LGBT+ campaigners have welcomed as “a beacon of light and hope” the news that the Church of England has appointed its first transgender Archdeacon.
The new Archdeacon of Bolton and Salford is to be the Rev Canon Dr Rachel Mann, who is believed to be the most senior trans member of the clergy within the Church. She said she was “humbled and excited” to take on the role and asked for prayers as she took on what she termed a “demanding and hope-filled role”.
Dr Mann, 53, grew up as a boy in a working-class household in Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, in the 1980s. In an interview with The Telegraph in 2020, the Archdeacon said she had “become very relaxed about my identity” as Christian traditionalists questioned whether or not she could be regarded as a priest at all.
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Despite being an accomplished novelist, poet and vicar who has been a regular contributor to BBC radio and television broadcasts, particularly for Thought for the Day on Radio 4, her appointment comes at a time of bitter division within the Church of England between traditionalists and progressives following a historic vote in February in favour of offering blessings to lesbian and gay couples who were married or in a civil partnership.
Dr Mann told The Telegraph: “I am humbled and excited as to have been called to become the new Archdeacon of Bolton and Salford. I am passionate about helping individuals and communities meet Jesus and follow Him, and I look forward to serving alongside the people in the Archdeaconries of Bolton and Salford as we respond to God’s joyous call on our lives.
“Please do pray for me as I step forward into this demanding and hope-filled role and be assured of my prayers in the weeks, months and years to come.”
The Rt Rev Prof David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, said he was “delighted” at the appointment within his diocese. “Her personal gifts, including as a writer, poet, liturgist and broadcaster, will combine with her new responsibilities, to help the people of this generation know and love Jesus Christ,” he said.
Responding to the appointment, Jayne Ozanne, a prominent gay evangelical Christian and member of General Synod, the Church’s legislative body, said: “I am absolutely thrilled to hear the good news of Rachel’s appointment as the new Archdeacon of Salford and Bolton.
“Rachel is an exceptionally talented priest, and the Church of England is very lucky to have the benefit of her experience as a gifted leader, writer, poet and broadcaster.
“As our first senior member of the clergy who happens to be trans, I know her appointment will be a beacon of light and hope to all within the LGBT+ community and beyond who are worried about the impact of the divisive culture wars that are being waged by a small but powerful minority.”