Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, is suffering from chronic insomnia. He reminds me of Eric Lederer, the perpetual insomniac in the novel The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had to. He also reminds me of Evan Michael Tanner in the novel The Thief Who Couldn’t Sleep. Tanner hasn’t slept in more than a decade since a shard of shrapnel invaded his skull and obliterated his brain’s sleep centre. Like Lederer and Tanner, Archbuffoon Sentamu cannot sleep.
Pity the poor man! He hasn’t slept a wink. His mind is on the blink. What ails his anguished soul? What racks his troubled body? Swarms of mosquitoes from the pestilential swamp of his fellow bishops? Shadowy nightmares about Robert Mugabe cutting his arch-episcopal throat after Sent-to-moo cut his dog collar on the Andrew Marr show? Nay!
So what is keeping him counting sheep at night? The terrible scandal of the poor white working class girls from Rotherham who were groomed for rape and sexual abuse by Pakistani Muslim predators while police and social workers turned a blind eye? The blood-curdling persecution of Christians in the Islamic world? Muslim converts to Christianity being cold-shouldered by the CofE in dioceses like Bradford and Leeds under his very own nose in the Province of York? Nay!
Tell us please! The cause of his chronic insomnia must be very serious. We’d like to pray for the poor soul. Surely it must be the Vicious ‘Viv’ Foul bell-ringing fiasco in York Minster? Or perhaps the mutiny led by feminazi priestesses and their supporters, who refused to accept Bishop Philip North as Bishop of Sheffield because he does not ordain women?
Stop the guessing game! We are dying to know! Why can’t His Holiness Sentamu get his hard earned dose of forty winks? Could it be the collusion at the heart of the Church of England that led to the continued abuse of so many boys and young men that is keeping him awake - his and others' disregard of their complaints?
No. What is keeping John Sentamu awake at night is Conversion Therapy, also known as Elective or Reparative Therapy. At the bi-annual gabfest of the Church of England General “Sex” Synod last week, it was this that the Archbishop of York trumpeted as the cause of his chronic insomnia. ‘The sooner the practice of this so-called therapy is banned, I can sleep at night; so let’s encourage the government to do it,’ he said, alleging that the practice was ‘theologically unsound.’
He can rest. The overwhelming majority of participants, including 36 out of 37 bishops, backed Jayne Ozone’s motion calling for its ban. Now, no longer will someone with an unwelcome homosexual urge be able to seek spirit counselling or therapy. Celebrate it and sanctify it, the Church might as well say.
How are we to interpret this diktat? It is clear - if you are attracted to a person of the same sex this is an exercise of your free will, but if you make an informed choice (as an adult) to ask your vicar for help or to pray that God will take away your homosexual desires, and if your vicar does so, it lands him with a disciplinary charge! In a word there is no choice. You are constrained.
General Synod theology now has it that you are free to choose to be gay but not to chose to be straight. Homosexuality is immutable. Heterosexuality is not. And God meanwhile is impotent in the matter - heaven forfend he go against General Synod or fails to rejoice in every conversion to homosexuality.
Believe it or not, in order to try to protect God’s freedom to intervene (and the Holy Spirit’s freedom to convert a person from homosexual to heterosexual attraction), the Rev Dr Sean Doherty had to move an amendment affirming that ‘pastoral care, prayer ministry: that professional counselling were “legitimate means of supporting individuals who choose them freely, provided that they respect the property dignity of human beings, and do not involve coercion or manipulation or make unwarranted promises about the removal of unwanted feelings.’”
He was roundly defeated for his pains. Synod rejected prayer, pastoral care, counselling and free choice in favour of the new LGBTIQ gender orthodoxy.
If this were not perverse enough, in a gigantic leap of oxymoronic policy-making, General Synod went on to vote for creating new liturgies to affirm the new gender of a person who has ‘transitioned'. Who implored General Synod to vote for such specially designed ‘liturgies’ to welcome a transgender person under their new name? The uncritically accepting Sentamu, who appears to have put not Satan, but science as well as God behind him.
One brave enough to vote against him was Ed Shaw, an evangelical member of General Synod, worried not simply that no one had defined exactly it was that was to be banned under the general term ‘conversion therapy', but also that genuine pastoral care of LGBT people could be badly affected by the ban. No one else cared. No guarantees were given, no amendments considered. But will Ed Shaw’s fear of the CofE’s new totalitarianism keep Sentamu awake at night? Not, I fear, in a million years.
Yet Sentamu has yet to tell us why the practice of conversion therapy is theologically unsound. The ploy not to define it worked magnificently. With theological illiterati dominating the House of Bishops there was no theological debate. Nor was there scientific debate, the medical condition of gender dysphoria presumably deemed irrelevant.
Just as the Holy Office issued a condemnation of Galileo’s heliocentric theory in 1616, General Synod voted to condemn science and scavenge for scraps in the garbage can of the politics of identity, sexuality and gender.
Nihil desperandum! Despair not! The most important agent of Sentamu’s chronic insomnia was tamed. Now the Archbuffoon of Dork can pray his Nunc Dimittis and get a good night’s sleep.