C of E bishop gives backing to transsexual priest
The Anglican Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, has spoken warmly of the calling and priestly ministry of a transsexual woman, following a crticism of her ordination this weekend by the Evangelical Alliance.
The Rev Sarah Jones, aged 43, is an assistant curate in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. She was born as Colin Jones and spent the first 33 years of her life living as a man before treatment for gender dysphoria, a recognised medical condition.
Ms Jones, a former Roman Catholic, was ordained a deacon last July. She was priested on Saturday by the Bishop of Hereford, with support from parishioners in the Ross team ministry.
However Evangelical Alliance spokesperson Don Horrocks told BBC Radio 4 on Saturday that 'there is no Christian acknowledgement" of gender realignment.
Referring to the book of Genesis, he said that 'it is absolutely clear that God created human beings as male and female.'
Bishop Priddis described this view as 'too simple'. Pointing to dysphoria as a condition unidentified in biblical times, he said that the issue was 'understood a lot more clearly in the 21st century' and should gain the church's compassion.
Describing Ms Jones as a 'superb candidate' for ordained ministry, the bishop continued: 'What's important is that she's a person made by God, loved by God and given gifts by God.'
He called her transition 'restorative and healing' and said that 'gender realignment surgery [is]... about bringing mind and body into wholeness.'
However Mr Horrocks says that Christians should not claim 'that it's possible somehow for a person to take charge of their own destiny and to decide what their own sexuality is.'
Medical experts disagree with the EA view that a gender realigned person is 'perpetuating an illusion or masquerading' and 'purports to be what they're not."
Gender dysphoria is recognised by the National Health Service and in UK law. It was the subject of a 2000 Home Office report.
The former Anglican Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Rev Barry Rogerson, also faced criticism for his approval of the Church's first ever incumbent to have a sex change that same year.
The Rev Peter Stone, who became vicar at St Philip's Church, Upper Stratton, Swindon, had the operation and resumed his position as the Rev Carol Stone.
In 2001 the Evangelical Alliance published a report on transsexuality which declared that 'authentic change from a person's given sex is not possible and... is incompatible with God's will as revealed in Scripture.'
However, other church practitioners, including evangelicals such as the Rev David Horton, a specialist on inter-sex concerns, take a different view.
Reviewing the EA statement, Mr Horton said at the time: 'I do not doubt the hard work and thought and prayer that has gone into itÖ [but] the result to me indicates that the search for certainty has obstructed the search for truth.'
The Anglican Communion is currently in deep dispute over the question of homosexuality, and is unlikely to wish to extend its deliberations into wider issues of sexual identity.