U.K. Unitarian church votes unanimously to offer baptism to transgenders: 'There was no controversy'


The New Chapel Unitarian and Free Christian Church has become the first church in the United Kingdom to offer baptism to transgenders. The decision was passed by the congregation with a unanimous vote.

Jean Clements, worship leader at the church in Tameside near Manchester, said the accommodation was proposed after church leaders met with a family who wanted their 10-year old girl to be baptised in her new gender, the BBC and Christian News reported.

"I felt saddened by the fact that this family were being shunned by many mainstream churches,'' said Clements. "I would like to thank one courageous girl for inspiring me to think carefully about this issue in the first place.''

Despite the baptism's controversial nature, Clements said the whole issue proved less contentious to the congregation, thus the unanimous decision.

"It felt entirely natural. There was no controversy when they voted at our annual general meeting. They spent more time discussing the autumn fair and whether we might move it to the summer. Now that was controversial,'' she said.

Derek McAuley, the chief officer of the Unitarian General Assembly, meanwhile, said it is possible that other Unitarian congregations will follow suit. There are approximately 170 Unitarian congregations in the U.K, The Independent reported.

The Church of England has also disclosed plans to add a ceremony to its services for "transgender" persons who seek to be re-baptised in their new gender identity and under their new name, according to reports.

Chris Newlands, the vicar of Lancaster Priory, said he proposed the addition to the General Synod last year after being approached by a girl who identifies herself as a boy who wished to be baptised again under her male name.

He said he 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," Newlands said.

Meanwhile, some church members expressed belief that the proposal [to add a ceremony or provide service] runs counter to Christian values.

"To recognise 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," said Andrew Symes of the Anglican Mainstream.

"The Christian faith has always taught that people are created male and female...It [providing the services] would be something that would go against the teachings of the church up till now."

The Unitarian congregation is "a multi-generational community who are very willing to accept change and progress,'' said Clements, adding that, "Unitarians as a whole are proponents of "freedom" and "tolerance."