Church of England Urged to Reject Call to Ban Pastoral Care of Christians with Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction
LONDON, July 3, 2017 /Christian Newswire
/ -- Members of the Church of England's General Synod have been urged to reject a call by a leading gay activist, to ban pastoral counselling for Christians with unwanted same sex attraction.
The Synod, the CofE's 'Parliament' is due to meet in York this coming weekend (7-11 JULY,) and will on Saturday debate a Private Member's Motion by Oxford-based lesbian, Jayne Ozanne, which calls on the Church to condemn what she calls 'gay conversion therapy'.
Ms. Ozanne, a former national Marketing Consultant who has recently partnered with Verity Worthington, a single mum from Kidderminster with a boy aged two, claims that a survey she undertook of gay friends who received counselling reveals some suffered "profound distress", whilst others went on to try to commit suicide.
However, Andrea Minichiello Williams, another lay member of General Synod for the Chichester Diocese, says Ms. Ozanne's survey was "deeply flawed and simply invited friends and gay campaigners who want change in the church to express negative and un-tested allegations, ahead of a controversial debate for media headlines".
Andrea Williams, a former Family Law barrister, and chief executive of Christian Concern, said: "It is very sad that at a time when Synod is trying to grapple with the foundational issue on sexuality, that of Biblical authority and the church's teaching, that this PMM has been brought about on a purely emotional basis.
"Firstly, the talk of 'gay cure therapy' is highly loaded and provocative. There are very many Christian counsellors and spiritual directors, as well as vicars and lay pastoral workers, who meet regularly with Christians with same-sex attraction. They do so because the person has come to them, and because they want to explore their sexual desires within the framework of the Bible and Christian discipleship.
"They are looking for pastoral and Godly help to enable them to live full, Christian lives, within the natural order which God created. They do so in the same way couples approach such counsellors for guidance and support when struggling with heterosexual sex outside marriage, or temptations with sex before marriage.
"Almost every Christian counsellor I know ministering in the healing and counselling area focuses on 'wholeness', helping people find their true identity in God, and expressing their discipleship as a follower of Jesus within the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit. If Synod bans such counselling, then the future of Christian counselling and deliverance healing ministry will be seriously jeopardised. This PMM is political and dangerous to the church's wider 'wholeness' ministry."
Andrea Williams also says the 'evidence' related to claims that such counselling and help has led some young people to try to commit suicide needs far more research – and independent scrutiny, and set against hundreds of other Christians with same-sex attraction who find Christian counselling and spiritual direction helpful.
"There is independent and reputable evidence that many in the gay community have a higher level of mental health issues than those in the heterosexual community", she said.
"We therefore need to be very careful about claims on mental health. What this survey does not reveal is what the mental health of these (surveyed) people was before they sought counselling/support for their sexuality, and, whether they had previously attempted to commit suicide, or self-harm.
"These are incredibly sad and distressing histories and ones which should not be used for political gain, but should be handled sensitively and where necessary, professional help sought for their previous or ongoing mental health issues."
Andrea Williams believes that in order to ascertain whether a debate on the motion by Ms. Ozanne is needed, an independent, peer-reviewed piece of research should to be carried out - rather than an anecdotal study conducted by a gay rights activist with a marketing background. She believes that this will enable General Synod to seek evidence from many hundreds of Christians with same-sex attraction who have been helped by appropriate counselling and spiritual direction.