. Not just to the exceptional cases where an individual regrets decisions (we all have to take responsibility for our decisions). But listen to what most trans people say, and what the NHS says in experience, and what the GMC says, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and the Law, and all the decent people who have gone out of their way to understand, to educate, to meet trans people, in the Police, in the Army, in Schools. People endorse transition not because they are ‘secular’ or ‘culturally marxist’ but because they are decent and compassionate, and they actually recognise that for those people who are transgender, they can actually lead far better lives because of transition. Decent lives. Not hedonistic ‘lifestyle choices’, but hard choices, yet choices that can lead to greater wholeness, great social productivity, greater love, and a journey with God into everything of who God is and wants to share with us.

    This is our lives. Please listen to us. And accept that the Bishops are not imposing anything on your own consciences. But they are facilitating the consciences and decency of those churches, those PCCs (like my own), those priests who badly want to welcome AND affirm those who are transitioning, AFFIRM their transition choice, AFFIRM and act with solidarity on their journey from ‘burial in the ordeal and storm’ of the beginning, to new life and liberation and love that often happens in the end (and yes, I am using baptismal imagery there). In some senses, gender transition can be an expression of spiritual baptism… the going under… the passing through the storm… and the new beginning. I don’t really care if a Church uses a service framed around baptism or a service that simply embraces and affirms the individual publicly, but I do care (and I’m grateful to the Bishops) that those Churches with the consciences to do it, should be facilitated and mandated to make that public stand.

    The bishops were not telling you, Ian Paul, or anyone else, that they HAD to affirm a person’s transition in church. They were, however, recognising that there are churches that conscientiously want to, who recognise what it can mean in terms of inclusion and affirmation and solidarity. My church, I am happy to say, is one of those churches. My transition too, I’m happy to say, was one of those transitions that profoundly improved my life, and liberated, but at the very beginning, in desperate isolation, I almost lost my life, twice.

    I feel very strongly that for a church to publicly acknowledge a trans person, their gender, their name, their journey… is something potentially HUGE and deeply pastoral and benevolent.

    • ‘My plea would be for signatories of this letter to listen to the actual views and experiences of trans people, and whether they would find a service of affirmation helpful at the commencement of transition.’

      Susannah, thanks for your long comment. Just two observations on this sentence. First, you talk about a ‘service of affirmation at the commencement of transition’. The bishops said long ago that they did *not* think that such a liturgy should be provided. My quibble here is that they appear to be re-working baptism liturgy for this purpose when they said they were not going to do that. If you think such a service was needed, you need to take that up with the bishops.

      Second, many, many of us who have signed this have indeed listened carefully to members of our family, of our congregations and friends and neighbours who are affected by this issue. We disagree with the bishops not because we haven’t listened, but because we have, and we are concerned that many of the questions raised in this listening have not been addressed.

      • Good morning Ian,

        Although I think I have profoundly different views on the fundamental benevolence of the Bishops’ initiative, its value, and the precious support it offers people who are starting to transition, I nevertheless want to thank you for publishing my comment and I respect that. Some fringe groups like Christian Concern or the Christian Institute end up ‘no platforming’ Christians with whom they disagree. The fact that you have published a comment from me that is quite harshly critical is impressive and I respect that moral courage and integrity.

        So thank you.


        • Susannah, , you use the term ‘fringe groups’, but that is a term that assumes that the cultural mainstream is always right. Since we all know that the cultural mainstream is not by any means always right, we therefore all agree that being a ‘fringe group’ is morally neutral.

          Secondly, there is a high level of no-platforming by Thinking Anglicans and Via Media. People with high level qualifications e.g. PhD may easily be no-platformed by them. Do you assent to that point?

          Thirdly, any organisation will give their ‘platform’ to people who hold the tenets of that organisation. By definition. If they then move beyond that to saying people cannot speak at all even by way of comment, then that is taking away freedom of speech. Christian Institute, Voice for Justice, Christian Concern have always stood strongly for freedom of speech. It is among their core values.

          • Christopher, I don’t believe in ‘no platforming’ and I was thanking Ian for not doing that to me, and letting me use his platform for expressing views very different to his. To me that is maturity and shows he’s not afraid to debate.

            I can’t speak for the other groups you mention, because I am a contributor not a moderator. I have been censored and ‘no platformed’ by Christian Concern and The Christian Institute. But broadening it out beyond my own experience, I don’t favour ‘no platforming’ elsewhere, unless an individual does ‘ad hominems’, or defies the polite guidelines and rules or requests of hosts.

            In the end, the host of a website can make the rules. But generally my own view is that it’s great to have places people with different views can meet and discuss. We can all learn things from others. There used to be an excellent Christianity forum on LiveJournal, where Anglicans and Baptists and ‘liberals’ and ‘fundamentalists’ and Orthodox and Roman Catholic and pagan and agnostic and Buddhist and Hindu and atheist and charismatic and Quaker and Muslims could all meet and, providing they were courteous, they all shared their views. I learnt an awful lot. For years it hosted thousands of articles and posts, then a time came when very conservative and fundamentalist Christians gained control of the site, and proceeded to demand their own brand of Christianity, and ban people, and they controlled it so tightly that in the end it withered. These days there are about three contributors and probably lucky if there’s one comment a month.

            As Christians, I think we can discuss and share views. Of course we also have lives offline, and I can’t always keep a discussion going. But I do like listening to people from other faith traditions, and humanists as well.

          • Yes, I think we would all agree that the more we can share our views the better. What is impossible is that we would not run the risk of flaws in our views being shown up. If flaws are shown up, then we need to change our views; and if we are honest, we will do so.

      • Ian,

        In response to your two points (Yesterday, 10.24pm), I am indeed engaging with the bishops, and for example, this week I have corresponded with every single bishop on this subject; and I am also involved this week with the Living in Love and Faith team at Church House. I have found an encouraging number of bishops have been willing to engage with me on issues of sexuality and gender identity (over 40 to date) and I deeply appreciate their responsiveness, thoughtfulness, and engagement.

        I am not personally troubled as to whether churches adopt the reaffirmation of baptismal vows, or hold a stand-alone service. To me, what matters most is the actual love and affirmation in a public expression in church, whatever form that takes.

        Responding to your second point, I am curious as to whether your primary objection is to the process or the principle of gender transition itself, or both? The process can be subject to pastoral care and good conscience, and handled sensitively, but my concern is that for some churches and Christians, the real motivating objection is to the very principle of gender transition itself. I think the process proposed by the Bishops can be adapted, reflected on, and conscientiously used by priests and PCCs in full consideration of all parties involved; but the principle of gender transition – affirmed so widely by specialists as being responsible and therapeutic – is not really something the Church can interfere with. It is happening anyway (and helping many people).

        I do think opponents of the principle of gender transition need to reflect on the harm that can be done, if it means denial of a trans person’s understood gender, misuse of pronouns against the wishes of the trans person (which is frankly crass), questioning the authenticity of the person’s gender identity, suggesting they are contravening creation order, reducing ‘having a gender’ to a mental health issue, favouring the pastoral needs of partners and problematizing the trans person, or simply failing to acknowledge and affirm the person as who they know themselves to be inside, and how they feel.

        Of course, a priest or PCC can do some or all of these things as a point of sincere ‘conscience’ – which is why the Bishops are not saying these guidelines are compulsory – but I think the Bishops are right to be proactive, because the situation for many trans people is desperate, and the actions I’ve just listed can be deeply harmful.

        In the end, as in Scotland on human sexuality, perhaps conscience should be respected priest by priest and church by church? It seems to me, that it’s hostility to the principle that drives the opposition forwards; and that the process itself can be fine-tuned on a case-by-case basis, by caring and supportive churches. But what I really don’t accept is that in a church with diverse views on this, one group should dominate the consciences of another group. Plenty of priests and PCCs are ready to proceed with these provisions (as can be seen from the signatories to Jo Kershaw’s letter). For them, the bishops’ guidelines seem really helpful.

        So maybe let people respond to the Bishops’ voluntary guidelines according to sincerely-held conscience?

        That would be really helpful to those trans Christians for whom public affirmation in a service (of whatever kind) might be a huge act of solidarity and support.

        The ‘Covenant’ project (which was driven by a desire to impose uniformity and dominate conscience) crashed. This domination needs to be set aside, and let those who want to affirm transition do so, those who want to bless gay relationships do so, and those who want to live in gay relationships do so, whether cleric or lay.

        Until we have the maturity to co-exist with different conscientious views, and accept diversity, and pray for one another’s flourishing… all I can see is schism in the end.

        It really doesn’t have to be that way.

        Thank you again for affording me a platform to discuss these matters here.


    • Susannah For my part, before the debate gets into the detail again and right and wrong views, I want to thank you for your graciousness and courage in venturing onto this thread and sharing so clearly and personally of the journey you and others have made – not least the intense vulnerability and cost and how discussions like this must sound to you all.
      I hope, whatever our views, that we can accept your challenge to listen harder before defending our own positions?
      Whatever the experience of those who have signed this petition there are precious few places on this discussion thread that suggest a compassionate understanding of what you and others have gone through at all – and quite a number of comments that, without further qualification, might strongly suggest the opposite.
      Thank you once again

      • David, I think as Christians we can hold diverse views but still recognise that opinions contrary to our own may be sincere expressions of faith and conscience and conviction. That’s why I feel the central challenge for all of us is not simply ‘Who is right?’ but ‘Can you find grace and love for those with different views?’

        The protection of conscience seems to me to be a really important principle in the life of the Church: and in the context of the Bishops’ guidelines, there was nothing compulsory, but I saw it as an authorising and a facilitating for those who – in their own good conscience – believed that this pastoral initiative could be valuable and deeply supportive of people starting transition. I have simply tried to explain from raw experience how vulnerable that can be, and how I believe that the Bishops’ initiative is pastorally benevolent. I have tried to do that, because to be fair, it is very difficult for anyone who has not been ‘inside’ such an experience to really feel what it is like. Anyway, I’ve tried to share.

        Just as the human sexuality debate challenges conflicting conscientious views, and (for example) in Scotland we have seen how conscience of individuals is addressed in a sort of ‘unity in diversity’ approach… so, on this issue of providing for trans people and including them, I see the Bishops’ guidance as being an open invitation to those priests and PCCs who want to, while accepting that some may not.

        That is surely better, in a divided church, than one group simply claiming the right to dominate the consciences of the other?

        As I have said, in making my own case and plea for trans people, I believe very strongly that for a church to publicly acknowledge a trans person, their gender, their name, their journey… is something potentially HUGE and deeply pastoral and benevolent. I am proud of the bishops for seeking to make this pastoral provision possible, and I’m proud of the hundreds of priests who have signed the supportive counter-letter drafted by Jo Kershaw: https://caminowheels.wordpress.com/2019/02/05/letter-supporting-the-house-of-bishops-full-text/

        Because, yes, people embarking on transition badly need support and recognition, and loving church communities who acknowledge them and want to publicly state that they will journey with them. The start of transition is the crisis time, when solidarity is rare and precious, but it does get better. The whole point of transition is that it should lead to flourishing and, as Christians, why would we not want that?


        • Susannah, when you say ‘diverse’ views, how diverse is acceptably diverse? For example, something totally silly like ‘Satan is king’ would not be acceptably diverse; but that means you have to draw the line somewhere. Are you demanding that people have to draw the line in the same place you do, or are they allowed to draw it in a different place?

          • I don’t really understand what you mean, Christopher. I’m not drawing any lines. I’m saying that we should try to love one another, even if we disagree about things.

            In the end, on issues of sexuality and gender, where there is such an obvious division of views right down the middle of the church, I don’t demand anything of a person with a different view.

            The Bishops weren’t either, with their guidance.

            It seems to be you, Christopher, who is talking about drawing lines. But for example, if you were opposed to gay sexuality, then rather than draw other people’s lines, just don’t have sex with a guy yourself.

            If you are opposed to the transgender service, just don’t go to one.

            But if other Christians sincerely believe, in faith and good conscience, that it is good to have gay sex, or good to support a transgender service, then I believe they have the same right of conscience that you do to act on their sincere beliefs.

            I don’t think you can draw lines, and demand uniformity, on an issue where conscience is so clearly divided down the middle of the church. You can’t police the consciences of half the church. You can’t dominate them. And they can’t police your conscience either.

            Rather, we’re supposed to love one another.

          • Does love mean leaving people where they are, and selfishly not sharing with them the better way that you have stumbled across but keeping it to ourselves? That is indulgence and encouraging selfishness. But selfishness is the enemy in Christianity.

            If ever you don’t understand (which will happen often when people have different perspectives) you have only to ask.

            You are imposing the idea that people should be able to continue along the course they ‘choose’ (not that they had weighed all the options or even been aware of them), however harmful that course. Is that loving? It translates into: ‘Let me have what I want’. On any amalysis that is similar to a selfish perspective.

            ‘If you’re opposed to XYZ don’t do it yourself’. This is a cliche and a principle that does not work. The things that most people are opposed to are harmful things. Simply not doing them oneself (as though we were all living in our own little worlds, which we are not) does not solve anything, because the harmful things would still be happening, they would be hurting precious people, and they would be doing that in the same world that we inhabit so we would still be affected, as would everyone else.

            The point about drawing lines is (to repeat) that everyone does it, including you. You would exclude someone who said/meant/lived ‘Satan is king’ (to continue with my very silly example) from accurately terming themselves a Christian. Is that because you are being non-inclusive? No, it is because you are aiming to be accurate.

    • Saying ‘listen carefully to people who are actually transgender’ is equivalent to *compelling*people to accept a designation as accurate. No-one has any right to *compel* any such thing even in cases where the evidence for the claim is uncontroversial. How much less right of compulsion, therefore, do they have in the present case?

      • I am not compelling anyone, Christopher. You can choose not to listen. You can choose not to accept that people are actually transgender.

        There is no compulsion in the Bishops’ guidance either.

        But equally, I don’t think you can ‘compel’ the half of the church that may hold different views to yours.

        We all still have challenges in our communities: visiting the sick and the elderly and the lonely; comforting the bereaved; welcoming diverse people, whatever their race or age or gender… there are so many things we can get on with, through the Love of Christ… and with so much in common, where we have a few differing views, it’s not about ‘compelling’, it’s about co-existing, and loving one another, and praying for one another’s flourishing.

        If I use a concept or designation that you don’t agree with, what am I supposed to do? Be silent? Honestly, you are not being ‘compelled’ to agree with a single word I say, but I do appeal to people to listen to transgender experience like mine, if they are willing to. If you’re not, then of course, you have the freedom to disagree.

        I’d argue that ‘compelling’ gay priests to be celibate all their lives is more compelling than having the freedom to choose whether you want to attend a service for a transgender person or not. So do you think gay priests should be allow to have sex with their partners? And if not, who is advocating compulsion?

        You don’t think people can actually be transgender… that’s your right to think that. But you don’t have the right to tell other Christians they can’t accept the transgender designation.

        Maybe a few people actually want to listen to what an actual transgender person says in these threads. I don’t think that ‘compels’ you to anything.

        I do appreciate you may feel threatened in some way by these issues, and feel alarmed that in some way the direction of the Church is veering away from what you think God wants. I hope that, in prayer, you can find trust in God and the grace to keep on walking with God, and I do pray this evening that God blesses you.

        I don’t at all think you should be forced to accept transgender issues, but I don’t think you have the right to stop other people who sincerely believe that gender transition can be good.

        I think the best we can do is to try to love one another.

        • ?
          Not listening is the resort of the dishonest & ostriches. So if I chose to do that, I would choose to be dishonest. Are you saying that that is an ok choice – as good a choice as choosing to be honest?

          Where is the compulsion in what I said? You are asking me not to compel, but where *did* I compel?

          Often you ask ‘What can we do?’; the answer is always the same: examine the evidence. Not stick to ideologies that we like. The former is always the resort of the mature, whereas the latter is associated with not having grown up, and I say that for a reason. The reason is that I have often encountered in recent times the attitude ‘But of course God must be the way I *want* God to be. The world, ditto. Science, ditto. Research findings, ditto.’ But anyone knows that is a false assertion. The truth is almost the reverse: If any aspect of reality happened to fit our preferred specification, that would be a freak exception.

          Whereas you are saying, people should stubbornly stick to their entrenched positions, and love one another from that vantage point, I agree about the love but disagree with the entrenchment. Life is a process of learning, so how can positions be entrenched? And the great thing about learning is that we don’t know where we will end up. But it will be a miracle coincidence if we end up exactly where we had predicted.

          As for ‘feel threatened’ I don’t know where to start. You must know that ‘feel’ and ‘threatened’ and ‘alarmed’ are both emotional words not rational ones, and I didn’t mention emotions in what I wrote: you imported from nowhere that whole topic. This is a rational debate. It is good to be open emotionally, but what relevance have emotions in this particular debate context?

          When you speak of ‘accepting transgender issues’ I don’t think that is clear English – how can an ‘issue’ be ‘accepted’? In debate it is important that clear thought triumphs over less clear.

          • Christopher,

            I don’t intend to get side-tracked too far from the issue of transgender needs, so you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t debate all your points.

            My life is not an ‘ideology’. I am just getting on with living my life.

            I think the Bishops’ guidelines are really helpful.

            But if some people don’t agree, they’re not forced to affirm a person’s transition themselves.

            No-one’s being forced to do anything. But if a person like myself goes through transition, and if a priest wants to support that person in the way the Bishops have proposed, then they, too, are exercising their conscience and doing what they believe is right.

            So in conclusion (and I don’t promise to continue this discussion) I am strongly of the opinion that the Bishops’ guidelines can be very helpful.

            And I think each priest or church should follow their own consciences, but not demand other people all have to think the same as them.

            After all, there are so many other things where Christians can agree and get on with helping people.

            So to agree to disagree is fine. And I’ll get on with my life, and the gay Christians will get on with their lives. And the people who disagree with gay sex know exactly what they need to do: not have gay sex, and get on with their lives.

            But two guys loving each other, or two women loving each other, is not an ideology. It’s just their lives and the way they love one another. They’re getting on with their lives.

            And we can all love one another, even when we have different views. What we can’t do, is force people to act against conscience, against their wills. So we live and let live. And get on with all the rest of stuff – helping the elderly, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, comforting the bereaved.

            We don’t need schism. We need the maturity to co-exist, and keep loving one another, and serving our communities.

            I applaud the Bishops’ guidelines because they allow for conscientious diversity of views. That’s pretty mature in my opinion.

          • Christopher

            Just shut up. For once, concede with some grace and humility.
            Susannah is talking about real, embodied theology.
            Just stop treating this space as if it’s a 6th form debating society.
            Allow some space for respect and reflection and silence.

          • To treat these points:

            (1) Your life is not an ideology (and no-one said it was). Your life is your life. Loving is not an ideology (and no-one said it was). Loving is loving. But it is possible to lay claim to a ‘view’ that is actually an ideology.

            (2) Not being sidetracked and sticking to home territory – yes, we’re all most comfortable there. But if we cannot answer points it is possible that the reason we cannot answer them is that our theory is not adequate to cope with them and has therefore to change. That tends to be the case on occasions when I cannot answer points, and I am sure most of us find the same thing.

            (3) ‘People should follow their own consciences’ – Amen to that.

            (4) I don’t think a ‘church’ can have a collective conscience. If it did, it would be imposed from above, and individual members who had had no say would be resentful for being treated as though they did not exist.

            (5) ‘Get on with helping people’: that is already happening. We do not live in a world where one can only ‘help people’ or ‘debate’ but not both. It’s not an either/or: moreover, everyone knows that. Nor is such a world possible.

            (6) Live and let live? Not necessarily – because no person is an island. I thought every liberal worth their salt was very hot on that point. Lifestyles and worldviews adopted by some impinge on our commonly-shared world. Everything is interconnected.

            (7) The people who disagree with gay sex should simply not have gay sex and everything is solved? The people who ‘disagree’ with FGM should just not do or undergo FGM, and everything will be solved. (Etc Etc). Will it? Again, this presupposes a rather onely world of disconnected individuals. It is also a cliche.

            (8) ‘2 guys/girls ”loving” one another’? It is at this point that one wonders whether any listening has taken place for 10-20 years. Every Christian man loves many other men (and many others besides). Every Christian woman loves many other women (and many others besides). Moreover, that is universally seen as a good thing. The way you phrase it equates sex with love. The worldview that equates sex with love is self-indulgent 1960s sexual-revolutionism. The worldview that has most resisted that equation is Christianity.

            (9) Agree to disagree is a bad outlook for several large reasons of which I mention here three. (a) It allows every possible outlook, however harmful or self-contradictory, to slip through the net. (b) It makes no distinction between research conclusions and selfish wishes, which in reality would be agreed to be worlds apart. (c) It means that the end of our searching has already been reached and our position is entrenched; whereas, to the contrary, the whole of life is a continual learning process, and most of us will so far have considered only a minority of relevant factors in forming our provisional conclusion. This is where it is helpful to distinguish between those who want to go on debating and discovering more truth, and those who (illogically) don’t.

            For Penny to say that Susannah’s words are untouchable (why?) would be consistent only if she thought the words of others (including me) were also untouchable. Otherwise it sounds like some are more equal than others. The injunction to ‘shut up’ is a stifling of debate and speech, and the motivation behind that wish is an interesting question: sometimes debate brings points and inconsistencies to light that many might prefer to be hidden.

          • Christopher
            Shut up was rather terse.
            I didn’t claim that Susannah’s words were untouchable.
            But I believe that treating her profoundly theological and personal reflection as issues to debate is insensitive, to say the least.
            Susannah doesn’t have your privilege, or mine, so please respect that

          • But on your analysis, she is allowed to say things that are not permitted to be debated, unless I misunderstand you.

            None of the rest of us has that privilege, which is why I cite ‘some more equal than others’ – unless I misunderstand.

            This is the normal cycle of debate. One party is concerned to get at the truth, and that is a long process which people interested in truth will not duck out of. The other party ends up citing emotional stories (involving suicidality or illness or which are not up for debate, are sacrosanct, are not allowed to be submitted to scrutiny. And are used as an unanswerable trump card, though of course certain types of suffering in these times would not have been indulged in the war years (for example) because of lack of time and also because there are things that are more pressing and serving others takes priority over personal misfortune, perceived or actual.

            If you’re allowed to set the rules of the game and to say that there are certain things not up for debate, then you have biased the scales before we start. Do I also have the privilege of saying certain things are not up for debate and that everybody is forced to respect and submit to certain perspectives and not address them? I don’t remember being accorded it, and would not in conscience accept it if it were proffered. This whole pattern of debate/non-debate mirrors the whole ‘privileged/protected characteristics’ thing that we are forced to abide by in law, by introducing a category of perpectives that are untouchable. But who says they are untouchable? It is the self-selected privileged/protected who assert that they are, and expect others (subordinates) to follow behind them.

          • Christopher
            I repeat. You and I are the privileged ones. Not Susannah.
            Yet she is the one with the lived experience. She is the theological expert here.
            The bishops are still asking the question: what would help you understand (the ‘you’ here being the subject who is being ordered because they are gay, intersex or trans)?
            The question should be: what would help you understand (the ‘you’ being the bishops and the authors of LLF).
            Of course, people can have their beliefs questioned, but no their ontology.
            No one questions your ontology.

          • Yet she is the one with the lived experience. She is the theological expert here

            Experience doesn’t make someone an expert in something. Having cancer doesn’t make someone an expert in cancer, it’s studying medicine and anatomy for year and years and years which does that.

            (Indeed sometimes having experience can get in the way of being an expert as it means one is too close to the subject. Mitchell and Webb did a good sketch on their radio show about a man whose wife died i some kind of accident complaining about being asked how he would spend some government money because obviously because of his personal experience he would spend it all on preventing the kind of accident that killed his wife, whereas actually it should be for an expert in cost/benefit and risk analysis who has no personal investment in the situation to decide).

            Of course, people can have their beliefs questioned, but no their ontology.

            Obviously ontologies can be questioned. If two people have different ontologies then how can you find out which one is correct without questioning them both?

            No one questions your ontology

            That’s not true: the conservative ontology is currently under intense questioning by those who disagree with it.

          • The equation between theology and lived experience is far from precise. Of course there is an overlap – but an equation?

  23. S
    We were not speaking of disease or disorder (such as cancer), although sometimes patients are expert in their conditions because they are living it.
    Being gay, cis, trans, straight, intersex, genderqueer, asexual are not disorders, they are different ways of being human. There is no ‘correct’ ontology. Neither is there such a thing as the conservative ontology. There are conservative viewpoints and beliefs, as there are liberal and radical ones.

    • We were not speaking of disease or disorder (such as cancer)

      That was just an example. For another example, say, an aeroplane pilot may have much personal experience of flying, but that doesn’t make them an expert in fuild dynamics.

      There is no ‘correct’ ontology.

      Yes there is. An ontology is a theory of the essential nature of being. there are lots of such theories: there’s the materialist ontology that says there is nothing but matter, the monist ontology that says there is nothign but mind, the Aristotelian/thomist ontology that things (and people) have essential natures, the existentialist ontology that things (and people) don’t have essential natures, etc etc etc.

      In the relevant sphere of this article, for example, one ontology is ‘people have an essential nature which is either male or female but this doesn’t necessarily correspond to their physical body (eg, you can have a male soul in a female body) in which case it needs to be corrected’.

      Another ontology is ‘there is no such thing as ‘essential’ sex: people simply exist and construct their own sex / gender identities (which could be male, female, unicorn, or anything else) as they go’.

      Clearly only at most one of these ontologies can be correct. Or the correct ontology could the consonversative one: that people have an essential sex and that always matches their physical body (unless some disorder of development, like an intersex condition, interferes).

      But reality is only one way, so the correct ontology is the one which matches reality. All others are incorrect.

      • S
        Ontology is about the nature of being. So, a human can ‘be’ cis or trans, gay, bi or straight, male, female or intersex, genderqueer, asexual , pan sexual. All of these are ontologically ‘correct’. None is a disorder, all are real.

        • Ontology is about the nature of being.

          Yes, and ‘an’ ontology is a particular theory about the nature of being, which can be correct or incorrect.

          Just like a cosmology is a particular theory about how space is organised, and you can have heliocentric cosmologies, geocentric cosmologies, etc etc.

          So, a human can ‘be’ cis or trans, gay, bi or straight, male, female or intersex, genderqueer, asexual , pan sexual. All of these are ontologically ‘correct’. None is a disorder, all are real.

          That view is one ontology, yes, just like the Ptolemaic cosmology is one cosmology. It might be right or it might be wrong.

          We must be able to question it in order to determine whether it is right or wrong.

        • No. Almost all of these things are not what a person can be in essence, only
          as a result of circumstance and setting and sometimes culture
          and often fluidly/changeably
          and not at all in the early part of their life (which is presumably the place where we most reliably look for their inborn essence).

          • Almost all of these things are not what a person can be in essence, only as a result of circumstance and setting and sometimes culture
            and often fluidly/changeably and not at all in the early part of their life (which is presumably the place where we most reliably look for their inborn essence).

            That is another ontology. It may be correct, it may not.

            We must be able to question ontologies in order to determine which is correct.

          • That’s definitely true. (Unfortunately we also have to question the questions we put, and the way they are framed, and the cultural/linguistic presuppositions behind them – and so on ad infinitum.) Thank heaven, therefore, for statistics and for logic.

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