Friday, May 22, 2015

Church of England to Consider 'Transgender Baptism' Service

A "transgender baptism" service is to be considered by the Church of England for the first time.

The idea is to bless into God's family the new identities of Christians who have undergone gender transition.

The proposal was welcomed by the Church's most senior trans priest. Rev Rachel Mann, Rector of St Nicholas Burnage and a minor canon at Manchester Cathedral, told Christian Today: "Trans people feel powerfully called to be recognised in their 'chosen' name. An opportunity to be publicly introduced to God is therefore significant. I think this is what the proposed liturgy aims to do. It will be symbolically powerful. The extent to which it is [a form of] baptism will be debated by General Synod of course, but this liturgy is a welcome move to affirm Trans people.

" There is no guarantee the proposal will succeed. It is in the form of a diocesan motion to the General Synod and needs to wait its turn to get debated on the floor. But it is certain to generate contention in a Church still struggling with its position on sexuality. Keep reading
The sacramental efficacy of baptism has nothing to do with the gender of the baptismal candidate. It is tied to the presence of the Holy Spirit and a vital faith in the baptized.

Baptism is not a rite for introducing an individual to God nor is it a rite for celebrating a change of sexual identity. The Holy Spirit searches our hearts. God knows us better than we know ourselves. Nothing is hidden from him. God does not need a formal introduction to us.

If an individual is experiencing gender confusion, a rite celebrating a sexual identity change reinforces that individual's gender confusion. This is not to say that a church should not be supportive of its members in their struggles: we are called to bear each other's burdens. But as in the case of sexual orientation, our support should not extend to disregarding what Scripture teaches.

Rather than creating new rites, the Church of England might consider the option of abandoning infant baptism. When an adult is baptized, he is declaring to the church and to the world that he has accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord with all its implications. Through the act of baptism God invigorates, confirms, and strengthens the faith of the believer. Baptism makes visible what God has already done in giving the Holy Spirit and a vital faith to the believer - made him regenerate, adopted him as his child, and grafted him into the Body of Christ. Baptism is indeed the outward sign of an inward grace--the undeserved goodwill and mercy God has shown to us.

Baptism is efficacious: it does what God intends it to do. Here I must point out that it is God that determines how baptism is efficacious, not ourselves. We have a tendency to load down the rite of baptism with all kinds of non-theological and theological freight that has nothing to do with how God himself uses the rite.

We baptize because our Lord himself sanctioned baptism with his own baptism in the river Jordan. He did not restrain his disciples from baptizing with water even though he himself did not baptize with water. After he rose from the dead and before he ascended to the right hand of the Father, our Lord commissioned his disciples to go and make disciples of all people groups, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teaching them what he had commanded. With the Lord's Supper, baptism is the only sacrament or ordinance to which our Lord has given his mandate.

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