The Archbishop of Canterbury is to deliver his New Year’s address to the nation dressed as a woman, it was announced today.
In a move that is likely to dismay and horrify traditionalists, Archbishop Justin Welby and two senior churchmen are to be ‘in transition’ as women for the twelve days of Christmas.
The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev John Sentamu and the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Julian Henderson, who recently commended the church’s new service for transgendered people, will join Archbishop Welby in living and dressing as a woman for the entire Christmas season.
The Period of Transition will begin on Christmas Eve and continue until the Feast of Epiphany, 6th January. It will be marked by special Christmas Eve services in Canterbury Cathedral, York Minster and Blackburn Cathedral. At each venue the bishop’s new identity will be affirmed and celebrated using the Church of England’s newly-published form of service.
“Look at the heart of the Christmas story: God became man for us. Therefore I must become woman for them.”
In the services, the bishops will each be addressed by their new name, Justine Welby, Joanne Sentamu and Julia Henderson respectively. They have requested that these names be used in public prayer at all services in their dioceses between Christmas Eve and Epiphany.
Speaking before a Carol Service at Canterbury Cathedral, Archbishop Welby acknowledged that the plan would be opposed by conservative members of the Church. “It is a bold step – and I’m not just talking about the high heels! But this is what it means to be welcoming and inclusive to transgendered and transitioning members of the church. Look at the heart of the Christmas story: God became man for us. Therefore I must become woman for them. I’m sure this is what Jesus would be doing, if Jesus were me and thought like me.”
The Archbishop explained that his televised address on New Year’s Day would show him in twinset and pearls. “I think it will be fun. I’ve already chosen the gown, and I’ve just had my final fitting for a wig. What an opportunity for the nation to see what the Church of England is about. This is radical inclusion in action. We must become those whom we seek to include. Anything less is not radically inclusive.”
The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Julian Henderson, said, “The Period of Transition is a splendid initiative rooted in Scripture. I wholeheartedly endorse it.”
“What an opportunity for the nation to see what the Church of England is about.”
In a statement, the Archbishop of York announced, “The archbishops and bishops of the Church of England have no desire to impose upon the Church any form of service they are not prepared to endorse and participate in fully themselves. Therefore it is entirely appropriate that the first to have their new transitioning identities celebrated liturgically should be representatives of the bishops themselves.”
“The season of Christmas is a season of transition: through Christmas we transition from the expectation of Advent to the full revelation of Epiphany, the bleak midwinter transitions towards brightness and light once more. We move from the Old Year to the New Year. What better time could there be to affirm new identities? This is our Christmas gift to the transgendered members of our Church.”
A spokesperson for the Archbishop advised that Dr Sentamu would also be foregoing the traditional Christmas gifts of after shave and socks in favour of perfume and make-up.
The Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, said, “The Period of Transition is a terrible development and an abuse of scripture. I unreservedly condemn it.”