Why the Christian argument for a ban on transgender conversion therapy fails.

I very much regret having to disagree with Archbishop Rowan Williams. He is someone whom I deeply respect and from whose writings I have learned an enormous amount. However, as part of my responsibility as a theologian, I feel that I need to say publicly that I disagree with the Christian argument for a ban on transgender conversion therapy put forward by Archbishop Williams and thirteen other Christian writers in their recent open letter to the Prime Minister. What they say in the letter is deeply misleading and they completely fail to make a convincing Christian case for such a ban.[1]

The letter to the Prime Minister

The letter runs as follows:

‘Dear Prime Minister.

On the Ban on Conversion Therapy Excluding Trans People

Conversion to Christianity is the event or process by which a person responds joyfully to the glorious embrace of the eternally loving and ever merciful God. It has nothing to do with so called ‘conversion therapy’ – pressure put by one person on another to fit their expectations; the attempt to induce vulnerable and isolated people to deny who they truly are.

To be trans is to enter a sacred journey of becoming whole: precious, honoured and loved, by yourself, by others and by God.

To allow those discerning this journey to be subjected to coercive or undermining practises is to make prayer a means of one person manipulating another. It is a wrong-hearted notion of care and a wrong-headed understanding of conversion. Every church should be a safe space that affirms people in being who they are, without fear of judgement.

We see no justification for the ban on so called ‘conversion therapy’ excluding trans people.

Yours respectfully….’

The problem with what is said in this letter, and why it fails to make a convincing Christian case for a ban on transgender conversion therapy, is that it involves a faulty anthropology that in turn leads to a faulty understanding of what conversion needs to involve in the case of those people who identify as transgender.

A faulty anthropology

Transgender (or ‘trans’) people are those people who have a gender identity that is different from their biological sex. This can mean someone who is biologically male identifying as female, someone who is biologically female identifying as male, or someone adopting a ‘non-binary’ identity that is neither male nor female. Under the terms of the Gender Recognition Act of 2004, in the case of those biological males who identify as female and those biological females who identify as females, how they identify themselves becomes their legal identity once they have acquired a Gender Recognition Certificate. There is, however, no legal recognition of the transgender identity of children or young people or of those who see themselves as having some form of non-binary identity.

The underlying premise in the letter is that how transgender people identify themselves is ‘who they truly are’ and that for transgender people to become whole they need to learn to love themselves in that identity and to discover that they are ‘precious, honoured and loved’ in that identity by both other people and God.

From an orthodox Christian perspective, the problem with this argument is that it makes no sense to say that the identities adopted by transgender people is ‘who they truly are.’

To understand why this is the case, a good place to start is with Paul’s exhortation to the Christians in Corinth to ‘glorify God in your body’ (1 Corinthians 6:20). What Paul says in this verse tells us that as human beings we are creatures  with bodies. There would be no point in the Corinthians being told to glorify God in their bodies if they had no bodies in which they could do this. It would be like telling someone with no legs that they should walk.

What this verse also tells us, however, is that as human beings we are not just bodies. Paul does not write to the Corinthians ‘bodies glorify God.’ What he writes is ‘glorify God in your bodies,’  a command that only makes sense if there is a self, a ‘you,’ that possesses a body, but is not identical with it. This self is clearly not a material entity, because then it would itself be a body, whereas Paul distinguishes it from the body. It must therefore be an incorporeal or spiritual entity, and for Paul’s injunction to make sense it must also be an entity that is capable of hearing (assuming Paul’s letter was originally read out loud), understanding, and then acting on that understanding. It follows that what we are talking about is a conscious, rational, spiritual entity that is capable of directing the body, what in Christian theology and Western philosophy has traditionally been called a soul.

In summary, what we learn from thinking about what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:20 is what has been taught down the centuries by the Christian tradition, namely, that human beings are what is known as a ‘psychosomatic unity’ of a material body and an immaterial soul.

This anthropology is based on what the Bible teaches in passages such as 1 Corinthians 6, and on the insights of the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle. It was taught by the Early Church Fathers and by the theologians of the Middle Ages, and it continued to be taught by mainstream Protestant theologians during the Reformation.

 Martin Luther, for example, in his Small Catechism of 1529, explains that the Creedal statement ‘I believe in God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth’ means ‘I believe that God has created me and all that exists, that he has given me and still sustains my body and soul.’ [2]

The Anglican tradition agrees with the wider Christian tradition that human beings consist of bodies and souls.

We can see this, for example, in the words of the Holy Communion service in The Book of Common Prayer. The Minister gives people the bread and wine so that Christ’s body and blood may ‘preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.’ The people ‘offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies’ and pray ‘that through thy most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in both body and soul.’

Likewise, in the Burial Service a distinction is made between the soul of the departed ‘which it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself ’ and their body which is committed to the ground, ‘earth to earth, ashes, dust to dust.’

So, ‘who am I?’  Paul, and the Christian tradition following Paul, says that ‘I’ am a single self, a psychosomatic unity consisting of a body and a soul. I am a material body, including a material brain, but that is not all I am. I am also an immaterial, conscious, rational, soul that is aware of God, other people, and the world in general, a mind that acts in and through my body in the light of this awareness.

As Nancy Pearcey notes in her book Love Thy Body there is a tendency in contemporary Western thought to regard the soul, the conscious part of our existence, as the ‘authentic self’ with the body ‘demoted to a nothing but a ‘meat skeleton’’ extraneous to who we truly are.[3] This is not the Christian view. The Christian view is that while I am not simply my body, nevertheless, I am my body and my body is me (as when I say, ‘I am going to sit down,’  or ‘I fell off my bicycle,’ both acts directly involving only my body but nonetheless involving me as a whole). 

One day my material body will die (unless Jesus returns first), but my soul will survive that death, and because disembodiment is not its proper state God will re-unite my soul with my resurrected body in the general resurrection of the dead at the end of time.  Just as the human body that Jesus assumed at the incarnation is an integral part of who Jesus is and will be for all eternity, so also the bodies which we have are going to be an integral part of who we will eternally be. Even if we would like it to be the case, there is no escape from our bodies.

Furthermore, in accordance with God’s creation of human beings as male and female (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18-25, 5:1-2, Matthew 19:4-5, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16) a central part of what it means to be created by God in his image and likeness is to be male or female.

Contrary to what is often suggested today, being male or female is something that is determined not by our feelings but by our biology. Regardless of how we feel, it is our biology that matters in this regard. As Christopher Tollefsen explains, being male or female means having a body that is configured to play a particular part in obeying God’s command to his human creatures to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:28). To quote Tollefsen:

‘… our identity as animal organisms is the foundation of our existence as selves. But fundamental to our existence as this animal is our sex. We are male or female organisms in virtue of having a root capacity for reproductive function, even when that capacity is immature or damaged. In human beings, as is the case with many other organisms, that function is one to be performed jointly with another human being; unlike the digestive function, no individual human being suffices for its performance.

Accordingly, reproductive function in human beings is distributed across the two sexes, which are identified by their having the root capacity for one or the other of the two general structural and behavioural patterns involved in human reproduction. In male humans, this capacity is constituted by the structures necessary for the production of male gametes and the performance of the male sex act, insemination. In females, the capacity is constituted by the structures necessary for the production of oocytes and the performance of the female sex act, the reception of semen in a manner disposed to conception.’[4]

There are various other physical and psychological differences between men and women,[5] but these are all characteristics of human beings who are fundamentally differentiated by the fact that their bodies are ordered towards the performance of different roles in sexual reproduction and in the nurture of children once they have been born.

There is a very small percentage of people, some 0.018% of live births (approximately 1:500), who are genuinely ‘intersex’ in the sense that they combine both male and female elements in their physiology. However, the existence of such people still points to the fundamentally dimorphic, male or female, nature of human sexuality. If they are able to have children, they do so either as male or female. Their condition is a developmental disorder rather than the existence of a third type of human being and is the exception that proves the rule. [6]

What all this means is that the claim made in the letter to the Prime Minister that who transgender people ‘really are’ is determined by the identity they have adopted for themselves is incorrect. People are who God made them to be, and except in the rare cases of those who are genuinely intersex and whose sex is therefore both male and female, this means that they are either male or female depending on their biology, and no amount of self-identification, hormone treatment, or plastic surgery can change this fact. 

It is often argued, and, shockingly, often taught to school children, that transgender people are who they believe they are because they have a brain that belongs to a different sex from the rest of their body.  Like the idea of a ‘gay gene’ this idea of a ‘transgender brain’ (‘a pink brain in a blue body’ as children are taught to see it) is not supported by the evidence. What we know about the matter is helpfully summarised by the website Transgender Trend as follows:

‘Although we often hear that transgender people are trapped in the wrong body this is a myth and not based on any credible scientific evidence. There is virtually no clear or reliable difference between male and female brains structurally, let alone evidence that transgender people have a brain that does not match up with their natal sex.’[7]

A faulty view of conversion

Furthermore, not only it is impossible for someone to escape their biological identity. From a Christian perspective it is wrong to attempt do so. 

Except in the case of those who are genuinely intersex, believing rightly in ‘God the Father who hath made me and all the world’ in the words of the Prayer Book Catechism, means accepting with gratitude that I am the male or female human being that God has created me to be and living accordingly.

As Oliver O’ Donovan writes in his book Begotten or Made?:

‘When God made mankind male and female, to exist alongside each other and for each other, he gave a form that human sexuality should take and a good to which it should aspire. None of us can, or should, regard our difficulties with that form, or with achieving that good, as the norm of what our sexuality is to be. None of us should see our sexuality as mere self-expression, and forget that we can express ourselves sexually only because we participate in this generic form and aspire to this generic good. We do not have to make a sexual form, or posit a sexual good. We have to exist as well as we can within that sexual form, and in relation to that sexual good, which has been given to us because it has been given to humankind.’ [8]

In the Bible, our obligation to live in accordance with the sexual form we have been given is explicitly laid down in Deuteronomy 22:5 which prohibits cross-dressing on the grounds that, as Peter Harland puts it: ‘to dress after the manner of the opposite sex was to infringe the normal order of creation which divided humanity into male and female.’[9] It is also laid down by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 where he tells the Corinthians that men should follow the dress and hair codes which proclaim them to be male and women the codes which proclaim them to be female because, in the words of Tom Wright in his commentary on this verse: ‘God’s creation needs humans to be fully, gloriously and truly human, which means fully and truly male and female’.[10]

This biblical teaching does not mean that Christians should uncritically embrace the gender stereotypes of any given society. Christian missionaries in China, for example, were right to reject the idea that woman should have tiny feet and that it was right to bind the feet of young girls in order to achieve this, and Christians today are right to challenge the restrictions on women’s education that still exist in various parts of the world

What it does mean is that we should glorify God through our bodies by living in a way that proclaims to our society the truth of our creation by God as male or female. We should be saying through our actions in our bodies, God has made me male, or God has made me female.

However difficult it may be for us to accept the sexual form that God has given us, to deny it would be sinful because it would involve refusing to say to God ‘thy will be done’ by refusing to love  the self who God has made us to be. Contrary to the argument in the letter, becoming transgender  is in fact the very opposite of the ‘sacred journey’ of learning to love and accept who we truly are. It is in fact refusing to accept who we truly are.

Refusing in this way to say to God ‘thy will be done,’ in either our thinking or our behaviour, is a very serious matter because it brings with it the inescapable risk of eternal separation from God. As C S Lewis writes in his book The Great Divorce, there is an inescapable binary choice facing all human beings. ‘There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’’[11]

Lewis’ point is that God allows human beings the freedom to shape their own destinies. We can choose to say to God ‘Thy will be done’ and be happy with God for ever in the world to come, or we can choose to turn our back on God. If we do this God will respect our decision, but the inevitable consequence will be that in the world to come we will be cut off from God and all good for ever.

In summary, the fundamental problem with the adoption of a transgender identity is, therefore,  that doing so means a sinful refusal to say to God ‘Thy will be done.’ Being transgender involves refusing to accept and live out the male or female identity that God has given to us and deliberately adopting an artificially created alternate identity instead. To acknowledge this point is not to minimise the acute distress experienced by people with gender dysphoria. It is, rather, to give a theological account of what using gender transition to relieve this distress entails.

The argument is often made that people who engage in gender transition cannot be said to be sinning since they are not deliberately choosing to go against God’s will. They see the identity they are seeking to live out as their true God given identity, their ‘authentic self,’  and they simply desire to live according to this true identity.

This argument is true as an account of how the people involved view their situation. However, two further points need to be noted.

First, we have to distinguish between how an individual subjectively views their identity and what is objectively true. As we have seen, to be male or female is a matter of biology, it is a matter of the body someone has been given by God and for which, and in which, they are called to glorify him, and this truth is unaffected by how someone views him or herself. This means that someone who is biologically male or female, and who rejects this identity, is in fact rejecting the sex that God has given them, regardless of how they themselves view the matter.

Secondly, the fact that people with gender dysphoria have a distorted view of who they truly are which they then make the basis of sinful actions is not something which makes them unique. As a result of the Fall human beings have lost the ability to always see things as they truly are (see Romans 1:21). Acts of sin (of whatever kind) occur when a distorted view of reality resulting from the Fall leads to wrong desires which in turn give birth to wrong actions. As Augustine argues in Book XIV of The City of God, ‘our will is for our welfare’ and this results in acts of sin because, misled in our thinking because of the Fall, ‘we commit sin to promote our welfare.’ [12]This is what is involved in gender transition just as in all other forms of sin. Eve wanted the apple because she thought it would be for her good. People desire gender transition for the same reason.

As the stories of transgender people make clear, there are a whole range of secondary reasons why people may desire gender transition, which may be biological, psychological, familial, or cultural in nature.  However, identifying such causes and saying that the existence of transgender identities is a result of sin are complementary rather than alternative explanations of what is taking place. If we say that transgender identities are a result of sin, we are making a theological statement about how a particular set of feelings and a particular course of action go against the good that God wills for his human creatures. If we say they are a result of, say, familial experiences, or psychological problems, or are exacerbated by cultural influences, we are describing the mechanisms by which sin wields power in someone’s life.

Because transgender identities are sinful for the reasons that have just been described, this means that the open letter also offers a faulty account of what conversion needs to involve in the case of transgender people.

As we have seen, the letter defines conversion as a ‘the event or process by which a person responds joyfully to the glorious embrace of the eternally loving and ever merciful God.’ This definition is fine as far as it goes. Where it falls short is in failing to say that this joyful response must issue in holiness of life. 

According to the teaching of the Bible, responding joyfully to God means accepting God’s offer of new life in Christ by believing and being baptised (or in the case of those baptised as infants, being baptised and then believing).  However, whichever way round it happens, because we have been given new life through faith and baptism we are then summoned to live accordingly.

Thus, Paul writes in Romans 6:11-14 that because the Christians in Rome have believed and been baptised they must consider themselves:

‘…. dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.’

 In similar fashion he writes in Ephesians 4:17-24

‘Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. You did not so learn Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.’

We are not left to live in this way in our own strength. As those who believe and are baptised we have the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) who is given to us to enable us to begin to become the people God has created and re-created us to be. However, the Spirit’s work in our life is not automatic. We have a choice about whether we will receive the new life that the Spirit has to give or whether we will continue to live according to the pattern of our old nature (‘the flesh’). Paul highlights this choice in Romans 8:13 when he writes ‘if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.’

The ‘works of the flesh’ which we are called to turn away from in the power of the Spirit take multiple forms, but for the reasons set out above, among them is the rejection by transgender people of the sexual identity which God has given to them, and which is determined by the sex of their body. This means that in the case of transgender people conversion must mean not only believing and being baptised, but also becoming willing to accept and live out their true, God given, sexual identity.

As the testimonies of those who have de-transitioned make very clear,  this will not be an easy path for people to walk.

As the Evangelical Alliance report Transsexuality correctly notes: ‘The pathway of growth, sanctification and change can be expected to be slow and painful. Struggle and relapse can be anticipated.’[13] The desire to live as a member of the other sex may never go away in this life, even if it lessens or can be controlled, and the psychological, emotional and practical issues involved in giving up a legal public identity as a member of one sex and reverting to another sex will be immense and will take time to resolve (this is particularly the case if people have a family life in their transgender identity).

Those who have undergone hormone treatment, or sex reassignment surgery, may have to learn to live with the fact that some aspects of what have happened to them are irreversible and that they will have mutilated bodies and be infertile for the rest of their lives.

Furthermore, in a culture which is increasingly supportive of gender transition there will be constant cultural influences suggesting that it would be desirable to continue to live in their assumed identity and in addition, as the Evangelical Alliance report explains: ‘Fellow transsexuals will usually be convinced that change is not possible and sometimes seek to dissuade someone seeking in this way to be obedient to Christ.’[14]

All these issues need to be taken with the utmost seriousness and it is obligatory for Christians to support their transgender (or former transgender) brothers and sisters in any way they can as they wrestle with them.   

What Christians are not free to do, is to follow the example of the writers of the open letter by suggesting that these issues can be avoided because conversion to Christianity and adopting, or remaining in, a transgender identity can go together. For the reasons outlined in the paper this is not the case. As Paul asks rhetorically  in Romans 6:2 ‘How can we who died to sin still live  in it?’

Any form of pastoral care that involves coercion or manipulation of one person by another is, of course, wrong because it involves a failure to respect the God given right of all human beings to make free and responsible choices about how they should live. However, it is also wrong to do what the writers of the letter call for, which is to simply affirm transgender people in their self-chosen identity. That would mean leaving them trapped in sin rather than offering them the liberation from the power of sin which Jesus died and rose to make possible

What is also wrong is for the writers of the letter to suggest that it would be right for the government to effectively force Christians to take an affirmative approach or face criminal sanctions. That is what a ban on ‘conversion therapy’ for transgender people would involve and we have to ask the writers of the letter if that is what they really want. 

Do they truly want Christians to face fines or imprisonment for seeking to help people to say ‘Yes’ to God and live as God made them to be?


[1] The letter was made public by Paul Brand from ITV who posted it on Twitter on 4 April. The link is: https://twitter.com/PaulBrandITV/status/1510959904386859009 .

[2] Martin Luther, Small Catechism in Mark Noll, Confessions and Catechisms of the Reformation (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1991), p.68.

[3] Nancy Pearcey, Love Thy Body ( Zondervan: Baker Books, 2018), p.197.  

[4] Christopher Tollefsen, ‘Sex identity,’ Public Discourse, 12 July 2015, text at http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/07/15306/.

[5] See for example, Richard A Lippa, Gender, Nature and Nurture, 2ed  (London: Routledge, 2005).

[6] It should be noted that although intersex people are often placed in the category of transgender people, they are not transgender. They are not people who are seeking to inhabit a sexual identity different from that of their body.

[7] Transgender Trend, ‘The ‘Pink and Blue Brain’ Myth’ at https://www.transgendertrend.com/brain-research/.

[8] Oliver O’Donovan, Begotten or Made? (Oxford: OUP, 1984), pp. 29-30.

[9] P.J. Harland ‘Menswear and Womenswear: A Study of Deuteronomy 22:5,’ (Expository Times, 110, No.3,1988), p.76

[10] Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone – I Corinthians (London: SPCK, 2003), p.143

[11] C S Lewis, The Great Divorce (Glasgow: Fontana, 1972), pp. 66-67.

[12] Augustine, The City of God, Book XIV.4, text in David Knowles (ed), Augustine, City of God (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1972), p. 553.

[13] The Evangelical Alliance, Transsexuality (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2000), p. 82.

[14] Evangelical Alliance, p.83.

A contribution to the work of the new Next Steps working group.

According to a Church of England press release giving details of the meeting of the House of Bishops on 17 and 18 May, the bishops ‘agreed in principle to the formation of a working group on gender identity and transition under the auspices of the LLF Next Steps Group.’ [1]

The purpose of this article is to offer a contribution to the thinking of this new group from a traditional Anglican perspective.

Why the traditional Christian view of sexual identity is being challenged.

Underlying the current debate in the Church and in wider society about gender identity and gender transition is a challenge to the traditional Christian view of human sexual identity.  

The traditional Christian view, which has also traditionally been accepted by Western society as a whole, is that human beings have been created by God as embodied creatures who are either male or female (Genesis 1:26-28, 5:1-2, Matthew 19:4) Today, however, this premise is being challenged on two grounds.

First, it is being challenged on the grounds that the evidence we have tells that the human race is not neatly divided into those who are male and those who are female. There are also, it is argued, intersex people who don’t fit into either of these two categories, and our thinking about what it means to be human has to be expanded to take this fact into account. Instead of thinking in terms of a ‘gender binary’ in which humanity is divided into males and females, we should accept that there are a whole spectrum of different form of human sexual identity, of which being male and female are only two.

Secondly, it is being challenged on the grounds that there are transgender people whose personal identity or ‘gender’ does not accord with the sex of their bodies. There are, it is claimed, people with male bodies whose true gender is female and vice versa and there are also people with male and female bodies whose gender is neither male nor female but comes under some other category such as intergender, gender fluid or pangender.

Intersex

In relation to the first challenge, it is important for Christians to acknowledge that there are a very small number of people (some 0.018% of live births) who are genuinely ‘intersex’ in the sense that they combine both male and female elements in their physiology. For example, there are people with Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome who are genetically male in that they have XY chromosomes, but who do not form male genitalia, but instead typically have a vaginal opening and clitoris indistinguishable from those present in females.

It is also important to note, however, that those people who are intersex do not constitute a third type of human being alongside those who are male and female. They are instead people in whom some form of developmental disorder has occurred which has prevented them from developing as male and female in the normal way intended by God for his human creatures. The reason for saying that a disorder has occurred is because the physical characteristics that make people intersex have no good purpose of their own and typically prevent the good ends that human sexual differentiation is meant to achieve, namely sexual intercourse and sexual reproduction.

However, even if there has been a disorder in their sexual development, people with intersex conditions are still human beings just like everyone else. The question this raises is how they should live before God in a way that bears witness to God’s creation of humanity as male and female.

Where someone is genetically male or female, but there is an abnormality in the way their body has developed, the most appropriate way forward would seem to be for them to live out their basic genetic male or female sexual identity as fully as possible with appropriate spiritual, psychological and medical support. In those extremely rare cases where people have a mixture of male and female elements in both their genetic and in their bodily characteristics, a possible way forward that would make theological sense would be for the people concerned to honour God’s creation of human beings as male or female by living as a man or a woman while acknowledging the presence of elements of the opposite sex in their bodily make up.

What does not make any theological sense is to say that the developmental disorder that the has occurred in the cases of people who are genuinely intersex calls into question the belief that the human race has been designed by God to be a dimorphic species consisting of male and females. Both Scripture and the study of human biology tells us that this is how God designed the human race to be and our theology has to follow the biblical and biological evidence in the matter.

Transgender

In relation to transgender, it is important for Christians to recognise that gender dysphoria (a sense of distress caused by a mismatch between one’s psychological and emotional sense of identity and one’s biological sense) is a real and very distressing phenomenon. However, the idea that it is right for people to seek to relieve their distress by assuming an identity that is at variance with the sex of their body is deeply problematic for four reasons.

First, it goes against reason for someone to claim that they have an identity which differs from that of their body. The nature of human beings as unions of souls and bodies means that it always true that I am my body and my body is me. It follows that if my body is male or female then I am male or female. Furthermore, the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of body teaches us that this will be true not only in this world, but also in the world to come. We are eternally that particular sexed union of body and soul which God created us to be.  

Secondly, if someone assumes an identity which differs from who that of their body, they are refusing to accept the identity which has been given to them by God when he created them. By so doing they are committing the basic sin of refusing to say to God ‘thy will be done’ (Matthew 6:10). This may well not be what they think they are doing, and not what they are intending to do, but nevertheless it is what they are doing. Sin remains sin whether we consciously intend to commit it or not.

Thirdly, for someone to assume an identity different from that of their body goes against the teaching of the Bible in Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 that people should not live in a way that goes against the sex they have been given by God. God calls us to bear witness to the goodness of his creative activity (Genesis 1:31) by living in a way that testifies to the sexual identity that he has given to us.

Fourthly, there is a growing body of evidence that calls into question the claim that embracing an alternate identity will necessarily bring the relief from om mental anguish that those suffering from gender dysphoria are seeking. The evidence we have,  highlighted by the growing number of testimonies from those who have gone through gender transition and then have de-transitioned, suggests that a large number of people who have adopted a new identity will continue to suffer from mental distress even to the point of committing suicide.

In the light of these four problems, the best way forward for people with gender dysphoria has to be for them to be able to reach a point where they can come to terms with the truth of their identity and are able to embrace it as a good gift from God.

Being people of truth and love

In the case of both intersex and transgender, the pastoral calling of Christians is to be people of truth and love. As people of truth, they are called to be those who help others to understand their true, God-given, identities. As people of love, they are called to walk with them on what can often be a long and painful journey to accepting and living out these true identities.

What this means, I suggest, is that the new Next Steps working party should make the following recommendations.

First, the House of Bishops needs to formally withdraw its 2003 memo that suggested that there were a range of views of transgender that could ‘properly be held’ by those in the Church of England.[2] For the reasons set out above, the only view that can ‘properly be held’ is the traditional Christian view that people’s God given sex is the sex of their body and the House of Bishops should unequivocally say so and take the necessary steps to make this the Church of England’s official position.

Secondly, the House of Bishops needs to withdraw its 2018 Pastoral Guidance commending the use of the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith as a way of marking liturgically an individual’s gender transition.[3] The Church of England’s liturgical practice needs to cohere with its theology, and both need to bear witness to the truth. Holding services which declare that someone has a different gender identity from their biological sex, and which celebrate this fact, goes against this principle and so should not be taking place.

Thirdly, the House of Bishops needs to re-consider its discipline with regard to ordination. The 2002 decision by the House of Bishops that there was no bar to transgender people being ordained was based on the fact that there was nothing in the Canons to prevent this. However, what needs to be taken into account is the principle that those who are ordained need to be willing to live according to the Church’s teaching. If the House of Bishops declare that this teaching should be that human beings are called to live according to their biological sex, then the ordination of transgender people would then contravene this principle.

Fourthly, the Church of England needs to produce resources explaining and defending the traditional Christian view for use in the parishes, in theological education institutions, in church schools and in the growing public debate about the matter.

Fifthly, the Church of England needs to draw on the advice of those with appropriate clinical and pastoral expertise to produce resources to help psychiatrists, counsellors, teachers, members of the clergy, and ordinary lay Christians to give support and guidance, in line with Christian truth, to those struggling with their sexual identities and to their families. People need to know how best to help those struggling in  this area, and the Church needs to give them the resources they need. To put in another way, they need advice about how to put love into practice and the Church of England needs to provide it for them.


[1] ‘House of Bishops Meeting 17th-18th May 2021 at https://www.churchofengland.org/media-and-news/news- releases/house-bishops-meeting-17th-18th-may-2021.

[2] House of Bishops Memo HB(03)M1 text at  http://changingattitude.org.uk/archives/8542.

[3] This can be found at https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/201812/Pastoral%20Guidance%5B3%5DAffirmation-Baptismal-Faith.pdf .

The House of Bishops and transgender: Fifteen wasted years.

Introduction.

In 2018 the House of Bishops issued two statements on the transgender issue. The first of these was GS Misc. 1178, ‘An update on ‘Welcoming Transgender People,’’[1] and the second, which built upon the first, was ‘Pastoral Guidance for use in conjunction with the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith in the context of gender transition.’[2]

Although these are the two most recent House of Bishops statements on the subject, they were not the first material produced by the House on the transgender issue. In 2003 the House of Bishops published a discussion document entitled Some Issues in Human Sexuality[3] which, among other topics, looked at what it called ‘transsexualism’ and in the same year the House issued a memorandum on the matter.[4]

In this paper I shall compare and contrast what is said in these four documents. I shall argue that they show us three main things. First that the House’s position changed from one of neutrality in 2003 to one of support for gender transition in 2018. Secondly, that that the House failed to give adequate theological justification either for the position it took in 2003 or for the position it adopted in 2018. Thirdly, that for fifteen years the House has avoided answering the key questions about the transgender issue identified in Some Issues in Human Sexuality and that is this failure that has prevented it from reaching a theologically justifiable position on gender transition.

I shall also argue that the House has failed to make a proper contribution to the public debate on the transgender issue, and has failed to give guidance on pastoral care for people with gender dysphoria and their families, on the marriage of those who have gone through gender transition and on the issue of whether those who have gone through gender transition should be ordained.

Finally, I shall suggest where we need to go from here.

Some Issues in Human Sexuality 2003.

As its subtitle suggests, Some Issues in Human Sexuality was written as ‘a guide to the debate’ about human sexuality as this stood at the time when this report was written. The report was intended to enable members of the Church of England to better understand the matters under discussion so that when they came to make decisions about them they would do so in a properly informed fashion.

Chapter 7 of the report is concerned with the topic of ‘transsexualism’ (what we would now call ‘transgender’ issues). The chapter looks in turn at what is meant by the term ‘transsexualism,’ the history of transsexualism, the growth of the debate about transsexualism in society as a whole and the nature of the Christian debate about transsexualism. It also highlights the issues about the nature of the human person, divine order, the interpretation of the Bible, the appropriateness of medical intervention, marriage and birth certificates, and the place of transsexual people in the life of the Church that are raised by the Christian debate.

At the end of the chapter two key questions are identified as lying at the heart of the Christian debate about transsexualism.

The first question concerns what it means for a transsexual person to live in obedience to Christ.

The report asks:

‘Does such obedience mean learning to accept and live with their given biological identity because this is the identity which God has given them, or does it mean seeking a new post-operative identity on the grounds that it is this which will enable them to more fully express the person God intends them to be?’[5]

What is said in this quotation reflects the fact that back in 2003 sexual reassignment surgery was the centre of the discussion of transsexualism. Today we would be more aware that many transgender people find ways of expressing their sense of their true identity without undergoing surgery. However, the fundamental issue raised in the question remains as relevant today as it was then. Does the path of Christian discipleship for transgender people involve accepting their biological identity, or does it mean seeking a new identity which they think more fully expresses the person God intended them to be?

The second question concerns what constitutes our God- given identity as human beings. The report states:

‘It has traditionally been held that one of the implications of the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body is that it shows that our bodies are integral to who we are before God. We are not simply people who inhabit bodies, rather our bodies are part of who we are. If this is the case, what are the theological grounds for saying that in the case of people with gender dysphoria their ‘true’ identity is different from that of the body with which they were born? Can we go down this road without moving to a new form of gnostic dualism in which the body is seen as separate from the self? ‘[6]

Although the report itself does not say so, because it is raising questions rather than answering them, the answer to the question in the last sentence of this quotation is ‘no.’

As Robert George explains in his 2016 article ‘Gnostic Liberalism,’ despite the differences between them the various Gnostic heresies that existed during the early centuries of the Church all held to an anthropology that sharply divided:

‘….the material or bodily, on the one hand, and the spiritual or mental or affective, on the other. For Gnostics, it was the immaterial, the mental, the affective that ultimately matters. Applied to the human person, this means that the material or bodily is inferior—if not a prison to escape, certainly a mere instrument to be manipulated to serve the goals of the ‘person,’ understood as the spirit or mind or psyche. The self is a spiritual or mental substance; the body, its merely material vehicle. You and I, as persons, are identified entirely with the spirit or mind or psyche, and not at all (or in only the most highly attenuated sense) with the body that we occupy (or are somehow ‘associated with’) and use.‘ [7]

The anthropology of the modern transgender movement is based on a similar division between the self and the body. The often repeated transgender claim that someone is a man trapped in a woman’s body, or a woman trapped in a man’s body (or someone who is neither male nor female trapped in a man or woman’s body), only makes sense if it is held that that there is a self which has an identity which is separate from, and different to, the body to which it is attached. I can only meaningfully say that my sexual identity is different from the biological sex of my body if in fact I am not my body, but a distinct spiritual or mental substance which exists apart from my body.

Orthodox Christianity, however, rejects this kind of body-self dualism. Scripture, reason and the Christian tradition all teach us that in his goodness and wisdom God made human beings as a unity of body and soul. Rocks are purely material, angels are purely spiritual, but human beings are a unity of a material body and an immaterial soul. This unity means that we are our bodies and our bodies are us, which is why it makes sense to say I got up in the morning, I ate and drank, and I went to bed at night. All these are actions of the single self who is both body and soul. It is this combination of body and soul that we see exhibited in the stories in the Gospels about the humanity of Christ. Christ is one self in whom a human body and soul exist and act together.[8]

It is as this unity of body and soul that we are either male or female. To be male or female is to have certain bodily characteristics that are designed by God to enable us to fulfil his command to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:28) by playing a particular role in the procreation and nurture of children.

Although death leads to a separation of the body and the soul, so fundamental are our bodies to who we are that, following the pattern of Christ’s resurrection, God will resurrect our bodies at the end of time so that we will exist for all eternity as the male and female human beings God created us to be (see 1 Corinthians 15).

There is a very tiny number of human beings (around 0.018% of live births) who suffer from a developmental disorder stemming from the Fall that means that they either have elements of both male and female in their biology or have a body whose observable physical characteristics cannot be classified as either male or female.[9] However, these intersex people are the exceptions that prove the rule. The vast majority of human beings fulfil God’s original creative intention by being clearly and indisputably either male or female in their biology and therefore in who they are.

Those who suffer from gender dysphoria are part of this majority. They find it psychologically difficult to identify with the sex of their bodies, but the sex of their bodies is physiologically unambiguous. They are men and women who, for reasons which are still not clearly understood, struggle with being men and women.[10]

All this being the case, it follows that the answer to the previous question in Some Issues about Christian discipleship is that it is not compatible with the path of Christian discipleship for people with male or female bodies to claim either that they are really a member of the other sex, or that they have some other kind of sexual identity. Our responsibility as God’s human creatures is to acknowledge and accept with gratitude the sex God has made us to be as this is manifested to us in the nature of our bodies, and this remains true even in the case of those who struggle with gender dysphoria.

In the words of Oliver O’Donovan:

‘The sex into which we have been born (assuming it is physiologically unambiguous) is given to us to be welcomed as the gift of God. The task of psychological maturity – for it is a moral task, and not merely an event which may or may not transpire – involves accepting this gift and learning to love it, even though we may have to acknowledge that it does not come to us without problems. Our task is to discern the possibilities for personal relationship which are given to us with this biological sex, and to seek to develop them in accordance with our individual vocations. Those for whom this task has been comparatively unproblematic (though I suppose that no human being alive has been without some sexual problems) are in no position to pronounce any judgement on those for whom accepting their sex has been so difficult that they have fled from it into denial. Nevertheless, we cannot and must not conceive of physical sexuality as a mere raw material with which we can construct a form of psychosexual self-expression which is determined only by the free impulse of our spirits. Responsibility in sexual development implies a responsibility to nature – to the ordered good of the bodily form which we have been given.‘[11]

The House of Bishops Memorandum 2003.

Following its meeting in Leeds early in 2003 the House of Bishops issued a memorandum on transsexualism which runs as follows:

‘The House recognised that there was a range of views within the Church on transsexualism and accepted that (as matters stood at present) both the positions set out below could properly be held: a) some Christians concluded on the basis of Scripture and Christian anthropology, that concepts such as ‘gender reassignment’ or ‘sex change’ were really a fiction. Hormone treatment or surgery might change physical appearance, but they could not change the fundamental God-given reality of ‘male and female He created them’. b) others, by contrast, whilst recognising that medical opinion was not unanimous, were persuaded that there were individuals whose conviction that they were ‘trapped in the wrong body’ was so profound and persistent that medical intervention, which might include psychiatric, hormone, and surgical elements, was legitimate and that the result could properly be termed a change of sex or gender.

The House agreed that the Church should continue to engage in discussions with the Lord Chancellor’s Department with a view to safeguarding the position of bishops unwilling to ordain transgendered candidates and, once marriage of transsexuals became possible in law, securing an exemption for clergy not willing to solemnise such marriages.’ [12]

As the second paragraph indicates, the context of this memorandum was the discussions which the Church of England was then having with the Lord Chancellor’s Department to safeguard the freedom of bishops not to ordain transgender candidates and the right of clergy not to marry transgender people in their chosen sex once such a marriage became possible in law (as it did under the Gender Recognition Act the following year).

In this context the purpose of the first paragraph was to make clear that the view that ‘gender reassignment’ or ‘sex change’ was a fiction could properly be held by members of the Church of England and that therefore freedom of religion meant that such a view should be protected in law with the consequence that bishops should not have to ordain transgender candidates or clergy have to marry people in their assumed identity.

From an orthodox Christian standpoint it is easy to see why the bishops state that this position (position a) can properly (i.e. rightly) be held within the Church of England. As we have seen, orthodox Christian anthropology holds on the basis of Scripture, reason and tradition, that the unity of the human person means what makes someone male or female is their biology. Because this is immutable it follows that any claim to have changed sex is a fiction. Someone can adopt the role of a member of the opposite sex (or of someone who is neither make nor female), but this is not who they truly are.

What the bishops do not make clear, however, is why the alternative position (position b) can also properly be held. There is a growing body of evidence that medical intervention is not necessarily the best way to help people who find it difficult or impossible to accept their sex.[13] Furthermore, it is difficult to see on what basis the results of such intervention could rightly be called a change of sex. Hormones and surgery can mask someone’s biological sex, but they cannot fundamentally alter it. It follows that a change of sex does not and cannot occur. As John McHugh puts it, ‘Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men.’[14]

The only way it could be held that someone’s true identity was different from their biology would be to go down the route of dividing the self from the body and, as we have seen, this approach involves a gnostic dualism which is incompatible with orthodox Christian anthropology. The bishops’ memorandum suggests that it is possible for medical intervention to change someone’s sex by changing their body, but for the reason noted in the previous paragraph this suggestion does not work. This means one either has to buy into body-self dualism, or say that the claims about their identity made by those who have undergone gender transition are indeed fictitious.

Although the memorandum was produced prior to the publication of Some Issues in Human Sexuality, the bishops were aware of what that report was going to say. However, they decided not to address the questions it raises about whether the claims made by the transgender movement can be upheld without accepting a gnostic anthropology and whether, therefore, gender transition is compatible with Christian discipleship. Because the memorandum does not engage with these questions the bishops fail to establish that Christians can properly support gender transition.

GS Misc. 1178 – ‘An update on ‘Welcoming Transgender People’’ 2018.

After 2003 the House of Bishops produced nothing further on the transgender issue until January 2018 when it published GS Misc. 1178, ‘An update on ‘Welcoming Transgender People.’’

This paper was a response to a motion on ‘Welcoming transgender people’ that had been passed by the General Synod in July the previous year. This motion ran:

‘That this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.’[15

In response to this motion, GS Misc. 1178 suggests that rather than create new liturgical materials Church of England ministers should respond to requests to mark a transgender person’s new identity ‘in a creative and sensitive way’ by making using of the existing rites of Baptism and Confirmation, or the service for Affirmation of Baptismal Faith, which the paper suggests is an ideal liturgical rite which trans people can use to mark this moment of personal renewal.’

Unlike the 2003 memorandum, which declares that those in the Church of England can properly hold both that the identity claimed by someone as a result of gender transition is a fiction, and that a change of sexual identity has in fact occurred, GS Misc. 1178 talks only about the affirmation of gender transition. The idea that someone might properly be unable to affirm that gender transition has occurred, or might properly hold that a person’s rejection of their biological sex was incompatible with Christian discipleship, is absent from the picture.

If we ask why GS Misc. 1178 thinks that gender transition should be affirmed we are not given an answer.

The two places in the paper in which the bishops give justification for what they propose are in paragraphs 3 and 6. They run as follows:

‘The House of Bishops welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the Church, the body of Christ, and rejoices in the diversity of that one body, into which all Christians have been baptized by one Spirit.’

‘The image of God, in which we are all made, transcends gender, race, and any other characteristic, and our shared identity as followers of Jesus is the unity which makes all one in Christ (Galatians 3.27-28).’

What is said in these two quotations is in itself true and helpful. It is right to welcome and affirm unconditionally as people those who identify as transgender and it is right to rejoice in the God given diversity of the body of Christ. It is also right to say that all human beings are created in God’s image regardless of their gender, race, or any other characteristic and that it is being followers of Jesus that unites Christians together.

However, none of this tells us why it is right to affirm gender transition. Welcoming and affirming people as those whom God has created and redeemed, rejoicing in the contribution they make to the diversity of the body of Christ, and acknowledging that they have been made in God’s image and that we are united to them as fellow followers of Jesus, does not mean that we have to accept every claim that people make about themselves or everything that they do. Indeed the warning given by St. Paul in Romans 1:18-32 about the way in which human thinking and behaviour has been distorted by the Fall means that we have to accept that some of the claims people make about themselves will be untrue and some of things that they do will be wrong.

This means that we cannot simply accept at face value the claim made by transgender people that they are trapped in bodies which do not express their true identities, or that it is, or has been, right for them to undergo a process of gender transition. Reasons have to be put forward for accepting either of these claims and GS Misc. 1178 does not offer such reasons.

Furthermore, like the 2003 memorandum, GS Misc.1178 fails to engage with the key questions raised in Some Issues in Human Sexuality. Just like in 2003 the bishops fail to address the questions Some Issues raises about whether the claims made by the transgender movement can be upheld without accepting a gnostic anthropology and whether, therefore, gender transition is compatible with Christian discipleship.

As we have seen, had they looked seriously at these questions they would have had to say that the answer to both of them is ‘no’ and that for this reason it is not right to use the Church of England’s liturgy to affirm gender transition regardless of what was said by General Synod about the matter.

Pastoral Guidance for use in conjunction with the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith in the context of gender transition 2018.

The Pastoral Guidance published by the House of bishops in December 2018 follows on from what is said in GS Misc. 1178. This guidance explains in more detail what would be involved in using the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith (or the rites of Baptism and Confirmation if these are felt to be more appropriate) in order ‘to recognize liturgically a person’s gender transition.’ [16]

Like GS Misc.1178, the Pastoral Guidance gives unequivocal support to affirming gender transition. The guidance insists that rites marking gender transition ‘should have a celebratory character’[17] and once again the idea that someone might properly be unable to affirm that gender transition has occurred, or might properly hold that a person’s rejection of their biological sex is incompatible with Christian discipleship, is conspicuous by its absence.

The Pastoral Guidance is also like GS Misc.1178 in failing to explain why gender transition should be affirmed. The justification that is offered is word for word identical with what is said in the previous document[18] and is unsatisfactory for exactly the same reasons.

The Guidance that has not been given

Part of the role of the bishops is to contribute a Christian voice to debates about important issues taking place in British society. When it comes to the issue of gender transition the bishops have failed in this role.

They have, rightly, spoken out against violence and hatred directed towards transgender people. However, they have not contributed to the public discussion about whether it makes sense to say that people are ‘trapped in the wrong body’ or can ‘change their sex,’ or to the discussion about how acceptance of male to female transition affects the issue of women’s rights, or to the discussion about whether gender transition is the best treatment for gender dysphoria, or to the discussion about the potential medical and psychological effects of launching children and young people on a path of gender transition that may involve the use of hormones to block puberty.

All these are serious issues on which there has been, and still is, vigorous debate. However, the bishops have failed to make a Christian theological or ethical contribution to this debate and have therefore left the impression that these are issues on which the Church has nothing worthwhile to say.

There has, for example, been no contribution from the bishops to the vigorous public debate around the Government’s proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The sole official Church of England response has been a note from Dr Malcolm Brown, the Church of England’s Director of Mission and Public Affairs, explaining that the Church was not going to respond to the Government’s questionnaire because this might cause difficulties for the Living in Love and Faith Process – a consideration which did not, as we have seen, prevent the bishops agreeing to a change in the Church’s liturgical practice to allow the celebration of gender transition. [19]

The bishops have also failed to give any guidance on pastoral care for people with gender dysphoria and their families. Gender dysphoria is a condition which can have a devastating effect on the people involved and on their families and friends. Clergy and laity need guidance on how to provide, or arrange, appropriate spiritual, emotional, psychological and medical support which is in line with Christian teaching for people in this situation. Sadly the bishops have failed to provide, or commission, any material to provide such guidance.

A final failure by the bishops has been to provide guidance on the issues of marriage and ordination. The position of the Church of England is that clergy may, but do not have to, marry those who have gone through gender transition in their new identity, and that bishops may, but do not have to, ordain transgender candidates.[20] Some Issues in Human Sexuality sets out the arguments around the marriage and ordination of transgender people,[21] but the bishops have failed to engage with these arguments and have not produced any material which gives a theological justification for the Church’s current policy. As a result the Church’s position appears simply arbitrary.

Where should we go from here?

The transgender movement has taken over from the gay rights movement as the leading progressive social cause of our time and conversation with those involved in ministry, particularly ministry among young people, will soon show that the number of people who identify as transgender is growing exponentially. This is therefore an issue which the Church has to get to grips with and the bishops have the responsibility to provide the Church with leadership and guidance on the matter. Unfortunately, as this paper has shown, their track record in this area has not been good.

After fifteen years this needs to change. The bishops should take the opportunity provided by the Living in Love and Faith process to produce detailed teaching and guidance on this issue, teaching and guidance which covers all the matters noted in this paper and which starts from the basic Christian beliefs that human beings are a unity of body and soul and that the human calling is to accept with gratitude the sex we have been give through our bodies as a good gift from God (however challenging we may find such acceptance to be) and to live accordingly.

This is, of course, very hard teaching for those with gender dysphoria, but, as we have seen, it is teaching that we cannot avoid unless we want to go down the gnostic path of dividing the self from the body. We are called to show the maximum amount of compassion for those with gender dysphoria, and give them the maximum amount of support, but we cannot do this by simply setting aside what Scripture, tradition and reason tell us about the way God created his human creatures to be.

M B Davie 2.1.19

[1] General Synod, GS Misc. 1178, ‘An Update on ‘Welcoming Transgender people’’ at https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2018-01/GS%20Misc%201178%20-%20An%20update%20on%20Welcoming%20Transgender%20People%20%28003%29.pdf

[2] House of Bishops, ‘Pastoral Guidance for use in conjunction with the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith in the context of gender transition.’ at https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2018-

12/Pastoral%20Guidance-Affirmation-Baptismal- Faith.pdf

[3] House of Bishops, Some Issues in Human Sexuality, London: CHP, 2003.

[4] House of Bishops Memo HB(03)M1 text at http://changingattitude.org.uk/archives/8542

[5] Some Issues, pp.248-9.

[6] Ibid, p.249.

[7] Robert George, ‘Gnostic Liberalism,’ First Things, December 2016, at  https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/12/gnostic-liberalism

[8] In the words of the Athanasian Creed, Christ was (and is) ‘Perfect God and Perfect Man: of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.’

[9] For details see Leonard Sax, How common is intersex?’, Journal of Sex Research, 1 August, 2002, text at http://www.leonardsax.com/how-common-is-intersex-a-response-to-anne-fausto-sterling/.

[10] It is sometimes suggested (and even taught in schools) that there are people who have female brains in male bodies and vice versa and that this is what leads them to identify with the opposite sex from the rest of their body. However, at the moment there is no reliable scientific evidence which shows that transgender people have distinctively different brains or that it is the form of their brains that gives them their sense of sexual identity (see the   summary of the relevant studies in Lawrence Meyer and Paul McHugh, ‘Gender identity’  New Atlantis, Fall 2016, pp.102-104 and the discussion in Mark Yarhouse, Understanding Gender Dysphoria, Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015, Ch. 3).

[11] Oliver O’Donovan, Begotten or Made?, Oxford: OUP, 1984, pp.28-29.

[12] House of Bishops Memo.

[13] See Meyer and McHugh, op.cit, Part 3 and Ryan T Anderson, When Harry became Sally, New York: Encounter Books, 2018, Chs. 5-6 and Yarhouse, op.cit. Ch. 5.

[14] John McHugh, ‘Transgenderism: A Pathogenic Meme,’ Public Discourse, June 10, 2015 at https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/06/15145/

[15] Details about the motion can be found at https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media- centre/news/welcoming-transgender-people.

[16] Pastoral Guidance, Para 2

[17] Ibid, Para 4

[18] Ibid, Paras 1 and 2.

[19] Reform of the Gender Recognition Act – Government Consultation A Response from the Church of England can be found at:  https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/201810/Gender%20Recognition%20Act%2 consultation%20response.pdf.

[20] The decision of the House of Bishops in 2002 was that bishops who agreed to sponsor a transgender  candidate must also take responsibility for ordaining them and finding them a title parish. See Chris Newlands, GS 2071A Diocesan Synod Motion Welcoming Transgender People , Para 11 at: https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-11/gs-2071a-welcoming-transgender-people.pdf and also Ministry Division, Sending Candidates to BAP, 2017, para 1.14.

[21] Some Issues, pp. 239-242, 247-8 and 286-289.