Last July’s General Synod passed a motion brought by Chris Newlands on behalf of Blackburn Diocese, expressing the Church’s welcome of transgender people and asking the House of Bishops to consider whether they should offer some sort of liturgy to mark the transition of a person’s sex identity. In January, the House of Bishops responded saying that they had considered the question, and had decided that no such liturgy was necessary. This was not received well by those campaigning for a change in approach, and the main complaint was that, though the wording of the motion asked the House of Bishops to ‘consider’ whether a liturgy was needed, of course everyone knew that what was meant was that the House of Bishops should produce a liturgy, not simply consider the question. Such an interpretation is clearly mischievous, not least given that the modest nature of the wording was explicitly appealed to in the debate, and that the Vice Chair of the Liturgical Commission, Richard Frith, expressly warned that such ‘consideration’ would not lead to the offering of a liturgy.
One of those protesting the bishops’ decision was Tina Beardsley, a member of the Sibyls, Christian spirituality for transgender people, and a core consultant member of the Coordinating Group for the Episcopal Teaching Document on Marriage & Human Sexuality. Her response to the bishops had two parts: