Anglican group hosts reparative therapy conference in London

Beginning today, the Anglican Mainstream is hosting a conference called Sex in the City in London. The speakers are Joseph Nicolosi, Jeff Satinover and Arthur Goldberg. A Christian Today article provides a description of the speakers about the content.

The Sex and the City Conference, hosted by Care and Anglican Mainstream, aims to help clergy, rabbis and psychologists among others to address issues like therapeutic approaches to same-sex attractions, mentoring the sexually broken, the sexualisation of culture, and sex and the Bible.
“We want to convey the message that change is possible,” said Joseph Nicolosi, founder of the US-based therapeutic organisation NARTH, ahead of the conference.
“Many people who have same-sex attractions are told you can’t change, it’s biologically predetermined, it’s genetically based, and that’s not true.
“After 30 or 40 years of trying to find the gay gene it has not been discovered and many people, especially young people, are being told that they don’t have a choice and that’s really tragic.
“Basically they are resigning themselves to a gay lifestyle not knowing that there are options for them.”
Nicolosi said young people were at risk of developing “self-defeating, self-destructive, maladaptive behaviours” because they were not being told of the emotional dangers of entering into homosexual relationships. He said research, including studies from within the gay community, had found that people in homosexual relationships suffer more from depression, anxiety and failed relationships than people in heterosexual relationships.

While virtually all others who write and work in the field of sexual orientation recognize that sexual orientation involves a variable mix of biological, contextual, cultural, and psychological factors, Dr. Nicolosi, Satinover and Goldberg want the world to know that there is no gay gene. Later this year, we will get more specifics about the genetics when Alan Sanders reports on his work. However, the best twin studies we have indicate around 35% heritability. Much is related to individual differences beginning in the womb. The research we have does not support the developmental scheme offered by the reparative therapists as being generally true or most or all gays. See the Reparative Therapy Information Page for more on this point.
Once formed, sexual attractions appear to be quite durable for most people. Recent research has found that brain differences between gays and straights associate with reported sexual orientation. These differences are quite large and make it clear that once formed, sexual attractions become automated. Some people spontaneously change and some seem to alter sexual responses with effort, although there is no reliable evidence that identifies the potent factors even for those changers. In any case, even if we knew the causes, we do not know that such knowledge could lead to consistent change.
Given that this conference is being sponsored by a Christian group, a related question I have is: Why is the basic message ‘change is possible?’ It seems to me that the basic message for a non-affirming group should be ‘a faithful Christian life is possible.’ Later, in the Christian Today article, Nicolosi says,

“The Christian view is to overcome your sin and if a believer believes that his homosexuality is a sin to overcome we are providing the ways with which he can overcome it.”

Surely he means behavior choice and not internal desire. Even Nicolosi acknowledges that most of his successful clients are still same-sex attracted. However, many people will read these promises and think they will hear about a way that the same-sex desires will be eliminated (overcome). This kind of confused presentation is what is so potentially damaging about these conferences and the ‘change is possible’ mantra. Many same-sex attracted people keep looking for the magic path to freedom from their desires. They drop lots of cash and time and untold emotional resources into approaches which may or may not have other benefits but which do not lead to elimination of their same-sex attractions. Many in frustration decide their religious tradition was wrong all along and leave the faith – any faith. Others keep searching and think they need to get “healed” before they can really enter life and pursue their life’s goals. In fact, what is possible is a recognition of what can and can’t be changed (or at least what is or is not within my power to change) and then pursuing a life that is congruent with one’s beliefs and values, bumps and all.