The Controversy over Conversion Therapy

A wave of “conversion therapy bans” is sweeping across Canada’s municipal, provincial, and federal governments. Indeed, the federal government had made this a priority issue, urging the Minister of Justice “to amend the Criminal Code to ban the practice of conversion therapy and take other steps required with the provinces and territories to end conversion therapy in Canada.”[1]

Given how seriously the government is taking this issue, we, too, ought to be concerned.

Traditionally, “conversion therapy” (sometimes known as “aversion therapy”) referred to various psychological or medical practices which are now widely denounced. These treatments, which included medication, electric shock, and even lobotomies, were intended to change a person’s sexual orientation, sometimes against his or her will. Many of these efforts were unsuccessful and instead brought physical and emotional pain.

It is not surprising, then, that conversion therapy has come under increasing criticism. It is appropriate to condemn coercive practices that involved such extreme or bizarre methods, since they violated basic human dignity.

Today, however, the label of conversion therapy has significantly broadened. It is now being misapplied to individuals who voluntarily seek counselling, particularly in a biblical context. Therapy for young people with gender dysphoria is also being condemned as “conversion therapy” if youth are counselled to affirm their bodies rather than “transitioning” from one gender to another.

As a result of this expansive meaning (and a lack of appropriate clarification or exemptions), the legislative bans on conversion therapy which are being drafted across the country may have troubling implications for churches and religious charities.  

Going forward, there are many questions that remain open, which the government will have to address. They include the following:

  • Will religious communities be criminalized for responding to LGBTQ people of faith who ask for help in reconciling their faith with their sexual attractions, expression, and identity? Exactly where is the line between acceptable and unacceptable speech that allows religious communities and individuals to speak without fear of reprisal?
  • Will LGBTQ individuals be criminalized for sharing their faith-based experiences in ways that influence others? What about those who create organizations that provide services or religious practices to help others live according to their faith – will they be criminalized and have their organizations forcibly shut down?
  • What about individuals over the age of 18 who desire to have body-affirming or biblically-based counselling – will that be criminalized, or will there be any exemptions?
  • What is the role of parental authority and supervision of their children? Will parents who have their child’s best interests at heart be granted the latitude to ensure their child suffering from gender dysphoria is given the proper treatment based on sound therapeutic practice?

Indeed, Canadian society appears to be at a pivotal moment. Soon, Canada may decide whether or not it remains acceptable for religious communities to advocate a biblical understanding of sexuality that honours either celibacy or marriage between one man and one woman for life. We may well see prayer, Bible studies, or sermons labelled as “conversion therapy,” depending upon the wording of the legislation, and how the courts deal with claims of religious freedom under the Canadian Charter.

Facing such intense scrutiny – with the possibility of legal challenges, loss of charitable status, or even criminal charges – will require a humble forbearance. Compassionate appreciation for the suffering of others will enable us to empathize with the current outrage – but it does not remove from us our obligations to the Christian faith. We are to continue sharing our message of love even when we are hated for doing so. Society sees our preaching on gender and sexuality as “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:18), but we persevere (1 Peter 1:6–7) knowing that even in the midst of trial, God’s ultimate purposes are revealed for His benefit.

What, then, can Christian churches and charities do? I suggest the following:

  • Ensure that all teachings on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are anchored in Scripture and framed in positive language that is affirming of the God-given dignity inherent in all individuals.
  • Establish a communication policy that prepares your organization to address media calls with confidence and a Christlike attitude of grace.
  • Ensure you know the difference between harmful conversion therapy techniques of the past and the biblical counselling of Christian ministries today.
  • Maintain contact with other Christian groups who hold the same beliefs and practices as you do: be united in obedience to 1 Corinthians 1:10.
  • Be prepared to support organizations like CCCC with financial aid to ensure we are resourced to maintain effective representation at the courts, legislatures, and with the various public policymakers on this issue.

Finally, whatever lies ahead, we do not lose hope, knowing we can trust in the Lord’s sovereignty and faithfulness (Romans 8:28).


[1] Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Mandate Letter from PMO to Mr. Lametti (13 December 2019), online: pm.gc.ca/en/mandate-letters/minister-justice-and-attorney-general-canada-mandate-letter.

Thoughts on The Controversy over Conversion Therapy

  1. Bilberry Creek Baptist Church

    Your one point near the end seems to be missing the additional information to look up.

    -Ensure you know the difference between harmful conversion therapy techniques of the past and the biblical counselling of Christian ministries today. For more information, consult………………….

    Reply
  2. Floyd Brobbel

    Thank you for this report. I do have a question however. You mentioned the following: Ensure you know the difference between harmful conversion therapy techniques of the past and the biblical counselling of Christian ministries today. For more information, consult (nothing is added here)
    Is this incomplete? Who or what can I consult to know more about harmful vs. positive techniques?
    Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Andre Delage

    What does it mean to be a light on the lampstand? Does it mean that the Churches should concentrate to shine their light in the society by conducting good social work? Guess what, so does the humanism. They to do all things for the good of the society but without Jesus in the picture. The humanism expects you to be as good Samaritan as they are but with a condition that you keep Jesus to yourself. They will accuse you of intolerance if you express your biblical world views.

    We Christians dropped our guard and allow the Canadian federal and provincial leaders to dictate what we are to accept culturally. Both levels of government became autocratic to the core, under the umbrella of political correctness accusing Christian of intolerance begot and racist when Christian voice their concerns.
    The churches wrote a pact with Satan. The churches agreed in exchange for Tax exemption to waive their right to take part in any partisan political activity which involves direct or indirect support of or opposition to, any political party or candidate for public office? Under the devil pact, a church denomination can not single out the voting pattern on an issue of anyone elected representative or political? What does Jesus have to say about this pact?

    “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon,” Luke 16:13

    “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” Matt 22:21

    Aren’t our children worth much more than Tax Exempt? Is it not time to get out of this curse that is destroying our Judeo-Christians culture in this once great nation? The churches have lost their salt flavours (purpose) and the light on the lampstand has diminished. It’s time we get involved, don’t you think?

    What are we to do?

    As Christians who are now caught in the snare of deception? This is what we are to do:

    Pray for righteous leaders for all level of government
    Pray for righteous leaders within the Church.
    Pray for more pastors who are anchored in the inerrancy of God’s word and have the courage to teach it.
    Get out of the snare of the Tax exemption. Rent a hall, create a home base assembly.
    Christians support financially your pastor according to your ability to do so without expecting Tax-exempt receipt
    Pastors pay your taxes as any self entrepreneur would do.
    Christians create a small group to discuss politics from a biblical perspective and its influence among the church and especially our children.
    Yes, expect Our Lord Jesus to return at any moment but until then please get involved.

    Ask for the gift of discernment

    Reply
    1. Barry W. BusseyBarry W. Bussey Post author

      Andre – this is certainly a view that many Christians have had over the years and I respect it. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *