Title: Randerson's defense of Vercoe is ill-informed Credit: Jim Peron Comment Thursday 10th June 2004 - 12:00pm1086825600 Article: 283 Rights
Bishop Richard Randerson is attempting to walk a fine line. He needs to defend his church superior Archbishop Vercoe's, as he put it, “vision of a world without homosexuality.” At the same time he doesn't want to alienate the many people offended by Vercoe. He notes that missing from the discussion reported by the NZ Herald was the Anglican Church's statement on homosexuality. It was missing because the Herald article in question dealt with the Archbishop's personal views not the position of the church. Randerson, in an interview, tried to justify those views as being ‘culturally' based. Of course many ‘culturally' based views are totally unacceptable in the civilised world. Foot binding was a cultural tradition in China, female circumcision is culturally based in Africa and segregation was the culture of the American South. A free and open, liberal society recognises cultural differences. But it would forbid the violation of anyone's rights simply because they are a member of a group which doesn't respect such rights. How the Anglicans deal with the issue of homosexuality is for them to figure out. But Randerson does make one comment that raises other issues. He said that a study “last year” by Dr. Robert Spitzer “found that reorientation therapy [of homosexuals] had a high success rate among those who voluntarily undertook it.” In fact that is not quite accurate at all. Spitzer did not undertake a random study nor were any follow-ups done. Spitzer admits “Our sample was self-selected...” Spitzer wanted to investigate whether changes in sexual orientation are easily accomplished. His problem was finding the very few people who made such claims. He went to fundamentalist Christian groups that claim to specialise in such ‘therapy' and they sent him what they believed were their best cases. The study consisted of asking the individuals if their sexual orientation had changed. The unspoken premise of all this was that the individuals would tell the truth. But among the ‘ex-gay' movement there is a history of not telling the truth. The founder of the ex-gay movement, Guy Charles, was caught seducing the men he was ‘curing.' He lived out the rest of his life in a committed gay relationship. The founders of Exit Ministries, Mike Busse and Jim Kaspar, both admitted that the entire time they were telling people they were ‘cured' it was a lie. The same thing happened to Colin Cook, the ‘ex-gay' leader of Homosexuals Anonymous. Fourteen men seeking counseling from Cook claimed he tried to sexually seduce them. When one fundamentalist publishing house produced a book containing the 'testimonies' of six successful changes, five of the six wrote demanding the book be withdrawn as fraudulent. The sixth had also left the ministry and disappeared. Not so long ago the chairman of a major 'ex-gay' group, John Paulk claimed: “I once lived as a gay man, but now I'm heterosexual, something that the American Psychiatric Association says does not exist.” After making the claim Paulk was found inside a gay bar flirting with bar patrons. When recognised he tried to flee the scene but not before someone snapped photos of him making his escape. The fact remains that people involved in such therapy for religious reasons are highly motivated. That may help them "change" but it may also explain why they distort the truth. They are highly motivated because they are involved with groups that strongly dislike their sexual orientation. And that can mean covering up the facts. In addition many of the 'cure' churches practice a 'name it and claim it' theology. Anything from cancer to homosexuality, they say, can be so cured. You ‘name it,' meaning you say the change you want from God, and then you ‘claim it.' Faith requires you to say you've changed, or been healed, even if the evidence doesn't support it. I know of people who claimed to be healed right up until the day their disease killed them. Colin Cook said that 'ex-gays' claim the heterosexuality of Christ for themselves and by so doing they can fight off temptation. In his case he lost that fight... at least 14 times. Groups which claim to help gays ‘change' provided the individuals interviewed by Spitzer. But even this sample showed that a majority of them did not consider themselves completely heterosexual. Almost all the men he interviewed (86%) said they still had sexual attractions to men. Over half said they still had orgasms while fantasising about men. Spitzer himself expressed concern that his survey was being distorted by groups with a religious agenda. He said: “I'm not saying that this [change] can be easily done, or that most homosexuals who want to change can make this kind of change. I suspect it's quite unusual.” When interviewed on CNN Spitzer was asked: "Are you saying that a homosexual can choose to be straight?” He replied: "No, I'm certainly not saying that.” Richard Randerson's comment that Spitzer found that such therapy “had a high success rate” is simply not accurate. As for the rest of Mr. Randerson's concerns I'll leave them to Anglicans to sort out. Jim Peron is the executive director of the Institute for Liberal Values but writes here in his personal capacity as a gay man. Jim Peron - 10th June 2004    
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