Conservative voices in the Church of England are warning that the Anglican branch is moving toward a "denial of God" through its new guidance on transgender people.
The new pastoral guidance, released on Tuesday, says that it encourages clergy to be “creative and sensitive” in the use of liturgy when acknowledging so-called "gender transition" for those suffering from gender dysphoria, the belief that their gender doesn't match their biology.
"The Church of England welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the body of Christ, and rejoices in the diversity of that body into which all Christians have been baptized by one Spirit," the new guidance declares.
The document advises clergy to respect transgender people's chosen name and gendered pronouns, and says that the existing rite of Affirmation of Baptismal Faith, a ceremony used for those who have already been baptized, can be used at church services to mark a person's gender transition.
“The emphasis is placed not on the past or future of the candidate alone, but on their faith in Jesus Christ,” the text adds.
“The Affirmation therefore gives priority to the original and authentic baptism of the individual as the sacramental beginning of the Christian life, allowing someone who has undergone a serious and lasting change to re-dedicate their life and identity to Christ. The image of God, in which we are all made, transcends gender, race, and any other characteristic.”
Christian Concern's chief executive Andrea Minichiello Williams, who is a lay member of the Church of England's General Synod, slammed the new guidence, however. Williams warned that the Church of England is continuing its "devastating trajectory towards an outright denial of God and His word."
"There is no need for Christians to sacrifice truth in a misguided attempt to be loving. It is not loving to mislead people — and wider society — into the falsehoods and myths of transgender ideology," she added.
Williams continued by stating that there is "no question that God calls us to love our neighbors." However, she added that using baptism to celebrate a gender transition turns the point of baptism upside down, by "encouraging people to follow their own feelings and live in identities contrary to how God created them."
"Very sadly, the guidance colludes with the unproven and untrue notion that a person can be ‘born in the wrong body’, rejecting the truth that God saw His own creation of humans as male and female as ‘very good’. As God is eternally the God of truth — not lies — Christians cannot and must not fall over themselves to accommodate transgender ideology," she argued.
"The Bible, God’s revealed and perfect word, does not recognize postmodern gender theory. Neither does the official doctrine of the Church of England. It is time for bishops to teach faithfully on this issue and for the clergy to speak with love, compassion and truth."
The Rev.'s Tina Beardsley, Sarah Jones, and Canon Rachel Mann, three Church of England members that were consulted in the writing of the guidance, clarified that the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith is not a second baptism, however.
The Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, chair of the House of Bishops Delegation Committee, added: "We are absolutely clear that everyone is made in the image of God and that all should find a welcome in their parish Church."
Henderson added: “This new guidance provides an opportunity, rooted in scripture, to enable trans people who have ‘come to Christ as the way, the truth and the life’, to mark their transition in the presence of their Church family which is the body of Christ."
Back in October, Church of England leadership further sided with U.K. government plans to make the process of gender recognition easier.
The Rev. Malcolm Brown, the church body's director of mission and public affairs, spoke out against "excessive bureaucracy in the process of gaining a gender recognition certificate," saying it does not help transgender people.