As a gay Christian, I’m worried about the calls to ban ‘gay conversion therapy’. Of course, it’s right that gay people are protected and some of the practices referred to as conversion therapy are deeply wrong. But there’s a danger that badly-drafted legislation could make life impossible for those working in churches when gay people come to us for help.
I’ve worked on the staff of Anglican churches for twenty years. Over that time the people I have served have asked to talk and pray with me about their families, workplaces, dreams, failures, marriages, singleness, finances, addictions, sexualities, gender – and more. I have heard it all, but have welcomed each unique human being, and the chance to try and help them as best I can.
But there is a group I may soon have to discourage from asking for my advice or prayers: any same-sex attracted Christians (gay, bi-sexual or just uncertain) who have ambivalent feelings towards their sexuality. There are many of us: people like me who continue to believe traditional Christian teaching that sex is for the marriage of a man and woman but who find ourselves sexually attracted to our own sex. We may soon find our pastors’ doors closed against us.
This is not due to homophobia in the church, rather it could soon be the harmful result of forthcoming legislative efforts to outlaw ‘conversion therapy’. Popular definitions of this have increasingly broadened out from obviously cruel and coercive attempts to unsuccessfully change someone’s sexuality, to now potentially including any ‘religious teaching and discussion’. This would almost certainly include classic Christian sexual ethics, preventing anyone like me from getting the help we feel we need to live in the light of deeply held religious beliefs.