Update January 2023
✠Jerome welcomes and regards with interest the latest statement in Parliament made by the Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, of the UK Government’s intention to once more attempt to introduce legislation to ban “conversion therapy”. He particularly appreciates the concluding paragraph of the statement; “The legislation must not, through a lack of clarity, harm the growing number of children and young adults experiencing gender related distress, through inadvertently criminalising or chilling legitimate conversations parents or clinicians may have with their children.” He sincerely hopes that unlike last time, the new legislation will be clearer in language and terminology concerning the need to protect victims, prevent abuse and yet permit the normal course of authentic (i.e. harmless) religious praxis.
At the end of 2021, ✠Jerome together with ‘Over 2500 Christian Ministers and Pastoral Workers’ signed a public response to the UK Government’s consultation on the then proposed ban of Conversion Therapies.
The “Ministers’ Consultation Response” (MRC) took the form of a letter with an accompanying ‘background and analysis’ report. The letter expressed a concern that the then proposed Conversion Therapy Ban would (perhaps inadvertently) have the effect of criminalising some ‘normal practices of religion’ which many Christians follow regarding Biblical moral teachings.
At the conclusion of the consultation process in February 2022 and delivery of the MRC letter to Government offices, over 5000 signatories representing a wide spectrum of Christian denominations and ministries had signed it.
After the MRC letter was made public, several censorious comments regarding its content and notions were voiced, which led to the slanderous vilification of its authors as well as many of the Christian pastors and supporters who had signed it. Unfortunately, this has involved incorrect information about the objectives and motives of the signatories.
To counter misinformation, ✠Jerome would like to make the following points clear:
- He wholeheartedly supports a ban of “conversion therapy”.
- He signed the MRC letter because it represented a broadly traditional Christian perspective.
- It was his considered opinion that the proposed draft legislation was “not fit for purpose”.
- He did not sign the letter as Chair of Brighton & Hove Faith in Action.
Ref Conversion Therapy
✠Jerome is a firm believer in one of the core values of Christianity, which is the capability of individuals to voluntarily embrace the religion, its teachings, and practices. He strongly believes in the concept of “the primacy of conscience”, which is the principle that an individual should act in accordance with their own conscience. To sum up, ✠Jerome does not approve of “conversion therapy” because it would be in conflict with his conscience and his faith, and he advocates for the banning of it.
Ref traditional Christian teaching
✠Jerome, as an orthodox Catholic bishop, holds to the traditional Catholic belief that the Sacrament of Marriage can only be shared between a male and female and that sexual activity is meant only for those who are married and for the purpose of having children. He does not pass judgement on those who have a different opinion or live a lifestyle that is not in line with traditional Christianity, or on other lawful types of partnerships. The Equalities Act 2010 gives ✠Jerome the right to uphold his beliefs and express them in public.
Not fit for purpose
When discussing the banning of “conversion therapy”, ✠Jerome expressed genuine apprehension about the draft legislation. The legislation could be interpreted in an imprecise manner and could be used to prosecute those educating Sunday School, Madrasa or Chinuch kids, hosting homegroups or Bible Studies; providing pastoral support, relationships and marriage counselling; and providing confessional advice or conversion to Christianity or any other religion. ✠Jerome felt these concerns were addressed by the MRC letter while still condemning “conversion therapy”.
Other voices were also critical of the proposed legislation, among them LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, it stated “A ban on conversion practices that doesn’t cover both sexual orientation and gender identity protects nobody.” A concern echoed by Jayne Ozanne, a former Government adviser on LGBTQ+ issues who stated the Bill would create a “loophole of consent” which will continue to put “many lives” at risk. ✠Jerome was concerned that any new legislation should be properly and comprehensively devised. Weighing up the criticism from all ‘sides’ of the debate and considering the feasibility of the draft legislation, particularly with regard to implementation, he concluded that in his opinion it was “not fit for purpose”.
Ref Brighton & Hove Faith in Action
✠Jerome put his name to the letter in his capacity as a Christian pastor, it had nothing to do with his position with BHFA. His action did not breach the organization’s Equality & Diversity Policy nor any existing laws on equality and diversity, such as the Equalities Act 2010. BHFA is a multi-faith organization and does not represent the opinion of any one faith or all faiths. Its primary purpose is to promote good relations between faith groups and statutory agencies in the delivery of social action and community initiatives. ✠Jerome’s actions as a Christian pastor are independent from and should not be conflated with BHFA on any matter.
✠Jerome would highlight the emphasis in the second paragraph of the letter which stated and reflects his own attitude, approach and praxis pastorally;
“In our churches we welcome and show love to many people who have different experience and views, including same-sex attraction and forms of gender transition. We always seek to act in love, with gentleness and respect, for the good of all, and never with any form of coercion or control.”The Ministers’ Consultation Response 2022
✠Jerome has a personal understanding of the kind of coercive control that is known as “conversion therapy” since he has experienced it himself. He shows true empathy and compassion for others who have been subjected to this kind of manipulation and cruelty, and would never support such practices or allow them to be done to anyone else. He knows that there have been, and still are, a number of destructive and harmful approaches that are considered to be “Christian ministry” and that are rightly considered to be “conversion therapy”. He recognizes the damage that these approaches can cause, and he is firmly against them continuing.
✠Jerome is adamant that people who have undergone “conversion therapy” should be given the opportunity to speak out about any emotional or mental abuse they may have experienced. He also implores other Christian leaders to give due attention to these stories and not fault the victims for the psychological pain they have endured. Additionally, he is of the strong opinion that any “Christian ministries” that attempt to disguise their damaging practices with euphemisms should be exposed and reprimanded.
All his life, ✠Jerome has been a passionate advocate of civil rights and freedoms. As a former student activist and trade unionist, he has been engaged in struggles for equality and diversity for over three decades. In his ministry, ✠Jerome has been particularly conscientious about applying these principles. In 2009, he walked an 80ft tightrope above the Zippos Circus Big Top to draw attention to The Sussex Beacon, a local HIV/AIDS hospice. Over the years, he has raised money for a variety of charities that attempt to reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and other challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, such as mental health and sexual wellbeing.
Previously holding the position of Chair of Churches Together in Central Brighton and presently acting as Chair of Brighton & Hove Faith in Action, ✠Jerome has been striving to bring together people from different religious affiliations and denominations, particularly to work together to tackle social issues. He was an original founder of the Upstanders Network formed to enable people to detect and handle circumstances of prejudice and intimidation in public spaces. Additionally, he is a trustee of the Brighton & Hove Racial Harassment Forum, contributing significantly to creating solutions to assist victims of hate crimes based on faith or ethnicity.
✠Jerome has devoted his life to uniting various kinds of people to further the progress of society. He understands that differing backgrounds and outlooks are to be respected, not relativised. His long-standing commitment to inclusion, and to producing holistic answers to societal issues, is evident to those who have seen him in action. He is demonstrative of the fact that it is possible to hold traditional Christian values and still accept aspects of today’s world without being judgmental and bigoted.
✠Jerome hopes that this explanation would aid those who may have misinterpreted or mistakenly misjudged his purpose for signing the Ministers’ Consultation Response, to understand his stance on the issues and his repeated desire to see a clear and comprehensive legislative ban of “conversion therapy”.