Church leaders join to oppose trans conversion therapy in a beautifully written letter

The letter below was sent by a number of prominent Church leaders to the Prime Minister.

It may not be immediately obvious to all readers that the signatories represent a wide range of viewpoints and theology with the broader Christian church, but they have united around this one theme.

Whether you have a faith or not, I think we must all agree that the letter is beautifully written, and expressed with great humanity.

To be trans is to enter a sacred journey of becoming whole: precious, honoured and loved, by yourself, by others and by God.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Brad Barrows 6th Apr '22 - 10:14am

    Some impressive names though the only one I have heard speak at an event was Steve Chalke around 20+ years ago – he made a very strong impression arguing that Christians should be involved in political action to make society better. In the years since then he caused controversy in evangelical ranks by arguing against the fundamental Christian belief that Christ’s death on the cross was for the salvation of believers and then caused further controversy when he argued against orthodox teaching around marriage, but he is still an important and influential figure within some evangelical circles. Whether the letter will make any difference is hard to judge – I suspect Boris will be more influenced by political expediency than any principled approach to this matter.

  • To me this letter seems to be rather anodyne, avoiding any awkward. inconvenient or debatable questions. For example, what is conversion therapy?.

    I was hoping for better.

  • Matt Wardman 6th Apr '22 - 1:35pm


    AIUI Steve Chalke’s main role these days is as Chair of Oasis, where he oversees schools educating 30k young people.

  • Matt W asks a good question. In the trans case, I think it’s usually accepted that ‘conversion therapy’ means counselling someone not to proceed with conversion of their body to match their experience of their gender, whereas conversion therapy for gays is an attempt to train them to be straight. There are some cases where a transition to a different sex would be a mistake, and it is wrong to conflate those, including many mental health professionals, who believe that, with the quacks who think they can “cure” homosexuality.

  • The sentiments behind the letter are lovely, but beautifully written? What is this supposed to mean ?

    “To allow those discerning this journey to be subject to coercive or undermining practices is to make prayer a means of one person manipulating another” ?

    Is ‘discerning’ a misspelling of ’embarking on’ or is there a deeper meaning? And how do the alleged ‘undermining practices’ convert prayer into manipulation? The practices it appears the authors are probably referring to have nothing to do with prayer.
    I’m not picking holes for the sake of it. This legislation and the Liberal Democrat response to it actually do matter, and will affect real people’s lives. Letters that make no sense don’t move us forward with this complex and important subject.

  • Matt Wardman 7th Apr '22 - 6:00am


    Interesting comments. I think I can help on the language.

    “Discernment” in church language aiui relates to reflecting on a path for the future.

    An example would be a process to decide whether someone has a ‘call’ to the ordained ministry, when the answer might be ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘not yet’ or ‘no, but perhaps an alternative’, for both the individual and the institution.

    So the process is by definition an open one.

    “Affirm” is a bit of a chameleon word, in that it carries overtones of ‘if you don’t agree with this, you are backward’, as well as ‘support’.

    Chalke and Williams make me want to know in more depth what they say and reflect on the questions, as individuals I know and respect, whilst the overall group is activist on the ‘more inclusive’ side, and is a part-representation of the churches’ views. A mistake is to pretend that this is an overall consensus view.

  • Nigel Jones 7th Apr '22 - 8:28am

    @Andy Daer: You are right to say legislating against conversion therapy is complex but the Church leaders letter is also right to point out that it should not allow people to use what they call prayer as a means to manipulate others. My wife has been involved in the Lib-Dem Christian Forum’s response to the government consultation and it was a real struggle to tackle the subtle but vital difference between someone assisting a person troubled by their gender or sexual orientation and trying to make them conform to traditional norms. However, I am so pleased that these church leaders have written a simple letter telling Boris he is wrong to give up on tackling the issue around trans people as part of the ban on conversion therapy.

  • Brad Barrows 7th Apr '22 - 9:00am

    @Nigel Jones
    You use an important phrase in your comment, “…the subtle but vital difference between someone assisting a person troubled by their gender or sexual orientation and trying to make them conform to traditional norms.”
    So, in a situation where someone approaches a church leader stating that they are troubled and confused around their gender identity or sexual orientation and requests help, support and prayer to help them live according to ‘traditional norms…should the church leader be viewed as guilty of engaging in ‘conversion therapy’ if he or she agrees to help the person as requested?

  • We should remember this topic is about a government U-turn on a U-turn, about an exclusion of something from a list of things being excluded. The number of multiplying negatives is likely to confuse.
    I can’t be the only one grateful to Matt Wardman for decoding the word ‘discerning’, but it remains puzzling that a word only the cognoscenti would understand was used in letter intended for publication.
    It’s good to hear from Nigel Jones that the Church is indeed aware of the conflicting priorities when dealing with children troubled about their sexual identity, but that wasn’t evident in the letter. As has already been pointed out by Matt W, it was anodyne, and it was probably trying too hard not to offend anyone. Unfortunately, this subject can understandably engender high emotions, and sometimes things have to be said which people might find hurtful.

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