Thinking Anglicans

CofE response on conversion therapy

The UK Government yesterday published an LGBT Action Plan. This is 32 pages long and includes 75 action points. The government press release is over here.

One of these action points has attracted a lot of media attention. It’s on page 15 in the category of Safety. It reads:

We will bring forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy in the UK. These activities are wrong, and we are not willing to let them continue. Led by the Government Equalities Office, we will fully consider all legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy. Our intent is protect people who are vulnerable to harm or violence, whether that occurs in a medical, commercial or faith-based context. We are not trying to prevent LGBT people from seeking legitimate medical support or spiritual support from their faith leader in the exploration of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Church of England responded with this press release: Government pledge to eradicate conversion therapy

Following the publication of the Government’s LGBT Action Plan, a spokesperson for the Church of England said:

“We warmly welcome the Government commitment to eradicate gay conversion therapy in this country.

“As a motion endorsed overwhelmingly by the Church of England’s General Synod last summer concludes, the practice is unethical, potentially harmful and has no place in the modern world.

“Since then the Church of England has pressed the Government to consider outlawing the practice and the Second Church Estates Commissioner Dame Caroline Spelman has held a number of meetings with ministers to that end.

“As we await the detail of any proposals, we also welcome the recognition that any steps taken should not have the unintended consequence of preventing people seeking spiritual support from their faith leader in the exploration of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The General Synod motion mentioned was the subject of a church press release at the time.  The detailed tally of the voting on this motion last July can be found here.  In summary the voting was:

House of Bishops 36 in favour, 1 against, 0 abstentions
House of Clergy 135 in favour, 25 against, 13 abstentions
House of Laity 127 in favour, 48 against, 13 abstentions

Further analysis was reported here.

Religion-based promoters of such practices have also issued press releases:

Christian Concern  Ten Good Reasons not to restrict therapy for unwanted same-sex attraction.

Core Issues Trust Statement on Proposed Restrictions on Therapy for Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions

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Father Ron Smithpeterpi - Peter GrossAnn ReddecliffeCharles ClaphamJanet Fife Recent comment authors
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Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Will attempting to cast ‘demons’ out of gay people be included in the ban on conversion therapy, either by the state or the C of E? It’s a damaging practice and we ought to be stopping it.

Charles Clapham
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Worth noting that the Church of England motion did not address conversion therapies aimed at trans people (as detailed in the latest Memorandum of Understanding). So really a motion to address this needs to be brought again to the Synod (and could be brought by the bishops themselves if they were genuinely supportive).

Ann Reddecliffe
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Ann Reddecliffe

Perhaps Christian Concern and Core Issues Trust would like to publish their safeguarding guidelines. That way everyone can be sure that protecting vulnerable people will be their top priority.

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

Bravo to the Church of England and Her Majesty’s Government on this issue.
In the US, attempts to ban conversion therapy have been fought tooth and nail as an assault on religious and professional liberty. Some conservative Christians seem to think it is their divine duty to harass, humiliate and intimidate GLBT people.

Father Ron Smith
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What happened at Lambeth 1998 (the oirigins of 1-10) was a notable attempt by an African Bishop to ‘exorcise a Spirit of Homosexuality’ from the life of an English clergyman. This was a disgrace and should never be allowed to recur.