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Transformation Potential: a report of the conference

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Rev Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream, reports on our interactive conference event exploring unwanted same-sex attractions.

"Transformation Potential: Is Change Possible?" a conference on the topic of unwanted same-sex attraction, took place at the Emmanuel Centre in London this week.

Mike Davidson of Core Issues Trust was the driving force behind this effort to bring together theological, pastoral, scientific and political perspectives on the vital question of whether people with unwanted same sex attraction might be able, with help and support, to achieve some degree of change in orientation.

Speakers included biblical scholars from the US and the UK, experienced counsellors, therapists and academics in the field of psychiatry, including some who have in the past lived a gay lifestyle and do so no longer.

We heard analysis of cultural change, sexualisation of children, and the increasing restrictions on freedom from Christian Concern’s legal perspective. (Click here to watch the highlights)
 

Framework

The theological framework was unashamedly Bible-based, assuming an understanding that God has made human beings male and female, and that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian discipleship.

There was affirmation that God has already changed every Christian; that he brings visible change in many areas of life, and that the church as a welcoming, non-judging, hopeful community of disciples is the best context for seeing God at work in this way. 
 

‘Unethical’

As with physical healing, dealing with the psyche requires a sensible partnership between pastoral and clinical expertise. But even for people with no faith and for those who have no problem with homosexual practice and gay identity, it would seem reasonable for individuals to be able to, if they wish, access trained counsellors or therapists to help achieve a level of change and wholeness consistent with their worldview and life goals.

However, any attempts to change or reduce same-sex desire must, according to the authorities of today, be inherently wrong, and in fact have been ruled as unethical by a number of professional bodies.

This is despite the failure of these bodies to produce sufficient evidence for their claim that change therapy is “harmful”. In fact they have ignored other crucial evidence that sexuality is fluid and pliable, especially in teens and young adults and that more people change their sexual orientation (with or without assistance of counselling) than identify as gay long term.

The conference rejected the false ideas that this was about offering "cures" or promising healing for homosexuality, and opposed "conversion therapy" as if this was something intrusive done to people against their will. 
 

Reports

But some of the journalists present seemed determined to use these false descriptions, and to show the very existence of orthodox Christian views on sexuality, proper psychiatry, and the transforming power of God as somehow dangerous to all gay people. The Independent has published a very critical report.

Respected biblical scholar and theological college professor Robert Gagnon, whose electrifying talk on God’s love opened the conference, has written a corrective response.

Gagnon comments, quoting Robert George: “This kind of manipulation and defamation is as predictable as the sun's rising in the east. It is not rooted in innocent mistakes. Quite the contrary. It represents a tried and true strategy designed to stigmatize and marginalize anyone who dares to dissent from sexual liberationist orthodoxy. Its aim is to silence dissent by raising its cost.”

The Guardian also published a report which disagreed with the arguments presented on the science of homosexual orientation at the conference, but the piece had more integrity in reporting than in the Independent piece. 
 

‘Encouraged’

I was very encouraged by the conference: the clarity and truthfulness of the presentations, the engagement of the audience, the sense of unity as experts in different fields came together to say the same thing, encourage one another, and in particular support people like Mike Davidson who have, for the sake of truth, lost permission to practise their profession.

Andrew Comiskey, one of the speakers, has written of his experience of the conference on his blog.


Related Coverage:
Psychiatrists reported to GMC over ‘fixed sexuality’ stance (Times)
Christian ministry says that homosexuality is not biological (BBC Newsbeat)
Royal College of Psychiatrists reported to the GMC over its ‘fixed sexuality’ stance (Anglican Mainstream)

 

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