Diverse Gender Identities and Pastoral Care

Some of you may be aware of a recently published booklet from the Church of Scotland, entitled Diverse Gender Identities and Pastoral Care. For information on how to obtain copies and how to download the booklet free of charge see https://www.resourcingmission.org.uk/shop/diverse-gender-identities-and-pastoral-care

As the booklet explains in its opening page, it is the official response of the Mission and Discipleship Council of the Church of Scotland, ‘working with the Church and Society Council and others where appropriate,’ to a deliverance proposed from the floor of the General Assembly of 2016 and approved by that Assembly. The deliverance instructed the above Councils to ‘promote congregational learning and awareness of the issues that transgender and gender-non-conforming people experience in order to better facilitate pastoral care to and the inclusion of transgender and gender non-conforming people at a local level.’ 

The booklet does reasonably well what the strict letter – and, indeed, the spirit – of the deliverance asked for: it raises awareness of the issues experienced by transgender and gender-non-conforming people, a first step to facilitating pastoral care and inclusion of such persons in local congregational settings. It also goes beyond the strict terms of the deliverance to give us a little insight into the experience of a minister, a spouse and a parent learning to deal with these issues more or less ‘out of the blue’ – again, all appropriate enough for a wider understanding of the issues, not least in raising the consciousness of ministers, elders and members of the Church to issues that are likely to already be affecting one or more families in each of our congregations.

In various places, the booklet goes beyond the ‘issues experienced’ to allow us to hear some of the biblical and theological interpretations of those writing and this, I believe, is where a church Council which has ‘Discipleship’ as a prominent aspect of its title might have been a little wiser in terms of either editing at least the most detailed of these specific comments, or, providing more mainline interpretations alongside them. This is particularly the case with the penultimate contribution to the booklet from Maxwell who is a minister of the Metropolitan Community Church.

While this booklet should help to make Kirk Sessions and congregations aware of some of the basic feelings, concerns and issues that transgender and gender-non-conforming people are grappling with, it is insufficient on its own and will require to be supplemented by other more thorough treatments of the wider pastoral issues – for example, the impact of transition on family units, non-transgender spouses and children; the regrets of some who have undergone transitioning surgery; stories of some who have been delivered from gender dysphoria as a result of coming to faith in Jesus Christ; etc. – plus, of course, study of the biblical and theological issues related to transgenderism.

In the future, CFS would hope to make further resources available on what has become a significant issue for present-day society in the Western world.

[P.S. For clarification, it should be noted that the Church of Scotland booklet mentioned above is NOT (as has been suggested elsewhere online) the Church of Scotland’s response to the recent Scottish Government consultation on issues around Transgenderism. The process that led to this booklet was initiated long before the SG’s consultation and had a completely different purpose. As far as we are aware, the Church of Scotland has not made an official response to the SG consultation.]