by the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool and Chair of the Ozanne Foundation
This is a brief and unoriginal article, simply reminding us what we have done as a Church, and what the Government has done, and what still needs to be done, and what you can do.
In July 2017 the General Synod voted to support the following motion:
That this Synod:
(a) endorse the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK of November 2015, signed by The Royal College of Psychiatrists and others, that the practice of gay conversion therapy has no place in the modern world, is unethical, potentially harmful and not supported by evidence;
(b) call upon the Church to be sensitive to, and to listen to, contemporary expressions of gender identity;
(c) and call on the government to ban the practice of Conversion Therapy.
Here’s how that vote went:
In the House of Bishops: 36 in favour (97%), 1 against (3%), no abstentions
In the House of Clergy: 135 in favour (78%), 25 against (14%), 13 abstentions (8%)
In the House of Laity: 127 in favour (68%), 48 against (26%), 13 abstentions (7%)
Archbishop Sentamu said this in his speech:
“The sooner the practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ is banned, I can sleep at night.”
As part of my own brief contribution I said this:
“As the world listens to us the world needs to hear us say that LGBTI+ orientation and identity is not a crime. LGBTI+ orientation and identity is not a sickness. And LGBTI+ orientation and identity is not a sin…
What matters here is that a therapeutic model is not appropriate if LGBTI+ orientation and identity is not a sickness. And if the Church suggests that really, actually it is, then our many statements opposing homophobia are void, and the world will think that in fact we really do believe LGBTI+ people to be second-class humans no matter how they behave; and this is not acceptable to me and I hope not to this Synod. That’s why I will vote for this motion…”
In 2018 in the Government document “LGBT Action Plan”, the then Minister for Women and Equalities committed the Government to:
“Bringing forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy in the UK”
In July 2020 the Prime Minister said this:
“On the gay conversion therapy thing, I think that’s absolutely abhorrent and has no place in a civilised society, and has no place in this country.”
On 11 May 2021 a press release from the Government Equalities Office said this:
“…the Government will take legislative steps to ban conversion therapy… Many forms of the practice are already prevented under current legislation, but this new ban will ensure that it is stamped out once and for all.”
The stories told by contributors to Via Media over the past few weeks underline once again the human cost of conversion therapy. The decision of the General Synod to call for a ban stands. The statements of the Prime Minister and the Government stand.
Despite this the Government has not yet brought legislation forward. Like my colleague the Bishop of Manchester, I regret this. In Via Media a month ago he wrote:
“Meanwhile, whilst we fail to press on with draft legislation, young people are continuing to suffer abuse disguised as therapy. Their harm is real and immediate. For their sakes we need to make this consultation both short and to the point.”
The Church has spoken confidently, and Government ministers have agreed. But action is needed now.
And you have the opportunity to influence this action. So:
- Please write to your Member of Parliament, and/or to the Minister for Women and Equalities, and/or to the Prime Minister, asking for a swift and positive introducing of legislation to ban conversion therapy “once and for all”. Please encourage those in your church community to do the same. And as you do so, remember those who have courageously told their stories on this website, and the many thousands whose stories remain untold, and pray for them.
- And please consider supporting those who are working to advocate to Government and to play their part in whatever consultations are to come. For example Ban Conversion Therapy Campaign or the Ozanne Foundation could really use your help and support.
Many thanks to all difference-makers!