The Church of England bishops have supported a decision to ban conversion therapy for gay Christians – saying that being gay is not a sickness, nor a sin.
Christian gay rights campaigner Jayne Ozanne motioned for the Church of England to endorse a statement would brand the conversion therapy “potentially harmful” with “no place in the modern world”.
Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, said that “The sooner the practice of so-called conversion therapy is banned, I can sleep at night.”
The vote will send out a strong message, letting the world know that the Church doesn’t look at homosexuality as a crime. Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool said “As the world listens to us, the world needs to hear us say that LGBT+ orientation and identity is not a crime. LGBT+ identity is not a sickness. And LGBT+ orientation is not a sin.” He continues “We must distinguish between an ascetic and a therapeutic approach. In the Church, we are certainly called to help one another to conform their lives to Jesus Christ and to live lives of holiness, but we do not need to engage people in healing therapy if they are not sick.”
Ms Ozanne herself has undergone the conversion therapy, resulting in two breakdowns and two admissions to hospital, telling the Press Association that it had the ability to ruin individuals’ lives and even drive them towards suicide. Commenting before the vote takes place, she said “It was discredited by the government, the NHS, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of General Practitioners, and many other senior health care bodies.” “I call it abuse. I believe it is spiritual abuse. Sexual orientation is a very delicate area that only true professionals should be dealing with. And they won’t try to changed people’s sexual orientation, they will help them try deal with it. She continues, “What people don’t understand is that you can enter into this sort of practice willingly because you think it is the right thing to do because you have been told it is what God wants. It is only years later that the impact becomes apparent.”
Ozanne recently conducted an online survey within the LGBT+ community, showing that just under 40% of the 554 people that took the survey said that they had undergone some level or form of conversion therapy. More than two thirds of that 40% said the reason they had chosen to undergo therapy was because they genuinely believed that their sexual orientation was a sin. Under three quarters of those where under the age of 20 when they started the therapy.
Fenella Cannings-Jurd, a Durham university student, said she found it quite hard to believe that “in 2017, we are seriously debating the pros and cons of conversion therapy”. Some synod members expressed their concerns that the motion would restrict the Church’s ability in offering both pastoral care and prayer for those that were struggling with their sexual orientation and desires.
The final vote was 298 to 74, with 26 abstentions. The motion had support from all three houses of the synod, as well as the bishops, clergy, and laity.