Church of England will not challenge marriage of transgender worshippers

(Photo: Unsplash/Roman Kraft)

The marriage of worshippers who transition to a different gender will still be valid, the Church of England has said.

The position extends only to worshippers who were in an opposite-sex relationship at the time of their marriage, it clarified.

The clarification was made in response to a question asked by Prudence Dailey, churchwarden of St Michael at the North Gate, Oxford, ahead of the General Synod in York.

It was one of over 100 questions to be answered by senior Church leaders on the opening day of Synod on Friday.

In written questions and answers published ahead of the first day of business on Friday, Ms Dailey asked: "Given that the Church of England's teaching about marriage is that it is a lifelong and exclusive union between one man and one woman, if one person in a couple undergoes gender transition, has consideration been given as to whether they are still married according to the teaching of the Church of England?"

The written reply from the Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, says in response: "The Pastoral Advisory Group considered this question in the context of one specific case and I cannot comment here on the personal circumstances involved or draw a general theological principle from a single instance," Ms Hardman is expected to say.

"However, we noted two important points.

"When a couple marry in church they promise before God to be faithful to each other for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health - come what may, although we preach compassion if they find this too much to bear.

"Secondly, never in the history of the Church has divorce been actively recommended as the way to resolve a problem.

"We have always prioritised fidelity, reconciliation and forgiveness, with divorce as a concession when staying together proves humanly unbearable.

"In the light of those two points, if a couple wish to remain married after one partner has transitioned, who are we to put them asunder?"

The Church of England is in the middle of a review into its position on relationships, sexuality and gender identity called "Living in Love and Faith". Saturday afternoon's Synod agenda has been given over to deliberating the progress of the review.