Anglican Church of Canada introduces pastoral blessing for transgender and gender non-binary parishioners
‘We want to be doing more than statements against homophobia,' says local Anglican priest
The Anglican Church of Canada has approved the use of new pastoral liturgical texts that fully embrace transgender and gender non-binary people in its church.
The text, which is wording that would be used during a worship service across all Anglican parishes, includes blessings for the gender transition process, affirmation of gender identity, along with scripture readings and appropriate hymns.
Reverend Eileen Scully, a priest at St. John the Evangelist Church in Kitchener, is the author of the texts titled "Pastoral Liturgies for Journeys of Gender Affirmation and Transition."
Scully who serves as the Anglican Church of Canada's director of faith, worship and ministry told CBC K-W the motion happened to be debated the day after what police are calling hate-motivated stabbings at the University of Waterloo.
"I think that the rise in fear and hatred and violence against gender queer people has galvanized the Anglican Church of Canada,[and] its leadership, and we want to be doing more than you know statements against homophobia, statements against transphobia," said Scully.
"And to really lean in and listen to the people in our church who have always been in our church who are emerging leadership and saying you know, what God's doing is some pretty amazing things as people are coming to awareness of gender identity and challenging us and revealing some new things in our midst."
Started as pilot project
The liturgies were introduced and piloted by the Anglican church between November 2021 and December of 2022. In that period the wording was evaluated and feedback was asked for by members of the church. But the final decision was made in Calgary at the end of June during the 43rd session of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada.
At that meeting, attendees spoke for and against the changes. A majority of the approximately 250 people at the synod voted for the changes.
Some who spoke on the opposing side said they felt the decision was rushed and didn't fully understand what the implications would be on church doctrine.
One person who spoke against it was Giuseppe Gagliano, a priest with the diocese of Quebec who said he had a lot of trepidation about what he referred to as a politically charged topic.
"The proposed liturgy is not simply an affirmation of a common social activity like house blessings, thanksgivings for children, agricultural festivals, or other supplemental rights that we do have in our church," said Gagliano.
"Instead, it presents a theology that deals with new and untested ontological categories. If I can put it more simply, it deals not just with human relations and activities, but redefines who people are at their very core. These redefinitions are not only new to our society at large, but have not been properly assessed by our church."
'They have chosen a new name. Jasper.'
The Canadian leg of the Anglican church is the first worldwide to do this and it was welcomed by Lynne McNaughton, the Archbishop of Kootenay. Archbishop McNaughton told the synod she needs the liturgies to help people in her diocese and her own child who transitioned, discovering the truth about who they are.
"They have chosen a new name. Jasper: That has been a very long thought out process, a long process of discovering," said McNaughton.
"As I tried to raise my children to say you are made in the image of God, I've had to work on that as a woman who didn't know that for the first decades of my life to say 'Yes Jasper, you as a non-binary, gender-fluid queer person are also made in the image of God.'"
Reverend Eileen Scully says the Anglican Church of Canada has been on record condemning homophobia, bigotry and transphobia, and recently became aware of more trans and gender queer people in the church and felt the time was right to introduce the liturgy.
"It was probably very difficult for those who needed to rise to speak against the motion," said Scully.
"It was probably very difficult because I could sense the passion underneath their concerns about changing the traditions of the church and doing something innovative. But I think we are just so aware of the need for humility that I think that actually played out in the debates."