How to Pastor When Sanctification Becomes Illegal

Australia's "Conversion and Suppression Practices Bill criminalizes any prayers or conversations in which one person aims to persuade another that pursuing certain sexual activity is not the best course of action. It’s not only illegal to pray or speak with an individual about changing their sexual orientation or gender identity....the law states that suppression is also illegal. 'Suppression' includes prayers for celibacy, and any advice that communicates sexual faithfulness to one’s spouse is a matter of holiness." - 9 Marks

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Assuming his understanding of the law is correct, here's a real case where disobedience to government is bibilcal... as opposed to defying a health order that temporarily limits indoor group sizes.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

dgszweda's picture

I don't read it as what this author stated.  It states, "carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism;"  If you read deeper it is about a "change practice" where you are trying to change a person's sexual identity.  I can understand where the law is rooted from, and it probably over reaches, but there are plenty of ways to pray for people that is not rooted in a "change practice".  I could see where a church could get into trouble over this, but I also see where a church could avoid getting into trouble over this, without watering down the gospel.

pvawter's picture

dgszweda wrote:

I don't read it as what this author stated.  It states, "carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism;"  If you read deeper it is about a "change practice" where you are trying to change a person's sexual identity.  I can understand where the law is rooted from, and it probably over reaches, but there are plenty of ways to pray for people that is not rooted in a "change practice".  I could see where a church could get into trouble over this, but I also see where a church could avoid getting into trouble over this, without watering down the gospel.

Unfortunately, there seem to be many today, at least on social media, who believe that any accommodation to government is sinful compromise. We should we wise enough to seek creative solutions that do not involve direct disobedience to government wherever possible.

Jeff Howell's picture

but I am going to say that no one on earth has any authority to tell another what one can or cannot pray ... period. This is so clearly an overreach, designed to intimidate, cause hesitancy on the part of the church in general, and mainstream a rebellious morality so deeply as to be supported by all without question. It is starting to get wearying to talk about constant obedience to authorities, without really seeing the incremental secession of loyalty and obedience to Christ. Biblical discipleship, counseling, indeed, all ministry involves deep praying for spiritual victory, in any area. Jesus told the disciples to "watch, lest they fall into temptation." This would certainly extend to this area of ministry. Progressive sanctification is all about "biblical change" into the image of Jesus. We need to pray for the faithful in Australia and around the world. 

WallyMorris's picture

Part of the legislation says that even if a homosexual wants someone to talk to him about change, that is also illegal. So apparently someone who wants to move away from homosexuality is prohibited from seeking help or having someone help him.

"In this Act, a change or suppression practice means a practice or conduct directed towards a person, whether with or without the person's consent— (a) on the basis of the person's sexual orientation or gender identity; and(b) for the purpose of— (i) changing or suppressing the sexual orientation or gender identity of the person; or(ii) inducing the person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity."  [bold emphasis mine]

I would like to hear what "creative solutions" are possible with this broad a prohibition.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

dgszweda's picture

Jeff Howell wrote:

but I am going to say that no one on earth has any authority to tell another what one can or cannot pray ... period. 

I would agree. But if you read the entire law, it is geared toward conversion therapy.  Their is one word of Prayer in the entire almost 100 page law.  They classify prayer as the element of conversion therapy as an illegal practice.  I think most of us would agree that conversion therapy is probably pretty misguided, especially the forced kind.  It is also not considered illegal if it affirms the gender identity.  I think there is many ways that we can pray for someone and pray with someone that is not focused on conversion of the person's identity.  I also think that in most cases our prayer and counseling would be with someone who is struggling with this condition, not someone who is accepting of this condition.  Ultimately the issue with the individual is first a heart issue, and not an identity issue.  And that really should be the first focus.

pvawter's picture

WallyMorris wrote:

I would like to hear what "creative solutions" are possible with this broad a prohibition.

I think the very breadth of the terms "changing" and "suppressing" leaves a lot to be decided in each situation. It seems like a good lawyer could find a lot of leeway in that language, but I'm not one, so I won't give you any at present.

Bert Perry's picture

...but it strikes me that somebody is going to get creative and declare that "sexual orientation" also includes the person who is simply making really bad relationship decisions.  That may be why the Australian Medical Association (one of a few associations of doctors in Oz) and the National Association of Practicing Psychiatrists spoke against it.  It might also be argued that some people will start arguing that pedophilia and other sexual crimes amount to sexual orientations, and that this law could, if expansively applied, make those protections unenforceable.

Then you've also got the reality that many who suffer symptoms of gender dysphoria eventually decide that they are not living in the opposite sex's body.  Part of the counseling that precedes transition procedures is, after all, intended to figure out whether someone really qualifies, and is intended to prevent cases where "oopsie, we castrated/spayed you and you have no hope of normal family life anymore--sorry about that!"  So an expansive view of the law could really harm many in the LGBTQ+ community, and for that reason and presumably others, even some LGBTQ+ groups in Oz opposed this law.

Perhaps a good starting point would be to understand where the law probably has a sound basis; where it would ban the worst examples of "conversion therapy", which apparently has over time included icepick lobotomies, chemical castration, aversive treatments, and the like.  Let's just say that if my pastor did anything so cruel, he would be my "former pastor" immediately, and I'd probably also be bringing whatever evidence I had to the police as well.  

On the flip side, if my pastor had someone visit who had homosexual tendencies and tried to give counsel on how to deal with that in a God-honoring way, that would be just fine.  Say along the lines of what Rosaria Butterfield writes about.  And I would guess that THAT kind of conversion counseling would, if the differences between that and some of the older, barbaric practices were known, quickly fall into the category of "that's not what we were looking to ban."

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

WallyMorris's picture

The problem with hopeful Christian interpretations of this law is that they rely on Australian courts being generous in their application of the law toward churches and individuals. I think that is wishful thinking. The law prohibits attempts at change even with the person's consent. Courts and others will use this to prohibit any attempt to change/help homosexuals, even if someone doesn't specifically use "conversion therapy". The courts will view even basic, simple efforts by churches and individuals as "conversion therapy". Don't underestimate the ability of secular worldviews to attempt to fight/limit the gospel.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Bert Perry's picture

Wally, definitely a problem, but it's one of two ways to deal with the law.  First is to persuade Parliament to repeal it, the second is to persuade the courts and prosecutors to apply it sparingly and set up precedent about what it really means.  Might as well give it a try, no?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

WallyMorris wrote:

The problem with hopeful Christian interpretations of this law is that they rely on Australian courts being generous in their application of the law toward churches and individuals. I think that is wishful thinking. 

The problem with negative Christian interpretations is that if you have been around the block a few times, every time these types of concerns come up they are more times than not unfounded.  If I had believed all of the interpretations our churches would have been closed down in the US, most pastors would be in jail today and there would be little left of the church.  We definitely should be cautious and legally fight against some of these laws, but 9 times out of 10 they are often overblown in terms of religious restrictions.