Almost a dozen church leaders in Plymouth have signed a controversial open letter to the government condemning its ban on LGBT+ conversion therapy.
11 Christian ministers and pastoral workers from the city are part of a set of 2,546 Christian ministers and pastoral workers from across the UK to sign the letter.
According to LGBT+ charity Stonewall, conversion therapy “refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or remove a person’s gender identity.”
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The idea behind conversion therapy is that those conducting “therapy” assume that being lesbian, gay, bi, or trans is a mental illness that can be “cured.” Stonewall condemned such actions as “both unethical and harmful”.
Plymouth Christian ministers and pastoral workers who oppose the ban on conversion therapy are:
St Andrews Church, Royal Parade, Plymouth PL1 2AD
Emmanuel Church, 1 Compton Ave, Plymouth PL3 5BZ
- Revd Robin Brown
Revd Preb Karl Freeman
Revd Simon Springett
Church of the Redeemer Plymouth, St Barnabas Terrace, Plymouth PL1 5NN
- Mr. Grant Van Schalkwyk
Mr Andrew Wooldridge
St Pancras, Honicknowle Ln, Plymouth PL2 3QX
St Michael’s Church, 29 Albert Rd, Plymouth PL2 1AB
- Mrs Lynda Buckley, Reader, St Michael’s, Devonport, Church of England
The 11 Plymouth Christian ministers and pastoral workers who signed the open letter were contacted by PlymouthLive and given the opportunity to respond. Of the 11 people contacted, only two responded and both declined an interview.
The letter was sent after Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Liz Truss held a consultation period ahead of the proposed ban. This consultation is now over and lasted from October 29, 2021 to February 4, 2022.
Members of the public have been invited to share their views on the government’s proposals for how it plans to eliminate the practice.
In the consultation document, the government used strong language that suggested the ban was a foregone conclusion and that public opinions would only focus on how the ban is being enforced.
The document stated: “The government will introduce a legislative ban on the practice of so-called conversion therapy. This consultation seeks views on proposals on how we plan to ban these practices, which particularly affect LGBT people.
The letter appealing the ban says: “We welcome and show love to many people who have different experiences and opinions, including same-sex attraction and forms of gender transition.
“We always seek to act with love, with gentleness and respect, for the good of all, and never with any form of coercion or control.”
Opponents say they are “deeply concerned” about the ban’s impact on the normal practice of religion. The letter said: “We see in these proposals a clear possibility that our duty as ministers, to proclaim the lordship of Jesus Christ and to call people to find life in him, which includes living according to his laws , or criminalized.
“We also believe it could be used against Christian parents who could also be criminalized for loving guidance and teaching given to their own children.”
Objectors also claim that the term conversion therapy is “broad” and “essentially meaningless” because it has the effect of also meaning “conversion to Christ”. They say the ban is unsustainable and risks “criminalizing us as we fulfill our compassionate duties as Christian ministers and pastors.”
In their view, conversion to God cannot be brought about by therapy, and the phrase “conversion therapy” implies that Christians are particularly associated with the “unsavory, cruel, and totally unchristian practices of certain quack therapies in the past.”
They claim that, to some who are calling for a ban, this implication seems deliberate.
The letter goes on to explain, “Christianity has always held that God created mankind with lifelong marriage of one man and one woman as a gracious gift to mankind and central to his purpose for human society Violating this pattern, through sexual activity outside of marriage or denial of our created sex, is a sin.
“As such, it is not only morally wrong, but carries profound and tragic consequences for individuals, families and society. It is central to our call to bring the compassion of Christ to a broken world, that we call people to live according to God’s will gift and pattern of marriage and offer them pastoral support to help them do so.
“It has nothing to do with therapy; it has everything to do with what it means to be a Christian. To urge and help people to live in this way, far from being harmful, is a kind and merciful act, and beneficial for everyone.
“To urge and help people to live like this, far from being harmful, is a benevolent and merciful act, and beneficial to all. What is clearly and terribly harmful is when someone, especially young people, believes that his identity is found purely in their feelings and that happiness is found in the abuse and harm of their healthy body.
“Yet the proposals would apparently criminalize us for seeking to care for people and seeking to deter them from this kind of evil.
“It should not be a criminal offense for us as Christian ministers to persuade, teach and help people of any age to become and live as Orthodox Christians. It should not be an offense criminal for us to teach our children that God created them male and female, in his own image, and reserved sex for the marriage of a man and a woman.”
The “response to the consultation of ministers” concludes by saying that those who signed the document have no problem legislating against “coercive and abusive therapies, not covered by existing law”, but find no reason why ” the Christian concept of ‘conversion’ should be associated with them”.
If you want to read this letter for yourself, the document is available here.
If you think you have undergone conversion therapy and would like to seek help, you can contact the Stonewall Information Service on 08000 502020, email [email protected] or complete our form.
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