When does talking or praying about sexuality become conversion therapy?

Dec 6, 2021 by

by Archbishop Cranmer:

As the Government’s consultation on their Conversion Therapy (Prohibition) Bill nears its end, there is a sense of confusion and exasperation, if not of fear and despair. Not among those who have experienced past abuse or dread a future torture of having their adolescent levels of oestrogen or testosterone subjected to mental, emotional and physical coercion, but among priests and pastors who wonder if they’ll ever again be able to counsel a teenage boy struggling with his sexuality, or pray with a girl who finds herself attracted to her best friend’s mother.

Those who seek to prohibit all forms of conversion therapy are urging the Government to outlaw non-physical conversion practices in religious settings, including prayer. Such things are coercive and abusive, they say, and may cause profound depression in the most vulnerable, if not drive them to suicide. So ‘conversion’ prayers along the lines of ‘Please Lord, please take this temptation away’ must be prohibited, and so must all pastoral counselling which does anything but affirm a person’s sexual orientation and essential desires for homosexual exploration. To encourage them to question or resist such urges will constitute a form of abuse. To allude to any sexual behaviour being unnatural will be an expression of hate. Even if the counselling is voluntary and consensual, the priest or pastor may not quote Scripture or refer to the Church’s moral teachings in this context, as this will be a form of manipulative coercion, or undue spiritual influence.

When does talking over a problem become therapy? When does effectual fervent prayer become therapeutic? At what point does an exploratory conversation about sexuality become conversion therapy?

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Read also: ‘Conversion therapy’ consultation – Just four days left to respond

and many more articles in our growing collection: Conversion Therapy Ban

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