The Church of England has joined the growing chorus of voices opposing conversion therapy; the dangerous practice of trying to change LGBT people’s sexuality or gender identity.
The church’s General Synod last week passed a motion endorsing the 2015 Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy signed by The Royal College of Psychiatrists and others condemning the practice.
The motion asserts that “gay conversion therapy has no place in the modern world, is unethical, potentially harmful and not supported by evidence”.
It also calls on the church to “be sensitive to, and to listen to, contemporary expressions of gender identity” and for the government to ban the practice of conversion therapy.
The church’s motion was proposed by Jayne Ozanne, from the Diocese of Oxford, who herself was subjected to the trauma of conversion therapy.
Opening the emotional debate, Ozanne argued that, “conversation therapy is harmful, dangerous and just doesn’t work. People may be able to alter their behaviour but they can never alter their innate desire.”
She continued: “This debate is actually quite simple. Do we trust our medical health professions and academics (including many sincere godly Christians) to know what they are talking about?
“Should we listen to the voices of those we and others have unwittingly harmed? Should we learn from our mistakes, and seek to protect future generations from the sort of damage that was done to me and so many others?” Ozanne asked.
Speaking during the debate, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, commented: “The sooner the practice of so-called conversion therapy is banned, I can sleep at night.”
The Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, added: “As the world listens to us the world needs to hear us say that LGBTI+ orientation and identity is not a crime. LGBTI+ orientation and identity is not a sickness. And LGBTI+ orientation and identity is not a sin.”
Conversion Therapy is already banned in Brazil, Ecuador and Malta, as well as in a number of US states when applied to minors.
Major medical and mental health organisations around the world – including The South African Society of Psychiatrists – have denounced efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression as ineffective and potentially harmful. Religious groups have often been at the forefront of promoting the practice.