The U.K. government has promised church leaders that a proposed “conversion therapy” ban will not affect ministry efforts, after 2,500 church leaders, including 700 Church of England clergy, shared in a letter their willingness to be “criminalised” if the ban went into effect.
The letter was part of a multidenominational effort to make government leaders aware of how such a ban could violate the right of pastors to preach the Gospel.
In a letter sent to Elizabeth Truss, the British foreign secretary and minister for women and equalities, clergy members shared concerns that the vaguely defined “conversion therapy” could make aspects of their ministry illegal.
The letter states: “The category of ‘Conversion Therapy’ is one which is so broad as to be essentially meaningless. It has the effect of implying an equivalence between calling people to conversion to Christ, which is our duty as Christian ministers, and evil and disreputable past practices which are already illegal and which Christians are the first to condemn. Legislating against such a bizarrely broad category is clearly not viable and strongly risks criminalising us as we fulfil our compassionate duties as Christian ministers and pastors. This would be a clear breach of our legal right to manifest our religion.
“Christianity has always held that God created humanity with the lifelong marriage of one man and one woman as a gracious gift to humanity and a central part of his design for human society. To violate that pattern, by sexual activity outside marriage or denial of our created sex, is sin. As such it is not only morally wrong but carries with it deep and tragic consequences for individuals, families and society. It is a central part of our calling to bring Christ’s compassion to a broken world, that we call people to live according to God’s gift and pattern of marriage and offer them pastoral support to help them do so. This has nothing to do with therapy; it has everything to do with what it means to be a Christian.”
A conversion therapy ban has been discussed for months, but has been stalled amid concerns that the bill’s broad strokes could criminalize parents, teachers and therapists, in addition to clergy members.
On Feb. 10, a group of church leaders met with government leaders at 10 Downing Street, the official residence of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to discuss “the difference between a quack therapy and a call to live according to Christian teaching,” The Telegraph reported.
Though the church leaders’ concerned were heard and they received promises of legal safeguards, there is still immense pressure from the LGBTQ community to amend it in order to rein in religious speech and exemptions. Pastors, meanwhile, say they are undeterred in reaching out to those in need.
“They said that they would look to consult more,” said Matthew Roberts, minister of Trinity Church York. “But we were very clear that if they legislate in such a way as to make us criminals, then we will continue to teach the Christian faith as our duty is to God.”
Photo: Courtesy of Christian Concern