Mike Davidson in the Sunday Telegraph

A great interview with Mike Davidson of Core Issues Trust in today’s Sunday Telegraph.

“I don’t want to be outrageous,” says Dr Mike Davidson softly – but it is hard to believe him. The 57-year-old Christian counsellor and campaigner has upset a lot of people lately, with his claims that homosexuals can become straight if they get enough help, therapy and prayer. The doctor has been called deluded and his work condemned as “inflammatory, homophobic and harmful”.

The Mayor of London has just banned advertisements that Davidson and his allies planned to put on the sides of buses, declaring: “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!” They were meant to mirror a campaign by the gay rights group Stonewall, but Boris Johnson pulled the ads after taking offence at the suggestion he saw within them.

“It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone can recover from,” said Johnson, who feared “a backlash so intense it would not have been in the interests of Christian people in this city”.

I’m expecting a firebrand. What I get is a gently spoken, slightly stooping man with a South African accent, who lives in a neat detached house in the countryside south of Belfast. His wife, Lynore, brings coffee and chocolate biscuits. They have been married for 32 years, during which time he claims to have been turned away from homosexuality by a combination of counselling, prayer and psychotherapy. He also claims to be able to help others do the same.

Such therapy has been going on quietly in Britain for years, particularly among Evangelicals, but has only recently come to public attention through the efforts of those who oppose it. So is he really suggesting – as they say he is – that homosexuality can and should be cured?

Davidson wants me to understand the pressure he was under when he succumbed to his old feelings. “We were struggling as a family. We’ve had a fulfilled marriage in every sense of the word, but we had packed everything up and moved to a new country in two months – it was horrendous. About that time my son was having real problems at school. Later he was confirmed as a high-functioning autism kind of person. A year and a half ago, he took his own life… I’m sorry…”

We pause, as he recovers composure. “Matthew was 26. He died on the first of October. The reason I’m telling you all this is that when you have brought your son into the world, you’ve seen his eyes open and you’ve seen his eyes close… I suppose that’s why I am really not concerned about sticking my head above the parapet.”

I feel for him. There is such pain and sorrow in his voice and on his face. But I also have to challenge him. Surely it isn’t homosexuality per se that he has had to deal with, as much as a series of painful, damaging experiences to do with secrecy and shame? How can he make the leap from there to urging people to turn away from faithful same-sex love, something he has never experienced?

“If folk want to live in a monogamous homosexual relationship, they need to be given the freedom, the space, the respect and the value to do that.” That is a very surprising answer. How can he possibly square it with calling homosexuality an aberration, a problem and a sin, and urging people to let him help them turn their back on it? Before I get the chance to ask, he goes on. “It may well be true that I could live such a life, but my choice, Cole, is in another direction.”

How has he really changed, beyond finding the strength to deny his desires? “The gay community will say I am a repressed gay, that there is no real change here, it is just about behaviour modification. My experience has been that the more the behaviour has been modified, the more I don’t connect with that part of me that once was much more prevalent. If I have another crisis in my life, what would rear itself? Honestly, I don’t know.”

I struggle to match his gentleness in the room with the offence he willingly causes by what he says and does. Later, at home, I look again at the website for his partner organisation Anglican Mainstream, and come across an article claiming to bust the “Top 10 Myths” about gay people. It asserts that homosexuals experience “considerably higher levels of mental illness and substance abuse than heterosexuals” and that they are less likely to be faithful and more likely to experience domestic violence. And it states, as an alleged matter of fact, that homosexuals are more likely to molest children.

These words are promoted by his allies. I read them and remember the last thing Davidson said to me, as I reached to turn off the tape recorder. “Try not to paint me as naive…”

Go and read the whole piece and let us know what you think. From my personal experience of Mike he is a really good bloke with a great heart for working with men and women who have unwanted same-sex attraction. We can debate the issues but we are not going to permit personal attacks on this thread.

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