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The Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Rev Barry Rogerson
"What matters, is having time to get a new perspective"
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Monday, 19 June, 2000, 20:13 GMT 21:13 UK
Vicar plans sex change
Rt Rev Barry Rogerson (L) and Rev Stone (R)
Bishop of Bristol (L) has given his support to Rev Stone
A Church of England vicar has won the support of his bishop to have a sex-change operation.

The Rev Peter Stone, who is the vicar at St Philip's Church, Upper Stratton, Swindon, will have surgery later this year.

Every night I prayed I would wake up as a girl

Rev Peter Stone
He will then resume his position as the Rev Carol Stone.

The Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Rev Barry Rogerson, said there was no reason why the priest should not continue his ministry.

In a statement he said: "The Rev Peter Stone has been under medical supervision for some time and has been diagnosed by two psychiatric practitioners as having a condition for which the appropriate medical treatment is Gender Redesignation.

"There are no ethical or ecclesiastical legal reasons why the Rev Carol Stone should not continue in ministry in the Church of England."

Parishioners' support

The Bishop told a press conference in Bristol on Monday he had told the congregation about their vicar's decision on Sunday.

He said there was surprise, but almost everybody had been very supportive.

He said more than 90% of the Parochial Church Council in Upper Stratton wanted Mr Stone to continue after his treatment.

Rev Peter Stone
Rev Peter Stone will have the operation later this year
"Speaking to the congregation on Sunday morning the response was one of overwhelming support and a general desire to keep Peter, or Carol, as their parish priest," said the Bishop.

Rev Stone will become the first serving Church of England priest to have a sex-change operation.

He told the press conference of his relief at the bishop's blessing and said it followed years of pain.

He said: "Every night I prayed I would wake up as a girl. If there was another way, I would not be here today. Nobody does this by choice."

Rev Stone, who is twice divorced, said his 18-year-old daughter fully understood his decision.

"She had been tremendously supportive," he said. "My mother, I think, wants my happiness, and has known about my struggle for many years."

'Rather sad'

Bristol vicar Canon Malcolm Widdecombe, the brother of the shadow home secretary - who is vehemently opposed to women priests - said: "The Bishop of Bristol is a very compassionate man.

"He always supports his clergy and I understand the parish are supporting their vicar.

"But I find it all rather sad."

Mr Stone was ordained in 1978 and served first at Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire.

He was chaplain and Head of Religious Studies at Dauntsey's School, West Lavington, before taking up his post at Upper Stratton in 1996.

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