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Counsellors told not to say orientation will be changed

by
12 January 2012

by Ed Thornton

COUNSELLORS offering therapy to people with “unwanted same-sex attraction” (SSA) could “harm” clients if they raise “unrealistic expectations” about the possibility of changing sexual orientation, a new report published by the Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) says.

Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction: Issues of pastoral counselling and support by the Revd Dr Andrew Goddard, Tutor in Christian Ethics at Trinity College, Bristol, and Dr Glynn Harrison, Emeritus Profes­sor of Psychiatry at the University of Bristol, says that the lack of controlled trials means that “it is not possible to assert conclusively whether efforts to pro­mote ‘change’ [in sexual orientation] are effective. . .

“Given the absence of conclusive, high quality, scientifically controlled trials, those offering formal coun­selling to people with unwanted SSA must exercise considerable caution. They must follow conventional ethical guidelines in terms of in­formed consent and show respect for client autonomy and self-determination. When counselling clients with unwanted SSA, harm could result from raising unrealistic expectations or claims that go beyond available evidence” (Comment, 9 December).

It says that people seeking support for “unwanted SSA” should be “given the facts as objectively as possible about the various approaches to managing unwanted same-sex desire and then be free to choose for them­selves”.

The report’s authors support what they refer to as “the traditional Christian belief” that same-sex relationships “fall short of God’s purpose in Creation”. They seek to address “what forms of pastoral counselling support can legitimately be offered, by those who hold traditional ethical views, to those who share them and who struggle personally with unwanted same-sex attraction”.

The report says that support should be available “to those wishing to be encouraged in their quest for a chaste life or seeking a change in the strength or direction of their sexual interests”.

The report argues that professional bodies that have “rightly recognised and repudiated the prejudice and stigma they have shown towards people with SSA in the past” should “avoid replacing that set of prejudices with similar biases against those who hold orthodox religious views about sexual behaviours”.

Last year, a gay journalist, Patrick Strudwick, lodged a formal com­plaint against a Christian coun­sellor, Lesley Pilkington, after attending coun­selling sessions at which he was offered “reparative therapy” to change his sexual orien­tation (News, 21 January 2011).

PUBLIC disagreement about homo­sexuality between the chairman and vice-chairman of the General Synod House of Laity. The vice-chairman, Tim Hind, wrote in a letter to The Times last month that the chairman, Dr Philip Giddings, was “out of order in linking homosexuality with rape and incest”.

In a letter published in The Times earlier in the month, Dr Giddings and the former Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, had written that “Jesus was not ‘silent on sexuality’,” as

Lord Adonis, the Labour peer, had said in a Times article on 14 De­cember.

Dr Giddings and Bishop Scott-Joynt continued: “He [Jesus] has lots to say about marriage and speaks therefore implicitly about homo­sexual practice, rape and incest, though silent on all three.”

Mr Hind responded that he agreed “that heterosexual marriage and homosexual partnership are distinct. However, they [Dr Giddings and Bishop Scott-Joynt] are out of order in linking homosexual practice with rape and incest. God is a God of relationships. We need to recognise that He honours faithful commit­ment.”

Dr Giddings’s and Bishop Scott-Joynt’s letter also objected to Lord Adonis’s statement that “homo­sexuality, like evolution, is un­alterable fact”. Their letter stated: “The scientific debate about nature versus nurture is far from settled.”

Lord Adonis described homo­sexuality as “not a threatening social reality, but one to be accepted”.

PUBLIC disagreement about homo­sexuality between the chairman and vice-chairman of the General Synod House of Laity. The vice-chairman, Tim Hind, wrote in a letter to The Times last month that the chairman, Dr Philip Giddings, was “out of order in linking homosexuality with rape and incest”.

In a letter published in The Times earlier in the month, Dr Giddings and the former Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, had written that “Jesus was not ‘silent on sexuality’,” as

Lord Adonis, the Labour peer, had said in a Times article on 14 De­cember.

Dr Giddings and Bishop Scott-Joynt continued: “He [Jesus] has lots to say about marriage and speaks therefore implicitly about homo­sexual practice, rape and incest, though silent on all three.”

Mr Hind responded that he agreed “that heterosexual marriage and homosexual partnership are distinct. However, they [Dr Giddings and Bishop Scott-Joynt] are out of order in linking homosexual practice with rape and incest. God is a God of relationships. We need to recognise that He honours faithful commit­ment.”

Dr Giddings’s and Bishop Scott-Joynt’s letter also objected to Lord Adonis’s statement that “homo­sexuality, like evolution, is un­alterable fact”. Their letter stated: “The scientific debate about nature versus nurture is far from settled.”

Lord Adonis described homo­sexuality as “not a threatening social reality, but one to be accepted”.

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