TRADITIONAL Christian teaching on same-sex relationships is perpetuating an epidemic of mental-health problems among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people in Britain, a new report from the Oasis Foundation suggests.
The report In the Name of Love: The Church, exclusion and LGB mental health issues, from the research arm of the non-denominational social-action charity Oasis, argues that by teaching that same-sex relationships are wrong, the Church has upheld the societal discrimination which causes mental-health problems in LGB people.
A wide-ranging Department of Health-funded University of Cambridge study in 2014 found that sexual minorities were two to three times more likely to report having a long-standing psychological or emotional problem than their heterosexual counterparts.
The Oasis Foundation’s report states that these problems stem from the stigma, hostility, and discrimination directed at LGB people in society, and then argues that the Church must bear much of the blame for this.
The founder of Oasis, the Revd Steve Chalke, said: “It is no secret that the negative stance taken by the Church, and so many individual local churches, has a hugely distressing impact on large numbers of LGB people, and leaves countless numbers of them living lives of forced secrecy and dishonesty.
“Tragically, it is also common knowledge that the resultant anguish and distress often leads to spiritual, mental, and physical harm, and, in the worst of cases, to people making the desperate decision to take their own life.”
In the Name of Love quotes research which found that large numbers of people — particularly younger groups — believed the Church to be institutionally homophobic.
Furthermore, it argues that because all but one of the major British denominations — the exception being the United Reformed Church — teach that homosexuality is in some way less than God’s ideal, they are contributing to the exclusion of, and discrimination against, LGB people within society.
This conclusion has, however, been challenged by some, including the Revd Peter Ould, an Evangelical statistician and blogger. He notes that the Oasis report does not offer any direct evidence which shows that there is a connection the Church’s position on homosexuality and mental health problems of LGB people.
In a blog published last week, Mr Ould highlighted two scientific studies which directly examined this question. One study showed that attending a “non-affirming” (i.e. conservative) church was not correlated with higher levels of “internalised homophobia” or worse mental health outcomes among LGB people.
A second, older study, suggested that the reverse was also true — attending “affirming” (i.e. liberal) churches was not associated with significantly improved psychological health among LGB people.