Sunday, 8 May 2011

Times: MGRM dismayed by efforts to 'mischaracterise homosexuality'

Saturday, May 7, 2011, 11:40

The Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) has expressed concern at the emergence of ongoing efforts by Gordon-John Manche, pastor of an evangelical church in Malta to 'mischaracterise homosexuality' and the possible resurgence of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE).

"SOCE has been controversial due to tensions between the values held by some faith-based organizations, on the one hand, and those held by lesbian, gay and bisexual rights organizations and professional and scientific organizations, on the other," the movement said.

"This approach to sexual orientation is often based on the belief that being gay or lesbian is a mental illness, developmental disorder or spiritual or moral defect."
It quoted studies by the American Psychological Association (2009) which stated that: "Contrary to claims of sexual orientation change advocates and practitioners, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation. Scientifically rigorous older studies in this area found that sexual orientation was unlikely to change due to efforts designed for this purpose. Contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates, recent research studies do not provide evidence of sexual orientation change as the research methods are inadequate to determine the effectiveness of these interventions. At most, certain studies suggested that some individuals learned how to ignore or not act on their same-sex attractions. Yet, these studies did not indicate for whom this was possible, how long it lasted or its long-term mental health effects. Also, this result was much less likely to be true for people who started out only attracted to people of the same sex."

The MGRM said that while some LGBT individuals may seek to change their sexual orientation because of a conflict between their sexual orientation and religious beliefs, it strongly recommended that LGBT individuals as well as their parents and friends should seek licensed mental health care providers who adopt a gay affirmative approach, treating such clients by helping them explore possible life paths that address the reality of their sexual orientation, reduce the stigma associated with being gay, respect the client's religious beliefs, and consider possibilities for a religiously and spiritually meaningful and rewarding life that does not involve a denial or suppression of their sexual orientation. Yesterday, an evangelical church meeting planned for today led to an outcry on Facebook when the event promised to present personal testimonies of homosexuals who have converted "to a life of freedom from that lifestyle".

The Facebook page quickly went viral and a counter-protest was planned outside River of Love, where the Evangelical Christian community meeting takes place, to stand up against the claim that homosexuality was a "sin" "that could be changed."

The Christian community event was taken offline a few hours later because the pastor claimed it "got out of hand" by a number of angry commentators.

Today's meeting promised to present three people giving their personal testimony, "of how their lives have been turned around by the love and power of Jesus Christ, from a life of homosexuality to a life of freedom from that lifestyle".

However, as the day evolved, it remained uncertain whether these three people would still be giving their testimonies today as they were scared after yesterday's online reaction, pastor Gordon-John Manché said when contacted yesterday.

"Many who practise alternative lifestyles, who want to be tolerated by everyone, are possibly the most intolerant people in the world," the pastor, who is also a ballet dancer, accused the protestors.

"In the new testament the bible makes it very clear that adultery, lying, gossip, stealing, cheating and philandering are a sin," he said, placing homosexuality in the same category.

All those who believe the bible, he said, should believe this too.

"If I say to you I am a liar by nature, I cannot change, you would laugh at me right?"

Some people have magnified sexuality and taken it out of context, saying this was a feeling and a lifestyle and God made people this way, he said.

"But the God of the bible does not make anyone like that," he exclaimed.
He denied, however, ever "curing" homosexuality, as some were claiming, saying simply, that five people who joined the Christian group had converted after "realising the love of God".

"I am a pastor. I am a man of god. I help liars stop lying. I help adulterers stop committing adultery. Not by my power but by Christ's power," Mr Manché said.
The man, who also broadcasts programmes on Smash TV, said he does not hate anyone, including gays, because hate was a sin.

The interpretation of his feelings were divergently opposite to those sensed by the gay community and many straight people online who claimed Mr Manché was inciting homophobia by telling people they could change their ways and being homosexual was a sin.

In a statement yesterday, the National Youth Council (KNŻ) condemned the event "that sought to indicate that members of the homosexual community can somehow be 'healed' from their sexual orientation."

It recognised the challenges members of this community faced on a daily basis, and believed that implying that they can or should change their sexual orientation to lead a moral life contributes to the spread of homophobia and an 'us and them' mentality.

As things progressed during the day, however, the protest against the meeting had to be cancelled as permits were not granted for people to gather outside River of Love.
The organisers claimed they were told by the police that if anyone showed up, they would be arrested.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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