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John MacArthur urges pastors to preach on sexual morality to protest conversion therapy ban

John MacArthur
Pastor John MacArthur speaks at Grace Community Church's Shepherd's Conference in 2020. |

Pastor and theologian John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles is calling on pastors to preach about the “biblical view of sexual morality” on Jan. 16 in opposition to a Canadian law banning therapy for unwanted sexual attractions and gender confusion — what is often derisively referred to as conversion therapy — set to take effect next month. 

MacArthur, known for his syndicated broadcast program “Grace to You,” published an open letter on the Grace Community Church website Tuesday calling on “ministers of the Gospel” to join him on the third Sunday of the new year in preaching about “a biblical view of sexual morality.”

MacArthur stated that he received a letter from Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta, a graduate of the MacArthur-led The Master’s Seminary who made headlines when he was imprisoned for hosting in-person services in defiance of government lockdown orders. 

Coates alleged that Bill C-4, which passed by the Canadian House and Senate earlier this month, “directly comes against parents and counselors who would seek to offer biblical counsel with respect to sexual immorality and gender.” 

The law amends the criminal code to make illegal so-called conversion therapy, removing a child from Canada to undergo conversion therapy, advertising or promoting conversion therapy and receiving a material benefit for providing conversion therapy. 

Specifically, the law slated to go into effect on Jan. 8 describes the belief that “heterosexuality, cisgender gender identity, and gender expression that conforms to the sex assigned to a person at birth are to be preferred over other sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions” as a “myth.”

Critics describe conversion therapy as counseling or efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity through religious-based counseling or more controversial treatments like electric shock therapy.

However, some counselors and Christian ministries have warned that their counseling for people experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction is misunderstood and that “conversion therapy” is a politically charged term designed to mislead the public about the work they do.

Critics of such bills contend that the propagation of the narrative of conversion therapy being similar to electric shock therapy has become a “straw man” to promote “one-sided and biased counseling methods,” considering those types of treatments are already considered in the medical world to be “barbaric and unethical.”

C-4’s opponents claim that the language is too broad and could essentially ban religious leaders from preaching the teachings on sexual ethics and marriage found in the Bible or counseling a person with unwanted attractions or saying that homosexuality is sinful. 

Andrew DeBartolo, the teaching elder at Encounter Church in Kingston, Ontario, told MacArthur in a letter that “the belief in God’s design for marriage and sexuality will now be seen as a myth” beginning on Jan. 8. 

“Since this law takes effect on January 8, 2022, faithful Canadian pastors are going to preach on the issue, calling for a biblical understanding of sexual sin, the eternal judgment that falls on the unrepentant and gospel-rejecting sinners, and the grace of God in the gospel which offers forgiveness to those who repent and believe in Christ,” MacArthur wrote. “In 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, Paul clearly articulates why we must speak the truth.”

“Our calling as gospel ministers is to preach the truth, confront sin, and call all men to repentance and obedience to the gospel—the good news that achieves soul conversion and saves sinners from eternal wrath,” he added. 

Several states in the U.S. have passed bans on conversion therapy, including MacArthur’s home state of California. MacArthur claims the California government “sought to prohibit any correction of an unbiblical view of sexual identity.”

A Christian therapist filed a lawsuit earlier this year in Washington state, alleging that the state’s 2018 ban on conversion therapy was a political attempt to silence dissent and “impose its own new orthodoxy concerning sexual morality.” However, his claim was rejected by a federal judge in September. 

In 2019, a federal judge dismissed an ex-gay psychotherapists lawsuit against Maryland’s ban on mental health professionals providing conversion therapy.

As the United Kingdom Parliament has renewed efforts to pass a conversion therapy ban, concern was raised by the Evangelical Alliance that clergy might potentially face criminal prosecution. However, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured religious leaders that pastors wouldn’t be criminally charged for counseling people with unwanted same-sex attraction.

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