Church group denies ‘ex-gay’ therapy
Written by Brendan Bolger | 31 May 2010
The bishop of Evangelism Ministries has written to Sydney City Council to “clarify” that its Christian group is not “one which targets young people with same-sex conversion therapy or aversion therapy” to ‘cure’ their homosexuality.
Council is investigating the nature of the Christian group’s meetings at the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre, which was also addressed in the letter, after concerns were raised that the group was conducting sexuality aversion therapy.
“Such suggestions are false and mischievous. This is not the basis of the group nor has it even been mentioned in its meetings,” Bishop Alan Stewart wrote.
“There is no intention to conduct such ‘therapy’ and it is regrettable that Council has been misled into thinking there is such an intention,” he wrote in the carefully worded letter that does not directly implicate Evangelism Ministries and its practices with the Christian group.
However, questions remain about how Evangelism Ministries, a “department within the Anglican diocese” that encourages “evangelistic church planting across the Sydney diocese”, deals with homosexual members of its churches.
Its website has links on the sexuality question that are directed to christianity.net.au which quotes numerous “adapted” Genesis and Romans verses from the bible.
“By natural I do not mean according to nature but according to God’s created order and purpose. He created humanity in his image as male and female in heterosexual relationship. Anything else is ‘unnatural,” according to an adapted Romans verse.
“Sexual sin is condemned by God not because it is unloving but because it does not conform to his design and purpose.
“Thus a monogamous, loving, long term homosexual relationship is still a sinful relationship,” it is stated on the web site linked from Evangelism Ministries.
Stewart did not respond to questions from SX about his stance on homosexuality, what is expected of student ministers in response to homosexuals or whether Evangelism Ministries is a proponent of ‘ex-gay’ therapy.
Anthony Venn-Brown, co-founder of Freedom 2 b[e] – a network of LGBT people from Charismatic and Pentecostal backgrounds – met earlier this month for three hours with student minister Toby Neal, who runs the Christian group’s meetings, resulting in a “very productive conversation”.
“My impression is that he is a very sincere man who wants to make a difference in the world with his Christian belief system.
“I think as they begin to engage with our community some of their perceptions will begin to alter,” Venn-Brown said.
Neal said until the meeting with Venn-Brown he “did not even know” what ‘ex-gay’ therapy was.
He told SX his goal was to “start a church in Surry Hills” and while there may be “differences of opinion with some things” between Freedom 2 b[e] and himself, there is room “for friendship and to journey together as Christians”.
The meetings at the SHNC consist of about 15 people “to read the bible and talk about the teachings of Jesus”.
“That’s all we’ve done and all we will be doing,” Neal said.
Meanhile, Sydney City councillor Shayne Mallard told Council, which is continuing its investigations, that sexuality aversion therapy is the main focus of Evangelism Ministries, according to Sydney Central magazine.
Mallard told Council that sexuality aversion therapy was often coercive and left young people scarred for life, according to the report.