Organisation that hosted a speaker linked with ‘conversion therapy’ at Worcester College hits back

Christian Concern says it is ‘hoping to facilitate a dialogue’ in response to accusations of homophobia

The organisation that hosted a “conversion therapist” at Worcester College has hit back at condemnation of the conference, describing accusations of homophobia and Islamaphobia as “a great disservice to the point of the whole week”.

Wilberforce Academy says its conference was designed to “equip the next generation of Christian leaders in public life”.

But one speaker at the conference, Mike Davidson, has previously said he “takes people seriously who say they want to move away from homosexual practices and feelings”. He is CEO of Core Issues Trust and X-Out Loud.

A Co-Chair of the SU LGBTQ+ campaign told first year students they were “truly sorry that this has been one of your first impressions of the Oxford world” while Worcester College has acknowledged “that this was a serious failure that has caused significant distress”.

Christian Concern, the organisation behind the event in question, sent The Tab a testimony from Libby Littlewood, a student who was in attendance.

In Libby’s two page response, she defended Dr Mike Davidson who has elsewhere been associated with “conversion therapy”.

Libby said: “Myself and another ex-LGBT individual … [told] our personal testimonies … we discussed the change which had taken place in our own lives.”

Libby felt participants at the conference “wanted to be accepted as ourselves: our Christian selves, our ex-LGBT selves, our academic and critical selves. We also want rights for our religion: we want to be able to meet and worship God together, and discuss how we interact with culture and politics in a society so different from what we see in our Holy Book.

“We also want rights for our sexuality: we want to be able to live as our authentic selves, even if that means leaving homosexual practices and instead embracing the Gospel. We want to be able to discuss our morals and opinions, being received and respected, as we receive and respect others”.

The statement to The Tab says that a ban on “conversion therapy” would threaten the ability to tell their testimonies.

Libby said: “Wilberforce Academy was, for me, an opportunity to share our experiences, which are so often silenced by one-sided politics and public intolerance”.

In response to accusations of Islamaphobia, the statement says two of the 24 lectures focused on Islam and culture. They were titled ‘The nature of Islam’ and ‘Witnessing to Muslims’.

Libby said: “The former focussed on study of the Qur’an and the latter was about how to facilitate an effective inter-faith dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

“These are topics any Theology degree program will explore. With an increasing Muslim population in Britain, they are pertinent topics to all faith communities, in need of critical discussion and reflection, which Sam Solomon and Beth Peltola gladly facilitated.”

The statement closes: “We are not aiming to persecute others but are hoping to facilitate a dialogue. Are these the ‘values and policies [which] conflict with those of Worcester College’?”.

The Oxford Tab has reached out to LGBTQ+ Soc, the SU LGBTQ+ Campaign, and Worcester College for comment.

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