Christians have a unique relationship with change.
We experience conversion as a result of our encounters with God, stepping into new life with Christ. That experience of change, the Spirit’s work in and through us, we call sanctification: an ongoing conversion yielding rich fruit in beloved community.
For many, faith is tied to identity in such a way that their theology precludes LGBTQ+ Christians from experiencing true and full communion with their fellow believers, to the great harm of the entire church.
I’ve never doubted my conversion to the way of Christ. Even upon realizing my queer sexuality, my salvation was never in question. In fact, it was the Spirit’s insistent reminder that I am beloved, wholly and completely, that gave me the confidence to come out while studying at Liberty University.
Unlike many LGBTQ+ people in Christian communities, I was neither forced nor voluntarily entered into “conversion therapy.”
Also known as reparative therapy or ex-gay ministry, conversion therapy, as defined in The Good Fruit Project, “includes any treatments or practices intended to attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity (for example, from gay to straight or from transgender to cisgender), and includes any efforts to change a person’s gender expression (to make a person act more masculine or feminine, for example), behaviors, or to reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attraction or feelings toward a person of the same gender.”
This practice often includes forms of talk therapy, but there exist practitioners whose methods are physical and often violent, including but not limited to forms of shock therapy.
Conversion therapy is under increasing ill-repute in the United States from municipal governments and state legislatures, and for good reason.
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimates that ”698,000 adults in the US have received conversion therapy,” half of which underwent the practice as minors.
In its 2020 survey, The Trevor Project found that 10% of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing conversion or reparative therapy. Of that group, 78% reported experiencing it as minors. These youth were twice as likely “to have attempted suicide in the previous 12 months.”
Conversion therapy is not a simple matter of conviction or opinion — it is a matter of life and death.
Christians are familiar with the biblical metaphor of fruit to discern the harm or benefit of behavior, belief, etc. It is clear, both as a matter of theology and practice, that conversion therapy and its underlying ideology bear unquestionably bad fruit.
The conservative church has propagated conversion therapy and ex-gay ideologies. Rigid ethics of gender and sexuality built for a cisgender, heteronormative, patriarchal society have been premised on theologies of exclusion, precluding LGBTQ+ people from participation in the institutional church.
Beyond denying God’s affirmation of LGBTQ+ identities, this ideology asserts that a gay woman can leave her same-gender “desires” behind and even marry a man. Similarly, a trans woman is told she must live as a man, a nonbinary person as a cisgender person, and so on.
Based in Redding, California, the CHANGED Movement has gained a following by assuming the mantle of ex-gay ministries with modern branding and rhetoric. Its adherents claim themselves to be “once gay” or “ex-LGBT,” even advocating against bans on conversion therapy to members of Congress.
Closely associated with the influential Bethel Church, CHANGED is one of many advocacy groups and organizations working to undermine acceptance of and protections for LGBTQ+ people.
Cultivating a more inclusive and affirming church not only benefits LGBTQ+ people, but also blesses us all by celebrating their gifts, perspectives, relationships and families.
We at Q Christian Fellowship believe that acceptance and affirmation yield good fruit. Ultimately, our aim is to protect the lives and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people, particularly youth in non-affirming Christian homes most vulnerable to the harm of ex-gay ideology and conversion therapy.
In 2019, Q Christian Fellowship launched a response to CHANGED and the resurgence of ex-gay organizations with a resource called UNCHANGED. This counter to the message of conversion therapists and ex-gay ministries has published over 100 stories from LGBTQ+ Christians and their allies along with four ebooks.
In 2020, we partnered with The Trevor Project to launch The Good Fruit Project, a Christian case against LGBTQ change efforts. This initiative includes a resources page, a pledge for you to sign and a freely downloadable guide with the hope that we can empower communities to better understand the calling to save and affirm lives.
Even in the face of Christian movements working against LGBTQ+ identities and relationships, there is much to accomplish close to home.
If your local church has not been clear on their affirmation of LGBTQ+ identities and relationships, urge clarity; if the message is one of exclusion and an unwillingness to discern an affirming path forward, denounce this exclusion and find a community with an authentic welcome.
I encourage you to read and share the guide, sign the pledge and commit yourself to loving your LGBTQ+ neighbors by advocating against the practice of conversion and reparative therapies as well as the use of ex-gay narratives in your church and community.
Commit to the good fruit of unequivocal affirmation and embody the words of Romans 13:10 (NIV): “Love does no wrong to a neighbor.”
Communications manager for Q Christian Fellowship, an organization cultivating radical belonging for LGBTQ+ Christians and allies.