Forbid conversion remedy, however don't forbid prayer, says CofE
(Photo: Pexels / Sharon McCutcheon)
The Church of England has urged the government to find ways to ban conversion therapy without punishing the clergy who provide pastoral support to people struggling with their sexuality.
Andrew Selous, Church representative in the House of Commons, said in Parliament this week that the Church "remains committed" to a 2017 Synod resolution advocating a ban on conversion therapy.
However, he said the church wants to work with the government in legislating to ensure that pastors remain free to ask for help, spiritual support, to those who turn to them.
"The Church believes it is possible to end conversion therapy without prohibiting prayer and private conversations with clergy and members of the Church that a person has requested," he said.
"The Church has not moved the bill to be rejected and will carefully examine the details when the legislation is published."
He later added, "The Prime Minister remains determined to outlaw the imposition of harmful and unnecessary practices in this area without criminalizing clergy and Church members for the non-enforced pastoral assistance that individuals ask for."
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson affirmed in a letter to the Evangelical Alliance that people with undesirable same-sex attraction can continue to receive "adequate pastoral support (including prayer)" from churches.
Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, has expressed doubts whether Johnson will keep his promise.
She fears that the entry into force of a ban will endanger the religious freedom of Christians.
"The more extreme practices normally referred to in the term 'conversion therapy' are illegal and have not been practiced in the UK for many years," she said.
"Almost all that is left in Britain that could possibly be called 'conversion therapy' is the ordinary discipleship and prayer support offered by churches and parachute groups.
"This reveals the sad reality that a 'conversion therapy' ban calls for and is really an attempt to undermine loyal Christians who cling to the traditional biblical understanding of sexuality: sex is only allowed in a marriage of one man and to be expressed by a woman.
"Pastoral efforts to help avoid acting on people with same-sex desires (or gender confusion) are referred to as conversion therapy and are treated as equivalent to electroshock therapy or" corrective rape "."