More than two thirds of Church of England clergy are supportive of a ban on so-called conversion therapy, a disputed new survey has claimed.
Of the 1,185 respondents to The Times’ survey, 67.8 per cent backed a ban with 17.7 per cent against. The findings, which account for only six per cent of the church’s active clergy, also reflect a rejection of biblical sexual ethics.
Over half of respondents (53.4 per cent) claimed the C of E should allow same-sex weddings, while 63.3 per cent said ordained ministers should be able to enter same-sex civil marriages.
But speaking to Times Radio, Revd Dr Ian Paul challenged the reliability of the conclusions. He argued many of the questions allowed no scope for “nuance” and he is “not aware of any evidence at all” that the respondents were representative of C of E clergy as a whole.
He suggested many of the findings “are completely contradicted by evidence elsewhere”, pointing out that The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England recently only managed to get five per cent of serving clergy to say they “will be ready to conduct same-sex marriages”.
Responding to claims the results mean the church should be shaped more by the culture, Revd Paul said that is “the last thing the church needs to do”, instead “we’ve got to line the culture up with the good news about Jesus”.
And criticising the vague way a ‘conversion therapy’ ban was defined in the survey, The Christian Institute’s Ciarán Kelly told the newspaper: “This is not a ban on verbal and physical abuse that is being talked about – these are already covered under existing law.
“If the activists pushing for a ban get their way it will see the ordinary work of churches – preaching, prayer and pastoral care that doesn’t affirm LGBT ideology – criminalised. Even a parent who refuses to push their gender-confused child towards cross-sex hormones could be deemed to be breaking the law.
“Do the clergy want to see the ‘re-education’ sessions being used with church leaders in the Australian state of Victoria put in place here? Do they want the state redacting the Lord’s Prayer to remove its challenge to resist temptation? Do they really want to see a ban on preaching the need for repentance?”
Last week, The Christian Institute wrote to the Prime Minister saying that Australia’s ‘conversion therapy’ debacle should serve as a warning against pursuing a ban in the UK.
The Institute highlighted that under the state of Victoria’s repressive law “not affirming someone’s gender identity”, and parents refusing “to support their child’s request for medical treatment that will prevent physical changes from puberty” are deemed illegal practices.
Updates to guidance on the legislation also state that Christians can only pray in a way that affirms that everyone is “perfect as they are”. Prayers that “talk about a person’s brokenness or need to repent” are deemed harmful and likely illegal.
The Government is expected to publish its draft Bill on conversion therapy in the coming weeks.