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London church denies so-called gay conversion therapy after undercover news report

Tue 13 Nov 2018
By Alex Williams

A Pentecostal church in south east London has denied engaging in so-called gay conversion therapy after an undercover reporter claimed leaders said God could "fix" him.

Winner's Chapel in Dartford also said it would hold an internal investigation following claims that a gay journalist at ITV News underwent "intense" prayer and Bible studies.

The unnamed man, who featured in a special report broadcast on Monday night, 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 Gbenga Samuel began praying 'heavily', shouting, and spinning him around on the floor within an hour or so of first meeting him.

 

The reporter, who attended the church for two months, was reportedly told he needed a "complete mind reorientation".

Undercover footage purportedly shows Mr Samuel comparing the acceptance of homosexuality to Nazi propaganda.

Winner's Chapel told ITV News it is open to everyone and the church takes "inclusion and diversity very seriously".

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".

During the summer, the Government launched a public consultation on proposals to outlaw so-called gay conversion therapy. Its research found five per cent 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."

Rev Sally Hitchiner, an Anglican priest who advocates for LGBT Christians, told Premier: "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."

Premier has contacted Winner's Chapel for a comment.

Click here to listen to Premier's Alex Williams speaking with Rev Sally Hitchiner:

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