Three diocesan synods in Tikanga Pākehā have publicly confirmed their opposition to the practice of gay conversion therapy.
Gay conversion therapy refers to a course of systematic aversion or reprogramming techniques used to try and change a person’s sexual orientation. Psychologists’ professional associations in several countries have discredited this practice as ineffective and potentially harmful, especially for vulnerable youth.
Retired Judge Fred McElrea from the Diocese of Dunedin’s Social Transformation Committee presented a motion to synod rejecting the practice of gay conversion therapy.
The Diocese of Dunedin 2018 synod agreed that the church “should not be carrying out or promoting any 'ministry' or 'therapy' that leads to the expectation a person’s basic sexual orientation can or should be changed.”
Speaking to the motion, Fred said that the term ‘conversion’ was an insult to God and to the person concerned, because it assumed that an LGBT person was ‘ill’ or needed to change. He said that also caused offence to many Christians because of their understanding that all people are made in the image of God.
The Dunedin motion went on to call on Government to introduce legislation making gay conversion therapy illegal in Aotearoa New Zealand.
That call for a legal ban was echoed by the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki synod in a motion moved by Archdeacon Malcolm French, which also noted the Church of England’s 2017 decision to condemn gay conversion therapy, and subsequent moves towards bringing a gay conversion therapy ban into British law.
Both dioceses were careful to point out that a ban on the set of practices covered by the term conversion therapy would not prevent various pastoral responses to human need, which Archdeacon Malcolm French stated may include supporting LGBT Christians who wished to live celibate lives.
A similar motion against gay conversion therapy was moved in Wellington by St Peter’s Willis Street synod delegate, Neill Ballantyne. In response, the Wellington synod crafted additions to the motion adding statements on differing pastoral responses to LGBT identifying Anglicans.
Wellington’s final motion took a stand against harmful gay conversion therapies, and also recognised the diversity of views and pastoral responses on issues of sexual identity and Christian life that were present in the synod.
The full texts of the three synods’ motions are here.