The pastoral guidance, which will be incorporated into Common Worship*, encourages clergy to be “creative and sensitive” in using liturgy to enable people to mark a major transition in their lives.
It formally commends the incorporation of the existing rite for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith into services which mark gender transition.
It details how elements including water and oil can be incorporated into the service and, crucially, makes clear that trans people should be addressed publicly by their chosen name.
As part of the service they could also be presented with gifts, such as a Bible inscribed in their chosen name, or a certificate.
It is important, the guidance adds, that the occasion should have a distinct “celebratory character”.
“The Church of England welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the body of Christ, and rejoices in the diversity of that body into which all Christians have been baptized by one Spirit,” the guidance emphasises.
The document - approved by the House of Bishops, which is currently meeting in London - follows a motion overwhelmingly adopted at General Synod in 2017 recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in churches.
It was produced in consultation with the Revd Dr Tina Beardsley, the Revd Sarah Jones and the Revd Canon Dr Rachel Mann, who have a personal interest in this matter and who have also consulted widely with those directly affected, and their clergy.
They said: “Collectively, we have sought to ensure that these new Pastoral Guidance notes provide a rich and generous space for trans people to locate their lives in the existing liturgy for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith.”
The rite for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith is not a second baptism. The Church of England teaches that the sacrament of baptism is only to be undertaken once.
But this service enables people to renew the commitments made in baptism and in a public setting and provides space for those who have undergone a major transition to re-dedicate their life to Jesus Christ.
As a central part of the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith the minister lays their hands on the candidate or candidates, addresses them by name, and prays for them.
The guidance notes: “For a trans person to be addressed liturgically by the minister for the first time by their chosen name may be a powerful moment in the service.”
The Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, Chair of the House of Bishops Delegation Committee, which oversaw work to produce the guidance said: “We are absolutely clear that everyone is made in the image of God and that all should find a welcome in their parish Church.
“This new guidance provides an opportunity, rooted in scripture, to enable trans people who have ‘come to Christ as the way, the truth and the life’, to mark their transition in the presence of their Church family which is the body of Christ.
“We commend it for wider use.”
Notes to Editors
*Common Worship is the Church of England’s library of services in contemporary language.
Further information about the July 2017 General Synod motion.
The House of Bishops published an update in January 2018.
Read a background paper from the House of Bishops setting out the theological thinking.
The text of the service can be found here, under the full heading: 'Affirmation of Baptismal Faith within a Celebration of Holy Communion'.