The Church of Scotland has produced a new resource to help congregations provide pastoral support for transgender people and their families and friends after finding that some parishioners were subject to abuse.
In the 30-page booklet consisting of a series of true stories from transgender people and others, congregants describe being called an 'abomination' by other Christians, living double lives and concealing their identities because they are fearful of the reactions of fellow churchgoers.
The booklet, which contains the stories of 11 people and is entitled Diverse Gender Identities and Pastoral Care, has been issued by the Kirk today at the behest of the Church's general assembly.
The accounts include those of people who identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, a spouse, a parent and a minister.
Rev Norman Smith, the convener of the mission and discipleship council of the Church of Scotland, explained the move. 'We want to help congregations support all in their communities, in the best way we can and this resource helps those who care for others do that to the best of their ability,' he said.
'It is aimed at better facilitating pastoral care at a local level by giving people the space to talk about their faith and share the impact of the church community on their lives.'
Smith emphasised that the move does not reflect anything about the Church's relationship with transgender people. 'It is not intended to make any kind of statement regarding the Church's wider relationship with the transgender community, nor does it provide a theological explanation or understanding of transgender issues,' he said.
'The Church of Scotland exists to bring the good news of the gospel to all the people of Scotland, with whom we have stood for many generations and continue to do so today.'
The resource was requested by a congregational member at the 2016 General Assembly and backed by a majority of Commissioners.
A wide range of people with experience in the transgender community were consulted for the booklet, including James Morton, the manager of the Scottish Trans Alliance.
He said: 'I have been very pleased to work with the Church to create this resource. It lets people tell their story in their own words. They use the vocabulary they want to use and the definitions they are comfortable with.
'These are important voices to be heard and I am glad the Church is listening.'
After each of the 11 stories in the booklet, a series of questions are posed to readers to encourage reflection.