UK

Reverend Steven Hanna Condemned For 'Gay People Can Be Cured' Comments

08/03/2013 16:07 GMT | Updated 08/03/2013 16:16 GMT

A London vicar has been condemned for causing "harm and distress" after saying gay people can be "cured" and same-sex marriage is a sin.

Rev Steven Hanna, who leads congregations at St Elizabeth's in Dagenham, spoke out to defend a letter signed by 21 church leaders telling the Barking and Dagenham Post it was "not against the gays."

He added: “There is a difference between having gay thoughts and performing gay practice. I can have adulterous thoughts and yet not commit adultery. People can be cured from being gay. Not everyone is but everyone can be.”

He was keen to stress that being gay in itself was not a sin, but instead iterated: "I am saying gay practice is a sin and gay marriage is a sin."

"God loves the sinner but hates the sin. It is like me saying murder is a sin, but the murderer can be helped. With God you don’t have to live like that. Jesus is the friend of sinners because he wants to help us not sin.”

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Campaigners say that 'gay cure therapies' are hugely damaging to vulnerable people

Hanna was responding to a letter signed by leaders that urged parishioners to "forgive" gay people but saying that God's judgement would reign down upon the "church leaders, politicians and government" who promoted gay marriage. The historic vote allowing same-sex marriage was passed in the Commons last month.

A vicar tweeted to say he was in opposition to Rev Hanna

Andy Wasley from gay rights charity Stonewall told the Huffington Post UK: "In the run-up to Christianity’s most important festival it seems odd that Rev Hanna is discussing his parishoners’ sex lives instead of asking them to pray for the one billion people in the world going to bed hungry every day.

"Voodoo 'gay cure' quackery causes harm and distress and has been utterly discredited by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It's sad to hear it being promoted by a man whose first concern should be people’s wellbeing."

A spokesperson for the Church of England told the HuffPost UK: "The House of Bishops has made clear that there is no place for homophobia in the church.

"Couples in intentionally permanent gay relationships will find a welcome in our churches. The Church of England is a very broad church and it does encompass a wide range of opinions on many issues."

In October, the largest association of psychotherapists in the UK sent a letter to all of its 30,000 members, telling them that being gay is not a mental disorder and cannot be "cured."

The letter from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) stated that practices such as "conversion or reparative therapies 'have no medical indication and represent a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons'."

The Church of England told the Huffington Post UK it had no official position on gay 'cures' but pointed to the Bishop of Norwich's comments during a same-sex marriage debate.

He told Chris Bryant MP in February: "There are Christians who believe it to be curable, but that is not the view that I take."

In May last year Boris Johnson banned a set of 'gay cure' bus posters based on Stonewall’s "Some people are gay. Get over it!" campaign but instead reading: “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!".

Johnson said at the time the ad was not only offensive to gay people but could lead to a retaliation against the wider Christian community.

Gay cure therapies have been banned in California.