LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A prominent Southern Baptist theologian on Monday spoke out against psychological counseling aimed at turning gay people straight, saying homosexuality cannot be turned off like a switch. Instead, he said, the “sin” of being attracted to a person of the same sex can be changed by turning to the Bible’s teachings.
The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said so-called conversion or reparative therapy doesn’t carry the redemptive power of prayer.
“In the case of many people struggling with this particular sin, we do not believe that some kind of superficial answer whereby they can turn a switch from being attracted to persons of the same sex to being attracted to persons of the opposite sex,” Mohler told reporters at the start of a three-day conference on homosexuality and how to offer pastoral care to gays, hosted by the Louisville seminary.
“By God’s grace, that might happen over time as a sign of God’s work within the life of that individual. But … for many, many people struggling with these patterns of sin, it will be a lifelong battle,” Mohler said.
Ahead of the “Homosexuality: Compassion, Care and Counsel for Struggling People” conference, Mohler also said he was unwavering in the belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman. He said he believes homosexuals can change by accepting biblical teachings.
Several dozen gay-rights advocates denounced the conference by holding a protest next to the seminary. Their protest included a prayer for love, inclusion and respect. Some demonstrators held up signs that said: “Love Needs No Cure.”
Not all clergy fell in line behind Mohler.
The Rev. Maurice Blanchard, a Baptist minister, said that even though conference leaders spoke out against reparative therapy, they’re promoting similar efforts with a “coming to Christ” message. Blanchard called that “spiritual abuse.”
“These folks here are already OK with God,” Blanchard said of his fellow protesters. “They don’t need fixing. They don’t need correcting. They’re just as they’re supposed to be.”
Derek Penwell, another minister who joined the protest, said: “Any movement that takes as its organizing principle the fact that people are somehow defective … is wrong and it’s destructive. And it adds to the kind of abuse that a group of people have faced for too long.”