A prominent Canadian pastor says he will not obey a new Canadian law that prohibits changing an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity.
"We will never turn anyone away. We will never be silent, we will never shrink back," Tim Stephens, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, told members last week at his church. "We will never be ashamed of the gospel. We will always preach the truth, and we'll give counsel – biblical counsel – on gender and sexuality to all who will hear."
The new law, Bill C-4, prohibits conversion therapy but defines the term so broadly that Christian leaders across the country warn it bans not only certain forms of biblical counseling but also sermons on biblical sexuality. The law defines conversion therapy as a "practice, treatment or service designed" to "change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual" or "change a person's gender identity to cisgender."
The law says it's a "myth" 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."
Stephens made headlines around the world last year when he was arrested, at his home, because he refused to close his church's doors amidst the pandemic. He says he's willing to risk arrest again over the new law.
Stephens said the law "calls good evil and evil good."
"It's completely backward," he said, arguing the law prohibits a "biblical worldview" but protects "harmful" treatments for minors.
The law "promotes" the use of "damaging medication that uses hormone blockers to stop puberty in children." Further, he said, the law promotes "surgeries to remove breasts or other sexual organs."
"They think standing upon a biblical view is actually gonna cause harm when it's the exact opposite," Stephens said.
The law is discriminatory, Stephens asserted, because it prohibits certain individuals – individuals with unwanted sexual desires – from seeking biblical counseling.
"It's completely banning conversions going one way and encouraging them going the other," he said. "... That person is discriminated against because they can't legally go and seek that help, even if they're consenting. It bans repentance for certain people, at least according to Canadian law."
Further, Stephens said, the law defames God.
"This law codifies – it puts in Canadian law – the defamation of God's name, of His character, and of His good design and creation. … it relegates God and His Word and His design for humanity which will cause human flourishing – it relegates it as a myth," Stephens said. "And not only a myth, but harmful to individuals and harmful to a society to stand upon God's truth revealed in nature and in creation."
Stephens closed his comments by quoting the Old Testament leader Joshua.
"We will stand along with Joshua and say, 'As for me, and my house, I will serve the Lord,'" Joshua said. "If there is anyone who struggles with same-sex attraction, or gender dysphoria, or any kind of sexual sin, they ought to know and be assured that they can come here, and they will hear the truth of God's Word in an uncompromising way – that we invite sinners of every single stripe to come and to hear about the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Nito100
Video courtesy: ©Fairview Baptist Church
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.