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Statement on conversion therapy

Introduction

Free in Christ Ministries is not a conversion ministry. We do not seek to counsel LGB+ people into becoming heterosexual people. Rather, we promote sexual purity through Biblical ethics like chastity and discipleship. We define sexual purity as either 1) faithfulness in the marriage of one man and one woman; or 2) chastity in singleness. Our goal is to help same-sex-attracted Christians become so deeply rooted in Christ that He becomes the focus of their lives, because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). The endpoint of our ministry is not heterosexuality. We acknowledge that while some Christians may experience dramatic changes in sexual orientation during their lives, these changes are the exception rather than the norm, and can't be used as a rigid benchmark for sexual purity.

We feel this statement is important because in recent years, there has been a groundswell of conversion ministries, usually under other descriptive names, such as "transformation ministry" and even "sanctification ministry." The use of these terms to describe what is admittedly a potentially harmful ministerial approach is unfortunate, since these are biblical terms and, as such, they give the impression that conversion therapy is somehow grounded in scripture.

Why is conversion therapy potentially harmful?

Conversion therapy is potentially harmful for the same reason as any service that promises an outcome knowing that the outcome is actually atypical. Take just about any consumer protection case for example: a business wants to sell an outcome (such as wealth) and offers a "program" or "training" to help clients achieve this outcome. To do so, it understates the investment on the part of the client and overstates the "typicality" of the outcome. As a result, clients dedicate time and money to "training" so that they can achieve this outcome. Failure to achieve the outcome is typically attributed to inadequate discipline, thereby compelling the "trainee," who has by now invested considerable time and money, to invest even more time and money. And so it goes on. Numerous examples of cases of this type can be reviewed at the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) website.

 

Not surprisingly, several ministries that hold up heterosexuality as a goal or outcome have been targeted for engaging in false advertising. One of the most high-profile cases was brought against the conversion ministry JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality) in 2015. In that case, a New Jersey judge ruled that the organization's promised outcome—heterosexuality—had violated the state's Consumer Fraud Act. Of particular interest was JONAH's overstatement of the success rate of its therapy with statements like "In most instances, people who [undergo therapy] feel the force of same-sex attractions diminish, and feel heterosexual attractions grow."(1)

A second way conversion therapy is potentially harmful is its approach to sin and grace. While conversion therapists hold out heterosexuality as an attainable outcome, failure to reach that outcome is typically attributed to lack of persistence or even lack of faith on the part of the person seeking conversion. In other words, success is based entirely on change of orientation, and this can only be achieved with the seeker's full cooperation. Rosaria Butterfield has suggested(2) that this approach is a kind of prosperity gospel in that it equates positive outcomes to strong faith and negative outcomes to weak faith. Let's explore this. Prosperity theologies generally proclaim that people are entitled to things like health and wealth. To gain these things, a person need only pray whole-heartedly and have sufficient faith in God's goodness. If a person does not achieve good health or good wealth, it is because of a spiritual failing on their part. In the same way, conversion therapy holds up heterosexuality as something that all people are entitled to. When an LGB+ person fails to experience a transition to heterosexuality, it is their own failing, not the fault of the therapy. This theology advances a dysfunctional view of faith as a power that manipulates the spiritual world so that it functions the way we want it to. In a 2015 Gospel Coalition article, David W. Jones warns against this view:

Prayers for personal blessing aren’t inherently wrong, of course, but the prosperity gospel’s overemphasis on man turns prayer into a tool believers can use to force God to grant their desires. Within prosperity theology, man—not God—becomes the focal point of prayer.(3)

Conversion therapy potentially harms faith in the same way, since it unplugs individuals from the grace of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ and refocuses their spiritual reliance on the efficacy of prayer and therapy, essentially denying the sovereign grace of God in the nurturing of sexual purity over the long term.

Conclusion

Free in Christ Ministries rejects conversion therapy and all its associated identifications, such as reorientation therapy, reparative therapy, and SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts). These therapies are explananda (things still awaiting corroboration), not explanantia (things that have been adequately explained and can be used safely to explain other things). While we believe in lifelong transformation as sanctification in the heart, soul, and mind of the believer, we deny that believers are promised or even entitled to a change in sexual attraction. The only outcome we press for is the one pointed to repeatedly in scripture: sexual purity (1 Corinthians 6: 13, 18; Colossians 3: 5; Hebrews 13: 4), which is either 1) faithfulness in the marriage of one man and woman; or 2) chastity in singleness. Sexual purity transcends all forms of sexual attraction, including attraction to the same sex.

References

(1) Ferguson v. JONAH, 11/27/12, p. 12.

(2) Butterfield, Rosaria. 2014. You are what—and how—you read. Gospel Coalition article. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/you-are-whatand-howyou-read.

(2) Jones, David W. 2015. Five errors of the prosperity gospel. Gospel Coalition article. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/5-errors-of-the-prosperity-gospel.

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