The Church of England issued guidance last month to its clergy suggesting they be "creative and sensitive" as they affirm and celebrate transgender members with a public church service – but several hundred clergy members are pushing back.
LGBT activists in England demanded that the church baptize transgenders into their new gender, but there's already a rule that says individuals can't be "re-baptized." However, not wanting to displease the LGBT lobby, the church told priests to reword existing liturgy in order to celebrate the sexual confusion.
Jeffrey Walton is with The Institute on Religion & Democracy in Washington, DC. "Basically it's a way of producing what [those activists] really want, which is some sort of public acknowledgement," he offers. "That is intended as a sort of way to provide affirmation, according to transgender activists."
The guidance details how elements including water and oil can be incorporated into the "celebratory" service and makes clear that transgenders should be addressed publicly by their new names instead of their birth names.
"The leadership of the Church of England is basically trying to have it both ways," Walton asserts. "They don't want to scare off traditionalists, but at the same time they want to rush to transgender activists who are pushing this."
But there's been some pushback: more than 2,000 members of the Anglican clergy sent a letter this month to the House of Bishops asking them to revise, postpone, or withdraw the guidance because the bishops hadn't thought through the move.
Walton argues that because of the decline in the British Anglican Church, this is more a "tempest in a teapot' than a seminal moment in church history.
"The average British person isn't in the pews, unfortunately. The Church of England has shrunk significantly, as far as attendance, over the last 20 years," he describes. "There are actually more Roman Catholics in church on a Sunday in Great Britain."
The Church of England reportedly will give "serious consideration" to the letter from clergy.