Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Report to the Church From the Royal College of Psychiatrists

From Church Times:

THE Royal College of Psychiatrists has challenged Anglican bishops to support gay clergy and laity as an example to parents struggling to come to terms with having gay or lesbian children.

“The Church has a wonderful opportunity to lead rather than to be dragged along kicking and screaming. Christianity is such an inclusive religion,” said Professor Michael King, an executive committee member of the College’s special-interest group of 200 to 300 psychiatrists who work with lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transsexual people.

His committee has submitted a report to the Church’s Listening Exercise on Human Sexuality, to inform a study guide for next year’s Lambeth Conference.

The report, endorsed by the full College “from the President down”, said that there were no scientific or rational grounds for treating lesbian, gay, and bisexual people differently, Professor King said on Monday.

If there were theological reasons for treating lesbian, gay, or bisexual people differently, that was for the Church to decide; but the Church had already changed its mind over slavery and the position of women in society. “It is odd to see why this should be a sticking point.”

Professor King said that he no longer attended church because of its “disappointing attitude” to this issue (and to that of women bishops), which had contributed to social exclusion...
From the Report:

...There is now a large body of research evidence that indicates that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is compatible with normal mental health and social adjustment. However, the experiences of discrimination in society and possible rejection by friends, families and others, such as employers, means that some LGB people experience a greater than expected prevalence of mental health and substance misuse problems. Although there have been claims by conservative political groups in the USA that this higher prevalence of mental health difficulties is confirmation that homosexuality is itself a mental disorder, there is no evidence whatever to substantiate such a claim...

...A large part of the instability in gay and lesbian partnerships arises from lack of support within society, the church or the family for such relationships. Since the introduction of the first civil partnership law in 1989 in Denmark, legal recognition of same-sex relationships has been debated around the world. Civil partnership agreements were conceived out of a concern that same-sex couples have no protection in law in circumstances of death or break-up of the relationship. There is already good evidence that marriage confers health benefits on heterosexual men and women and similar benefits could accrue from same-sex civil unions. Legal and social recognition of same-sex relationships is likely to reduce discrimination, increase the stability of same sex relationships and lead to better physical and mental health for gay and lesbian people. It is difficult to understand opposition to civil partnerships for a group of socially marginalised people who cannot marry and who as a consequence may experience more unstable partnerships. It cannot offer a threat to the stability of heterosexual marriage...

...Although there is now a number of therapists and organisation in the USA and in the UK that claim that therapy can help homosexuals to become heterosexual, there is no evidence that such change is possible. The best evidence for efficacy of any
treatment comes from randomised clinical trials and no such trial has been carried out in this field. There are however at least two studies that have followed up LGB people who have undergone therapy with the aim of becoming heterosexual. Neither attempted to assess the patients before receiving therapy and both relied on the subjective accounts of people, who were asked to volunteer by the therapy organisations themselves or who were recruited via the Internet. The first study claimed that change was possible for a small minority (13%) of LGB people, most of whom could be regarded as bisexual at the outset of therapy. The second showed little effect as well as considerable harm. Meanwhile, we know from historical evidence that treatments to change sexual orientation that were common in the 1960s and 1970s were very damaging to those patients who underwent them and affected no change in their sexual orientation.

In conclusion the evidence would suggest that there is no scientific or rational reason for treating LGB people any differently to their heterosexual counterparts. People are happiest and are likely to reach their potential when they are able to integrate the various aspects of the self as fully as possible. Socially inclusive, nonjudgemental attitudes to LGB people who attend places of worship or who are religious leaders themselves will have positive consequences for LGB people as well as for the wider society in which they live.
Now the question is; will the Church listen?


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