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Sheffield commissions review of complaint about conversion therapy

11 February 2022

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AN INDEPENDENT review of a complaint about the use of conversion therapy at St Thomas’s, Philadelphia, in Sheffield, has been commissioned by the diocese.

Matthew Drapper told The Sheffield Star in 2020 that during prayer he was told to shout “I break the power of homosexuality over me,” and “I cancel the agreement with the kingdom of darkness — any associated demons go in the name of Jesus.”

He told the newspaper: “At the time, it was such an intense system of beliefs — you totally bought into it. I had always felt there was something wrong with being gay, but after the prayer meeting I felt empty and lost for a few months.”

This week, he told BBC Yorkshire that he had been told “to speak to the gay part of myself as if speaking to a wild dog coming up to me — and for me to say to ‘Leave my body.’ The people I was with told me they could see demons leave me and go out of the window.”

He recalled: “It left me feeling totally empty and not myself really, like a part of myself had been pushed away, but was still very much there.”

The incident took place eight years ago: he was volunteering as a church youth leader for university students, while he was studying at the University of Derby. He later made an official complaint to St Thomas’s, Philadelphia.

He has written a book about his experiences, Bringing Me Back To Me (Lulu, 2020).

This week, the Archdeacon of Sheffield and Rotherham, the Ven. Malcolm Chamberlain, who is the Bishop of Sheffield’s lead for safeguarding, said: “We are responding to Mr Drapper’s complaint according to Church of England safeguarding-practice guidance, and regret the length of time it has taken to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

“Nevertheless, we have sought to keep Mr Drapper informed at all stages of our investigation, and have commissioned a fully independent review of this case, with Mr Drapper’s agreement. The diocese of Sheffield believes, along with the wider Church of England, that conversion therapy is unethical, potentially harmful, and has no place in the modern world.”

A spokesperson for the church told BBC Yorkshire last week: “St Thomas Philadelphia is a caring and generous church community which does not engage in conversion therapy. We welcome the independent investigation initiated by the diocese into these allegations of eight years ago, and will participate in it.”

St Thomas’s, Philadelphia, was planted out of St Thomas’s, Crookes, an Anglican-Baptist local ecumenical partnership, in 1998. Since 2009, when it was joined by the Kings Centre, a Sheffield house-church, it has been known as Network Church Sheffield. It is also home to The Order of Mission, a worldwide “covenant community of missional leaders”, acknowledged by the Advisory Council on the Relations of Bishops and Religious Communities as a religious community within the Church of England.

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