Carys Moseley comments on the recent decision by the Church of England to pass on responsibility for crafting liturgies celebrating gender reassignment to local clergy.
The Church of England bishops recently issued a press statement after the Mail on Sunday leaked the fact that they had voted behind closed doors last month to reject a ‘baptism-style’ liturgy to celebrate gender reassignment or ‘sex-change’. They invited clergy to use the already existing rite ‘Affirmation of Baptismal Faith’. New guidance on its use for transgender people is being prepared. Thus the bishops are perpetuating the falsehood of transgender ideology in liturgical dress, but passing the buck to the lower clergy. There are several very serious and insurmountable theological problems here which shall be outlined below.
Tacit collusion with blasphemy and rebellion against God as Creator
For the Church of England clergy at any level of the church hierarchy to allow the crafting of liturgy that affirms and celebrates gender reassignment means that the Church endorses gender reassignment as if God approves it. This is collusion with the blasphemous notion that someone can be ‘born in the wrong body’. It is blasphemous because it claims that God gave a person ‘the wrong body’, when the bodies of people suffering with gender dysphoria are usually perfectly healthy. Rather it is their minds and souls that are the site of suffering and confusion.
It is also collusion with hatred and resentment of the male or female body, something that goes directly against what God said when he created everything, namely that it was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1: 31). It is therefore an attack on the triune God as Creator of all things. The Christian faith makes no sense at all without the history of creation and fall.
True and false conversion narratives
The press statement released by the bishops describes a person’s transgender identity as ‘a new identity’ and gender reassignment as ‘a moment of personal renewal’. Essentially this is a counterfeit of the Christian journey of conversion and sanctification.
When Paul told the Christians of Colossae to ‘put off the old man’ and ‘put on the new man’ he also told them to stop lying (Colossians 3: 9-10). To claim that a man can have a ‘new identity’ in Christ as a ‘woman’ is untrue. In the context of the entire letter to the Colossians Paul is saying all this on the basis that all things were originally created in Christ (Colossians 1: 15).
The concept of ‘personal renewal’ is not one found in the Bible or any major theological tradition. It is a pseudo-spiritual concept. It is impossible for a man or woman to be ‘renewed’ by claiming to belong to the opposite sex. Instead this concept reflects the belief often made by transgender campaigners that undergoing gender reassignment is like being born again – a counterfeit of Jesus’ teaching that a person has to be ‘born from above’ of the Spirit (John 3: 6-7).
We get another angle at this counterfeit of the gospel in the transgender subculture jargon referring to ‘deadnaming’. This is when transgender campaigners complain that people refer to them using the name they were given by their parents, reflecting their true biological sex. ‘Deadnaming’ implies that the person has now ‘died’ to this ‘old self’ belonging to their sex and is now alive as a member of their new ‘gender identity’.
True and false creation narratives
The whole transgender pathway is a counterfeit of the story of the creation of Eve from Adam in Genesis 2. In order to enable and fulfil the man’s fantasy, surgeons create a woman from a man’s ‘rib’ (genitals are turned inside out in gender reassignment surgery designed to turn men into ‘women’).
There is also a counterfeit moment of recognition in transgender identification and the process of gender reassignment – the man recognises himself as a woman rather than greeting a real woman (Genesis 1: 23). The man does this by cross-dressing and looking in the mirror. This is a classic instance of the sin of pride, or in clinical terms narcissism. Thus the false teaching of transgender ideology falsifies the Biblical basis for marriage (Genesis 1: 24) which was reiterated by Jesus Christ (Matthew 19, Mark 10).
True and false honour and shame
In Genesis, Moses says that the man and woman were completely naked and unashamed in the Garden of Eden. A man who cross-dresses and fantasises about being a woman is ashamed at some level of being male, and the wife who plays along with this fantasy perpetuates this shame and may even be ashamed of being married to a man. Married couples who do this create problems for their children and extended families and communities.
In this context it is highly relevant that in writing to the early church in Rome St Paul says that he is ‘not ashamed of the Gospel’ (Romans 1: 16-17). Paul goes on to describe the fall of human beings showing that people have ‘exchanged the truth for a lie’. What we have with these ideas for ‘gender reassignment liturgies’ is exchanging the truth of created sex for the lie of ‘gender identity’. These give out the wrong message to people in desperate need of pastoral care.
Affirming and celebrating gender reassignment in a church service colludes with and normalises people’s sense of shame as being born and created male or female. It will have a profoudly negative effect on other people in the church, especially the most susceptible and vulnerable. Do Anglican clergy not care about what effect this will have on pastoral theological training and pastoral care?
Collusion with dishonouring parents
The Church of England baptises infants. God has made parents authorities over their children, and this authority includes naming children, using male or female names according to their sex. These names are then used in the baptismal service.
It is theologically impossible for the bishops to say that the rite of Affirmation of Baptism is suitable as a service for celebrating gender reassignment. This is partly because the service would necessarily reject the names parents have given to their children. It is also because ‘gender reassignment’ rejects God’s creation of the person as biologically male or female as being ‘very good’.
Writing guidelines for a liturgy that uses the name the person has chosen for themselves for gender reassignment means that the Church endorses the dishonouring of that person’s father and mother. This breaks the Fifth Commandment which God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20: 12). Do the bishops and lower Church of England clergy care about this?
Transgender activists rewrite the Lord’s Prayer and rename God
Christina Beardsley, a male-to-female transgender person ordained in the Church of England, claimed many Christians would be ‘hurt’ by the bishops’ decision. Beardsley told the Mail on Sunday that Sibyls, a ‘Christian’ transgender activist group, has written prayers for these proposed transgender services. One of these is an alternative version of the Lord’s Prayer which the Mail on Sunday reported as beginning:
‘Heavenly Father, heavenly Mother, Holy and blessed is your true name.’
Everybody who knows the biblical text of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-15; Luke 11: 2-4) knows very well that it does not call God ‘heavenly Mother’. There is a basic distinction in the Bible between Jesus Christ naming God as Father and the use of ‘mother’ as a metaphor for God. It is not possible to name God as ‘Mother’ as well. These activists have no scriptural warrant for their version of the Lord’s Prayer.
Transgender activists claim secret knowledge about the true name of God
The other problem with how Sibyls have rewritten the Lord’s Prayer is that it adds ‘blessed is your true name’. This is typical of transgender activists, to make a claim to secret or occult knowledge about reality, especially spiritual reality. Their frequent claim to be ‘born in the wrong body’ and ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’ or vice versa is precisely this sort of claim to secret or occult knowledge. They have not received an extra revelation from God about God’s true name. God has already revealed His name in Scripture. These transgender activists are false teachers and false prophets. Have the bishops and the General Synod no spiritual discernment whatsoever in this regard?
Has ‘gender identity’ replaced the soul?
For the Church of England to endorse services that celebrate and affirm gender reassignment
begs the question that I raised in the New Normal conference organised by Christian Concern in November 2016, namely whether ‘gender identity’ has increasingly replaced the soul in many people’s worldview. There is no indication in the Bible or in orthodox Christian theology since the Church Fathers that the soul is created by God as ‘male’ or ‘female’. This is because the soul is incorporeal, i.e. is not in and of itself bodily.
The belief that the soul is ‘male’ or ‘female’ occurs in esoteric or occult religious groups, whose tenets are opposed to orthodox Christianity. It is also found in religions which hold to reincarnation, a belief diametrically opposed to the tenets of the Christian faith as based on the Bible. Do the bishops and members of the General Synod realise this or not, and do they care about holding fast to orthodox doctrine?
The transgender issue is a first-order Gospel issue
In teaching about the need to be born spiritually from above, Jesus Christ warned Nicodemus that if people did not believe Him about earthly truths, they would not believe the gospel. (John 3: 6, 12).
In our contemporary society which is ravaged by the lies of transgender ideology, it is becoming increasingly controversial to say that children can only be born of a woman. Yet there are no ‘pregnant men’ in God’s eyes. Likewise a father of children can never be considered their ‘mother’ just because he chooses to undergo gender reassignment.
The prophecy of the Suffering Servant given to Isaiah, which was about Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, says that ‘there was no deceit in his mouth’ (Isaiah 53: 9). The whole pattern of Jesus’ life as recounted in the four Gospels bears this out. Jesus told His disciples ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (Gospel of John 14: 6).
Jesus warned the Pharisees against deceitfulness
In rebuking the Pharisees for prizing outward religious traditions above true worship and sound doctrine, Jesus taught that deceit is wicked and comes out of people’s hearts, and that it defiles us (Mark 7: 22). Asking Anglican clergy to allow gender reassignment liturgies is Pharisaical, for it is prizing the outward form of Anglican worship above the inward truth of Biblical teaching.
Throughout the Bible God’s people are warned not to lie to each other or to be deceitful. The apostle Paul warns Christians not to lie to each other (Colossians 3: 9) and to ‘put away falsehood’ (Ephesians 4: 25).
If churches lie about who is male and female they lie to the families of transsexuals, who know full-well they are being lied to and who frequently experience this as highly abusive. It is unsurprising that Stonewall recently found that most transgender people’s relatives do not accept their self-identification.
The Church of England should stop colluding with the selfishness and serious behavioural problems that most often accompany the event of a married man or woman ‘coming out’ as a transsexual. Likewise the Church of England should stop colluding with parents who secretly or openly cross-dress their children because they are selfishly resentful and ungrateful that they had a child of one sex rather than the other.
Inviting clergy to lie erodes trust in them
These liturgies are inviting Anglican clergy to collude with the lies of transgender identification – lying about people’s sex and lying about what their real names are. The bishops do not seem to care about this, for they have merely kicked the problem back to the lower clergy, so that disputes will rage in parishes about the matter. Thus the bishops are trying to salvage their own public image of moderation whilst dumping the pastoral and missionary problems onto local vicars. This is sheer cowardice.
The way in which the Anglican bishops are currently allowing clergy to invent their own transgender-affirmative liturgies is not a very good witness to the local community or to wider society at all. Annual surveys on trust conducted by the polling company Ipsos MORI since 1983 have found that the general public are much more likely to trust clergy (and most clergy in Britain are Christian clergy) than members of many other professions to tell the truth. It is very important to note that the level of trust has gone down since then.
The likely effect on theological training
This whole article has been extraordinarily difficult to write because careful investigation shows the situation of the Church of England to be catastrophic. We have there the wholesale public capitulation of an entire denomination, something truly sobering. In this respect the Church of England is not unique and members of the many other denominations should not rejoice or be smugly complacent that this could not happen to them.
Some people may think that the crafting of these liturgies will not affect them because it won’t happen in their local parish or diocese. Such an attitude would be very naive. For clergy have to receive theological training, and its quality varies enormously. The very fact that there have been so few biblically-rooted and theologically orthodox critiques of this whole business of ‘transgender liturgies’ from within the Church of England says a lot.
Whether Anglicans like it or not there will be an effect on those who dissent and uphold an orthodox understanding. For theological colleges will be encouraged to follow these proposed guidelines for these services, and every time the topic of transgenderism will come up, they will be referred to. Lecturers will be appointed who will conform. Those who oppose will likely be silenced by various means. People coming forward for ordination will be quizzed about their views on this matter. Those who refuse to ‘agree to differ’ may be barred. Co-operation with other denominations will be affected in a similar manner.
Hope is to be found in repentance
As for those Anglicans who still hold out hope that people might find healing from gender dysphoria and come to accept their true biological sex within the Church of England, one can only say beware. They need to exercise discernment.
When Jesus Christ turned up in Nazareth at the start of his ministry he saw through local people’s disingenuous enthusiasm for Him. This is why he said:
‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’ (Luke 4: 23)
Having told them that he knew they would not honour Him as a prophet, He pointed out that it was Namaan the Syrian and not an Israelite who was healed in the days of Elisha. Likewise Christians who are healed and saved from the effect of gender identity problems don’t tend to attend churches that have capitulated to transgender ideology. They have gone where their lives can be ‘hidden in Christ’.
The capitulation of the Church of England to transgender ideology is a first-order gospel issue. Its only hope before the Almighty God who loves us with a holy love is heartfelt repentance, and that must begin from the top down.