A group of bishops have claimed that those who “experience same-sex attraction” can have a “change in their feelings” in a lengthy statement that portrays homosexuality as a disease to be overcome.
In the lengthy statement, the bishops said they felt the need to offer guidance on how church leaders should deal with homosexuality among members after learning that the approach was different across the country.
Harking back to Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, the bishops claim that God made men and women in his image in order to “fill the earth through procreation”.
However, human beings later began to practice what the bishops call “disordered affection”, including homosexuality.
They note that many have prayed that their same-sex attractions “would be lifted” from them, and that many “continue to live with this profound reality”.
The pastoral statement goes on to heap praise on queer Christians who have tried to pray away their sexuality, saying they are “fighting the good fight to become more like Jesus”.
The pastoral statement continues: “We know that, according to some careful research, an individual’s attractions may move over time along a spectrum from same-sex attraction to other-sex attraction, or vice versa, in a minority of cases.
“Therefore, a common cultural perception that some types of sexual attractions are always innate and permanent can, we believe, lead to unnecessary confusion and pain for some, especially children and teenagers.”
The bishops did not explain what careful research they refer to in their pastoral statement. In reality, research has predominantly shown that conversion therapy – the attempt to change a person’s sexual or gender identity – does not work, and often leads to suicidal ideation and profound mental health challenges.
Christian bishops portray homosexuality as a problem to be overcome.
Throughout their statement, the bishops refer to religious gay and lesbian people as “Christians with same-sex attraction”.
They also quote Becket Cook, a man who formerly identified as gay before embracing religion and renouncing his sexuality, to lament the fact that homosexuality “has become an identity, not just a sin”.
The bishops write: “We cannot guarantee to Christians who are same-sex attracted, or to anyone, that their own desired future will occur if they follow Christ.”
They continue: “As the people of God, we commit to praying for those who experience same-sex attraction, knowing that some will experience a change in their feelings, while others may experience a change in their will, and still others may face an ongoing struggle but with a change in their hope – that hope of the resurrection which empowers us now and promises a life eternal where our suffering will be ended.”
The pastoral statement instructs church leaders to “teach the word of God regarding matters of human sexuality”, saying they want young queer people to be “gently and clearly discipled in God’s word”.
“We strongly encourage robust catechesis on same-sex attraction, Christian marriage, and Christian celibacy,” the statement says.
Elsewhere in the lengthy statement, the group of bishops urge church-members to avoid using the word “gay” and to instead use “Christians who experience same-sex attraction”.
“No doubt the issue of the use of language to describe our identity in Jesus is urgently pressing in the current culture milieu,” they write.
“Identity has become a kind of idolatry wherein one is taught to choose, nurture, and proclaim a certain type of personhood. This then becomes a sacred position that cannot be questioned.”
The bishops close out their statement by calling for “empathy” in the discussion surrounding “same-sex attraction”, before immediately asking the Holy Spirit to “reorder all of our disordered affections”.
The pastoral statement will come as a disappointment to many LGBT+ Christians.
The Anglican Church of North America counts more than 120,000 members across the United States, Canada and Mexico, according to the most recent count in 2017.
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