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Open letter to Church of England urges leaders to reconsider  transgender reaffirmation guidance
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Open letter to Church of England urges leaders to reconsider  transgender reaffirmation guidance

More than 2,200 clergy have signed the letter asking the House of Bishops to 'revise, postpone or withdraw' the guidance

The Church of England House of Bishops has agreed to consider the request of more than 2,000 clergy who signed an open letter asking the denomination to "revise, postpone or withdraw" its recent transgender affirmation guidance, the Christian Post reported.

The controversial pastoral guidance issued last month allows Anglican clergy to perform Affirmation of Baptismal Faith ceremonies to recognize a person's gender transition.

In the letter, which had 2,251 signatories Tuesday afternoon, the clergy pointed out that the "new theories about the relationship between biological sex and the social meaning of gender" are "widely contested" on all sides of the debate.

What else did the letter say?

The new pastoral guidance has raised "some significant issues for the Church's belief and practice," the letter said.

The church said it would not offer new liturgy for the transgender person's reaffirmation ceremony, but the letter argued that it does create a new liturgy "since existing wording is now being put to a new purpose." By tradition, the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith is intended for those who have been baptized and want to re-affirm their commitment to Christ.

"We are deeply concerned at what appears to be a misuse of the liturgy by which we celebrate one of the dominical sacraments, which are the founding markers of the Church itself (Articles XIX and XXV)," the letter stated. "Although reaffirmation of baptismal vows might well be appropriate at certain seasons of life, it should primarily be focussed on celebrating new life in Christ rather than a new situation or circumstance, as set out in Common Worship: Christian Initiation, and should always centre on salvation, repentance and faith rather than 'unconditional affirmation.'"

It also cited concerns for the inclusion of new biblical readings and the suggestion that there's a parallel between the name changes of Biblical characters and that of someone who transitioned from one gender to another.

Celebrating gender transition appears to be "based on the rejection of physical differentiation between male and female."

"This dimorphism is not only an almost universal biological reality (with the exception of a very small number who are biologically intersex) but has also been the basis of the Church's understanding of Christian marriage, is seen as an important feature of God's work as creator, and is a symbol of God's covenant relationship with humanity," the letter said.

The letter also addressed concerns about rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD) and "long-term effects of 'puberty blocking' hormones given the poor quality of the research."

"There is no scientific or medical consensus that surgical and medical interventions ('gender transition') effectively address the complex symptoms associated with gender dysphoria over the long term. The bishops' guidance offers no recognition of the wider issues at play here," it said.

What did the Church of England say?

The Church of England issued a statement to the Sunday Times in response to the clergy's letter.

"The bishops will give the letter their serious consideration, especially in the context of the preparation of a major new set of teaching and learning resources on identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality, 'Living in Love and Faith' which will be published next year. Transgender matters will be covered in those resources and the pastoral guidance does not pre-empt the work of the 'Living in Love and Faith' process. The guidance is not a restatement or a new statement on matters relating to gender, nor does it change the Church of England's teaching.

Is the transgender guidance mandatory?

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said in a previous interview that guidance was "not binding," according to the Christian Post.

"In the same way as somebody being baptized finds faith in Christ in a new way, sometimes they will have an affirmation of their baptism, a reaffirmation of their baptismal vows, which will look quite like a baptism, will say the baptismal promises, but as a way of saying 'this is who I am,'" Welby said.

He added that the guidance could be ignored and that it was "not a change in doctrine in any way at all."

What else?

Last year, the United Kingdom National Health Service was launched to investigate the more than 4,000 percent spike in child referrals to gender clinics over the past decade.

Youth referrals have risen from 97 in 2009-10 to 2,519 in 2017-18, according to the NHS's Gender Identity Development Service.

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