Church of England calls on UK government to ban gay conversion therapy

(Reuters/Hannah McKay)A priest wears a rainbow ribbon during a vigil against Anglican Homophobia, outside the General Synod of the Church of England in London, Britain, February 15, 2017.

The Church of England has called on the U.K. government to ban the practice of conversion therapy, which is aimed at altering a person's sexual orientation.

During the General Synod's annual July sessions in York, members of the national assembly voted to endorse a Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy, which describes the practice as unethical, potentially harmful and having "no place in the modern world."

"Conversion therapy is harmful, dangerous and just doesn't work. People may be able to alter their behaviour but they can never alter their innate desire," said Jayne Ozanne, who represents laity in the Diocese of Oxford.

Ozanne, who proposed the motion, reportedly underwent conversion therapy which resulted in two breakdowns and two spells in the hospital. She insisted that the practice was a form of "abuse from which vulnerable adults need protecting."

She further noted that conversion therapy has been "discredited by the government, the NHS, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of General Practitioners and many other senior health care bodies."

According to The Guardian, Ozanne pointed to an online survey she recently conducted in the LGBT community, in which under 40 percent of the respondents admitted that they went through some form of conversion therapy. Over two-thirds of the respondents said they chose to do so because they believed that their sexual orientation was "sinful."

The Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, contended that "LGBTI+ orientation and identity" is not a sickness.

"We must distinguish between an ascetic and a therapeutic approach. In the Church we are certainly called to help one another to conform their lives to Jesus Christ and to live lives of holiness, but we do not need to engage people in healing therapy if they are not sick," he added.

Some synod members feared that the motion would limit the church's ability to offer pastoral care and prayer for those who are coping with issues of sexual desire and orientation.

Prior to the debate, Ozanne stated that she wanted the Church to make a clear public statement, adding that the Church can also encourage other denominations and faiths to consider their positions regarding the issue.

The House of Bishops voted 36–1 in favor of the motion with no abstentions, Premier reported. The House of Clergy voted 135–25 with 13 abstentions, while the House of Laity voted 127–48 to support the motion with 13 abstentions.

On Sunday, the General Synod voted to support a motion to consider special services for transgender people to welcome them and mark their transition.

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