The Affirmation of a Transgender Person

There’s yet more debate online about people calling for a special service to be approved by the Church of England in order to recognise and support someone following their transition from one gender to another.

I happen to think that it would be an interesting thing for the Church of England to consider. However, we’re lucky in Scotland that we’ve already agreed a form of service that could be used as an affirmation for transgender people.

Here are some of the prayers:

THE LAYING ON OF HANDS
The president says
God of mercy and love,
new birth by water and the Spirit is your gift,
a gift none can take away;
grant that your servants may grow
into the fullness of the stature of Christ.
Fill them with the joy of your presence.
Increase in them the fruit of your Spirit:
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of love, patience and gentleness,
the spirit of wonder and true holiness.
The president lays hands on the candidate in silence, and then says
Come, Creator Spirit,
rekindle in N. your gifts of grace,
to love and serve as a disciple of Christ.
Amen.

Renew her/his life in Christ
and bring to completion all that your calling has begun.
Amen.

Either continuing the laying on of hands, or anointing the candidate
with the Oil of Chrism, the president says:

Empower your disciple, N.,
to bring life to the world.
Amen.

At the conclusion of the laying on of hands
the president says
Living God, sustain all your people
to be hope and strength to the world;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be honour and glory, now and for ever.
Amen

The congregation share communion.

The president addresses the congregation:

The light of Christ is within you. Shine as a light in the world.
As the seed grows secretly in the earth,
As the yeast rises in the dough,
May the power of God be at work in us.
Like a city on a hill,
Like a lamp in the darkness,
May we witness to the glory of the kingdom.

It seems to me that as we’ve already agreed these prayers, there’s going to be no fuss about it at all in Scotland whereas there might be in Englandshire. I’d be very happy to conduct this service for anyone who has completed their gender transition and who wants to express their faith publicly in their new identity.

The great news is that the service is available to cis people at moments when they want to express publicly the renewal of their faith too. Indeed, some of these prayers were used at a particular point in my own life when I came into ministry in St Mary’s nine years ago. We don’t discriminate and so this service is available for all God’s children whether they are trans or not.

The service can be found online here:
http://www.scotland.anglican.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/affirmation-of-holy-baptism-2006.pdf

Comments

  1. Jean Mayland says

    That is very good. I hope it will be used in England

  2. Andrew Amanda Leigh-Bullard says

    I want to thank you for sharing this. I recently testified at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church on the importance of including a name change rite during the revisions of the Book of Occasional Services. I’m glad to see that other places in the Anglican Communion are looking at ways to celebrate these highly spiritual moments of transformation. This service is beautiful and I hope it will see a lot of use.

    There are a couple of things I’d like to point out as a genderqueer Christian. While often toted as the example of “inclusive” language, the phrase of “his/her” is gender exclusive. It creates the expectation that the people using the service will fit into a “female” or a “male” box. This leaves out those who use other pronouns (ex. they, ze, em, etc.). When there is a cultural expectation of exclusion seeing binary phrasing often leads those of us who are genderqueer, bigender, gender fluid and many other identities feeling like we need to ask “does this apply to us?” and “can you change the wording so I can participate in this?”, which is a terrifying experience.

    The focused narrative of transition from one gender to another is also problematic for me as well. While many transgender individuals do transition (socially, medically, or legally) others may feel pressured to transition but be unable to do so or may not wish to transition at all. Due to a lack of information, I transitioned from female to male before I learned that I could be transgender without checking every box of the predominant trans narrative. This meant that to fully claim my identity I later went through a second transition, from male to bigender when I realized that even the less discussed aspects of my existence were just as real and valid as those whose story matches the mainstream narrative. Even now I wouldn’t say my transition is “complete” and I certainly haven’t reached the “other” gender. Having lived as a woman, a man, and both at once I can testify things aren’t as opposite as they may appear.

    I’d like to delve a bit deeper into what it means for me to be both female and male using the language that first taught me I could exist. I first learned about the richness of my gender as I listed to faithful priests describe the mystery of the Incarnation with reverence and awe. As they spoke with wonder about the God who sent Jesus to us, fully divine and fully human, I met a creator of boundless potential. In that meeting I found silence to hear how my different experiences of gender fit together. Raised a girl, who grew into a man, who then found femininity rising and began to say Compline in a dress at home, while being terrified that they would be discovered as not being “trans enough”. In Christ the pieces fit, as he could never be less than 100% divine nor less than 100% human, so I had been given the gift of being 100% a man and 100% a woman.

    Because my queer gender is so firmly rooted in the language and experience of faith I feel especially drawn to ensuring our churches are open and ready to see the spiritual gifts of all trans people, not only those who fit cultural expectations for men & women.

    Thank you for your witness. I offer these stories and comments to further the conversation. It means a lot to me to see priests promoting trans affirming spaces across the globe.

    • Phil Gardner says

      I think ‘his/her’ should have been in italics: it’s meant to be a placeholder for whatever pronoun is appropriate for the person being baptized, and isn’t intended to exclude people of non-binary gender. I agree it’s not ideal, but unfortunately we don’t have a word that means ‘any appropriate gender pronoun’. In this case the text could read “Renew N’s life in Christ” and leave it to the president to use either the name or the appropriate pronoun.

  3. Rev. M. Rodrigues says

    As a transgender priest in the Anglican Church of Canada, I am simply delighted to see this liturgy. I hope we can do something similar here before too long. Any other information about trans liturgies from any one/anywhere would be really welcome. And I do agree with Andrew’s insightful comments, thanks.
    M.

    • Kimberly says

      The point, though, is that this is not specifically a trans liturgy. It’s a liturgy for all the baptised. It assumes that our primary identity is in Christ, and our differences are held creatively together as we share in communion and are held in the body of Christ. It’s affirming because it says ‘this is a step on the journey. You already and eternally belong.’

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