The Rt Revd Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, is no stranger to controversy. As thousands of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people were celebrating Pride celebrations in London, the bishop, in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph on 5 July said “We welcome homosexuals, we don’t want to exclude people, but we want them to repent and be changed“.
Now repentance and change are fine concepts at the heart of the gospel. In response to understanding themselves loved by God, many millions of people down the centuries have been enabled to turn their back on a self seeking way of life, reject sin and to turn to Christ, to love God and neighbour and discover a right love of self. The Holy Spirit continues to effect change in people’s lives – this is the good news of God’s love that we are compelled to declare in our words and in our lives.
The kind of change that Bishop Michael wants is of an altogether different quality; it is not change from self centredness to self giving, but change from homosexual to heterosexual. Now I don’t know where Bishop Michael has been these last few years, but the evidence of permanent effective change from lesbian or gay to heterosexual is pretty thin on the ground.
Some years ago EF contributed towards the publication of Not For Turning, the Report of four years research into the so called ‘ex-gay’ movement. We did not find evidence of permanent change; no-one who claimed to have changed was willing to be interviewed about the nature of the change.
Jeremy Marks, founder of Courage found after twelve years of ministry to reorientate gay men that he was doing more harm than good. He now runs a gay affirmative ministry. The good bishop should be listening to people like Jeremy, coming from a conservative evangelical position and finding it wanting.
Bishop Michael went so far as to suggest that there are two kinds of Christianity in the Church of England – the ‘true’ one (his version), and a false one.