Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and Minister for Women and Equalities
Dear Secretary of State,
We are Christian ministers and pastoral workers from a broad range of churches, who have in common that we hold to orthodox, historic Christian teaching on sexual ethics. We are writing in response to the consultation on ‘Banning “Conversion Therapy”’ presented by you to Parliament on 29th October 2021.
In our churches we welcome and show love to many people who have different experience and views, including same-sex attraction and forms of gender transition. We always seek to act in love, with gentleness and respect, for the good of all, and never with any form of coercion or control.
We are grateful to the government for having made clear in the consultation that it does not intend this legislation to impact the normal practice of religion. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned that the legislative approach outlined would do exactly this. We see in these proposals a clear possibility that our duty as ministers, of proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and calling people to find life in him, which includes living by his laws, will be criminalised. We also believe it could be used against Christian parents who could equally be criminalised for loving advice and teaching given to their own children.
The category of ‘Conversion Therapy’ is one which is so broad as to be essentially meaningless. It has the effect of implying an equivalence between calling people to conversion to Christ, which is our duty as Christian ministers, and evil and disreputable past practices which are already illegal and which Christians are the first to condemn. Legislating against such a bizarrely broad category is clearly not viable and strongly risks criminalising us as we fulfil our compassionate duties as Christian ministers and pastors. This would be a clear breach of our legal right to manifest our religion.
Christianity has always held that God created humanity with the lifelong marriage of one man and one woman as a gracious gift to humanity and a central part of his design for human society. To violate that pattern, by sexual activity outside marriage or denial of our created sex, is sin. As such it is not only morally wrong but carries with it deep and tragic consequences for individuals, families and society. It is a central part of our calling to bring Christ’s compassion to a broken world, that we call people to live according to God’s gift and pattern of marriage and offer them pastoral support to help them do so. This has nothing to do with therapy; it has everything to do with what it means to be a Christian.
To urge and assist people to live in this way, far from being harmful, is a kind and merciful act, and of benefit to all. What is plainly and terribly harmful is when anyone, especially the young, believes that their identity is found purely in their feelings and that happiness is to be found in misusing and harming their healthy bodies. Yet the proposals would apparently criminalise us for seeking to care for people and seeking to dissuade them from this kind of harm.
Furthermore, it is our duty to call people to be converted to Christ; that is, to turn from believing that we are identified and best guided by self, to knowing that we are identified and best guided by God. Christian Conversion inevitably means giving up on lifestyles incompatible with being a Christian, of which sexual sins are just one. It should not be a criminal offence for us as Christian ministers to persuade, to teach and to help people of every age to become, and to live as, orthodox Christians. It should not be a criminal offence for us to instruct our children that God made them male and female, in his image, and has reserved sex for the marriage of one man and one woman. Yet this seems to be the likely outcome of the proposed legislation.
We therefore very much hope (and pray) that these proposals will be dropped in their current form. We have no desire to become criminals, and place a high value on submitting to and supporting our government. Yet we think it important you are aware that if it were to come about that the loving, compassionate exercise of orthodox Christian ministry, including the teaching of the Christian understanding of sex and marriage, is effectively made a criminal offence, we would with deep sadness continue to do our duty to God in this matter.
Nevertheless, we are confident that this outcome is not what your department intends by these proposals, and for that we are most grateful. However, this will require the adoption of an entirely different approach.
We write to you as faithful subjects of Her Majesty the Queen, Defender of the Faith, in the hope that this will assist her Majesty’s government to avoid unwittingly legislating against the very faith of which she has been appointed defender. We add this to the prayers that we constantly make for the government’s essential and God-given task of ruling our nation.
2546 Christian Ministers and Pastoral Workers