Do gay people exist in Anglican Mainstream’s world? If we don’t, how can there be ‘ex-gay’ ministries?

I was interviewed by the BBC for an article posted today on their website about Bishop Gene Robinson’s invitation to speak at Greenbelt. I commented that it is not appropriate to invite the “Ex-Gay” movement to present an alternative perspective to Bishop Gene. The “Ex-gay” organisations are on the fringe of the church whereas Gene Robinson is a bishop, elected by and in good standing with his church. I said there’s a lot of evidence that trying to make somebody ex-gay doesn’t work and can be abusive.

Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream says he is concerned that no opposing viewpoint on human sexuality will be aired at Greenbelt. It’s a sign of prejudice that they haven’t invited other speakers. He would like to hear from organisations who say they can either change same-sex attraction or enable gay men and women to remain happily celibate. Chris told me at the General Synod meeting in York that he doesn’t believe I am innately gay – there is no such thing as ‘being gay’.

Phelim McIntyre has reacted to my comments in a post on the Anglican Mainstream website. He accuses me of being economical with the truth. Phelim describes himself as an ex-gay who has counselled others who have left the “homosexual lifestyle”. Other conservatives I have spoken with are reluctant to use any of these categories to describe themselves (which is fine – I respect their self-identity).

Conservatives are not of one mind in their understanding of homosexuals and homosexuality. There are people who engage in a “homosexual lifestyle”; people who are ex-gay (were gay and now are heterosexual); people who thought they were gay and identified as such but now believe they were heterosexual all the time; people who believe they are homosexual but choose to be celibate because they believe God forbids same-sex activity. One leading American I met claims to be ex-gay and is now happily married with children but confessed to periods of troubling gay fantasies.

The problem for Mainstream and their supporters is – are there or are there not people who are innately gay? I believe there are people who are innately gay – that is my self-understanding. If, as Chris Sugden and other’s believe, no-one is really gay, then no-one can be ex-gay and the ex-gay movement is dealing with a different category of sexual identity – men and women who were mistaken about themselves but for a period of their lives enjoyed or engaged in sexual activity with other men or women (The ex-gay movement seems to be absorbed with gay men and less interested in lesbians).

In support of his argument that I am being economical with the truth Phelim refers to over 40 studies which show that therapy can help people. He says the only evidence for harm caused by such therapy are testimonies which have not been put through proper academic examination. He says it is a lie to state that reparative therapy is abusive. I have met many men who have been through ex-gay therapies and programmes and described them as abusive.

Phelim refers to “pro-gay therapy” and “gay affirmative therapy” which “is done with no recognised diagnostic criteria and with no research into its safety and effectiveness.” Professional psychotherapists do not engage in “pro-gay therapy”. They respect the client’s presentation of his or her crisis, dilemma or problem without making assumptions about what is best for the client.

So-called “reparative therapy” is conducted by therapists with an agenda, usually informed by involvement with a conservative Christian or other faith community. The majority of gay men and lesbians have no need of therapy in the UK now that we are increasingly integrated into society and can be open about our sexuality and our partners.

Organisations such as Anglican Mainstream are responding to a small minority of Christians who read the Bible literally and hold fundamentalist beliefs about gender and sexuality. The majority of lesbian and gay Christians have no difficulty integrating their faith and sexuality – any neuroses or problems we have arise from the attitudes espoused by conservative Christians who campaign against our full integration into the church.

Phelim concludes with an unwarranted judgement of Gene Robinson. He describes him as “a performer who loves attention and the spotlight, but otherwise did not come across to me as caring or even that nice a person. Greenbelt have invited a ‘persona’, not a person …” Phelim dehumanises Bishop Gene by categorising him as a ‘persona’ and not a ‘person’ vividly demonstrating the abuse visited by conservatives on faithful, loving partnered lesbian and gay Christians.

I object to the request that Greenbelt should invite an ‘ex-gay’ advocate to speak to balance the presence of Bishop Gene Robinson for three reasons:

Conservatives disagree as to whether anyone is innately gay.

There is a broad spectrum of conservative opinion about gay people, from those who don’t think we really exist to those who think we do but must be celibate – no single group or person can represent such a disparate set of opinions.

They are a tiny minority compared with the numbers of Christians who identify positively as lesbian and gay.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    I don't write this to you to judge or condemn you but to plead the case with you.

    What about Romans 1:19-32 and… Prov. 18.2 and other OT references to homosexuality? Your topics don't even seem consistent briefly scoping through them I'm sorry. The whole of God's Word stands as is it should not be taken from or added to. This kind of material you have written misleads people from following God's Word. If we exalt ourselves, we will be humbled. Any of us!

    I don't believe we should discriminate against the 'person' but its the 'acts' that we as humans do which are sinful and if someone has this inclination they don't have to act on it; I have heard testimonies of folks who were gay but the Lord set them free. It is Him who sets us free. It is clear in God's Word it has never been His intention for us to live this way. God doesn't change.

    We don't do good works to be saved either but we are responsible for responding to the grace we have been given and thereafter living a Godly life. Our lives should be holy and reflect our devotion to God.

    Have you ever wondered why so many people are trying to show you these scriptures and speak up about this issue? Do you really see them as having a personal issue against this or you? Why would they bother it would be easier to keep quiet but they are trying to help you.

    The Christian walk was never meant to be an easy one and requires sacrifice. So we need to constantly listen and obey the Lord's instruction. This means daily dying to ourselves and carrying our cross and letting the Lord's will prevail at all costs even bodily death. Could you leave your fleshly desires behind to serve the Lord at all costs? We certainly need His help with this.

    I will be praying for you. I am very sad to hear what you have written.

    God has totally changed my life as a young adult and I want to follow Him with all my heart so I speak this to you in love…. but I felt I could not not respond.

  2. Brenda Harrison says

    `Ex-gay' advocates have spoken at Greenbelt previously, and I have no objection to them being invited in the future. But `Ex-gay' is in no way THE alternative voice to +Gene, who is living a positive and apparently contented life as a partnered gay man.

    If Greenbelt do invite an `Ex-gay' speaker then Mainstream, being so concerned about balance, will surely want an alternative voice to `Ex-gay' to be heard – for example Jeremy Marks of Courage, who after 12 years full time ministry seeking to help gay men change their orientation realised that this approach was doing considerable harm. Courage is now a gay affirming ministry. Jeremy has walked the conservative path and knows it does not work.

    In the early nineties I spent three years researching `Ex-gay' organisations in the UK, along with Tony Green and Jeremy Innes. Our report `Not For Turning' was published in 1996. We received many stories of abusive practices by some of these groups. We also received a number of very general responses from True Freedom Trust supporters who stated that they had been changed positively by the experience – but strangely not one of those respondents was willing to be interviewed, or to explain precisely what the `change' involved. You might have thought that if they had experienced a great `healing' they would want to tell others. Their reluctance raises questions for me about the efficacy of the `change'.

    We did find that all the organisations we visited were using counselling practices which were in contravention of the then British Association for Counselling requirements. Untrained counsellors (`God guides me') working without supervision with vulnerable people is like someone with a basic First Aid Certificate undertaking limb amputation. Highly dangerous and bad for your health.

  3. Phelim says

    Oh dear Colin, the truth hurts more than a lie doesn't it. Yet again lets look at the SCIENTIFIC truth that there is no evidence that people are born gay. Even Prof Michael King's (who is openly gay and anti-reparative therapy – he started the Royal College of Psychiatrist's gay and lesbian special interest group and I believe he was mental health advisor to Stonewall) research into identical twins shows that the cause of homosexuality is more to do with psychology and sociology than biology. Put another way, the average for genetics is seen as pro and non-pro gay scientists as about 5%. So if one person is born gay (genetics give over 80% causation) then they are scientifically unique. Also if we look at same sex intervourse across the globe, using anthropological research, then western homosexuality – the type promoted by Changing Attitude – is found in very few cultures. It is a modern Western construct. Oh dear science, anthropolgy, psychology and sociology all point to one conclusion – that people can identify as gay but are not gay as a biological type. Sorry but you can change attitudes but you can't change facts.

    As to the issue of gay affirmative therapy, the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, United Kingdom Council on Psychotherapy, Royal College of Psychiatrists, American Psychological Association APA), American Counselling Association, American Psychiatric Association and British Psychological Association (as well as the websites Pink Therapy and Pro-Gay Therapy) see pro-gay therapy as therapy which encourages people to accept their sexuality. Infact the APA have recently released a statement on reparative therapy (written by active homosexuals) which dismiss reparative therapy and promotes pro-gay therapy. Assuch to claim that this type of therapy does not exist is to show your willful ignorance of what is going on for self-promoting reasons. As I state on the BBC this therapy is untested to an extent that its use is an abuse of power in a way that should be condemned. Especially when we consider that there is no diagnostic crieria for so called internaised homophobia, there is also no proper test for the damage people like you claim about Reparative Therapy. How do counsellors tell what is done by this type of therapy and what is a deeper mor elong term issue? Put simply they do not, they put it all down to reparative therapy. How do I know this, by interviewing pro-gay therapists.

    To sum up – there is no evidence for (in fact there is evidence against) homosexuality being natural. Also pro-gay therapy exists and is not tested, and neither are the claims of damage put out by the critics of reparative therapy. Maybe this lack of evidence is why the pro-gay lobby is going for statistics rather than scientific and theological arguement – they realsie they can not change the truth so changing attiudes through politics is the only avanue left to them.

    Oh yes, I called myself ex-gay because for over half my life I identified myself as gay. Now I do not. As simple as that. I would also like to see the numbers that show that gay people outnumber ex-gay people to see if we are as fringe as you suggest as well as if you are as much part of the fabric as you suggest.

  4. Phelim says

    "Jeremy has walked the Conservative path and knows it does not work". So Brenda this rules out the people who Jeremy helped change their sexual orientation, or does he not mention those? Will he also talk about his discussions with Integrity or Integrity's boast that they changed Courage's theology? Will he allow the same psychological scrutiny of his position and his process of change that reparative therapy pracitioners have put themselves through? The evidence (even from Courage when you look at the facts) is that the conservative way does work – I am testimony to it. There is no evidence that the pro-gay path works.

    I have read your book, and there are many holes in it which I will not go into here but ask you to look at my previous comment about what the lack of criteria used by critics of reparative therapy. I now deal with people counselled by members of BACP and other professional organisations who have had homosexuality forced on them, and there by their human rights abused. Professional training is no gurantee of compitence when political correctness gets in the way of fact. I am willing to be interviewed about my experience and have been by the BACP and the BBC. I know people who are ex-gays who repsonded to Michael King with his research and were ignored. Yes we are willing to speak but our experience is that people are not willing to listen – may be because our stories would undermine the pro-gay lobby's arguements.

    As to Bishop Robinson, putting aside whether he is in a succesful gay relationship he fails basic Biblical criteria for leadership concerning lifestyle. I have read people (pro-gay of course) who claim that +Gene did not commit adultery because to commit adultery when he was married he would have had to have cheated with a woman. As he left his wife and family for a man adultery is not an issue. Hypocrytical or what. How about an alternative voice being one of us who left a homosexual partnership for heterosexulaity? Someone who was in a succesful partnership but was convicted of sin by God, left homosexuality and became heterosexual and are now in a happy heterosexual relationshiop with children? Yes they exist. Or is the playing field not level even here? Also who are the ex-gay voices who have spoken at Greenbelt as ex-gay voices? I have a number of friends who are at Greenbelt as I right this, and have been attending Greenbelt since the 1980s. They can not remember ex-gay's speaking but they have heard a lot from pro-gays while there. A number of them are still pro-change/pro-reparative therapy despite the propaganda, probably because they read the evidence for themselves.

  5. Anonymous says

    Could I please point out to Phelim that there is no scientific evidence for God but just because science does not have proof of somethings does not mean that it is not so. This argument is completely pointless. Try telling a gay Christian that God does not exist.

  6. Brenda Harrison says

    Phelim wrote ` As he (+Gene)left his wife and family for a man adultery is not an issue'. + Gene and his wife divorced by mutual consent – she remarried 18 months later, before he met his partner Mark Andrew. The allegation that Gene left his family for a man is frequently spun by his opponents, but it simply is not true. Don't let the facts get in the way of a good prejudice.

  7. Anonymous says

    Lets look at your three points:

    1. You use the terms innately gay and really gay as synonymous and come to the absurd conclusion that AM says that gays do not exist.I am not sure what you mean by innately gay but if it is the same as genetically gay, i.e a matter of being existing from birth, then the separated twins surveys do count significantly against it. The term really gay, I would have thought, means having discovered during puberty or shortly thereafter an exclusive drive to sexual relations with one's own sex. Such self identification is shown by enough surveys to be conclusive. What meaning do you add by calling gayness real or innate?

    2. Your previous postings have pointed out the commonalities in the conservative position. You are trying to have your cake and eat it!

    3. Do you have any evidence to support this statement? How many gay Anglicans are there? How many conservative Anglicans? In England? In America? In Nigeria? Throughout the communion?

  8. Anonymous says

    I found your blog by accident, I am very surprised by the existence of the ex gay movement. It is disturbing. I have written to my Anglican church and to my local minister to complain. I am particularly offended that ex-gays and this person "Phelim" gets paid and has his expenses paid to speak bigotry. It is ridiculous, I ask the ex-gays, are you happy? Have you had the perfect Xtian brood of kids with a satisfied husband or wife? No? You are still gay, don't be afraid to be loved, you deserve to be loved and fulfilled sexually, too. Phelim is deluded, and in need of psycoanalysis and a short course of anti-depressants.

  9. William Fisher says

    Re Phelim McIntyre's comment:

    "Also if we look at same sex intervourse [sic] across the globe, using anthropological research, then western homosexuality – the type promoted by Changing Attitude – is found in very few cultures. It is a modern Western construct."

    (1) Changing Attitude, so far as I understand it, is not "promoting" homosexuality. Homosexuality cannot be promoted any more than left-handedness can. If there IS any organization devoted to promoting homosexuality, it's wasting its time.

    (2) Personally I'm not too concerned about what St Paul says on the subject in his epistles. Biblical fundamentalists insist that he was speaking about homosexuality generally and not simply about e.g. homosexual orgies in pagan temples. They may well be right, but if so, his understanding of the matter was plainly severely limited, and there is no reason why we today should be bound by it, particularly since it's not the main point of his message anyway.

    (3) If homosexuality, as we in the Christian west understand it today, really is "a modern Western construct" – and I should like to know what exactly is meant by that – then the argument that what St Paul (and the uncertain author of I Timothy) wrote applies to homosexuality as we understand it nowadays starts to look even more flimsy. A biblical text cannot say more than its human author intended to say.

Join the discussion