15 March 2024

Media release

Uniting Church clergy support Government ban on conversion therapy

Over 35 Uniting Church clergy have endorsed an open letter to the Premier supporting a Government Bill which would ban conversion therapy on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation.

“LGBTIQA+ people are the beloved children of God”, stated the Revd Radhika Sukumar-White, Minister at the Leichhardt Uniting Church in Sydney. “Conversion therapy, especially in the name of God, inflicts harm on the physical, mental and spiritual lives of LGBTQA+ people in NSW”.

The open letter to Mr Minns outlines the Christian understanding of all human beings created in the very image of a loving God.

“Conversion therapy is a betrayal of Christian love and care”, stated the Revd Dr Josephine Inkpin, Minister at the Pitt Street Uniting Church.

Dr Inkpin said that the signatories support the efforts of the Government and the Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich MP, to prohibit conversion therapy. “It is essential”, Dr Inkpin said, “that the legislation covers both health care and religious settings.”

Letter from Uniting Church clergy supporting government ban on conversion therapy

15 March 2024

The Hon. Chris Minns MP
Premier
State of NSW
Parliament House
Macquarie St SYDNEY NSW 2000

Dear Mr Minns

Open letter from Uniting Church clergy to support the Government Bill on ‘conversion therapy’

We write to indicate our support for a Government Bill which has been introduced to the NSW Parliament, and is supported by Mr Alex Greenwich MP, prohibiting activities which seek to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of an individual (“conversion therapy”). The Bill seeks to prohibit change or suppression practice and establishes a civil complaints mechanism.

As Christians ministers, we support this legislation. The Scriptures speaks of all living creatures being given life by God’s spirit (Gen 1:1-2, 29-30; Ps 104:24-30). Our identity is shaped by God in that process of giving life, of bringing to birth the identity of a new human being. Furthermore, all creatures are sentient beings —we have a soul, a state of being, a life that is fully formed and given by God. All human beings are created with the spirit of God within us (Gen 1:20, 21, 24, 30, 2:7; Job 12:7-10). There are no exceptions to this in biblical understanding.

All human beings exist within this understanding. Our human identity is grounded in the creative work of God’s spirit. Who we are is how God has made us to be—each human being is made in God’s image (Gen 1:27; Sir 17:3).

As further research has been done in recent decades, it has become increasingly clear that gender identity, and sexual orientation, as key elements of human identity, each exist on a spectrum. Neither is confined to a binary state. Humanity is not comprised, simply of heterosexual and cisgender males and females.

There are differences and variety within both gender identity (males, females, transgender, intersex, and third-gender such as fa’afafine) and sexual orientation (same-sex atracted, opposite-sex attracted, bisexual, and asexual). Both of these characteristics exist across spectrums rather than existing in oppositional binary states. And this is the way that God has created human beings.

For this reason, we believe that it is important not to invalidate, undermine, or challenge the identity of any individual. It is vital that, in accepting people as they are, we accept their sexual orientation, and their gender identity, without qualification.

“Conversion therapy” provides a direct challenge to such acceptance. It seeks to intervene and “change” the way that an individual identifies. Because we believe that who we are is a gift from God, we therefore believe that we are called to accept the identity of each individual, as they perceive and understand themselves.

Although we write from within the Christian tradition, this approach has been strongly supported by the medical profession. In 2018, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) declared that it “unequivocally condemns conversion therapy, as does the World Medical Association.” There is also well documented evidence of considerable physical and mental harm caused by conversion or suppression efforts.

The Uniting Church in Australia has had a long-term commitment to supporting and valuing LGBTIQA+ people in our churches and in society, and we see our support for this legislation to be a careful extension of this commitment. In 2022 the national Assembly of the Church passed resolutions which recognised that “sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts (SOGICE), often referred to as ‘conversion therapy’, are harmful to people’s mental health and wellbeing”.

We urge you, and all members of the NSW Parliament, to support this legislation when it is presented for consideration.

Yours sincerely

Revd Dr Josephine Inkpin (Pit Street Uniting Church)

This open letter has been endorsed by the following Uniting Church clergy:

  • Revd James Aaron (Uniting Mission and Education)
  • Revd Isobel Bishop (Leichhardt, retired)
  • Revd Brian Brown (Newcastle, former Moderator, retired)
  • Revd Jennifer Burns (Newcastle, retired)
  • Revd Dr Seforosa Carrol (United Theological College)
  • Revd Hee Won Chang (Hope Uniting Church)
  • Revd Andrew Collis (South Sydney Uniting Church)
  • Revd Ken Day (St Stephens Uniting Church)
  • Revd Ellie Ellia (Glenbrook Uniting Church)
  • Revd Neil Ericksson (Sydney, retired)
  • Revd Nicole Fleming (United Theological College)
  • Revd (Deac.) Allison Forrest (Toronto Uniting Church)
  • Revd Ben Gilmour (Uniting Mission and Education)
  • Revd Chris Goringe (Rozelle Uniting Church)
  • Revd Danielle Hemsworth-Smith (Paddington Uniting Church)
  • Revd Dr Jason John (Mid North Coast Uniting Church)
  • Revd Penny Jones (Pitt Street Uniting Church)
  • Revd Vladimir Korotkov (Parramatta, retired)
  • Revd Dr Karina Kreminski (Uniting Mission and Education)
  • Revd Kath Merrifield (Kiama Jamberoo Uniting Church)
  • Revd Jon Owen (Wayside Chapel)
  • Revd Rod Pattenden (Newcastle, retired)
  • Revd Ian Pearson (Sydney, retired)
  • Revd Ann Perrin (Uniting Mission and Education)
  • Revd Alex Pittaway (Neutral Bay Uniting Church)
  • Revd Dr Elenie Poulos (Macquarie University)
  • Revd Elizabeth Raine (Central Coast, retired)
  • Revd Lorenzo Rodriguez Torres (Balmain Uniting Church)
  • Revd Jean Shannon (Sapphire Coast Uniting churches)
  • Revd Dr John Squires (Central Coast, retired)
  • Revd Suzanne Stanton (Uniting NSW-ACT)
  • Revd Joy Steele-Perkins (Haberfield Uniting Church)
  • Revd Geoff Stevenson (Parramatta Nepean Uniting Church)
  • Revd Adrian Sukumar-White (University Chaplaincy and Leichhardt Uniting Church)
  • Revd Radhika Sukumar-White (Leichhardt Uniting Church)
  • Revd Meredith Williams (Wentworthville Uniting Church)
  • Revd Dale Yardy (Uniting NSW-ACT)