Thinking Anglicans

Next Steps for LLF faces challenges

Three items have appeared today which suggest the road ahead for LLF is not straightforward.

First, the Bishop of London has responded to the item in the Queen’s Speech about banning conversion therapy. Here’s the full press release which includes the following:

Following the announcement in the Queen’s Speech that the Government will ban conversion therapy, the Bishop of London Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith Next Steps Group, said”The Church of England believes that all people are made in the image of God and must be cherished for who they are.

“The General Synod has voted overwhelmingly to reject coercive Conversion Therapies so we welcome the Government’s commitment to explore these matters further with a view to enshrining that position in law.

“We recognise the difficulties in defining Conversion Therapies and look forward to working closely with the Government to develop a viable definition and subsequent legislation.

“We want to prevent abuses of power, and ensure that issues of consent are made absolutely central to any future legislation.”

The motion agreed by General Synod in July 2017 was:
That this Synod: (a) endorse the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK of November 2015, signed by The Royal College of Psychiatrists and others, that the practice of gay conversion therapy has no place in the modern world, is unethical, potentially harmful and not supported by evidence; and 3 (b) call upon the Church to be sensitive to, and to listen to, contemporary expressions of gender identity; (c) and call on the government to ban the practice of Conversion Therapy.

Note that the word “coercive” does not appear in the motion passed by General Synod.

Second, the Next Steps Group has been explicitly criticised for its handling of a complaint relating to the inclusion of video featuring a particular person in LLF resource materials. This is explained carefully in an article on the Unadulterated Love site by Tina Beardsley titled LLF Next Steps Group refuses to act on trans people’s concerns. This article is not amenable to precis, and needs to be read in full to understand the complexities of the matter.

Third, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England has  issued a press release, and written to the Bishop of London about the case involving The Rev’d Robert Thompson, Vicar of SS Mary and James, West Hampstead, and the person featured in Rachel’s Story – I Don’t Want to Be Part of An Institution that Allows Abuse to which we linked in an earlier TA article. The press release in full:

WHISTLEBLOWING PRIEST IN THE DIOCESE OF LONDON BEING FALSELY INVESTIGATED OVER TRUMPED UP ONLINE BULLYING CLAIMS

The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England has written to the Bishop of London condemning the Clergy Discipline Measure case brought against a whistleblowing priest.

The Campaign has learned that The Rev’d Robert Thompson, Vicar of SS Mary and James, West Hampstead, is currently being investigated by Church authorities for whistleblowing on the basis that he engaged in online bullying, harassment, intimidation and abuse of another cleric accused of traumatising a lesbian Christian.

In 2020, Fr. Robert was approached by a young woman who had been, in her words, ‘repeatedly traumatised’ by the actions of the vicar of a Holy Trinity Brompton plant in London because of her sexuality. You can read her story in her own words here. Fr Robert has been acting as her support, advocate and guide as she has sought for recognition of the harm done to her. In this process there has been an official investigation by the Diocese of London into the abuse of this young woman, which has made recommendations that have yet to be fully implemented by the parish concerned. 

Nigel Pietroni, Chairman, Campaign for Equal Marriage etc, said:

“We have reviewed Fr Robert’s online comments, tweets and retweets in relation to the case of this young woman and can find no evidence of bullying and intimidation, and in fact no reference to the other priest concerned at all.  

“Fr Robert’s focus has been on supporting the young woman in her struggle for redress and support, and the need for substantial changes in the approach by the Diocese of London, illustrated by the young woman’s experience, into safeguarding LGBTQIA+ people in its churches. The case demonstrates the deep harm that can be done by a lack of transparency and honesty about the position of LGBTQIA+ people in Church of England parishes. There are genuine questions raised by this case about spiritual abuse and the misuse of power.”

ENDS

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Jeremy Pemberton
Jeremy Pemberton
4 months ago

If the Church of England is serious about LLF it had better act smartish on these three matters. The Bishop of London is haemorrhaging credibility with LGBTI+ people not just in her diocese, but across the church. Weasel words about conversion therapy to pacify the homophobic right are utterly unacceptable; trans people need support, not being hung out to dry; and Robert’s courageous support for a traumatised young woman should not be the matter under investigation. He is a whistleblower – so of course he is being targeted. The investigation should be on the way LGBTI+ people are treated in… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Jeremy Pemberton
4 months ago

I am not certain whether gender identity should be included within LLF in the first place. It feels more like an attempt to allow people to push regressive views than an attempt to increase acceptance.

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
Reply to  Jeremy Pemberton
4 months ago

Why do you think Sarah Mullally was acceptable to ‘certain’ members of the London CNC when others were not, Jeremy? I am reliably informed that she was the choice of a broad Evangelical collective (and well-promoted by the Dean of St Paul’s). She emerged as the nominated candidate because conspicuous individuals could swallow what she had to say about human sexuality. I am not at all surprised by her weasel words, nor her obfuscation in importing words like ‘coercive’ when they were never part of the Synod motion. She doesn’t want to bite off the hand that feeds her, does… Read more »

T Pott
T Pott
4 months ago

“for a range of reasons, members of communities may not always feel welcome in these buildings”

this is actuallty a quote from the previous item on contested heritage, but may be applicable to this one also.

Dave
Dave
4 months ago

Weasel words about conversion therapy to pacify the homophobic right are utterly unacceptable; trans people need support, not being hung out to dry; and Robert’s courageous support for a traumatised young woman should not be the matter under investigation. He is a whistleblower”

Yes.Well said.

So why don’t campaigning bodies take more direct action – such as Discipline Measure action against the Bishop? And after all hasn’t the Bishop failed in her fundamental duty to protect the vulnerable.

Jeremy Pemberton
Jeremy Pemberton
Reply to  Dave
4 months ago

Because campaigning bodies would not be considered as having the correct standing to make such a complaint.

Dave
Dave
Reply to  Jeremy Pemberton
4 months ago

Hmm… but could individuals who had the ‘correct standing’ not be found by the campaigning bodies and given support to take action?

At present the danger is some of the campaigning bodies run the risk of being seen as moaners in social media unwilling to take more direct action.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
4 months ago

I naively once thought that the main thing about HTB was its theology lite Alpha course but I’ve since realised that there’s something pernicious about its influence on the CofE. If what the Campaign for Equal Marriage say about Fr. Thompson’s CDM is correct then it should not have got past the initial scrutiny stage; and if the case is as flimsy as it sounds then one wonders why Dame Sarah has allowed it to progress this far. If she allows the matter to go to a full tribunal it’s difficult to see how that helps anyone – complainant, respondent… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
4 months ago

From my letter to the Bishops of London and Edmonton regarding the situation at the HTB Kentish Town plant. As a post script I note in your statement following the Government’s proposals regarding conversion therapy that you have amended Synod’s resolution by adding the word ‘coercive’. This is a subversion of Synod’s motion which rejected all conversion therapy without qualification. It is a fact that all conversion therapy is ‘coercive’; it is an exercise of power by the powerful over those without power and has no place in any decent Christian community. That you should re-write the facts in this… Read more »

Filigree Jones
Filigree Jones
4 months ago

Tina Beardsley’s article is well written, persuasive and sincere. It didn’t convince me that the LLF Next Steps Group has made a wrong decision this time. Within the trans community there are profound political and philosophical differences about how trans people ‘should’ understand and describe themselves. The unkindnesses that those who are part of that community have heaped on one other because of this sometimes seem as great as anything they are experiencing from those outside. According to the article Debbie Hayton is a trans person who holds views that many trans people don’t agree with. ‘It would have been… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Filigree Jones
4 months ago

It’s like doing a course on racial integration and including the video of someone who believes in racial segregation and then justifying its inclusion because the author was black and then being surprised when most black people think you are being offensive, even racist.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

I agree with that analogy, Kate. Just because someone has transitioned (with admitted regrets) does not mean that they can usefully represent the vast majority of others who transition, if they decry the very point that most people transition for. People will find that distressing and offensive, and arguably there is indeed transphobia at work, even if it is mainly internalised. . ‘I regret the consequences of my transition… me being a woman married to a woman would prevent my wife getting ordained… in fact, all trans women are men and therefore my wife can get ordained.’ Not quite the… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Susannah Clark
Susannah Clark
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

I think one of the things that really disappoints me is that the Church did not seek out opinions like Tina’s and ask: what do you think of this video being used? Do you have any thoughts and misgivings? Can you see any problems? . I think it may be disingenuous for those who inserted that video to say they didn’t realise how controversial the person’s views are among trans people. More than controversial – the views this person disseminates erase the core identity that trans people struggle with, by alleging that actually, their sense of being a woman, or… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

I’m trying to be careful with words: so re-reading, instead of “I fear this video and the reputation of the person involved” please read “I fear the reputation of the person involved…” The video is problematic for the associated commentaries of one the the individuals, which are regarded as an attack on true identity by so many trans people. In response to Filigree, I am not a participant in any trans group, and wish Debbie well. I have known her since 2011, and over the years we have exchanged many thoughts and, I believe, friendship. Even so, I fundamentally disagree… Read more »

Susannah Clark
4 months ago

With reference to Tina’s article, I am in agreement that the particular individual concerned would indeed be a kind of trigger for many trans people. . The views held by the individual absolutely do not reflect the views and experiences of the vast majority of trans people, and the journalism ‘he’ writes prolifically is in the views of most trans people offensive, damaging, and distressing. . There were plenty of other trans people who made themselves vulnerable in the LLF process (I had an hour with Eeva myself) but it astonishes me that the case selected for video and distribution… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

Re-reading this, I’m not sure whether I’ve got the pronouns right, because I haven’t spoken to Debbie for many years. . I used ‘he’ in my previous post because Debbie claims to be a man. . However, on reflection, if Debbie identifies as Debbie, maybe the pronoun ‘she’ is what Debbie wants. I just don’t know. . So to play safe, please read all places where I wrote ‘he’ as ‘they’. I am happy to respect whatever pronoun a person wants to apply to themselves. . Maybe Debbie feels that, although a man, they have a female gender. I just… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Susannah Clark
Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
4 months ago

Words matter. Here’s the General Synod motion on Conversion Therapy. That this Synod: (a) endorse the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK of November 2015, signed by The Royal College of Psychiatrists and others, that the practice of gay conversion therapy has no place in the modern world, is unethical, potentially harmful and not supported by evidence; and 3 (b) call upon the Church to be sensitive to, and to listen to, contemporary expressions of gender identity; (c) and call on the government to ban the practice of Conversion Therapy. There is no mention of ‘coercion’ here.… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Christopher Shell
Reply to  Richard Ashby
4 months ago

Coercive would be where the initiative was not taken by the client.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Christopher Shell
4 months ago

No it is much wider than that.

Ann Reddecliffe
Ann Reddecliffe
Reply to  Christopher Shell
4 months ago

All conversion therapy is coercive. Nobody simply chooses to undergo conversion therapy for fun. If someone feels they have tried all the other options with no success then this is the ‘choice’ of desperate last resort. The coercion can come from all those who have told them they are an abomination unless they change.
Safeguarding needs to be mandatory when anyone asks for conversion therapy. Who knows what pressures or threats have been made before they ‘ask’ for conversion therapy.
It is harmful, it doesn’t work and needs a total ban.

Christopher Shell
Christopher Shell
Reply to  Ann Reddecliffe
4 months ago

I think that, as has repeatedly been said, it is very suspicious the way that people have been so backward in coming forward in defining ‘conversion therapy’. What we have not defined, we cannot yet have an opinion on. Second, it should be examined why people are so content to stick with a term which conjures up images of practices some of which have not taken place since the 1950s, others of which are already illegal under other laws, and others of which are understandably requested by the client. The question is – once one has removed these 3 categories,… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Christopher Shell
4 months ago

It sounds to me that the issues you are talking about relate to sexual fidelity and continence, not sexuality. There are plenty of LGBT folk who manage to avoid having sex with people other than their spouse without needing to try and erase parts of their sexuality. The idea that being gay must be the “problem” for someone struggling with sex addiction or being tempted into adultery is one that is very much out of the 1950s.

Christopher Shell
Christopher Shell
Reply to  Jo B
4 months ago

I think not: for example, when I spoke of those who did not enjoy and of those who are addicted (and we can be addicted to something we do not like and that seems not to be helping us and/or may be positively harming us) then that is nothing to do with something called ‘sexuality’, more to do with habit, personal history, patterns of behaviour. The very word ‘sexuality’ implies something fixed and clear, perhaps even inborn and endemic! That does not quite accurately reflect the science, though it does reflect the picture of things that the popular media jams… Read more »

Ian
Ian
Reply to  Ann Reddecliffe
4 months ago

“Who knows what pressures or threats have been made before they ‘ask’ for conversion therapy.”
Indeed… Who knows?
Perhaps none externally… Thus (rightly or wrongly) not coercive in the normal definition.

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