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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 November, 2003, 15:45 GMT
Bishop: Gays should see a doctor
Bishop Peter Forster
The bishop has been outspoken in his condemnation of homosexuality
Gays and lesbians should go to a psychiatrist to try to become heterosexual, a senior church leader has said.

The Bishop of Chester, the Right Rev Dr Peter Forster, said some homosexuals could "reorientate" themselves with medical help.

Dr Forster sits on a church body which recently produced a discussion paper, called Some Issues in Human Sexuality, which examined homosexuality.

His comments have led to an angry response from a number of gay and lesbian Christians, who have accused him of acting in an "inflammatory" way.

Dr Forster said: "Some people who are primarily homosexual can reorientate themselves.

"I would encourage them to consider that as an option, but I would not set myself up as a medical specialist on the subject, that's in the area of psychiatric health."

Dr Forster's prejudices will not be solved by a visit to the doctor, nor will lesbian and gay people go away and get 'cured' to help him live with them
Richard Kirker, Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement
He added he believed the only outlet that individuals can have for sex is within a marriage relationship.

"Sexual intercourse is the supreme example of body language," he said.

"Because it is precious and supreme, it should be kept to one person at a time in the deep life-long commitment we know as marriage.

"All the sociological evidence is that children fare better when raised in a traditional home by a man and a woman who have committed themselves to life-long marriage."

But Rev Richard Kirker, General Secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, condemned the comments, saying the bishop was being "inflammatory and offensive".

Dr Forster 'prejudiced'

He said: "It is those who think like Dr Forster - not gays and lesbians who have a problem," he said.

"Psychiatrists and doctors have long since abandoned any belief that homosexuality is an illness that could be cured.

"Only Christian fundamentalists devote their energies in this direction.

"Dr Forster's prejudices will not be solved by a visit to the doctor, nor will lesbian and gay people go away and get 'cured' to help him live with them."

Dr Forster, whose diocese takes in Cheshire, Wirral, Stockport, south Tameside and south Trafford, has been outspoken in his condemnation of homosexuals.

'Pastoral approach'

But he has also stated that he tried to act with compassion towards gays and lesbians.

In a speech he made in June, Mr Forster said: "I favour a reasonably tolerant, pastoral approach in the life of the Church to those who find themselves with homosexual feelings, and drawn into homosexual relationships.

"But there has to be limits."

He was one of nine bishops who wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams condemning the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John as Bishop of Oxford.

Canon John is gay, but in line with the Church of England's rules, is also celibate.

Despite this, he bowed to pressure and resigned before he was consecrated.

The worldwide Anglican community is facing a split over the issue of gay clergy, after the New Hampshire diocese elected and then consecrated Gene Robinson as its bishop.

Mr Robinson is gay and lives with his partner.


SEE ALSO:
Church explores gay debate
04 Nov 03  |  UK
Unity plea over gay bishop
03 Nov 03  |  South West Wales


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