Two ‘gay cure’ conferences are set to take place in London within the space of less than a week, despite concern and criticisms from LGBT rights campaigners and even members of the Church of England.
The Transformation Potential Conference, to be held in Westminster wishes to cure “unwanted same-sex attractions,” and features discussions on ‘gay conversion’ therapy.
Gay conversion therapy is a hot topic of late, particularly in the United States, where the practice is more widely used in the more conservative, Bible belt states. Recently President Obama has spoken out against it, following online petitions after a transgender teenager, Leelah Alcorn, committed Suicide.
The event is being co-organised by three UK-based religious groups: Christian Concern; Core Issues Trust and Anglican Mainstream.
The event’s website reads: “Core Issues Trust offers one-to-one support for individuals voluntarily seeking to leave homosexual behaviours and feelings.
“The Royal College of Psychiatrists has recently affirmed that human sexuality is fluid for some and therefore changeable in some cases. Core Issues Trust promotes the idea that individuals are not ‘victims’ of their sexual desires.”
Gay conversion therapy is certainly not without critics, including 14 UK health organisations, who back in January stated: “efforts to try to change or alter sexual orientation through physiological therapies are unethical and potentially harmful.”
These 14 organisations including both the Royal College of GPs and the NHS, also signed a “memorandum of understanding” regarding gay conversion therapy.
Gay rights charities have naturally condemned the events taking place in London, and called for the government to ban not just the events, but also ban the preachers themselves entering into the United Kingdom.
“All the world’s leading psychological and counselling organisations say these therapies are unethical, don’t work and can be damaging,” said Peter Tatchell, a human rights campaigner. “After two decades of practicing conversion therapies in London, the Christian-based Courage Trust abandoned them.”
“They concluded that it was not possible to ‘cure’ homosexuality and saw first-hand the angst and suffering the ‘treatment’ often caused. Most of the gay men that Christian groups claim to have ‘cured’ have been subsequently exposed as leading secret, furtive gay lives.”
There is also much disagreement within the Church over gay conversion therapy, and members of the Church of England have branded senior leaders “cowardly”.
“At a national level the church is deeply conflicted in its thinking about sexuality,” said Reverend Colin Coward, the director of Changing Attitude, which hopes for greater acceptance of LGBT individuals in the Church. “All those in senior positions of the Church of England have been deeply cowardly on this. They’re all avoiding confronting and challenging what these organisations do.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, both a speaker and an organiser of the event said: “Our conference is a thing that’s born out of compassion and love. We believe people should be free to choose and change their behaviour if that’s what they wish to do. We promote God’s model for sexuality which is a man and a woman.”
The Seventh Day Adventist Church had planned a similar event, known as Holy Sexuality Conference, to be held in Marylebone, London, next week, but it was cancelled because of a petition signed by 13,000 people.
A spokeswoman for the Church of England issued the following statement: “We are facilitating shared conversations on scripture, mission and sexuality so people with differing views are able to hear each other more accurately. This conference, which is not sponsored or organised by the Church of England, is not part of the shared conversations programme.”