Trying to make sense of Core Issues Trust ideas

Dr Mike Davidson handed out copies of ‘Out of Harm’s Way: Working Ethically with Same-Sex Attracted Persons’ in the course of the breakout group he led at the ‘Setting Love in Order’ conference on Thursday. The authors of the book are Mike and Dermot O’Callaghan, a member of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland.

The Foreword is written by Gerard van den Aardweg, a psychologist and psychotherapist. He writes:

  • There is nothing in the way of scientific proof for misleading affirmations such as that same-sex attractions are inborn or otherwise biologically determined
  • No scientific proof that gay partnerships are equivalent to heterosexual unions and marriage
  • No scientific proof that all psychological, social, and medical problems which are unmistakeably associated with the homosexual lifestyle are caused by “discrimination”
  • No scientific proof that children reared by gay couples grow up at least as healthy and happy as children of normally (sic) married parents
  • No scientific proof that it is impossible to overcome homosexual tendencies
  • No scientific proof that change-directed counselling or therapies are harmful and dangerous
  • In reality research evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of the opposite of every one of these affirmations
  • Research data are obligatorily interpreted in favour of “gay” positions; unwelcome evidence is slighted or belittled
  • Of the despotic aspirations of the gay ideology
  • It has the status of a State religion imposed by the media and the Law
  • Both the ideology’s methods and mentality are anti-democratic and elitist
  • We have constant indoctrination in the media
  • There is a taboo on objective public information and on dissent
  • Laws concerning homosexuality issues are not the fruit of free and honest democratic debate
  • Gay advocates play the victim or martyr to get what they want
  • Any disagreement with their theories, to say nothing of the view of homosexuality as a disorder and the mere suggestion of treatment possibilities, is indignantly branded as antiquated discrimination and should be forbidden like a capital sin
  • In their excessive self-centredness, they do not want to see that they themselves unjustly discriminate against same-sex attracted people who do not share their ideology
  • Homosexuality is an addictive sort of behaviour, a kind of frigidity
  • Promiscuity is inherent in the gay lifestyle
  • Even men in “steady” gay unions have an average of 8 additional sex partners per year
  • Frequent concomitants of the gay lifestyle: various sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, depressions and suicidal tendencies, emotional crises, psychosomatic complaints, a considerably shortened lifespan
  • Most clients seeking change-directed approaches improve emotionally as well as sexually while obsessions and depressions decrease or disappear

There’s nothing new here and those of you reading this will have heard it all before.

There’s no way that you could find equivalent ‘scientific proof’ about heterosexual lifestyles and behaviour.

Am I peculiar or unusual? Am I entirely wrong in my carefully developed ideas? Am I mad? I have the capacity as a priest and psychotherapist to assess, on either side of opinions about homosexuality, the accurate and truthful from the inaccurate and wilfully false. Does Gerard van den Aardweg, psychologist and psychotherapist, have no capacity to discern falsehood from truth? I really don’t understand this capacity to write and believe things that a moment’s reflection or a period of research would show are easily contested. Is his mental landscape the same as that of Anglican bishops who share the same perspective?

I assume that because this is the foreword to Mike’s book, Mike agrees with what Gerard van den Aardweg has written.

Mike said very forcibly at the conference: “I am not a reparative therapist, I do not practice conversion therapy. I say outcomes will be different for different people. All options are on the table. I would release people who want to be gay.”

And yet the first chapter of the book written by Dermot O’Callaghan is about “‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Question of Harm – Where is the evidence?” The therapy being written about in the book is offering to reduce unwanted same-sex attraction. So why did Mike insist so forcibly that he doesn’t practice conversion therapy?

The whole reparative, conversion therapy, no scientific proof strategy is dependent on a literalist or fundamentalist reading of the Bible, on the seven clobber texts and on the entire Bible and the teaching of Jesus as being opposed to homosexuality – Andrew Symes produced a two-page handout on what Jesus said about homosexual orientation and practice.

I’m writing this blog because I’m reading a book by Christians, priests, psychotherapists, which insists on scientific evidence for the treatment of homosexuality but states that this is impossible to achieve and is 100% unbalanced in the evidence, ideas and arguments it presents. I would not write something like this because I would see the flaws in the arguments and evidence I present in the case I’m trying to make.

The language used by those advocating reparative, conversion therapy is Orwellian. They mirror this accusation, of course, accusing me and others of using similarly Orwellian language in describing homosexuality in positive ways.

There is similar mirroring in each side claiming to be victims of abuse and misrepresentation by the other side.

I’m writing this blog because there are bishops whose understandings of sexual and gender diversity and scripture is congruent with the ideas expressed in this book and in the conference. I think the Archbishop of Canterbury might even be included, together with the bishops of Winchester and Birkenhead.

I’d expect Archbishop Justin to be able to think about homosexuality with a greater degree of intelligence and analysis of evidence, both research evidence and the evidence of people’s lives and faith.

The College of Bishops conversations and any conversation in General Synod is going to struggle to make progress towards resolving Christian differences when the starting point is a dependent on a selective reading of Scripture lacking nuance and theological rigour and ideas about sexuality and gender which resolutely ignore the witness of faithful, integrated, adult, committed LGB&T Anglicans.

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