A leading member of the Church of England who believes gays can be counselled to change or repress their sexual desire is helping select the next Archbishop of Canterbury.
Glynn Harrison, professor of psychiatry at Bristol University, is on the 16 member panel to choose a successor to Dr Rowan Williams who will step down from his position in December.
Harrison was chosen to be a member of the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC), and has triggered alarms among liberal Anglicans who fear it could deepen divisions within the church.
In 2011 Harrison co-authored an article entitled ‘Unwanted Sexual Attraction: Issues of pastoral and counselling support’.
It says: ‘People with unwanted SSA [same sex attraction] who seek to live in conformity with their beliefs should be free to receive appropriate and responsible practical care and counsel.
‘Most may choose counselling and pastoral support to maintain, within a Christian ethical framework, the disciplines of chastity. Others may wish to explore the possibility of achieving some degree of change in the strength or direction of unwanted sexual interests.’
Christine Forte, a Shanghai-based counsellor who specialises in therapy for LGBT clients, says: ‘This kind of instruction implies it is even possible to change one's sexuality by force of will, which according to western medical research, it is not.
‘There is also the ethical obligation for counsellors to not engage in behaviour that would do harm to a client. Rejection or condemnation of a client's sexuality and thus identity, are very damaging to psychological well-being.’
Harrison declined to comment on his views, but supported a statement made by the Church of England on his behalf.
He said he supports counselling and pastoral support for people who want to ‘manage and integrate their sexual desires with a religious identity grounded in the traditional teaching of their faith.’
The statement continued: ‘Professor Harrison also notes however there are anecdotes in the research literature, and in popular media, about individuals who have experienced some degree of change in either the strength or direction of their sexual attractions.’