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 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.

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

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.

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.

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:

Baptism, Confirmation, Affirmation, Reception

One of the things that I have offered to do during Lent is to think about baptism, confirmation, affirmation, receptions and all the other ways of finding a way into the Scottish Episcopal Church that currently exist.

Here is a brief summary.

Turning Up and receiving Communion – many people find a way into being a part of the Cathedral congregation and thus a part of the Scottish Episcopal Church simply through turning up and joining in. We give people a chance just before the AGM to declare themselves to be communicants and that puts them on the Communicants Roll. We also keep records of those associated with the congregation who do not receive communion. This is the Congregational Roll. You can’t be a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church if you are a member of another church. (Really, you can’t, whatever you might think). And you can’t be a member of two Scottish Episcopal Congregations at once. (Really, you can’t – an attempt to change the Canon law on this a few years ago failed). Everyone is welcome to receive communion at St Mary’s. No exceptions.

Baptism – for a lot of people, baptism is their entry point into the life of the church. It wasn’t mine, incidentally as I was a communicant before I was baptised. (I wasn’t an Anglican in those days as it happens and I was baptised by full immersion as an adult having been a Christian all my life). We baptise children and adults in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Baptisms usually take place in a 10.30 am service. Adults who want to be baptised are encouraged, particularly at this time of year, to be baptised at the Easter Vigil, early on Easter Day. I strongly encourage parents of children who have been baptised to ensure that their children receive communion straight away – it is the law of our church that baptism offers full initiation into communion. The best way for children to learn about communion is to have reverent parents who take them up to receive communion and who teach them by example that this is a special moment of grace. Some parents start this off by breaking their own wafer and sharing it with their child.

Admission to Communion – I sometimes run special teaching services for those who wish to begin receiving communion who for some reason have not already done so. These are slow services where there is a chance to talk about what we are doing at any point in the service. I’ve run these for adults and children and would be happy to run one again this Lent.

Reception – People who come from other religious traditions sometimes want or need the fact that they are joining the Scottish Episcopal Church to be marked in some way. It is possible for this to take the form of being received into the church with a handshake and a prayer. This can take place at the  Easter Vigil with the Bishop or on a Sunday during the 10.30 am service.

Confirmation – people sometimes want to make a public acknowledgement of the faith which was proclaimed for them as young children when they were baptised. This can take the form of Confirmation which is normally a service presided over by the Bishop. Confirmation is also sometimes used by people to mark the fact that they are joining the Scottish Episcopal Church formally. (This happened to me – I was confirmed at the time I was exploring my vocation at the age of 25).

Affirmation – This is a form of service connected to confirmation which can be used at any stage in someone’s life to affirm their faith and celebrate the gifts that God has given them. It would be fair to say that there is a great deal of confusion about Confirmation and Affirmation in our church and it is hard to say that there is one definitive view as to what the theological assumptions are behind these services. Parts of the affirmation service were used at my Installation as Provost of St Mary’s – this is just one example of the way in which the service could be used.

So, during Lent, I’m happy to talk about any of these things. Indeed, all the clergy are happy to be approached about these things at any time – it is just that sometimes people need to be told it is OK to start asking the questions.

Lots of people have issues like not knowing whether they have been baptised or whether the church recognises ceremonies from other denominations or whether they need or want or hope for something special to renew their faith.

If you want to speak a member of the clergy about any of these things, please get in touch with me through the Cathedral Office.