MANCHESTER, U.K. — A Unitarian congregation in the U.K. has announced that it is now offering baptisms for “transgender” members after a couple began attending services with their son, who identifies as a girl.
Jean Clements, the worship leader at New Chapel Unitarian and Free Christian Church in Tameside near Manchester, told the BBC that she proposed the accommodation after meeting the family.
She described her congregation as “a multi-generational community who are very willing to accept change and progress,” and said that Unitarians as a whole are proponents of “freedom” and “tolerance.”
“I felt saddened by the fact that this family were being shunned by many mainstream churches,” Clements said. “I would like to thank one courageous girl for inspiring me to think carefully about this issue in the first place.”
Derek McAuley, the chief officer of the Unitarian General Assembly, told the outlet that it is possible that other Unitarian congregations will follow suit. There are approximately 170 Unitarian congregations in the U.K.
As previously reported, the Church of England is likewise considering adding a ceremony to its services for “transgender” persons who seek to be re-baptized in their new gender identity and under their new name.
Chris Newlands, the vicar of Lancaster Priory, proposed the addition to the General Synod last year after being approached by a girl who identifies as a boy who wished to be baptized again under her male name.
“I said, ‘Once you’ve been baptized, you’re baptized,’” Newlands recalled to the Guardian. “[But] he said, ‘But I was baptized as a girl, under a different name.’”
“I said, ‘Let me have a think about it.’ So we did, and then we created a service, which was an affirmation of baptismal vows where we could introduce him to God with his new name and his new identity,” he said.
Newlands soon submitted a motion for the issue to be considered by the denomination as a whole. It was approved by the parochial church council, the Deanery Synod and the Blackburn Diocese, and is set to next be debated by the General Synod.
But some note that the proposal runs counter to Christian values.
“To recognize all people is something the church should be doing, but to have a service of blessing for someone to change their gender is a new idea,” Andrew Symesn of the Anglican Mainstream told reporters. “The Christian faith has always taught that people are created male and female.”
“We are aware there are a number of people who want to change from one gender to another and that’s a new thing for the church to deal with,” he stated. “It would be something that would go against the teachings of the church up till now.”