Sydney Anglicans debate policy discouraging gender transitions

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The Sydney Anglican Diocese has urged transgender parishioners “honour and preserve the maleness or femaleness of the body God has given you” in new doctrinal guidelines on gender identity.

The diocese debated and adopted a doctrinal statement on gender identity this week at their Synod, the church’s parliament.

“The Bible never endorses a divergence between biological sex and gender identity and expression,” the statement reads.

“Blurring the distinctions between male and female, or seeking to present as a sex opposite to one’s biology, is a denial of the significance of the biologically-sexed body that God has given to us.”

The statement claims gender incongruence is “one of the consequences of human rebellion in the Garden of Eden” but it does not “diminish a person’s full humanity… in God’s eyes.”

Pastoral care guidelines for the diocese’s churches, schools and organisations were also introduced, but won’t be voted on until next year, Buzzfeed reported.

One guideline advises Christians experiencing gender dysphoria to “seek options that maintain the integrity of your physical and mental unity, and which honour and preserve the maleness or femaleness of the body God has given you.”

The guidelines also ask Christians to show “compassion, love and care” for people experiencing gender dysphoria. Christians should “[pursue] affirming evidence-based pathways for treatment, which are consistent with Scripture.”

But they should “[differentiate] between compassion for the person … and agreeing with, celebrating or validating any treatment protocol for transition.”

Gender identity guidelines are a response to anti-discrimination laws

Bishop of Wollongong Peter Hayward told the Synod the statements were in response to the government’s proposed religious discrimination laws, according to Buzzfeed.

He told the Synod session there is “a need for a publicly available doctrinal position” to deal with “cultural and political issues currently at play when it comes to transgender matters,” Hayward said.

“There are parishes far removed where suddenly, the family has been coming to church for a while, the father turns up with a wife and two children, it’s a woman!” Hayward said.

“He says ‘I’m now coming to church as a woman.’ How does the parish respond to that?”

But Anglican Reverend Jo Inkpin, who is transgender, warned the “cruel” resolutions effectively “promote, as doctrine, forms of conversion practice ideology” against gender diverse people.

Rev Inkpin is from Brisbane and is a co-founder of Equal Voices, a national network of LGBTIQ Christians and allies.

She said the Sydney Anglican diocese had put forward statements “which run directly counter to the spiritual, mental and physical health” of gender diverse people, encouraging teaching “which denies their identities and experience.”

“The Sydney Anglican diocese has simplistically affirmed binary definitions of gender, believed to be fixed by certain assumed biological characteristics at birth,” she said.

“Yet this is manifestly contradicted by contemporary science, established medical and psychological wisdom, and by gender diverse people’s own experience of their lived identities.

“It also represents a very modern phenomenon, running against diverse understandings of gender across all kinds of cultures for thousands of years.”

‘Listening and dialogue, rather than condemnation’

Rev Dr Inkpin said a “wider societal seachange” was occurring on affirming gender diversity.

She said southern Queensland Anglican schools, for example, had already adopted best practice standards of care for gender diverse students.

“We understand churches may be wary of what has so long been hidden,” she said.

“However, reacting so negatively and excluding the voices and lived experience of gender diverse people themselves is disastrous for all.

“Equal Voices therefore calls on all Christians to engage in listening and dialogue, rather than condemnation or demanding attempts to change orientation.

“Evidence shows [this] leads to increased mental health issues and significant increases in suicidality.”

It comes after Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies made headlines for calling on same-sex marriage supporters to “please leave” rather than “ruin” the church by changing doctrine.

Dr Davies later clarified he was referring to Bishops who wanted to bless same-sex unions, not LGBTIQ parishioners.

Read more: Gay priests tell Archbishop they’re not leaving the church

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