Church of England responds to pressure to scrap schools’ guidance

10 November 2022

The Church of England recently put out a press release defending its controversial guidance for schools on LGBT issues.

The CofE release responds to statements made by Christian Concern that the Church of England’s Valuing All God’s Children (VAGC) guidance states that “children as young as five should be affirmed if they want to identify as the opposite gender.” The CofE states “this is simply false.”

The latest version of VAGC can be found online and readily examined to test this claim.

‘Supported to accept their own gender identity’

On page 20 of VAGC, the guidance states:

“In creating a school environment that promotes dignity for all and a call to live fulfilled lives as uniquely gifted individuals, pupils will be equipped to accept difference of all varieties and be supported to accept their own gender identity or sexual orientation and that of others. In order to do this it will be essential to provide curriculum opportunities where difference is explored, same-sex relationships, same-sex parenting and transgender issues may be mentioned as a fact in some people’s lives.”

This statement is on a page specifically addressing issues for CofE primary schools, and therefore the treatment of pupils as young as five years old.

The paragraph states that children as young as five “should be supported to accept their own gender identity.” It also states that transgender issues “may be mentioned as a fact in some people’s lives.” The next paragraph goes on to make this even clearer by saying “Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision.” This section cannot be read as anything other than advocating for affirming children as young as five if they wish to identify as the opposite gender.

Discriminating against ‘gender variant pupils’

The VAGC guidance also states (on page 14):

“Schools must not discriminate (either directly or indirectly) against gender variant pupils, pupils who are perceived to be gender variant or pupils with trans parents. In the context of a school, indirect discrimination could include an inflexible uniform policy that creates a particular difficulty for trans pupils.”

Again, this is telling schools to affirm and accommodate pupils who wish to identify as the opposite gender, including by allowing them to dress in the opposite gender. It also fully affirms the concept of ‘trans pupils’. In this respect, it entirely reflects the worldview and legal understanding of Mermaids rather than a Christian one.

Christian Concern is therefore quite right to assert that the CofE’s VAGC guidance states that children as young as five should be affirmed if they wish to identify as the opposite gender. The absence of the word ‘affirm’ does not get the Church of England off the hook. The CofE press release is factually incorrect and seriously misrepresents its own guidance.

Guidance used to oppose orthodox Christian belief

If there was any doubt about the teaching of VAGC, it is dispelled by realising that VAGC has also been cited as evidence to oppose Christians who in conscience do not wish to affirm a child in the opposite sex.

In the case of ‘Hannah’ who cannot be named for legal reasons, VAGC was used against her to discredit her Christian belief that children should not be affirmed in the opposite sex. Hannah was a Christian primary school teacher who lost her job after raising safeguarding concerns about a child being advised by Mermaids to socially transition to the opposite sex.

Christian parents, Nigel and Sally Rowe, raised concerns with their son’s CofE primary school after  6 year old children were allowed to cross-dress and identify in the opposite sex. Once again, VAGC was used against them by the local Diocese to discredit their concerns. They wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury last month, calling on the CofE to urgently scrap VAGC.

Church of England Chaplain, Revd Dr Bernard Randall lost his job as chaplain in a CofE secondary school after preaching a sermon which stated that pupils should be free to disagree with LGBT ideology. VAGC was used in the employment tribunal against him to discredit his beliefs.

It is simply not plausible for the Church of England to claim that this guidance does not support the affirmation of children as young as 5 in a transgender identity. Not only do passages of VAGC clearly support it, but its citation against Christians who do not support transgender ideology demonstrate with undeniable clarity how it is received.

If the Church of England wishes to make clear that it does not believe young children should be affirmed in a transgender identity it can do so simply – by withdrawing Valuing All God’s Children.

‘Time the CofE scrapped VAGC’

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, commented: “It is high time the CofE scrapped is notorious Valuing All God’s Children guidance. This guidance is actually harming God’s children in CofE schools.

“The NHS Tavistock clinic has been vilified for adopting an unquestioning affirming approach to children who wish to identify as the opposite sex. Yet CofE guidance for schools encourages schools to adopt this same approach.

“Most recently, proposed NHS guidance recommends that children should not be affirmed in the opposite sex. The NHS now accepts evidence that most children will grow out of gender incongruence as they pass through puberty. By contrast, VAGC encourages schools to adopt an affirming approach with no reference to medical evidence whatsoever.

“VAGC references Genesis 1:27 whilst not acknowledging that it states that God created humans to be “male and female.” The CofE should be encouraging schools to recognise and respect the differences between the sexes. CofE schools should encourage children to accept and thrive in their God-given created sex.

“VAGC has done untold damage to vulnerable young children by adopting an affirming approach to children who wish to identify as the opposite sex. It has also been used to discredit Christians who adopt a Biblical approach of wishing to affirm children in their created biological sex. This notorious guidance is actually anti-Christian.

“We call on the CofE to scrap VAGC as a matter of urgent priority before yet more harm to children and reputational damage to the CofE is done.”

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