Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Dr Glynn Harrison's views on homosexuality

Updated with additional links

The Guardian has published an article by Robert Booth headlined Archbishop panel member believes gay people can ‘change’ sexual desire.

A leading member of the Church of England who believes some gay people can be counselled to suppress or possibly change their sexual orientation is helping to select the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Glynn Harrison, emeritus professor of psychiatry at Bristol University, is on the powerful Crown Nominations Commission (CNC), which will chose a successor to Rowan Williams to be approved by the prime minister and the Queen.

Harrison’s role on the 16-strong panel has triggered alarm among liberal Anglicans who fear it could deepen existing divisions over homosexuality in a church already riven by the issues of holding gay civil ceremonies in churches and the ordination of gay bishops…

A lengthy statement (quoted in the news story) issued by the press office at Church House, Westminster, on behalf of Dr Glynn Harrison can be read in full here (PDF).

Professor Glynn Harrison does not believe in concepts of ‘gay cure’ or ‘gay conversion’ and has never been involved in offering any formal counselling or ‘therapy’ in this area himself. Such descriptions, because they depend on inappropriate notions of ‘sickness’, convey simplistic and stigmatising views. In addition, as he has made clear, all bullying and prejudice toward people, whatever their sexual interests and attractions, is a violation of the inclusive call of the Christian Gospel and the way of Jesus Christ.

Professor Harrison, who supports the current teaching of the Church of England in Issues in Human Sexuality, began investigating the area of faith and human sexuality when asked by the Anglican Communion Office in 2007 to contribute to a forthcoming book (‘The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality’). This was being prepared for the 2008 Lambeth Conference as part of the ‘Listening Process’. Since then he has written other articles on faith and human sexuality. A recent example, written with Dr Andrew Goddard, was published in the Church Times on December 9th 2011 and accompanies this statement…

The Church Times article mentioned is now behind a paywall again, but for subscribers the link is here: Now for the ‘B’ picture.

The book mentioned in the statement was reviewed in 2008 by Dr Michael King and this review can still be read here: Is the Church Listening?

…Trailing at the end is the “witness of science” on the biological basis of sexuality. As scientists, we might welcome such an approach but before the Church changed its mind on slavery or women priests did it debate the biological basis for race and gender? I suspect not. It appears here because of homosexuality’s persisting image as a deviation from nature’s heterosexual plan. But never mind. Just what have these chapters to tell us? The first by David de Pomerai and Glynn Harrison is a reasonable enough summary of what neuroscience and genetics can tell us about homosexuality and is fair to the literature. The second by Glynn Harrison is of much lower quality. Here we have an academic psychiatrist bending over backwards to suggest, on the basis of the weakest sort of evidence, that sexual orientation can be changed. I suspect if he were reviewing evidence of similar quality for the efficacy of a new medication he would dismiss it out of hand. And so unsurprisingly, he finds what he sets out to find – namely that given enough willingness there are treatments out there to make homosexual people into heterosexuals, or at the very least stop them wanting sex…

Dr King has today commented on the most recent statement about Dr Harrison linked above as follows:

  • Treatments (of whatever form, including counselling) should never be offered on the basis of “anecdotal” evidence of change, particularly in controversial areas of ethical practice such as this one. I am sure Prof Harrison would object to the use of anecdotal evidence as a basis for other psychiatric treatments.
  • If he wants to use anecdotal evidence then there is also plenty such evidence for harm – our research showed that many people and their families have been harmed by such treatment. (there are also several videos to this effect on YouTube if he feels such evidence is valuable!)
  • He takes no consideration of the fact that views such as his are deeply alienating/stigmatising to LGB people of all or no faiths, as they explicitly frame a same-sex orientation as undesirable and less God-given than heterosexuality. They help to reinforce the prejudice and discrimination that LGB people suffer.
  • Would he support those bisexual people who want to move in a more same-sex affirmative position and offer counselling for them to do so?
  • It would seem that reported sexual orientation can change. However, one has to be very cautious in accepting this evidence – as we all know, people feel able to talk about their sexuality more and less frankly at different periods of their lives and to different audiences. They may deny ‘unacceptable’ parts of themselves at one time and later be franker about them. We only have self report to go on when we measure sexual orientation. Therefore it is naive scientifically to see this as representing some sort of concrete change in a given reality.
  • Framing this counselling as a way to celibacy is also a smoke screen for the real thing – to make homosexual people heterosexual. For example, catholic priests don’t need psychotherapy to be celibate. They believe celibacy is a ‘call’ that people find in faith. So why do LGB people who want to be celibate on faith grounds need this counselling? To my knowledge, there is no known scientific evidence that any form of counselling or psychotherapy is effective in helping people to be celibate (straight or gay).

Updates

The Royal College of Psychiatrists, of which Dr Harrison is a Fellow, has these statements on its website:

and this:

Anyone who is interested in Dr Harrison’s own research may find this useful: Publications for Professor Glynn Harrison.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 1:37pm BST | TrackBack
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Comments

The statement from Church House is utterly disingenous. I was at a meeting of the Evangelical Group in General Synod in February and Professor Harrison was distributing copies of the booklet referred to at the meeting, as was Canon Chris Sugden, a well-known proponent of the gay-to-straight-through-Jesus line. I also witnessed him publicising it to other people during the General Synod. Professor Harrison needs to make it clear:

a.on what evidence he believes that is possible for gay people to change their seuxal orientation through prayer and counselling; and

b. why he thinks it is desirable for them so to do.

Posted by: Simon Butler on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 1:37pm BST

"Treatments (of whatever form, including counselling) should never be offered on the basis of “anecdotal” evidence of change, particularly in controversial areas of ethical practice such as this one. I am sure Prof Harrison would object to the use of anecdotal evidence as a basis for other psychiatric treatments."

In which case, why doesn't Prof Michael King demand that therapists stop offering gay-affirming therapies? Can anybody name me on rigorous academic study of such therapies?

Posted by: Peter Ould on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 1:52pm BST

The fact of the matter is that we still do not know why some people are attracted to others of the same sex. I would accordingly be surprised if there was a "cure". As human beings we may be beset by various inclinations. But we also have the freedom to choose in which behaviours we will engage. The call of the Gospel is for everyone to live chaste and holy lives with sexual intimacy being morally acceptable only within the context of marriage.

Posted by: Fr John Fleming on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 2:23pm BST

Ah yes, I remember reviewing that book at the time and commenting on the chapters that Glynn Harrison had a hand in.
http://www.thurible.net/20080711/book-review/

Not, I think the most glorious interpretation of the phrase "The Listening Process".

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 2:28pm BST

When you find the fox in the henhouse, the question is not, what is the fox doing in the henhouse.

We know what the fox is doing in the henhouse -- being the fox he is.

The question is, who let the fox into the henhouse.

The power to appoint members of a selection or review committee is the surest and easiest way to shape or determine the outcome of the process.

Has the Church of England learned nothing in the past 15 years?

Posted by: jnwall on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 2:49pm BST

jnwall:
Central CNC members are *elected* by their fellow General Synod members.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 3:07pm BST

Some years ago I met with Phil Groves following the announcement that Glynn Harrison was to be rapporteur for the book central to the Listening Process report.

We were very concerned that Harrison was selected and Groves explained that there was no chance of the report being listened to in a large part of the Communion unless they appointed someone like Harrison. Despite the fact that Groves assured us Harrison had no contact or support for "reparative therapy" and the like - we were able to supply evidence to the contrary - there was no reply. Our organisation realised at that point the whole process was fixed and we withdrew from any support. I was always sad to see others were sucked in and betrayed.

As Prof King demonstrates Harrison is economical with the truth.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 3:17pm BST

From the Church House (interestingly long) press release:

"Professor Harrison, who supports the current teaching of the Church of England in Issues in Human Sexuality, began investigating the area of faith and human sexuality when asked by the Anglican Communion Office in 2007 to contribute to a forthcoming book (‘The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality’)."

So, as a fellow-academic, I'd like to get this straight. He started investigating the area in 2007, on a request from the Anglican Communion Office. Thus it was a new area for him. He published two chapters in this new (to him) area in 2008.

Question for him, as a medical professional: is it responsible to publish in a new, and highly fraught area, within a year of starting to research it?

Question for the ACO: is it responsible to commission a psychiatrist with a different research specialism to write on a fraught subject where bad advice can lead to serious harm?

These are the sorts of questions that regulators take an interest in.

Posted by: Iain McLean on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 3:25pm BST

What the American Pyschological Association says about changing sexual orientation:

"What about therapy intended to change sexual orientation from gay to straight?

"All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation. To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. This appears to be especially likely for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who grow up in more conservative religious settings.

"Helpful responses of a therapist treating an individual who is troubled about her or his same-sex attractions include helping that person actively cope with social prejudices against homosexuality, successfully resolve issues associated with and resulting from internal conflicts, and actively lead a happy and satisfying life. Mental health professional organizations call on their members to respect a person’s (client’s) right to self-determination; be sensitive to the client’s race, culture, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, language, and disability status when working with that client; and eliminate biases based on these factors."

More here:
http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx
The APA is the largest professional organization of psychologists in the USA, and the largest such organization in the world.

The statement of the American Psychiatric Association on homosexuality:
http://www.psychiatry.org/advocacy--newsroom/position-statements/ps2011homosexuality

Posted by: Counterlight on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 3:43pm BST

I assume Professor Harrison is on the committee to provide "balance", as in the "fair and balanced news" provided by the Fox Cable Channel in the US.

"Question for the ACO: is it responsible to commission a psychiatrist with a different research specialism to write on a fraught subject where bad advice can lead to serious harm?"

Good question.

June Butler

Posted by: Grandmère Mimi on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 4:04pm BST

Good psychiatrists and psychologists pumped electric shocks into my right ankle,at Rainhill Hospital, Merseyside, as a teenager.

They and I found it was a painful (for me) waste of time.

I was a lad who had accepted Christ and would stop at nothing to seek the Christian way STILL being pursued by Harrison, Oulds and others, who frankly ought to know better, and have nothing to lose. Shameful that professionals still push their disastrous agenda upon those who are (by definition) vulnerable.

Happy ending! The Spirit led me into a more incarnational, fulfilling, integrated, (w)holy and enjoyable life with my love of the past 39 years! The Church of England, and wonderful, then as now, Southwark Diocese ordained me, Bishop Mervyn Stockwood, the DDO and PP of my Title parish knowing of my relationship with another young man - we'd already been together about 4 years at that point!

I said as much in my letter to The Times.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 4:29pm BST

The fact that so many people are already spending so much time agonising over who the next Archbishop of Canterbury will be seems to me to be rather out of proportion. He has a lot of power, you say? Really? Recent events have proven this to be false; he can't even force his own province to accept something that he wanted the entire Anglican Communion to adopt!

'Heresy Corner' has an interesting take on the matter:

http://heresycorner.blogspot.com/2012/04/guardian-is-shocked-to-discover-that.html

I completely agree with the Heresiarch's last paragraph, by the way.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 4:51pm BST

All this nonsense about people changing their orientation, I can't believe it still keeps coming up!

People who can "change" have been bisexual all along.
Bisexuality is defined as the ability to have close emotional and physical relationships with people from both sexes.

Not many men are 100% bisexual, more men than women tend to identify either 100% or very strongly as gay or straight.
Women tend to identify as bisexual much more often.
And as this gay debate is largely framed in a male context, it's not surprising that bisexuality is often overlooked.
But really - it's not exactly a new insight.

We really really must leave this binary gay-straight thinking behind, because unless we understand bisexuality properly, we will continue these damaging conversations about people changing their orientation.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 5:37pm BST

Martin

Professor King merely shows that they have a difference in professional opinion - not that he is being economical with the truth

Posted by: david wilson on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 5:45pm BST

But arent all studies in this area based on anecdotal evidence. People are commenting on their own feelings - how comfortable they feel with homosexual desires, whether those desires change, or stay the same, whether people benefit or not benefit or are even harmed by counselling.

I mean its not like taking your blood pressure to determine whether you have high blood pressure.

Posted by: david wilson on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 5:51pm BST

My experience over the years is that it is far easier to come out as a gay man to a group of straight people than it is to come out as a Christian to a group of LGBT people. Such is the reputation of Holy Mother Church.

Posted by: James Mackay on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 6:52pm BST

Alrighty, if it is acceptable in this field of study to throw anecdotes around:
The two male founders of Exodus International -- one of the leading "pray the gay away through Jesus" movements -- ended up falling in love with each other, and denouncing the basis of the very organization they helped to found.
Exodus uses the 5-year cancer-survival model for measuring success (which I personally find revolting, comparing homosexuality to a terminal illness), and even using that low threshold, their success rate is relatively modest. And by "success", they don't mean only those gay people who became happy, fully functional, heterosexual people with marriages, 2.5 kids, pets, and a mortgage; no they include gay people who now don't have sex at all.
Now, not having sex at all is great for people in monastic orders, Roman Catholic priests, and a conservative view of how people should live outside of monogamous, heterosexual, child-rearing, marriage, but I think I'm in the majority when I say that's not a successful life at all, and a severely repressed one.
God help us all if this "expert" is helping to choose the next Archbishop of Canterbury.
Confining myself to TEC looks more desirable all the time.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 7:46pm BST

A reply to Peter Ould:

Gay-affirming therapies are based in rigorous academic study, and the literature supporting this is vast and evidence based. There are hundreds of well-designed studies and research reports and peer-reviewed articles supporting gay-affirming therapies. Conversion therapies, on the other hand, have somewhere between none and almost none. The science is overwhelmingly on one side of this issue. No, it is more than overwhelming. The science is practically settled on this one. It would be almost impossible to count all of the studies in the psychology of human sexuality that have piled up (particularly in the past ten years) that support gay and lesbian affirming therapies. Evidence-based research settles the question. So much so that it is past time for you to stop with some of the wild claims that you have made on your blog and various anti-gay websites such as StandFirm, et al.

(And I know your story. You imagine that you are somehow the exception. Those claims are what we refer to as an n of one. Reports from a single self-selected subject would not count as research and offer no comparison to real research based in solid methodology. As is often said, the plural of anecdote is not data. Your anecdotes don't apply here.)

I have a syllabus to write for next semester and papers to grade for my undergrads. This is a very busy week for me, but I am more than happy to take out time to write up and forward bibliographies of this research to you. The responsible reaction to your part will be to read the research and to be willing to change your tune when you see the results. Are you willing to read the evidence-based science and change your public position when you see what is contained there?

Posted by: Dennis on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 9:00pm BST

Change too often comes at a slow grinding pace and it will probably be another generation or two before LGBT folk are finally accepted as equals. After all the CofE is still resisting female bishops even after TEC, ACC, and others in the Communion have decided women were qualified to hold episcopal office. Interesting that it's still an issue when there has been a woman on the throne for 50 years.

Posted by: Richard Warren on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 10:03pm BST

Two years back "confidential" information concerning the candidacy of Jeffrey John for the bishopric of Southwark leaked from the Crown Nominations Committee to the press - notably the Telegraph - to the detriment of John's candidacy. No serious attempt seems to have been made to identify those behind the leaks, though I seem to recall discussion of the possibility that the conservative evangelical faction was involved. Anyone know more?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 11:54pm BST

Erika Baker on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 5:37pm BST,
I think you're spot on.
I often wonder myself whether some of these gay or lesbian people who successfully "reformed" simply were bisexual to begin with.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 12:02am BST

oops ! in my comment above I had intended to say that I understood the fundamentalist way of aversion therapy to be the Only Christian Way -

I was led to accept my sexuality AND be a Bible believing Christian.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 12:12am BST

At the risk of exposing my own ignorance, how exactly are the members of the CNC elected? And who currently sits on this body? Presumably it has some standing membership, and some members who are relevent to each new appointment? The relative opacity of the whole process (compared to how things are done in some other provinces) does tend to generate stories like the Guardian's one.

Posted by: rjb on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 12:56am BST

"why doesn't Prof Michael King demand that therapists stop offering gay-affirming therapies?"
- Peter Ould -

Perhaps because they are effective in helping intrinsically homosexual people to understand the normality of their condition, and to avoid the serious problems that are sometimes associated with denying the reality of their situation.

At least, the affirmation counselling can save lives, and free people from self-accusation of what others have told them is morally wrong.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 9:20am BST

Peterpi writes "Now, not having sex at all is great for people in monastic orders, Roman Catholic priests,......."

I think the jury is out on this. Is celibacy actually a "great" choice for those vast swathes of Christian people for whom monogamous marriage does not happen to be available?

Many people argue that celibacy is a holy choice for gay christians. It is so much a part of the Christian tradition that it seems heretical to question it. But for me automatically imposing compulory celibacy on complete groups of christians is itelf suspect.

The official teachings of the church are based on the experiences of those people for whom celibacy worked. But where are the voices of those people - monks, priests and laity - for whom celibacy has not worked? The many victims of church sexual abuse - are they the victims of a corporate culture of imposing celeibacy on those for whom it is not appropriate?

Over the past few decades we have begun to change our attitudes to gender and sexuality issues after hearing the experiences of women, and of homosexuals. Do we now need to listen to the experiences of those people damaged by compulsory celibacy. Is it now time to challenge the dogma that celibacy works?

Simon

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 9:37am BST

rjb

There are six elected standing members who serve for five years. And six members from the diocese with a particular vacancy.

The eight central members of the CNC are:
a. the two archbishops (for archbishopric vacancies, the House of Bishops elects substitute(s) as required)
b. three members of the General Synod House of Clergy elected by the House of Clergy
c. three members of the House of Laity elected by the House of Laity.

In cases b and c, the elections are held using the Single Transferable Vote method. This form of Proportional Representation - which is widely used within the CofE - is more likely to result in large minority parties winning a seat than some other election procedures.

The current central members are listed here
http://peterowen.org.uk/articles/abscl.html#cac

The overall procedure is explained here
http://peterowen.org.uk/articles/choosing.html

ED: errors in the numbers above now corrected, sorry for lapse :-(

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 9:40am BST

"..... one senior lay evangelical protesting just a little too much." Thanks, Simon.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 11:27am BST

In this instance, is the membership of the Vacancy-in-See Committee drawn from the diocese or the province of Canterbury?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 11:31am BST

I thought the second bullet point demonstrated some economy, but my overall take from the King piece is that this economy runs deep.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 12:02pm BST

Thanks to everybody who replied to my question. I note with interest that no-one was able to point me to an actual academic paper.

I however a quote for you all. Make of this what you want. It's from an academic paper looking at qualifying gay-affirming therapy.

"From 7,775 citations identified in the electronic search, 92 papers were obtained as potentially appropriate for the review.

A further 18 potential papers were obtained for the review, identified from the grey literature, from hand searching of journals and reference lists, and from searching the Internet using the Google search engine. Thus, 110 papers in all were read and considered for inclusion, of which 22 papers were eventually retained in the review. Fourteen provided quantitative data and 10 qualitative data; two papers contained both quantitative and qualitative data. There were no trials evaluating the effectiveness of psychological interventions in LGBT people, nor were there any longitudinal follow-up studies of people who had received a specific service or therapy. Two papers provided quantitative data on transgender participants, but none provided qualitative data for this group.
...

We identified no randomised trials of effectiveness of general or specialised mental health treatments for LGBT people. Nor did we identify any ‘before and after’ or cohort studies assessing outcomes of therapy and counselling for LGBT people. There was no consistency in the instruments used to assess past or current therapy, satisfaction with care or other outcomes. None of the studies reviewed measured mental health outcomes using validated psychometric measures"

The author basically concluded that there was absolutely no research available to prove that gay-affirming therapies do or don't work (in a similar manner to the claim that no similar research is available to prove that sexual orientation change efforts do or don't work).

Let me give you till the end of the day to try and guess who wrote the paper...

Posted by: Peter Ould on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 12:13pm BST

Lapin
The Vacancy-in-See committee for either archbishop's diocese is drawn entirely from that diocese.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 12:20pm BST

peterpi - Peter Gross

Celibacy was good enough for Jesus and I heard recently around 30% of the church in England is single - so it is a burden that the Lord does not mind placing on people - all the more time to serve Him and spend time with Him.

Posted by: david wilson on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 12:20pm BST

Dennis

Research in this area is incredibly difficult and open to the natural bias of the individuals who are merely reporting on the self-perceived feelings as individuals, and the natural biases of researchers. For example someone who is frustrated in seeing no, or insuffient change is naturally hostile to change therapy. Yet if you compare with same with say the impact of alcohol or drug success rates - yet for AA only has a 5% success rate - so naturally in homosexuality had the same success rate they would be a lot of disgruntled homosexuals - now faced just with celibacy (a dreadful position for the non-Christian) - or going back to what they sought to leave in the first place

It is therefore not simply a question of reading what has been written.

It is His love that changes you.

Posted by: david wilson on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 12:34pm BST

Following up on the 5% success rate of alcoholics anonymous - I wonder how many phyciatrist would actually attribute any change to God, rather than someone suppressing their feelings.

It is ironic that core to the Christian beliefs is the renewal of the mind - to deal with all sorts of desires. How many phyciatrist would accept that.

Posted by: david wilson on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 12:47pm BST

"Celibacy was good enough for Jesus and I heard recently around 30% of the church in England is single" David Wilson.

The 1950s called - they want their attitudes back.

I hate to have to break this to you, but single people are not necessarily celibate - even if they are 'of the church'.

Posted by: Laurence C. on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 1:11pm BST

"I note with interest that no-one was able to point me to an actual academic paper."

That's more than a little disingenuous when Dennis has offered to spend some time compiling a whole library of them for you!

Of course, the obvious answer to that would have been that, as an expert in the field, you already know of all these references and that you have studied them carefully.

Maybe that's why you didn't take up Dennis' offer?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 1:14pm BST

http://www.exgaywatch.com/wp/2012/04/spitzer-retracts-2001-landmark-ex-gay-study/

Another 'ex-gay' so called study bites the dust !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 1:22pm BST

"It is ironic that core to the Christian beliefs is the renewal of the mind - to deal with all sorts of desires. How many psychiatrists would accept that."

And that raises another question that the shrinks are asking, but the preachers are not ...

So, what's wrong with it? Why shouldn't two people of the same gender be attracted to each other?

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 1:25pm BST

The 2007 General Synod session at which Dr Harrison was elected to the Crown Nominations Commission opened a week after the Dar-es-Salaam primates' meeting, arguably the high water mark of the influence of a certain faction within the Communion. Any possibility, given his professional interests, that a reason for his running to fill a vacancy on the Commission might have been the potential to throw a spanner in the works, should a known gay or gay-friendly candidate be proposed for advancement to the episcopacy?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 1:28pm BST

'The author basically concluded that there was absolutely no research available to prove that gay-affirming therapies do or don't work (in a similar manner to the claim that no similar research is available to prove that sexual orientation change efforts do or don't work).'

Peter Ould

This is based on a basic and serious misunderstanding, alas.

'Treatments'aimed at 'sexual orientation change efforts' are in fact, attempts to change a person's sexual orientation from gay to heterosexual.* Whereas gay affirmative therapy is simply ordinary psychotherapy offered free of homophobia. That's it. So I really do nt know what studies you are expecting / demanding.

** So-called 'treatment' aimed at changing sexual orientation, violates the basic canons, and regulations of the mental health fields.

I write as a retired UKCP registered analytic psychotherapist.

I tend to think that Peter Ould protests a little too much. But that is not my professional opinion !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 1:35pm BST

" Celibacy was good enough for Jesus and I heard recently around 30% of the church in England is single - so it is a burden that the Lord does not mind placing on people - all the more time to serve Him and spend time with Him. "

Since the gospels make no such claim about Jesus, nor do they suggest that he enjoined it upon others, what texts are being used here?

St. Paul is not Jesus, nor are his views on sexuality particularly enlightening nor obligatory outside the context of his anticipation that the eschaton would arrive soon, perhaps within his lifetime.

Posted by: Bob McCloskey on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 1:48pm BST

Erika (and Dennis),

There is already a really good paper that does exactly this, dated just two years ago. The bibliography is extensive. Let's not duplicate effort.

Still waiting for folks (like Laurence) to tell me who the quote is from.

Posted by: Peter Ould on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 4:11pm BST

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/father-bernard-lynch-the-vatican-has-told-them-to-get-rid-of-me-7619004.html

Fr Lynch offers a timely contribution to our deliberations.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 5:13pm BST

Laurence wrote "This is based on a basic and serious misunderstanding, alas."

Can I just be clear - Laurence is saying that the author of this paper (from which I quoted) had a basic and serious misunderstanding of how to qualify basic psychotherapeutic treatment?

And I'm curious, just what are the basic canons and regulations of the mental health fields? If a client wants to explore an aspect of their behaviour / emotional response, is it a violation of these canons and regulations to do so?

Posted by: Peter Ould on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 6:01pm BST

What a super article on Fr Bernard Lynch! Thanks for the URL Laurie!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 6:17pm BST

News flash quite relevant to this conversation:

Dr. Robert Spitzer who claimed in a 2001 essay that homosexuality could be "cured" or "changed" repudiated his own work in an article that came out today. His work was a cornerstone of "ex-gay" "therapy." He was considered particularly credible since he was not a social conservative. Today, he says plainly that his critics were right all along.

http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/11/4406240/dr-robert-spitzer-renounces-infamous.html

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 11:47pm BST

Bob: 'St. Paul is not Jesus, nor are his views on sexuality particularly enlightening nor obligatory outside the context of his anticipation that the eschaton would arrive soon, perhaps within his lifetime.'

The Nicene creed declares: 'I believe in one holy, catholic and APOSTOLIC faith'. What exactly is an apostolic faith, if its teachings are not obligatory. Perhaps, we should only consider the Evangelists to be apostolic, or maybe just the Twelve. How self-servingly selective!

However, this the same St.Paul, whose letters St.Peter accords the status of scripture by saying: 'He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.' (2 Peter 3:16)

[Ad hominem comment deleted by editor]

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 5:46am BST


Counterlight is surely right. The real question is not 'can people change their sexual orientation?' but 'why the heck should they?' Would it be wrong for a bisexual to marry the person they love of their ow sex? Surely not. We can cut this Gordian know simply by saying clearly that relationships between same sex people are of equal value to those of opposite sex ones.

I'm increasingly of the mind that it is simplest to leave those plainly stranded on an outdated clinical sandbar to wait for a tide which will never come in.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 8:16am BST

The study referred to above can be found here,
http://www.bacp.co.uk/research/Systematic_Reviews_and_Publications/LGBT.php where the full report can be downloaded for free.

Its conclusions are summarised here (scroll to bottom of page)
http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/rollofhonour/specialinterestgroups/gaylesbian/submissiontothecofe/psychiatryandlgbpeople.aspx#history

which is part of the submission made by the Royal College to the Listening Process, already linked above, but for convenience here it is again
http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/rollofhonour/specialinterestgroups/gaylesbian/submissiontothecofe.aspx

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 9:04am BST

You're most welcome Martin.Glad you like it.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 11:28am BST

Basically it says (and I understand why you didn't post my long comments!) something other than what Peter Ould asserts it to say.

The methodology and objectives are the only reason that the documents omitted were omitted, and the report is largely concerned with the quality of therapists and the existence of a bias toward heterosexuality as preferable to homosexuality amongst the therapists. It acknowledges the presence of a great deal of literature on gay-affirming therapies, but concludes that, in practice, it is a rarity, due to the heteronormative bias. It also asserts that homosexuality is not the problem, but that the problems arise because of the treatment of homosexuality as abnormal, and that the problems should be treated as *separate* from sexuality.

Hardly the position of the so-called traditionalists.

It advocates, among other things, that more LGBT therapists should be hired, and that therapists educate themselves about the actual lives and concerns of LGBT's.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 11:57am BST

Dr Glynn Harrison is not alone in his views: see this, just in

http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/2012/04/12/london-bus-campaign-challenges-stonewalls-claim-that-gay-is-innate/

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 1:07pm BST

Rosemary:
'why the heck should they?'

Indeed, why the heck should any part of the authoritative prototype of Genesis matter?

I could imagine that Hillel took the same view in interpreting the Law of Moses to permit divorce for a myriad of reasons.

As you know, divorce for causes other than adultery was a provisional OT accommodation of human intransigence. In the NT, it was Christ who re-established the ancient Genesis account authoritative prototype for permanent affinity through biological union.

So what other aspects of that Christ-endorsed and divinely ordained prototype would you have us to dispense with?

What part of it should I say to Christ, 'Why the heck should I?'

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 1:24pm BST

David:
Thank you for reminding me so forcefully that biblical and creedal fundamentalism are so rampant in the church today. Clearly our respective understandings and views are at extreme opposite ends of the spectrum. I am only grateful that my theological training respects the ongoing revelation of God beyond the limits of first three centuries of the Common Era. As for the apostolic FAITH my version of the Nicene Creed reads "one, holy, catholic and aposotolic CHURCH". God help us if/when that Church is allowed to restrict/limit our faith development, as it evidently does for some.

Posted by: Bob McCloskey on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 1:32pm BST

Many thanks for explaining all that MarkB, I appreciate it a lot.

There is so much stuff I just can't get these days.

But what you wrote makes complete sense to me. Heteronormativity i.e. flawed thinking has always created problems for gays like racism for Black people.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 2:06pm BST

Be interesting to see if the London Transport campaign lasts its full two weeks, Simon.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 2:22pm BST

"It also asserts that homosexuality is not the problem, but that the problems arise because of the treatment of homosexuality as abnormal"

And yet the survey simply states this as a conclusion without providing any research evidence supporting this conjecture. In fact, sections 6 and 7 are full of assertions for which no research is provided as evidence.

Posted by: Peter Ould on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 2:23pm BST

I thought we'd gotten over the tedious disputes about the aetiology of homosexuality about the time Foucault pointed out that homosexuals are made by people identifying them as such. Gay people are not 'born that way' - we're constructed by medical professionals, clergy, psychiatrists, activists, and now - it would seem - London buses. How very boring.

If it is true, however, that heterosexuality was only created by the discursive construction of its opposite, I wonder if the emergence of the ex-gays will now, by an equal and opposite counter-force, produce an ex-straight movement? Yes, you heard it here first. I think we're gonna need a bigger bus.

Posted by: rjb on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 5:00pm BST

Indeed, it is apostolic church, not faith. So please declare your creedless, unscriptural basis for authority and explain what a non-apostolic church with a non-apostolic faith is, given Ephesians 2:20.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 5:36pm BST

Genesis says nothing at all about same sex relationships. It does say it is not good for a human to be alone, and it does say that humans are intended to reproduce, or it implies it. But quite plainly some do not and cannot reproduce, so it is not any sort of imperative. David, it is as impossible to make the really straight gay as it is to make the really gay straight. People are not going to stop being attracted to the opposite sex and having children. Saying 'this is why men and women leave their parents and become one' is not at all the same thing as saying 'every man and woman need to marry, and those who do not are breaking God's plan' and neither is it the same as saying 'and every woman who becomes one with another woman is breaking God's plan.' It is merely saying that this is why those who do are doing it.

We are not talking about divorce here.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 7:43pm BST

It is much much simpler not to get dragged into discussion about what causes homosexuality. It is much much simpler to stick to arguing that same sex relationships can be a means of grace and blessing to those in them. For this, there is abundant evidence.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 7:47pm BST

The games up for UK homophobes. But the death penalty and imprisonment apply to us around the world, urged on by 'christians.'

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/12/scientific-support-anti-gay-campaigners

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 9:19pm BST

Rosemary:
I didn't say that it was imperative that everyone marry. I did show that Christ cited it as the authoritative prototype for sexual union and then applied it to limit the dissolution of marital union.

Christ applied the Genesis prototype to divorce, but it clearly addresses broader issues. For instance, the Genesis account also establishes 'why the heck' Christians should consider monogamy as an exemplary ideal (established by elders)! To suggest that it has no wider context is just plain wrong.

Since the prototype is also cited in scripture as the divine-ordained origin of and intent for permanent marital monogamy, it shows ''why the heck' its also the prototype for the gender of the partners, whether they bear children or not.

Christ's principle regarding divergence from the prototype is 'it was not so from the beginning', not 'let's ensure it addresses the lowest common denominator of mutual sexual attraction.'

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 11:29pm BST

This really is laughable, Peter Ould!

You bring this study in to back you up, now you want to "discredit" it because it doesn't say what you want it to! Incredible if we didn't see it as the major theme of conservative "christianity."

Really, why do you think that *nobody* can possibly believe a so-called conservative/traditionalist christian is anything but completely self-involved and lacking in anything close to integrity?

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 13 April 2012 at 5:25am BST

David, I take grave grave offence at your describing homosexual attraction as 'the lowest common denominator of mutual sexual attraction.' Gay people marry because they love each other, in just the same costly way that straight people do. End of.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 13 April 2012 at 3:08pm BST

Rosemary:
To be clear. The phrase 'lowest common denominator' refers to those characteristics that you claimed were shared by faithful same-sex and heterosexual orientations.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 13 April 2012 at 11:33pm BST

I wonder if David Shepherd can adequately explain (away) the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:10-12, where he mentions a 'eunuch' (unable to procreate) who is "born that way from their mother's womb". Does he think it at all possible that this might apply to an intrinsically gay or lesbian person? Or is that not possible. A direct (not necessarily 'straight') answer please.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 at 12:22am BST

Christ had just established a stringent principle regarding the morality of re-marriage after divorce. The disciples countered that, in the light of his stern teaching, it was better to avoid marriage than fall foul of his judgment on re-marriage of a divorced woman.

The disciples conclusion about pre-emptively avoiding marriage could only be valid for those those for whom sexual union holds no attraction. This hardly describes homosexuality, unless that falls short of sexual union in some way.

Christ specified three types of eunuch, all of whom had no need for a sexual partnership. Sexual orientations are not mutually exclusive. If a man has no sexual interest in women, we should neither automatically presume him to have a sexual interest in men, nor both genders, nor that Christ meant this. Especially, when the text focuses on the precautionary avoidance of sexual union.

If, by referring to the actual context of Jesus' pronouncement in Matt. 19, I've managed to explain it (away), perhaps you can press those verses into the service of LGBT issues by avoiding context.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 9:46am BST
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