No ‘therapy,’ but Jesus can change LGBT lives, say evangelical leaders

The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Photo courtesy of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Photo courtesy of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Photo courtesy of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

(RNS) Evangelical leaders spoke out against “reparative” mental health therapy for LGBT people Tuesday (Oct. 6) but still called on them to “change,” saying that only through faith in Jesus could they find “wholeness and holiness.”

The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, meeting this week at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention, have been under fire from LGBT activists for failing to condemn reparative therapy, sometimes also called “conversion” therapy.

Oregon, California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia now prohibit licensed therapists from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a minor. However, the Biblical Counselors group, as religious advisers, are not necessarily subject to those bans.

READ: How evangelicals’ flip-flop on ex-gay therapy can actually improve their credibility

Dozens of activists from the Fairness Campaign, a Louisville LGBT advocacy group, have been demonstrating near the campus, saying reparative therapy increases the rate of depression and suicide in the LGBT community and objecting to religious calls to “change.”

In a joint press conference Tuesday, the Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the seminary, and Heath Lambert, ACBC executive director, said psychological therapy, including reparative therapy, is a “superficial” response to the “struggle” people face in dealing with same-sex attraction and transgender identity. 

A joint statement later released by Mohler and Lambert still used the language of “change” and “repair” for LGBT people who, Mohler said, can only find “wholeness and holiness” through faith in Jesus.

READ: Evangelical transgender conference rejects notion that gender identity can change

In an interview Tuesday, Mohler said his view is not new: “I don’t think repair comes any way other than through redemption. I have been consistent through the years in saying reparative therapy is not the way to go.”

However, columnist Jonathan Merritt points out that, in 2004, Mohler lamented the American Psychological Association’s condemnation of  reparative therapy and “transformational ministry.” Back then, he called the APA’s push for others to accept science’s findings on sexual orientation a “final insult” to traditionalists.

On Tuesday, Mohler said: “We are not saying homosexuality can’t change or shouldn’t change. This is not something that can be reduced to deciding or choosing an object of sexual attraction. That’s simplistic and a sin against those who are in the struggle (with sexual attraction and gender identity).” 

Every person struggling with sin — whether it’s pride or anger or sexual attraction — faces the same kind of battle, Mohler added. Only the gospel promises transformation because it can “make us desire things we have never desired before and it will give us progressively the ability to follow him in obedience.”

He dismissed the argument by LGBT activists that they, too, can be faithful Christians.

“The great divide,” Mohler said, is between those who think faithful Christianity conforms to the Bible and those who don’t. The latter, he said, “can never be faithful Christians.”

READ: Alan Chambers: ‘Same-sex relationships can be holy’

Lambert, who is also associate professor of biblical counseling at Southern Seminary, said in the press statement that the conference will demonstrate for ministers and counselors a “Christian compassion” for those “struggling with homosexuality and gender identity.”

People who accept an LGBT identity and do not struggle to be different are not going to be heard from in Louisville.

All speakers were required to agree to a statement that rejects “that a human being could possess a gender other than the one indicated by biological sex.”

Lambert told RNS before the conference, “We’re in a culture where Christians are the only ones that can teach moral sanity in the midst of the moral craziness we’re in.”


About the author

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman specializes in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics. She also writes frequently on biomedical ethics and end-of-life-issues


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  • So, one more time:

    A group of so-called Christians get together and parade their ignorance and hubris on a subject they clearly know nothing about. Their own illogic continues to escape them.

    1) A conference on treating homosexuality with no accepting gay people present.

    2) A conference on treating homosexuality with a call to prayer, because non-prayer methods DON’T WORK. But prayer works so well for everything!

    3) The part you left out from Smilin’ Mohler’s speech: ““By God’s grace, (change to hetero) 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.”

    In other words, PRAYER DOESN’T WORK EITHER.

    In other other words: we’re losing the battle in the public mind, and we don’t want to continue to look like ignorant, prejudiced yahoos. So double down on the “love” message.

    And don’t interrupt our income stream.

    What a tool.

  • NEWS FLASH: The ex-gay scam is over in the civilized world. This weekend’s national evangelical ex-gay summit event in DC drew not one person. That is why you won’t find any mention of it on the websites of the sponsoring organization, or anyplace else.
    Sadly, the quacks will now peddle their poison in places like Africa, Russia and the parts of the Caribbean where being gay can get you beaten, arrested, imprisoned and killed.
    PS Stop using the name of Jesus for this garbage. Jesus went his whole life without saying a word against homosexuals, per the Gospels. And we just wasted 40 years of listening to “pray away the gay” nonsense. We know it worked for nobody because the people who led that movement all admitted it.

  • AAA,

    When you cite Bible verses to determine what is or is not a fact, do you realize they were all written by authors who believed the earth was flat and stationary? If these were the people that God chose to reveal His truth, wouldn’t have behooved God to reveal that the earth is a sphere rotating on its axis and revolving around the sun . . . especially if He expected His Word to still be relevant in the 21st Century?

  • Since the term “homosexuality” did not exist until the 19th Century, your assertion is based on mistranslations and manipulation by politically slick preachers who use LGBTs as “the other” to build group cohesion.

  • You cannot change your sexual orientation. But, you *can* be brainwashed, through drugs, electroshock, and extreme psycho-social pressure, into believing pretty much anything.

    Of course, people who are brainwashed to hate and deny something so fundamental as their capacity for love and affection end up miserable, and sometimes even killing themselves.

    But, then, that’s what many Bible-cultist “christians” wish homosexuals would do anyhow: kill ourselves. So, there’s good reason for them to continue pretending lesbian and gay people can change our sexual orientation.

  • Hey folks, Everyone gets to make one comment — in civil terms — no matter what the viewpoint. Then stand back and let others — even those with whom you disagree, take their turn. A flood of posts by one person or posts which pounce on other commenters are not acceptable. I will report it as abuse because it discourages open and thoughtful discussion and drives out new voices.
    Thank you
    Cathy Grossman

  • When Christians treat all sins in the same manner, your little spiel won’t be completely ridiculous garbage. But that hasn’t happened yet, nor ever will.

  • One wants to at least partially admire Rev Mohler and others of similar beliefs for just sticking to their honest, sincerely held views. Problem is, though we don’t exactly know what causes any number of people to be same sex attracted, let alone embodied with a core capacity for exclusive pairbonding with another man or another woman; the human sciences data is in, advising us that sexual orientation variance occurs within normal ranges of human personality, daily life functions, average coping and even far above average thriving. A careful reader or listener will note that Rev. Mohler simply ignores, sidesteps or doesn’t bother to engage with or talk about this empirical hypothesis testing.

    So far we are left with a silent, but powerful conundrum. If sexual orientation variance does not interfere with average to above average to excellent human living, how do the categorical negative judgments apply any longer?

  • Two of my postings were removed. There is not the slight eat chance that they violated any terms of service.

    What is this about, RNS?

    Personally, I think it’s abuse to change the rules AFTER someone has posted something.

  • Why, God. Of course.

    Or more accurately, some people using God to justify what cannot be justified by any other means.

  • Richard Rush,

    either your ignorance or your prejudice is showing.

    21 Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22

    It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,

    and its inhabitants are blike grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
    (Isaiah 40:21-22)

  • I have a lot of respect for Dr. Albert Mohler and his colleagues. Today’s Christians desperately need his Bible-believing perspective. But there are some huge problems with Mohler’s denunciation of reparative therapy.

    (1) The Bible, specifically 1 Cor. 6:9-11 and 1 Cor. 10:13, make very clear that change is indeed possible. One doesn’t have to be gay if one doesn’t want to be gay. But the texts do NOT forbid or denounce the use of modern psychology or reparative therapy as an aid, especially by Christian psychologists .

    (2) Mohler has thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Maybe some aspects of RT needed changing or abandoning, but like it or not, RT actually DID help some people to walk away from homosexuality. See Dr. Joseph Nicolosi’s book “Healing Homosexuality.”

    (3) The same haters who want to legally wipe out RT, **also** want to legally wipe out Mohler’s change-oriented “biblical counseling” too. Mohler has now accelerated that process.

  • Well stated, Cathy! I wish RNS would monitor their website better, too.

  • Reading about RNS deleting comments: I copied two comments that were deleted, one by me and one I responded to a few days ago and I’m glad I did. Just what IS going on RNS? And you want donations?!

  • The Royal College of Psychiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation. It would appear that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] “

  • Dr. Joseph Nicolosi is a fraud as are the proponents of “ex gay therapy”. There is absolutely no evidence of it working anywhere. It has helped nobody except the anti-gay crowd in their political and religious efforts to deny gays even the slightest notion of decency and civil behavior.

    Nicolosi was such an obvious quack that he got tossed out of court as an “expert witness”. Meaning he could not even show in the slightest way there was any rational cause for accepting his ideas in the field of study.

    But then again lying in service of one’s faith is expected from many people calling themselves Christian.

  • Hey, you can speak against any sin as long as its not against homosexual behavior. Really? So for 2000 years since the writing of the NT, and another 1500 years before that with the law of Moses, homosexual behavior was considered to be sin, in fact it is called an abomination. Which Jesus upheld by the way since He did not come to annul the law, but to fulfill it. But today in our “enlightened” era, it is no longer to be considered sinful behavior. Wow. Well, do you think God will buy it? Somehow, I don’t think so. So you can go on deceiving yourselves and as many others as will listen or you can listen to what God actually says about this and repent! Yes Repent! What a concept. That is., don’t practice it!! Receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, turn away from sin and ask God to help you live your life in a way that is pleasing to Him. This is what sinners do, they repent, they don’t seek to justify. They repent! Those who practice this must do the same.

  • Stow the bible cr​apola, little grasshopper. It’s circular argument and the earth isn’t circular.

  • Anthony,
    How can one quote Paul’s words as if they’re ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ or the final word of divine facts?

    Paul, who authored most of the NT and most of the negativity about homosexuality, makes these very revealing statements about his own knowledge and understanding —

    1. …our knowledge is partial and incomplete…
    2. …we see things imperfectly…
    3. All that I know now is partial and incomplete…
    (1 Corinthians 13:9,12)

    Those are excellent examples that ‘teach us’ that Paul’s writings and perhaps other scripture as well is too partial, too incomplete and too imperfect to be meaningful and useful for everybody in every situation.

    We therefore must reason out anything and everything in scripture ‘as necessary’. That will help us to ‘effectively’ judge and evaluate a matter or people based on all reasonable, ‘current or modern’ attitudes, experiences and knowledge.

  • Change is possible, but reparative therapy appears to be quackery.

    The funny thing about change is that when anybody does change, the excuse is “well, they must be bisexual.” The most reasonable answer is, “in a number of cases, of course, but in all cases? How do we know?”

    To use that to explain away literally every instance of change is a form of circular reasoning ie: Change is impossible, thus all signs that change has occurred must be explained away.

    Or to put it another way, if our starting point is that change is impossible, then by definition, no conceivable evidence of change will be accepted as evidence. Thus the claim that change is impossible is protected from the scientific task of verification or falsification. And being so protected, it is not scientific, but dogmatic.

    Bottom line: Human sexuality doesn’t fall into neat little boxes. However it came to be this way, it is fluid.

  • Some of my posts have been deleted, too, and there doesn’t seem to be any pattern of what triggers a deletion. It might be some glitch.

  • Cathy,

    You want more decorum? I think we have behaved rather well.

    1. I would post less if there were an “edit” option.
    2. Because religious points are particularly hard to articulate. Better ideas occur only after seeing how others respond.
    3. RNS should decide – is this section a continuation of the conversation started by your article? Because Christian claims always continue in these comment sections.

    LGBT is a civil rights issue. Gentle Jesus says “God wants them in Hell ” and on such bigotry people are denied their dignity. I don’t see a whiff of decency in letting cruel groundless claims go unanswered simply because non-believers are so outnumbered.

    Your policy puts religion in charge of the conversation by default – by trimming the number of comments a person can make.
    What a laugh to claim religion is somehow being persecuted as it crushes argument.
    “Execute them” – JESUS (Luke 19:27). That is religious decorum for you.

  • I agree with the good Sister and Cathy. I see the point made by the opponents of this article, but I also see the points made in this article. I wonder if those that object so strongly, and often rudely see the point that is being made? I sometimes feel that our friends in the LGBT often forget that we are as entitled to our opinion and discussion as they are.
    I am not trying to sound caddy, but if they want to see us as ignorant, than don’t argue, educate. If you see us as “old school” and “Unenlightened” then show us in a way that we will listen to us. You can not demand my feelings change and by being argumentative, you do nothing to further your cause. That INCREASES the gap between communities, it does not draw us closer.
    TO BOTH SIDES!!! Open, POSSITIVE discussion will bring us to a better understanding, Argument does not.