The fantasies and dangers of all ex-gay, ‘we can heal you’ ministries

Anglican Mainstream, Christian Concern and Core Issues Trust are promoting a debate tomorrow morning in the Houses of Parliament on the legitimacy and freedom to offer therapy for those with unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction.

They are promoting a false therapy based on the discredited theories of psychologist Irving Bieber from the 1960s, taken up by Elizabeth Moberley in the 1980s and then by Joseph Nicolosi in the 1990s.

The debate is being held ahead of an inquiry into a complaint against Dr Mike Davidson, who supports of change therapy for people suffering with unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction. The debate is important, claims Christian concern, because at stake is the freedom of people to choose to have this kind of therapy if they want it. The advert for the event says many professional bodies are banning such therapies. So do the huge majority of lesbian and gay organizations and individuals, Christian and secular.

The four speakers are: Prof Michael King (Director of Mental Health Sciences Unit, University College London) 
Peter Tatchell (Human Rights Campaigner/Advocate) 
Dr Joseph Berger (Consultant Psychiatrist, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Canada)
 Dr Mike Davidson (Director, Core Issues Trust).

As it happens, I’m in the middle of reading Un-conditional by Justin Lee. Justin grew up in conservative evangelical American culture where to be gay was thought to be sinful, evil, and a choice. As Justin says, conservative evangelical Christians have become more famous for their opposition to homosexuality than for their belief in the unconditional love of God.

Justin couldn’t bring himself to use the word gay about himself. He was emotionally and physically attracted to other guys but dated girls. Eventually he found a way of telling his parents and there followed encounters with ex-gay ministries. The focus was on finding ways for Justin to become straight. Secrecy and dishonesty was encouraged.

Justin distinguishes between those who say the meaning of gay is someone who is attracted to the same sex and someone who has sex with members of the same sex. Justin says the meaning of gay is when a person is attracted to someone on the same sex. This has nothing to do with behaviour. Justin called himself gay because of his emotions, before he had any kind of sexual or romantic relationship with another guy.

Therapy designed to deal with unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction doesn’t work and can’t work. All it can do is suppress feelings. It cannot turn someone straight. After such therapy the person is still gay even if they subsequently marry and have children. I know I’m writing about what is obvious to the majority of those reading this blog.

Anglican Mainstream has introduced me to a number of people over the past decade who are, they think, living proof that unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction can be dealt with by therapy of through an ex-gay programme. Every one of the people I met, single or married, was clearly still gay. Those who were honest enough still admitted to same-sex attraction.

The unwanted feelings are only a problem for those infected by conservative evangelical teaching. They are indoctrinated into believing or accepting that feelings for someone of the same sex are evil, taboo, sinful, hated by God.

Anglican Mainstream, Christian Concern and Core Issues Trust are doing immense damage.

Vulnerable lesbian and gay Christians are being sold three lies. The first is that God detests people who feel attraction to someone of the same sex. The second is that it is possible to deal with these feelings in a way that enables you to marry. The third is that the result of doing this is to become ‘normal’.

Even greater damage is being done to Christian mission and evangelism. The result of the campaigns being waged by Anglican Mainstream, Christian Concern and Core Issues Trust is to give the impression to the population of the UK that God and the Church are obsessed with sex, deeply prejudiced and worship a god (with a very small g) who treats as abnormal those whom the huge majority of people have come to know as ordinary, healthy, integrated members of society.

The disgrace for the Church of England is the toleration shown by some bishops to such scandalous views. Ex-gay groups and therapy for those with unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction do immense harm verging on evil. Christianity should be proclaiming love and justice for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, affirming God’s creative love for us and celebrating our commitments in faithful, covenanted, life-long relationships.


  1. Kate says

    Quite: organisations like the Core Issues Trust seem intent on making complicated something which is very simple, through a whole bunch of faux-academic language and acronyms – part of the purpose of which is to completely confuse what is meant by ‘gay’, so that arguments about whether someone can be changed from ‘gay’ to ‘straight’ are swamped by redefinitions.

    Though all that stuff will wash in the small communities that agree to speak that language, it simply doesn’t with the uninitiated who will just ask ‘so after all that stuff, do you still fancy your own gender?’ (invariable answer: yes). If these organisations want to flog programmes for people who are gay (or in the lingo ‘have SSA’) but want to be celibate, that’s fine really – their life, their choice. But the organisations have to be pushed to be much franker about what it says on the tin: at the moment my strong impression is that people are going into therapy expecting to stop having gay feelings – while the tongue-twisting organisers are actually just offering an ideological repositioning to go with those feelings.

  2. Davis Mac-Iyalla says

    I don’t know anyone in a right thinking mind frame that will pay attention to Anglican Mainstream, those people are evil and they hid under the name of the church to promote their evil. If all it takes to be Anglican/Christian conservatives is to be bossed with homosexuality then I am sorry I won’t listen to them. Anglican Mainstream is the false prophet that will meet its doom in no distance time.

  3. says

    All LGBT people benefit from positive role models and positive language about our core identity. It’s not about brainwashing or coercion as our detractors and some evangelical Christians assert, but about a climate of affirmation and acceptance. A welcoming community is vital to our health and welbeing as a minority. That’s how we thrive as indivduals. It’s impossible without it. We don’t need negative messages based on prejudice – hate and harm is for the margins and breeds the same. Love is for everyone. Inclusion.

  4. Sue Whitlock says

    As a Christian and a retired therapist I agree with Kate. People who seek such therapy will expect to have their attraction to the same sex removed, and this ain’t gonna happen! I believe it is totally unethical for any therapist to promote this kind of treatment. Instead they should be seeking to improve their clients’ self esteem and teaching them to truly love themselves just as they are.

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