THE Methodist Conference has voted to ban the practice of conversion therapy carried out in the name of the Church.
In a debate on Thursday morning, delegates, meeting both online and in-person at the National Conference Centre in Birmingham, voted by a show of hands in favour of a Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK.
Under this, the Conference called on its members and ministers to “refuse to offer or participate in offering conversion therapy in any form”, and directed the Methodist Council to consider, draft, and publish a policy on conversion therapy.
The Conference also called on the Government to ban conversion therapy “without further delay and therefore also directs the Methodist Council to consider further the most appropriate way in which to engage with HM Government on this issue”.
Introducing the debate, the convenor of the memorials committee, the Revd Catherine Dixon, quoted from the reply to Memorial 20 on the memorandum, which states that “so-called gay conversion therapy would be totally incompatible with previously agreed resolutions of the Conference and Council and contrary to the Methodist values set out in the Connexional definition and guidance on homophobia”.
The Revd Mark Rowland, who is part of the leadership team of the LGBT Methodist group Dignity and Worth, said: “Today the Conference made absolutely clear that conversion therapy has no place in the Methodist Church. Any attempts to use prayer or coercion to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is spiritual abuse and a perversion of the gospel message of love and mercy. I look forward to the Church’s leaders taking this message to the heart of Government.”
The Revd Sam McBratney, who heads Dignity and Worth, added: “Many LGBTQ+ Methodists have experienced sometimes horrendous attempts at conversion therapy at the hands of other Christians. Those experiences have left deep scars. Today’s ban says that such practices are nothing other than spiritual abuse and have nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We hope that this ban will make the Methodist Church a safer and more justice-filled place for all God’s children.”
The General Synod of the Church of England voted to call on the Government to ban the practice of conversion therapy in 2017 through a private members’ motion tabled by lay member and LGBT campaigner Jayne Ozanne (News, 14 July 2017).
Legislation to protect people from the practice was outlined in the Queen’s Speech in May (News, 14 May). The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, later urged the Government not to drag its feet during the consultation process (News, 11 June).
Ms Ozanne said on Thursday. “I am delighted that the Methodist Conference has taken such a clear stand against the degrading and inhumane practices of ‘conversion therapy’, recognising the harm that this causes LGBT+ people.”
She said that the vote, coming after the Synod motion showed that “the majority of Christians fully understand why this needs to be banned. Many congratulations to all those who have worked so hard to achieve this, particularly LGBT Methodists involved in Dignity and Worth.”