A conference on the controversial and topical issue of unwanted same-sex attraction took place in London at the Emmanuel Centre.
Speaking at the conference called ‘Transformation potential: is change possible?’ was Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust, as well as biblical scholars from the US and UK, experienced counsellors, and therapists and academics in the field of psychiatry, including some who have in the past lived a gay lifestyle and do so no longer.
Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream writes: ‘We heard analysis of cultural change, the sexualisation of children and increasing restrictions on freedom, as viewed from Christian Concern’s legal perspective. ‘The theological framework was unashamedly Bible-based, assuming the understanding that God has made human beings male and female, and that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian discipleship’.
‘Respected biblical scholar and theological college professor Robert Gagnon gave an electrifying talk on God’s love, to open the conference. 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.
‘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. Even so, authorities and professional bodies today have ruled that any attempts to change or reduce same-sex desire must be inherently wrong. The conference heard that this opposition was maintained despite the failure of these bodies to produce sufficient evidence that change therapy was harmful or intrusive.
‘Journalists present from national papers such as the Independent and Guardian portrayed same-sex counselling as dangerous to all gay people, and seemed determined to use these false descriptions, although the Guardian appeared more balanced.
‘I was very encouraged by this conference, the clarity and truthfulness of the presentations and the engagement of the audience. I was also encouraged by the sense of unity, as experts in different fields came together to say the same thing, encourage one another, and, in particular, support people such as Mr Davidson, who have for the sake of truth lost permission to practise their profession’.
The conference took place at the same time as a formal complaint was lodged with the General Medical Council against the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) and three leading psychiatrists over the RCP’s public statements about homosexuality.
According to a statement from Christian Concern, on behalf of the Core Issues Trust, the RCP neglected its public duty by making misleading statements about same-sex attraction at a time of important national debate.
In evidence submitted to the Church of England and publicly available on the RCP’s website during the passage of the same-sex marriage bill, the RCP claimed that sexual orientation was biological in nature and fixed at birth. Although this claim was challenged, and detailed questions about its scientific basis submitted, this was resolutely ignored. However, a year later (April 2014), the RCP quietly changed its position, stating that sexual orientation was neither inborn nor unchangeable after all.
The complainants highlight the influence of the RCP on public discourse and argue that its long delay and failure to widely publicise the eventual correction constitute negligence. Three psychiatrists have been named in the complaint: Professor Sue Bailey, former RCP president; Dr Laurence Mynors-Wallis, college registrar; and Professor Michael King, former chairman of the RCP’s special interest group for LGBT matters.
In the statement from Christian Concern, Dr Peter May, a former GP and one of the complainants, said, ‘There is good evidence that sexual orientation can change. Yet the largest UK providers of psychotherapy and counselling have all made ethical policy statements banning any therapy which seeks to facilitate such a change’.