Christian megachurch accused of ‘glamourising’ conversion therapy in shock ads
A Christian megachurch in California is being condemned for a series of Instagram posts “glamourising” the widely-discredited practise of conversion therapy.
Bethel Church in Redding, California, draws about 9,000 members per week and has more than 686,000 followers on Instagram.
The church’s latest social media campaign promotes CHANGED, “a community of friends who once identified as LGBTQ+” which now offers a “safe space for Christians seeking an alternative to LGBTQ+ as they follow their faith according to their personal convictions”.
Using the hashtag #oncegay, one post asks the question: “Can a person leave homosexuality behind?”
The answer encourages “surrendering all” to Jesus’ love, and does not reference the fact that there is no reliable scientific evidence to suggest sexuality can be changed in any way.
View this post on Instagram
Post 2 of 5: Jesus gives His love freely to all, regardless of where we are in our individual journeys. When Jesus enters into our lives, He engages with our deepest feelings and beliefs. He knows us better than we know ourselves and wants to lead us into His vision for humanity. Sometimes, that is countercultural. The love of Christ declares, “I want you! I am for you! And only I satisfy!” His love gently leads us to surrendering all—even what we believe about ourselves—in order to be fully satisfied and full of life.⠀ _⠀ CHANGED is a community of friends who once identified as LGBTQ+ and through encounters with the love of Jesus, have experienced His freedom in their lives. @changedmvmt wants to invite you to look deeper, to go beyond the cultural labels and expectations, and to find lasting fulfillment. To learn more or receive help on your journey, visit www.changedmovement.com #oncegay (Link in profile)
The post is one of at least three similar advertisements on Bethel Church’s Instagram account in the past week.
One features an interview with a woman who “re-evaluated” her lesbian sexuality and is now married to a man. Links to the CHANGED Instagram account and website reveal further testimonies from people who “found freedom” from their LGBT+ lifestyles.
Followers are invited to “look deeper, to go beyond the cultural labels and expectations, and to find lasting fulfilment” by leaving homosexuality behind.
The church claims that it stands “against any and all forms of shame, manipulation, force, humiliation, or physical harm in so-called ministry or therapy”, yet many Instagram users pointed out that its latest social media campaign is doing exactly that.
View this post on Instagram
Post 5 of 5: God loves all people, LGBTQ+ and straight. The message of CHANGED has never been “All Must Change.” We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in identifying as LGBTQ+. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you! _ God doesn’t force people to change, and people – including Christians – shouldn’t force others to change, either. We stand against any and all forms of shame, manipulation, force, humiliation, or physical harm in so-called “ministry” or therapy. _ CHANGED is a safe space for Christians seeking an alternative to LGBTQ+ as they follow their faith according to their personal convictions. Find their stories at @changedmvmt and www.changedmovement.com
“Shame on you [for] spreading a message that has been shown to harm LGBTQ+ youth,” said @andrewcurryla. “How is this type of communication any different than the legislation you said you didn’t support regarding conversion therapy?”
@alexgmusic7 said: “Literally stop. Do you not CARE about the suicide rates for people going through conversion therapy? Or are the deaths just collateral damage to you?”
“This kills people,” said @jonah_ven.
“I find this deeply troubling and not a stance on loving people AT ALL,” wrote @annasophiarobb. “This is church rhetoric that preaches love, but actually flies in the face of loving people.”
@awokensoul agreed: “This is exactly the types of posts that drive people away from church, and give them a wrong opinion of Christians.”
The backlash quickly spread to Twitter, where the many in the LGBT+ community condemned Bethel Church’s “irresponsible” message.
Hi ??.Just a reminder that there is an instagram account glamorizing conversion therapy. pic.twitter.com/ks4fVGnPIH
— JOHNNY SIBILLY (@JohnnySibilly) August 22, 2019
Over these past few days, @BethelRedding has reopened some of the deepest wounds that some of my dearest friends have fought their hardest battles to heal.
Bethel Church is not simply harmful — their theologically and scientifically unexamined #oncegay stance is recklessly evil.
— Jamie Lee Finch (@jamieleefinch) August 22, 2019
Bethel Church’s Changed Movement is extremely harmful to the LGBTQ+ community. You do not need to change who you are in order for God to love you. Christians must learn how to love people, because Christ meets people where they’re at.
— Caitlyn ? (@caitroby) August 21, 2019
What Bethel Church (home to @bethelmusic) is doing with their Changed Movement—inviting people to “leave homosexuality behind”—is conversion therapy no matter how you try to chop it up. And it perpetuates harmful practices and rhetoric that affect real people’s lives. (4/4)
— Alex Lewis (@lewisalex10) August 20, 2019
PinkNews contacted Bethel Church for comment. A spokesperson said: “God loves all people, LGBTQ+ and straight. The message of CHANGED has never been “All Must Change.” We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in identifying as LGBTQ+. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!
“God doesn’t force people to change, and people – including Christians – shouldn’t force others to change, either. We stand against any and all forms of shame, manipulation, force, humiliation, or physical harm in so-called “ministry” or therapy.
“CHANGED is a safe space for Christians seeking an alternative to LGBTQ+ as they follow their personal convictions according to their faith.”
Conversion therapy is dangerous and discredited.
Conversion therapy is “a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression,” according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Medical experts consider interventions to change someone’s sexual orientation to be pseudo-scientific and ineffective, yet so-called gay conversion therapy persists throughout the world.
There are many different techniques, ranging from ‘praying the gay away’ to electric shocks and testosterone injections, but no reliable scientific evidence that sexuality can be changed.
To date, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Puerto Rico all have laws or regulations protecting LGBT+ youths from this harmful practice.
But in the remainder of states where it is legal, parents can force their children into the therapy against their will.