Church of England 'turns a corner' with transgender vote

Church of England 'turns a corner' with transgender vote
A general view of the meeting at the Church of England General Synod. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The Church of England has "turned a corner" after its ruling body voted overwhelming in favour of welcoming transgender people, the vicar who brought the motion said.

The General Synod backed Rev Chris Newlands' motion which said transgender people should be "welcomed and affirmed in their parish church" as part of the "long and often complex process" of transition.

Mr Newlands had also called for the Church to provide guidance to help clergy provide services for transgender people to mark their transition.

Bishops voted 30 to two in favour, while 127 lay members voted for and 48 against, and clergy backed the motion 127 to 28.

The vote came after bishops overwhelmingly backed a motion calling for a ban on "unethical" conversion therapy for gay Christians.

Opening the debate, Mr Newlands, of the Blackburn Diocesan Synod, said: "I hope that we can make a powerful statement to say that we believe that trans people are cherished and loved by God, who created them, and is present through all the twists and turns of their lives."

Speaking afterwards, he told the Press Association: "I'm euphoric and exhausted.

"I think it was a good debate with some excellent contributions. I did think there were some comments which reflect some the extreme views which we would wish to counter.

"I'm getting so many messages from trans friends around the world.

"Synod has changed - we have turned a corner. Since the February decision on sexuality, bishops have realised they cannot continue to do what they have always done."

He was referring to an amendment to his motion that asked for the Church to determine the theological arguments before any liturgy - or Church customs - are adopted.

Lay member Tim Hind, who spoke in support of transgender people, said the amendment was a "long-grass motion amendment" which would make the church look "foolish".

All three houses of the Synod rejected the amendment proposed by Dr Nick Land of the Diocese of York.

During the debate, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said: "The theology needs to be done but that can be done very quickly ... let's vote for it."

Mr Newlands said efforts still needed to be made to convince those who opposed his call.

He said: "There's clearly work to do. Nothing is really going to be unanimous.

"We have got to listen to the young people who are going to be the future leaders of our church."

Rev Dr Christina Beardsley, a former hospital chaplain and campaigner for trans rights in the Church, hailed the decision as "wonderful".

Dr Beardsley, 65, who drew scorn from some Church leaders during her transition into a woman in 2001, said: "It's going to send the right signal.

"People have spoken very movingly about people's stories - that's what the Church is here to do, to show that love.

"Let's hope this is a sea change within the Church culture."

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