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.”