One of the largest Pentecostal Churches in south-east London, United Kingdom has denied participating in so-called gay conversion therapy after an undercover reporter claimed leaders said God could “fix” his “sexual disorientation”.
The church, Winner’s Chapel, in Dartford said it would hold a domestic investigation following claims that a gay journalist at ITV News underwent “intense” prayer and Bible studies.
Appearing in a special report last week, the unnamed media practitioner who had attended the church for two months, said:
“I went through hours of counselling and prayer sessions, all directed at ridding me of my homosexuality. Sometimes the prayers in themselves seemed harmless, such as for God to direct me and guide me. I felt it changed from something that could have been comforting to something sinister and potentially traumatising.”
The journalist claims that Winner’s Chapel Pastor, identified as Rev. Gbenga Samuel, prayed ‘heavily’, shouting, and spinning him around on the floor within an hour or so of first meeting him, and reportedly told him he needed a “complete mind reorientation”.
Undercover footage purportedly shows two pastors from the church spinning the undercover ITV reporter around on the floor, telling him:
“Let there be a release! Let the fire come upon him!”
Pastor Samuel warned that society would try to convince him that being homoerotic “was the right thing,” adding that several parts of the reporter had come “under the control of Satan.”
He then compared the messages of acceptance in modern society about LGBT+ people to the way the Nazis brainwashed Germany people.
He asked the journalist:
“During World War II, how was Hitler able to get boys to gas millions of Jews in the gas chamber? These boys were specially trained in special school where it was played over to them, over and over, during the day and during the night, the propaganda that the Jews are the bad people, and they should be exterminated.”
ITV News political correspondent Paul Brand who spent six months investigating gay conversion therapy in UK churches took it to Twitter.
REVEALED: The church that claims God can ‘fix’ gay people. Winners Chapel tells our reporter:
– Satan is controlling parts of him
– God can change him
– Society’s acceptance of gay people is like Nazi propaganda
– Prayer can help
First ever broadcast of conversion therapy in UK. pic.twitter.com/yKbFuWKS8Z
— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) November 12, 2018
A series of reports following Brand’s investigation will be broadcasted this week by ITV.
Winner’s Chapel has since denied conducting gay conversion therapy at their church. They told ITV News that their church is open to everyone and takes “inclusion and diversity very seriously”.
The leaders also said their activities are lawful and follow the “biblical teachings of love for everyone regardless of their belief, gender, background or sexual orientation”.
Rev Sally Hitchiner, an Anglican priest who advocates for LGBT Christians emphatically told Premier Christian Magazine that although he understood Pastor Samuel’s actions, he believes he is extremely toxic.
“The pastor seemed to come from a very compassionate point of view and was trying to help the person, rather than exclude the person. Albeit, I think that he was wrong and I think his behaviour is extraordinarily destructive,” he said.
One woman from another church told ITV News that her family once called a pastor to exorcise her of her homosexuality at her home.
“His words were along the lines of ‘there’s something inside of you that needs to come out. So whether that is a demon or a bad spirit, it’s something that’s in me. And it’s almost like he had his hand on my chest to draw something out, speaking in tongues. All the family were gathered around me, praying, laying hands on me.”
She said that the prayer lasted for three hours and left her feeling like “damaged goods, defective goods.”
Earlier in July, the United Kingdom Government launched a public consultation on proposals to outlaw so-called gay conversion therapy after its national survey revealed that thousands of people have undergone gay conversion therapy. The research found that five percent of LGBT+ people had been offered it.
The LGBT+ organisation Stonewall defines gay conversion therapy as “any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity.
It also says: “It is based on an assumption that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can be ‘cured’. These therapies are both unethical and harmful.”
While the climate in some Western contemporary churches is accommodative to members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer (LGBTQ+) community to openly express who they really are and how they identify, the issue is not so ripe in most African countries.
In Zimbabwe, homosexuality is constitutionally banned, owing much to the natives’ religious nature and generally conservative belief system.
Former President Robert Mugabe once said gays were “worse than pigs and dogs”, and new President Emmerson Mnangagwa told CNN in an interview in January that “in our constitution, it is banned and it is my duty to obey my constitution” as he refused to state what his personal opinion was on the matter.
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