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Bishop expresses 'disappointment' over church leaders' letter opposing gay conversion therapy legislation

by Kelly Valencia

Bishop of Dorchester Rt Rev Gavin Collins, has condemned a letter signed by over 2,500 church leaders in the UK opposing the current draft of the conversion therapy ban. 

In a statement, he said he was "disappointed" authors had used an open letter to "diminish people who are in faithful same sex relationships and those who are transgender."

Many LGBTQ+ groups have campaigned for the practice of seeking to suppress or change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity to be banned in England.

But several Christian groups, while welcoming a ban on harmful practices, are worried the current proposal would breach their legal rights to offer pastoral support to those wishing to move away from same-sex attraction.

Consequently, leaders from several denominations wrote an open letter to Equalities Minister Liz Truss in December warning the current wording of the law would criminalise traditional Christian teachings on sex and marriage. 

They argued that the category of conversion therapy is "one which is so broad as to be essentially meaningless," and that "it has the effect of implying an equivalence between calling people to conversion to Christ…and evil and disreputable past practices which are already illegal and which Christians are the first to condemn". 

Last week the ministers delivered the letter, following the closing of a public consultation on the issue, asking people's opinions on the government's plans to make conversion therapy for under 18s or non-consulting adults illegal. 

The letter sparked criticism from many LGTBQ+ groups and church leaders who support the current proposals for a ban on conversion therapy. 

Rt Rev Gavin Collins, who oversees 326 churches in the Diocese of Oxford, said: "The letter has undoubtedly upset a lot of people.

"It puts out a message that people aren't safe or welcome in our churches, and it cuts across the settled view of the Church of England that coercive conversion therapy is unacceptable and should be banned." 

He concluded: "I am disappointed that the authors have used an open letter to diminish people who are in faithful same-sex relationships and those who are transgender. I am clear that we are all made in God's image, that all are welcome in his church and that everyone has a place at the table."

A final legislation proposal is expected to be brought to Parliament this spring.

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