Church in Wales Bishops endorse ban on “gay conversion therapy in all its forms”

Jul 29, 2021 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream:

The Bishops of the Church in Wales have made it clear that any Christian teaching, counselling or prayer which implies preference towards “heterosexual norms”, or which is not positive towards homosexual practice and gay or transgender identity, should be included in a legal ban. The UK government has already committed to “ban conversion therapy”; the definitions of the practice and the scope of the ban is due for public consultation in September and debate in Parliament soon after that.

In a letter responding to a query from the Chair of the Evangelical Fellowship of the Church in Wales about their original statement, the Bishops deny that they are “affirming all and any expressions of sexuality”, but they suggest the “traditional reading of Scripture” on sexuality and marriage held by the church for centuries is unsustainable, and “needs to be revisited”. They go on to say that discussion, prayer and exploration of biblical teaching around sexuality from a “predefined” standpoint can be used to “disguise practices” which are coercive and abusive towards “LGBTQIA persons”.

This statement by the CiW bishops follows on from similar sentiments expressed by the Bishop of Manchester, of whom an Anglican Mainstream editorial recently said: “It’s one thing for the Bishop to disagree with the sexual ethics of the Christian church down the ages. He is going much further than that – he is campaigning for the criminalisation of many of his own faithful clergy who hold to the traditional view.” 

Welsh bishops and some senior English bishops now feel secure and unopposed enough to articulate their position clearly, in which they side with progressive secularists to lobby lawmakers against their own conservative clergy and parishioners. This will further weaken confidence in the ability of the national Anglican churches of Britain to defend and promote historic Christianity. The Scottish Episcopal Church permitted same sex marriage in 2017.

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales meets in early September, and it is believed that a vote will be taken on whether to introduce rites for the marriage of two people of the same sex in church. Meanwhile many senior figures in the Church of England who might not be in favour of such a move in either national church, appear unwilling to speak out while the Living in Love and Faith process is not yet completed.

The text of the letter from the CiW bishops to EFCW is below:

Thank you for your letter of July 2021 concerning gay conversion therapy. We are glad that EFCW joins us in recognising that coercive and abusive practices associated with gay conversion therapy are wrong. We cannot accept, however, that by describing human sexuality as a gift from God to be cherished and honoured this necessarily opens the gate to affirming all and any expressions of sexuality, as you posit interpreting our words. The statement says what is plainly and explicitly articulated, and does not go beyond that.

You ask what we mean by opposing gay conversion therapy in all its forms. Again, we believe this to be straightforward and plain – any supposed therapy which purports or claims to convert a person’s sexuality is, in our opinion, abusive and should be banned. You ask whether “open discussion and grace-filled prayer with someone who wants to explore biblical teaching on the issue of sexuality” should, in the opinion of the bishops, fall under such a ban. Sadly, this positive sounding phrase leaves far too much to individual interpretation.

In the first place, biblical teaching on sexuality is precisely what is being debated in the current discussions around sexuality and Christian faith. As bishops, we freely admit that the traditional reading of Scripture sees it as condemning all sexual conduct outside a man and a woman’s committed lifelong and single heterosexual marriage. It is the sustainability of that traditional reading that we believe needs to be revisited.

If you are asking whether open discussion – that is, without a predefined answer – and grace-filled prayer – that is without implying knowledge of how God might answer that prayer, and without it being oriented necessarily towards a conversion of sexuality but graciously open, affirming and hospitable – with someone who wants to explore – which implies that they are uncertain and again that there is no predefined outcome – biblical teaching on the issue of sexuality – then that would seem to be the sort of open ended discernment upon which the Church in Wales is currently embarked.

Unfortunately, these seemingly innocuous words can be used to disguise practices in which pressure is brought upon vulnerable LGBTQIA persons to submit to efforts aimed at the conversion of their sexuality, attempted exorcisms and worse. Such practices can be designed – consciously or unconsciously – to play on people’s sense of shame or anxiety, and signal that unless they conform to heterosexual norms they can neither be true disciples of Jesus, nor accepted members of the congregation with which they wish to become associated. A toxic mixture of motivation – to avoid embarrassment, to please a revered spiritual leader, to assuage long-standing guilt and shame – can be triggered which we, as bishops, believe would be abusive.

Our advice to members of EFCW is that they ought to avoid any practice which comes close to being capable of being interpreted as abusive in this way. Indeed, given the deep psychology of human sexuality, we believe that it should be left to the specialist to intervene, if indeed that is necessary. The Church’s role is to offer welcome, acceptance and friendship and, if requested, prayer that God’s grace can be operative in the situation and that a person would know God’s guidance and blessing – with no defined outcome.

We affirm and stand by a simple and plain reading of our statement as originally drafted.

Yours in Christ,

+Andrew Bangor

+Gregory Llanelwy

+June Landav

+Cherry Mynwy

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