The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland, voted last week in favour of a new policy endorsing ex-gay therapy.

The aim of the document was to make the church a more welcoming and understanding place for homosexuals, and Ex-Gay Watch commends some of the more constructive aspects of the policy. For example:

‘Are our children safe?’ ‘It might be infectious’ ‘They will lead our other young people astray!’ ‘They are the cause of AIDS/HIV!’ ‘It’s all about sex, sex, sex!’

There is a great need to dispel such myths about same sex attractions. Children are no more at risk and possibly less so from a person with same sex attractions than from one with heterosexual attractions. Homosexuality is NOT paedophilia! Nor is a person with same sex attractions anymore a sexual predator than someone with heterosexual desires. In fact we often show our double standards by looking on ‘chasing the girls’ as a natural thing even when it is downright lustful. Whereas a girl who does the same is looked on as ‘cheap’ and a person with same sex attractions as perverted!

Such myths are very hurtful, humiliating, degrading and condemning to those with same sex attractions. They are also characteristic of the lack of understanding that fuels homophobic attitudes.

7. The need for temperate language and balance in pulpit ministry

7.1 Unhelpful words/statements – e.g. ‘Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’; ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’, sodomy, unnatural, abnormal or any of the more derogatory colloquialisms. All of these lock the door to effective pastoral care before it is even open.

8.2 What they do not need to hear at that moment [of coming out].

That they are imagining it
That they are sick
That they are a disgrace or a pervert
That they are demon possessed
At this point they do not even need to hear what the Bible says about homosexuality

8.3 What they do need to hear at that moment.
That they are still loved no matter what
That God’s love has not changed
That they have displayed great courage in telling you
That you appreciate the trust placed in you
That you will seek to listen and to understand what they have been going through

This attempt is all welcomed and appreciated. However, one particular paragraph gives cause for concern:

9.2 It is sufficiently documented that there are those who have moved from the position of having same sex attractions to being heterosexual. For some this has come about through careful, professional counselling. For others it has come about by regeneration through faith in Jesus Christ. For still others a combination of both!

Where is change of orientation “sufficiently documented”? By “careful, professional counselling” and “regeneration through faith in Jesus Christ”, no less? Here the document steps worryingly over the line from being a pastorally informed call for sensitivity and wisdom to making a scientific and/or scholarly (what else does “sufficiently documented” imply?) claim about the possibility of change. No reputable study or research supports this faith in therapy and religious conversion to actually change orientation. The most widely cited study in favour of ex-gay success (Spitzer, 2003) is at best severely limited and at worst fatally flawed.

We at Ex-Gay Watch respect that many people experience an irresolvable conflict between their faith and their sexuality. They may well choose not to engage physically in homosexual activity, and that choice is to be respected. However, it is vital that the trusted leaders to whom they turn for support do not abuse that trust with empty promises and false hopes of change.

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